A Shelter-in-Place Passover

Do you celebrate Passover? What are you planning to do while staying safe at home? Of all the Passovers I’ve celebrated, in all of my years, this one is going to be the one I probably remember the most. This is the Passover that will be “close enough”. 

I was raised in a conservative Jewish household, where we went to synagogue some Friday nights and Saturday mornings, every High Holiday service was spent there and many of the others as well. When I was young, the synagogue was small and intimate, our parents set up and cleaned up after the Shabbat services and we knew every family that belonged. As the synagogue grew, so did the congregation, and then it moved buildings, merging with another congregation, then one last move to its final destination. 

Most of the moving and merging occurred while I was at college, so when I returned each year for the High Holidays, something always seemed a little more distant, a little too “big.” I grew to hold my “Jewish-ness” and my outward practice as something very personal. Each person is trying their best to do what they feel is important. And that is where I am now.

Every year, we hold a large (35-40+) Passover seder with all of my mother’s first cousins. It started with their grandparents and slowly drifted to my parents’ generation to trade around who was going to host. When they didn’t want to clean and cook and host for 30+ people, they started holding it at a restaurant and then a catering hall. 

When my generation started getting married and having kids, we became more reminiscent of the times we spent as kids ourselves running around each others’ houses. Plus, the idea of spending 2+ hours at a restaurant with toddlers “trying to sit still” was a frightening thought. So we moved it back to our houses and came up with a great formula.

Everyone would bring their favorite dishes, we’d use a Sign Up Genius to avoid duplicates, and the host would just need to clean and provide seating for up to 40 people. Our Passover Potlucks were born, and it has been like this for the past 14 years. Such wonderful memories, good food, and a chance to catch up with our cousins once a year.

This year, along with everything else, will be different. We’re going to set up a Zoom call for a “virtual” seder, and everyone will sit and go through the seder service together, with our Haggadah on a pdf (thanks Dad!). Some may have the celery to “dip twice” and some may just hold a picture of it up. Some may be able to dip the bitter herbs into the charoset, and some may just watch others do it. But we will be together, doing the best we can.

So what can you do? Besides a virtual seder, how can you keep Kosher for Passover while eating your pantry meals (basically whatever you have already gotten in your fridge, freezer, pantry)? 

I spoke with one of my good friends, Beth, who received a Master’s degree in Jewish education and sacred music from The Jewish Theological Seminary. She is my go-to expert in Jewish life and knew she could help me come up with some basic pantry-type Passover meals and sides. (See her website, Blessings By Beth) None of these recipes include matzo or matzo meal. If you have that, use at will. I didn’t get it before the self-isolation started.

Here are some of the basics we sometimes include in our Passover Seder. These can make great meals and sides to use throughout the 8 days.

Matzo ball soup – If you don’t have the ingredients to make matzo balls, just make a vegetable soup. Mix broth and chopped vegetables (or frozen ones) together and simmer until the vegetables are just right.

Hard boiled eggs – This is always a staple in our seder dinners, served with the soup course. If you have eggs, you can make this.

Green vegetable – Use what you have or what you can easily get. Make a salad, wilt some kale, have spinach. Can you get a produce delivery? Asparagus is now in season!

Tzimmes – This is one of my favorites! Chop or slice and layer sweet potatoes with apples, prunes, apricots and lots of cinnamon. Bake in the oven at 350F until soft. Get creative if you are missing some ingredients. Use canned peaches, pears or apple sauce. Add in frozen pineapple and shredded coconut. You can also present a “make your own” tzimmes to your families to resemble a sundae bar. Start with mashed sweet potatoes and offer an array of toppings to choose from.

Potato Kugel –  Beth makes potato kugel muffins that not only remind her of her Nana’s version, but are portioned out and have more crispy edges! You can also make mashed potatoes, baked potatoes or roasted potatoes. Have the time to make potato latkes? Why not?!

Other Vegetable options – 

  • You can roast a whole cauliflower with this recipe 
  • Or make cabbage steaks like this
  • You can roast a bunch of vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, etc. 
  • Here’s a recipe for a quick and easy Beet Ceviche : 2 Cups of raw shredded beets, 2 T of EVOO, 1/4 c. lemon juice (or any vinegar), and optionally; sprinkle of dried dill and 1T chopped red onion. 
  • You can make a quinoa salad, warm or Beth’s family’s favorite, cold.

Main meal – You may or may not have meat or chicken or turkey available. You may be vegetarian also. Either way, meat shouldn’t be a major part of your meal, as you are trying to make everything last longer. If you do bake or roast something, remember, it should only be ¼ of your plate. Lots of vegetable platters can be your main meal!

Desserts – There are so many almond-based desserts, if you have almond butter or flour! 

If you don’t have almond flour, there are still things you can make: 

  1. Berry compote from frozen berries (defrost berries and add a little maple syrup or honey and a few shakes of cinnamon) and a sugary nut crumble (chop nuts after making this recipe). 
  2. You can easily make chocolate syrup from cocoa powder, maple syrup or honey with this recipe. This can be drizzled over anything, or used to make almond butter cups (if you have almond butter). You can also just make chocolate blobs with a nut in the middle and frozen in an ice cube tray. Add in a little melted coconut oil and it works like a “magic shell” dip with frozen banana or strawberry or pineapple 
  3. Dates are a delicious treat as well! You can stuff them with almond butter, cream cheese or a nut and dip in chocolate. Chill them in the freezer. Don’t have dates? You can use prunes, apricots, apples or really anything else that you can dip!
  4. Poached pears: Have pears? Cut the pears in half lengthwise and core them. Submerge them in juice or wine (but why waste the wine?) with 1T sugar (or more to taste) and add cinnamon sticks or whole cloves to the pan for more flavor. Simmer until tender, 20-30 minutes. Serve warm or cold with the syrup that reduces down.

Here’s hoping that you find new and creative ways to celebrate your Passover this year. Next year in Jerusalem and Next year with my family.

Have any Passover friendly recipes to share? I’d love to hear them! Write in the comments section below!

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