Passover is one of my favorite holidays. I love the long dinner, and all of the singing and the banging on the table. Reading through the entire Haggadah can get a little tiresome, but the story of Passover is great. Itʼs a personal goal of mine to one day host a Seder where, instead of reading the Haggadah, everyone acts out a portion of the Passover story. On the night of the Seder, we will all eat while reclining and drink of glass of wine with each of the four courses. What’s not to love?
In Israel, my three aunties, all of their children and grandchildren, always get together for the holidays. They rotate houses and collaboratively cook the meal. The menu is planned in advance and each sister makes a few dishes. Dinner is an impressive spread, but somehow the Seder plate is never really given the same careful consideration as the meal. The Seder plate is actually several plates. One plate usually consists of a pile of lettuce, parsley, and matzo. On a second plate, not adjacent to the first plate, are the egg, haroset and maror. The lamb shank is still in the kitchen. During the holidays, every table, chair, dish, and spoon in the house comes out. Passover is especially festive because singing the plague song and the Dayenu song inevitably turns into yelling combined with lots of banging on the table. You might also have to dodge a flying piece of matzo because hurling it across the table is a preferred method of delivery.
A traditional Tunisian Passover almost always includes Msoski, a dish which is not only hard to say and describe, but also to make. Msoski is very time consuming to make, and it’s not particularly beautiful when photographed, but it’s absolutely delicious. Stuffed artichokes is another traditional dish which is much easier to make, slightly more beautiful when finished, and a personal favorite of mine. Even though I am not hosting a Seder this Passover, I could not resist planning a menu anyway.
My Passover Menu:
Menina, Labne & Herb Matzo Squares
Fennel Salad with Pistachios & Dried Cranberries
*A few terms you might not know:
Haggadah – the script that sets the order of the Seder and tells the Passover story.
Seder – the feast that marks the beginning of Passover. Seder means “order” in Hebrew.
Seder Plate – a special plate containing the symbolic foods eaten during Passover.
Haroset – a mixture of fruits, nuts and spices. The texture is meant to be reminiscent of the bricks and mortar used by the Israelites in ancient Egypt.
Maror- bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce.
Stuffed Artichoke Hearts
1.5 lbs ground chicken
1/2 cup jasmine rice- cooked
1/3 cup red onion diced very finely
1/3 cup finely sliced flat leaf parsley + 1 tbs more for garnish
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 Roma tomato grated-
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic minced
12 frozen or fresh artichoke hearts
1.5 cups of vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups of water
1 onion- cut in 1/2 then sliced in strips
1/2 preserved lemon sliced in thin strips 3 small pieces of saffron
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs- beaten
1 cup of all purpose flour
1tsp of tomato paste- dilute with a 2 tbs of water
Mix tomato paste in with the beaten egg. This will add a nice golden color when you fry stuffed artichokes.
Combine the first 10 ingredients, mash together using your hands.
Stuff a heaping amount of the mixture into each artichoke heart. Stuff all of the artichokes then dredge them one by one, first in the egg mixture, then in the flour.
I have a particular system for doing this: use one hand to pick up and dredge in the egg mixture, use the other hand only for dredging in the flour. Dredge all of the artichokes and then fry in batches. When golden on all sides take out of the oil and set aside.
In a Dutch oven or braising pan, heat 1 tbs of olive oil. When hot, add the onions, preserved lemons, saffron, salt & pepper. When the onions are translucent, add the tomato paste and water. Put the stuffed artichokes into the pan and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with a little sauce.