Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Passover!

Matzoh Ball Soup

Sundown this evening marks the beginning of the eight-day celebration of Passover, which celebrates the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt.  It's a time to relax, to eat and drink, and to refrain from leavened goods, or chametz.  Chametz is anything that is made of grains (wheat, spelt, oats, barley, rye), that has been combined with water and left uncooked for more than 18 minutes.  In Ashkenazi tradition, kitniyot are also forbidden; these include items that can be ground into a coarse meal, such as corn, legumes (peanuts, peas, beans, soy) and rice.  

Mostly everyone is aware of matzoh, which I prefer in its brei'd form: soaked in egg and milk and pan-friend, which can be served savory or sweet.  It's none too appealing on its own, though I've found my goyim friends tend to like it far more than my fellow Jews; I suppose it's a different story when eaten out of necessity.  

Here are some recipes that are Passover-friendly.  While some (such as the charoset) are specific to the Seder meal, there's no reason why they should be relegated to such a setting, as they're delicious in their own right (and that charoset, in particular, would be amazing in yogurt or with oatmeal). 

Recipes for the Seder (and Beyond)

Matzoh Ball Soup. A classic.  Spiking the matzoh balls with seltzer results in some of the best matzoh balls I've had.

I should really start making this stuff year-round

Sephardic-Style Charoset.  Not your typical wine-sogged, apples and walnuts affair, this stuff is irresistible.  It's fiercely demanded at every Passover meal with my family.

Gefilte Fish with Horseradish Cream Sauce.  It might sound crazy to make your own gefilte fish, and I won't really try to argue with that, but the rewards you'll reap with this recipe are substantial.  It's supremely delicious, but if nothing else, give the horseradish cream sauce a try - it's a bit different than your standard Gold's straight from the bottle; which isn't to poo-poo the Gold's of course, I keep that stuff stocked year-round.

Brisket with Red Wine and Prunes: this recipe is awesome for any big gathering, as it benefits from a long, slow cook and can be prepared ahead of time.  It's particularly great for celebrations, since it feels a bit more special than your typical brisket. 

Random Passover-Friendly Recipes for the Remaining Eight Days

Beyond the Seders, there are eights days during which I'll need to feed myself.  As a devout oatmeal-for-breakfast type girl, this requires a bit more creativity on my part. While I will rely on yogurt a good amount for my morning repast, I will definitely be breaking out the quinoa more, as it's one of the few grain-type items that aren't considered chametz.  While these recipes aren't kosher-kosher, they don't contain chametz.  Now I don't keep kosher throughout the year, but I do try to keep chametz out of my diet during Passover.  Call me a hypocrite, that's fine, but I see these eight days more as a commemoration and acknowledgment of my ancestors' past and struggles than anything.  Where kosher variations are available, I've so noted.

Raw Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios.  This salad is fucking ridiculous.  It's amazing how good a few simple, healthy ingredients can be.  Don't forget the pistachios, they're the ticket.

Brussels Sprouts with Poached Eggs.  Embarrassing to even include this is a recipe.  It's more of a technique than anything, and one that is absurdly simple.  Omit the bacon to make it kosher.  You can add some warm, roasted walnuts at the end to make it more substantial. 

Butter Poached Fish.  The flavors in this meal belie the ease with which its prepared.  Serve with potatoes instead of noodles. 

Kale Caesar Salad.  No croutons = Passover-friendly.   

Duck with Red Wine Sauce and Cauliflower Two Ways.  Omit the brandy in the sauce and use potato starch in lieu of corn starch to make the red wine sauce Passover-friendly.  Both cauliflower dishes are kosher for Passover and should be made stat in any event because they rock.

Lamb Sausage Patties with Feta, Garlic and Mint. Fast, easy, delicious.  Not kosher, though.

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce.  While more of a winter-weather type meal, it wouldn't be unwelcome these days given the slight chill in the air that doesn't seem to want to beat it.  Leave out the bacon to keep it kosher.


Sometimes it's better to avoid the Passover-friendly facsimile of chametz-laden desserts and opt for things that were never intended to contain grains, such as ice cream, panna cotta, or pavlovas.  But sometimes you just want something cakey; flourless cakes work great for these purposes; Passover-izing other desserts will have a less than ideal effect on the texture, but it can be overlooked most of the time given the circumstances. A note on vanilla: some extracts contain grain alcohol, which is technically not kosher for passover.  It can either be omitted, or replaced with vanilla sugar, which is artificially flavored, and which is obviously not a match for pure vanilla, but hey, it's only eight days a year.)

This stuff is dangerous, but you'll be sorry if you don't make it

Matzoh Crack.  Just make this.  You won't be sorry.  Your ass may be. 

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  The natural mint flavor is remarkable; far less sharp and aggressive than in commercial mint ice creams.

Frozen Yogurt with Figs and Honey.  Just great.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta.  A blank, tart, delicious canvas for a myriad of toppings.  Fruit is always a good bet on Passover.

Cocoa Brownies.  Replace the flour with five  tablespoons of matzoh cake meal.  The texture will suffer slightly, but it's not too bad.

Tonight is the first of two Seders, the meal at which we tell the story of the Jews' escape from slavery. I will be joining my family in Brooklyn for both. We always attempt to follow the Haggadah and tell the entire story, but by the time all is said an done we've hit the big-ticket items and proceeded to dinner.  Regardless, it's a time to celebrate family, to relax and enjoy the moment, to take it easy and drink a lot of wine.  

I hope you all have wonderful celebrations, wherever and for whatever they may be.

How and what are, or just are, you celebrating this weekend? 

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