The Bitter With The Sweet | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

The Bitter With The Sweet

The Bitter With The Sweet

The greening of Pesach: The author’s Bitter Greens Salad with Orange.

Bitter greens as a symbolic reminder, and as a palate cleanser.

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On the first night of Passover, most people prepare a traditional seder meal of familiar, well-loved dishes made from treasured, well-used recipes. Our family is no different. My first seder dinner looks much like the one my mother cooked and her mother before that. 


Except that I usually add a new recipe or two, just to try something different. I also include a vegetarian main dish for certain guests. And most of all, I no longer limit all the symbolic foods to the seder plate — I make enough to serve during the meal. 

It all started years ago after I concocted a new charoset recipe and everyone had a tiny morsel of it during the reading. They loved it so much they wanted more, but I had only made a small amount. The next year and forever after, I made enough to serve as a side dish — a sort of relish or chutney that goes with the meat. 

That success made me think about the symbolic gesture we pay to bitter herbs. I decided that the traditional nibble of greens should also become something more substantial. These days I serve a fresh salad made from bitter greens. This salad not only helps lighten up the usual heavy Passover dinner but also reinforces our obligation to remember the bitter tears of slavery. It has become a most welcome treat for our family. I serve it after the entrée, to cleanse the palate and make us ever more ready for dessert a bit later. 

Bitter greens can be overwhelming, especially for children, so occasionally I mix in milder greens and lettuces, depending on what I see in the store. For example: Bibb lettuce with arugula and radicchio or frisee mixed with endive and oakleaf lettuce. There’s no magic formula. Sometimes I will include fruit — typically orange sections because they are sweet and make a good balance to the bitter greens. Avocado is mild too, so sometimes I include some chunks. Once in a while I will scatter some dates or chopped up dried figs on top, or add some nuts, for crunch, flavor and garnish.

Here is more or less the bitter greens salad I serve for about eight people. Sometimes, depending on who’s coming to dinner, I place the greens and fruit on top of oakleaf or Bibb lettuce leaves. 

Remember to wait until about 5-10 minutes before serving time to dress any salad, otherwise the greens will wilt and become soggy.  

Bitter Greens Salad with Orange


Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford, Conn. She is the author of “The Modern Kosher Kitchen”and “Hip Kosher.” Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at

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