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 Wednesday, April 5, 2023 and finishes in the evening Thursday, April 13.
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!
Over the years, many of you have asked which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life. If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!
This delicious traditional potato kugel recipe will make everyone happy around the table.
It is often served on Shabbat as a dinner side dish or as a side for lunch the following day. This cozy, comfort food is an Ashkenazi Jewish recipe that will have everyone feeling at home.
I usually double this potato kugel recipe. This way, there is one for Shabbat and one for Friday afternoon so everyone can “Taste a little bit of Shabbat” before Shabbat actually begins.
Grate potatoes and onion with a food processor like the one in the notes or by hand
Squeeze out a little of the liquid
Place in a large mixing bowl
Add remaining ingredients, except for vegetable oil.
Heat vegetable oil in an empty baking pan. This helps cook the bottom of the kugel. (I actually don't use the extra oil, but some prefer it).
Carefully remove the pan and pour in the mixed kugel ingredients.
Gently smooth out the top of the kugel with a spatula or back of a tablespoon.
Bake at 350F / 175C for approximately 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven
Tip: If at some point during the cooking, you achieve the color you want, cover with aluminum foil for the remainder of the cook time. (I need to do this when I use my smaller oven because the kugel browns more quickly).My family loves to dip the kugel in matbucha! I pulse fresh tomatoes for the matbucha with this food processor that I also use to grate the potatoes and onion for this potato kugel. It is large enough for all my recipes and small enough to put away in a cabinet when I need more counter space.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish, Kosher
Keyword: kugel, potato, recipes, Shabbat, side dishes
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