Challenging times call for a different kind of seder

Margi Lenga Kahn

By Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

What frightening and challenging times we are living in, when our daily lingo now includes “social distancing,” “self-quarantining” and “sheltering in place.”

One of the four questions asked each year at the Passover seder is, “How is this night different from all others?” This year, that question will take on even greater meaning, namely: How is this seder different from all others?

Rather than the traditional and joyful gatherings of friends and family around our seder tables, those gatherings may have to depend on Skype or FaceTime to bring us together. Moreover, many of our family’s traditional seder meals, and the food we prepare during the holiday’s eight days, may be limited by safe access to supermarkets or their diminished supplies. 

For now, supermarkets are open and have expanded early morning hours for people over the age of 60 and those with  compromised immune systems. Shelves are still full of certified kosher-for-Passover food, though one grocer at Schnucks told me those items have been selling faster than usual.

So where to begin? Passover comes but once a year, and we want to make it as nice as we can, especially this year. 

I’d like to start by sharing some of the more unusual kosher-for-Passover products I found on the shelves at my neighborhood Schnucks. They include three varieties of sriracha sauce; duck sauce; cashew butter; three varieties of dried quinoa; couscous; wasabi sauce; soy and teriyaki sauces (made from autolyzed yeast extract); panko bread crumbs (yes, there are ones that are kosher for Passover); organic roasted whole beets; and – ready for this? – beef jerky in a variety of flavors. 

I don’t recall any of those products back when I was a little girl accompanying my parents on their Passover shopping trip to Shenberg’s Market in the Loop.

But perhaps one or more of these new additions might tempt you to update some of your traditional recipes. Why not add “umami” character to your brisket with a tablespoon of soy sauce mixed into the bed of vegetables over which you roast your brisket? Or add a tablespoon to your gravy?  

If you’re roasting chicken for your seder, why not use duck sauce to baste the chicken halfway into its total cooking time? You can elevate the flavors by heating the sauce with sautéed minced garlic and fresh ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes before basting it onto your chicken. Then garnish the chicken with fresh orange wedges.

Crisp panko breadcrumbs make a great topping for your carrot tzimmes or potato kugel. Simply toss some of the crumbs with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, toast them on a pan on top of the stove or in the oven and sprinkle away. 

Or how about substituting tricolor quinoa for the matzo farfel in a casserole? Just be sure to follow the quinoa cooking directions  as quinoa cooks a lot faster than farfel.

I fashioned a challenge of my own this week, given my hesitation to spend too much time grocery shopping. I created a handful of recipes using ingredients I had in my pantry and my refrigerator. While I realize that not everyone will have these same ingredients, rest assured that all the ingredients I used in these recipes are Passover friendly, and most can be found in the kosher-for-Passover sections of your supermarket. Check out my recipes below.

Every year at the Passover seder we read the Haggadah, the story of our people’s exodus from Egypt. It is both a story of suffering and hope, one we recount to our children and they to their children. This year let us not forget that people all over the world are suffering. Let us hope and pray that this pandemic ends soon.

Chag Sameach.

Margi Lenga Kahn is the mother of five and grandmother of seven. A cooking  instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory, she is working on a project to preserve the stories and recipes of heritage cooks. She welcomes your comments and suggestions at margikahn@


Passionate Palate:

Roasted Asparagus with Gribiche


2 large eggs

1 tbsp. chopped capers or pickles, rinsed

1 tbsp. minced shallot or red onion

2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

1 tbsp. minced fresh dill, or ½ tsp. dried dill weed

1½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ tbsp. white wine vinegar

½ tsp. Dijon mustard

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1  lb. fresh asparagus, ends trimmed, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and roasted in 425- degree oven for 8-10 minutes 

1-2 tbsp. panko breadcrumbs, tossed with 1 tsp. olive oil, and lightly toasted



Cover eggs with water in a small pan. Bring water to a boil, remove pan from heat, and let eggs remain in hot water for 3 minutes. Rinse eggs in cold water for 30 seconds. Peel eggs and coarsely chop; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except for panko breadcrumbs and asparagus. Fold in chopped eggs.

Arrange asparagus on a platter, top with gribiche, and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs; serve.

Makes about 4 servings.


Passover Eggplant “Lasagna”

This “lasagna” can be served as a side dish alongside any entrée  or as a vegetarian entrée.


1 large eggplant (about 1 lb.), sliced thinly lengthwise, lightly salted, and left to sweat in a colander for 15 minutes


1½ tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil, or 1 tsp. dried basil

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ bay leaf

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste 

1 tsp. honey

To assemble:

2 large eggs

¾ c. whole milk ricotta cheese

¼ c. freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excessive

moisture squeezed out 

1c. shredded mozzarella cheese,


Salt and freshly ground black pepper, and dried or fresh oregano, if desired



Make sauce: Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan or deep skillet. Add garlic and onions and sauté until just softened. Add herbs, and salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Sauté for another minute.

Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and 1 tsp. honey; raise heat slightly and cook sauce, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Oil a 9-in.-square baking dish or pan; set aside. 

Pat eggplant slices dry with a paper towel; sprinkle both sides of eggplant lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange slices in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and then spray the eggplant generously with vegetable oil cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes, and then turn over eggplant slices, spray slices again and bake for an additional five minutes, or until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a fork and beginning to brown. Remove pan of eggplant from oven; leave oven at 450 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, Parmesan and spinach. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spread a scant 1 cup of the reserved tomato sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lay half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly if needed. Spread the spinach mixture over the slices, and sprinkle with a heaping ¼ c. of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Arrange remaining eggplant over everything and cover with remaining tomato sauce. 

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining ¾ c. mozzarella cheese and bake 10 minutes more, or until the sides are bubbling and the cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Garnish with dried or fresh oregano, if desired.

Make-ahead note: The lasagna can be assembled in the baking dish and refrigerated overnight. Preheat oven and bring lasagna to room temperature. Carefully spill out any accumulated moisture from bottom of dish and bake as directed.

Makes four entrée servings, six side dish servings.

Roasted Beets with Oranges, Avocados and Toasted Walnuts


1½ lb. whole beets

5 tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

1 tsp. coarse kosher salt

1½ tbsp. red wine vinegar

1½ tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

1½ tsp. date syrup, pomegranate syrup, or honey

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-2 navel oranges, peel and pith removed and oranges cut in half, and then into thin slices

2 medium avocados, pitted, and flesh cut into wedges

2 tbsp. walnuts, toasted in the oven or in a dry pan, and coarsely chopped



Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub beets under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Arrange beets in a single layer in an ovenproof small dish. Add 2 tbsp. of water to dish, drizzle beets with 2 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil, and roast beets for about 45 minutes in preheated oven until fork tender. Remove foil paper and allow beets to remain in dish to cool just enough to be able to handle them.

Using a paper towel or your hands, slide the skins off the beets and discard. Cut each beet in half vertically through the middle, and cut each half into four wedges. Place beet wedges into a clean bowl and gently toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil, red wine vinegar and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste; let rest for 30 minutes.

Arrange marinated beets, orange slices and avocado wedges on a serving platter. To the bowl of marinade, whisk in date syrup (or pomegranate syrup or honey), and remaining 3 tbsp. olive oil. Taste, adding salt and pepper, as needed.

Drizzle marinade mixture over salad, scatter nuts on top, drizzle with additional olive oil and grind some fresh black pepper over the top; serve.

Makes 4-6 servings. 


Passover Chocolate Glazed Lemon and Almond Cake


6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 c. baker’s fine sugar (you could use regular  granulated sugar)

1tsp. finely grated lemon zest 

Scant ½ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/8tsp. salt

1tsp. baking powder

1¼c. (200 g.) almond flour, pressed between your fingers to remove lumps

1c. finely grated unsweetened dried coconut

Finishing syrup:

¼ c. granulated sugar

¼c. water

Chocolate Glaze:

4 tbsp. coconut cream, skimmed off of the top of a can of whole fat coconut milk (do not shake can before opening)      

2 tsp. honey

1/3 c. (2.5 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips


Fresh berries (optional)



Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray or butter an 8-inch cake pan and line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Spray or butter paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, or in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar together until creamy and pale in color. If using stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and baking powder; stir, or beat on low until incorporated. 

Using a wooden spoon, stir in almond flour and coconut.

Pour batter into prepared pan (batter will come to the top of the pan). Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

While cake bakes, make finishing syrup. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved; set aside.

When cake is done baking, gently turn it out onto a cooling rack and carefully peel off parchment paper. Turn cake back over onto a serving platter. Using a small skewer or toothpick, evenly poke about 25-30 holes evenly spaced around the top of the cake.

Gently brush all of the finishing syrup over the top and sides of cake; let cool. 

While cake cools, make glaze. Heat coconut cream in a small pan over medium heat just before it begins to boil. Stir in honey.

Place chocolate chips in a small bowl and pour hot coconut-honey mixture over chips. Do not stir; set aside for five minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir mixture until smooth, and all the chocolate is melted.

Evenly pour or drizzle glaze over top of cake; let glaze set (you can refrigerate it briefly, if in a rush) before serving cake. Garnish slices with fresh berries, if desired.

Note: Cake may also be served without the glaze, simply sprinkled with some toasted coconut flakes immediately after brushing the cake with syrup.

Makes eight servings.