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.
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.
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.
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.
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.