Meatless Menus for Passover
During Passover many of us tend to focus on the Seder dinner but it’s good to plan for the holiday’s other festive meals as well. There are Shabbat dinners, brunches and more casual occasions to get together with friends and relatives.
After the copious Seder meals, which often include one or more substantial main courses of meat or poultry, I like to dine on simpler or lighter foods, the kind I enjoyed during my childhood. When I was growing up, I always loved the dairy dinners that my mother prepared for Passover. To us, as children, these meals were even more fun than the Seder because we were allowed to spread butter on our matzos. In my family, buttered matzo was a much-anticipated Passover delicacy and I love it to this day.
In these milchig menus we could savor our favorite treats, like Passover pancakes and fried matzo with eggs. As a child I sprinkled them with sugar but now I also like Passover pancakes and fried matzo as savory accompaniments for vegetables, like sauteed mushrooms with thyme, or a springtime medley of fresh asparagus and baby carrots with herb butter or with lemon vinaigrette.
For brunch we liked a variety of kugels. Some were made of vegetables and others were matzo-based like the Passover cottage cheese kugel below, as they made a pleasant change from the usual noodle kugels. Even though kosher-for-Passover noodles are now available, I still prepare the old-fashioned matzo kugels both for the good taste and for the memories. As children we topped our kugel with sour cream but it’s also good with lowfat yogurt and a garnish of fresh strawberries.
Of course, with a dairy menu come the most delightful desserts. Even with the many pareve substitutes, there’s nothing like a Passover chocolate almond cake with real whipped cream. A finale like this turns any dinner into a feast.
Have a happy and delicious Pesach!
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home (Morrow), 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Wiley) and Jewish Cooking For Dummies (Wiley).
PASSOVER COTTAGE CHEESE PANCAKES
Serve these pancakes with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling or with a bowl of yogurt or sour cream. Alternatively, serve them as an appetizer with a topping of sauteed vegetables, especially mushrooms or leeks.
1 cup (8 ounces) cottage cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 tablespoons melted butter
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper (optional)
2 to 4 tablespoons butter and 2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (for frying)
Mix cottage cheese with eggs, matzo meal, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and salt and pepper to taste.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet. Add batter to make pancakes, using about 1 tablespoon batter for each one. Fry over medium heat until lightly browned on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Use two slotted spatulas to turn them carefully. Remove with a slotted spoon. Continue frying remaining batter, adding more butter and oil as pan becomes dry, and reducing heat if fat begins to brown. Serve hot.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
FRIED MATZO WITH EGGS (matzo brei)
Although this dish has become a favorite throughout the year, we make a point of enjoying it on Passover. There are various ways to cook the matzo and egg mixture--as an omelet, as scrambled eggs, or as small pancakes. It makes a good breakfast, brunch, or light supper dish. Serve it alone, or accompanied by applesauce, sugar or jam, or as a savory accompaniment to sauteed vegetables.
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
Soak matzos in cold water for about 10 minutes and drain. Break them into bite-size squares or larger. Beat eggs with salt and pour over matzos. Stir until matzos are coated.
Melt butter in a heavy skillet and add batter. Cook the mixture as you like, frying it until done to your taste:
a) Either add all the mixture and brown it on both sides, like a flat omelet;
b) or fry by tablespoonfuls, like small pancakes;
c) or fry, stirring, like scrambled eggs.
Makes 4 servings.
SAVORY MUSHROOMS WITH THYME AND OLIVE OIL
A mushroom first course or side dish like this one, flavored with the sauteed onions, cumin, paprika and thyme, can be found in many Israeli homes and is the mushroom dish we cook most often. We use olive oil on its own for cooking the mushrooms for a meal that includes meat, or a mixture of olive oil and butter for a fish or vegetarian dinner. The cooking time is relatively long so the mushrooms absorb the seasonings well.
2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound fairly small mushrooms, quartered
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
cayenne pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute about 7 minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper, thyme, paprika and cumin. Saute, stirring often, for 15 minutes or until mushrooms are well coated with spices and any liquid that accumulated in pan has evaporated. Reduce heat towards end of cooking time if necessary. Add cayenne; taste and adjust seasoning. Add parsley and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
POTATO KUGEL WITH BROCCOLI
Butter-sauteed onions give this mashed potato kugel a luscious taste. For meat meals, substitute extra virgin olive oil for a flavorful variation.
6 large boiling potatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds), unpeeled
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 pounds broccoli, divided in fairly small florets
5 to 7 tablespoons butter
3 medium onions, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Put potatoes in a large saucepan with water to cover and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat 35 to 40 minutes or until very tender. Drain and leave until cool enough to handle.
Boil broccoli uncovered in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water about 4 minutes or until just tender. Rinse with cold water and drain.
In a large skillet heat 3 or 4 tablespoons butter, add onions and saute over medium heat until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove 1/2 cup sauteed onions for mixing with potatoes. To onions in skillet add broccoli, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss over low heat 2 minutes.
Peel potatoes while still fairly hot. Mash them with a potato masher or food mill, not in a food processor. Add remaining butter and stir until melted in. Add beaten egg and reserved 1/2 cup of fried onion. Add salt and pepper to taste; mixture should be seasoned generously.
In a greased 2-quart casserole, layer half of potato mixture (about 2 1/2 cups), top with all of broccoli mixture, then with remaining potatoes. Smooth top.
Preheat oven to 350F. Sprinkle casserole with paprika and bake uncovered about 50 minutes or until top is firm and light golden at edges. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving. Use a spoon to serve.
Makes 6 servings.
LEMON-SCENTED CHEESE KUGEL WITH RAISINS AND WALNUTS
Matzo kugels are faster and easier to prepare than noodle kugels because you skip the step of cooking the noodles. For a meatless Passover menu, this slightly sweet baked pudding enriched with cottage cheese and studded with nuts and raisins can play the role of either main course or dessert.
2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup broken or coarsely chopped walnuts
4 to 6 tablespoons melted butter; or half butter and half vegetable oil
Yogurt or sour cream (for serving)
Preheat oven to 325F. Soak whole matzos in cold water to cover until slightly softened but not mushy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Mix together cottage cheese, eggs, salt, sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind, raisins and walnuts.
Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons melted butter into an 8-inch square baking dish or cake pan of about 2-quart volume. Set 1 whole matzo in pan, filling in any spaces with pieces from another matzo. Spread half the cheese mixture in pan. Cover with another layer of matzo. Spread remaining cheese mixture in pan. Top with a layer of matzos. Sprinkle remaining melted butter on top. Bake for about 1 hour or until set and top is browned.
Serve hot or lukewarm. Cut in squares and serve with sour cream.
Makes 6 servings.
CHOCOLATE MACAROON CAKE
Like macaroons, this cake is made of a flourless mixture of ground nuts, sugar and egg whites. Part of the egg whites are whipped to make the cake lighter than macaroon cookies. This is my favorite version, made with almonds and melted chocolate. It is moist and rich tasting, with a chewy, brownie-like crust. For dairy meals, serve it with strawberries and whipped cream.
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups whole blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
8 large egg whites (4 in each of two bowls)
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan. Line base and side of pan with parchment paper or waxed paper; generously grease paper. Melt chocolate in a medium bowl over nearly simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from water; let cool.
In a food processor grind almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar to a fine powder. Add 2 egg whites (half those in one bowl) and 1/4 cup sugar; process 10 seconds or until smooth. Add another 2 egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar; process again. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in orange rind.
In a large dry bowl, beat remaining egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat at high speed until whites are stiff and shiny but not dry.
Slowly stir chocolate into almond mixture. Gently fold about 1/4 of whites into chocolate mixture until nearly blended. Fold in remaining whites in 3 batches. Chocolate mixture does not mix easily with whites but continue folding until batter is blended.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake about 40 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed lightly. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Invert cake onto rack. Gently release spring and remove sides and base of pan. Carefully peel off paper; cool cake completely. Turn cake onto another rack, then onto a platter so smooth side of cake faces up.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.