How to take a can-do attitude to Passover foods - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

How to take a can-do attitude to Passover foods

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Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 6:12 pm | Updated: 11:08 pm, Mon Mar 31, 2014.

During Passover each year much of the culinary focus is on the seder, the celebratory meal that commemorates the Jewish liberation and exodus from ancient Egypt.

But the special dietary restrictions that go with the holiday last at least a week, which can challenge even the most creative of cooks to come up with interesting meals.

During the week of Passover, Jews are supposed to adhere to dietary restrictions intended to remind them that their ancestors were in such a hurry to get out of Egypt, they didn’t even wait for their bread to rise, instead taking matzos, the unleavened flatbreads that still are eaten today.

This is why many Jews avoid foods made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats that have been mixed with water and allowed to stand in the open air for more than 18 minutes — the amount of time it takes for natural leavening to begin. Many Jews, also avoid other small grain-like foods, such as rice, millet, corn and legumes like beans and lentils.

Which is to say, there’s a whole lot of matzo sold during Passover. And a whole lot of label reading.

But for generations, Jewish cooks have turned these restrictions into a culinary challenge of sorts. Some people actually find the week devoid of these foods a refreshing change.

Laura Frankel, author of cookbooks such as “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes,” points out that many people treat Passover as a kind of second New Year celebration because of the historical new beginning the holiday represents. And since Passover occurs at the start of spring, Frankel sees the holiday as a chance to transition from heavy winter cooking to lighter fare.

Frankel also prefers to focus on the many foods Jews can eat — fish, vegetables, fruit, meats and dairy — rather than on those they can’t.

For breakfast, which can be a difficult meal because it traditionally relies so heavily on cereals and breads, Frankel makes her family matzo meal coated patties of ground turkey, dried cranberries and pistachios, which are pan fried and served topped with a sunny-side-up egg.

Leah Koenig, author of “The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook,” agrees with the philosophy of celebrating what you can eat rather than what you can’t. And, apart from a few favorites she makes with matzo — such a granola made with matzo farfel (tiny pieces of matzo) — she tends to stay away from trying to recreate dishes one might normally make with any of the forbidden grains, such as cakes and other baked goods.

It’s kind of like vegetarians trying to make meat dishes without the meat, she explains. Why bother when there are so many other great foods out there that you can eat?

Besides, Koenig points out, though some people truly miss breads and grains, Passover is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the many things we can live without, as well as appreciate the bounty we have for the rest of the year.


 

Matzo Brei Shepherd’s Pie

Start to finish: 1 hour 5 minutes (35 minutes active)

Servings: 6

For the filling:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1 medium)

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

1 1/2 cups diced carrots (3 medium)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup matzo meal

1/2 cup dry red wine

3 cups diced cooked brisket

1 1/2 cups beef broth

Salt and ground black pepper

For the topping:

4 matzos

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown, about another 5 minutes. Add the carrots and thyme, then cook, stirring often, for another 7 minutes.

Stir in the matzo meal and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes.

Stir in the diced brisket and beef broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is simmering and has thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

To make the topping, crumble the matzos into a large colander placed over a bowl to catch crumbs, then hold the colander under running cold water until the matzos are moist and softened, but not completely disintegrated, 15 to 20 seconds. Transfer to the bowl with crumbs. Add the eggs and salt and mix gently with a fork.

Spread the matzo mixture in an even layer over the top of the brisket mixture, then sprinkle with pepper. Bake until the matzo brei topping is golden and the brisket filling is bubbling.

(Recipe by Jim Romanoff)


 

Passover Sliders With Caramelized Onions

Start to finish: 35 minutes

Servings: 4

For the caramelized onions:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the sliders:

1 1/4 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

1 teaspoon onion powder

3/4 cup matzo meal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup kosher chicken fat, duck fat or extra-virgin olive oil

To make the caramelized onions, in a medium saucepan over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and quite golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

To make the sliders, in a large bowl, gently mix the ground beef and onion powder (be careful not to over-mix). Form the beef mixture into eight equal 2-by-3/4-inch patties. Transfer to a plate and set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the matzo meal, salt and pepper.

Dip each beef patty into the beaten eggs, turning to coat, then transfer to the dish with the matzo meal. Turn gently to thoroughly coat. Return the coated patties to the plate.

In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat the fat over medium-high. Fry the coated patties in the hot fat, turning once, until crusty and golden-brown, 3 minutes per side for medium-rare or 5 minutes per side for well-done. Serve topped with caramelized onions.

(Recipe by Jim Romanoff)

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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