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Rudi’s Recipes: Create a Festive Meal for Easter or Passover

It’s a weekend of celebrations! This Friday is the first night of Passover and Sunday is Easter – two holidays that often center around a fantastic meal. Both holidays will be recognized aboard Holland America Line’s fleet of 15 cruise ships, and if you want to make some special dishes at home, our Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has created elegant courses to mix in with your own favorites that will make your holiday extra festive and delicious.


The first two nights of Passover are traditionally observed with a seder, a multicourse meal that includes symbolic foods and a retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt … Even though I am not Jewish, I love the ritual of the seder meal because every single ingredient used and everything on the plate has significance … Passover is a holiday that looks forward even as it commemorates the past. This passover menu does the same, incorporating a seder’s symbolic elements and traditional flavors with a decidedly modern sensibility and style. — Master Chef Rudi Sodamin



Yield: 6 servings


Gefilte Fish:
12 ounces whitefish fillet, skin and all bones removed
12 ounces pike fillet, skin and all bones removed
3 medium onions, quartered, divided
1 1/2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped into 3-inch pieces
1 1/2 medium carrots
3 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup matzo meal
6 cups fish stock

Apple-Horseradish Sauce:
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Timbale Assembly:
6 leaves romaine lettuce
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ tart apple, cut into 12 thin wedges, for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges, for garnish


Gefilte Fish:
1. In a food processor, combine the fish, quarters from two of the onions, two-thirds of the chopped celery, and one carrot; puree until no large pieces of fish remain. Transfer the fish to a large bowl and add the eggs, sugar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. With a wire whisk, mix everything until incorporated. Add the matzo meal and continue to stir until everything is thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

2. In a large stockpot, bring the fish stock and 6 cups water to a rolling boil. Add the remaining onion pieces, the half carrot, and chopped celery. Divide the fish mixture into six equal-size portions (the texture will be loose, which is what helps give the gefilte fish its light texture.) To make quenelles: Use two spoons to shape each piece of gefilte fish into an oval and gently lower it into the boiling stock. If you will be making timbales, see below, form the fish mixture into a ball. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ hours. Remove the gefilte fish quenelles or balls and store, covered, in the refrigerator. Discard the cooking liquid with its vegetables.

Apple-Horseradish Sauce:
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the apples, water, and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and allspice and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the apples are tender. Remove the mixture from the heat, transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl, and cover. Refrigerate until cool.

2. In a food processor, combine the apple mixture and horseradish. Puree until thoroughly combined. Service the sauce cold or at room temperature. (The sauce can be store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Timbale Assembly:

1. To make the timbales, line a timbale mold or custard cup with plastic wrap and add some of the cooked gefilte fish. With the back of a spoon, gently press the fish down to shape it.

2. Unmold the fish onto a lettuce-lined plate and sprinkle with the parsley. Brush the apple slices with the lemon juice. To serve, garnish the gefilte fish with a wedge of hard-cooked egg, 2 apple slices, and the Apple-Horseradish Sauce. Serve immediately.



Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Note: For a less hectic holiday, roast and peel the beets one day ahead. Keep them sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and slice them before serving.


Orange Dressing:
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

2 pounds beets, trimmed with 1 inch of stems still attached, and scrubbed (see above note)
2 oranges, cut into sections
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
2 bunches baby watercress

Orange Dressing:
1. In a small glass or ceramic bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, and maple syrup. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
2. Season with salt and white pepper.
3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Tightly wrap the beets in double layers of heavy-duty foil and roast on a baking sheet placed on the middle rack of the oven until they are tender and a small knife easily pierces the flesh, 30 to 45 minutes for smaller beets (1 to 1.5 hours for larger beets). Cool to warm in the foil, about 20 minutes.

2. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding the stems and root ends. Cut them crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices (you can use a mandolin slicer if you have one).

3. Brush some dressing on each plate and arrange the beet slices in a single layer on the plate. Brush the beets with more dressing. In a bowl, combine the oranges and fennel and gently toss with just enough dressing to lightly coat. Arrange the oranges and fennel on the plates. In the same bowl, toss the watercress with a light amount of the dressing. Top the beets, oranges and fennel with a small pile of watercress and garnish with fennel fronds. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Raw beets will keep for a few weeks, sealed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If you bought beets with greens attached, remove them before storing the beets, but don’t throw them out! They’re packed with nutrients and are delicious, but should be cooked soon after purchase. Just rinse them, cut them in ribbons, and saute them in butter or olive oil with salt and pepper.



These sweet macaroons with a bittersweet chocolate base are an essential ending to an elegant Passover meal.

Yield: 2 dozen macaroons


4.5 cups dried, shredded unsweetened coconut
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup good-quality honey
Pinch salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, finely chopped


1. Heat the oven to 325F. Line two large baking sheets with nonstick silicone liners (such as Silpat) or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the chocolate until combined. Drop the batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared sheets, spacing the mounds about 2 inches apart. Bake the macaroons one sheet at a time, until the coconut is golden brown and the centers of the macaroons are set (they should still be moist inside), 18 to 22 minutes. Cool the macaroons on the sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to finish cooling completely.

3. Clean the silicone liners and reposition them or reline the baking sheets with fresh parchment. Place three quarters of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Heat the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it reaches about 110F (just barely too hot to the touch). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth.

4. Dip the bottom of each macaroon into melted chocolate to a depth of 1/4 inch. Place the dipped macaroons on the prepared baking sheets, chocolate side down. Chill until the chocolate is formed, about 1 hour.

Note: The macaroons can be made up to 1 day ahead. Transfer them to an airtight container and keep refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.


Easter is a joyous occasion — and we like to go a little overboard with it … While Easter doesn’t command the flamboyant attention or excessive trappings of the Christmas season, it is the most important religious holiday of the Christian calendar. So, whether you celebrate this special Sunday on the high seas or at home, Easter calls for an exceptional meal … Easter’s position in late winter or early spring serves to reinforce the message of the promise of good things to come. — Master Chef Rudi Sodamin



Simplicity and elegance should define springtime entertaining. This simple salad — with its dramatic vertical presentation — is another way to present tomatoes and lettuce. — Master Chef Rudi

Yield: 4 servings


4 red and/or yellow globe tomatoes, peeled but not seeded
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound mixed baby greens (such as arugula, frisée, and red oak)

Basil Leaf Garnish:
8 large fresh basil leaves
2 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying

1/2 each red, yellow, and green bell peppers, diced
Thin toast, trimmed of crust and cut into triangles


1. Slice each peeled, whole tomatoes crosswise into four slices. Keep the slices stacked on each other and set aside.

2. In a small glass or ceramic bowl, slowly whisk the oil into the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place the greens in a large bowl and drizzle them with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat; toss gently.

Basil Leaf Garnish
1. Gently rinse and thoroughly dry the basil leaves. (Placing them on a kitchen towel in front of a fan will get them drier than a salad spinner.) Have a splatter screen ready. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

2. In a 10- or 12-inch frying pan or cast-iron skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until a deep-frying thermometer registers 350°F (do not allow the oil to smoke).

3. When the oil is ready, add the basil leaves. Quickly cover the pan with the splatter screen and fry for 2 to 3 seconds, until the leaves turn a brilliant green and become crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer the basil leaves to the prepared baking sheet. (Fried basil leaves should be used immediately or else they lose their crispness.)


Use tongs to place a portion of the dressed salad greens between each layer of tomato. Place each salad tomato on a plate and surround it with diced bell peppers. Place 2 fried basil leaves on the top of each tomato stack; serve with toast points.



In honor of the spring season, try to buy genuine young baby carrots rather than the cut, tumbled pieces of adult carrots that are available year-round. — Chef Rudi

Yield: 4 servings


1 (5- to 6-pounds) leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
12 small garlic cloves
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped carrot
4 cups homemade dark chicken stock (see note)

1 1/4 pounds small potatoes, cut into quarters
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground back pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Green Beans and Carrots:
1 pound green beans, trimmed
12 ounces slender baby carrots, trimmed, leaving 1/2 inch of stems intact
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Cut 12 slits into the lamb, about 1/2 inch in length. Push the garlic cloves into the slits. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, oil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano and rub the mixture all over the lamb. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Roast the lamb in a large flameproof roasting pan for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until medium rare, basting occasionally with the pan juices. (An instant-read thermometer should register 150°F.) Transfer to a warmed serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.

3. Spoon off most of the fat from the roasting pan and leave the meat juices behind. Place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring, until browned. The meat juices should have caramelized on the bottom of the pan and separated from the fat. Spoon off any fat left in the pan.

4. Add the chicken stock and any juices from the resting lamb. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the roasting pan and stir to dissolve them. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring until the liquid is reduced by one-third. Adjust the seasonings and keep warm.

1. In a steamer placed over boiling water, steam the potatoes, covered, for 10 minutes, or until they are almost tender. Remove from the steamer and let cool. (The potatoes can be prepared to this point 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate them, then proceed to the next step just before serving.)

2. Just before serving, in a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the potatoes until crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Green Beans and Carrots:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes (taste one to check tenderness). With a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the green beans and immediately place them in the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Transfer them from the ice water to a bowl; set aside. Repeat the process with the baby carrots, cooking them for 2 minutes; store the carrots separately. (The vegetables can be prepared to this point up to 4 hours ahead and refrigerated, covered.)

2. Just before serving, divide the butter between two skillets and heat it over medium heat. Add the reserved green beans to one skillet and the carrots to the other. Sauté the vegetables, stirring gently, until they are heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Toss the carrots with the cumin. Transfer the vegetables to separate bowls and season with salt and pepper.


Strain the juices from the reserved jus through a fine sieve into a warmed sauceboat. Serve the lamb with the gravy, potatoes and vegetables alongside.

Note: Dark chicken stock is a very rich stock made from roasted chicken bones. It adds great depth to this dish.


This custard tart (photo above) takes its cues from the sun itself, shines with bright color and the tangy zest for life delivered by the beautiful blooming of spring.

Yield: Serves 12


6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tablespoon dark rum

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 large egg yolk

For Assembly:
3 mangoes, peeled, halved, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 to 2 strawberries, hulled and very thinly sliced (optional)
2 kiwis, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apricot preserves, melted and strained through a sieve

Helpful Hint: If you make the filling the day before and the crust in the morning, this tart will come together very easily when you need to serve it.


1. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch; whisk until light in color and well blended; set aside.

2. In a heavy, medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat. As it heats, use a blunt-ended knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and then add the whole bean, too.

3. As soon as the milk mixture simmers, remove the vanilla bean. Gradually whisk 1 cup of the milk mixture into the yolk mixture in a slow stream, then add the remaining milk, whisking constantly. With a spatula, scrape the custard back into the saucepan and cook it over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick and starts to bubble, about 8 minutes. Quickly transfer it to a medium bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly and whisk in the rum. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap (to keep a skin from forming) and refrigerate it until cold, at least 6 hours. (The custard can keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

1. In a food processor with the knife blade attached, combine the flour, sugar, and salt; pulse until blended.

2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons ice water with the egg yolk. Add the yolk mixture 1 tablespoon at a time to the flour mixture, pulsing with minimal short pulses until moist clumps form. If the dough is dry at that point, add more water by teaspoonfuls, but do not overmix.

3. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten it into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is firm enough to roll, about 1 hour. (If the dough is chilled overnight, let it stand 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling.)

4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll the disk into a 13- to 14-inch round. Transfer the dough round to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough onto the bottom and up the side of the pan folding in the overhang to form double-thick sides. Pierce the crust all over with a fork and freeze it for 30 minutes.

5. Line the tart shell with foil and fill it with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake about 15 minutes longer or until golden. (Cover the rim of the tart with foil if it browns too quickly. If the center of the crust puffs up during baking, gently press it down with the back of a spoon. Cool the crust in the an on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.


1. Spoon the custard into the baked tart shell and spread evenly. Blot the mango slices with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and arrange them in overlapping slices on top of the tart, inserting slices of strawberry (if using) for added color. Arrange the kiwi slices in the center.

2. Brush the apricot preserves over the fruit. Remove the tart from the side of the pan and place it, still on its base, on a serving platter. (If you don’t need to serve it right away, cover and refrigerate it for up to 2 hours.)

Happy Passover and Easter to all who celebrate!

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