At sundown on Monday, Sheryl Kaplan will celebrate the beginning of Passover in her Overland Park home with more than 25 extended family members. She and her husband of 26 years, Andrew, have three children: Alex, 24; Emily, 22; and Matthew, 18.
Also known as Pesach, Passover is an eight-day Jewish commemoration of freedom remembering when Moses led Jews out of slavery in Egypt. Passover refers to the angel of death “passing over” Jewish households when the first-born Egyptian sons were struck dead, as described in Exodus.
Q: What does the feast of Passover mean to you?
A: To me, Passover is about gathering family together in our home and marking the renewal of life. As Jews, we commemorate the exodus of our ancestors out of Egypt after being freed from slavery. We are required to retell this story, so it is passed down from generation to generation.
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This is the reason we do not eat any food with leavening during Passover, because when the Jews left in a hurry, they did not have time to allow their bread to rise.
Q: What is the significance of the Seder during the first night of Passover?
A: The Seder is a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner, which our family hosts the first night of Passover. We bring out the Seder plate, which contains all the Passover symbols and helps in the retelling of the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.
Our Passover Seder plate has: beitzah — a roasted, hard-boiled egg, which symbolizes the cycle of life; charoset — a mixture of apples, walnuts and sweet wine, which represents the mortar the Jews used to assemble the pyramids while they were slaves; karpas — parsley is the symbol of spring; maror — horseradish embodies the bitterness of slavery; and zeroah — a lamb’s shank bone symbolizes the ancient Passover sacrifice.
At one point, the parsley is dipped into salt water, which represents the Jews’ tears. The food on the Seder plate represents the Jewish tradition to overcome great tragedies and a people’s resilience to celebrate life.
Q: What food you will serve for Seder?
A: My overall style of cooking is fairly traditional, and the preparation has already begun. I have already made more than 50 matzo balls for the homemade chicken soup I will serve. Also, we will serve brisket, but there will be no flour used during the eight days of Passover. During Passover, we have a heightened awareness of what we eat, and how we eat it.
Passover is my favorite holiday, and it is wonderful to bring many generations together to celebrate, including my parents, Phyllis and Rudy Green (Leawood), our children and cousins who have very young children. This is what it means to be part of a family — to keep traditions alive and pass them from the oldest generation to the youngest generation.
Q: What is the significance of matzo during Passover?
A: Matzo is an unleavened flatbread and is an integral part of Passover, since regular bread cannot be eaten. I chose this recipe because it is a Passover MUST in my family. This toffee and chocolate over matzo is simple, delicious and loved by all — family, friends and neighbors, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
This recipe blends the sweet and the salty and has both creamy and crunchy characteristics. I only make this during Passover, so everyone looks forward to this time of year for this special snack.
Family is so important and preparing these recipes during Passover is a taste of our heritage. I love the recipes we make only during Passover, so the taste of these foods is strongly connected to this time of year. I am no gourmet cook, but meals shared with extended family, especially during Passover, are an important point of connection with those I love.
Mary G. Pepitone is a nationally syndicated freelance writer who lives in Leawood. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Chocolate Toffee Matzo
Makes about 16, 3.5-inch squares
4 (7-inch) sheets matzo
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
Optional toppings: Chopped pecans, sprinkles, toffee chips, flaked sea salt, melted white chocolate, mini color-coated chocolates, sweetened coconut or shelled pistachios
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Place 2 sheets of matzo on top of each and set aside.
Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottom saucepan on the stovetop. Whisk in brown sugar and stir constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
Once boiling, continue whisking for another 3 minutes, or until mixture is foamy and thickened.
Carefully pour hot toffee mixture over matzos on prepared trays, and, using a spatula, spread out in an even layer.
Place pans in the oven and bake for about 4 minutes, or until the toffee topping is crackled and bubbling all over.
Remove pans and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over toffee-covered matzo. Wait at least 3 minutes for chips to soften, then spread melted chocolate into an even layer, using an offset spatula.
Sprinkle with topping of choice.
Place trays into refrigerator and chill until chocolate is firm, or about 45 minutes.
Cut or crack covered matzo sheets into 3 1/2 -inch squares. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator or freezer.
Per square without optional toppings: 294 calories (53 percent from fat), 18 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 34 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 123 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.