Italian Jewish culinary culture is fascinating. Not Ashkenazi, not sephardi it’s its own mashup of flavors and dishes. So it isn’t surprising that Italian Jews actually figured out a way to enjoy pasta during Passover. Like pretty much everything Italians do, their matzo is prettier than ours, often round and punched out to look like a lacy doily. However our square shaped giant crackers are perfect for constructing a “lasagna” or as my staff started calling it “mazzagna” (matzo+lasagne). I’ve heard these “pies” layered with matzo called Tortino, Mina or Scacchi. You might think that this idea is a poor substitute for the real thing, but actually it’s pretty great. The matzos which are soaked prior to layering, absorb the tomato sauce and become light and fluffy.
You can use this idea to make any kind of “tortino” whether you construct it with a meat sauce (made with groung lamb perhaps) or vegetables as I do here. At Angeli we decided that the best use of the Mazzagna/Tortino was as a vegetarian option/side dish for all. If you’re keeping kosher or doing a traditional meat meal than leave out the parmesan. If not, then go for it. Either way your guests will be happy to have something on the table that’s light(ish).
Matzo (or matzoh or matzah) is the perfect crunchy, flaky base for a thin coating of buttery caramel, melted chocolate and a sprinkling of chopped nuts salt. It’s an addictive treat that’s perfect for Passover.
Matzo is unleavened bread that first appeared on the “market” when the Israelites had to flee Egypt and did not have time to let their bread rise.
It has been eaten for centuries during the Jewish holiday of Passover as a reminder of that exodus by forgoing cakes, cookies, pasta and noodles — anything made to rise with yeast, baking soda, etc.
I know this looks like ice cream. But IT’S NOT. It’s Strawberry Mousse. And it has all the creamy mouthfeel that ice cream exudes. Best of all it’s quick and easy to put together. What could be better than that?
Oy Vey, I am not Jewish, however, the Wild Boar is. So when there is a Jewish Holiday (however it seems as though lots of non-Jews, goyim, are celebrating Passover these days), I like to take on my “perfect goy wife” role and put something together, a traditional treat during the holiday period. I know, I know, I’m good.
The Wild Boar does not follow Jewish dietary laws (he eats everything) but like I said, it’s fun to make traditional things. If there is a holiday, I’ll join in and do what I need to do for a celebration. I love parties.
This mousse is considered perfect for Passover because it is non-dairy with no leavening, an important consideration for Jews following traditional dietary laws with a meal where meat is usually present.
But the truth is, I make this on a whim because it is so darn yummy and simple to throw together. It’s light, fluffy and refreshing. You’ll be saying Mazel Tov before you know it. I know you will.
It’s tradition that you create a Seder meal the first two nights of Passover. Like most holiday’s, Passover is a time to gather with family, honor our heritage and traditional foods, and show gratitude to those that sacrificed before us. In the past, Passover was the holiday dreaded by my boys. Giving up foods, for one week, was almost as bad as shutting off the satellite for two weeks (yes, I really did that). Since giving up gluten, Passover is much less of a challenge than it has been in years past.
This year, the first night of Passover will be celebrated in our home. This is not a holiday that I generally host. But with my sister-in-law’s house under construction, I offered to create the meal. I like to plan, so cooking for 22 and not just the usual 5, is not as daunting to me as would be for others. I always make it a point to make a few new dishes. This year I plan to make my friend, Lisa’s Matzoh Kugel (deli-sh!), gefilte fish, and a feta cream spread for the patties.
I do admit to eating the Gefilte fish that comes in a jar. I know, it’s kind of gross. Making it yourself, using Ungar’s frozen loaves is my newest Passover must have and obsession. I read a bunch of chat rooms on how best to cook it and for me, simply placing it in a small dutch oven with some carrots, onions, celery, Celtic sea salt, pepper, and paprika, and covered with water was the path that I took. Baked in the oven for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours and refrigerated overnight – it’s that easy. This is one of those dishes that I could become addicted to.
As a half-and-halfer who leaned too much to the gentile side, I might have secretly liked one Jewish holiday -- Passover. To be honest, it’s the only one I knew. Barely. “We’re going to Seder dinner at Celie’s,” my dad would announce each year. Celie was my dad’s younger sister who treated him like the baby of the family. My dad, known as Duke, and stricken with polio as a child, walked his whole life with a brace & cane. It was Celie, till she died, who hand made for him the flesh-colored, stretchy compression socks that improved his circulation. Chappy, my aunt Celie’s husband -- okay, my uncle -- would conduct a pretty serious, religious event. He was sanctimonious, no-nonsense, and an easy foil for my fun-loving dad. I always came starved, but ate very little.
This was a rowdy, boisterous group -- a ton of aunts, uncles and cousins that all knew each other well and lived in the VALLEY. They seemed to include my brother in their group. Me, not so much. So, I clung to my dad for comfort, laughing at and enjoying everything he said, hanging on like it was his last day on earth. That’s how it was with us all my life. He was an older dad. Magical. My hero. And out there in the Valley I was often petrified. I secretly longed for that other soon-to-be-celebrated holiday, Easter -- with the gentiles.
For some reason, I identified much more with my mother’s side. If my father’s chaotic mishpucha was like Alvy Singer’s in “Annie Hall “(with dad as Uncle Joey Nickels) for my mother’s family, think Grammy Hall. Only stranger and more white trash. Yep, I was more comfortable in a room full of pathologically quiet people who just kind of stared blankly into space. Occasionally, someone like my uncle R.T. might whisper a word or even an incoherent monologue. Something inaudible.
As a kid I always loved eating chocolate-covered jelly rings by the handful. I eagerly looked forward to that time of year when the grocery stores stacked towering boxes of them in the Passover aisle. I still love eating them, but now am glad that I can only find them once a year, otherwise I'd eat them all the time.
Last spring my friend Caroline introduced me to Uncle Louie G's Italian ices and ice cream shop in Brooklyn. Their many flavors are astounding, but what caught my eye that first visit was the chocolate jelly ring Italian ice. I knew right away that I would love it and there was no doubt that I would order it. As Passover rolled around this year I saw those towering boxes of jelly rings in the supermarket and the first thing that popped into my mind was that I had to make a dessert with them.
Here is my kosher for passover dessert, a rich chocolate sorbet made with high-quality melted chocolate and an entire box of chopped jelly rings stirred in. It's a bit different, and some of my Jewish friends may have thought I was crazy for doing it, but once you have a taste, you will surely understand my obsession.
It probably never would have happened had it not been for the fact
that we were trapped in Studio 8H for camera blocking for hours on end
which was business as usual. A group of us were sitting around the
Green Room, which was next to Lorne’s office on the 9th floor
overlooking the studio stage.
This was where we took our meals between the dress rehearsal and
the live show. It was also where we got notes and the chopping block
for sketches. But you’d never know that kind of carnage took place at
any other time in this unassuming spot. It was furnished with the kind
of couches and chairs that said ‘we don’t give a crap about this late
night summer replacement show, let’s give them the stuff we have in
storage’. The color palate was ‘tan 70s vomit’.
In the room were Gilda Radner, Paul Schaffer, Cathy Vasapoli (Paul’s girlfriend, now, his wife) Marilyn Miller, Alan Zweibel, Al Franken, and me. We were all in varying stages of exhaustion (the writers, obviously, even more so) and were draped over the furniture like the kids in the “Going Steady” number from Bye Bye Birdie.
“Hey, isn’t it pasacccchhhhhhhhhh?” Zweibel asked, shredding his throat and getting the laugh his sacrifice deserved.
Spinach ricotta gnudi, made with no wheat flour, are my latest recipe, just in time for Passover. Since the Israelites had to flee their oppressors quickly they didn't have time to allow bread to rise, so the story goes. To commemorate that time, during Passover Jews eat foods made with matzo meal or matzo cake meal, but not with regular flour. Most other non-wheat flours are also not allowed.
Gnudi are a little larger and plumper than gnocchi but somewhat similar. Some people think of them as "ravioli without the pasta." This recipe is very easy because you use one of those "blocks" of frozen spinach. The secret is getting as much water as possible out of the spinach. You want the dough to be very stiff.
Rolling the dumplings in potato starch also helps keep them from falling apart in the water when you boil them. Since I used potato starch instead of flour, these gnudi are also gluten free. I adapted my recipe from the Weelicious recipe for Spinach Gnocchi.
We really wish someone was making this for us tonight...or perhaps their Cabernet-Braised Lamb Shanks with Root Vegetables.- The Editors
When Chef Todd Gray, who grew up Episcopalian, married his wife, Ellen Kassoff, their union brought about his initiation into the world of Jewish cooking. More than a love story about what one can do with fresh ingredients, Todd and Ellen talk about the food they grew up with, their life together, and how rewarding the sharing of two people’s traditions—and meals—can be.
In 1999, Chef Todd Gray combined his love for farm-to-table ingredients with his passion for Jewish cuisine opening the acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C. The restaurant is a gathering place for Washington lawyers, deal makers, and it even welcomes Presidents and their wives who want a quiet meal alone in the real world.
Gorgeous design, appetizing full-color photographs and sidebars from Washington’s elite including: BET co-founder and president of Salamander Hospitality Sheila C. Johnson, R.W Apple Jr’s wife Betsey Pinckney Apple, Chef Jose Andres, The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes is sure to please everyone from traditional Kosher cooks to high-holiday hosts.
Passover is essentially a gluten free holiday. With the absence of wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and oats for 8 nights, creates limited choices. Protein and veggies are easy. It’s the carbs, the desserts, actually the stuff that most of us crave, thus find satisfying become absent. What I have found in creating a gluten free household is that mealtime as well as snack time is every bit as tasty, if not tastier than how we previously ate.
For my kids, Passover elicits emotions of dread and doom. However, this past week, as I tested and retested recipes, the kids were quite emotional about what was coming out of our kitchen. Even a failed attempt at a gluten free passover doughnut this morning, were gobbled up. Eli coined it a “makee” – a cross between a muffin and a cake and one of the best gluten free treats to date!
So, in testing recipes for the first night of Seder, I started with this Amaranth, Quinoa and Dark Chocolate Cake from La Tartine Gourmande. The first go around, I made it exactly according to the recipe. Delicious! Perfect! And it disappeared within minutes. But with 14 adults and 9 kids, sitting down to dinner, this wasn’t going to go very far.