What do you think of when you hear the word Passover (Pesach)?
Matzah, cleaning, guests, cooking, more matzah?
Over the years, (decades actually), I’ve hosted thousands of people for Passover seders at GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant and our Chabad House in Venice, Italy. Yet, the thing I think about the most is myself.
In the days leading up to Passover, I think about myself, but probably not in the way it sounds. It’s more about being like matzah (aka matzo).
Matzah – Traditional Passover Food or Something More?
Matzah is flat and unleavened. It hasn’t had a chance to rise like the dough of typical bread. Bread, which rises and inflates, represents ego. Matzah represents selflessness, otherwise known in Hebrew as “bittul.”
The literal meaning of bittul is self-nullification. Yet, bittul doesn’t mean that we have to think of ourselves as nothing. (Here’s where the matzah comes in and teaches us a lesson about ourselves). Matzah reminds us that as we go about bettering our lives and the world around us, we can do it in a way that transcends self-concern. We can be more humble.
During the holiday prep, the seders and all the matzah crunching, I can’t help but be reminded how important it is to work on myself. And, I know that if I give it my all during the eight days of Passover, then those efforts will set a strong foundation for the rest of the year.
I’d love to hear about your Passover inspiration! You can share anything and everything from your favorite matzah brei recipe, Passover table settings or something special you’ve learned in the comments below.
Running a kosher restaurant for decades has allowed me to help countless people around the world simplify their process of preparing for Passover. Preparing for Passover involves physical and spiritual preparation. The spiritual prep can be just as important. But right now, read on to see how I prepare my meal planning, ordering and cooking for Passover. This simple method I use for GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant can be adapted to any home.
When is Passover?
Passover begins in the evening Friday, April 15, 2022 and finishes in the evening Saturday, April 23.
How do you prepare for Passover?
One of the most popular questions I get is “How do you cook for so many people.” Usually, this is referring to our Shabbat program, which unites up to 800 people per Shabbat during the busier summer months. During the main part of the year, the average is around 300 people. That’s still 900 meals over the course of the 25 hours!
When it comes to Passover, even though the crowd is smaller, it takes a fair amount of organizing. Usually on the first night, we run three simultaneous seders in different locations within the Jewish Ghetto of Venice. One year, we had five! But, the Passover preparation method always stayed the same.
Passover Traditions, Customs & Rituals
In an effort to avoid anything that may have come in contact with chametz (wet fermented grains that have risen), our custom is to peel everything and cook only with salt and oil. It makes everything super easy to prepare. And, you can really taste the delicious natural flavors of the ingredients. It is taught that one’s efforts during Passover bring blessing for the entire year! That’s a great return for an eight day investment 😉.
Whatever your custom is, it is beautiful! Plan and create an unforgettable Passover using these tips as a springboard to get started. I’ve included two downloads: a To Do List and a Menu Template to help you get organized for the entire eight days of Passover!
Preparing For My First Passover Seder at Home
Because of Coronavirus, we could not have a public seder in 2020. Instead, my family and I had a private seder in our apartment. It was the very first time we had that experience!
As I cooked and prepared, the motions seemed the same: peeling, chopping, boiling, baking. Of course, I had a lot more time on my hands than typical years, and everything got done much more quickly. In 2021, we had a few guests.
Whether this will be your first year preparing for Passover or you are a pro, these Passover tips and ideas will make preparing for Passover easier for you. You can make them a part of your yearly routine.
How Do I know What to Buy to Prepare for Passover?
The easiest way I have found is to start by making your menu. Use my Passover Menu Template below. Then, create your shopping list. Keep it fun! Enjoy the Passover memories that will pop up from when you were little or imagine the ones that you will create.
The best part is that once you make your menu and shopping list, you will be able to use them as guides each year. So, every year afterwards, the majority of the work will already be done.
It doesn’t need to be overwhelming. After all, we are celebrating freedom. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary constraints and limitations.
Make a list. Keep it simple. Prioritize by time and function.
This is what I do the morning of the Pesach seder.
I used to begin at GAM GAM at 7am. Then, as the years passed, I could head into the restaurant a bit later. Like with most things in life, Passover preparation got easier with experience.
My simple To Do List has been my guide to cooking for our public seders for years.
Print it and keep it handy. You can change or add in anything to the list you wish. But the most important thing, as I mentioned, is to keep it prioritized by time and action. (While this is boiling, then I can peel that, etc….).
PUT: Tomatoes in freezer (makes them easier to peel)
MARK: a few knives with tape as “peel” knives
BOIL: Eggs in egg pot
PEEL: (buy the best peeler you can afford)
BOIL: (in separate pots) Carrots, Potatoes, Zucchini
CUT: Salmon and cook asap
PREPARE: Soup and Cook
CHECK: Lettuce for Bugs
CRACK: Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios
PEEL & GRATE: Horseradish (do it with the door or window slightly open)
COOK: Potato Kugel and Carrot Kugel
MAKE SALADS & SIDES:
Potato Salad with Sautéed Onion
Potato Salad with Carrots
Eggplant and Egg Salad
Sautéed Zucchini & Onion
Sautéed Zucchini & Carrot
Cucumber with Thin-Sliced Onion & Lemon Juice
MAKE: Pesach “Noodles” for the Soup (Scrambled Egg Strips)
Next Year’s Preparing for Passover Begins This Year
At the end of Passover, I write myself an email with my menu attached. I write what went well and what I need to buy or replace (peelers, utensils etc…). In the subject line I write “Passover Pesach 20_ _,” with the following year. The body of the email says: “Check today and start ordering now.” (I set a calendar reminder to search and check that email four weeks before the holiday begins).
There are endless kosher for Passover recipes to be found online, such as on Kosher.com’s app or on Naomi Nachman’s Instagram. Be sure to download my Passover To-Do List and my 8 Days of Passover Menu Template. I hope these tips and ideas will help you prepare your meal planning, ordering and cooking for Passover, this year and every year.
Leave me your comments below with your questions and I will be happy to answer them!
People often ask me how I cook for so many people, as we often have hundreds of Shabbat guests each weekend. Here are a few tips that I use in GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant and at home to make things easier and faster in the kitchen.
Tip 1: When peeling vegetables, I use a plastic bag or a napkin to catch all the peelings for quick and easy clean up.
Tip 2: Peel twice in each spot to remove all the green and any bitter taste.
Tip 3: Cut two zucchini at once for reducing cutting time in half.
Tip 4: Angle the zucchini as shown to get that beautiful Italian style cutting.
Tip 5: Cook initially on a high flame to get that appetizing look and delicious seared flavor.