Passover Memories Then and Now
My favorite recipes are those that stand the test of time, especially family recipes that are passed down from generation to generation. Each family has their own special food memories as food has the power to transport us back in time to life’s special occasions and the holidays from days gone by.
When I was a young child, my mother would buy cases of eggs, and boxes and boxes of matzos, matzo farfel, cake meal and potato starch for her Passover cooking and baking. Almost everything she made contained eggs! She made chopped eggs in salt water (a favorite of mine), homemade gefilte fish (never from a frozen roll, G-d forbid), matzo balls that were as puffy as clouds, farfel kigelach, mashed potato kugel, matzo meal latkes, Passover potato knishes and her sweet carrot tsimmis with a knaidel. She never made brisket because she hated it – we had roast chicken instead.
For dessert, she made Pesadik komish broit, jelly or lemon roll, and her light-as-a-cloud sponge cake that used almost a dozen eggs. Leftover sponge cake would be sliced, dipped in egg and transformed into French toast for breakfast. Fried matzo was either fried in schmaltz or butter and no one seemed to worry about their cholesterol levels!
We complain how difficult it is to prepare for Passover, despite the fact that today’s modern kitchens are outfitted with a wide variety of appliances to ease preparation. Disposable foil containers can be used to cook the brisket, turkey and kugels and many people use fancy disposable paper plates and cutlery for large crowds, making cleanup a snap. A huge variety of prepared and packaged foods makes the task easier for those who don’t want to cook - or don’t have the time because they work full time. Supermarket displays showcase a wide selection of exotic fruits and vegetables from all over the world.
Caterers advertise their Passover menus weeks in advance for those who are looking for easier options. Other people close up their kitchens and go on a Passover cruise or make reservations at a hotel offering a special Seder menu to avoid the task of cleaning and cooking for Pesach. So many choices!
You can imagine how fascinated I was when I read this detailed description of Pesach in Israel in the 30’s from Sara Finkel’s heartwarming cookbook: Simply Delicious: Winning Recipes for Every Day and Holidays (Targum). I’ve also included her delicious recipe for Pesach Vegetable Casserole for your enjoyment. Sara writes:
“I have often wondered how my Aunt Esther, who lived with her family in Jerusalem about seven or eight decades ago, managed to prepare for Pesach, not only for her family but for the countless guests who came from many miles around.
There were no refrigerators, gas ranges, or freezers, not to mention food processors, blenders or electric mixers. No one even knew the meaning of the word microwave oven, nor could they in their wildest imagination dream of either an electric dishwasher or clothes dryer. Laundry was done in a washtub in the yard over a scrub board. In order for the family to have clean clothing and clean tablecloths to last the entire holiday it had to be done on the day before Pesach…
Staples were scarce and rations were meager. Fish was considered a luxury, and the lowly potato was expensive. Potatoes were grated, drained and dried and made into potato starch. It was a special treat for a family to get an apple or even an orange. Few vegetables were around – eggplant, squash, and maybe some tomatoes – they were all prepared in many different ways to provide variety to meals and sometimes to replace chicken or fish.
Serious preparations for Pesach began with the approach of the Sukkos season when plump, juicy grapes ripened. Because wine was not yet commercially produced, it was made by almost every household. With feet scrubbed clean, everyone, including the children, happily trampled the juice from the grapes. Sugar was added and the whole lot was poured into barrels to ferment. The results were sweet red wine, white wine, and grape juice.
Even schmaltz was prepared on Chanukah for Pesach because geese were fattest that time of year. Griebene with matzah and a glass of tea was a special evening meal they ate with relish. Russel borsht, left in barrels to age, was relished during Pesach, and eaten along with a plate of boiled potatoes.”
Here are some special dishes that several of my “Pan Pals” will be making for the Seder this year – I thank them all for sharing them with me. I’ve included some vegetarian dishes for your enjoyment as well, including a favorite recipe of mine that is popular for Passover (or any time of year). Enjoy in good health and have a delicious Passover!
Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her latest book is NORENE’S HEALTHY KITCHEN: Eat YOUR Way to Good Health (Whitecap). For information about her cookbooks, cooking demonstrations and culinary services, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at http://www.gourmania.com
PESACH ONION KUGEL
2 cups chopped onion
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup matzo meal
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1. Beat eggs until light. Stir in onions, oil, matzo meal, salt and pepper.
2. Pour into a well-oiled 14 x 5-inch loaf pan.
3. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Serves 8 to 10
Bonnie Stern is a well-known cookbook author and cooking teacher based in Toronto, Canada. She is one of Canada’s most popular and beloved food personalities and is the author of 12 best-selling cookbooks. Her most recent cookbook is Friday Night Dinners (Random House) with over 170 scrumptious recipes and she suggests a variety of recipes for different occasions and different ethnic backgrounds. Her goal is to have people cooking at home more often and nourishing their families. Bonnie writes: “I have tried to blend old favorites with new recipes from here and from Israel. This delicious carrot dish can be used for your Seder meal or any time during Passover (or any other time of year for that matter). Jews from different backgrounds follow different traditions so please adjust the recipe to your own needs. This tzimmes can be prepared ahead and reheated.”
There are as many recipes for tzimmes as there are cooks who make it, but most are sweet and include carrots, potatoes and meat. For those who don’t like the mushy texture of traditional tzimmes, here’s a modern version from Bonnie's friend Mitchell Davis. The vegetables are roasted so they keep their shape but still have the traditional flavors of cinnamon and honey. And, as a bonus, the dish is vegetarian.
3 pounds (1.5 kg) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in wedges
3 pounds (1.5 kg) carrots, cut in 2-inch (5 cm) pieces on diagonal
1 pound (500 g) onions, peeled and cut in wedges
1/2 cup (125 ml) prunes
1/4 cup (50 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (50 ml) honey
1/4 cup (50 ml) orange juice
2 tsp (10 ml) kosher salt
1/2 tsp (2 ml) pepper
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp (25 ml) chopped fresh parsley
1. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and prunes.
2. In a small bowl, combine oil, honey, orange juice, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Add to vegetables and toss.
3. Spread veggies in a single layer on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover with foil.
4. Roast vegetables in a preheated 400 degree F (200 C) oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and continue to roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned.
5. Serve vegetables sprinkled with parsley.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
I recently received a long distance phone call from Kelcey Klass of Silver Spring, MD. The conversation turned to food, of course, and what would be on the menu for her Passover Seders. I was delighted when Kelsey sent me her recipe for Passover Derma with the following note:
“Here is the recipe of which I spoke. I began using it almost 40 years ago and have made it every year since. I usually double the recipe as I like to leave everyone with a smile on their face (family and friends)! It can be frozen, then thawed and reheated. Keep cooking and sharing your wonderful recipes with all of us!”
So now I share her easy, yummy recipe for your enjoyment! I hope it puts a smile on the faces at your Passover Seder.
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups crushed matza
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup pareve margarine, melted
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix well.
3. Place a 20-inch piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Shape mixture into a 16-inch roll. Bring two sides up over derma; fold down loosely in a series of locked folds, allowing for heat circulation and expansion. Fold short ends up and over again; crimp to seal.
4. Cook for 45 minutes. Unwrap and cut while hot into 1/2-inch thick slices.
Yield: one 16-inch roll. Reheats and/or freezes well.
FAKE ‘N BAKE BURGERS
Of course I want to share one of my own personal favorites with you! These veggie burgers are excellent for the vegetarians at your Passover Seder but you can be sure that everyone, vegetarian or not, will want to sample these! The recipe comes from my cookbook Healthy Helpings: 800 Fast and Fabulous Recipes for the Kosher (or not) Cook (Whitecap Books).
A wonderful way to use up mashed potatoes! I love them made with spinach and sweet potatoes. Large patties make a super vegetarian main dish, minis make great hors d’oeuvres. What a rainbow of color and flavor!
4 medium potatoes (or 3 sweet potatoes)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green and 1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
3 carrots, peeled & grated (about 1 cup)
2 unpeeled zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup minced dill &/or parsley
2 eggs (or 1 egg & 2 egg whites)
1 cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp additional oil (approximately)
1. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil in salted water until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and mash. You should have about 2 cups. While potatoes are cooking, prepare remaining veggies. (So quick in the processor!)
2. In a large non-stick skillet (or microwave), cook onions, peppers and garlic in 2 teaspoons oil for 5 minutes, until softened. Add carrots and zucchini. Cook 3 or 4 minutes longer. Cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients except additional oil. Mix well.
3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with non-stick spray. Form mixture into patties. (An ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure works well.) Oil your fingertips, then lightly oil the tops of patties, flattening them slightly.
4. Bake uncovered at 375 F for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn patties over and bake 10 minutes longer.
Yield: about 18 patties. These reheat and/or freeze well.
• Variations: Add a 10-ounce package (300 g) chopped cooked spinach, squeezed dry, to cooked vegetables. If desired, substitute chopped mushrooms for zucchini and add a dash of thyme. Be creative and try various vegetables. Leftover veggies are great!
CHICKEN WITH MANGO CHUTNEY
Pamela Reiss of Winnipeg, Canada is the author of a terrific cookbook “Soup: A Kosher Collection” (Whitecap). Trained in her parents’ catering company, Desserts Plus, Pam loves nothing better than to dish up kosher fusion dishes that draw people together in celebration of good food and good company. Her recipe for Chicken with Mango Chutney comes from her personal recipe collection. It’s an excellent example of her culinary creativity.
This recipe calls for a lot of ingredients, but most of them go into the food processor for a quick sauce. The final dish is fresh and full of flavour.
1 small red onion, peeled and roughly chopped (or 1/2 a large onion)
2 large garlic cloves
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and seeded
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 medium apple, peeled and cored (Fuji, Gala, McIntosh, etc.)
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup dry apricots
2 ripe mangos (flesh only), cubed (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 large chicken, cut in eighths (about 4 lbs/1.8 kg)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup water
1. For the chutney, place the red onion, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, cilantro, lemon juice, lime juice, apple, sugar, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon and dry apricots into the bowl of a food processor. Puree everything until finely chopped. Add the mango and raisins and stir through. Set aside.
2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. Brown the chicken pieces, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Do this in batches if you can't fit all of the pieces in a single layer. Pull the chicken pieces out once they are browned.
3. When all the chicken is browned, return it to the pot and add the chutney and water. Stir
everything together, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes, making sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom.
4. Uncover and cook another 10 minutes. Check for salt and pepper and serve.
Yield: 6 servings.
CHOCOLATE MERINGUE SQUARES
Helen Nash of Manhattan has been writing cookbooks for over 30 years. Her books include “Kosher Cuisine” and “Helen Nash’s Kosher Kitchen” (Random House). Helen is the mother of two children and the grandmother of six. She wrote a popular kosher cooking column for Jewish Action Magazine for over 10 years.
When we spoke recently, she said: “I’ve always focused on kosher food, not on “Jewish” food. My recipes are a fusion of all the various ethnic foods, but I’ve made them kosher. I’m concerned with creating an awareness of nutrition and want people who keep kosher to have the benefit of all different cuisines such as Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Indian, not only Jewish ethnic foods. It’s easier today than it used to be as so many more products are available with kosher supervision. My biggest audience today is people who are baalei tshuvah (returnees).”
Here is one of her favorite Passover desserts. The meringue squares are like cookies. They are fairly dietetic as well and remain moist for quite a few days. They can also be frozen if they are properly wrapped (see Note). Enjoy!
1/2 pound blanched almonds
6 ounces imported semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 1/2-inch baking pan with parchment paper and grease the paper with margarine. Set aside.
2. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade chop the almonds, in two batches, until ALMOST fine. Then transfer the almonds to a bowl. Do the same with the chocolate but chop it until fine. Combine the chocolate with the almonds.
3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed until they begin to stiffen; gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.
4. With a large rubber spatula gently fold the chocolate/almond mixture into the meringue. Fold always in the same direction, and do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.
6. Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the paper. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares, or if you like them smaller, cut those squares into triangles.
Yield: 42 (1 1/2-inch) squares or 84 much smaller triangles.
Note: When freezing baked desserts, it is best to wrap them in waxed paper, then foil, and place into a plastic freezer bag.