7 Passover and Easter Recipes From Philly’s Top Chefs

Impress your guests by cooking traditional holiday recipes that come straight from some of the city's hottest kitchens.

Gefilte fish by Abe Fisher’s Yehuda Sichel

I know, I know. Passover doesn’t start until March 30th, and Easter is on April 1st — but if you’re cooking at home, you need to prepare, and this snow ain’t helping anyone. So we’re giving you a head start. We’re simply turning your cooking brain on (or at least starting it up) because you’ll need it sooner than you think.

Here, five traditional recipes by some of Philly’s top chefs:

Gefilte Fish with Peppers and Olives

Yehuda Sichel, Abe Fisher

(serves 8 as an appetizer)

Gefilte Fish:

1 lb boneless skinless striped bass, preferably wild-caught
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ cup chopped dill
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup matzo meal
Pickled Carrots
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoons salt
½ cup sugar
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin

Red pepper stew:

½ cup olive oil
3 red peppers, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup tomato paste
1/4 cup paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cups water
½ cup spanish olives, chopped
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil
½ bunch of chopped dill
½ bunch of chopped cilantro
Pinch of espelette pepper

To make the gefilte: 

Pulse the bass in a food processor three to six times until it is coarsely chopped. Add the fish to a mixing
bowl and set aside.

Saute the peppers, onion and celery in a splash of olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are
slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and let cool. Add the vegetables to the fish, then add
the remaining ingredients and mix together by hand to incorporate.

Form the fish mixture into 2 oz patties that are about 2 inches in diameter. Place the patties in a baking
dish and set aside.

To make the pickles
Heat the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Place the sliced carrots
in a large tupperware container. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the carrots and let cool. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 10 days.

To make the stew:

Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Warm the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the peppers, onions and
tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes. Add the salt and tomato paste
and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the paprika, sugar, red wine vinegar, and
water, and simmer over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Spoon the cool tomato sauce over the gefilte fish and the sprinkle chopped olives over-top. Bake the fish
for approximately 30 minutes.

Serve the gefilte fish at room temperature. Garnish with pickled carrots, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, fresh herbs and a dash of espelette pepper.

Hazelnut Pavlova with Nutella Mousse and Vanilla Bean Banana Compote

Tova Du Plessis, Essen Bakery
(6-8 portions)

Hazelnut meringue:
3 x egg whites
200g sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
150g hazelnuts, toasted and finely ground

Place egg white, sugar and cream of tartar in an electric mixer bowl over a pot of boiling hot water. Whisk vigorously until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm, being careful not to cook the egg whites. Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and beat on high until meringue is thick, glossy and stiff. Fold in hazelnuts. Spoon or pipe onto a parchment lined sheet tray, creating individual size “baskets”, with a well in the middle to fill with cream later. Bake at 200ºF for about 1 hour or until dried through.

Nutella Mousse:
1 cup milk
400 g Nutella
6 g gelatin
1 pint heavy cream, cold

Sprinkle the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold milk. Whip the heavy cream to soft peak. Heat 3/4 cup milk in a small saucepan until scalding. Remove from heat and whisk in cold gelatin mixture. Pour into bowl over the nutella and stir until combined and smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Banana compote:
4 bananas, sliced or diced
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed
100g sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Heat a saucepan, add bananas, vanilla seeds and pod, butter and sugar and sauté on high heat, stirring, until the bananas start to caramelize and soften. Add the lemon juice and remove from heat.

To serve, spoon, or pipe, the mousse into the meringue baskets. Top with banana compote and a dark chocolate garnish (shaving a dark chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler makes a quick, easy garnish).

Hot cross buns

Hot Cross Buns

Melissa Weller, Walnut Street Café

Note: WSC will be offering Hot Cross Buns and Easter Panettone for pre-order for Easter. The week before Easter on Thursday 29th, Friday 30th, and Saturday the 31st, pick up is available between 2-4 p.m. Orders may be placed through orders@walnutstreetcafe.com. Last day for orders in Tuesday, March 27th. Please allow 48 hours notice for all orders. Panettone is $28; hot cross buns 1/2 dozen are $12; hot cross buns full dozen are $24.

(15 portions)

For the buns:

Dried currants 2 cups
Whole milk ¾ cup
Eggs, large 2
Crème Fraîche ¼ cup
All-purpose flour 4 ¼ cups (plus more for dusting)
Dark brown sugar ½ cup
Instant yeast 5 teaspoons
Fine sea salt 2 ½ teaspoons
Ground white pepper 1 teaspoon
Ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
Ground ginger 1 teaspoon
Grated nutmeg ¼ teaspoon
Ground cloves ¼ teaspoon
Orange 1
Unsalted butter, cubed, softened 1 stick
Nonstick cooking spray

For the icing:

Confectioners sugar 1 cup

Milk 2 tablespoons

To make the buns:

Place the currants in a small bowl. Cover with hot water and let soak for 10 minutes. Strain.

Pour ¾ cup (170 grams) milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In the following order, add the eggs, crème fraîche, flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Zest the orange into the bowl. Knead the dough with the dough hook on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. Add the butter, reduce the speed to low, and mix until the butter is incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the hook once or twice with a wet hand, about 5 minutes. Add the currants and mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Turn off the mixer.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with a dishcloth or plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside in a warm place to ferment the dough for 2 hours, turning the dough by folding the four edges in toward the center, once halfway through the fermentation.

Meanwhile, spray a quarter-size baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Line the baking sheet with parchment and spray the top of the parchment with the nonstick spray.

Lightly dust a flat work surface with flour. Scrape the dough onto the floured work surface and divide the dough into 15 equal (85 gram) pieces.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, rotate the dough on your dusted work surface in a circular motion, rolling it counter-clockwise if you’re right-handed, and pushing against the work surface to create a ball. (The dough is not terribly sticky, so you shouldn’t need any additional flour to shape the dough into balls. If you use too much flour on your work surface the pieces of dough will slip and slide while you try to round them. If this happens, scrape the extra flour away with a bench knife and round again.) Place the balls evenly, three across by five long on the prepared baking sheet.

Cover the baking sheet with a dishcloth or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to proof the dough for about two hours, until the balls look swollen, are touching each other, and have approximately doubled in size.

Adjust the oven racks so one is in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl to make an egg wash. Brush the tops and side of the buns with the egg wash and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through the cooking time, until the buns are nicely browned and hollow sounding when tapped on the top.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately remove the buns from the pan onto a cooling rack. Use an offset spatula to do this, giving the pan a little jerk to help slide the buns onto the cooling rack. Let the buns cool for 20 to 30 minutes before icing them.

While the buns are cooling, prepare the icing. Stir the confectioners sugar together with the milk in a small bowl. Transfer the icing to a disposable pastry bag and make a small cut in the opening.

Pipe the icing straight lines down and then across the centers of each line of buns to create a cross on each bun.

Apricot Rugelach

Katie Maley, Kensington Quarters

(about 20 cookies)


1 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz cold butter, cubed
4 oz cold cream cheese, cubed


4 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 egg
1 tsp cold water
2 tbsp coarse sugar

To make the dough:

Combine flour and salt in a food processor. Add cubes of butter and cream cheese and pulse until a dough just begins to come together. Transfer the dough to the counter, form into a ball and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a disc, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To shape and fill the cookies:

Combine the sugar and cinnamon.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into an 8”x12” rectangle. Position the dough so the long edge is facing you. Spread 2 Tbsp of apricot jam and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over both rectangles of dough. Roll the dough up tightly into a log. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Using a serrated knife, cut each log crosswise into 1-1/4-in-wide pieces. Arrange seam side down on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Top and bake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg and water together and brush the tops of each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar. Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Placki (potato pancakes)

Ryan Elmore and Kaitlin Wines, Mom-Mom’s Polish Kitchen & Food Cart

(8-10 pancakes)


4 Medium Russet Potatoes
1/2 Spanish Onion
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

Peel and submerge potatoes in water.

Combine Flour, Salt, Black Pepper, and Baking Soda in a mixing bowl.

Grate onion on smallest side of a box grater and pour off any extra onion juice.

Working as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation, grate the potatoes on large holes of a box grater into a colander. Press out, wring out, strain out as much water as you can from your grated potatoes. Removing as much moisture as possible before combing with the other ingredients. Combine with onion mixture and toss until mixed.

Heat 2 Tbsp Butter in a nonstick or cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Once butter starts to melt add a heaping tablespoon of your potato mixture and lightly tamp it down into shape (3-4 inches around and 1/2 inch thick). Sauté until golden brown, gently checking for color while cooking and adjust the heat so the edges don’t burn. About 3 minutes per side.

Remove to a cooling rack topped with paper towels to soak up any grease. Keep placki warm in the oven (200 degrees) while frying off the rest. Serve with your choice of applesauce, sour cream, green onions, and a sprinkle of white sugar. Choose one or choose all!

Smoked Ricotta Matzo Ball Soup

Matthew Gentile, Panorama

For homemade ricotta:
1 gallon unpasteurized whole milk
1/2 c – 1 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 sache (15 Black pepper, 2 sprig thyme, bay leaf)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Non-reactive pot

Pour milk and salt into your pot and bring to just below a simmer. Using a wooden spoon stir the milk being sure to scrape the bottom so the milk does not become scorched. Once the milk reaches temperature add lemon juice in broad strokes using and bring to a simmer. Gently stir and allow 45 minutes to sit at room temperature.

Pour through a mesh sieve with three layers of cheese cloth and refrigerate until chilled for later use.

To add smoke flavor you can either add a smokey spice blend or use a portable smoking gun that streams smoke into a wrapped or sealed container and infuses the ricotta with smoke flavor (my preferred method).

Vegetable cacciatore brodo:

1 Bunch green kale cleaned and shaved
1 bunch collard green cleaned and shaved
3 organic carrots, peeled and large diced
3 leeks, cleaned and cut in rings
5 plum tomatos, diced
5 ribs of celery, cleaned and cut
1 celery root, peeled and diced
1/2 lb. dry porcinis, rinsed and drained 4 times
8 oz cremini mushrooms halved
2 pods of star anise, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon of coriander
3 sprigs oregano, thyme
1 sprig rosemary
4 tablespoons of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350. Toss all ingredients with 1/2 cup olive oil, lay out on trays and roast for 1.5 hours. Put all vegetables in stock pot and simmer for 3 hours adding 2 sprigs of basil before straining through mesh sieve.

For the matzo balls:

2 cups of matzo meal
1 cup of smoked ricotta (reserve the rest for a late night snack)
6 eggs
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoon porcini powder
2 teaspoons of chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of kosher salt

Mix all ingredients and allow for at least 3 hours, overnight works also.

To shape and cook the matzo balls, fill a wide, deep pan with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. With wet hands, take some of the mix and mold it into the size and shape of a Ping-Pong ball. Gently drop it into the boiling water, repeating until all the mix is used.

Cover the pan and allow 40 minutes to cook and a low simmer or longer for lighter matzo balls. Chill matzo balls in liquid and reheat in the vegetable broth to serve.

Finish with grated parmigiana & olive oil.

Moroccan Leg of Lamb With Turmeric Couscous and Lemon Yogurt

Joe Monnich, Stove & Tap

(yields 1)
1 leg of lamb, bone-in
2 cups Moroccan spiced yogurt
Olive Oil
Take the leg of lamb and season well and then gently massage the meat with the yogurt marinade (below). Let the marinade set for 12-24 hours. Preheat oven to 400F and in a hot dutch oven, add olive oil and gently lay marinated leg of lamb in the dutch oven, do not cover. Place in oven and roast for 35-40 minutes or till the lambs’ internal temperature reads 124F. Let the lamb rest for 15 minutes and slice into thin slices off the bone.
Moroccan-spiced yogurt:
2 cups Fage yogurt
2 lemons, juiced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of Tabasco
2 teaspoons of salt
¼ cup tomato paste
1 pinch saffron
Mix together and reserve for the marinade
Tumeric-spiced couscous:
3 cups of Isreali couscous
2 onions, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of turmeric powder
1 teaspoons of smoked paprika
2 teaspoon of salt
½ cup olive oil
4 cups of chicken broth, hot
In a pot, add olive oil, onions, and garlic and sweet on low till translucent. Add turmeric, paprika, salt and cook till aromatic. Add couscous and toast in rondo for 1-2 minutes or till couscous is hot and mixed through. Add simmering chicken broth to the couscous and bring to low simmer. Make a paper lid and cook for 8 minutes or till couscous is al dente.
To finish the couscous:
Golden Raisins
Sliced toasted Almonds
Sliced Scallions
Fold in these garnishes into the hot couscous before you serve in a service dish.
Lemon Yogurt
2 cups Fage yogurt
1 tablespoon of honey
2 lemons, juiced
2 teaspoons of salt
¼ cup chopped parsley
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix through. Reserve for serving
A plate should consist of the sliced leg of lamb on top of the turmeric spiced couscous and a dollop of the lemon yogurt on top.