Sixth-night seder

Passover seders are like children: Everyone thinks theirs is the most fabulous one in the world, yet we all have the good taste not to say so out loud.

We had ours on Saturday, the sixth night of Passover, since I was away visiting my sister in Rhode Island at the beginning of the holiday. We were 24 in total, about the same size as usual, and we used the same home-compiled haggadah as usual. 

Even with so much continuity, every year is a little different. Before we had Becca, we did a longer seder with lots of discussing and digressing and politicking. Then we and our friends had babies, and it took on a beat-the-clock feeling: How much of the seder could you get through before the baby melted down? 

Then the kids got older, and there was often an empty seat while some little boy was off in the living room taking a Lego break.

Now the  average age of the kids has risen to somewhere between 10 and 16, and we’re able to have a  focused, coherent seder once again. 

And yes, we added the whipping scallions that I had read about in the New York Times and mentioned in my last blog post. See below:

Let the scallion whipping begin!

Let the scallion whipping begin!


Now, I know that the point of a seder is the story – the exodus from Egypt, the collective memories of slavery, the vertical connection to our history as Jews and the horizontal connection to the freedom struggles of so many other peoples today. 

Okay, I know that. Now can we talk about the food? 

I am about to violate the basic rule of discretion that I laid out at the beginning of this post, but I must say that I make the absolutely best matzah balls in the world. You may scoff, but this verdict comes from the toughest of critics — my daughter, who is usually about as complimentary to me as Simon Cowell is to American Idol wannabes. 

They are light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth. So even if I never get my novel published, I can take satisfaction in being Queen of the Matzah Balls. 

My absolutely, positively, undeniably fabulous matzah balls

This year,  I also made two great kosher-for-Passover desserts, including one that I decided to add at the last minute. (I ran out to the grocery store at 1 pm for the ingredients.) 

The dessert I’d made before was a raspberry jam linzer torte from a recipe by Tina Wasserman in Reform Judaism magazine a couple of years ago. The new one was a lemon cheesecake from the web site of the late, lamented Gourmet magazine. 

Lemon cheesecake and linzer torte

As anyone who has had dinner at our house knows, Sam is the baker in the family. He makes apple pies, fruit tarts, éclairs, croissants, and pain au chocolat.  I don’t go near anything that requires rolling out dough or letting things rise. 

But I have a personal passion for Passover desserts. Sometimes I fantasize about writing a Passover dessert cookbook. I love having to work within such strict, almost absurd limits. It’s one thing to make a main course without wheat or grains or leavening – but desserts

It’s kind of like Iron Chef: The Pesach Challenge

And there are so many bad Passover desserts out there. 

The old dry sponge-type cakes. The jellied fruit slice candies. The — I shudder even to think of them — canned macaroons

So I love the challenge of coming up with Passover desserts that are not dry and boring – that are modern and fruity and moist and scrumptious. 

The linzer torte and cheesecake definitely made the grade. So did our friend Jane’s chocolate death cake (only three ingredients — chocolate, eggs and butter) and our neighbor Lisa’s caramel and berry flan. Then there was the  chocolate toffee matzah, which I sometimes make but which last night was made by our friend Lynn.

Jane's chocolate death cake


Lisa's caramel flan

Lynn's chocolate matzah (and some crystallized ginger)

I quietly skipped the brisket that Sam made for the main course, knowing the desserts that would be coming.

No loss. Today we’ve got brisket leftovers for dinner.

But — sad for the soul, good for the thighs — the desserts are all gone.

Aftermath of a great seder


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8 Responses to “Sixth-night seder”

  1. Jane Rubinsky Says:

    Ilana, I loved reading about your seder … I feel as if I’d been there myself! (I nearly forgot about the whipping scallions, which I encountered two years ago at the same seder I mentioned in my blog at which the four question were asked in various languages.) Your desserts look spectacular … I’ll have to try and find some of the recipes.

  2. Jim Richardson Says:

    Oh, can we come to your seder? Next year in Oakland is my prayer!

  3. Melissa Nappan Says:

    I am happy to hear that somewhere some people still eat dessert. At the seder we attend, I was assigned to make dessert. While I was still perusing recipes, I received a call from the hostess, reminding me that several guests “do not eat sweets” and the “rest of us are watching our weight” so that I should “go very light” on dessert. I ended up bringing a beautiful flat of strawberries, with some whipped cream for the rest of us. (Me and the kids.) Upon arrival, I discovered that the hostess, clearly not trusting me to “go light,” had purchased a flat of strawberries.. Now I’m looking longingly at your linzer torte…

    Next year in Oakland!

    • Jane Rubinsky Says:

      Melissa: I am laughing my head off!

      Just thought of a solution: make-your-own strawberry-topped individual sponge-cakes … with a separate liqueur-spiked sauce to spoon on, for those who want to put it all together (and the killjoys can eat their strawberries plain).

  4. Kofi Says:

    What about the new alternative Passover grain-quinoa? Heard it was a hit at the seder! Let me know if my apple cake makes the grade for the Passover dessert cookbook.

    • Ilana DeBare Says:

      Yes, your quinoa was a major hit!

      For those unfamiliar with it, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grainlike thing that is sort of like couscous. But I looked it up last year, and it apparently is not a grain — it is considered a sprout — so it can be eaten at Passover.

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