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Tips and Tradition for the Seder Meals

Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page F02

One tradition I started many years ago was having my guests sign their names in indelible ink on a large polyester-cotton tablecloth. After the cloth was washed and rid of wine stains, I embroidered over the signatures. Each Seder is represented by a different color, and every year returning guests look for their names and new guests eagerly await their turn to sign.

Here are some tips I shared at a recent temple Passover workshop:

• Each place setting should be set with a dinner plate topped with a salad-size plate topped with a small dessert bowl sometimes called a nappy. The little bowl should contain some salt water and the plate underneath it should have a piece of parsley or other green herb, a slice of fresh horseradish or whatever your family uses for bitter herbs, and a tablespoon of charoset, an apple-nut-wine mixture. You should have a big bowl or two of charoset on the table to eat with matzoh during the meal, but having a sample of the necessary foods at each place setting saves a great deal of time during the actual Seder ceremony.

• If you normally start the meal with some hard-boiled egg (symbolic of spring and spiritual renewal), slice the egg with an egg slicer and place it in the bowl with the salt water. Slicing the egg is a perfect way to camouflage a roughly peeled egg.

The best way to avoid difficulty peeling eggs is to buy Grade A -- not AA eggs -- or just buy your eggs a week or two in advance. The egg white will separate more easily from the shell membrane when peeled and won't lose chunks of white with the shell.

• Matzoh balls made in advance can be refrigerated in water or bouillon. They may also be individually frozen (with no liquid) on a cookie sheet and then placed in a freezer bag. Make sure you remove air from the bag to prevent ice crystals from forming. The best way to remove air from freezer bags is to insert a straw into the partially sealed bag and suck out all the air. Seal tightly just as you pull the straw out, and your food will remain fresher longer.

• If you make chicken soup or matzoh ball soup, cook with cut-up chicken instead of a whole chicken, which requires too much water if you add "water to cover."

-- Tina Wasserman

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