A Family-Friendly Twist on the Passover Meal

Kosher cookbook author Paula Shoyer shares a three-course meal for a modern celebration; plus our editors pick nine kosher wines
A Family-Friendly Twist on the Passover Meal
In a spin on a French classic, this coq au vin is made with white wine and kumquats or oranges. Add a side of steamed haricots verts or other vegetable to fill out the main course. (Bill Milne)
Mar 20, 2018

Passover, like many holidays, is a time of year when families pull out traditional recipes, anticipating the return of familiar flavors. But today, hosts not only have to make sure their meals are kosher for the holiday, they also have to account for guests who may be following vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diets.

Paula Shoyer, the voice behind The Kosher Baker, has written several kosher cookbooks with those considerations in mind. For every Jewish holiday, Shoyer shares recipe ideas and tips in televised cooking demonstrations and classes across the country.

As a mother of four, “I work hard to stand in the shoes of a home cook and think through how much work they're willing to do and how much time they’re going to put in—and how many things they’re going to want to clean after making a dish,” Shoyer says. “I try not to take up too much of someone’s time.”

Shoyer began her culinary training at the École Ritz Escoffier in Paris, where she focused on pastry making—and where she tried many excellent kosher wines, she adds. Her cooking website and early cookbooks focused on breads and desserts before she moved to other fare in her 2015 book The New Passover Menu.

Her latest book, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, dives into fresh, contemporary food that minimizes processed ingredients and is considerate of a modern family’s needs. But her adherence to kosher guidelines is unwavering and well-taught; her grandfather was a mashgiah, a supervisor who ensures that kosher food establishments and producers are upholding all of the Jewish dietary laws, or kashrut.

For this year’s Pesach celebration, Shoyer shares recipes for a salmon and avocado tartare appetizer, followed by an updated classic coq au vin blanc. For dessert, there’s a mouthwatering chocolate cake with a surprise ingredient: quinoa. Wine Spectator supplies nine kosher wine recommendations, below.

The tartare, a callback to Shoyer’s time spent in Europe, makes a healthy alternative to a traditional Passover gefilte fish dish. This recipe is straightforward, utilizing tart lime juice, scallions, finely chopped radish, avocado, avocado oil and, of course, the freshest salmon you can find. The end result is beautiful to present and easy to double or triple for a larger group.

The coq au vin blanc—which can be made in advance without compromising on flavor—shows a mix of practicality and creativity. “What I always do is try to ask, ‘Is there another way to do this that might be interesting?’” Shoyer says of creating recipes. Of the classic French coq au vin, she adds, “I don’t need to put another chicken-with-red-wine recipe out to the world.” Her white wine version is lighter and better suited to springtime, with kumquats or orange slices providing a refreshing citrusy kick.

Of course, the white wine used in the recipe has to be kosher, but it shouldn’t break the bank. “I’ll use whatever I have on hand,” she says, candidly. “I like to give people the flexibility.” Though a fan of Bordeaux and Loire Valley wines, she particularly likes California kosher-wine producer Covenant's 2015 Lavan Chardonnay for the chicken.

Discussing kosher wine, Shoyer becomes animated. How much of an increase in quality kosher selections has she seen over the years? “One hundred percent. For years I would always look for French wines, because I thought those were the best kosher wines out there. But Israeli producers—there’s a really interesting winery in northern Israel called Tulip—are making delicious wines,” Shoyer says. For those looking for something a bit stronger, she recommends Moses kosher vodkas; she's partial to one made from dates.

For dessert, the chocolate quinoa cake is gluten-free, uncomplicated and appropriate for Passover. Shoyer, always eager to find new solutions for gluten-free desserts, cooks and purees quinoa as the base grain to hold the cake together. She experimented to avoid fats like margarine or processed vegetable oil; instead, coconut oil, mixed with dark unsweetened cocoa and vanilla extract, melds with the texture of the pureed quinoa to create a dense, fudgy dessert, dotted with fresh raspberries as a garnish. She notes it’s important to cook the quinoa sufficiently to avoid any graininess in the batter. For added elegance, she'll dress the cake with an optional melted chocolate glaze made of just three ingredients.

“I wanted this cake to be really rich and trick everybody,” Shoyer says; she maintains that people won’t know it’s gluten-free or made of quinoa. “My feeling is, if you have a really dense cake, you're not going to eat too much of it, because you just can’t—it’s too rich. So, it’s better for you!”

The following recipes are excerpted from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen by Paula Shoyer. Copyright © 2017 by Sterling Epicure Co.

Salmon and Avocado Tartare

Bill Milne
Gefilte fish may be a holiday tradition, but this fresh take on a seafood appetizer is fitting for spring entertaining.

  • 1 pound of the freshest salmon you can buy
  • 3 scallions, ends trimmed, sliced
  • 1 radish, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice, from zested lime
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons microgreens, for garnish (optional)

1. Slice the salmon into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl. Add the scallions, radishes and lime zest, and mix. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until just before serving.

2. When you’re ready to serve the tartare, add the lime juice, avocado oil, avocado cubes and basil, and mix well. Garnish with a sprinkle of microgreens, if you like. Makes eight 1/3-cup servings.

Coq au Vin Blanc

  • 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 large shallots, halved and sliced thinly
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
  • 1 750ml bottle kosher white wine
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 10 kumquats, each sliced into 4 pieces, or three 1/3-inch orange slices, peel intact, cut into 8 triangles
  • 8 to 10 ounces pearl onions

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add the chicken in batches and brown well on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Place the browned chicken into a 9-inch-by-13-inch roasting pan.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil to the frying pan. Place the shallots, leeks and onions in the pan and cook them, scraping up the browned bits from the chicken, for about 6 to 8 minutes, until they start to brown. Add salt and pepper, and stir.

3. Scoop the shallot, leek and onion mixture out of the frying pan and place under the chicken pieces in the roasting pan. Do not wash the frying pan. Scatter the garlic cloves around the chicken. Pour the wine on top. Add the rosemary and thyme sprigs and sprinkle the tarragon over the chicken pieces. Place the kumquats or orange pieces on top of the chicken.

4. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the pearl onions (skins on), boil for 2 minutes, then drain off the water. When the onions are cool enough to handle, cut off their ends and squeeze them out of their skins. Heat the unwashed frying pan over medium heat and add the pearl onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan often, so that the onions brown on all sides. Set the pan aside.

6. After the chicken has cooked for 1 hour, remove the foil, add the pearl onions and cook for another 30 minutes, uncovered, and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

Bill Milne
Moist and rich, this cake passes the test for Passover by relying on quinoa, which also makes it gluten-free.

For the Chocolate Quinoa Cake:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (from 1 orange)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • Fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)
  • For the Chocolate Glaze (optional):

  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • To make the Chocolate Quinoa Cake:

    1. Place the quinoa and water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Set the pan aside. The quinoa may be made 1 day in advance.

    2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Use cooking spray to grease a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle the potato starch over the greased pan and shake the pan to remove any excess starch.

    3. Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor. Add the orange juice, eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt, and process until the mixture is very smooth.

    4. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, or place in a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl and put in a microwave for 45 seconds, stirring and then heating the chocolate for another 30 seconds, until melted. Add the chocolate to the quinoa batter and process until well-mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

    5. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then remove it gently from the pan. Let it cool on a wire cooling rack. Glaze and/or garnish with raspberries, if desired. Serves 12.

    To make the Chocolate Glaze (optional):

    1. Melt the chocolate in a large, microwave-safe bowl in the microwave or over a double boiler. Add the oil and vanilla, and whisk well. Let the glaze sit for 5 minutes and whisk again. Use a silicone spatula to spread the glaze all over the cake.

    9 Kosher Wines for Passover

    Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good kosher wines from the most recently rated releases. More kosher wines rated in the past year can be found here in our Wine Ratings Search.

    LE MACIE DI M. PELLEGRINI Chianti Classico Terra di Seta Riserva 2012 Score: 93 | $30
    This is hitting its stride now, delivering vibrant cherry, plum, leather, tobacco and mineral flavors, with a hint of bitter almond. Shows fine balance and expression overall, with a long, fresh finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2030. 56 cases imported. From Italy.—B.S.

    TABOR Adama II Storm Galilee 2013 Score: 90 | $29
    A muscular, full-bodied red, sporting plenty of currant, boysenberry and herb flavors flanked by toasty elements. Licorice and mineral notes are edged by firm tannins into the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Kosher. Drink now through 2022. 1,300 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

    FLAM Syrah Galilee Reserve 2014 Score: 89 | $40
    A full-bodied, concentrated red, brimming with raspberry tart, savory spice and meaty aromas that are well-balanced with iron and bay leaf details. Full but integrated tannins linger into the milk chocolate-tinged finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2022. 1,000 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

    OR HAGANUZ Cabernet Franc Galilee Marom 2013 Score: 89 | $30
    Ripe boysenberry, currant and menthol notes are detailed by mocha and licorice accents in this concentrated but supple red. Hints of mineral and herb impart interest on the moderately tannic finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2023. 1,000 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

    RECANATI Cabernet Sauvignon Upper Galilee 2015 Score: 89 | $17
    A sinewy red, offering a toasty edge that surrounds the vibrant currant and raspberry notes, with meaty undertones that are fresh and integrated, and moderate tannins. Details of graphite and cedar linger into the crisp, tangy finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2022. 13,500 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

    FLAM Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Reserve 2014 Score: 88 | $55
    A plump, full-bodied red, with crushed plum and cherry notes edged by menthol, herb and mineral elements, showing moderate, chewy tannins. Tangy midpalate, with hints of olive and spice on the clean finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2022. 1,600 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

    LE MACIE DI M. PELLEGRINI Chianti Classico Terra di Seta 2014 Score: 88 | $19
    A bright, cherry-, currant- and earth-flavored red, with a vibrant structure keeping this fresh through the moderately long finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2020. 56 cases imported. From Italy.—B.S.

    TABOR Sauvignon Blanc Galilee Adama 2016 Score: 88 | $19
    Crisp and fruity, with grapefruit, chive and peach aromas highlighted by fresh acidity and underlying mineral and spice accents. Floral notes detail the finish. Kosher. Drink now. 750 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

    TEPERBERG Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Essence 2014 Score: 88 | $30
    A rich, full-bodied red, with raspberry compote and cherry tart flavors edged by licorice and mocha details. Lusciously spicy, this casts floral and tea aromas on the chewy finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2022. 2,500 cases made. From Israel.—G.S.

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    Cooking Holidays / Celebrations Passover Kosher Recipes

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