More Seder meal ideas
Photo: Dave Carlin
Prune Tzimmes

By Tina Wasserman

Passover is getting closer and you are still trying to figure out what to make for the Seder meal. You’re not alone. Even I try to figure out what to make since I always want to introduce some new dishes along with the tried and true. This year I am going to make my favorite Prune Tzimmes with brisket, prunes, sweet potatoes and carrots. Why, you might ask? Well, you’ve got to have some prunes with all that matzo coursing through your veins and when I went to buy the meat, the only sensible thing to do was to buy a WHOLE 15-pound brisket at half the price rather than a 3-pound brisket that would cost half of the 15-pound piece! Listen, I’m going to cut the brisket in half crosswise and freeze the other half for a later recipe since I only have 12 people but saving $83 was worth it!

I also am sharing a new, easy recipe for a beef dish from southern Spain that is served shredded over matzo topped with fig jam. A perfect appetizer during the week and a great way to serve some of your own brisket leftovers.

And then, there is always dessert. How about mini jellyrolls that don’t require 8 eggs and bake in 5 minutes? Serve with some fresh fruit and you’re good to go!

Because it is Passover and you might be one of the few readers that are not already making my Passover granola, I am including it again. The supermarkets are getting larger shipments of granola this year since there is always a run on matzo farfel because of this recipe. Just a heads-up: I saw gluten-free granola in the supermarket so now EVERYONE can enjoy it!

Prune Tzimmes

Tzimmes has its origin in medieval Germany, where it was the custom to have meat stews that contained fruit and vegetables. Perhaps the Persian and Western Asian culinary habit of using fruits with meat made it up the Rhine? The sugar-beet-growing region of southwestern Poland surely influenced the addition of sugar to the recipe and the use of sweet potatoes is only a few centuries old as the sweet potato was introduced to Eastern Europe from America.

This dish, like all stews, tastes better the next day. It also freezes beautifully. Just freeze the meat separate from the vegetables and gravy. Slice the defrosted meat, place in a casserole with the vegetables and gravy and reheat.

  • 1 pound pitted prunes
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 4-5 pounds brisket or boneless chuck roast
  • 1 small onion (about 3 inches in diameter), finely diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 carrots, pared and sliced into 1½-inch chunks
  • 2 sweet potatoes, pared and cut into eighths
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or to taste)

1. Cover prunes with cold water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes and then let soak for ½ hour or longer until soft.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven for 20 seconds. Add the oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Add the meat and sear on all sides. The meat probably won’t lay flat; don’t worry, just sear all sides.

3. Transfer the meat to a large roasting pan, preferably one with a lid (if not, use heavy-duty foil to cover). Add prunes and soaking water to the meat and bring to a boil on your cooktop. Add salt and pepper. Cover roasting pan and transfer to a preheated 300-degree oven. Cook the meat for 4-5 hours, depending on the size and thickness of your brisket.

4. Remove the meat and prunes from the gravy. Place the potato and carrot chunks in the bottom of the pan. Replace the meat and prunes on top.

5. Sprinkle sugar and lemon juice into the pot. Stir and cover.

6. Place the roasting pan in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until the meat is done when a fork can be inserted and removed easily and potatoes are tender. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.

7. Remove the meat and allow it to cool, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.

8. Slice the meat when it is firm and then return to the vegetables and gravy to reheat.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• If your meat is small enough to fit into a large Dutch oven or pot, you may cook it on the top of the stove for 2-3 hours and then proceed to step 6.

• A Dutch oven is that large, squat, 4- to 6-quart pot with 2 small handles that you got as part of your pots set! I think they refer to it as “Dutch” because it was a very efficient way to cook food without using a lot of fuel.

• The dull side of the foil should always be facing up when roasting in the oven because the dull side absorbs the heat and helps the roasting process. Except, NEVER use the dull side out on a turkey because it will dry out the white meat — use shiny side up for that.

• Try to slice the meat when it is cool but always slice the meat across on the diagonal (against the grain or lines of the muscle) to avoid getting long, stringy pieces of meat.

• To freeze the vegetables and fruits, remove from the gravy, place in a freezer bag, place a straw in the bag and close the bag up to the straw. Suck out all the air in the bag and then seal. This will prevent ice crystals in the air from piercing the vegetables and making them soggy. Freeze the gravy in a jar or bag in the same way.

Andalusian Shredded Roasted Beef with Matzo and Fig Jam

Adapted from a recipe by Michel Thouati

  • 2½ pounds beef brisket, chuck roast or beef cheeks — original meat, cut in 3- to 4-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground green or white peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped into ½-inch dice

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

2. Place the beef slices in one layer into a 4-quart Dutch oven. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil on both sides of the meat.

3. Combine all of the spices in a small dish and then rub mixture over all surfaces of the meat.

4. Sprinkle the diced onions around the meat in the pot. Cover and bake in the oven for 4½ to 5½ hours, until the meat is cooked through, tender and easily sliced or shredded.

5. Transfer the beef to a cutting board; either slice the meat on a diagonal against the grain or shred the beef into medium-sized pieces with a fork and place the shreds into a mixing bowl.

6. If slicing the meat, place slices into a 2-quart glass casserole and pour the gravy and onions over the slices. If shredding the meat, place the meat, gravy and onions into a microwaveable serving bowl.

7. When ready to serve, reheat in a microwave oven and serve.

Note: The author’s family serves the shredded meat on pieces of matzo topped with some fig jam.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• Either way you prepare it, this dish may be frozen but I recommend freezing the meat separate from the gravy so that the water crystals in the frozen gravy don’t pierce the meat and render it mushy.

• Any leftover brisket from another recipe can be shredded and served over matzo with jam as an appetizer during the week of Passover.

• I always reheat my meat or poultry dishes in the microwave, especially if they are surrounded by gravy. The water molecules are agitated in the microwave to heat the ingredients in the dish and the food doesn’t get dried out.

Photo: Tina Wasserman
Swedish Spiced Jelly Roll

Swedish Spiced Jelly Roll

I researched and adapted this recipe from a Swedish cookbook to honor the new Swedish Consul General in our neighborhood at the AJC Diplomatic Seder. Made in one bowl by hand, no separating the eggs and bakes in 5 minutes — what more could you want?

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon matzo cake meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Lingonberry (traditionally used) or raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees for convection oven or 450 degrees for standard oven. Line a 17×11-inch sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Measure the dry ingredients into a 1-quart bowl and combine. Set aside until needed.

3. Add the sugar and eggs into a 3-quart mixing bowl. Using a whisk, whisk the mixture until a light yellow color and very fluffy.

4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the batter. Don’t overmix but make sure no potato starch is visible.

5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 5 minutes.

6. Sprinkle a new sheet of parchment paper with some sugar and then turn the cake over onto the sugared paper. Gently remove the paper from the baked cake.

7. Immediately spread some jam over the cake and roll it up tightly either from the long side for small slices or from the short side for larger rolls. Place seam side down and allow the cake to cool completely before slicing.

8. This cake stores very well at room temperature or can be refrigerated.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• The cake layer is thin so no worries. The thinness allows for the cake to be tightly rolled up when warm.

• Never allow a cake layer for rolling to cool flat. Rolling later will create a cracked cake.

• Baked goods that contain spice taste even better the next day or at least after a few hours to allow the spices to “cure” and blend beautifully.

Passover Granola

This is delicious with milk for breakfast, and a healthy snack for school or work. If you must satisfy your sweet tooth further, make the chocolate candies at the end of this recipe.

  • 3 cups matzo farfel
  • 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup sweetened or unsweetened coconut
  • 2/3 cup pecans, broken into large pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or pareve margarine
  • 2/3 cup wildflower or clover honey
  • 1½ cups chopped dried mixed fruit of your choice including raisins, or 7-ounce bag of dried fruit pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Combine the farfel, almonds, coconut, pecans, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a 3-quart mixing bowl.

3. Melt the butter and honey in a small glass bowl in a microwave for 1 minute until butter is melted and honey is more fluid.

4. Stir the butter mixture into the farfel mixture until all farfel is lightly coated with the butter.

5. Spread mixture over a large jellyroll pan with 1-inch sides and bake for 15 minutes. Halfway through baking, stir to brown evenly.

6. Remove from oven. Cool slightly and then toss with the dried fruit.

7. When totally cooled, store in a zip-lock bag or airtight storage container for all eight days of Passover! If it lasts that long!

Chocolate Granola Treats

1. Melt 8 ounces of Passover chocolate chips and mix them with 1½ or 2 cups prepared granola. Stir to coat well.

2. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper and allow the mounds to firm up before you devour them!

Tina’s Tidbits:

• When I first created this recipe, you could easily find a 7-ounce bag of mixed, diced, dried fruit. Now it is more difficult, but you can mix different small dried fruits like raisins, cherries, cranberries and pineapple or you can dice mixed dried fruits to create the combination of your choice.

• If making in advance of serving or shipping to your family, don’t combine the dried fruits with the farfel/nut mixture until ready to serve for the first time. Over time the mixture gets a little soft because the dried fruit still has moisture. It is still terrific but won’t have the initial crunch.

• The chocolate treats can be stored in a plastic storage bag for quite a while but they won’t last that long!

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