A Very Festive Passover Celebration & Matzo Farfel Kugel Recipe

Jessica, my dearest friend since high school is a newlywed as well. This year her and her husband Evan took on the family duty of hosting the first night of Passover at their home. Planning a seder dinner for 14 people is not the simplest undertaking and I was in awe that they would take on such a big event! The following photos are from their beautiful holiday celebration.
The Passover Table
Setting the table for 14 people in itself is a big step. 14 sets of silverware, 14 sets of plates, 14 Haggadahs which tell the story of the Jews escape from slavery in Egypt, matzo and the special Afikoman bag that holds them, the seder plate filled with 6 symbolic foods, wine, candles, and a small bowl of salt water representing tears.
The Seder Plate
The Afikoman with Matzo inside
After getting the table all setup, there is the food. The Passover seder meal is important both for religious and cultural reasons. A Jewish tradition continued on for generation after generation, many of the dishes served are quite traditional as well. However, there are more modern takes on them as well these days. Jessica and Evan made homemade, from scratch Matzo Ball Soup, Potato Kugel Gratin, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Evan's grandmother's Matza Farafel Kugel recipe and traditional Charoset which is a mixture of dried fruits and nuts.
Matzo Ball Soup from scratch!
Potato Kugel Gratin 
Charoset being mixed
Grandma's Matzo Farfel Kugel (Recipe below)
Here is the recipe for the wonderful Matza Farfel Kugel that Evan's grandmother passed down to her daughter and is now being carried on by her grandchildren:

Averie Cooks' Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

Today was fun because I got to do something a little rare for me these days, bake alongside my mom who is visiting for the Easter holiday. I distinctly remember my mom making a carrot cake the shape of a bunny, tail and ears and all, covered in shredded coconut one year so this brought bake memories. This recipe would be great for an spring brunch or bridal shower or baby shower. Or make it as muffins to bring into the office or your child's school. We left out the nuts by the way because one of the kiddos tomorrow is allergic, so keep that in mind when making yours.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
I like how you literally put all your ingredients one-by-one into a large mixing bowl, whisk it all together and just pour it in the pans. Now, speaking of pans, we baked the carrot cake in two different ways. One was in a muffin tin and one was in a muffing tin with molds shaped like bunny faces. That sounds cute right? We thought so too. Except since the carrot cake is so moist even when it is all baked that it makes it crumble when you go to take it out of the delicate little bunny molds. The muffins on the other hand came out perfect.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
The carrot cake is sweet and savory at the same time. You can taste the bits of carrot melding with the   fragrant spices and sweet raisins. Delicious! I recommend only baking it however in loaf pans or muffin tins. My mom and I each had a muffin and declared that no frosting was needed. The frosting would make them prettier is you are serving them to friends and family but really the cake is sweet enough on its own. Here are our carrot cake muffins:
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

Martha Stewart's Asparagus Gruyere Tart

If you are at all like me, when you make something you want it to come out appetizing and pleasant to look at, while usually requiring not too much of an effort. This recipe hits that mark. Besides shredding the cheese the recipe is so simple and effortless. This is not my first rodeo with puff pastry, so I already knew the most important thing about using it, make sure you thoroughly defrost it. Otherwise you might break it while unfolding it and that would be sad.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
This tart come out looking beautiful and bright green for spring. The puff pastry is flaky and light and the Gruyere cheese adds a rich, tangy flavor.  It tasted delicious straight from the oven and even once cooled. This makes it great for an Easter brunch or to bring over to a friend or family's house without needing reheating.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

My Newlywed Cooking Adventures' Matzo ABJ (Almond Butter & Jam Sandwiches)

My friends know I am not a peanut butter fan, I know I'm probably the only one in the world, but during Passover you are not allowed to eat peanuts as they are considered legumes and not nuts. Therefore, for this recipe I used almond butter which is much better tasting anyways if you ask me. You can eat this sandwich open-faced or top it with another sheet of matzo to make it feel like a real bread-like sandwich.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
I used raspberry jam here but fig jam is also delicious. Of course if strawberries aren't your thing then leave them out or try bananas, my husband's favorite combination!

Using Matzo for Table Decoration at the Passover Seder

Here are some ways to use matzo for decor and not just for eating during Passover. They are simple, a bit silly but fun!

Chocolate Sauce Matzo Name Place Cards

©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

Chocolate Matzo Menus

©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

Matzo "Cookies" for Kids from JewishDecorating.com

©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
1. Preheat oven to broil. Place matzo on a plate and spritz with water until damp but not soaking.
2. Use cookie cutters of your choice or your kid's choice to cut out shapes. (I made baby chicks for spring!)
3. Put in the oven for 5 minutes on broil to harden them up. Let cool on rack.

Whole Foods' Easy Matzoh-Crusted Salmon

Passover is a week-long holiday remembering and celebrating when the Israelites were freed from slavery in ancient Egypt. The first and last two days of the week are the more "celebrated" ones with larger, festive meals together. Generally Jewish people do not work or drive during this time either but cooking and baking are allowed. However, it is recommended to do as much ahead of time as possible. This main dish is a great recipe to prepare ahead of time and only heat up on Passover.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
"Why is this night different from all others?" This question is read aloud by the youngest person at the table on the Passover seder, the first night of Passover. A purpose of the seder is to teach children about the struggle for freedom that the Jewish people have gone through and to appreciate how important freedom for all people is. It is a great message and the 15 part meal can go as quickly or as slowly as a family wants. It is my personal favorite Jewish holiday experience as it is steeped in tradition and feels like a very festive and important night. The message that all people in this world deserve freedom will always be an important one.
+Whole Foods Market Easy Matzoh-Crusted Salmon ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
The salmon is extremely easy to make and the matzo crust is slightly crunching which complements the soft and flaky salmon quite well. It is a filling meal and easy to reheat if you make it the night before.
+Whole Foods Market Easy Matzoh-Crusted Salmon ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

Dinner in Venice's Sweet and Sour Seder Carrots for Passover

The creator of this recipe is Alessandra Rovati, whose cooking blog Dinner in Venice is one of my favorites to follow. She was born and raised in Venice, Italy (jealous!) and has had her articles on cooking and Jewish-Italian holiday traditions featured in everything from The New York Times to the Joy of Kosher.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
She describes this recipe as part of the traditional menu of the "public seder in the social hall in Venice go[ing] back to 1891, making it the oldest in Italy. In particular, we are all very attached to the vegetable sides: artichokes, of course; stewed fennel; and this sweet-and-sour carrot stew, which will remind some of you of Tzimmes, but it’s much less sweet." This communal gathering sounds like such a unique and wonderful public holiday tradition and the carrots looked too good not to give a try in my own home.
From my visit to Venice, Italy in October 2013 with my mom ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
This dish is so beautiful when served with the vibrant orange carrots flecked with cream-colored pinenuts and dark raisins. The vinegar can be faintly smelled with each bite. It is a delicious side-dish for the Passover table but it also symbolically can represent what the holiday is all about. The sour vinegar taste represents the bitterness of slavery and the sweet raisins represent the happiness of freedom.
+Dinner in Venice Sweet and Sour Seder Carrots ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

David Leibovitz's Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch

Here is the first of my adventurous ways of taking plain matzo, unleavened bread, and turning it into a delightful treat. You can use this to spice up, or should I say sweeten up, your Passover Seder meal,  as a snack during the week of Passover, or eat it any time of year as a wonderful dessert or snack.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
It is very quick, promise, and the caramel spreads quite easily over the matzo as long as you use a rubber spatula. Feel free to add your own inventiveness to this recipe as well such as sprinkling pistachios, shredded coconut, or crystallized lemon or orange peel. When you see the picture you can't resist wanting to take a bite, can you? So go give it a try! It's sweet, salty, crunchy...which means it's irresistible!
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

My Newlywed Cooking Adventures' Matzo French Toast (Matzo Brei)

This is a traditional Jewish recipe that is typically eaten during Passover, as matzo, or unleavened bread, is eaten regularly. Sometimes matzo brei involves breaking up the matzo into pieces but this recipe keeps it whole (or cut carefully into 4 parts once softened in the egg batter) so that it more closely resembles everyday french toast.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
I wasn't sure if I would love this recipe but after my first bite I was hooked. I ate two whole pieces myself and especially enjoyed the honey drizzled over top. The honey was a wonderful change from my usual syrup at breakfast and I'm going to keep using it on pancakes in the future. The matzo is softened nicely by the egg mixture and fries up to a light brown color in the pan.
©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014

Martha Stewart's Vegetarian Matzo Pizza

I kid you not, this tastes like normal, dough made from flour, pizza. I too was shocked! Of course this isn't going to taste like your Chicago deep-dish kind of pizza but for those of you (like me) who enjoy a thin, Italian-style crust, this pizza is for you.
Ready for the oven ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
Somehow the tomato sauce helps soften the matzo so that while it bakes (even without a baking sheet!) it softens a bit. This means it won't crumble in your hands when you pick it up. It is a wonderful lunch-time meal or great for snack-time. It is perfect for the week of #Passover.
+Martha Stewart Vegetarian Matzo Pizza ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014
Also, you could add whatever vegetables you have around the house--no legumes/beans though to stay Kosher for Passover. This was a fulfilling recipe and I would highly recommend it!
+Martha Stewart Vegetarian Matzo Pizza ©MyNewlywedCookingAdventures 2014