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Byline: Natalie Haughton Daily News Food Editor

At sundown March 31, Jewish families will be observing the centuries-old tradition of Passover with the ritual retelling of the Jews' flight from Egyptian enslavement.

It's also known as the Festival of the Unleavened Bread because the Israelites left Egypt in great haste and were unable to let their breads rise. Because of this, the holiday's eight-day observance is highlighted by abstinence from all leavened foods, grains and grain products; matzo is substituted for bread.

The Seder, the ritual dinner, centers around the sharing of this story, which is presented in the Haggadah, a liturgical text used for the service. It contains the story of the Exodus, prayers, songs, rituals, readings and explanation of the Passover symbols and foods.

The Seder plate displays the symbolic foods used in the Passover story. They include parsley, which symbolizes springtime, hope and renewal; salt water represents the tears of slavery; a roasted egg symbolizes life; a roasted lamb shank bone represents the sacrifice of the Pascal lamb; horseradish symbolizes the bitterness of slavery; haroset (a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine and spices) symbolizes the mortar used for the building of the pharaohs' cities.

The same story is told in every Jewish home, but the Seder varies from family to family depending on habits, customs and backgrounds.

For Encino resident Claire Kunin, who has been hosting the Seder with her husband, Howard, for 30 years, ``It's the tradition I look forward to every year because I really love the holiday.''

But over the years, Kunin has streamlined and simplified the Passover Seder dinner (which involves many courses and dishes), enlisting the help of her guests, who contribute dishes and other items to the dinner.

``Some bring a dessert or two, others kugel, haroset, vegetable side dishes like asparagus or broccoli florets, a molded gelatin salad or wine,'' she noted.

But Kunin always makes the matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, brisket, haroset and carrot ring. These days she also offers chicken breasts because so many guests are not eating beef. She bakes skinless, boneless chicken breasts topped with orange juice concentrate, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven 45 minutes, adding pineapple slices the last few minutes.

For convenience and to shorten preparation time, she relies on a mix to make the matzo balls for the soup and buys gefilte fish in jars and doctors it up with her own personal touch.

``The matzo ball mix is easy and foolproof. There is no chance of error - and the mix yields very light and fluffy matzo balls,'' pointed out Kunin.

Zipping up jarred fish with onions, broth, carrots and seasoning results in extra-good flavor.

``My mother always made the fish from scratch using fresh fish and a meat grinder, but it's too much trouble for today's cook.''

The carrot ring is a recipe from a relative that she altered years ago to use matzo meal instead of flour so she could serve it for Passover.

``The secret to having the Seder is to get as much done in advance as possible,'' advised Kunin. ``You can make the brisket two weeks ahead and freeze it because it is even better when it has been saturated with the sauce and reheated.

``You can also prepare the fish the day before and keep it refrigerated. You can even set the table a week ahead and cover it with a sheet of plastic, which I often do.''

To expedite the Seder service and to save time passing the symbolic food items, Kunin prepares an individual mini-Seder plate for each guest. Also interspersed on the table are little dishes of salt water for dipping the parsley.

Because the service itself takes about 45 minutes before the meal begins, ``timing is crucial in getting the food on the table hot.''

Kunin advised heating and keeping food warm during the service so everything is ready to go once it is over. She keeps the soup (with matzo balls in it), covered, on a low simmer on top of the stove. The sliced brisket heats, covered, in a 300-degree oven, along with the kugel, covered. She prefers baking the carrot ring fresh in another oven - it takes an hour and a half - so it'll need to go into the oven around the time the guests arrive.

The soup is served while guests are seated at the table. The entrees and other dishes are served buffet style so guests can help themselves.

The dessert contributions have become fancier over the years, noted Kunin, adding that people love to bring them. ``We always have a buffet of at least six desserts. I also put out a platter of fresh cut-up fruits and berries.'' Following are some of Kunin's treasured Seder recipes.


6 to 8 apples, pared

2 cups chopped walnuts OR almonds

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon mixed with 3 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons sweet Passover wine

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Chop apples and mix thoroughly with remaining ingredients. Keep refrigerated until serving time. Makes 12 servings.


4 to 5 pounds cut-up chicken parts (OR about 8 chicken breast halves)

3 carrots, sliced

3 celery stalks (with leaves), cut into pieces

2 tablespoons parsley flakes

2 medium onions, quartered (leave on skin)

4 quarts water

Salt and pepper to taste

Easy, Foolproof Matzo Balls (recipe follows)

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients, except salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Skim foam off top. Cover and cook over medium heat 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is tender. About halfway through cooking time, season with salt and pepper.

When done, strain soup and skim off fat. Refrigerate chicken meat to use another time. Return carrots to pot. Can be refrigerated overnight, if desired.

Before warming, skim off any more fat that has risen to top. Add cooked Easy, Foolproof Matzo Balls to hot soup and heat through. Makes 12 servings.


4 eggs

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 box (5 ounces) Manischewitz matzo ball mix

6 quarts water

4 teaspoons salt (optional)

8 boullion cubes

In a small bowl, blend 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons oil with a fork. Add contents of 1 packet matzo ball mix and stir with a fork until evenly mixed. Place bowl in refrigerator 15 minutes.

In a large stockpot, bring 3 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add 4 chicken boullion cubes to water for flavor.

Wet hands and form matzo mixture into 12 balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Drop into boiling water, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Carefully remove balls from water and set aside.

Repeat process with second packet matzo ball mix and remaining ingredients.

Add all balls to hot Chicken Soup (recipe above) and heat through. Makes 24 balls.


2 jars (24 ounces EACH) gefilte fish (about 12 pieces with broth come in the 2 jars)

3 medium onions, sliced

4 to 5 carrots, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Bibb lettuce

With a wooden spoon, carefully remove gefilte fish from broth in jars and set pieces aside.

In a large saucepan, combine broth, onions, carrots, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and simmer over low heat 15 to 20 minutes. Add gefilte fish and simmer an additional 15 minutes. Drain off liquid and discard.

Refrigerate fish and carrot slices.

Serve fish on bibb lettuce topped with carrot slices. Makes 12 servings.


1 (4- to 6-pound) first-cut beef brisket



1 packet (1 ounce) onion recipe soup mix (such as Lipton)

3 onions, sliced

2 bottles (12 ounces EACH) chili sauce

1 cup water

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Line a shallow pan with enough heavy-duty foil to wrap up brisket completely. Place brisket, fat side up, but mostly trimmed, on foil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onion soup mix on top and add sliced onions.

Mix chili sauce and water then pour mixture over brisket. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Wrap up tightly.

Roast in preheated 325-degree oven 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until tender. Do not open while cooking. After removing from oven, open foil and allow to cool 1 hour. Remove meat and all sauce to glass dish. Cover with foil and and refrigerate overnight.

Next day, remove meat from fridge and remove any fat. Set aside onions and sauce. Cut meat into thin slices across grain. Return slices to glass dish. Top with sauce and onions and reheat, covered, in oven. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1 cup margarine

2 cups packed brown sugar

4 eggs, separated

2 cups matzo cake meal, sifted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 cups grated carrots

1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

4 egg whites

Cream margarine and brown sugar. Beat 4 egg yolks and blend into margarine mixture. Stir in matzo cake meal, salt, ginger and nutmeg until well blended. Then stir in carrots and drained crushed pineapple.

Beat 8 egg whites until stiff. Fold into carrot mixture.

Turn into a well-greased 3-quart ring mold.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven about 1 1/2 hours or until golden brown. Cool 20 minutes before removing from pan. Serve surrounded with steamed broccoli florettes. Makes 12 to 16 servings.


6 matzos, crumbled

Warm water

2 cups mixed dried fruits (apricots, peaches and pears)

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup white grape juice OR wine

2 cups grated apples

4 tablespoons melted margarine

6 eggs, beaten (OR egg substitute)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped walnuts OR pecans (optional)

Run matzos under warm water to soften. Drain. Cut mixed fruits into bite-sized pieces. Soften fruits and raisins in orange juice by microwaving on high power 2 minutes. Let stand at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar, grape juice, apples, margarine, eggs, fruits and matzo; mix well. Turn into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mixture of cinnamon, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and chopped nuts.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 45 minutes or until set and golden brown. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 12 servings.


14 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup margarine

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons Mocha Mix

5 eggs

1 teaspoon imitation vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup matzo cake meal

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh raspberries

Grease bottom only of an 8-inch round springform pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate, margarine, water and Mocha Mix. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and cool 20 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and imitation vanilla on low speed until well combined. Add sugar and cake meal; beat on high speed 10 minutes. Stir chocolate mixture into egg mixture and mix well. Transfer to prepared pan.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven 30 to 35 minutes, until torte is slightly puffed on outer 1/3 of top. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack about 20 minutes.

(Note: Torte is done even though center will appear underbaked. While cooling, torte may fall in center and may develop a brownie-like, crusty surface on top. This is normal and will look fine when topped with jam and berries.)

Using a knife, carefully loosen torte from sides of pan. Cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours. Remove sides of pan. Wrap torte in foil and chill overnight or up to 2 days.

In a small saucepan, melt raspberry jam. Cool. Spread jam over top of torte. Cover with fresh raspberries, stem side down. Serve at room temperature. Makes 16 servings.


This recipe is from chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.

1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

4 egg whites

4 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

In a small saucepan, combine apricots, water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cook apricots over medium heat until tender and about 1 tablespoon water remains. Cool slightly and transfer to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, egg whites and 1/2 cup coconut. Process by first using on-off spurts, then allow machine to run until apricots are pureed.

Transfer to a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add remaining 4 cups coconut. Beat on medium speed until coconut is well blended. Stop machine and check texture. Mixture should hold together when pinched. Continue to mix, if necessary.

Using your hands, shape mixture into pointed cone shapes. Arrange 1-inch apart on parchment paper or foil on cookie sheets.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 15 to 20 minutes until tops are well browned. Cool on a rack. Store in an food airtight container. Makes 24 to 32 macaroons.


Unusual and delicious!

1 cup matzo farfel

1 tablespoon matzo cake meal

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup melted unsalted margarine

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon imitation vanilla OR 1 tablespoon orange juice

1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. If using foil, be sure to have shiny side up.

In a medium bowl, combine matzo farfel, cake meal, sugar and salt; mix well. Pour margarine over mixture and blend until sugar dissolves.

Add egg and imitation vanilla; blend. Mix in almonds.

Drop farfel mixture by teaspoonfuls onto lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Allow sufficient space as mixture will spread.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Slip foil off of cookie sheet and let to cool on counter while preparing next batch. Peel foil away; do not use a spatula. Carefully tear or cut foil around each cookie and then peel foil slowly off. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.


4 Photos

Photo: (1--2--Color) Jewish families will retell the story of Passover with symbolic foods including matzos, wine and items on the Seder plate. Carrot Ring, left, garnished with broccoli flowerettes is a good vegetable choice to serve at the Seder dinner.

(3--Color) End Passover dinner on a sweet note with, clockwise from top, Chocolate Torte With Raspberries, Farfel Nut Florentine and Apricot Macaroons.

(4--Color) Claire Kunin prepares Dried Fruit and Matzo Kugel for her family's Seder.

John McCoy/Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Mar 24, 1999

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