In my young manhood I was introduced to the ritual of Passover by some Jewish friends. They invited me over for a traditional Passover Seder, and I was fascinated by the whole concept. Passover, I discovered, commemorates the ancient Hebrews' deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan as reckoned by the Hebrew Bible. Nisan is the first month of the Hebrew calendar and is comparable to March and April in the Christian calendar.
According to the Book of Exodus, when the ancient Hebrews left Egypt, they were in such a hurry to get out that they had no time to wait for the bread they had prepared for the day's meal to rise so it could be baked. In remembrance of this occasion no unleavened bread is eaten during the course of Passover. It is a seven day holiday of the Feast of Unleavened bread. So Matza, a flat unleavened bread has become the symbol of the holiday. The word "Passover" comes from pasach whose meaning is assumed to be "He passed over," referring to God "passing over" the homes of the Hebrews during that time in which ten plagues struck Egypt, forcing Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from bondage.
Passover is celebrated on the first night with the Seder, a special dinner. In communities outside of Israel it is celebrated during the first two nights. During the meal, a special Seder Platter is set and the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold with participants quoting from a revered text called the Haggadah. And, yes, four cups of wine are consumed while retelling the narrative.
There are traditional Passover dishes like gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, roast chicken, and lamb which is a particularly popular dish for Passover. My Ashkenazic friends always served a roast brisket for the holiday. Ashkenazic Jews are those descended from Western and Eastern Europe. As opposed to Sephardic Jews whose lineage hails from the Mediterranean, especially Spain, Portugal and North Africa. It should be noted that Passover is also celebrated by the Samaritans, a group whose religion is closely related to Judaism and who trace their history to the ancient Israelites (one can recall in the Gospels Jesus' account of the Good Samaritan).
Brisket of beef is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of cattle, and it can be cooked in many ways inclusive of braising, barbecue, grilling, smoking and roasting. Check out the recipe below. You won't be disappointed; and you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it.
1 brisket of beef, 4 to 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup potato starch (or more as needed)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 medium tomatoes, sliced in rounds
2 medium onions, sliced in rounds
1 green bell pepper (pimento), sliced in rounds
1/2 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat olive oil in a large roasting pan. Add brisket and brown on all sides over medium-high heat.
3. Sprinkle brisket all over with potato starch, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.
4. Arrange potato slices on top of brisket; and then arrange onions and green pepper around brisket. Add water and roast, uncovered, until meat is tender, about 3-4 hours. Cooking time will depend on thickness of cut.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Labels: Book of Exodus, Egypt, Haggadah, Israelites, Jews, Judaism, Passover, Passover Seder