The Second Night: A Tunisian Seder

For the second night of Passover we went to a Tunisian Seder at Jennifer and Philippe’s on the Upper West Side. The photo below is of their beautiful Tunisian Seder plate, which includes a Tunisian style charoset (upper left portion of plate) that I made myself of apples, dates, almonds, toasted sesame seeds, and rosewater. The final paste I formed into small balls, then rolled in finely ground rose petals:

SederPlate_Tunisian_6_blog

 

The photo below shows Jennifer carrying the Seder plate around the table while circling each person’s head — a common Sephardic and Middle Eastern Seder custom. This ritual signifies good luck for the year to come, but more importantly connects each guest present to the story of the Exodus from Egypt:

Philippe_Jenny_SederPlate_4_blog

How did you break your bread fast? The Tunisian Sandwich.

For the last night of Passover to break the bread fast, many Tunisians will go to a Tunisian store to take out a special sandwich called Casse-Croûte. This sandwich is made on an Italian style bread loaf or large roll (very crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside) spread with harissa or Tunisian hot sauce, pickled red bell peppers or cooked red pepper and tomato salad (mechouia/makbouba), and olive oil, then filled with sliced olives, canned tuna, capers, and sliced hardboiled eggs, salt, and pepper. Yes, it is greasy, but VERY delicious, and many will describe that sensational moment of their first bite after a long week of abstinence from bread. 

How did you break your bread fast? What did you eat?
(And what did you find yourself missing most this past holiday week?)

Sandwich_Tunisian_CasseCroute_4_Blog

Casse Croûte Tunisien
(Tunisian Hero with Tuna, Eggs, Pickled Peppers, and Hot Pepper Sauce)
Yield: Makes one 8- or 10-inch sandwich good for 1 to 2 people

For main part of sandwich:
One 8- or 10-inch Italian roll, hero, or small French baguette (can be a wedge of a larger bread)
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup coarsely chopped pickled red peppers (from jar)
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
2 hardboiled eggs, thinly sliced
1 can light (not white) tuna in oil, drained and slightly mashed with a fork

For Garnish:
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons pitted and sliced or coarsely chopped green and or black olives
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Piece of fresh lemon (to squeeze on top)
Salt and pepper to taste
Few teaspoons harissa (Tunisian hot sauce), optional (recipe following, store-bought fine to use)

1. Slice roll horizontally leaving it intact (do not cut all the way through!)

2. Open up roll and brush both sides generously with olive oil.

3. Sprinkle both sides with the chopped red peppers, onions, and coriander leaves.

4. Layer both sides with the tomato slices, followed by the egg, and the tuna running down the middle.

5. Garnish with the capers and olives, and drizzle with extra olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and lastly harissa or special Tunisian hot sauce, if desired. Cut sandwich in half or in thirds and serve immediately.

Harissa (Tunisian Hot Pepper Sauce with Caraway, Coriander, and Cilantro)
Yield: Serves 10 / Makes About ¾ to 1 Cup

For Harissa
1 medium red bell pepper (about 5 ounces), rinsed and patted dry

1 medium green jalapeno pepper (about 1 ounce), rinsed and patted dry
1 medium red jalapeno pepper (about 1 ounce), rinsed and patted dry
3 extra large or 4 to 5 medium cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing the outsides of the peppers and garlic cloves
¾ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon unrefined pure cane sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, or flat leaf parsley leaves 
    (Note: do not chop leaves with stems: use only the leaves by separating them from stems)

For Serving:
Extra virgin olive oil, lightly sprinkled on top
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves and/or parsley leaves

1. Preheat the broiler (set on “Hi” if using an electric oven).

2. Rub a small amount of olive oil all around the outside of each pepper and garlic clove, then place them onto a baking sheet or pan and set under the broiler. Once garlic cloves begin to turn a brownish-black color (after 8 to 10 minutes), remove from pan and place onto a plate to cool. When skins of peppers begin to blacken and blister (an additional 5 minutes), turn each one over to broil the opposite side (another 10 to 15 minutes). Keep turning and rotating the peppers until all sides blister. Remove from the broiler and let cool until lukewarm. Meanwhile, prepare the spices.

3. Place the caraway seeds and coriander seeds into a small frying pan or skillet and toast, over medium heat, until they start to pop and crackle, about 2 to 3 minutes. (Shake pan every minute or so to prevent burning). Remove from heat and cool completely (about 10 minutes). Place into a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until fine. Set aside and return to the peppers.

4. (Note: For handling the hot peppers you may want to wear rubber gloves to prevent your hands and fingers from burning; Be careful of wiping your eyes and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly when done!) Pull out the stems from each pepper and discard. Gently peel away the thin skin from the bell pepper and discard (no need to do this for the hot peppers). Cut each pepper in half, and using a spoon or a paper towel, gently scrape out and discard all of the seeds from the inside of each pepper.

5. Very coarsely cut the peppers (1-inch pieces is fine) and place into a food processor, along with the whole garlic cloves.

6. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse until the peppers are very finely pureed.

7. Add the ground caraway-coriander mixture, sugar, and salt, and pulse until very smooth. Add the fresh coriander or parsley leaves and pulse one more time to blend.

8. Serve sprinkled with olive oil, and finely chopped coriander leaves and/or parsley leaves, alongside grilled meat, chicken or fish, or as a garnish with soups and stews, or sprinkled over your favorite salad or sandwich. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator (sprinkled with olive oil to prevent spoilage), for up to 1 week. 

Send me a photo of your Seder plate!

The Seder plate has become one of the most beautiful and creative portions of the Seder meal.
Won’t you please share it with me and the community, and send me your photos?
I would love to post them on the blog after Passover is over. 

And if you can’t send a photo, please just post a comment and let me know
what you used for your Seder foods!

Have a great Passover everyone. Chag Sameach!

My Sister’s Passover Poem

For all of you reminiscing about your childhood Passover Seders, here’s a poem that my sister Vanessa, the Hebrew Mamita, wrote about Seders at Grandmother Fritzie’s.

What do you remember about your childhood Seders?

Seder Plate Checklist: Are you set?

Seder_Plate2_BlogBelow is a list of all the necessary Seder foods, along with the variety of ingredients that individuals from all over the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and parts of Africa have used on their Seder table:

Z’roah (sacrificial lamb): Roasted lamb shank or chicken wing or leg (any with or without the meat on the bone)

Beitzah (egg): Hardboiled, singed, or slow-cooked with onion skins & coffee grinds

Charoset (sweet fruit spread): Variety using any or a mixture of the following: dates, apricots, apples, oranges, pomegranate seeds, figs, raisins, bananas, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, fresh and dried ginger, ground rose petals, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, anise, red wine, grape juice, vinegar, orange blossom water

Karpas (spring vegetable): Celery, celery leaves, cucumber

Maror (bitter herb): Romaine lettuce, red radish, bitter greens salad, lemon peel,
endive, frisée, chickory, arugula 

Representing sweat & tears: Salt water, white/red/cider vinegar, lemon or lime juice

MatzahCommercially-bought small square kind, larger Shmura Matzah type,
homemade and soft, or very  crispy and smooth: up to 3x size of a large pizza!

QUESTION: What do YOU use on your Seder plate or table?
SEND ME YOUR SEDER PLATE PHOTOS!

Ajeel: Iranian “Trail Mix”

Dried fruit and nuts are among some of the most important ingredients used during the Passover holiday. Usually some kind of dried fruit (such as raisins, dates, apricots, or figs) is blended with a variety of nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, or pistachios) to make charoset. Other times nuts are ground up finely to replace flour in cakes. In Iran, it is not uncommon to serve Ajeel, small bowls of nuts mixed with raisins, as a snack before or during the Seder, or as part of dessert along with fresh fruit. Like a Persian “Trail Mix,” Ajeel can be a mixture of walnuts, pistachios, almonds, dried roasted chickpeas, dried mulberries, and almost always maveez (Iranian golden raisins). When I was in Great Neck, Long Island recently (cooking a Passover rice dish with an Afghani-Bukharian woman) I was lucky enough to stop into a small Iranian grocery store before jumping on the train back to Manhattan. I grabbed a bag of maveez, as well as fresh dates and roasted chickpeas (all of which the owner hinted at having been “smuggled” in from Iran by unknown sources). I noticed that the shape of the maveez were slightly more elongated, and more chewy/less sticky than the ones found here in the United States. When combined with the dried chickpeas the textures and flavors were addictive.

Ajeel_RaisinsChickpeasPistachios_2_blog

Charoset of the Day: Persian Hallegh

Charoset_Halegh_4_blogPersians refer to their charoset as hallegh. Many of them use some combination of nuts with dates, often adding pomegranate juice and/or seeds to round out the flavors. Today my friend Simona stopped by to show me her family’s hallegh, and what intrigued me the most was its addition of fresh red grapes to the mixture of nuts, raisins and dates (which have been marinating overnight in apple cider vinegar and sweet Passover wine). The result was a tangy, fruity spread, the texture of a paté:

Hallegh
(Persian Charoset with Nuts, Apples, Grapes, and Marinated Raisins and Dates)

Yield: Makes 5 Cups

For Hallegh:
1 cup black raisins (preferably larger ones, if available)Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_1_blog
6 medjool dates (about 1/2 cup), pitted
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine
(such as Manischewitz)

1/4 pound (about 1 cup) of each of
the following:

    hazelnuts
    walnuts
    pistachios
    almonds
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper (optional)
1/2 red seedless grapes
1 large red apple (about 8 ounces),
cut into large chunks

For Serving:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced red grapes

Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_2_blog
1. Place raisins and dates in a small bowl and marinate with the cider vinegar and sweet wine overnight (do not refrigerate).

2. Rinse nuts and spread out on a large kitchen towel to dry about 15 minutes.

3. Place nuts, salt, and red pepper (if desired)
in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.

4. Add grapes, apple, and marinated raisin-date mixture (with soaking liquid) to the processor and pulse until fairly smooth and well-blended. 

5. Serve immediately garnished with sliced red grapes, or refrigerate in container for up to 2 days.

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