Passover Recipes to Make Your Seder Table Pop on Zoom

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Ceviche | Photo by Getty Images Plus

While vaccines are becoming more widespread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises against gathering in crowded spaces, such as dining rooms filled to capacity with family and friends. This means we are facing our second Passover on Zoom.

A year ago, many of us didn’t know how to mute or turn on the video feature. We certainly couldn’t display Haggadah commentary for everyone at our virtual table to see.

At my seder, which stretched from Connecticut to California, one set of grandparents sadly couldn’t figure out how to connect. A family of five sat too far from their computer. While we could see them from a distance, we could hardly hear them. Because my grandchildren were attending school virtually, they navigated us through Zoom.

With all its challenges last year, Zoom made celebrating Passover possible. It also brought together loved ones who live so far away, they’d never attended our seders before.

Now that most of us have become proficient with Zoom, order will return to our seders. Because we’ve adapted to virtual Passover celebrations, I suggest revamping our approach to reflect our modern, tech-savvy state.

Vibrant foods show well on camera. Instead of gefilte fish, why not start with a dazzling ceviche made from red snapper filets? Try a baby spinach salad bursting with colorful fruit. Consider bypassing brisket in favor of roasted Cornish hens seasoned with herbs.

Select a Zoom-friendly, make-ahead menu, so hosts don’t disappear from the camera while cooking in the kitchen. Zoom allows you to share visuals of the delicacies you’re serving with family who can’t be there in person. Present food in attractive tableware. For snap, garnish dishes with parsley.

A lifesaver during the COVID-19 crisis, Zoom has expanded our horizons. Yet most of us long for the past. Traditionally, seders end with the refrain, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Let’s add, “Next year gathered in one dining room — just like it used to be.”

Ceviche

Serves 8

The high acidity in fresh lime juice actually cooks fish during the marinating process.

1½ pounds red snapper filets. Ask the fish store to remove the skin and bones.
8 ounces fresh lime juice, about
4-6 limes
6 tablespoons each, chopped: red onion, yellow pepper and parsley
3 tablespoons minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, squeezed through a garlic press
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 avocado, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Sugar to taste, only if needed

With a sharp knife, slice the red snapper into thin pieces and place them in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except sugar. Gently toss. Marinate from 30 minutes to 2 hours, tossing several times. The snapper will become opaque. If the ceviche tastes too tart, add a little sugar and a few drops of water. Serve in small bowls.

Colorful Baby Spinach Salad

Serves 8

For the Dressing
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Place ingredients in a jar or container with a lid. Shake until the ingredients are well combined. The dressing can be made three days in advance. Shake well before pouring it on the salad.

For the Salad
1½ cups whole pecans
10-ounce package cherry tomatoes, preferably in various colors
4 clementines
16-ounce box baby spinach

In a toaster oven or oven, roast the pecans at 350 degrees for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Check the pecans after a minute as they burn easily. Cool to room temperature and reserve. These can be made three days ahead if kept in a sealed container.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Peel the clementines, break them into sections and remove the pith. If the spinach is bought triple washed, it doesn’t need to washed again. If not, rinse the spinach under cold water and dry it in a salad spinner. These three ingredients can be layered with paper towels and placed in a plastic bag a day in advance.

Before the seder begins, place the bagged ingredients in a large salad bowl. When ready to serve, add the pecans and the salad dressing. Toss until well combined.

Cornish Hens | Photo by Getty Images Plus

Herb-Roasted Cornish Hens with Vegetables

Serves 8

This bright and lively entrée is the essence of spring.

4 Cornish hens, 1½ pounds each
Olive oil for coating pan, plus 2 tablespoons to drizzle on vegetables, plus 1-2 tablespoons for the Cornish hens
1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
10 carrots, peeled and cut into thin carrot sticks
Kosher salt to taste
½ teaspoon each: dried rosemary, thyme and basil
Paprika for dusting
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and cut into 4 chunks

Equipment: roasting pan and rack, preferably nonstick; and poultry shears

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat the roasting pan and rack with olive oil.

Rinse the hens under cold water, including inside their cavities. Turn the hens upside down, and let water run out of their cavities into the sink. Drain them on paper towels. Reserve.

Place the potatoes and carrots in a plastic bag. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Seal the bag and shake until every piece is coated with oil. Scatter the pieces around the edges of the roasting pan. Some pieces may go under the rack. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt.

Place the herbs in a bowl and crush them into small pieces and mix together. Rub a little olive oil on the hens to coat. Arrange the hens on the rack with the underside facing up. Sprinkle the underside with half of the herb mixture and salt. Dust with the paprika. Press the seasonings into the skins of the hens. Turn the hens over and repeat with the remaining herbs, salt and paprika.

Sprinkle the onion chunks with salt and place them in the cavities of the hens. Roast for an hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees. Serve immediately.

The recipe can be made to this point two days ahead.

To eat the meal later, cool it to room temperature and refrigerate. Return it to room temperature 2½ hours before serving. Thirty minutes before serving, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the hens and vegetables in separate ovenproof pans. Heat the hens and vegetables for 20 minutes, or until slowly sizzling. Cut the hens in half with poultry shears and serve them on a platter. Discard the onion. Move the vegetables to an attractive bowl. Serve immediately.

Jeweled Quinoa | Photo by Leah Packer

Jeweled Quinoa

By Eric Schucht

“Because I Said So” is a weekly instructional cooking show by Leah Packer and her mother Rachel Ornstein-Packer.

After the pandemic began, the two started making meals together to pass the time. And University of Maryland student Leah Packer had a revelation: She can’t cook. “I had absolutely no idea what to do in the kitchen,” she says. “Like, literally, I couldn’t do anything. And my mom kept saying, ‘How are you going to survive?’”

So Rachel Ornstein-Packer decided to teach her daughter how to make a proper meal. But it dawned on the two that there could be others Leah’s age who also lack cooking skills.

“Because I Said So” was the result.

Here is a Passover recipe for jeweled quinoa, courtesy of the mother-daughter cooking duo.

Serves 6

1 two-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 3 cups)
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
Zest of one small orange
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butternut squash, onion and oil and toss until evenly coated.

Spread out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes, or until soft and cooked and the edges begin to slightly brown.

Remove baking sheet from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart pot, stir together quinoa, broth (or water) and orange zest, and cook according to package instructions.

Add the squash, onion, quinoa, spinach and cranberries to a large mixing bowl, and combine gently. Season with additional salt and pepper if need be. Serve immediately. If making ahead of time, store in refrigerator and reheat.

Rapturous Roast Chicken

by Keri White

A roast chicken is a quintessential holiday meal. But just because it is traditional and typical does not mean that it isn’t wonderful, or that it can’t be really special.

Even a meh roast chicken is pretty good, but when it is brined properly, seasoned well and roasted with care and precision, well, it can be pretty darn transcendent.

Many brining instructions require heating the water to dissolve the spices, then cooling the brine before adding the chicken. Pshaw, I say. I have always just chucked it all in cold and it’s worked just fine.

Serves 4

For the Brine
1 5- to 7-pound roaster
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon each finely ground pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme and dried rosemary
1 gallon water (approximately)
⅓ cup white vinegar

For Roasting
3 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup water or broth

Brine the chicken: Fill a large pot halfway with water, and add all remaining ingredients except the chicken; stir to dissolve. Rinse the chicken, remove the giblets and place it in the pot. Fill the pot the rest of the way with water to cover the chicken. Cover the pot and place it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Roast the chicken: When the brining is complete, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse well, pat dry and place it in the roasting pan. Place garlic inside the chicken cavity and pour the broth or water into the bottom of the pan.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170 degrees. Tent the chicken with foil for about 10 minutes. Scoop about ¾ cup of pan drippings to mash into the potatoes. Carve, plate and, just before serving, pour some of the remaining pan drippings onto the sliced meat.

Recipes for this article were originally published in the Baltimore Jewish Times and the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent.

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