The Pesach Table Then & Now

Naomi Ross

How do you honor time-old family cooking traditions while establishing a holiday table of your own? It is a fine line to walk – the intermingling of the old and the new – to sow tomorrow’s special Pesach memories. It’s a delicate balance where sacrosanct sensory tastes merge with modernity.

The world is a drastically different place from a hundred or even fifty years ago, and our cooking has been impacted as well. With access to an array of ingredients and equipment our grandmothers never knew (let alone were kosher l’Pesach), it is easier than ever to cook well despite the additional holiday restrictions. The result: evolving tastes that compete with upholding family recipes and traditions.

There is a natural yearning to innovate and to refresh menus with vibrant new tastes and flavors, a need to renew. The family may get excited about a contemporary quinoa salad, but tread lightly because the chicken soup better be like Bubby’s (…or else!). The vestiges of traditional Jewish cooking live on through the mesorah of flavor, a taste that is learned and experienced from the previous generations and then passed on to the next. Trusting intuition over exact measurements (without a total dependence on recipes), the ability to cook with discerning tastebuds, and most of all, the loving care we impart to our food, is what imparts a true Yiddishe ta’am!

When you are knee-deep in your Pesach cooking, taste often and lean into those meaningful dishes and the feel of replicating them. Meanwhile, here are some classics along with a few trendier dishes for your holiday table. You needn’t recreate the wheel…but some new tires never hurt anyone!


Looking to scale up your soup for a crowd? Using the following formula makes it easy: for each additional 2 servings, add 1 leg quarter, 2 ¼ cups of water, and some additional vegetables. Chicken bones can be used instead (or in addition) to leg quarters.

Cook’s Tip: Place herbs in a small garnet bag for easy straining

Serves 8.

4 chicken leg quarters (or 3 pounds chicken bones)
10 cups water
1 onion, quartered
1 turnip, peeled and trimmed 2
parsnips, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half
5-6 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half
3-4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in thirds
½ bunch fresh parsley
½ bunch fresh dill
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Skim: Place chicken and cool water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Foam and impurities will begin to rise to the surface; skim off and discard using a small sieve or slotted spoon.

2. Simmer: Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for at least 2½-3 hours (or up to 6 hours). Remove from heat to cool.

3. Strain: When the soup has cooled enough to handle, pour through a fine strainer or colander set over another pot; sift out and discard chicken bones, skin and any unwanted vegetables. Return the desired vegetables and chicken pieces (separated from the bones) to the pot.

4. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with matzo balls or mandlen.


Rich and indulgent, these are not ribs for the faint of heart. These are special occasion ribs. Port is a sweet brandy-fortified wine that deepens the intensity of the reduction sauce, balancing the tart acidity of pomegranate molasses.

Cook’s Note: The expense and work of this reduction makes it worth keeping even long after the short ribs are all gobbled up. Freeze any leftover sauce to repurpose for another day…a special finish to any steak or roast.

Serves 4-6.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 pounds beef short ribs
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or more to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
1½ cups dry red wine (Cabernet or Merlot) 2/3 cup Port 1½ cups
(12-ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken or beef stock
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey (or more to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle ribs with about ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

2. Sear ribs: Heat oil in a heavy, large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over high heat (do not heat to smoking point). Working in batches, brown ribs, turning occasionally, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and set aside.

3. Sauté: Reduce to medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery to the pot. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Sauté for about 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables become tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; stir to blend, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

4. Deglaze: Add red wine, and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add Port, tomatoes, broth, pomegranate molasses, honey and bay leaf, and stir to blend. Return to a boil; simmer for about 6-8 minutes and until mixture is slightly thickened. Return ribs to the pot. Cover and transfer to oven; bake until meat is tender and almost falls off bone, about 2 hours (if you don’t have an oven safe pot, transfer mixture to a baking pan and cover).

5. Degrease: Skim off and discard excess fat from surface. Using tongs, transfer ribs to a large bowl. Return pot to stove over medium-low heat; bring to a simmer. Add minced parsley and simmer liquid, stirring occasionally, until reduced by a third and slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Season to taste, adding more salt, pepper or honey as needed.

6. Remove from heat and top ribs with sauce.* Serve over mashed potatoes. Garnish with more parsley or pomegranate seeds.

*For perfectly smooth sauce, pass through a fine sieve, discarding strained vegetables.

Reprinted with permission from The Giving Table, Menucha Publishers


Adapted from former food blogger Molly Wizenberg, these sumptuous treats are a far cry from the canned versions. They are fresh and flavorful, the way a coconut macaroon should be!

Yields 24 cookies.

3 cups (lightly packed) shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup egg whites (about 5-6 large)
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream or frozen non-dairy whipping cream, defrosted


1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Cook coconut: Mix coconut, sugar and egg whites in a large nonstick saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, about 12 minutes, until mixture appears somewhat pasty but not dry, and individual coconut flakes become visible. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla extract. Spread out coconut mixture on one of the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

3. Bake: Preheat oven to 300°F. Using moistened hands, form walnutsized mounds; place on prepared sheet, about 1-2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining coconut mixture. Bake cookies until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool. Set cookies on rack over rimmed baking sheet.

4. Ganache: Place cream in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until scalding (do not boil). Remove from heat, and add chocolate. Steep for a minute; mix until mixture is smooth and blended. Dip each macaroon in ganache, covering most of the macaroon with a generous blanket of chocolate. Refrigerate until glaze sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.

DO AHEAD: Macaroons will keep for up to 5 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or 1-2 months in the freezer


A flavorful and healthy quinoa salad lightens up any meal. During the year, I bulk it up with more protein by adding black beans and corn kernels as well!

Serves 8.

2 cups red quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2-3 teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon Kosher salt, or m
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, minced (OR 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced)
½ cup chopped, toasted pecans
2-3 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro
1-2 handfuls of arugula leaves
1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced


Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Juice of ½ lime (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ cup olive oil


1. Cook Quinoa: Boil 2 cups water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and quinoa; stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook over low heat for about 18 minutes or until water is completely absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, roast sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss diced sweet potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, kosher salt, honey, and black pepper. Spread into an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes or until caramelized and tender. Set aside

3. Prepare dressing: Combine lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to blend. While continuing to whisk, drizzle in olive oil in a slow stream until dressing is well blended. Season to taste with more salt or pepper as needed.

4. Assemble: Fluff quinoa with a fork and add to bowl with dressing. Add roasted sweet potatoes, red pepper, red onion, pecans, cilantro, and arugula. Toss to coat with dressing. Gently fold in diced avocado. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE FOR ALL RECIPES: Vegetables, fruits and herbs must be properly checked for insects before use.

Naomi Ross
Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer based in Woodmere, NY. She teaches classes throughout the country and writes articles connecting good cooking and Jewish inspiration. Her first cookbook, The Giving Table, was released in 2023. Follow her at @naomirosscooks on Instagram or visit her website:

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