Category Archives: Passover

Passover seder meal

How the Passover Dinner (and Passover Story) Are Becoming More Progressive in 2021

For generations, Jews across the world have gathered to scoop fluffy matzo balls from chicken soup and slice piping hot beef brisket — but before they dig into their festive Passover seder meal, they must read a Haggadah. “Basically the Haggadah is… a guidebook, it’s a workbook, it’s a resource all at once. If anything, it’s a lot like a zine,” explained Rabbi Andrea Myers who serves queer Jewish communities in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. In sum: the Haggadah is where you talk about the Passover seder plate, sing songs, ask questions and talk about struggles.

Passover seder plate from above

The Book of Exodus in the Torah (or the Old Testament) tells the Passover story of how the Hebrews escaped slave labour at the hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh (spoiler alert: Moses parts the Red Sea and they get away). But while the Exodus text is always the same, there are hundreds, if not thousands of versions of Haggadot (plural of Haggadah), all meant to spark discussion about what we can learn from this collective historical trauma. “It’s not necessarily about the freedom per se, it’s really so much about the struggle,” Myers said. “And in our world today, we understand that we’re not the only ones that struggle.”

Rabbi Andrea Myers

Over time, Haggadot have gone beyond the Exodus tale, reflecting the struggles facing Jews and the communities they share the world with. For instance, the ornate Szyk Haggadah drawn in the mid-1930s highlighted links between Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Pharaoh. In 1997, the Stonewall Seder brought the plight of LGBTQ2+ communities to the forefront.

Lately, there are more and more progressive Haggadot being shared online about a plethora of progressive issues from food justice to refugee rights to incarceration to Black Lives Matter. There’s even a seder for the BDSM community.

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

“The world is a very complex and fraught and grieving place and we need to just be real about that, which is what I think that these Haggadot are saying,” Myers said. “That’s why I love Passover so much because it’s an opportunity for us in our own communities and families or core groups or whatever constellations people have for each other to have these conversations.”

Different foods or cutlery are also now commonly added to the seder meal in order to ignite mindful discussion. “I use a blood orange to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and it’s not something that people would know unless they’re asked about it,” Myers said.

Pile of blood oranges

Having Your Own Progressive Seder

Ahead of the meal, Myers suggests having a frank conversation with those gathering around your table, virtual or not, about the issues most important to everyone. You don’t need to focus on just one struggle since many Haggadot online are short ( is a helpful tool that lets you customize your own Haggadah).

The idea isn’t to start a fierce mandlen (soup nuts) fight but to show solidarity with other people’s struggles. “Are we going to be people who sit back and say, ‘Oh well, we got ours.’ Or are we going to follow the ethical imperative to look and say, ‘Hey, here’s what we learned, how can we help you?’” Myers asked. “I think [this] is a very valid conversation to have, particularly when there are kids involved when we’re trying to role model what it means to repair the world.”

Did you enjoy this interview? Read more! Here’s our chat with Joshna Maharaj (on food insecurity and inclusion in Canada’s hospitality industry).

Photo of Andrea Myers courtesy of Andrea Myers; food photos courtesy of Getty Images

Zane Caplansky’s Passover Traditions

Toronto restaurant owner and Food Network Canada judge Zane Caplansky conducts his Seder dinner just as his father did, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him. “Jewish families have celebrated Passover this way all over the world, for thousands of years,” he says. “The word ‘Seder’ means order. It’s a very unifying tradition because whenever I am with my family or other people on Passover, I always reflect that families all over the world are sitting doing this exact same thing and have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years.”

For more than a hundred of those years, the Caplansky family has celebrated Passover in Toronto. Caplansky’s great-grandfather Benjamin emigrated from Poland in 1896, promptly changing his surname to Caplan. “I’ve never met the man, but I always imagined one of the reasons he might have changed the name was to try and fit in better,” says Caplansky. “At the time the idea among the immigrant class was ‘be Yiddish, look British.’”

Caplansky Family Passover, Toronto, 1932

“The couple directly in the centre, seated at the table are my great-grandparents Benjamin and Rose Caplansky,” says Zane Caplansky. “My Zaidy Jack Caplan is on the far left (hair parted). My Nana, (Thunderin’) Thelma Goodman is in the centre, back row (the tallest woman with the bow). “

Now Caplansky, who legally changed his name back to the original when he opened his restaurant, Caplansky’s Deli, embraces his roots. “In Toronto, we celebrate our diversity,” he says. “So, the idea of being different and being from somewhere else is part of my authenticity.”

Lucky for hungry Torontonians and tourists who can’t get enough of his celebrated smoked meats, Zane Caplansky is driven to share his culinary heritage.

Caplansky's Deli Seder

On Passover in particular, his family’s recipes are a focal point at the restaurant’s public Seders, when his bubbie’s brisket and other family favourites take centre stage. The same dishes are available through Caplansky’s Deli’s Passover catering service, or you can make them your own with this menu from Zane Caplansky.

Caplansky Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup
“My matzo ball recipe came from my other grandmother, my bubbie Doris,” says Zane. “So the matzo balls are as classic a dish as a person could possibly have at Passover. Matzo is unleavened bread. The story is that the Jews were in such a hurry to leave Egypt that somebody forgot to either bring the yeast, or didn’t have time to let the bread rise. To commemorate that, we eat unleavened bread. Matzo ball is a chicken soup, and has really come to symbolize Jewish food.”

Carrot Tzimmes
“There is a wonderful cook named Phyllis Grossman, who — twice — has won our Latkepalooza competition for Toronto’s best potato latke. Phyllis is a former advertising executive, turned caterer. She’s an absolutely brilliant cook. She actually had me over at her house for dinner not too long ago. She served me her version of carrot tzimmes that has pineapple in it. I told her I was going to rip that off and she said go right ahead. So I have to give Phyllis due credit on the pineapple.”

Caplansky Family Brisket

Caplansky Family Brisket
The brisket recipe was passed down to me by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, who I named my truck after, Thunderin’ Thelma.”

Chocolate Matzah Crunch
“The matzo crunch was the brainchild of the talented Elspeth Copeland. Elspeth is a friend and also a product developer at the restaurant. She came up with the chocolate matzo crackle, or crunch, and it’s a great garnish that we put on all our desserts, all year round at the deli.”

Bubbie's Manichevitz and Chocolate Matzo Cake

Bubbie’s Manichevitz and Chocolate Matzo Cake

My Bubbie used to make this cake for my family every Passover. My siblings and I used to get so excited for the first Seder, so we could finally dig into the layers of chocolatey deliciousness.

To carry on the tradition, I started making this luscious cake using coconut between each layer for some crunch and nuttiness. Serve this no-bake treat chilled or right out of the freezer for a tasty Passover dessert.

Bubbie's Manichevitz and Chocolate Matzo Cake

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serves: 8

4 oz. bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups Manischewitz wine
8 matzo sheets
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Bubbie's Manichevitz and Chocolate Matzo Cake

1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler on the stovetop, or microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring until glossy and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time and then vanilla. Pour in melted chocolate and stir to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold into chocolate mixture.
4. Pour wine into an 8×8-inch baking dish. Soak 1 sheet of matzo in wine for 15 seconds then transfer to a cutting board or cake stand.
5. Smear 2-3 Tbsp of chocolate onto matzo. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of coconut over chocolate. Repeat with remaining 7 layers.
5. Use remaining chocolate to cover sides of the cake. Sprinkle with remaining coconut.
6. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes, or serve frozen.

Matzo cake

Looking for more ideas? Try our 15 Gluten-Free Desserts for Passover.


The Ultimate Cinnamon-Strawberry Matzo Brei for Passover

If you’re a pancake or French toast fanatic, it can be tough to find an equally delicious breakfast during Passover. Sweet matzo brei is the perfect solution. Similar to French toast, matzo is soaked in an egg mixture and fried in butter until golden and crispy. It’s super satisfying, delicious and comes together in a snap!

matzo brei strawberry

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

3 sheets matzo (you can use egg matzo, gluten-free or any other type)
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp butter
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
5 strawberries, sliced matzo brei berry

1. Break matzo into mismatched pieces and place in a bowl. Run water over matzo for 20 seconds then drain.
2. Beat together eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Place wet matzo in mixture and let soak for 1 minute.
3. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium. Add matzo and pour in any residual egg mixture. Let cook for 1 minute, then stir using a rubber spatula, scraping the sides. The matzo will break apart. Cook, while stirring until egg is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and divide between two plates. Top with strawberry preserves and fresh strawberries.

Looking for more delicious recipes? Try these 10 Delicious Things to Make with Matzo.

Speedy Passover Menu

Amy Rosen’s Speedy Passover Menu

Passover, which starts Friday with the first Seder, commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from ancient Egypt. The holiday celebrates their freedom from slavery. You’ve got Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments and a triumphant return to Canaan — I’m sure you’ve seen the movie.

The holiday is full of symbolism, especially through the food. Boiled eggs signifying springtime and renewal, and the salt water in which you dip them mimics the tears and sweat of enslavement. But there are also many delicious dishes to be had!

Here’s a menu for a speedy Passover, for all those times when you have a dozen Jewish friends unexpectedly drop in for dinner during the eight days of Passover.



Amy Rosen’s Charoset
Charoset and matzo are your go-to nibbles to kick off Passover. This is an easy recipe to start your feast.

Chicken Soup
You can pretty much guarantee that Ina Garten routinely makes this soup for her adoring husband Jeffrey, complete with fluffy matzo balls. And it’s as classic a version as it gets — schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) included.

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup with Ground Chicken Meatballs
I love Chuck Hughes’ version with chicken meatballs. Just substitute matzo meal for the breadcrumbs in the balls.

Bobby Flay's Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup
Bobby Flay’s version looks good too, and of course there’s jalapeño in it for a kick of heat.

Fish course

Poached Salmon

Traditional Poached Salmon
Normally this would be gefilte fish, which these days most people buy in a jar and side with horseradish. But Judaism’s dirty little secret is that not everyone likes the stuff — its longevity mostly based on nostalgia. So update your fish course with a fresh and easy dish, like this simply poached salmon, served on a bed of dressed greens.

Homemade Lox
If you’ve somehow planned ahead and have a homemade side of lox curing in the refrigerator, that would be an instant fix; thin slices tossed with some arugula and lemony vinaigrette.

Main course

Caplansky Family Brisket

Caplansky’s Family Brisket
Everyone is going to expect a brisket for dinner, but not this time. Brisket is traditional and delicious, but one thing it isn’t is fast. This recipe is for next time.

Garlic and Citrus Chicken 
For now, here’s a luscious roasted chicken by Giada De Laurentiis, full of lemon, orange and garlic flavours, juicy meat and a crisp skin.


Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes 
Crispy roasted potatoes with lots of rosemary, pepper and salt. Yes, please. (Thanks, Ina!)

Roasted Asparagus
Roasted asparagus is the best asparagus. It’s also a perfect first taste of springtime.

Pan-Fried Zucchini with Toasted Pistachios
This quick dish of zucchini and pistachios is a delicious nod to the Middle East.


Passion Fruit Pavlova

Classic Passion Fruit Pavlova
Traditional desserts are out of the question during Passover as you can’t have anything that uses a leavening agent, like baking powder and baking soda, which is why whipped egg whites are where recipes go for lift. Try this classic pavlova with zingy passion fruit.

Passover Brownies

Passover Brownies
If you’re craving chocolate, these easy brownies will get the job done.

Looking for more delicious Passover ideas? Try our 26 New and Classic Passover Recipes.