By Robyn Goldberg, Chef/Educator – Cooking Round The World
Passover is a Jewish holiday that takes place for one week in the early spring. The holiday commemorates the liberation of Israelites from slavery in Egypt in 1300 BCE. According to the Torah, or Jewish Bible, God helped the Israelites escape from slavery by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians. The Israelites were told to mark their doors with blood, and so God would know to ‘pass over’ their homes when inflicting the plagues.
When the Israelites were finally freed, they left in such a hurry that they couldn’t wait for their bread to leaven, or rise. Therefore, to honor this escape, Jews do not eat leavened bread on Passover, or anything containing yeast (which is an ingredient that causes bread, cakes, etc. to rise). You might be familiar with matzo, which is a flat cracker-like type of bread, that is commonly eaten during the week of Passover in place of regular bread.
During the Seder, which is a big feast eaten during the week of Passover, Jews also eat other specific foods to honor the memory of their ancestors. On the Seder plate, you will find charoset, which is a mix of chopped apples, walnuts, honey, wine, and cinnamon. This symbolizes the mortar the Israelites used for building during their enslavement. Horseradish is eaten with the charoset, and it represents the bitterness of slavery. Parsley or celery (called ‘karpas’ in Hebrew) is dipped into salt water and eaten, to symbolize the tears of the Israeli slaves. A lamb or goat shankbone is on the plate as well, to represent sacrifice.
Growing up, I always celebrated Passover with my family in New York. Since moving to California, I’ve gotten to experience Seders with different family members and friends on the west coast. It’s interesting to see how Seders differ. While the main ingredients tend to be similar, people have very different ways of adding their own flair and creativity to Passover dishes. For example, kugel is a delicious egg noodle casserole that is served during the main course of the meal. My mom’s version incorporates lots of sweet ingredients – raisins, pineapple, cottage cheese, and brown sugar. It tastes more like dessert-like than dinner-like. Last year, at a friend’s Seder, I got to taste my first savory kugel, which was made with potatoes, sautéed onion, paprika, and cumin. It was delicious, and completely different from the kugel I’d grown up eating.
One thing always remains the same for me, no matter the meal or holiday… dessert is my favorite course! Therefore, I’d like to share with you a super tasty, simple Passover dessert that my family eats at our Seder every year.
Makes approx. 8 macaroons (recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc.)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 egg white
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
Medium bowl, small bowl (microwave-safe), whisk, wooden spoon, small metal spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, baking tray, parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Line baking tray with parchment paper.
- In medium bowl, whisk egg white till foamy.
- Add sugar, vanilla, and salt to egg white, and combine using whisk.
- Add coconut, and mix with wooden spoon till the mixture is uniform throughout.
- At this point, the mixture should be sticky, but not runny. If you can easily see the egg white liquid, add a bit more coconut to achieve the right consistency.
- Divide mixture into eight equal parts – typically about two tablespoons each.
- Using wet hands, roll each part into a ball (should be tightly packed). Place balls on parchment paper, about two inches apart.
- Bake until slightly golden – usually takes 13-18 minutes, but depends on the oven.
- Remove from oven, and let macaroons cool.
- Melt chocolate chips in small bowl in microwave, stopping at 20-second intervals to stir. Do not overheat or chocolate will burn.
- Dip the bottom half of each macaroon in the melted chocolate. Place back on parchment paper.
- Drizzle leftover chocolate on top of the macaroons using small metal spoon.
- Wait for the chocolate to harden… if you have the willpower to do so! Enjoy.