Pulling together any dinner can be a challenge but Passover adds special obstacles. Besides preparing the dinner, there are the accoutrements for the service (the lamb shank, parsley, hard boiled egg, fresh horseradish etc) and making sure there are copies of the Passover service--the Haggadah--in the house. Since flour and cream can’t be used on Passover, favorite desserts can’t be called on. Dessert still needs to feels like a treat. At a time like this the simplest dessert--baked plums--satisfies completely.
I've posted this recipe before but it's worth repeating. Not in season from local providers, plums can be found in most markets. They can be served by themselves (they’re really that delicious), with freshly made whipped cream, or ice cream. An added benefit: they look good on the plate.
My kids were craving something sweet. Normally, we always have fresh, baked goodies in the house. With Passover, we eliminate from our diet, anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt). Some traditional Jews avoid rice, corn, peanuts and legumes. All of these items have been used to make bread. I am not super strict (I have let the kids have chips and a family member gave them some gummy bears which have corn syrup) and I don’t clean out my house of all grains nor do I change out my dishes.
Personally, I want my children to have an understanding of what the holiday means and have some sort of discipline. With that said, they are missing the baked treats that normally adorn our home. I haven’t made this particular recipe in a few years and felt that this was the perfect solution to their sweet craving. Sometimes I toast some pecans or almonds and sprinkle them on the top, but this time I opted to chop up some of the homemde candied orange peels I had in the freezer. The scent and the taste of the orange made all the difference in the world.
Most everyone loves chocolate cake. It's just one of those classic desserts that no one can refuse. A good chocolate cake is moist and tender, sweet but not saccharine, and very chocolaty, of course. Melted chocolate—not cocoa powder—separates an excellent chocolate cake from a mediocre one. The best quality chocolate will always yield excellent results. But what about a chocolate cake made without flour? You would think it would be horrible. But it actually works, with just two ingredients: chocolate and eggs.
The best way to describe it would be to call it a baked mousse, because basically that's what it is. Melted chocolate is first combined with a mixture of beaten egg yolks and sugar, then egg whites are folded in. I choose to flavor this cake with instant espresso powder and vanilla, both of which help heighten the chocolate flavor. The final product is a dense yet moist and tender cake just right for chocolate lovers. It also makes a great dessert for Passover since there's no flour at all.
Years ago I was a personal Chef in a private home in a very swank suburb of Boston. My sister got me the interview for the job, I liked the family immediately and they liked me. My job consisted of getting to work at 10 in the morning, quite civilized, I was the last of the “staff” to arrive at the house. I would head to the kitchen to pick up my list from the madame of the house and read the pages of notes and the menu for the dinner that evening.
There was always a shopping list and at the end of the pages she would underline that they were on a very low fat diet with an exclamation mark! A big part of my job was to bake cookies every day to be ready when the two kids came home from school and they had to be “fresh out of the oven”, my choice of what kind, but they had to be piping hot.
I was given an adorable MG convertible to tool around in with my many bags of grocery and a charge account at the local high-end grocery store. I would make dinner for 6 o'clock sharp, clean up and head home for dinner at a later hour. The first day on the job my sister called to ask how was it going so far and what was the house like?
If you ask my Jewish husband, he’ll tell you that, until I married him, I “didn’t know from Jewish food.” And he’s right. As a girl who was raised a Southern Baptist in Texas, my experience with Jewish cuisine was limited to toasting a bagel.
But when we had children and decided to raise them respecting the traditions of both of our religions, I really got into it. Hannukah and Christmas, Passover and Easter, we celebrated all of the holidays that honored God and Food.
Until the year he told me he craved chopped chicken liver and I was at a loss.
Thankfully, my mother-in-law gave me an amazing cookbook, The Gefilte Variations, and I realized chopped chicken liver was just a version of French pate, something that even this shiksa could understand.
Passover is around the corner. In the past, thinking about cleaning out my cupboards, omitting all the Chametz(anything made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or oats or any product that is made with these grains and left to stand raw for longer than eighteen minutes) was a daunting task. No cereal, bread, waffles, pancakes, and most cookies for 8 days. Matzoh is the “grain” of choice and there are only so many ways one can eat matzoh (before it totally clogs up your system – and we all know how that goes).
Over the past few years I have become much more rigid in observing Passover. Mostly because I wanted my children to respect the holiday, understand what it means to sacrifice, and hopefully teach discipline through our values and our heritage.
Regardless, it can be a constant struggle. Yet, by the 3rd day, they all settled into the challenge at hand (not dissimilar to a cleanse) thus, their consciousness rises to the occasion. This year it is going to be much easier. Most of what we give up for Passover has already been omitted and almost forgotten as we lean more toward a gluten free lifestyle. But still, gluten free means we can eat rice, legumes, and most grains. Not the case during Passover.
Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls
Dora's Gefilte Fish
Wolfgang Puck's Braised Short Ribs
I love trying different recipes that substitute matzo for flour. It's always interesting to see how they turn out. As you can see, this one turned out well and it tastes good too. I'm kind of a sucker for anything with apples and nuts. The matzo in place of the flour is what gives the cake its light texture. Make sure to squeeze as much water as you can from the shredded apples to keep the cake airy.
Apple Matzo Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an 8" springform pan with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 6 egg yolks, sugar and salt until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Fold in apples, matzo meal, lemon zest and brandy.
In another medium bowl, with clean beaters, beat 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. With a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into apple mixture and transfer batter to pan. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pecans. Bake until golden brown and set in center, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack. To serve, run a small knife around edge of pan, remove cake and slice.
– Recipe courtesy of Noble Pig
Making Passover dinner takes a bit of planning, but it doesn't have to be a chore. If you're cooking for a big group, hand out assignments so you don't do all the work. If your kitchen is large enough, invite people over to help. Cooking the dinner with friends and family can be as much a part of a celebration as the meal itself.
Everyone wants to save money these days. But keeping an eye on food costs shouldn't mean cutting corners on quality and flavor. Avoid buying packaged or frozen meals and you'll be way ahead of the game. Besides saving money, you'll be eating healthier food.
On Passover, I practice what I preach by using one chicken to make three dishes. My Jewish mother would be very proud.
For me it's not Passover without matzo ball soup. But soup is only as good as the stock. Canned and packaged chicken broth are very high in salt content and, in my opinion, have an unpleasant flavor. It's much better to make your own.
It has to be the unsexiest of all Jewish foods, the Noodle Kugel. If
you say kugel with a nasally tone, it’s even more unsexy than
previously mentioned. The word kugel itself reminds me of kegel,
another less than sexy term. Maybe that’s the problem.
However, if you were to challenge me, indicating gefeltifish in a jar is the unsexiest of all Jewish food, I might secretly agree with you. But for the moment, I’m going with kugel.
Now, with all of that said, I would like to go on the record proclaiming this particular Noodle Kugel, in all of its high piled noodle glory, as having the sexiest TASTE ever. If you take a peek at the list of ingredients, you’ll see there is no way it could taste bad, it’s like dessert. There is something about the crispy-sugared edges of the baked noodles on top that send you to kugel nirvana. It’s sublime. And please don’t try to tell me there is no place called “kugel nirvana” because I’ve been there.