In early spring, those of Jewish faith celebrate the festival of Passover to commemorate the Exodus—the deliverance from slavery in Egypt during the 19th Egyptian dynasty. It is customary to read the story from the Hagaddah (book) before the meal where many traditional foods are enjoyed among loved ones. Unleavened bread (wheat matzah) is eaten to reflect on the time of slavery, when there wasn’t any time to wait for bread dough to rise. Thankfully, there are gluten-free matzah options today.
The ceremonious Passover meal, also known as a seder includes a seder plate decorated with six foods, each representing a different piece of the Passover story—meat, egg, vegetables such as parsley, celery and potatoes, bitter herbs such as horseradish, and a deliciously sweet paste made of apples and walnuts or dried fruits such as dates. The main course is free of leavened grains (this applies to desserts too) and often includes matzah ball soup, as well as various types of savory, roasted meat, vegetable and potato dishes. Make your own gluten-free and delicious seder and include some of these these nutritious ingredients and recipes.
Dates for the Seder Plates
One of the first plants cultivated by humans thousands of years ago, there are hundreds of delicious varieties of date palms. Top producing regions include the Middle East and North Africa—the dates grow well in the dry desert heat of these regions. In the United States, dates are grown in Southern California, Southwestern Arizona, and around Las Vegas, Nevada. The two most widely grown types in those areas are the “Deglet Noor” and the “Medjool.” They are typically in season January through April.
Filled with nutrients such as b-vitamins, phytonutrients, iron and dietary fiber, dates are often thought to be one of the healthiest foods in the world! Dates can be used to naturally sweeten and texture cookies, cereal, bars, truffles and any type of baked good. On the seder plate, dates are a primary ingredient in charoset (paste) which resembles the mortar used by Jewish slaves in the Passover story.
Hearty Root Vegetables for a Seder Main Dish
Tzimmes is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish stew made with sweet and nutrient dense root vegetables–carrots, sweet potatoes, yams and sweet dried fruits like dates (yes, again and why not!) and prunes. Ashkenazi means Jews of central or eastern European descent, which is where this dish originated from.
The word tzimmes is also a Yiddish expression for “making a fuss” over something. Whether served with meat or as a stand-alone side dish, tzimmes is sweet, delicious and definitely worth making a fuss over! Brisket with tzimmes makes a savoury and hearty one-pot meal.
Parsley for the Seder Plate
Parsley is a nutritious, mild and versatile herb that you can buy or easily grow in your garden. The popular curled-leaf variety is used fresh mainly as a garnish. Flat-leaf parsley (also known as Italian) is commonly used to flavor soups, stews, sauces, stir-fries and dips. It pairs wonderfully with beef, chicken, fish, carrots, egg, eggplant, potatoes and tomato. A widely available herb, the top five states producing parsley are California, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, and Hawaii.
Although generally available before the first frost hits, parsley is most affordable and abundant during the early spring harvest. Parsley offers a good source of antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Another addition to the Passover seder plate, parsley (for some it is customary to use celery) signifies the labor of the Jews during slavery. The Hebrew letters of karpas (vegetable) can be arranged to spell the word “perech,” which means backbreaking work.
On the Seder Plate: Charoset
This delicious charoset makes a beautiful addition to the Passover seder plate. Leftovers can be enjoyed on gluten-free matzah and in warm cooked cereals, plain yogurt and smoothies. Get the recipe.
Passover Dinner Main Dish: Brisket with Tzimmes
This hearty dish serves as a mouthwatering main course. Get the recipe.
Passover Dinner Side Dish: Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Parsley
You can’t go wrong with roasted veggies. Simple and full of earthy flavor, they make a colorful, nutrient-dense addition to any holiday table. This savory side pairs perfectly with any Passover main dish. Enjoy leftovers as a topping for burgers or pasta, inside a gluten-free sandwich or a wrap. Get the recipe.
Passover Dessert: Simple Compote
Compote is a traditional dessert comprised of stewed fruits (fresh or dried) in a sweet syrup with added spices. Compotes are usually served chilled and like this recipe, they are quite simple to prepare. Get the recipe.