For Passover this year, celebrate tradition with a slight twist.
Throughout history, Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean ate a lot of the same things as the Spanish; figs, olives, almonds, flat breads, fish and chickpeas are just a few ingredients of overlap, and the spices are all shared among the region's people. Here are a few ideas to help you celebrate Passover while keeping it kosher, tapas-style.
I prefer lamb kefta in little balls rather than in the cigar shape you often see in Middle Eastern cuisine. To make these easy meatballs, mix together a pound of ground lamb, a cup of minced onion, 3 cloves of minced garlic, ¼ cup of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of ground cumin, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a few pinches of chile flake and salt and pepper. Mix together and form into little balls, then to save time, I roast them in a 375 degree oven for about 15 or 20 minutes, until they're browed evenly. Serve these on skewers, or if you want to serve them outside of Passover, try flatbread and tomato-cucumber salad. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Pickled spring vegetables.
Baby carrots, beets, radishes, green beans; any of your favorite vegetables can be pickled for a crisp nibble. Here's a simple quick pickle recipe that can be made overnight or in a few hours, if you're strapped for time. If you want to be fancy, skewer several together on a little bamboo spear like a Spanish banderilla.
Matzo with fig-onion jam and walnuts.
This jam is one of my favorites—roasted figs (or soak dried ones in warm water to soften), caramelized onions, a bit of cinnamon and balsamic vinegar and a little honey are simmered together until dark and sticky. This is also great as charoset for the seder. If you're interested in making matzo from scratch, just make sure it's thin enough to be fully baked in 18 minutes or less to keep it kosher for Passover. Otherwise, stick to store-bought matzo that is labeled as such.
Spicy stewed chickpeas and carrots.
Legumes, rice and millet are kitniot, and are forbidden by Ashkenazi Jews during Passover; however, Sephardim (especially vegetarians) enjoy it anyway because their rabbinic rulings differ. To make this lovely dish, stew chickpeas with carrots, tomato sauce, cumin seed, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Just mix the tomatoes and spices (leave the cardamom whole and fish them out before serving) with the cooked chickpeas and vegetables — don't cook the chickpeas with the tomatoes or they'll be very tough. Even easier, add canned chickpeas to the stewed, spiced carrots.
Smoked cod croquetas.
Smoked fish is a Jewish classic. Here, smoked cod (trout would also be amazing) has been flaked, mixed with minced shallots and celery, a beaten egg, and matzo meal, then seasoned with sweet smoked paprika, minced parsley, salt and pepper. Form into little balls (flatten slightly into a croquette) and fry in a little oil until browned on both sides. Serve with a little green salad.
Here's to classy little tapas for your next Passover party. L'Chaim!