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Dining In: Tasty treats for a Passover celebration

recipes by Karen Diefendorf
Passover is one of the most joyful Jewish holidays of the year. It begins this year on April 3rd. It is a time of homecoming and returning to the family table for thanks and remembrance, and it is celebrated in song, prayer, and feasting. Meals often include dried fruits, such as dates, and most importantly, no leavened bread may be consumed.
   The traditional Passover feast starts with a Seder dinner symbolizing the last meal of the Children of Israel before they fled Egypt to set out for the Promised Land. A special plate, upon which are placed ceremonial Seder symbols, is the center object of every table. Each of the represented foods on this platter is explained during the dinner.

Date haroseth
   1 c. toasted walnuts
   3 c. pitted dates
   1 orange, peeled and quartered
   1/3 c. Passover wine
   1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and cloves
   1/4 tsp. ground ginger
   1 tart green apple, cored and finely chopped
   Matzos
   Chop walnuts finely in food processor. Remove and set aside. Puree remaining ingredients except apple in food processor until finely chopped. Stir in walnuts and apples. Serve as a spread for matzos. Makes 3 1/3 cups, approximately 20 servings.

Carrot and apple kugel
   1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine
   1 lb. (about 8) carrots
   1 lb. (about 3) apples
   1 tsp. sugar
   1/2 c. matzo meal
   1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
   1/2 tsp. lemon juice
   1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
   3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Lightly oil a 3-cup pie plate or gratin dish. Scrape the carrots and grate them in a food processor or a standing electric mixer with a fine grater attachment, or by hand with a box grater; you should have about 4 cups. Peel and core the apples and grate them; you should have about 1 cup.
   Combine all the ingredients except 1/4 cup of the toasted almonds in a bowl and mix well. Coarsely grate or process the remaining 1/4 cup toasted almonds. Transfer the contents of the bowl to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the grated almonds, and place in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and a few brown spots appear on the top. Serve hot or warm. Serves 6 to 8.

The following recipes are from The Jewish American Kitchen by Raymond Sokalov:

Passover nut cake
   10 eggs, separated
   1 c. sugar
   2 Tbsp. matzo cake meal
   1 Tbsp. slivovitz (plum brandy)
   1/2 lb. walnuts, finely ground (scant 1 1/2 cups)
   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Add the cake meal and slivovitz. Slowly beat in the ground nuts. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Gently fold them into the yolk-nut mixture. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the cake has risen substantially and is lightly colored on top. Cool the cake on a rack; as it cools, it will deflate. Remove the sides of the pan. The cake is best served the day it is made. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Honey sponge cake
   1/3 c. matzo cake meal
   1/3 c. potato starch
   1/2 c. sugar
   1 tsp.cinnamon
   1 tsp. ground ginger
   Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
   8 eggs, separated
   1 egg white
   1/4 c. vegetable oil
   1 c. honey
   Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a 10-inch tube pan. Combine the matzo cake meal, potato starch, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center and one by one, add the egg yolks, beating well after each addition. Beat in the oil and the honey. With an electric mixer, beat the 9 egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the beaten whites into the batter. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake is a rich brown and a skewer inserted in the center tests clean. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Matzo meal and apple pancakes
   3 eggs, separated
   1/2 c. matzo meal
   1/2 c. water or milk
   1 tsp. salt
   1/2 to 3/4 c. minced peeled apple
   Vegetable oil or butter for frying
   Cinnamon
   Beat the egg yolks until thick and pale in color. In a small bowl, combine the matzo meal with the water or milk and stir into the beaten yolks. Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Fold into the yolk mixture. Gently stir in the apple. Heat 1/4 inch of oil or butter in a heavy skillet. Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil; flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. Fry the pancakes until golden, about 4 minutes; turn and cook for about 3 minutes on the second side. Don't crowd. Add more oil or butter to the skillet as needed. Drain the pancakes on paper towels and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve with warmed honey, passed separately. Makes 14 to 18 pancakes.

Cheese latkes
   4 eggs
   1 Tbsp. sugar
   8 oz. farmer cheese, 1 cup
   3 Tbsp. butter, melted
   1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
   1 Tbsp. salt
   1/3 to 1/2 c. matzo meal
   Vegetable oil, butter, or margarine, for frying
   Cinnamon
   Beat the eggs and sugar for a few minutes, until pale and increased somewhat in volume. Beat in the farmer cheese. Add the butter, vanilla extract and salt. Slowly stir in enough matzo meal to make a batter that holds together.
   In a heavy skillet, heat 1/4-inch of oil (or butter or margarine.) Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Fry the pancakes until golden, abaout 4 minutes. Turn and cook for about 3 minutes on the second side. Don't crowd.Add more oil or butter to the skillet as needed. Drain the latkes on paper towels and serve sprinkled with cinnamon. Pass sour cream and/or jam separately. Makes 18 to 20 latkes.

Kneidlach (matzo balls)
   4 eggs
   1/2 c. water or seltzer
   6 Tbsp. melted schmaltz
   Salt
   Freshly ground black pepper
   1 c. matzo meal
   Beat the eggs until whites and yolks are blended. Stir in the water or seltzer. shmaltz and salt and pepper. Gradually stir in the matzo meal. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
   Bring a large quantity of water to a boil. Form the matzo balls with moistened palms, using about 2 tablespoons for each ball. Drop into the boiling water and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes. Serve in chicken soup. Makes about 16 matzo balls.
   Variation: Before stirring in the matzo meal, add 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, a few gratings of nutmeg and 3 tablespoons minced parsley to the egg mixture.