Chow Bella

Homemade Matzoh, Manischewitz Sangria and a Brisket Cook Off

The Passover seder -- simply put, a Jewish ceremony commemorating the Israelites' exodus from Egypt -- is all about suffering. There's a lot of talk of plagues like boils and lice, you eat bitter herbs and, traditionally, the service includes a meal featuring some pretty inedible food.

Not this year. This year, we threw a pot luck seder and invited the best cooks we know -- our friends. (Apologies to Ace of Cakes.)

The company was terrific. There's not a rabbi around who would have approved -- we called the seder "Let My People Go Go: A Very Groovy Passover" and it included everything from a retelling of the Passover story from Metallica's perspective to an impromptu skit featuring a 6-year-old as Pharoah.

And the food? Oy vey. We're still stuffed. So we thought we'd share some recipes. Some you can save for next year's seder, or make this week if you are observing the Passover dietary rules, which extend for several more days. Others would be good any time. (Do note, not all recipes have been Officially Sanctioned as kosher for Passover. If you really take this stuff seriously, consult a pro before proceeding.)   



The Wine

Most Passover jokes center on the wine. Have you ever tried a sip of Manischewitz? Not good. This year we decided to make the best of some bad wine by mixing up a batch of sangria. (Hey, that's what you're supposed to do with bad wine, right?) And since technically the seder calls for each guest to consume four glasses, we wanted something decent to guzzle -- er, we mean sip.

Our recipe was trial and error -- the best sangria is the one you make to your own tastes.

Passover Sangria

In a very large glass jar, pour:

Three bottles red Manischewitz wine a third of a bottle of Chambord add 3 apples, cored/sliced 1/2 basket strawberries, sliced 3 peaches, sliced 6 cinnamon sticks 2 vanilla beans (scrape out the innards, don't include the skins)

Allow to soak overnight. (We left ours out on the kitchen counter; you can refrigerate if you're paranoid.)

Serve over ice.

The Seder Plate

Todd's Horseradish Peel and cut into 1/2 inch cubes approximately 1.5 cups of horseradish root.

In a food processor, cover the blade with 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup ice cubes (crushed if they are big ice cubes).

Add horseradish root, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and the juice of one lemon or a tablespoon of white vinegar.

Process until a smooth consistency. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Deborah's Charoset This is a cross between my mother's charoset and Wolfgang Puck's recipe:

Ingredients * 1/2 lemon, juiced * 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts * 1 cup golden raisins * 5 flavorful apples, cored and chopped into little pieces roughly the same size as the raisins and walnuts * 1/3 cup honey or less to taste * 1 teaspoon cinnamon * 1/4 cup Manischewitz wine

Directions: In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients. Let sit for an hour or more if you can. Serve. Enjoy compliments.


We have never - in 43 years of seders - seen or even heard of homemade matzoh. Leave it to Todd, a dinner guest who not only made his own horseradish (see above) he crocheted two yarmulkes the afternoon of the seder. He also made matzoh from this recipe in the New York Times.

Todd includes the following tip: "The recipe that I sent to you doesn't talk about pricking the rolled out matzoh with a fork before baking. You should prick each matzoh approximately 100 times with a fork. I suppose you could run a perforating tool over them too, if you want them to look like the boxed variety and you happen to be a scrapbooker who has those tools on hand."

The Brisket

We had two briskets. Veteran brisket maker Mom squared off against novice Robrt with two very different briskets. Mom's (a new recipe for her) is adapted from the Joy of Cooking's recipe for Sweet and Sour Brisket.

Mom's Brisket Brown brisket in dutch oven in 1 tablespoon olive oil. (I used spray.) Add: three cloves of minced garlic ground pepper and salt to taste 1/2 cup red wine 1/2 cup beef stock 1 bay leaf three large thick-sliced yellow onions 1 cup chili sauce 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 1/4 cup vinegar

Simmer covered on low for three hours. Refrigerate overnight. Skim fat, slice, move to serving/baking dish. Bake for another two hours at 300.

Robrt's Crock Pot Brisket

(Note from Robrt: "I feel compelled to point out two things about this brisket: 1. I have never in my life succumbed to the whole "cooking with Jello" routine. I used this recipe because 2. every single brisket recipe given to me by an old Jewish woman involved a can of soda pop.")

Ingredients: 3/4 cup cola 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon vinegar 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon beef boullion granules 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground ... 2 medium onions, chopped 1 1/2 pound beef roast or brisket piece 1/2 cup ketchup 2 tablespoons margarine or butter Directions: For meat: Mix all ingredients up to and including red pepper. Reserve 1/2 cup for sauce. Cut meat to fit Crock Pot. Place onions in Crock Pot and meat on top of onions. Pour remaining liquid over meat. Cover and cook 10-12 hours on low, 5-6 hours on high.

Both were very tasty.

Side Dishes

For space reasons, we can't share every side dish from our seder. Roasted broccoli and fresh fruit with mint were big hits. Kugel (a baked Jewish casserole or pudding, according to Wikipedia) was, too. Because leavened bread (and a whole bunch of other stuff) is forbidden on Passover, the challenge is to find ingredients that pass the kosher test.

First-time seder attendee Kathy hit it out of the park with this recipe for a sweet kugel made from matzoh. (Very important tip: get the matzoh wet first!)

Estelle made a delightful savory noodle kugel with Gefen Passover noodles imported from Israel. Really, it's a Passover lasagna - best part, the noodles don't even have to be pre-cooked. The recipe was on the back of the Gefen box:

NOODLE BAKE Ingredients: ½ lb. cottage cheese or ½ lb. ricotta cheese 1 c. shredded mozzarella 1 egg 1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained ½ t. salt ½ t. oregano 1/8 t. pepper 1 (15 to 20 oz.) can tomato sauce 1 box (9 oz.) Gefen Wide Noodles ½ c. water

Directions: In a large bowl mix cottage cheese or ricotta, ½ c. mozarella, egg, spinach, salt, oregano and pepper.

In a greased 13 inch baking pan, layer ½ of the cheese mixture, ½ of the noodles and ½ of the tomato sauce. Repeat layering. Sprinkle with remaining half cup of mozzarella. Pour water around the edges. Cover tightly with foil; bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Another first time seder-ite, Tricia did so much research for her dish we joked she might have inadvertantly Bar Mitzvahed herself in the process. Here's a recipe she came up with:

Tricia's Quinoa

Flash-steam asparagus in bite-size pieces. Mix with quinoa cooked LESS than 18 minutes, so it's kosher for Passover Add micro greens and toasted sliced almonds. Toss in balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper - all to taste)


Again, the dessert options are too many to list here, but one favorite was bought, not made. Chestnut Lane's flourless chocolate chestnut cake - which we stuck with candles to sneak in some March birthday wishes - was absolutely delicious.

And an old favorite, matzoh toffee bark, didn't disappoint.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at