Holiday meals—weeks in the cooking, minutes in the eating. But after the Seders fade into memory, the additional matzo-filled days of Passover would loom before us as arid as the
Sinai Desert itself, if not for the creativity of Jewish cooks through the ages who have created delicious meals within the holiday restrictions to delight Jewish households. Two cookbooks offer some unique ideas.
No bread for a week? No problem! “Meatballs and Matzah Balls” (Elsa Jacob Publishing, $27.95) from Marcia A. Friedman brings new life to that same-old, same-old with a whole chapter dedicated to Passover. Italian by birth and Jewish by choice, Friedman has amassed a delectable feast filled with nostalgic reflections from both traditions. Crossover dishes such as Frittata Kugel with Roasted Red Peppers, Meatball Matzoh Balls and, yes, Passover Gnocchi mingle with the focaccia and challah, the latkes and lasagna to create a multicultural banquet with tempting photos throughout.
“It always feels like a brainteaser to create menus for the Passover Seders and the remaining days of the holiday,” she said. “But it’s made me creative.”
Friedman has adapted Italian dishes such as chicken cacciatora and potato gnocchi for the holiday, as well as tempting desserts such as chocolate marshmallow pie and banana tart.
But gnocchi for Passover?
“The first time I made it, no one could believe it’s kosher for Passover,” she said. “And what a rare pleasure to eat something chewy and pasta-like during the no-bread holiday. But the best part is when lunch was over, not a single gnocchi was left.”
Leftover Seder brisket gone? Ditto kugel, gefilte fish and chicken? How about sushi for a midweek Pesach lunch? Yes, yes, I know. What about the rice?
In 2015, in a controversial move, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Jewish rabbis ruled that rice (also corn, lentils and beans, among others), which for 800 years were banned for Passover, would now be allowed, at least for Conservatives Jews. Sephardic Jews have always served them at Passover, but for Ashkenazim it was a bold change.
The Torah prohibits only chametz on Passover: leavened wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye. In early medieval France in the 13th century, Ashkenazi rabbis added kitniyot (legumes in Hebrew) to the list, including but not limited to rice, corn, beans, soy, peas, lentils, and mustard, which varied between local communities. Rabbinical writings offered two explanations: Fear of contamination, because chametz and kitniyot were often stored together, and fear of confusion, since many items on the banned list could be made into flour. Some modern scholars suggest that the custom became popular first and the explanations followed or that prohibiting these foods were yet another attempt to keep the Jewish community separate.
If, like me, you can’t bring yourself to serve rice for Passover—the tradition is just too deeply ingrained—this Passover Sushi from “Perfect for Pesach” (Mesorah, $34.99) by Naomi Nachman may be just the ticket.
Nachman, born and raised in Sydney, Australia, and now living in Long Island, New York, is known as the “Aussie Gourmet” (see theaussiegourmet.com). She is a chef, caterer and host of the popular radio show “Table for Two” on the Nachum Segal Network, which you can watch on nachumsegal.com, Youtube or their Facebook page. “Perfect for Pesach” features over 125 delicious recipes, including Hawaiian Poke, Tangy Aïoli Branzini, Chimichurri Coleslaw, Pastrami Meatballs, Tequila Lime Chicken, Pomegranate Pistachio Semifreddo and Chili Chocolate Chip Cookies. You’ll also find helpful cook’s tips, freezing suggestions, prep ahead instructions, how-to information and recommendations for basic kitchen equipment.
“As a chef specializing in Passover, I wanted to provide home cooks with delicious recipes that bring something new to the table,“ Nachman explained. “Some of the recipes in this book reflect my years of catering Pesach dinners, and others are brand new to reflect today’s kosher cooking styles. All my recipes use fresh, simple and delicious combinations of ingredients that you can get all year long and create interesting meal choices. My goal is to help home cooks prepare delicious meals without making the process too complicated or exhausting. I want you to be as excited about cooking for Pesach as I am.”
Yield: 4 to 5 servings
2 pounds Yukon gold or butter potatoes,
unpeeled, cut into large pieces
¾ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1½ cups matzah cake meal, plus more as
½ cup potato starch
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
6 large garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise into thirds
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Boil potatoes until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Cool, peel, discard skin. Press potatoes through potato ricer or mash into large bowl. Stir in salt and pepper.
- Whisk together matzah cake meal and potato starch; fold into potatoes. Knead 1 minute until dough is smooth but still slightly sticky. Add a little cake meal if too moist or sprinkle with water if too dry.
- Bring large pot salted water to a boil. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll small handful of dough into a rope about 1/2-inch thick. Slice into 3/4-inch pieces. Gently pinch each piece between your finger and prongs of a fork for ribbed texture. Place on prepared parchment. Gnocchi can now be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
- Gently stir half the gnocchi into boiling water. After about a minute, dumplings will start rising to the surface. Cook 40 seconds more until al dente, and quickly remove with slotted spoon or small strainer to bowl with oil, stirring gently to coat to prevent sticking. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
- Place a thick (about 1/3-inch) layer of olive oil in wide, shallow bowl (or a few pie plates). Heat olive oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in red pepper flakes and some garlic: place as many gnocchi as will fit in one layer in pan. Cook until both sides are golden brown and crisped, 6 to 10 minutes (remove garlic sooner if too brown). Remove to warmed platter; top with cheese, if using. Repeat with remaining gnocchi, garlic and cheese. Serve immediately.Passover Sushi
Yield: 4 to 5 rolls
2 (32–ounce) bags frozen cauliflower, defrosted
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon imitation soy sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar
Kani sticks (imitation crabmeat), if available
Raw salmon, sushi-grade
Raw tuna, sushi-grade
4 to 5 nori (seaweed) sheets
1. Prepare “rice“: Grate cauliflower in food processor fitted with “S“ blade until it resembles small crumbs. Transfer cauliflower crumbs to clean dish towels. Tightly wrap cauliflower in towels; squeeze dry. If still cold from being frozen, let it sit out another 20 minutes and squeeze again. Make sure cauliflower is very dry. Place cauliflower into bowl; add sugar, salt, imitation soy sauce, and vinegar. Mix well; set aside.
2.Prepare filling: Cut fillings of your choice into long thin strips. Place each filling component into separate bowl.
3. Assemble sushi rolls: Place a nori sheet onto a bamboo mat. Spread “rice“ over nori in thin layer with 1/2–inch border at top edge. Place filling lengthwise along center of sheet. Don’t overstuff or nori won’t seal when rolled.
4. Roll nori, using bamboo mat as a guide, pressing forward to shape into a cylinder. Press firmly to seal role. You may want to dampen edge of nori with water to help seal the roll. Use damp knife to cut sushi roll into 1-inch slices. Serve with imitation soy sauce or prepare spicy mayo: Mix 1/4 cup mayo with Sriracha to taste.
Notes: You can use cooked quinoa instead of cauliflower rice.
If you can’t find frozen cauliflower, use fresh. Put two heads of cauliflower through food processor; then place into bowl and cover with water. Microwave or boil until soft, then drain and squeeze dry according to instructions for frozen cauliflower.
Sure: “Perfect for Pesach” (Mesorah, $34.99)
by Naomi Nachman
Source: “Meatballs and Matzah Balls” by Marcia A. Friedman