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Dos and Don'ts When Hosting a Passover Seder

Spinach Matzo BallsBrian Samuels is a Boston-based lifestyle and food photographer and writer and is the creator of the food blog A Thought For Food. His work has been featured in Saveur.com, Improper Bostonian, Edible Boston and TheKitchn.

The Passover menu is not an easy one to create. Dishes traditionally served at a Seder are not only heavy, but they also tend to lack color. Based on past experience, I've come up with a few dos and don'ts for how to host a Passover Seder.

DO be sure to add some color to the table. Seeing that most Passover dishes are beige, it's not hard to find ways to brighten things up. One of my favorite ways is by adding minced fresh herbs, such as parsley or basil, to my matzo ball mixture. Additionally, a bit of pureed spinach or carrots can be folded in.

DON’T make them wait. Some Seders can go on for a little bit (and by that I mean a few hours), so you don’t want to keep your guests hungry through it all. Be sure to have some nibbles (such as crudité and a roasted eggplant spread) for them to nosh on.

DON’T secretly (or not so secretly) serve breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding. You think that this would be an obvious one, but a few years ago I went to a Seder where the hosts prepared tomatoes stuffed with breadcrumbs. And I have a friend who found out that her grandmother’s famous matzo balls got their fabulous consistency from the addition of cubes of sliced bread.

Carrots with Caramelized Ginger

DO add vegetables. Passover dishes, while delicious, can be a bit heavy and one-note. You can lighten up the table by bringing some veggies to the table. Try this shredded Brussels sprouts dish or this recipe for carrots with caramelized ginger.

DO dessert! Kosher for Passover desserts can be a bit tricky. Instead of serving up a flourless chocolate cake, maybe try making a cheesecake with this pine nut and matzo crust. Your guests will be very impressed! And if this is a strictly Kosher meal (meaning that meat and dairy are not combined at the dinner), I suggest serving your dessert with some coconut milk whipped cream. This would even be great on top of fruit salad with a few mint sprigs.

Did I miss anything? What are your Seder dos and don’ts? Share them in the comments below.  

Visit our spring gatherings site for more expert tips on what to cook and how to cook it, being the host- or host-ess with the most-est and fun ideas for cooking with kids.

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(Images: Brian Samuels)

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Carol Newman says …

Hi Brian, I love these ideas. Especially the veggie idea's. I never thought of adding more color to my Seder. Thanks for the info. Carol

Barbara says …

Hi Brian, do you have ideas for gluten-free Passover recipes? Of course vegetables, but what does one do about matzah?

Sheri says …

Some really nouveau suggestions, great! You're right about the colors being primarily in the beige and brown family, but there is also too much orange on our table: carrot tsimmes, carrots in the matzoh ball soup and on the gefilte fish, and the rusty-colors of the stuffed derma (kishke) and its gravy, and the brisket gravy. To offset all of this, we add the burgundies of a beets-and-onion salad, greens from sprinkled herbs and spices on our turkey, and yellows from our chopped hardboiled-egg-and-onion salad seasoned with salt / pepper / dill and glued together with a touch of chicken fat or olive oil. And I crave it only once a year, but the purple Malaga wine, thick and sweet, is heavenly. The best sleep of the year is the one after a great seder!!!!

Debbie says …

Barbara, You should be able to find glueten free items already being sold. We do have them here in Chicago. As far as matzo meal, you might have to do with out the balls in the soup but matzah itself has been gluten free'd....doesn't taste the best but it works. Basically remember, anything you typically use flour in substitute it with cornmeal, rice wheat, tapioca or anything else that can be used. You just have to create dishes with the different ingrdients I shared.

r says …

nibbles are not acceptable - nothing is to be eaten before or during the seder except when prompted by the service

Pam says …

Gluten free pesach isn't as hard as you think. You can get gluten free matzohs at your local health food store or Whole Foods. And if you want matzoh balls, just put some matzohs in the food processor and you have matzoh meal all ready for your regular recipe. They don't turn out exactly like the gluten ones, but they are very reasonable!