Passover begins on Monday, March 25th. Sure, it’s a religious holiday packed with family traditions, but ever since I started doing my own Seders, it’s become one of my favorite dinner parties of the year. And while you may not immediately associate Seders with hot romance, they can be a really unique and amazing occasion to invite (and impress) a date.
Does your date need to be Jewish to enjoy this evening? Not if you make sure it’s fun and accessible. Which means plenty of wine, good guests (try to invite at least 5 people, plus your date), and most of all, great food. The first two are up to you — the last one is why we’re here.
The following guide breaks down the essentials of the dinner and the seder as well as a timeline to get it done — plus recipes for gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, roast leg of lamb and rosemary potatoes, and chocolate macaroons.
Many Jews celebrate seders for two nights. That gives you Monday or Tuesday nights to hold your party. You definitely want to plan ahead of time for all of this.
(Note: If you are buying Kosher meats you want to work around shabbas weekend closures.)
Four days before:
1) Buy your matzos. You can’t move ahead with this holiday without them. If you can find “handmade” or Schmura matzo, do so. They are actually delicious. Get a couple boxes.
2) Call your butcher and put in your your brisket or lamb order.
3) Buy or borrow your Haggadas, party favors and costumes (see “Recommendations for fun”).
Two days before:
1) Butcher Visit: When you go pick up your meat also go get your cleaned dried lamb shank. Does not need to be huge, but if it is, that’s boss.
2) Ready to be a Hebrew Hero? You are going to make the one thing most people buy in a store from a jar, Gefilte fish. Here’s how to do it.
3) Get your wine and the rest of your seder plate (lettuce, horasdish, parsely, walnuts, apple, honey, cinnamon).
Day before or Day of Passover:
Lamb – add dry rub and put in fridge. Prep and cook time is around 90 minutes (see recipe here).
Here is what you need:
Along with matzo, the most important item on the table is the Seder plate. If you have a proper Seder plate, awesome, but otherwise just find a large serving dish.
1) Dry Lamb Shank bone (Z’roa)
2) Parsley (Karpas)
3) Crushed walnuts, honey, cinnamon and wine (Charoset)
4) Hardboiled Egg (Beitzah)
5) Lettuce and Horseradish (Maror and Chazeret)
Here’s what’s nearby on the table:
1) Small bowls of salt water (Tears baby, tears.)
2) Stack of Matzo (Bread made to move)
3) Many bottles of Wine (God’s Gatorade for the night’s marathon)
4) Wine glasses for Elijah and cup for Miriam. (Fill and let be.)
5) Haggadas (The night’s holy guide book. Get one per person or enough to share. Judaica stores sell them, or you can download them here).
6) Candles. Lots of candles (always ups the romance).
Matzoh ball soup (for an easy recipe, click here)
Leg of Lamb (recipe here)
Chocolate Macaroons (recipe)
Passover officially begins at sunset. Try to have folks arrive around then. Most of your meal should done — lamb should be in oven, matzo balls ready for boil. Technically, the first of many glasses of wine begins early in the Seder ceremony. Get people settled around the table (with wine) as soon after they arrive. The story of Exodus is important, but so is eating and drinking. Feel free to make the Seder your own. Improvise.
Tips for getting your guests active and loose:
It’s important to provide an opportunity for your table to engage with the story and the holiday itself. If your friends are into camp, you could go the full-on goofy route with some “plague props” (fake blood, plastic frogs).
Here’s some recommendations for fun:
1) Matzo ball molding. Invite your date over early, and have the mix ready so you can roll it into balls together — fun in the kitchen!
2) Holy Charades! Some of the most fun I’ve had at a Seder involved acting out one of the plagues. Feel free to get creative!
3) Escape kit. Ask your table what would they pack if they had 10 minutes to leave their homes forever.
4) Eternal questions: Passover isn’t just about freedom, it’s also about inquiry. We recite the four questions in the Haggadah, but we have so many more, like whether aspartame is really the devil and whether you hooked up at your bar mitzvah.
5) Drink sideways. One Passover tradition involves drinking wine while leaning to your left. It’s meant to symbolize leisure. You could make up rules for the table — everybody must drink leaning to their left, etc.