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Passover Family Recipes in the Spotlight

During this festival of freedom, Jews gather around the Seder table to engage in one of the oldest traditions in the Jewish faith. One of the highlights of the Passover holiday is, of course, the food. On Passover, food assumes a special role: it not only nourishes; it educates. As families gather around the Seder table, much of the night’s discussion revolves around the Seder plate. The Seder plate, or the ke’ara, holds six traditional items: the marror, lettuce, shank bone, egg, charoset, and the vegetable.  These foods have played a central role in the Passover Seder throughout generations, allowing Jews today to connect with their forbearers from thousands of years ago.

As President Obama said in his Passover statement this year:

"Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins. As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continue the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach." --President Obama

As in previous years, we have compiled recipes for Passover from members of the White House staff. These dishes, like the foods displayed on the Seder plate, inspire those who enjoy them to remember their own family histories. Whether eliciting warm memories from childhood or a grandparent’s experience in a foreign land, or serving as an expression of a unique ethnic or cultural background, these foods bring further meaning and power to this special holiday. Chag Sameach.

Minou’s Khoresh Karafs

By David Litt, Presidential Speechwriter in the Office of Communications

I come from an Ashkenazi family, and we tend to stick to the typical Eastern-European Jewish dishes. But my aunt by marriage, Eva, comes from a family of Mashhadi Jews – her parents came here from Iran a few years before she was born. For about 20 years Aunt Eva and her family have hosted the second Seder, and her mother, Minou, usually brings a few dishes she learned to make growing up in Mashhad. For me, nothing can ever take the place of chicken soup and gefilte fish, but Minou’s cooking brings a whole new set of flavors to the table, and it’s always a highlight of the meal.


  • 3 lbs. cubed beef/chicken
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 1 medium-sized leek
  • 2-3 bunches parsley
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 bunches celery
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup oil (canola or safflower)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • S/P to taste

Prepare the meat

  1. In a separate pot, put cubed beef into heated water and bring to boil – boil 1 minute.
  2. Empty beef into colander and rinse.
  3. Sautee 1/2 onion briefly (1-2 minutes) and add cubed beef with 1 cup water
  4. Lower heat and cover. Simmer about 2 hours.
  5. Continue to remove any foam and check to add water as necessary.
  6. If using chicken, briefly sauté cubed chicken and add to beef after 1 hour of cooking.

Prepare the greens

  1. Cut onions lengthwise.
  2. Thinly slice white and most of green parts of leek.
  3. Chop parsley and cilantro.
  4. In a medium sized pot, sauté onions until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add 1 tsp. turmeric.
  6. Add celery and then leeks and sauté another 5 minutes until just softened.
  7. Add parsley/cilantro and sauté briefly.
  8. Lower heat and cover.
  9. Add the meat with cooking liquid, to onion, parsley, and celery mixture and continue to simmer covered on low heat.  Add dried lemons, salt & pepper and fresh lemon as needed.

Classic Coconut Macaroons

By Hallie Schneir, Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement

As my family and friends gather for days of Passover, one of the highlights of this special time is without a doubt, the food. Along with the traditional foods that have been eaten during the Seder for thousands of years, my family, like so many other Jewish families, enjoys particular foods that make the holiday unique to us. Passover would simply not be the same without them. I’m so glad to be sharing one of my mom’s recipes with you!


  • 1 package/14 oz. shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt  
  • 4 egg whites 
  • 1 tsp. almond extract 
  • 1 package (8 squares) baker's semi-sweet baking chocolate


  1. Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt in large bowl. 
  2. Stir in egg whites and almond extract until well blended. 
  3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets. 
  4. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until edges are brown. 
  5. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack to cool completely.    
  6. Dip cookies halfway into melted chocolate.
  7. Place on waxed paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm. 

This recipe makes about 3 dozen macaroons. Enjoy!

Persian Charoset

By Jonathan Greenblatt, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation & Civil Participation

On Passover, it's customary for Iranian Jews to visit the homes of their elders and extended family members. When they arrive, guests are often offered a variety of roasted nuts and homemade kosher for Passover treats. Nuts are nutritious and filling and are easy substitutes for non-kosher for Passover cooking ingredients. Pistachios are among the most popular and abundant nuts that are attributed to Iran. This recipe features a variety of nuts and spices that make for the Iranian Charoset or as it's known in Iran, "Hallegh.”


  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup raw and unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 cup long red raisins
  • 1 banana
  • 1 peeled apple
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • Sweet kosher wine or grape juice


  1. Blend all dry ingredients.
  2. Gradually add the liquid ingredients ensuring the desired consistency.
  3. Add the spices to taste

Moroccan Lamb Stew

By Noemi Levy, Policy Assistant in the Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Policy Development

My parents and grandparents were born and raised in Morocco, where Jews have lived for centuries. I was born in Paris, France (where both my parents’ families moved to at a young age) and lived there until the age of seven. I remember having Shabbat dinner with my grandmother every Friday night as a child. The lamb stew, which is kosher for Passover, was without a doubt my favorite dish. When we moved to Miami, away from the rest of my family, it meant I could only have my grandmother’s amazing cooking about once a year when we went to visit her in France. Whether I see my grandmother (who translated this recipe from Arabic to my mom for this collection!) or not, I always request the lamb stew during Passover.


  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 32 tbsp. pitted prunes
  • 4 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups lamb broth
  • 4 tbsp. ground coriander
  • Saffron (pinch)
  • About one half cup honey
  • Olive oil
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 4 tbsp. Passover margarine
  • Boiled eggs (optional)


  1. Cook the lamb cubes in a skillet over high heat with margarine and olive oil.
  2. Sautee the onions, also in olive oil and margarine, and add in the spices (including additional spices, to taste) and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Mix the cooked lamb and onions in a saucepan. Add the broth.
  4. Bring the saucepan to a boil then simmer for about 30-45 minutes. 5. Add chopped egg, prunes and chickpeas after this time.
  5. Continue to cook until the lamb is tender. Mix in lemon juice and honey, and add salt/pepper/any other spices to taste.

Serves about 6 people.

Charoset from Around the World

By Avra Siegel, Deputy Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls.

The ultimate goal of the night is to engage the children by eliciting their questions and observations about the Seder. We accomplish this goal by eating various symbolic foods like Charoset, which is placed on the Seder plate and represents the mortar used by the enslaved Israelites in their backbreaking labor. A modern twist is added to our Seder, by holding a “Charoset tasting” that includes Italian, Greek, Sephardic (Island of Rhodes), Turkish, and Central European Charoset. 

Italian Charoset


  • 1/2 lb. pitted dates
  • 1/2 lb.  shelled walnuts
  • 3 large apples, peeled and cored
  • 1 large unpeeled seedless orange, thoroughly washed
  • 2 large bananas
  • 1/2 cup sweet Passover wine (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Matzah meal as needed


  1. Place very finely chopped dates, walnuts, apples and orange, in a bowl.
  2. Mash bananas; add them to the bowl.
  3. Add wine, cinnamon, cloves and lemon juice.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Add matzo meal as needed to make a mortar-like paste.

Makes about 6 1/2 to 7 cups.

Greek Charoset


  • 2 cups pitted and chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins
  • 1/2 cup weak Passover wine
  • 4 ounces ground walnuts (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups.

Sephardic Charoset


  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 2 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Turkish Charoset


  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Makes about 2 cups.

Central European Charoset


  • 2 apples, unpeeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sweet Passover wine

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Zachary Kelly is Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff and works with the Office of Public Engagement on Jewish outreach.