A Modern Seder that Honors Tradition

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As the celebration of Passover approaches and hosts begin to plan their menus, we can count on a number of dishes that are pretty much given. The components of the seder plate and a pot of matzo ball soup grace the tables of Jews the world over, and nobody’s messing with those.

But the main course offers cooks the opportunity to embrace and respect the traditions while integrating some new flavors and ingredients.

For instance, this year, instead of a traditional brisket with a hearty beef gravy, I am serving corned beef. It’s still a brisket, but it doesn’t require an involved preparation, and it offers plenty of flavor — especially when offered with a variety of mustards.

For sides, I’m doing a take on traditional tzimmes, which will include a variety of root vegetables. I’ll toss some caraway seeds into the pan, just for kicks. And as a green, I’m offering a salad that will integrate elements of the seder plate into a tasty and healthy side dish. These dishes honor millennia of tradition with fresh, modern-day flavors.

For dessert, consider chocolate-covered strawberries (recipe on the Philacatessen blog) or one of the kosher-for-Passover recipes in last week’s Passover Palate supplement.

Corned Beef

4 pounds corned beef brisket, including brine and seasonings

Water to cover

Assorted mustards for serving

Place the corned beef, brine and seasoning packet into a large pot and cover with cold water.

Cover and heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2½ hours until a fork easily pricks the meat.

Remove the meat from the water, let it rest for 5 minutes, then slice thinly, across the grain in a slight diagonal.

Serves 6

Tzimmes with Caraway Seeds

2 large potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes

2-3 parsnips

6 carrots

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

¼ cup honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Peel vegetables if desired (I normally do not) and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Place the vegetables in a baking dish and toss with the oil, spices and honey.

Bake, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through and beginning to brown.

Serves 6

Seder Plate Salad

1 large head romaine or escarole, chopped

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Matzo croutons (recipe follows)

Horseradish dressing (recipe follows)

In a large salad bowl, place the greens, parsley and egg.

Toss with the matzo croutons and horseradish dressing; serve immediately.

Serves 6

Matzo Croutons

This recipe makes more than enough for one large salad, and it can easily be doubled, if necessary. The “croutons” keep in an airtight container for about a week.

3 matzos, broken into small pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon oregano

In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil with the spices, stirring to blend.

Add the broken matzo and stir until thoroughly coated and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Cool and toss into the salad.

Horseradish Salad Dressing

This dressing is great on the Seder Plate Salad, but it does double duty as a condiment for the corned beef. If you have leftovers, try it on sandwiches or as a dip.

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 clove garlic

Pinch salt

Generous sprinkle of fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons white vinegar

½ cup olive oil

In a blender or mini chopper, place all the ingredients.

Blend until thoroughly mixed and emulsified — it should no longer separate when done.

Makes about ⅔ cup