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Passover Food

April 17, 2014

The Food Traditions of Passover

Passover is here and Jewish families are busy cleaning their homes and getting ready for Seder (pronounced “SAY-d’r”), the ceremonial dinner held the first night of Passover.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Prior to Passover, the entire home is cleaned and all traces of bread are removed from the house. Although different Passover customs, including food and wine traditions, take place around the world, the basics include that for seven or eight days Jewish families eat unleavened bread and follow a kosher diet, even if they normally don’t do so.

Unleavened bread is a symbolic reminder of the flight of the Jewish people from Egypt that is relayed in Exodus—the Jewish people had to leave quickly, with no time to wait for their bread to rise. Therefore during the week of Passover, leavened bread is banned.

Matzah Recipe (from

1 teaspoon (or more) all-purpose flour for dusting
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup water, or more if needed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil, or as needed

Move an oven rack near the top of oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees. Preheat a heavy baking sheet in the oven.

Dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with 1 teaspoon flour, or more if needed. Place 1 cup of flour into a mixing bowl; set a timer for about 16 minutes (18 minutes maximum). Start the timer; pour the water, about 1 tablespoon at a time, into the flour. Stir the water and flour together with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball, remove the dough to the prepared work surface, knead rapidly and firmly until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces; cut each piece in half again to get 8 pieces total. Swiftly roll each piece into a ball. Roll each piece of dough out into a 5-inch pancake, dusting the top and rolling pin with flour as needed. Gradually roll the pancakes out to a size of about 8 inches, increasing the size of each by about 1 inch, then letting the dough rest for a few seconds before rolling again to the finished size. Roll from the center out. The bread rounds should be very thin. Using a fork, quickly pierce each bread about 25 times, all over, to prevent rising. The holes should go completely through the bread. Flip the bread over, and pierce each piece another 25 times with the fork.

With at least 5 minutes left on the timer, remove the hot baking sheet from the preheated oven, and place the rounds onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet onto the rack near the top of the oven, and bake for 2 minutes; turn the breads over and bake an additional 2 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Lightly brush each with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt.

A kosher diet includes ensuring that meat items have not been processed with dairy or with utensils that have touched dairy products, and bans pork, shellfish, among certain other foods.

Each guest at a Seder, which includes prayers and readings, drinks four cups of wine throughout the elaborate meal, at specific points that are related to parts of Exodus events.

Here are some typical Seder food menu items—check your Twin Cities grocery delivery order for availability:

  • Lamb shank bone, symbolizing the ancient Passover sacrifice,
  • A roasted egg symbolizing the temple sacrifice and cycle of life,
  • A paste of fruit and nuts symbolizing mortar in the pharaoh’s temples,
  • Bitter herbs that represent the bitterness of slavery,
  • A green vegetable (sometimes parsley) symbolizing spring,
  • A bowl of salt water to dip the parsley in, representing slaves’ tears,
  • Matzah, unleavened bread, wrapped in or covered with cloth, broken and eaten at specific points of the meal, and
  • Other dishes such as poached fish, matzo ball soup, brisket, roast chicken, potatoes and stew.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Passover. “Chag Sameach.”

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