Festive Pesach table, with hints of east and west


According to a Pew Report, almost 70 percent American Jews — secular as well as observant — attend a Passover Seder to read the Haggadah and recount our flight from Egyptian slavery to freedom.

Of course, food is another highlight of the Seder, and much of the celebration revolves around specific foods and prohibitions.

Although Ashkenazi Passover dishes are heavy on matzah, eggs and dairy products, which were easily available in Eastern Europe, these traditional dishes can be lightened with fresh fruits and vegetables, in tune with contemporary dietary recommendations. In contrast, Sephardic Passover dishes are light and lively, heavy on fresh produce, exotic spices and zesty seasonings — all part of the ancient Mediterranean diet.

At the Hofman house, the first seder features an Ashkenazi meal with dishes that have been adapted to add generous amounts of fruits and vegetables. The second night features a Sephardic meal, definitely more appealing to the diet-conscious. Consider serving fish along with the traditional brisket or chicken. Instead of salmon, look for steelhead trout. It looks an awful lot like salmon, but it’s not; it’s softer and flakier. Don’t try to divide it into neat portions; just spoon into pieces. Native to Alaska and the West coast, it’s one of the healthier types of fish with plenty of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Just make sure you buy farm-raised, as wild steelhead is an endangered species, depending on where it’s from.

The recipes below do not include kitniyot. Happy Passover!

Sephardic Apricot-Cherry Charoset (Pareve)


1 cup dried apricots, cut up

1/4 cup dried cherries

3 large dried peaches (about 4 ounces) cut in chunks

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans

2 Tbsp. packed fresh mint leaves

3 to 4 Tbsp. sweet wine

2 Tbsp. honey or to taste


Place dried fruits in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes or so to soften. Drain well. Place in a food processor and pulse to chop coarsely.

Add the nuts, mint, 3 tablespoons wine and honey. Process to chop finely. Transfer to a bowl. Add more honey or wine as desired.

Place in serving bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature. Makes 2 to 2-1/2 cups.

Springtime Vegetable Soup (Pareve)


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced thinly

1 medium green zucchini (about 1-1/2 cups), cut julienne

1 medium yellow zucchini (about 1-1/2  cups), cut julienne

3 medium tomatoes, snipped coarsely

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup grated parsnip

1/4 cup snipped fresh dill, packed

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley, packed

6 to 7 cups vegetarian broth (substitute chicken to make a meat soup)

2 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning or to taste


In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until veggies are softened. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sweet and Zesty Passover Kugel (Pareve)


2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut in chunks

2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and cut in chunks

4 oz. plus 2 Tbsp. margarine, melted

10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1-1/2 cups bagged shredded carrots

1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, well-drained

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup matzah meal

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup frozen orange-juice concentrate, thawed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Coarsely chop the potatoes and apples in the food processor. In a large bowl, place potatoes, apples, about 1 stick melted margarine and all remaining ingredients. Stir to mix well. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Drizzle with remaining margarine.

Bake in preheated oven for 1-1/4 hours, or until firm and nicely browned. If browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 10 to 12.

Za’atar Baked Steelhead Trout (Pareve)


2 to 2-1/2 lb. fillet steelhead trout

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. za’atar

2 Tbsp. finely snipped parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place steelhead trout fillet on prepared baking pan. Sprinkle all over with lemon juice, salt, pepper and za’atar.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 minutes. Cooked when a knife is inserted and flakes are opaque. Before serving, sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot, warm or even at room temperature. Serves 8. 

Sweet Fruit Ratatouille (Pareve)


1-1/4 cups pineapple or apricot preserves

3 Tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. potato starch

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 15-oz. cans tangerine sections, drained

1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut in 1-inch cubes

1 cup blueberries

1/4 cup pistachio halves or slivered almonds (optional)


In large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the preserves, orange juice, potato starch and cinnamon. Stir constantly until melted and combined. Bring to boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Fold in the tangerines, pineapple and blueberries. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Just before serving, scatter pistachios or slivered almonds over top. Serve at room temperature. Serves 8.