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Keeping kosher for Passover is a challenge. In addition to the usual rules of kashrut, like not mixing milk and meat foods in the same meal, or eating only kosher animals slaughtered in the prescribed manner, there are special rules for this holiday. In order to commemorate the quick escape of the Israelites from Egypt, we don't eat regular bread and most other foods that are made from grains that could be fermented. Instead, we have the custom of eating matzah and of making a variety of substitute dishes out of ground-up matzah, eggs, nuts and other permitted foods. If you live in a Jewish area, you'll start to see a lot of kosher for Passover labels on foods that have been manufactured without corn syrup or soy or other grains or legumes that Ashkenazi Jews don't eat on the holiday.
If you've never done this before, we'd like to invite you into our kitchens to learn some of our cooking secrets. We've included both the recipes for sweets that seem to dominate Jewish cookbooks at Passover, and our variations on matzah ball soup, matzah brie (pronounced to rhyme with dry) and Passover rolls--a sort of popover. We tell you our special tricks, like setting up four bowls of ingredients by the stove to keep the cooking speedy, putting your pot in the freezer to get batter cold enough or leaving the water running while forming sticky cookies. We want you to get the flavor of the holiday and have a really sweet and good one.
Micah Sachs' Classic Matzo Ball Soup
This recipe comes from Lorraine Shapiro, the fabulous food writer for the San Diego Jewish Journal, where I worked from 2001-'05. Shapiro was old school. She didn't have a computer, let alone email. She would send typed recipes to our offices by mail, and I would have to manually typeset them (read: retype them).
But I didn't mind, because her recipes--and the photos her husband Phil took of them--were consistently excellent, as reliable as anything this side of Joy of Cooking. While this recipe produces a fabulous stand-alone broth for matzah ball soup, there's nothing uniquely Passover about it. Whenever I make stock from scratch, I use this recipe, and it comes out rich and soul-soothing every time.
Micah Sachs was InterfaithFamily's director of web strategy.
3 1/2 lb. broiler-fryer, with giblets
6 cups cold water
2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 small piece ginger
1 carrot, cut in thirds
2 stalks celery with tops, cut in thirds
1 parsnip, cut in thirds
3 sprigs parsley
For matzo balls:
1/3 cup oil or melted chicken fat
1/2 tsp salt
dash each white pepper and nutmeg
1 cup minus 2 tbsp matzo meal
Directions: Place chicken in 4-quart saucepan. Add water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, ginger, carrot, celery, parsnip, onion studded with cloves and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour, until chicken is tender. Remove vegetables and chicken and reserve for another use. Strain broth, Cool over ice and water. Chill. Remove fat, Reheat broth, adding salt if needed.
For matzo balls, beat eggs well. Add oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg, blending well. Stir in matzo meal. Refrigerate 1 hour. Shape into 12 balls. Drop into boiling salted water. Cover, simmer over low heat about 30 minutes. Do not lift cover to peek. Drain and serve in hot chicken broth.
This recipe also comes courtesy of Lorraine Shapiro. I made this for the first seder I ever hosted.
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 Tbsp potato starch
1 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. strawberries, halved
1/2 cup matzah meal
1/4 cup pareve margarine
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, potato starch and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Toss rhubarb and strawberries with sugar mixture. Turn into shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish. In another bowl, rub matzah meal with remaining sugar, margarine and remaining cinnamon, until fine crumbs form. Squeeze to form small lumps. Sprinkle over rhubarb. Bake at 375° for approximately 45 mins., until bubbly and top is golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes. Spoon into bowls.
A popular meal for my family during the year is pasta primavera with fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. During Passover, I decided to incorporate that recipe into matzah brie, a classic Jewish dish of fried matzah. My family can eat this for breakfast , lunch and dinner! I specified certain vegetables in the recipe, but feel free to substitute to suit your family’s tastes.
Many people make their matzah brie by breaking up whole boards of matzah, but the crumbs from that process can be messy. By using farfel (prebroken pieces of matzah about the size of a postage stamp) instead of breaking your own matzah the mess is contained. Farfel also blends better into an omelet than larger pieces of matzah.
Robin Schwartz was InterfaithFamily's network director.
3 cups of matzah farfel
One medium onion, chopped
½ cup mushrooms
1 large tomato sliced finely
1 pepper sliced and chopped
1 cup broccoli, chopped
Shredded cheese (1 to 2 cups, optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
I find it easiest to make this recipe using four bowls. Prepare the onions and mushrooms in one bowl and the sliced tomato, pepper and broccoli in another. Place matzah farfel in a third bowl and dampen it with water. Drain. Crack eggs into another bowl and beat well.
Heat olive oil in a pan or wok. Add matzah farfel, onions and mushrooms. Stir until matzah farfel, onions and mushrooms are brown and slightly caramelized, but not burnt. Add more olive oil and tomato, pepper and broccoli to pan. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add eggs and scramble. Eggs should cook quickly.
Remove the matzah brie to a serving bowl and add salt, pepper and cheese immediately. Serve hot--this is key--with salsa on the side if you like.
Passover rolls are a tradition in many families. They are supposed to be bready without being leavened bread. My ability to make this recipe established my cooking credibility with my parents' aunts and uncles when I was teenager. It comes from a congregational cookbook from Buffalo, N.Y., and is attributed to a Mrs. Epstein. It makes a dozen matzah-meal popovers. You can double or triple this, but you will need a strong arm to incorporate the eggs if you do. You can slice these open and fill the cavity with sandwich filling, but beware--they are pastry, not bread.
Ruth Abrams was InterfaithFamily's managing editor.
1/4 cup oil (olive oil will work)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups matzah meal
Put oil, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in matzah meal until incorporated. Cool completely. (If you feel impatient, put the mixture in the freezer--it has to be cool or the recipe doesn't work.)
Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease the cups of a muffin tin. This recipe will make a dozen depending on the size of the muffin tins.
Add eggs to batter one at a time. Mix well after each addition. When each egg is fully incorporated, the batter will be sticky, not slippery. Fill greased muffin tins with batter until the mixture is level with the top of each cup. Bake 400°F for 45 minutes. These become stale quickly, so if you aren't going to eat them all right away, freeze them in zipper bags as soon as they have cooled. You can pack them in your lunch still frozen in the morning and at lunchtime they will be thawed out and perfect.
This is my mom's recipe. We've had pretty traditional Passovers in terms of food and this is one of the items we always have.
Heather Martin is InterfaithFamily's Chief Operating Officer.
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound margarine
2 3/4 cups matzah cake meal (finely ground matzah)
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 oz. chocolate chips or 2 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate bars broken up
1 cup almonds chopped up
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Sift cake meal, potato starch and salt in a large bowl. Fold in egg mixture. Add chocolate and nuts and mix well.
Form 3 loaves approx 3 inches wide , or smaller depending on the size of mandel bread you would like. Place horizontally on greased cookie sheet. Bake the loaves at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove loaves from oven and slice diagonally. Place slices on their sides on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Re-bake the cookies until brown, 5-10 minutes on each side.
Editor's note: Susan's mother Lil Englender sends us the most delicious biscuits when she comes to visit from London. (We can't call them cookies, or Susan won't let us have any.) Now we have two of Lil's Passover recipes and we are going to be popular.
Susan Edni is InterfaithFamily's administrator/special projects.
4 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
3 cups desiccated coconut
½ cup granulated sugar
Juice and rind of half a lemon
Beat yolks and sugar till creamy. Stir in lemon juice, rind and coconut. If the batter isn't sticking together, use more lemon juice. Form into pyramids on baking parchment or another non-stick surface. They can be formed with wetted hands and shaped by hand, or you can use a moistened egg cup or the plastic top of a baby bottle. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 18 - 20 minutes till golden brown. Allow to cool on wire tray and store in tin or tupperware. Makes about 24.
2 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups ground almonds
1 level tablespoon cinnamon
Beat egg whites till stiff peaks. Fold in all remaining ingredients, mix well. Form into balls (not too big)between wetted hands. (Keep the tap running, because your hands will get sticky.) Bake on baking parchment on tray at 325°F (170°C) about 25 mins. or until just firm to touch. Remove and roll in confectioners sugar while still warm, and again when cold. Store in tin or tupperware. Makes about 24.
Editor's note: Our CEO Ed Case got this recipe from his friend Rebecca Cohan, who also shared it in the sisterhood cookbook of her congregation, Temple Shalom of Newton, Mass. We appreciate her giving us permission to reprint it here.
Ed Case is InterfaithFamily's CEO.
1 lb. matzah farfel
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup dried fruit or raisins (optional)
Mix together farfel and optional nuts. Combine remaining ingredients except fruit in saucepan, heat until honey is melted. Pour over dry ingredients, mix thoroughly, spread out onto a lightly greased 10X15X1 inch pan. Bake at 300°F for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool thoroughly and add optional dried fruit. Store in plastic bag or airtight container.