TEL AVIV, Israel - "Why is this night different from any other night?" Jews all over the world will recite this on the evening of April 12, while gathered among family and friends to celebrate the Passover Seder.
This is one of the most important and beloved events on the Jewish calendar. Other Jewish holidays are primarily celebrated with enough food to feed the entire neighborhood, but the Seder includes food and more - a reading of the Haggadah, a traditional collection of narrative sources interspersed with ritual, legend, prayers, blessings and songs of thanksgiving collected throughout the ages.
This traditional Passover dish comes from Georgia, on the Black Sea. The rolls' savory filling can also be stuffed into fresh mushrooms or spread on egg matzo.
Walnut, Herb-Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
About 1 cup vegetable oil
33Ú4 pounds eggplant (2 to 3 medium)
Salt. black pepper
11Ú2 cups walnut halves (about 1 pound)
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed (1 tablespoon)
1Ú2 teaspoon white- or red-wine vinegar
1Ú3 cup chopped onion
1Ú4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 small dried hot pepper, or cayenne to taste
1Ú2 cup packed chopped cilantro
1Ú3 cup packed chopped fresh Italian parsley
Cut the stem ends off the eggplant, and slice lengthwise into 3Ú8-inch slices. Sprinkle both sides with a little coarse salt and pepper and rub in. Let stand for 10 minutes, rinse off and pat dry.
Heat half the oil in a frying pan and saute half the eggplant slices on both sides till golden brown. Remove and place between two sheets of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the oil and eggplant.
Grind the walnuts to a powder in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, blending until the paste forms a ball. Lay the eggplant slices on a work surface and place 2 or more tablespoons of filling (depending on type of eggplant), at the base. Carefully roll up from the bottom into a compact roll. Place on a serving platter decorated with fresh greens if desired, and serve. This is best at room temperature, but it can also be served chilled. Makes about 20 to 30 pieces. Serve 2 pieces per person as a first course, 3 or more as a main course.
This easy and fabulous Seder recipe combines main and side dish.
Roasted Chicken with Two Potatoes, Garlic and Rosemary
One 3- to 4-pound roasting chicken, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
11Ú2 pounds small unpeeled potatoes, halved
1 pound sweet potatoes or yams
1 medium onion, cut crosswise in rings
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, each broken into 3 or 4 pieces
20 unpeeled cloves of garlic (about 2 heads)
3Ú4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Wash the chicken, pat dry and place in a roasting pan.
Wash, dry and peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large chunks. Scatter the potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic cloves and rosemary around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over all.
Place in a preheated 425 F oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 to 375 F and continue to bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chicken and potatoes are golden and the garlic is crisp. Turn the chicken and potatoes over occasionally during baking. (If the vegetables are browning too fast but the chicken is still not done, cover the pan with aluminum foil during baking). Makes 6 servings.
This savory cheesecake is delicious as a quick lunch or dinner, or for entertaining during Passover. Serve warm or at room temperature with a salad of mixed greens. Very satisfying - a little goes a long way.
Tarragon-Scented Savory Goat Cheese Cheesecake
2 cups matzo meal
3Ú4 cup melted unsalted butter
1Ú4 cup ground or finely chopped walnuts
12 ounces soft goat cheese (preferably Israeli), at room temperature
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 and 1Ú3 cups sour cream
1Ú2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 T. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Generous grind of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Cut a circle and a 3-inch-wide strip of parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Affix with a little butter.
In a bowl, blend the matzo meal, melted butter and walnuts with a wooden spoon. Press the mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Chill while preparing the filling.
In the bowl of a food processor or using an electric mixer, blend the goat- and cream cheeses. Mix in the eggs, followed by sour cream, salt, tarragon and pepper, beating well. Pour the mixture into the chilled crust and place the pan on a baking sheet, to avoid dripping onto the bottom of the oven.
Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the cake remain in the oven for 30 minutes.
Cool down to just warm. Carefully remove the outer ring and remove the bottom disk by placing the cheesecake on the serving platter, inserting a flat spatula between the disk and cheesecake and circling around gently to detach it (do not attempt to remove the paper if it sticks).
Place the cheesecake on a serving plate.
(Cheesecake may be prepared in advance and chilled in the pan. Just before serving, remove the outer ring and bottom disk. Serve at room temperature.
To re-warm, remove the outer ring and base from the chilled cheesecake, and slide onto a baking pan. Place in a preheated 250 F oven for 8 minutes or until just warmed. Remove and carefully transfer to a serving plate. Individual slices may also be reheated in the microwave.)
To serve: Slice the cheesecake with a knife dipped in ice water and serve. Best consumed within 3 to 4 days.
Makes 10 to 12 servings as a main course, 15 to 20 as an hors d'oeuvre.