- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Seder, a celebration held during the first two nights of Passover, is a meal built around symbolic foods used to tell the story of the exodus of the Jews from enslavement under the ancient Pharaohs in Egypt.

A Seder plate composed of these foods is placed on the table and is used to prescribe the order of the ceremony and the courses that go with it.

This ritualized meal, along with the best-known dietary restriction of Passover, the prohibition of leavened foods, could make the holiday seem rigid and dull. Yet, for most Jewish families, it is perhaps the most joyously anticipated event of the year. It not only brings large gatherings of family and friends but also is a celebration built around many delicious foods.

Surprisingly, besides the central Seder plate and absence of leavened breads and other grains, there are few rules about what the menu should be. Given the timing of the holiday, why not make the meal a celebration of spring foods?

The Seder also has inspired many creative approaches to baking. This flourless dessert from Joan Nathan’s “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous,” has a beautiful pale orange color and is perfect for Passover. Traditionally, it would not be served with a topping (especially at a Seder) but could be sprinkled lightly with some chopped hazelnuts for garnish.

Passover carrot torte

7 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

5 large carrots, peeled and grated, about 2½ cups

1½ cups finely ground hazelnuts or almonds

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Separate 5 of the eggs into yolks and whites. Set aside the whites. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 5 eggs yolks with the 2 remaining whole eggs. Add 1 cup of the sugar, the cinnamon, salt, vanilla and lemon zest and juice. Mix in the carrots and hazelnuts or almonds.

In a clean bowl and using a clean whisk attachment, use an electric mixer to beat the 5 egg whites to stiff peaks, adding the 2 tablespoons of sugar once the whites are foamy. Working in batches, gently fold the whites into the carrot batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before unmolding.

Serves 10.

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