We’re half way through Passover and if you’re anything like me, you’re starting to crave all of those delicious carbs that the Atkin’s diet and the rabbis frown upon this time of year — bread, pastries, cake, pizza, pasta and even beer.
In Israel, food companies and some creative chefs have found ways around the holiday’s restriction coming up with kosher for Passover chocolate wafers, soup croutons and even bagels — yes, bagels. Some of them work better than others, so here’s what to try and what to avoid during the last few days of the holiday.
“Afifiyot” Chocolate Wafers
Wafers are a classic in Israel. During Passover, the brand Elit brings out its “Afifiyot”. By the look, they are exactly the same as the regular chocolate wafer: rectangles indented with little square designs and filled with chocolate. In color, however, they are much less golden and more of a white with a grey undertone.
If you can get past the cardboard texture of the wafer, then you may actually find them better than the regular ones. It’s as if the makers of “Afifiyot” felt bad for not being able to provide us with the actual wafer and so they overcompensated with a rich dark chocolate. No complaints here!
There is a sad truth about Passover: Its dessert always falls short. Hanukkah has donuts, Purim has hamantaschen and Rosh Hashanah has honey cake. Poor Passover has no signature sweet.
Perhaps you’ve put in the extra effort to make a kosher for Passover cake for your Seders past, but if you’re like me, you’ve never found one you love enough to sacrifice sweet brisket-braising time to make it each year. But as Julia Child said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” So, this spring I set out to create a kosher for Passover cake that wouldn’t compromise even a crumb’s worth of quality.
I pulled my copy of Dan Cohen’s cookbook, “The Macaroon Bible,” down from my shelf and got started. Cohen’s recipes call for small batches that produce rich and chewy macaroons that come in flavors like rice pudding and salted caramel. Each recipe highlights the thick coconut shreds and sweet condensed milk that make up its base. His recipes have made macaroons a year-round treat in my home — passing the test of something that’s conveniently kosher for Passover but not designed for it.
This cake batter borrows from Cohen’s recipe and enhances the celebratory qualities of a macaroon. It takes a traditional Passover dessert and morphs it into a beautiful, festive and delicious centerpiece. It’s a Passover cake for all seasons.
James Beard Foundation
This recipe is reprinted with permission from “The Mensch Chef: Or Why Delicious Jewish Food Isn’t an Oxymoron.
This is an approximation of the matzo ball recipe my mother always used. It is based on the one on the matzo meal box, but with a few important modifications to account for my mother’s heavy hand with the schmaltz and her inexact measuring technique. When it comes to making fluffy floaters instead of sodden sinkers, I’ve tried all of the tricks: seltzer, baking soda, and others. But the only thing that seems to make a difference in the finished texture is how you handle them. For floaters, it’s best not to let the mixture sit in the refrigerator more than 30 minutes before shaping. Whatever you do, don’t work too hard to the mixture into balls — rolling the matzo balls around for too long in the palm of your hands compacts and toughens them up. Instead, coax them into a spherical shape, and don’t be too OCD about it. Also, be sure to have the chicken soup simmering when the matzo balls are ready, so you can put them straight into the hot soup. That way they retain their texture after cooling.
Mitchell’s Chicken Soup
Makes 4 quarts, enough for 10 to 12 servings
1, 4 1/2 pound stewing hen or soup chicken, or 5 pounds chicken bones
3 chicken feet, claws removed (optional)
2 pounds yellow onions, about 4, roughly chopped
Top half of a bunch of celery, with leaves
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 point of star anise
1 whole clove
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 sprigs fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
In a 12-quart stockpot, place the chicken, chicken feet, if using, onions, celery, carrots, parsley, turnip, parsnip, peppercorns, star anise, clove, and salt. Add 5 quarts cold water. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, skim off any scum that floats to the top. Set the cover ajar, turn down the heat to low so the liquid simmers, and cook about 2 hours, skimming occasionally, as necessary. Add the dill, if using, and simmer an additional 45 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and let cool.
Stain the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. Remove the cooked chicken meat and reserve for a chicken salad or something. Discard the other solids. Chill the soup and then remove any fat that coagulates on the surface. You can also freeze the soup. If you’d like, you can freeze the soup at this point. To serve, reheat until boiling and add some chopped fresh dill, if you’d like. If you want to add vegetables for garnish, cook carrots, parsnips, turnips and other vegetables separately in a little bit of the soup, and pour it all back into the pot before serving.
My usual preparation for Passover entails reading and contemplating a lot (did I say “a lot”?) about the meaning of freedom and liberation; gratitude for the myriad ways I am blessed to experience it daily, and pondering the responsibilities it imposes on me to help free others less fortunate. I also focus on “cleaning out the chametz” theme by getting back to basics about the food I put into my body - everything I eat is homemade, not processed or packaged.
I often get bored by the fourth day and have been hungry for new recipes. This year, the timing was right and I was lucky to attend a Vegan Passover Cooking class with our favorite vegan chef, Philip Gelb in Oakland, CA. The dish that particularly drew my attention was “Roasted Beets with Horseradish and Basil”.
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.
SHEHECHIYANU! We can finally eat chocolate on Passover that’s been certified to not have been made with trafficked child labor!
Fair Trade Judaica received word from Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Associate Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, that “Equal Exchange pareve chocolates (the 3.5 oz. or 100 g line and dark chocolate minis) may be purchased before Passover and consumed on Passover.” These products are also vegan, soy and gluten free. For people following Conservative Halacha, products must be in the house the day before Passover, prior to Bedikat Chametz.
In preparation for Passover each spring, Jews stock their cupboards with matzo, observing the Biblical injunction to abstain from leavened food for eight days.
And when the holiday ends, a box or two of matzo is usually pushed to the back of the pantry or tossed out with the trash. After all, it’s nearly impossible to end Passover without some extra matzo — and what use is there for the bread of affliction once you’re back to eating bagels?
Tom Kramer of Ambacht Brewery, a Belgian-inspired artisanal microbrewery in Hillsboro, Oregon, has the answer. Ambacht’s Matzobraü is a sweet, complex beer with a rare seasonal ingredient: leftover matzo from the local Jewish community.
We are fortunate that while Passover commemorates events of a very ancient era, we live in extremely modern times. As we rush around shopping and cooking for the holiday this year, we don’t even need to turn on our laptops, let alone crack open a book in search of guidance and resources — thanks to a number of smart phone apps made for the holiday.
Pesach food shopping is made easy by two apps that allow you to check the kosher and kosher for Passover status of items as you come across them on the store shelves. The Orthodox Union has its OU Kosher App for iPhone and Android, which allows you to search for more than 600,000 products made around the world. The app provides up-to-date kosher alerts and new product updates, and it even enables you to call or text the OU Kosher information hotline with specific questions or concerns.
More and more, young Jews and families are creating their own Passover traditions in restaurants. Joan Nathan reports for the New York Times.
One last dessert idea: matzo toffee with chocolate, almonds and sea salt. Need we say more? Thank you Serious Eats.
Matzo brei — ah, the perfect Passover brunch food. Try a recipe with bananas and pecans on The Kitchn, with pear and sour dried cherries on Serious Eats, or with lox, dill and onions on the New York Times.
According Kosher Nexus there’s a “Matzah Hotline” (1-888-MATZAH) to answer your Passover questions. There must be loads of people with questions, since we kept getting a busy signal.
Any chef will tell you that the secret to a great Passover dessert is not trying to make kosher-for-Passover versions of year-round cakes. Don’t even think about baking a loaf cake or pie that requires switching out cups of flour for loads of matzo meal or potato starch. Instead, stick to recipes that have little or no flour, or recipes that call for nuts instead of flour.
Flourless chocolate cake is the most well-known Passover-friendly dessert, but we checked in with four talented chefs — a Jewish cookbook author, a Food Network test-kitchen director, a fine-dining restaurateur and a Food Network host — for some more unusual recommendations. Whether it’s a refreshing granita, decadent chocolate truffle, a Mediterranean-style walnut and date cake or the more traditional mandel bread, we think these desserts are winners — on Passover and all year long.