Passover | How to add easy elegance to your seder menu

I am not one of those people who looks forward to Passover each year.  I dread it. I love my carbs and I absolutely loathe the constant cooking and dishwashing that somehow always accompany the holiday.

Since my husband and I started hosting our own seder each year for my family and our close friends, we have worked on an array of Passover-friendly dishes that are so good we eat them all year. This has greatly improved the quality of our holiday. Now if only I could find someone to wash my dishes all week.

These recipes are easy, elegant and a little different from the delicious but humdrum chicken soup, brisket and kugel. And with two nights of seders, sometimes you need something a little different to keep the seder menu interesting.

Gefilte fish is an acquired taste. For some people, the taste is simply never acquired. It’s hard to change traditions, but try switching out gefilte fish for the bite-size croquettes topped with salmon roe. Not a fan of caviar? Use smoked salmon instead. You can make these during the year and substitute panko breadcrumbs for the matzah meal. You can also serve them for a dairy meal, adding some sour cream, Greek yogurt or creme fraiche on the side.                                      

Dill Horseradish Potato Croquettes with Salmon Roe photos/jta-shannon sarna

Dill Horseradish Potato Croquettes with Salmon Roe

Makes 2 dozen

4 large Yukon gold potatoes

1⁄2 cup olive oil

1⁄2 cup vegetable broth

1 to 2 tsp. dried dill

1 Tbs. horseradish

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. plus 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 eggs

matzah meal

vegetable oil for frying

salmon roe (or smoked salmon)

fresh dill

Peel potatoes and place in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain water and immediately place potatoes into a ricer or food mill. Add oil, vegetable broth, dried dill, horseradish, 1 Tbs. salt and 1 tsp. pepper to potatoes and mix until smooth and seasoning is even throughout. Add 1 egg and mix again. Begin forming patties by packing potatoes lightly into balls and then flattening them with palms of hand. Place on a platter and put in the refrigerator for a few hours, or up to 24 hours. After patties have finished chilling, beat the other egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl. Place matzah meal in another bowl and add 1 tsp. salt and 1⁄2 tsp. pepper. Mix. Dip each potato patty into egg, then matzah meal. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry croquette 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Allow the croquettes to cool slightly before topping with salmon roe and fresh dill if desired.    

Braised Lamb Shanks with Dates and Raisins

Serves 4-6

4 lamb shanks

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 heaping tsp. sumac

1 heaping tsp. cumin

1 heaping tsp. sweet paprika

1⁄2 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water 30 minutes

olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs. tomato paste

2 cloves

1 tsp. fennel seed

1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon

11⁄2 cups vegetable broth or water

11⁄2 cups red wine

1⁄2 cup dates

fresh parsley and cilantro (optional)

Combine the salt, pepper, sumac, cumin and paprika in a small bowl. Cover lamb shanks in dry spice rub and place on a platter covered in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

Place raisins in a bowl of warm water. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear shanks on all sides until brown. Remove from pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté, scraping the “good bits” from the bottom of the pan. You can deglaze with a little bit of the broth. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until onion is translucent.

Add tomato paste, cloves, fennel seed and cinnamon; continue cooking for a few more minutes. Add broth, wine, dates and the drained raisins (discard water) and bring to a boil.

Put the lamb shanks back in the pot and reduce heat to low, or place into a 275-degree oven. Braise for 21⁄2 hours.

Serve with fresh cilantro and parsley, if desired.

Kale, Apple and Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 4-6

2 medium beets

3 cups chopped fresh kale, stems removed

1⁄2 apple, diced

1⁄4 cup chopped candied walnuts

1⁄4 cup dried cherries or cranberries

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the beets. Place in tin foil and roast in oven for 45-60 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool. Remove the outer peel of beets using hands or a vegetable peeler. Cut beets into bite-size pieces.

Place chopped kale in a large salad bowl. Add beets, apple, candied walnuts and dried cherries or cranberries. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or salad dressing of your choosing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.   

Chocolate Raspberry Torte with Pecan Crust

For the crust

1⁄4 cup margarine or butter

1⁄2 cup pecans

1⁄2 tsp. salt

1⁄4 cup sugar


For the filling

8 oz. dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1⁄2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick)

1⁄4 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant espresso

5 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup raspberry jam

powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To make the crust: Melt the 1⁄4 cup margarine or butter in the microwave at 20-second intervals. Place the pecans, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with blade attachment and pulse until you have coarse-looking crumbs. Add melted margarine/butter and pulse 1-2 more times. Press mixture into an 8- or

9-inch springform pan. Bake 7-8 minutes. The crust may look a little funny, bubbly or like it is ruined. But this is totally fine. Set aside.

To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips and margarine in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso. Cool 10 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla and sugar in large bowl on high speed until thick, about 6 minutes. Fold in chocolate mixture slowly. Then fold in jam, but don’t mix too much.

Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake torte until dry and cracked on top and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 1 hour (center will fall).

Using an offset spatula or butter knife, carefully separate torte from sides of pan. Remove outer ring of springform pan. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. n

Shannon Sarna is editor of the Nosher blog on