There are certain dishes we expect to see at a traditional Passover table. Chicken soup dotted with fluffy matzoh balls, moist and slow-roasted brisket, maybe even a crisp potato kugel as a classic side dish. But sometimes, when my family wants to spice things up a bit, we look to our Latin culinary traditions for inspiration. For example, as an alternative to a potato-filled side, we prefer to take a cue from the tropical motherland, and feature dishes using the starchy green plantain banana to mop up the juicy overflow from the meat.
Plantain bananas exhibit the “waste not, want not” mentality that my family has embraced for generations, as different dishes are created depending on the degree of ripeness in which you find your banana. Most people are familiar with the classic fried sweet plantains that accompany many a Cuban dish, called “platanos” — their sweet flesh caramelizes in the hot oil, making them irresistible. Unfortunately, to get this dish just right, fried platanos require the plantain to be over-ripe, letting the sugars really develop and the peel turn almost black. This process can take weeks, which is why I believe recipes were created for the days between. After all, my family is not known for our patience. When plantains are green, their starchy flesh resembles the consistency of a potato, and its flavor is just as mild. Thus, it is featured in many savory dishes in much the same way as a potato is. Plantain chips and tostones, for instance, are made with green, under-ripe bananas.
Mashed potatoes are a favorite of my meat-and-potatoes Midwestern husband, and in my household growing up, they were a crowd-pleaser, as well. Thus, as an unexpected twist to the classic mash, my family was partial to mashed green plantains, and they often made an appearance on our dinner table. Some cultures call it mofongo, and others call it mangu, but in Santiago de Cuba, where my family is from, the name is simple: Fufú.
Is there a box of matzo that’s worth $27. [Serious Eats]
These chametz-free desserts are making our sugar tooth ache. [Serious Eats]
These ones too. Can you say chocolate coconut matzo ice cream? [Serious Eats]
This weekend, swap out pancakes for vegetable matzo frittata Boston.com]
We might just have to break Passover on this… Rustic Beet Tart and Wilted Greens. [Food52]
Does it matter who grew your food? [TEDx]
This blog post originally appeared on What’s Your Food Worth?
Sue Fishkoff is the editor of j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Previously she has worked as a national correspondent for the JTA Jewish news service, focusing on Jewish identity and culture. Her freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Hadassah Magazine, and the London Jewish Chronicle. From 1991-1997, she was a staff writer for the Jerusalem Post, serving as the paper’s New York bureau chief from 1991 to 1994. She is the author of “The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch” (Schocken Books, 2003) and “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority” (Schocken, October 2010.)
Recently Fishkoff answered a few questions from Bryant Simon at What’s Your Food Worth.
As a long-time vegetarian, when I think of Passover, I am not thrilled by my food choices. At least, I wasn’t until I spent Passover 1992 in Israel and realized that I could follow Sephardic rules. I’m sure my ancestors in 1509 Portugal probably ate beans and rice, and maybe even corn by then, but their decedents likely stopped after fleeing to Poland during the Inquisition.
That leaves me, having grown up trying to make desserts with matzah meal for my family. I have my own traditions now, including a wine cake (arguably the only palatable use for sweet Passover wine), brownies that come out more like fudge, and at least one experimental treat. The family seders I grew up with, we generally had Barton’s candies, fruit jells (I loved the yellow and orange ones), boxes of chocolate covered matzah, and chocolate covered orange peels. The homemade desserts were either fruit compote or sponge cake. Getting creative with the after meal items was intensely challenging, as there were not a lot of K for P options in Knoxville. That, and my mom, who did all of the cooking also had a full time job and three of us kids to deal with in addition to holiday preparations.
Every Jewish cook has their Passover mainstays, which are usually divided down a line: Ashkenazi or Sephardic, depending on their family’s country of origin. On a recent Tuesday morning we decided to cross over and try our hands at making traditional Syrian Passover foods.
Our teacher was Jennifer Abadi, author of “A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen,” private chef and teacher of culinary classes all over Manhattan. Abadi recently launched a new blog, Too Good to Passover, which she’s hoping to grow into a book about Sephardic Passover foods, encompassing foods from many different Middle Eastern cultures.
She promised to keep it simple, and she did. We started our cooking class with macaroons. Forget the canned coconut variety you’re used to… these are made of pistachios. Abadi used salted and unsalted pistachios to get a salty-sweet combination that’s popular in Syrian cooking. The sugar and pistachios were pulsed together in a food processor and egg whites and rose water added later (technically, the recipe calls for orange blossom water, but that’s harder to find).
For the fifth year the First Family hosted a White House Seder. Sticking to tradition, brisket, kugel and matzo ball soup were served and the guest list included friends and colleagues of the President. But there was one new thing at the table: a Seder plate from Israel’s first lady. Check out the pictures below.
Matzo’s known as the “bread of affliction.” And — truth be told — some boxed matzo lives up to the moniker.
But more and more chefs and artisan bakers are creating their own matzos, bringing a homegrown twist to the ultimate Passover food — and, in a way, taking matzo back to its DIY roots.
There are “huge differences” in handmade matzo and the boxed sheets, says Mark Fiorentino, chef Boulanger at Daniel Boulud’s seven New York-area restaurants, including Daniel and DB Bistro Moderne.
“Manischewitz is made by machine, so after they put the ingredients in the mixing machine. Hands do not touch the product until after it’s baked,” Fiorentino told the Forward in an e-mail. “Our entire process is hands-on from start to finish, as we’re making a more artisan-level quantity. And while matzo in a factory bakes at around 900°F, my ovens only get up to 500°F. So while theirs bakes in about 32 seconds, ours takes about 5 to 7 minutes.”
Danny Cohen doesn’t care much for sweets, but you would never guess it after tasting his big, chewy macaroons. The visual-artist-turned-macaroon-master started Danny Macaroons in 2010 and currently vends a variety of wacky flavors like bourbon and guava through coffee shops and flea markets around New York and Chicago. In this slideshow, Danny demonstrates how to make rice pudding macaroons, a flavor he invented for his book, which is due out October 1.
Tradition! No holiday says it louder than Passover. But what do you do when you don’t have the traditional household and extended family to celebrate with?
That was the challenge my friend Karen Fink and I faced in 1996.
Her Reform parents had been the family seder-makers, but they were getting tired. She leaned toward Conservative Judaism. Her two sisters married, had children and had their own Passover observances. Karen took on seder-making to assure having the rituals she loved.
As we celebrate the Passover Seder, we sing, Dayenu, perhaps the most recognized of Passover songs. We sing “It would have been enough” to take us of Egypt, and “it would have been enough” to split the sea, and “it would have been enough” to give us the Torah and Shabbat. But as we sit and feast, we must recognize that there are those in our community who will go to sleep enslaved to the empty feeling in their bellies for lack of food. There are those in our community who are trapped in food deserts without access to fresh produce. There are those whose lives are broken because of the broken food system.
Here is a version of the Dayenu that we use in my house. Feel free to share it widely to spur a discussion about can be done. Special thanks to Rabbis Ahud Sela and Scott Perlo who helped me craft the original version for a hunger seder we did in Los Angeles.
Inspired by Buzzfeed’s 25 Delicious Ways to Use Matzoh, I am running full speed ahead into Pesach. I have lists of vegan, Pesach-friendly recipes lining my cubicle at work and shopping lists ready that I’ve prepped already. Strawberry Rhubarb. Dark Chocolate Brei. Rosemary Crepes. Cookies Galore, spiced, promising to be fluffy. I am resolved to do my due diligence, deliciously.
In the past, I have kept kosher for Passover for approximately 2 days. Around the 48th hour, I could be found gripping my stomach and sighing dramatically. Blurry-eyed, I would beg friends and coworkers for spaghetti and sandwiches. I rather obviously love food, love cooking, and find great happiness in consuming whatever my little heart desires, whenever it so desires. Now I find it hard to admit how childlike I am in my desire – and in my indulgence. Coming from a secular family, having acquired no knowledge of, or discipline for, Pesach, I suppose it makes sense that I start to become bitter, frustrated, anticipatorily hungry, and then gluttonous.
Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov will bring tastes from Zahav to Momofuku’s “Late Night Dinner Series” in the East Village. Reserve now for the April 9 event. [Grub Street]
Matzo showdown! A taste test for a product we always though was, well, tasteless. [Serious Eats]
“Passover is the Olympics for mashgiachs” — shadowing the kosher supervisor for upscale NYC spots Prime Grill and Soho. [The Wall Street Journal]
For the second year in a row, Coke isn’t it for Passover in California. [Boston.com]
Passover recipe roundup:
Dishes from Israel, Estonia and India. [CNN Eatocracy]
Muy delicioso: Mexican chicken in a tomatillo, chipotle and piloncillo sauce. [The Chicago Tribune]
Here’s a roundup of oenophile-tested, rabbi-approved picks for this year’s Seder table:
The granddaddy of wine publications has picks for all budgets, from a $13 Baron Herzog Zinfandel to a $150 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. Look for more options using their online Wine Searcher. [Wine Spectator]
Kosher wines from South Africa and the Pacific Northwest, including a mevushal (pasteurized) selection that can be poured by non-Jews. [The Daily Meal]
It’s all about reds, according to these New York wine professionals. [The Wall Street Journal]
Wine critic Eric Asimov reviews a dozen options (two mevushal) starting at $16. [The New York Times]
A look at five mevushal varieties from Napa Valley’s Hagafen Cellars. [Palate Press]
Maple Leaf Jews are covered with 20 picks under $20. [Canada.com]
A focus on Israeli wines under the Yarden’s umbrella. [The San Francisco Examiner]
Four non-mevushal picks from Israel, Bordeaux and California. [The Wine Cellar Insider]
Recommended bottles from $9 and up. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Before we get to the food (and believe us, we’ll get to the food), we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out how much of a rock star Newark mayor Cory Booker was at the seventh annual Man-O-Manischewitz Kosher Cook-Off on Thursday.
After posing with star-struck guests, Booker took the stage to praise Manischewitz for moving its headquarters to Newark, congratulate the finalists and practice his Yiddish. He described his feelings at the event as “nachas” and added that, as mayor, his ribbon cutting skills have gotten so strong he “could be a mohel.”
At the end of his speech, which was peppered with applause, Booker said, “Baruch Hashem for Manischewitz,” and finally, “Yasher Koach.”
Okay, now back to the food competition at hand. The event — held for the first time at the plant, where just next door, the year’s last batch of Passover matzos were being completed — brought together five finalists, whose recipes were chosen from thousands of entries.
Manischewitz’s marketing staff, along with research and development specialists, had the task of culling through the entries. “We’re always looking for something different,” said Alain Bankier, co-CEO of Manischewitz. “We’re not interested in your mom’s brisket.”
Jewel Chaudhary, mother of Arun Chaudhary, submitted this recipe for Raspberry Ganache Marjolaine for the White House Seder dinner. She originally found it in an issue of Bon Appetit in the early 1990s.
“It was introduced into the family because we are big chocolate lovers, and other than jell-rings or chocolate covered macaroons it’s not always so easy to get unleavened chocolate into your life on Passover. So the introduction on this dessert to our seder was a great way to end the 80’s,” Chaudhary told me in an email.
Raspberry Ganache Marjolaine
Reprinted with Permission from “Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful” (November 2010, Andrews McMeel Publishing)
Marjolaine is a classic French gâteau with a rectangular shape and multiple layers of nutty meringue and buttercream. This rendition features layers of raspberry ganache and hazelnut meringue. The absence of flour and the use of ground nuts, egg whites, and chocolate makes this a sophisticated gluten-free cake and Passover-friendly dessert (as long as you use “kosher for Passover” vanilla and almond extracts). Because it does use dairy ingredients, serve the marjolaine at a meatless Passover meal.
2 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
21 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
½ cup raspberry preserves
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons kosher Concord grape wine
2 cups hazelnuts, toasted, husked, divided
½ cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon potato starch
4 large egg whites, room temperature
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½-pint container raspberries
GANACHE: Bring cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in preserves, butter, and wine. Cover and chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
MERINGUE: Preheat oven to 275°F. Trace five 10x4-inch rectangles on 2 sheets of parchment paper. Invert parchment onto 2 baking sheets. Coarsely grind 1 cup hazelnuts in processor. Combine with ½ cup sugar and potato starch in medium bowl.
Using electric mixer fitted with clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in large bowl until foamy. Add lemon juice, both extracts, and salt; continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff and glossy. Gently fold in hazelnut-sugar mixture.
Place 1 cup meringue on parchment in center of 1 rectangle. Spread with small spatula to fill in rectangle. Repeat with remaining meringue and parchment. Bake until meringues are golden brown and just dry to touch, about 25 minutes. Cool on baking sheets. Carefully peel off paper (meringues will deflate slightly).
Place 1 meringue rectangle on 10x4-inch cardboard rectangle. Spread ½ cup ganache over meringue. Repeat layering with 3 more meringue rectangles and 11⁄2 cups ganache. Top with remaining meringue rectangle. Spread top and sides of marjolaine with ¾ cup ganache. Chill marjolaine until firm, about 1 hour.
Rewarm remaining ganache in heavy medium saucepan over very low heat just until melted, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Place marjolaine on wire rack set over baking sheet. Spread some ganache over sides of marjolaine. Pour remaining ganache over top; smooth with spatula if necessary. Let stand at room temperature until glaze is set, about 30 minutes. Chop remaining 1 cup hazelnuts. Gently press hazelnuts onto sides of marjolaine. Decorate top with raspberries. Chill marjolaine 1 hour.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
Joan Mass, the grandmother of Herbie Ziskend, shared her recipe for matzo balls (they’re usually floaters, but sometimes sinkers) with the White House.
4 eggs, slightly beaten
4 tablespoons ice water
4 tablespoons oil
1 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
1) Place ingredients in large bowl and mix well. After mixing, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, (the longer the better).
2) Fill a large pot with 2 quarts water and a teaspoon of salt. After the water boils, lower heat to low. Take mixture out of refrigerator and making sure that yours hands are wet with water or oil, gently form the balls.
3) Slowly add the matzo balls to the simmering water and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let cool for a twenty minutes. Store in refrigerator. Do not add the matzo balls to soup until about 35 minutes before serving. They should be round and fluffy, but sometimes they’re round and firm.
At this year’s Seder, the White House will try out a new haroset recipe, which comes from Melissa Winter’s mother, Patricia. Melissa says: “[My mother] makes it several days in advance so all the flavors come together and its delicious. And of course she thinks I should go down to the White House kitchen before the seder to taste it and make sure its just right.”
Cook’s Notes: This recipe makes about 1.5 cups so increase as needed. It’s best to use McIntosh or Fuji apples. (must be a crisp somewhat tart apple) (Not a “Delicious” apple) and it’s best made one to two days prior to serving. Stir or mix a couple of times a day while in refrigerator.
3 medium to large apples. peeled and cored
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to taste (should not be too sweet)
3 tablespoons red Concord Grape wine — Manishevitz or other used for Passover
1) Peel, core and chop the apples (moderately coarse — perhaps size of celery in chicken salad). (Note: apples not to be smashed but in small pieces so can bite into them)
2) Toss chopped apples with walnuts and mix in ginger, cinnamon and sugar to taste
3) Stir in 2 tablespoons of the wine and toss. Taste and taste again the next day to adjust for perhaps addition of sugar and cinnamon.
Refrigerator ripens it and should at least be made one day in advance. Before serving add one more tablespoon of wine.
Eric Lesser grew up having his family’s carrot souffle at Seder. When he was invited to celebrate the holiday at the White House, the President’s chef recreated it.
Eating it the first year was “jarring experience,” Lesser recalled. “I’m sitting in the dining room of the White House, with portraits of first ladies and a beautiful setting and… I had a flashback to the house I grew up in.”
Lesser shared the recipe with us below.
1 pound carrots, steamed and mashed
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons matzo meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together all of the ingredients. Pour into baking dish. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the top looks golden brown and the center is almost firm. Enjoy!
Herbie Ziskend’s grandmother, Joan Mass, sent in the follow recipe for Chicken Roast to the White House Seder, which has been served several times. “My grandmother has been using this recipe forever…[she] has been serving this dish to her kids and then her grandkids since the 1950’s,” Ziskend told us in an email. The recipe is originally from Joan’s mother.
“During the last six years I have missed a few Passover with my grandmother and my family because I’ve been fortunate to take part in… the White House Passover tradition that began in 2008 — but luckily we still have the same Chicken Roast!” Ziskend added.
8 boneless chicken breasts
1 package Osem (or any kosher for Passover) Onion Soup Mix
Jar of apricot preserves (to taste)
3 to 4 tablespoons russian dressing (thick)
Wash and pat dry chicken breasts. Make mixture of dressing, preserves and dry mix until thick, but spreadable, and cover chicken surfaces generously. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on thickness of breasts). A fine alternative to brisket or, serve them both.
Cook’s note: This recipe appears exactly as Joan Mass wrote it. As with all recipes, taste as you go along to find the balance of flavors you like.
Let’s face it: even without the charoset, we honor mortar on Passover. The food of this holiday isn’t—how can I say this nicely?—easy on digestion. Matzoh, potatoes, eggs, various proteins, cheese, it seems that most of what we eat is pretty heavy, and we often pay the price, feeling sluggish and fatigued, especially after the Seders. Yes, we are commanded to relax and to relish in our liberation, and the food of Passover makes this quite easy. When thinking about lightening up some traditional Passover dishes to avoid this eventual fate, we don’t often think of charoset as something that can be modified, especially since it’s already so delicious. And how and why would we lighten up the food that symbolizes cement, right?! Well, by integrating a few key culinary concepts from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it’s easy to make charoset a bit more activating and invigorating, so it can do more for your body than just sit there in your belly, mortar-like.