By Linda Morel
While vaccines are becoming more widespread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises against gathering in crowded spaces, such as dining rooms filled to capacity with family and friends. This means we are facing our second Passover on Zoom.
A year ago, many of us didn’t know how to mute or turn on the video feature. We certainly couldn’t display Haggadah commentary for everyone at our virtual table to see.
At my seder, which stretched from Connecticut to California, one set of grandparents sadly couldn’t figure out how to connect. A family of five sat too far from their computer. While we could see them from a distance, we could hardly hear them. Because my grandchildren were attending school virtually, they navigated us through Zoom.
With all its challenges last year, Zoom made celebrating Passover possible. It also brought together loved ones who live so far away, they’d never attended our seders before.
Now that most of us have become proficient with Zoom, order will return to our seders. Because we’ve adapted to virtual Passover celebrations, I suggest revamping our approach to reflect our modern, tech-savvy state.
Vibrant foods show well on camera. Instead of gefilte fish, why not start with a dazzling ceviche made from red snapper filets? Try a baby spinach salad bursting with colorful fruit. Consider bypassing brisket in favor of roasted Cornish hens seasoned with herbs.
Select a Zoom-friendly, make-ahead menu, so hosts don’t disappear from the camera while cooking in the kitchen. Zoom allows you to share visuals of the delicacies you’re serving with family who can’t be there in person. Present food in attractive tableware. For snap, garnish dishes with parsley.
A lifesaver during the COVID-19 crisis, Zoom has expanded our horizons. Yet most of us long for the past. Traditionally, seders end with the refrain, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Let’s add, “Next year gathered in one dining room — just like it used to be.”
The high acidity in fresh lime juice actually cooks fish during the marinating process.
- 1½ pounds red snapper filets. Ask the fish store to remove the skin and bones.
- 8 ounces fresh lime juice, about 4-6 limes
- 6 tablespoons each, chopped: red onion, yellow pepper and parsley
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, squeezed through a garlic press
- 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 avocado, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sugar to taste, only if needed
With a sharp knife, slice the red snapper into thin pieces and place them in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the remaining ingredients — except sugar. Gently toss. Marinate from 30 minutes to 2 hours, tossing several times. The snapper will become opaque. If the ceviche tastes too tart, add a little sugar and a few drops of water. Serve in small bowls.
Colorful baby spinach salad
This salad looks spectacular when served in a glass bowl.
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Place ingredients in a jar or container with a lid. Shake until the ingredients are well combined. The dressing can be made three days in advance. Shake well before pouring it on the salad.
- 1½ cups whole pecans
- 10-ounce package cherry tomatoes, preferably in various colors
- 4 clementines
- 16-ounce box baby spinach
In a toaster oven or oven, roast the pecans at 350 F for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Check the pecans after a minute as they burn easily. Cool to room temperature and reserve. These can be made three days ahead if kept in a sealed container.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Peel the clementines, break them into sections and remove the pith. If the spinach is bought triple washed, it doesn’t need to washed again. If not, rinse the spinach under cold water and dry it in a salad spinner. These three ingredients can be layered with paper towels and placed in a plastic bag a day in advance.
Before the seder begins, place the bagged ingredients in a large salad bowl. When ready to serve, add the pecans and the salad dressing. Toss until well combined.
Herb-roasted Cornish hens with vegetables
This bright and lively entrée is the essence of spring.
- 4 Cornish hens, 1½ pounds each
- Olive oil for coating pan, plus 2 tablespoons to drizzle on vegetables, plus 1-2 tablespoons for the Cornish hens
- 1½ pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
- 10 carrots, peeled and cut into thin carrot sticks
- Kosher salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon each: dried rosemary, thyme and basil
- Paprika for dusting
- 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and cut into 4 chunks
- Equipment: roasting pan and rack, preferably nonstick; and poultry shears
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Coat the roasting pan and rack with olive oil.
Rinse the hens under cold water, including inside their cavities. Turn the hens upside down, and let water run out of their cavities into the sink. Drain them on paper towels. Reserve.
Place the potatoes and carrots in a plastic bag. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Seal the bag and shake until every piece is coated with oil. Scatter the pieces around the edges of the roasting pan. Some pieces may go under the rack. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt.
Place the herbs in a bowl and crush them into small pieces and mix together. Rub a little olive oil on the hens to coat. Arrange the hens on the rack with the underside facing up. Sprinkle the underside with half of the herb mixture and salt. Dust with the paprika. Press the seasonings into the skins of the hens. Turn the hens over and repeat with the remaining herbs, salt and paprika. Sprinkle the onion chunks with salt and place them in the cavities of the hens.
Roast for an hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reads 165 F. Serve immediately.
The recipe can be made to this point two days ahead.
To eat the meal later, cool it to room temperature and refrigerate. Return it to room temperature 2½ hours before serving. Thirty minutes before serving, preheat your oven to 350 F.
Place the hens and vegetables in separate ovenproof pans. Heat the hens and vegetables for 20 minutes, or until slowly sizzling. Cut the hens in half with poultry shears and serve them on a platter. Discard the onion. Move the vegetables to an attractive bowl. Serve immediately.
Linda Morel is a food writer.