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Chef Kathy Gunst On Passover Rituals And Recipes

Passover is a holiday of freedom, celebrating the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. And what would a holiday celebration be without a festive meal? Resident chef Kathy Gunst spoke with Here & Now‘s Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson in 2016 about her favorite Passover foods and recipes.

Toasted Pistachio, Apricot, Date, Apple And Spiced Charoset

Charoset (also called Haroset or Harossis) is a mixture of chopped nuts and apples, spices and wine that is consumed during the Seder meal on Passover. It is conventionally a symbol of the mortar or clay used for making bricks by Israelite slaves in Egypt.

Some cooks make this condiment more like a paste, but I like to serve it like a chunky salad. This version uses dates, dried apricots, toasted pistachios and walnuts, apples and spices. Serve with matzah, butter and horseradish. The recipe can easily be doubled.

Can be served as a condiment with brisket or roast lamb. Serves 4 to 6.


  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 2 tart apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 4 dried dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins or sun-dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1/2 cup Kosher wine (Manischewitz is the tradition)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pistachios and walnuts on a cookie sheet and bake on the middle shelf for 8 to 10 minutes or until the nuts smell nutty. Remove and cool and chop.
  2. In a large bowl mix the chopped nuts, apples, apricots, dates, raisins, cinnamon and allspice. Add the wine and mix. Serve cold or room temperature.

Pavlova (Flourless Meringue Cake) With Whipped Vanilla-Scented Cream And Summer Berries

Flourless chocolate cake is a favorite on many Passover tables, but I love this meringue cake filled with spring berries and vanilla-scented whipped cream. While this is one of those desserts that looks like it took hours to put together, these meringues actually take very little time to prepare. What makes this cake so extraordinary is the contrast between the crisp and crunchy outside and the chewy, soft interior of the meringue. Use a variety of berries for color, texture, and flavor.

Try not to make the cake on a humid day. The moisture in the air makes it difficult for the meringue to hold together and stay crisp. The cake can be made a day ahead of time and placed in a cool, dark spot. Don’t add whipped cream and berries until about 20 minutes before serving. Serves 8.


For the meringue layers:

  • Butter and confectioners’ sugar for preparing the pans
  • 8 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 cups superfine sugar (a specially sifted sugar) or 2 cups sugar, sifted*
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch, sifted**
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup sugar or confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • About 3 cups mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries, or any combination)
  • About 1 cup grated unsweetened coconut, toasted on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (optional)

*Superfine sugar is not confectioners’ sugar. It is a specially sifted sugar, most often used for iced tea and baking, and is available in most grocery stores. For a quick substitution, add regular granulated sugar to a food processor and blend for a few minutes, until the sugar crystals break down to a fine consistency.

**I normally use cornstarch as a thickener here but during Passover corn is not permitted. Look for potato starch in the section of your supermarket devoted to Passover.


  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a tiny bit of butter to attach the bottom of the paper to the baking sheets. Butter the paper lightly and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Trace the outline of a 9-inch pie plate, creating a 9-inch circle on each sheet of the parchment. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, use a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites on low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. On medium speed, add the cream of tartar. Slowly add the superfine sugar and beat until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the sifted cornstarch and then the lemon juice and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  3. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula carefully spread the meringue mixture over the marked circles. You don’t need to be overly precise. The idea is this: you want one circle to act as the base of the cake. Use your rubber spatula to smooth the meringue out into the circle to create a flat, even base. The second circle should have a slight rim and a depressed center (which will later be filled with the whipped cream and fruit) and will act as the top, show-off layer of the cake. Use a rubber spatula to create an indent in the center, pushing the meringue mixture out away from the center and off to the sides. Bake both layers for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the meringue feels crisp on the outside. Let cool on the baking sheet and very carefully remove with a large spatula. (The meringue can be made a day ahead of time and stored in a dry spot or a tin; it can be frozen for up to a month.)
  4. Just before you are ready to serve the cake, whip the cream in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until just firm peaks form.
  5. Place the flat layer of the meringue on a large serving plate. Add less than half of the whipped cream and, using a rubber spatula, spread the cream over the meringue, making sure not to place it too close to the edges. Scatter 1 1/2 cups of the berries on top, pressing them into the cream slightly. Carefully place the top layer of the meringue over the cream and fruit with the depressed center up. Fill the center of the meringue with the remaining whipped cream and arrange the remaining berries on top, scattering different types of berries to create a colorful fruit topping. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top of the fruit, if using. (The cake should not be assembled with the cream and fruit more than 20 minutes before serving or it will soften. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.)

Nancy’s Chicken Soup

This is the recipe my mother-in-law Nancy Rudolph taught me when I first met her son, John. This is the basis for matzah ball soup, the traditional soup of Passover. This makes a very large pot of gorgeous soup, enough to serve a good size crowd. You can freeze any leftovers. You’ll also have enough chicken for matzah sandwiches, pot pies, tacos and more. Serves 10.


  • 2 chickens
  • 6 medium carrots, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ribs celery, cut in small pieces
  • 1 leek, cut lengthwise
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 peppercorns
  • Salt


  1. Place the chickens in a very large stockpot. Add the carrots, celery, parsnips, leek, onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and a large sprinkling of salt. Cover with about 14 to 16 cups cold water, or enough so that the chicken is just covered; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and cook about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken is tender and almost falling off the bone, the vegetables are tender and the stock is flavorful. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Remove the chicken from the stock with a large slotted spoon. Shred the meat from one chicken, removing the skin and add back to the soup; reserve the other chicken meat for other dishes.
  3. Reheat the soup and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

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