Add freshness to your Passover with The Chef’s Garden, Pt. 1

Last night was the first night of Passover week, commemorating the exodus of Jews from Egypt, where they were slaves. In the United States, it’s customary to have two ceremonial dinners, known as the Seder. I am not a rabbi and I don’t play one on the internet. This holiday has been celebrated for over 3,000 years, the bones of which would be recognizable across the millennia and the globe. But Jews in different nations, eras and levels of observance have their own twists on the holiday. What I do may not be what you would do or comply with your family’s tradition, which we call minhag. The most important thing is that we do not eat leavened bread products, to symbolize the haste with which we fled Egypt.

Because Passover ushers in the beginning of spring, this is the time when we haul out the spring vegetables. But you may have noticed at the grocery store that your spring veggies aren’t available, they’re from far-away countries that I wasn’t sure we even have diplomatic relations with, they have obscene prices and look “picked over” — because they are.

There’s enough work with Passover — but you can take sourcing of the finest herbs and veggies off your list! The Chef’s Garden will send the same gorgeous, hand-picked produce that the world’s finest restaurants, most exclusive clubs, top gourmet chef’s get. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!

So, for the Seder nights, there tends to be a traditional type of dinner, with the rest of the week being more just complying with the dietary requirements. This post will deal with the first Seder night.

Seder is unlike any other religious observance, in that it’s always at home — not in a house of worship. There are recitations and readings from a Haggadah, one placed at each person’s setting. Americans love their Haggadot (the plural), which Maxwell House has been creating as a promo since 1923. Certain Jews — including me — do not eat seeds, beans or corn during Passover, as they have natural sprouting, leavening qualities. We use the phrase, “coffee beans,” but they are really fruit. Maxwell House was grateful that leading rabbis agreed with the assessment that coffee is permitted during Passover.

Over the years, the format has changed. The original ones follow a 1695 Amsterdam edition, and that’s the one my grandparents in Detroit had. They didn’t have pictures and were dull. I grew up with an edition from the 1970’s, complete with Sanka ads and drawings that we got from our local Jewel food store in Skokie, Illinois. Skokie made international news and legal history — Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977) — when Nazis wanted to march in our Chicago suburb. We had a high percentage of concentration camp survivors; I remember an employee at our pharmacy having a concentration camp tattoo. Having gone through that, I feel it adds an extra gloss of Jewishness to my life experience, maybe how Israelis feel about themselves. I inherited most of my haggadot from my dad. I am not interested in the newer editions, as they are woke and I am not. This is me back then:

So, I learned from my dad’s mother — my Bubbie Sonia — to have crudites out on the table for Passover, because the ceremony goes on for a bit before it’s time to eat. I do have her relish tray, but this year, I got this swanky other vintage tray that I was eager to inaugurate. I invited a non-Jewish friend over. He was shocked at all the different colors that carrots and radishes come in from The Chef’s Garden! At first, he was asking if there were something like ranch dressing, but he discovered you don’t really need that. They pack so much flavor, I still don’t think he believed that the carrots were all carrots and only carrots.

On the crudite’ tray and other courses, I garnished with a new product from The Chef’s Garden: Flowering Herb Sampler. Not only do they add colors such as green, red, white and purple to your plate so easily, but also, their complex aromas make your creations have impressive layers of complexity! This is what they say about it:

This sampler contains the best of the day’s farm-fresh flowering herbs. Farm-fresh herbs could include sages, mints, lavenders, basils, lemon balm, and so forth, with flavors ranging from minty to floral, and from citrusy to woodsy. Textures are also diverse, from soft to chewy to crunchy. Regeneratively farmed; harvested fresh.

There is always a seder plate on the table, holding things like egg, sometimes lettuce, “bitter herbs” (horseradish in my minhag), salt water, a lamb shank bone and charoset. Charoset is a fruit, honey, nuts, wine and spice mixture to symbolize the bricks the slaves had to make. As my grandfather used to say, “Whatever they’d have, they used!” His was pretty simple: red apple, Manischewitz Concord grape wine, honey, dark raisins and cinnamon. I just talked to a law school friend who is using toasted walnuts, apples, dried apricots and dried cherries! That sounds fantastic. I use red apples, the wine, mixed gourmet raisins, baharat (a Middle Eastern sweet spice blend), Vietnamese cinnamon for that “red hots” flavor, orange water, rose water and this year, honey comb honey from The Chef’s Garden!

Cut honey comb is sent in the full frame, just as it occurs naturally in the farm’s 40 beehives. With all the growing goodies, you can imagine the sophisticated level of sweetness their honey has. They suggest to adorn your table with this masterpiece of nature, so I did!

Gefilte fish — stuffed fish, think of a coddie with matzo meal — is the base of my gefilte fish mousse. I adapted the recipe from a Baltimore Jewish Times one years ago. It’s in the same flavor profile as Whole Foods’ Mediterranean Tuna Salad, except I add horseradish and hearts of palm, omit olives. I plated it with some of The Chef’s Garden exceptional lettuces and some of the Flowering Herb Sampler.

For a hot vegetable course, I made things easy — I chopped some of The Chef’s Garden Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips into 1″ pieces, brushed with some olive oil and salt, and added some orange peels that I keep in the freezer, then roasted the whole shebang. I learned from The Chef’s Garden Book to never waste parts of produce, so when I had some great oranges, I zipped up the peels. They add an easy tang to veggies, poultry and fish. You can also add some fresh herbs to garnish.

For dessert, I always go to a local caterer for their fantastic chocolate covered matzo. This is a great place to use some of the Chef’s Garden edible flowers! Of course, you can use them in salads, on cold drinks, with hors d’oeuvres, etc.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s