Flavorful Recipes for Passover’s 'Festival of Spring'

Chef Michelle Bernstein’s asparagus, cauliflower and bold sauces enliven the Pesach menu. Plus, scores and tasting notes for 10 recommended kosher wines
Flavorful Recipes for Passover’s 'Festival of Spring'
Garnishes like golden raisins, capers and a bite of garlic enhance the flavor of these fun side dishes. (Courtesy of Michelle Bernstein)
Mar 31, 2017

Passover begins April 10 this year, and the kosher classics will abound—matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish, brisket—but sometimes this annual Pesach cuisine can feel a bit … repetitive. Miami-based chef Michelle Bernstein, whose father brought Russian-Jewish influences to the kitchen when she was growing up, has a couple ideas to spice up the table.

Bernstein's professional experience includes stints at Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winners Le Bernardin in New York and Azul at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami. Later, she helmed the kitchens at Michy's (later renamed Cena by Michy) and Seagrape, and she has appeared on Top Chef and chef Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. For the Festival of Spring holiday, Bernstein shares two kosher vegetarian recipes that will bring some colorful pop and flavor to the Passover plate.

Grilled Asparagus with Salsa Romesco capitalizes on peak asparagus season; the preparation is simple, but the bold romesco sauce packs a wallop of Catalan flavors. “The asparagus is something we make when the family is together,” Bernstein told Wine Spectator via email. “Everyone just loves it and asks for it time and time again.”

The romesco, which integrates Sherry vinegar, jalapeño peppers and almonds (Bernstein prefers Marconas) into a sauce similar in consistency to a homemade marinara, can be made up to three days in advance. The grilled asparagus speaks for itself, letting the natural flavors shine.

Bernstein’s other dish, Cauliflower Steaks with Garlic Aioli, also takes advantage of fresh vegetables and a Catalan-inspired sauce; capers and golden raisins finish off the recipe with a bright bite of flavor. “The cauliflower toppings are also great on fish!” she adds. (Another of her favorite Passover dishes is roast snapper.)

Passover calls for kosher wines, of course, and the international selection of certified wines is bigger and better than ever. We’ve included 10 Wine Spectator–recommended kosher wines from Israel and California below.

Cauliflower Steaks with Garlic Aioli

Recipe courtesy of Michelle Bernstein.

For the cauliflower steak:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup Marcona almonds, smashed (plus some whole almonds reserved for garnish)
  • 3 tablespoons nonpareil capers
  • 1/4 cup pickled garlic, thinly sliced

For the garlic aioli:

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon water

Courtesy of Michelle Bernstein

To make the cauliflower steak and garlic aioli:

1. Start with the aioli. In a blender, combine the garlic, salt, yolks, water and lemon; puree until smooth. With the blender on, very slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add a tiny bit of water if the sauce is too thick. Set aside.

2. For the cauliflower, begin by cutting the head of cauliflower (from top to base) into two 1-inch-thick slices.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan for 1 minute on medium heat. Add the cauliflower to the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides, season with salt and pepper, set the cauliflower aside on a paper towel (or warming plate, if you have one) and repeat with the other slice.

4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat (this should take about 30 seconds). Add the raisins, almonds and capers to the pan, tossing them for 1 minute.

5. Top the cauliflower steaks with the warm raisin mixture and garnish with pickled garlic and whole almonds as desired. Dot the plate with the garlic aioli. Serves 2 to 4.

Romesco with Grilled Asparagus

Recipe courtesy of Michelle Bernstein.

For the romesco:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 tomato, grilled or roasted until charred on the outside, then peeled
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, then grilled or roasted until charred on the outside, then peeled
  • 3 piquillo peppers (or 1 large roast red pepper), seeded and peeled
  • 1 cup Marcona almonds
  • 1 ounce Sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/2 piece of Matzoh
  • Kosher salt to taste

For the grilled asparagus:

  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends cut off
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste

Courtesy of Michelle Bernstein

1. Start with the romesco. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds; add the oil, garlic and shallot and cook until very soft and tender.

2. Combine the tomato, jalapeños, piquillos, garlic and shallot in a blender and puree until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients except the salt into the blender. Pulse until it is a little bit chunky, adding a splash of water if needed. Season to taste and set aside.

3. For the asparagus, preheat the grill at medium-high heat. Toss the asparagus spears in olive oil with a couple pinches of salt.

4. Grill for about 6 to 8 minutes, until the spears are slightly charred and just cooked through.

5. Remove the cooked asparagus from the grill and check for seasoning. Serve over the romesco. Serves 4.

10 Wine Spectator–Recommended Kosher Wines

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

Tzora Judean Hills White 2014 Score: 92 | $30
Offers a spicy aroma, with pure, mineral-infused flavors of Granny Smith apple, lemon curd and pineapple, accented by notes of toasted coconut. The finish has crème brûlée hints that linger with plenty of richness. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Kosher. Drink now through 2020. 2,000 cases made.—KM

Barkan Chardonnay Judean Hills Special Reserve 2012 Score: 91 | $25
The mature aromas and flavors are creamy, offering loads of lemon meringue, apple cobbler and roasted peach notes. Big and rich midpalate, with a long, spicy finish that is buttery and lush. Kosher. Drink now through 2019. 2,955 cases made.—KM

Galil Mountain Yiron Galilee 2012 Score: 91 | $28
A big, rich and well-spiced red, delivering concentrated flavors of dark cherry, smoke, plum and dark currant. Very toasty in the midpalate, this boasts a finish that lingers with dark chocolate and tobacco leaf notes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah. Kosher. Drink now through 2020. 5,000 cases made.—KM

Golan Heights Winery Chardonnay Galilee Yarden Katzrin 2014 Score: 91 | $29
Big, rich and well-spiced, with plenty of buttery notes to the ripe pear, baked apple and pastry flavors. Plush midpalate, presenting a finish of crème brûlée and lemon curd. Kosher. Drink now through 2021. 3,000 cases made.—KM

Domaine du Castel Haute-Judée C Blanc du Castel 2014 Score: 90 | $50
Buttery and rich, with pear tart, crème brûlée and apple pastry flavors, supported by vibrant acidity. Toasty notes linger with hints of dried tropical fruits on the supple finish. Chardonnay. Kosher. Drink now through 2020. 2,500 cases made.—KM

Recanati Special Reserve Galilee 2013 Score: 90 | $60
Juicy and rich, with lots of red plum and raspberry flavors that feature fresh acidity. Licorice notes show midpalate, presenting a finish that has accents of milk chocolate and paprika. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Marselan and Carignan. Kosher. Drink now through 2019. 1,900 cases made.—KM

Teperberg Chardonnay Samson Impression 2014 Score: 90 | $18
Buttery and lush, with plenty of tropical richness to the flavors of apple pie and peach cobbler. Shows up-front spiciness, leading to a silky finish loaded with decadent spicy notes. Kosher. Drink now through 2019. 2,500 cases made.—KM

Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Appellation 2014 Score: 88 | $20
A fresh red, with vibrant acidity behind the cherry, currant and cranberry flavors. Firm tannins show midpalate, revealing dark chocolate and mocha notes on the finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2019. 1,200 cases imported.—KM

Covenant Red C Sonoma County 2014 Score: 88 | $44
Supple and soft, featuring easygoing raspberry and blueberry flavors, with accents of spicy cinnamon. Kosher. Syrah, Malbec, Grenache and Merlot. Drink now through 2024. 1,400 cases made.—TF

Gamla Chardonnay Galilee 2013 Score: 88 | $15
Offers a buttery aroma, with flavors of ripe apple, baked pear and lemon meringue. Powerful smoke notes emerge on the decadently spiced finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2018. 400 cases made.—KM

Cooking Holidays / Celebrations Passover Kosher Recipes

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