Passover Already?

(Photo by David Stuck)

I’m always on the lookout for something new to update my traditional Pesach recipes and menus. This year, I have many delicious ideas to share.

First, the new products, such as Abeles & Heymann hot dogs with no nitrates. They are available in reduced fat, regular, mini and beef chipotle — all kosher for Passover. To serve these beefy delights, I will shape some of my homemade Passover roll dough into “hot dog buns.” Surf the company’s website for all its new mouth-watering Passover products.

The Israeli culinary market is always so creative with flavors and innovation. Israel’s Hod Golan offers fresh poultry perfect for Passover. These are available in ultra-thin-sliced varieties including Mexican smoked turkey, Italian-style smoked turkey salami and also mini-turkey or chicken cabanossi (a bit spicy and similar to a sausage). Sandwich and salad ready, these tasty meats make quick Passover meals.

You can always count on Manischewitz for the latest in Passover product development, and this year, I am delighted to discover mini-matzos for children. These inspired me to design individual children’s Seder plates for my young guests. I will expand the “mini” theme by creating small Seder plates with hard-boiled quail eggs, mini-baby carrots, grape tomatoes and the mini-matzos with a dab of charoset. Manischewitz S’mores Matzo Kits are about as creative and delish any child would want and makes a great afikoman gift.

Literally a new twist this year: spiralized veggies. I’m really taking advantage of them this Passover. For my plated gefilte fish, I start with Romaine lettuce and layer with a “circle” of spiralized beets and then fish. Use spiralized carrots or sweet potatoes for your soup in place of noodles or any pasta dish — very 2017, healthy, yummy and fun!

Ever hear of the “Disappearing Matzo Ball game?” It is my own invention! It is a great way to engage everyone — and make sure you have no matzo balls left. Before you cook them, you have to prepare your matzo balls for the game. I place a pea, raisin or cooked, diced carrot square in the center of each matzo ball. I search the Dollar stores for gifts and have a chart ready. If you have a carrot, you get one certain gift: a raisin, maybe a solar toy; a carrot gets another prize. (Adults can get a scratch-off lottery ticket.) But you must eat your matzo balls to qualify for your prize. Everyone loves this game.

If you’re one of those generous hosts who shares leftovers with guests, you can get packs of 10 plastic divided “boxes” at the Dollar Store. If you are crafty, you can decorate them and label them. This is also a great way for kids to help out. They can decorate the boxes with Pesach drawings.

When having more than eight guests, I always suggest place cards. I hate when it is time to eat and everyone stands around the table asking, “Where do you want me to sit?” I also use place cards to label any dishes served buffet style after the plated fish and soup. For dessert, I use pretty Passover 9-inch paper plates. Order from TraditionsJewishGifts.com.

Admittedly, I eat matzo brei all year round. If you want the best eggs for any family recipe, get farm-fresh, free-range, organic eggs for heightened flavor. Those rich whites and golden large yolks will make many recipes, including your sponge cakes, superior to all. Faithful Friends Farm at 410-374-3432 is a good choice. Order for Passover and you get a “baker’s dozen.” It also has tiny quail eggs available. Passover eggs are “candled,” meaning a candle is held near each egg to eliminate ones with blood spots. Worth the schlep for sure.

Tsimmes is a delicious traditional Jewish vegetable stew. You can prepare the dish and refrigerate for up to two days before reheating. The secret is the proper sauce balance, and it can be served with chicken or brisket. Not many caterers sell kosher for Passover foods, but Bracha Shor, owner of Sweet and Good Kosher Catering, did offer to share one of her favorite recipes. Her poached pears are easy, delicious and a most impressive dessert.

Shag Sameach to all!

Tips & Tricks
-Don’t be afraid to add some personality to your matzo balls with fresh grated nutmeg and chopped parsley. A light teaspoon of baking powder helps fluff them up too.
-If you are making a potato kugel, try sauteing some wild sliced mushrooms, chopped onions and fresh crushed thyme for great flavor additions.
-Vinegar is one of the best ways to clean naturally. One-part vinegar to one-part water cleans and disinfects your counters and refrigerator. Pour one cup of vinegar into a bowl and place it on the top shelf of the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher empty with no soap.
-Another exciting Passover protein option for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans, is quinoa, the new world grain that’s not a grain. Quinoa is one of the best, most complete vegetarian sources of protein available for Passover.
-Use a melon baller to shape tiny matzo balls. Remember to rinse in cold water before scooping each one so they won’t stick. Kids love these! And I add a few in adult soups also.

SLOW COOKER BROWN STEWED EGGS
(Pareve)
(Use for your Seder plate as well as other meals)
From Laura Frankel’s “Jewish Slow Cooker Cookbook”
Ingredients:
Brown skins from 1 dozen yellow onions
8 large eggs
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. coffee grounds of instant coffee
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
> Place onion skins in the bottom of slow cooker. Nestle the eggs in the onion skins. Drizzle olive oil on top of the eggs. Scatter the coffee grinds over the eggs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add water just to cover. Cover and cook on low for at least 10 hours. Wipe off the eggs, cool and peel. Serve warm or chilled for egg salad.

INA GARTEN & ILENE’S TSIMMES
(Pareve)
Ingredients:
Good olive oil
2 medium chopped yellow onions
1 tbsp. fine cake meal
1 lb. carrots, unpeeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
1 cup pareve chicken stock
1 tsp. grated orange zest
½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tbsp. unsalted butter or pareve margarine, diced
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
> Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large 10- to 12-inch ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, cake meal and saute over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring until tender. If too thick, stir in a little chicken broth to smooth. Add remaining ingredients except the prunes. Sprinkle the prunes on top and bring liquid to a simmer on top of stove. Cover and bake in oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until all vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Stir carefully, and taste to adjust seasonings. Serve hot or warm. Serves 6-8.

BRACHA’S POACHED PEARS
Ingredients:
6 ripe Bosc or Anjou pears
4 cups red wine (Shiraz or other dry red)
2½ cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp. lemon juice (or orange concentrate)
2 tsp. vanilla, optional
2 tsp. cinnamon or cardamom (if you have it)
> Peel the pears and core with a melon baller to remove the seeds, while leaving the top stem in place. Combine all ingredients (except pears) and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer and add pears. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes. Remove pears once they are easily pierced with a fork. Cool. Continue to boil the wine sauce until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour the sauce over the pears and serve with some Trader Joe’s pareve vanilla ice cream, or if you’re serving dairy, go wild and serve with real whipped cream or ice cream. 6 servings.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

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