Last spring Jews around the world responded to Passover at the start of the emerging pandemic by scaling down treasured family recipes, planning Zoom Seders and rethinking how to celebrate the Seder holiday in quarantine that for many is the largest family gathering of the year. A year later we face many of these same challenges as we celebrate Passover and the joy of freedom and community.
This year, Passover takes place from March 27 to April 4.
Passover tells the story of how, after hundreds of years of bitter slavery, Moses asked the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go.” Each time Pharaoh refused. Moses warned Pharaoh that God would send 10 plagues on Egypt and spare the Israelites. So terrible were the plagues that Pharaoh told the Israelites to go at once. They left in such a rush that their bread did not have time to rise so, for the eight days of Passover, Jews eat matzo, unleavened bread and other unleavened foods.
Passover is a joyous communal holiday that brings together family and friends for Seder, an ordered service and dinner held the first (and sometimes second) night of the holiday, where the Passover story is retold, ritual blessings are said and four cups of wine are consumed. At that meal we invoke, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
As we cautiously emerge from our pandemic social exile with each person vaccinated, we of every faith look to the future as the Jews looked to the promised land and freedom.
Olive oil, orange and polenta cake
Prepare this recipe at least one day in advance. The recipe contains polenta which is “kitniyot,” a grain or legume once traditionally avoided at Passover but now deemed acceptable to most Jews. Serves 8-10
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 orange, washed
1 cup olive oil
1.5 cups fine polenta
7 ounces ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Candied orange slices or orange peel garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch spring form pan with cooking spray.
Whisk eggs and sugar in a mixer for 10 minutes, until tripled in volume and pale yellow.
Meanwhile cut the washed orange into pieces, including the peel, and chop the orange in a food processor to a chunky consistency. Put in a bowl and add olive oil. In a second bowl mix dry ingredients.
Lower mixer speed and alternate adding dry ingredients and orange-olive-oil mixture into eggs, finishing with dry ingredients.
Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown on top and sides and still moist in the center. Cool on rack. Cover lightly with aluminum foil.
Serve the next day garnished with candied orange peel or slices (optional).