Fresh Fridays

April 3, 2015
Vol. VII No. 7
In This Issue
Spring is here! It's time to celebrate warmer weather and new growth, and for some of us, our faith. Today is Good Friday and Passover begins tonight at sundown, plus Easter Sunday is April 5th. These celebrations coincide with ancient springtime celebrations, honoring the first harvest in ancient Palestine.

Food is a significant part of these celebrations, both for its religious symbolism and because historically, a greater variety of foods began to be available this time of year after a long winter. Although religious feasts vary across the Mediterranean and around the world, four foods act as a common thread between them: grains, eggs, fish and lamb. Of course, everyone can savor these foods in dishes that originated on Easter and Passover tables.

In the ancient Mediterranean, spring harvest was the most important harvest because grains like wheat and barley became available. For this reason, a variety of traditional intricately woven breads and sweet breads (see Hot Cross Buns recipe below) are popular around Easter. Many traditional Easter desserts contain extra grains to take advantage of the abundant crop.

For those who celebrate Passover, consumption of chametz, or leavened bread containing any of "the five major grains" - wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt (a type of wheat) - is forbidden. Strict followers rid their entire house of all traces of chametz. This sacrifice commemorates the Exodus of Jewish slaves from Egypt, who didn't have time to let their bread rise because they left in such a hurry. Rising bread can also symbolize pride, and swearing off it is a way for Jews to show their humility in the presence of God. It's a challenging time to cook with this limitation, but traditional Passover dishes such as matzah balls, kugel, latkes, and salmon are delicious alternatives.

Many of us are familiar with egg hunts, decorated eggs, and chocolate eggs around this time of year. Eggs are a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings - the embodiment of spring, the freedom of the Israelites, and the resurrection of Christ. During the Seder feast on the first two nights of Passover, roasted eggs (betza) are served as a sacrificial offering to God. Traditional Easter foods with eggs range from frittatas on Easter morning in Italy to Greek braided bread with dyed red eggs on top to represent Christ's blood.

During Lent, the 40-day period before Easter Sunday, people of some Christian traditions refrain from eating meat and poultry on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) and all Fridays. Fish is the substitute protein of choice - hence the slew of spring fish recipes. In the Mediterranean, where fresh fish and time-honored recipes are in no short supply, going without meat doesn't feel like much of a sacrifice at all.

Fish is also a popular Passover food. Gefilte fish, a traditional Jewish fish patty, is typically associated with this time of year, but there are a variety of dishes out there. Check out our Passover and Easter fish dish below!

Before the modern convenience of refrigeration, most large animals were slaughtered in the fall so that the meat had less chance of spoiling during the colder months. At the end of the winter, lambs were often the first available sources of fresh meat. Cured ham is popular in the U.S. for a similar reason - it was the only meat that made it through the winter.

For Jews, roasted lamb bone served during the Seder mimics the sacrifice of a lamb by the Jewish slaves on the eve of their Exodus from Egypt. Lamb is a symbol of religious freedom dating back to the first celebration of Passover in 1300 B.C. Jews who converted to Christianity later on carried the tradition of serving lamb with them.

Happy Passover, happy Easter, and happy spring to all! Read on for delicious recipes to celebrate the season.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe.
It's tradition to eat hot cross buns, named for their mark of a symbolic cross, on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday). However, they date back to before Christianity in ancient Greece, where Greeks would mark their bread with a cross to honor the goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre. Delicious with fresh fruit or all by itself, we're happy to say these buns are now available year round.

Recipe, photo, and content courtesy of International Collection.
While seafood may not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of Easter and Passover, this heart-healthy protein has ties to both. For those not eating meat during lent (or for those who just love fish), this recipe pairing salmon with seasonal leeks brings a fresh and healthy taste to the table.

Recipe, content and photo courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute
This simple and refreshing recipe is perfect if you are looking for a non-traditional way to prepare lamb for the spring holidays. Most of the flavor comes from the delicious marinade, and the cooking time is quick and easy - about 10 minutes!

Recipe courtesy of Jesse Cool and Deanna Bayless for The Oldways Table; content and photo courtesy of Oldways.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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This month-long celebration, created in 2009 by Oldways and the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, generates awareness of the delicious foods and amazing health benefits associated with the Mediterranean Diet and its vibrant lifestyle through media, supermarkets, health professionals and social networking.

For more information, visit Med Diet Month.

by Linda Amster
A perennial favorite with more than 200 holiday recipes from top chefs and writers, The New York Times Passover Cookbook includes beloved family recipes and innovative kosher cuisine that will make your holiday particularly savory and festive.

by Natalie Oliver
Easter is a time for friends, family, and great food. It can also be stressful to work out a menu that will be just right. As the title states, these recipes are semi-traditional - Natalie adds twists to some Easter holiday favorites.

by Joan Nathan 
In this richly evocative book, Joan Nathan captures the spirit of Israel today by exploring its multifaceted cuisine. She delves into the histories of the people already settled in this nearly barren land, as well as those who immigrated and helped to quickly transform it into a country bursting with new produce. It is a dramatic and moving saga, interlarded with more than two hundred wonderful recipes that represent all the varied ethnic backgrounds. Every recipe has a story, and through these tales the story of Israel emerges.