Pascale’s Kitchen: The festive Seder meal

Many families have a set menu that they prepare every year for Seder – sometimes even handed down for generations.

THE WRITER samples pre-Seder delights with chef Avi Cohen. (photo credit: YAFIT BASHEVKIN)
THE WRITER samples pre-Seder delights with chef Avi Cohen.
(photo credit: YAFIT BASHEVKIN)
Seder night is one of the most important events on the Jewish calendar, and Jews around the world spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for this auspicious occasion. Many families have a set menu that they prepare every year for Seder – sometimes even handed down for generations.
This year I’ve chosen to focus on the main dish and offer you three recipes that integrate a number of different flavors to add something new to your traditional menu. For weeks I vacillated which direction I should take this year. And then, recently, I received an invitation from Avi Cohen, the renowned chef at Galilion Hotel in Hula Valley, to join him for a day of cooking in his hotel kitchen located in the beautiful pastoral countryside.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to learn new techniques and get some new ideas for dishes to serve at this year’s Seder night dinner. Cohen is one of the most modest chefs I’ve ever met in my life. He began his culinary career working as a server at an event hall in Kiryat Shmona in his teen years. Upon completing his IDF service, he immediately took his military grant money and signed up for courses at the Holiday Inn Hotelier and Culinary College in Tiberias.
He worked as a chef in a number of hotels over the years, and also ran a catering business before arriving at Galilion Hotel, which he considers his dream job. Cohen told me that he keeps a notebook and pen by his bedside so he can quickly jot down creative ideas that come to him while he sleeps.
Cohen has a rich and varied style of cooking, and he loves to prepare dishes that hark back to his childhood, which he spent eating delicacies based on Moroccan cuisine. He even won a number of awards at the International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival Competition.
Below, you will find three incredible recipes created by Cohen that are perfect for serving at the Passover Seder. Wishing everyone chag sameach and bon appetit!
THE WRITER samples pre-Seder delights with chef Avi Cohen. (Yafit Bashevkin)THE WRITER samples pre-Seder delights with chef Avi Cohen. (Yafit Bashevkin)
Makes 8-10 servings.
2 kg. (about 10) boneless sea bream fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
300 g. potato starch
10 eggs beaten with 3 Tbsp. cold water
½ kg. matzah meal mixed with 200 g. ground almonds or hazelnuts
Soybean, canola or sunflower oil for deep frying (about 1 liter)
1 red pepper, cubed
1 yellow pepper, cubed
1 green pepper, cubed
3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 medium white onion, chopped finely
1 yellow onion, chopped finely
1 bunch parsley leaves, chopped finely
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped finely
1 cup vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Juice from 4 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and rinse the fish fillets well and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and place them in a bowl. Place potato starch in one bowl, water and egg mixture in a second bowl, and the matzah meal with ground almonds in a third. Heat the oil for deep frying in a large pan. Cover the fillets with potato starch and then dip them first in the egg mixture and then in the matzah meal. Deep fry them in the oil until they are golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels.
To prepare the chimichurri, add all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Place the cooked fish fillets on a serving dish and serve with chimichurri sauce on the side. Alternatively, if you want to serve individual plates, add a dollop of sauce on each plate. Serve immediately while fish is hot and crispy.
Makes 8-10 servings.
3 Tbsp. canola oil
3 large onions, cubed
3 kg. chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into pieces
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm. cubes
3 bunches lemon grass, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 garlic fresh cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp. yellow curry paste
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 liter chicken stock or water
1 can of high-fat coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. canola oil
4 cups basmati rice
Salt to taste
2 bay leaves
4 whole allspice berries
6 cups of boiling water to steam rice
½ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup red chili flakes, chopped
Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions until they’re golden brown. Add the chicken and sauté the chicken pieces on both sides for 3-4 minutes.
Add the sweet potato and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add the lemon grass, cilantro, garlic, curry paste and powder, chicken stock and coconut milk.
Stir until sweet potato has softened and chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking over medium flame uncovered until sauce has thickened – about 30 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Continue cooking until sauce reaches desired thickness. (Not too watery, but not too thick either. If necessary, you can add a little more chicken stock or keep cooking until sauce thickens.)
At the same time, prepare the rice. Heat oil in a medium pan and add the rice. Sauté for 2 minutes and then add salt, allspice and bay leaves. Stir for another minute and then pour in boiling water. Stir, lower flame and cook for 15 minutes.
Transfer rice to a serving dish and then arrange chicken mixture on top. Adorn with cilantro leaves and red chili flakes.
Makes 8-10 servings.
THE WRITER samples pre-Seder delights with chef Avi Cohen.(Yafit Bashevkin)THE WRITER samples pre-Seder delights with chef Avi Cohen.(Yafit Bashevkin)
½ cup honey, silan (date honey) or maple syrup
2 Tbsp. crushed garlic
10 goose legs
½ kg. matzah meal
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
About 2.5 cups water
3 Tbsp. canola oil
10 g. baking powder
Some of the fat from the goose legs
3 Tbsp. canola oil (add 1 Tbsp. goose fat for taste if desired)
3 large onions, chopped into strips
200 g. dried apricots
200 g. pitted prunes
100 g. dried figs
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
3 cups red wine
1 liter fresh orange juice
½ cup silan (date honey)
100 g. walnuts
½ cup quality BBQ sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Cover goose legs with honey and garlic marinade and then wrap in plastic and store in the fridge overnight or at least 5 hours.
Place the legs in a baking pan and bake uncovered in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 30 minutes, until they turn dark brown. Drain off gravy and save in an airtight container in the fridge. Rearrange the legs in the pan.
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients for the kneidlach and then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
Heat oil in a pan and add the onion slices. Sauté over medium flame, stirring every so often until onion turns golden. Add the apricots, prunes, figs, cinnamon and star anise and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the wine and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice, silan (date honey), nuts and BBQ sauce. Bring to a boil.
Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Continue cooking until sauce thickens (about 20 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning.
After the legs have cooled, pour the sauce on top of them and shake the pan so that everything settles. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for 2 hours in an oven that has been preheated to 160°.
While the legs are baking, prepare the kneidlach. With the kneidlach mixture, form balls with a 2 cm. diameter. Pour water into a pot until it’s ¾ full. Add some salt and bring to a boil. Add the kneidlach to the boiling water and cook until they pop up to the surface. Remove them and place them in a bowl of cold water.
Just before serving, take 2-3 tablespoons of the goose fat you saved and heat it in a large pan. Add the kneidlach and sauté with a little salt. Place the kneidlach on a serving platter and then add the goose legs with the sauce on top.
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Translated by Hannah Hochner.