The seder, a celebration held during the first two nights of Passover, is meal that is literally 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 used to prescribe the order of the ceremony and courses that go along 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.
And surprisingly, besides the central seder plate and absence of leavened breads and other grains, there really 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 lightly sprinkled with some chopped hazelnuts for garnish.
Passover Carrot Torte
Start to finish: 2 hours 5 minutes, including 1 hour cooling time (15 minutes active)
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 grated)
1½ cups finely ground hazelnuts or almonds
Heat the oven to 350 F. 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 the 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 or cake tester inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before unmolding.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 189 calories; 91 calories from fat (48 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 151 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber; 118 mg sodium.
(Recipe from Joan Nathan's "Quiches, Kugels and Couscous," Knopf, 2010)