A Seder service can take a few hours with only ceremonial nibbles like matzo, parsley and — get excited — a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water. Hunger builds, but at least there’s wine. The meal that follows is a bit like Thanksgiving in that there are certain dishes, like matzo ball soup, that are nonnegotiable. But other parts of the menu can be tweaked. These suggestions are suited to Passover, which begins Saturday, and are exciting enough to carry over to other times of the year. — Susan Spungen
Ground sumac lends its pinkish tone and lemony tang to this roasted chicken. If you can’t find sumac, it may be substituted with zaatar, more common in supermarkets, or lemon zest. Dried apricots and green olives contribute their sweet and sour notes to a dish with real verve.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH APRICOTS AND OLIVES
- 3-1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large or 8 small shallots, roots trimmed, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters or halves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- >> Marinade:
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 1 lemon, sliced and seeded
- 1/4 cup fresh blood orange or regular orange juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons ground sumac
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup (6 ounces) dried apricots
- 1 cup (4 ounces) pitted Castelvetrano olives with 2 tablespoons brine
Slash each piece of chicken through the skin a few times, about 1 inch deep. Season with salt and pepper and place in a large bowl or large resealable plastic bag.
>> To make marinade: Whisk lemon juice, orange juice, honey, garlic, thyme, sumac and olive oil in a bowl. Add lemon slices, apricots, olives and olive brine. Pour over chicken and cover tightly or remove as much air as possible from bag before sealing it. Set on a small sheet pan and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours, turning bag from time to time.
Position a rack 8 inches from the broiler heat source. Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 450 degrees.
Toss shallots with oil and spread out on a large sheet pan, cut sides down. Place on lower rack in oven and cook, turning once, until they start to turn golden, 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Reserving marinade, scoop chicken from bowl or bag onto pan. Add apricots, lemon slices and olives from marinade. Arrange in an even layer with chicken skin side up and return to oven. Roast 15 minutes.
Baste chicken with drippings, and cook until chicken juices run clear, about 10 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Heat broiler to high.
Pour reserved marinade and wine over chicken; broil until chicken is browned and liquid is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. If apricots start to get too dark, turn them over in the sauce. Transfer to a platter. If you used chicken breasts, cut them in half. Pour sauce over everything or serve it on the side. Serves 4.
If YOU are a savory matzo brei person, you will adore this matzo frittata. And if you’re not familiar with matzo brei, consider this an introduction to the genre. In this recipe, a blend of eggs and matzo is packed with jammy caramelized onions and mushrooms, then crisped in a pan and cut into wedges. It reports for duty as a side dish, but provides plenty of leftovers that keep well for breakfasts and lunches.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 extra-large Spanish onion (1 pound), halved and sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, plus more to soften matzo
- 12 ounces white or brown button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
- 6 sheets salted or unsalted matzo, broken into small pieces
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons oil, then the onion. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and starting to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add 3/4 cup water, stirring and scraping pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until very soft and golden, about 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons water, then scrape onion into a bowl.
Return skillet to medium-high heat (no need to wash). Add 1-1/2 tablespoons oil, then the mushrooms. Season with rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in a little more water, scraping up any bits in the pan, let it evaporate and add to bowl with the onions. Rinse pan.
Bring a large kettle or saucepan of water to a boil. Place matzo in a colander set inside a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit 1 minute. Pull colander out of the water and let drain.
In a large bowl, beat eggs well; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add mushroom mixture, softened matzo and parsley; stir.
Heat rinsed skillet over medium-high. Heat remaining tablespoon oil, then pour in matzo mixture and smooth top. Cook, undisturbed, until firm on bottom and edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer to oven and cook until set in the middle and golden brown on top, 12 to 15 minutes. (If desired, broil 1 to 2 minutes to brown top.) Loosen from pan if needed with a rubber spatula and slide onto a cutting board or plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cut into wedges to serve. Serves 8.
A whole roasted cauliflower is incredibly easy and delightfully showstopping. Here, it is cooked from start to finish in one pan: It’s first softened by oven- steaming, then roasted until browned on the outside. This is one of those vegetable dishes that easily serves as a main course for vegetarians or vegans. Go for a bright orange cauliflower, if you can find one, for a more vibrant effect. A bright, punchy pesto made with cilantro and pistachio is slathered on top to bring freshness and even more color.
WHOLE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH PISTACHIO PESTO
- 1 head cauliflower, preferably orange (about 1-1/2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 small yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick lengthwise
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 cup water
- Pinch black pepper
- >> Pesto:
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro and flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup raw shelled pistachios
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch black pepper
Position a rack in center of oven and heat to 400 degrees. Trim cauliflower, making sure stem is cut flush with head so it sits flat.
Heat a 10-inch heavy, ovenproof skillet on stove over medium. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until translucent and turning golden on the edges, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in water and remove from heat.
Rub cauliflower with remaining tablespoon oil, then with pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Clear center of skillet and place cauliflower in it. Cover pan tightly with foil and place in center of oven. Bake until a paring knife meets no resistance when inserted into the cauliflower, 20 to 30 minutes.
>> To make pesto: Reserve a bit of lemon zest for garnish. Place the rest in a food processor, along with remaining pesto ingredients. Pulse until well combined.
Turn oven up to 450 degrees. Uncover cauliflower and baste with pan juices. Cook, basting occasionally, until nicely browned, 20 to 30 minutes more (add 1/4 cup of water to pan if cauliflower threatens to dry out).
Spoon pesto over top, sprinkle with reserved lemon zest and more herbs. Serves 4 to 6.