Tonight, right after sundown, chef Simon Elmaleh will discard the Passover matzo, set out fine platters laden with leavened, sugary sweets and welcome friends into his home with cries of terbhou ou tseedou, Arabic for “good luck.”
For Moroccan Jews like Elmaleh, the end of Passover marks the start of the Jewish-Moroccan festival Mimouna — a night of open house parties complete with a feast of traditional sweets that honors the Exodus story.
This year, Elmaleh has prepared platters that glisten with sugary glazes: slivers of candied orange peels, fat eggplants in sweetened ginger syrup, poached Bosch pears in a Cointreau-based syrup and figs cooked in syrup with white wine and vanilla.
White House Photo
(Haaretz) — Cooking for twenty people doesn’t usually faze me, even when it’s for a Passover Seder, but the Seder I helped prepare last night was for Michelle and Barack Obama.
After days of long discussions about menu options and in order to add some interest, it was decided that alongside the Passover classics, such as gefilte fish and matzo ball soup, I will make quinoa in coconut milk with roasted sweet potatoes and Tuscan kale. My friend Susan Barocas, former director of the Jewish Food Experience, who was working with me as well, prepared chicken in pickled lemon and olives.
The tradition of making a Passover Seder at the Obama household started in 2008, while he was running for President. The first seder took place at a hotel basement hall during a campaign stop, and the blessing “next year in Jerusalem” was modified to “next year at the White House.” And so a tradition began. Keeping their seder private and intimate, the Obamas continue to host the same guests every year at the White House ever since.
We arrived at the White House early on Tuesday morning. We arrived at a surprisingly small kitchen, peeking at the beautiful flower arranging room on the way. Cris Comerford, White House executive chef, met us at the kitchen. As top chef, Cris is often in charge of much larger events, including State Dinner, yet she amazed me with the amount of research and the sincere interest she showed in the Jewish traditions for the Passover Seder. From grating her own horseradish for the chrein to the little carrots on her home-made gefilte fish, she really nailed it down.
Pizzarelle Con Miele are a classic Roman Jewish Passover cookie. Read about how Alyssa Shelasky learned to make the recipe while living in Rome here.
Inspired by Edith Arbib Anav
Yield: 8 servings
8 sheets of matzo
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup sugar
½ cup of kosher for Passover cocoa
powder, highest quality
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup raisins
2 cups peanut oil for frying
4 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1) Soak the matzo in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes, until very soggy. Remove from water, squeezing out as much moisture as you can from the matzo.
2) Put the matzo in a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients, lighting mashing everything together until all the ingredients are evenly combined.
3) Heat the oil on the stovetop to approximately 325ºF to 350ºF. With a big spoon, form large madeleine-shaped spoonfuls of the mixture. Carefully insert them into the oil, one by one.
4) Fry the cookies for about 5 minutes, flipping half way through.
5) Place the cookies on paper towels to drain the excess oil.
6) Meanwhile, heat the honey, with the lemon juice and a few teaspoons of water in a saucepan over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. The honey should bubble but not burn.
7) Once the cookies have been drained of oil, individually dunk them in and out of the honey pot. Let set. Serve at room temperature.
Most Jewish holidays have food as a central component of the celebration-from latkes on Hanukkah to misloach manot on Purim and blintzes on Shavuot. Yet, Passover, through the Seder and the full-scale flip from “chametz” to “matza” (from eating leavened foods to eating foods devoid of all leaven), makes food and eating an essential focus of preparation and observance. For at least this week, what we eat and with whom we eat defines us as Jews.
RAVSAK’s Moot Beit Din, an annual competition for high school students in Jewish day schools, made food the focus of our 2014/5774 program. We challenged students from across North America to consider whether a Jewish summer camp that prides itself on being environmentally conscious has an obligation to consider tzaar baalei hayim (mistreatment of animals) and thus serve locally raised kosher meat even if it raises the tuition costs at camp significantly enough to make it less affordable to many families. The case touched on such current issues as industrial farming, the morality of eating meat and the role of economics in halakhic decision making. Students were asked to calculate a cost/benefit analysis of switching to an organic diet at Jewish institutions — an ostensibly desirable undertaking — in light of the real financial issues that might exacerbate the modern plague of the high cost of Jewish living. Like the Seder, Moot Beit Din used powerful questions, ancient texts, wise voices and great debate to elevate mundane conversations about food to a heightened and holy level.
Making a delectable Passover dessert is a challenge worthy of appearing on Iron Chef — no leavening, no flour, and if your Seder has meat, no butter. Fortunately, our favorite food sites and cookbook authors have suggestions and recipes for sorbets, toffees and an irresistible sweet matzo brei that can double as dessert. What’s your favorite Passover dessert? Share it with us in the comments.
To get you started, here are 10, incredible recipes for pareve Passover desserts like chocolate balsamic macaroons, pear vanilla sorbet and roasted strawberries with rhubarb. [Food 52]
And several more like matzo toffee with candied ginger, chocolate caramel macarons and hazelnut citrus torte from cookbook author Melissa Clark. [New York Times]
Matzo brei will never be the same. Introducing: Cinnamon sugar matzo brei with roasted apple charoset. [Tasting Table]
Chocolate-covered matzo is one of the true pleasures of Passover. Here’s an easy way to make it at home. [Food 52]
Imagine this: a macaroon filled with molten chocolate. It’s a reality. [Fork in the Road]
Chocolate. Caramel. Matzo. Brittle. ‘Nuff said. [The Kitchn]
And if you still need ideas, the New York Times has an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Passover recipes [Pinterest]
Don’t worry if you are too tired to cook again after the Seders this Passover. Thanks to a new cookbook by Tamar Ansh, you can let the kids take over the kitchen for the rest of the weeklong holiday. They won’t necessarily prepare fancy dishes made with organic and locally sourced ingredients, but with the guidance of “Let My Children Cook!,” they’ll be able to put together some substantial meals that they — and maybe you too — will want to eat.
“As a mother, I know what kids like to eat,” Ansh, cooking instructor and author of several cookbooks, including “A Taste of Challah,” told the Jew and the Carrot from her home in Jerusalem. “It doesn’t have to be a full-blown recipe. Chicken cacciatore braised in wine sauce is not for kids.” Although she had never written a cookbook for kids before, she knew she had to keep the recipes clear and short, with as few ingredients and steps as possible.
Officially, “Let My Children Cook!” (Judaica Press, 2014) is for children 8-years-old and up, but kids even younger can easily tackle these recipes with the help of a parent or older sibling.
Matzot on a cooling conveyor Manischewitz factory in Newark, New Jersey. Photo by Bloomberg via Haaretz
Kosher food giant Manischewitz, whose matzot are known to generations of Jews in the United States and elsewhere, is expected to announce on Tuesday that it has been purchased by Sankaty Advisors, an arm of the private equity giant Bain Capital.
The deal, which comes just a few days before Passover, is expected to help the 126-year-old company expand beyond the kosher aisle, the New York Times reported.
Under its new owner, a firm with expertise in revamping corporate strategy, the company is expected to promote “kosher” as a quality-control designation, rather than a simply religious one.
Though private equity tends to conjure images of stripping companies, Sankaty plans to act as “stewards of the brand,” said a person briefed on the deal who was not authorized to speak publicly about it before the announcement.
“It’s a pretty powerful certification to be kosher, because it means you are holding your product to a very high standard,” said Mark Weinsten, the newly appointed interim chief executive of Manischewitz, who is also a senior managing director at FTI Consulting. “Why is that not applicable to people who don’t keep kosher?”
Hosting a Passover Seder combines the culinary expectations of Thanksgiving with an Iron Chef like challenge: Cook an entire multi-course meal without leavening. It’s pretty daunting. But, with a bit of planning, it makes a great cooking project for a family or a group of friends, the results are delicious and it gives you culinary bragging rights for a full year.
At 28, I’ve helped cook Seders for almost 20 years and hosted several entirely on my own. Along the way, I’ve picked up wisdom from my ultimate Seder hero (my father, who can whip up a tender brisket with his eyes closed) and some master cooking tips from chefs like Mark Spangethal at Kutsher’s Tribeca, Bill Telepan and Yotam Ottolenghi. If you still have questions about your Seder or recipes, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help any way I can.
Your bread may be swept away, the table set and macaroons purchased, but it really isn’t Passover until the aroma of brisket fills the house. On a holiday without freshly baked challah, no other scent compares to the nostalgic smell of slow cooked tender meat atop a bed of vegetables or nestled into a thick sauce. I prefer mine slowly braised in red wine and stock with vegetables and fresh rosemary and thyme — like a Jewish take on Julia Child’s legendary boeuf bourguignon.
It doesn’t take long to get to the meal at my family’s Seder table. Our Haggadahs are in almost mint condition because a few pages into the Passover story we are too tempted by the brisket to wait any longer.
Craving a carb in the vast leaven-free wasteland of Passover, I turn to quinoa risotto to compliment my brisket. The tiny sturdy pearls stand up to the roast’s tender meat and get an extra boost of flavor when they’re cooked in the brisket’s gravy. The method works for any slow roast. So even if you take one look at the following brisket recipe and declare that your Bubbe’s is better (yes, I understand) this quinoa will work.
If your family completes the entire seder, I wish you luck. This brisket will be calling you from the moment it starts cooking.
The Israelites escaped from Egyptian slavery through the parted waters of the Red Sea from a “narrow place”, and were born anew when they came out of the canal as a free nation. Egypt, in Hebrew Mitzrayim, means a tight and narrow place. In the world today, we are also caught in a narrow place, and being chased by the impending need to make the necessary changes in our personal lives to reduce our man made climate crisis.
Why is this box different from all other boxes?
Because it contains an entire seder dinner.
From Houston, Texas.
If you now feel like the son who does not even know how to ask a question, let us explain.
Houston’s Kenny & Ziggy’s, which “Save the Deli” author David Sax proclaimed “one of the best delis in the country,” was hawking knishes, lox, latkes, and pastrami on web site FoodyDirect, which lets indie restaurants sell to consumers nationwide.
Over the winter, a light bulb went off for owner and deli man Ziggy Gruber: “Since we’re already shipping food, and there are a lot of Yidlach who probably don’t have access for stuff for yontif, why not offer it to them?” he told the Forward.
The result is Passover in a Box, a $399 extravaganza that “not only includes enough classic delicacies to feed 10, but also it’ll save you time and trouble,” according to Kenny & Ziggy’s FoodyDirect page. “Moses led our people out of bondage, so why should you be a slave in your kitchen?”
I’m just going to say it: I love bread. If it were socially acceptable, there’d be a baguette sticking out of my purse at all times. A bagel with cream cheese and nova is on my last meal short list and bread pudding makes my knees go weak. I’m a fan of all of bread’s close relatives, too — pastas, cakes, cookies, anything that has the kind of white flour that everyone tells you not to eat. Needless to say, Passover is a hard time of year for me.
Before the holiday settles in, I decided to go on one last bread bender, a tour of the best chametz I could find in New York City. Here’s what I found:
There’s no better place to start a bread binge than the classic, Upper West Side temple of bagels and smoked fish. And my bagel with cream cheese and nova, expertly prepared by Alex behind the counter, tasted like manna. I can barely think about it without running to get another one. While at the store, one of the waiters, Julian, told me that Barney Greengrass stayed open during Hurricane Sandy and that when they ran out of bagels, they broke out the matzo and served sandwiches on it. It’s good to know that there’s no need to forgo your white fish or sturgeon during Passover.
541 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 / 212-724-4707
What would it be like to live the life you love, and live it powerfully? Sometimes, choosing to incorporate or eliminate certain foods can make all the difference. How does the word “raw” connect to Passover? In the desert we were inexperienced. The weather made our skin raw. We experienced gut wrenching raw fear, and we ate raw, unprocessed and unrefined manna (mystery) to survive.
Passover is the perfect opportunity and invitation to cleanse the body, mind, and spirit through living foods and holistic health practices. In order to dive into this possibility it requires us to look at the dietary habits that accumulate excessive physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bondage.
She and Sarah Lasry met that same eve (Sarah and I think we brushed by each other in the doorway). Amy and Sarah recall finishing their brief visit with a cordial, “we should do something together some time.” A week later they cooked up an idea and decided to pursue it.
What do Succot and Pesach have to do with each other? Sages have been asking each other that questions for generations, but the result has never been quite so eco-conscious. This year though, for the first time ever, Yiddish farm is offering the opportunity to purchase local, organic, whole wheat, Shmurah matzah for Passover.
The idea came to Yisroel Bass, current farm manager and co-founder of Yiddish Farm with his counterpart Naftali Ejdelman in 2011. He was at Isabella Freedman’s Sukkahfest retreat and noticed a group of people planting a small crop of wheat. After the holiday, he took some of the seeds back to his own farm in Goshen, NY (not to be confused with Goshen, Egypt – where matzah was made for the first time) to see how it would fare.
Rabbi Shoshan Ghoori meets with South American farmers during quinoa fact-finding mission
Jews around the world can breathe a sigh of relief: Quinoa is kosher for Passover.
The Orthodox Union (OU), the world’s largest kosher certification agency, announced last week that it would begin certifying the popular food for use during the festival of freedom.
Quinoa’s status on Passover has been a source of debate in observant Jewish communities. The plant is not among the five grains – wheat, spelt, oats, barley, and rye – prohibited on Passover by Jewish law. In fact, quinoa is not a grain at all, but a member of the goosefoot family related to spinach and beets.
The OU’s competitor Star-K certified the food as kosher for Passover in 2007. But the OU refused to give its own stamp of approval to quinoa out of fear that the plant is a kind of kitniyot, a group of grains and legumes which could be confused with the five forbidden grains. Ashkenazi Jews of European origin have refrained from eating kitniyot on Passover for centuries, though Sephardic Jews (hailing from the Middle East and the Mediterranean) have no similar prohibition.
With beans, rice, corn, and peanuts forbidden as kitniyot, many Ashkenazi Jews eagerly embraced quinoa as a protein-rich substitute in their Passover cooking.
The OU’s refusal to endorse quinoa’s Passover use until now caused confusion over the plant’s status – and even a backlash. A tongue-in-cheek “Quinoa Defense League” formed on Facebook in March, with the goal of preserving quinoa’s kosher-for-Passover status.
If the recipes of my life were bound into a book, surely the page for my dad’s ricotta pancakes would be the most well loved — splattered with old batter and lightly dusted in flour. It’s the recipe I reach for when I miss my childhood home or when I’m entertaining friends for brunch and when I can’t decide what to make — even if it’s dinner time.
The year I lived in Israel when I was 22 years old could easily be renamed “My Year in Pancakes.” Nearly ever Shabbat brought a different pancake recipe, many made in sparse kitchens without measuring cups or spoons. There were the lemon poppy seed pancakes that my roommate fell for, monkey cakes packed with chocolate, candied pecans and bananas devoured by my kibbutznik friends during gossip sessions the morning after a big party, and pear and strawberry pancakes made with supremely ripe fruit gathered right before the horn was sounded in Jerusalem’s market to announce the beginning of Shabbat. Since that year, I’ve flirted with pumpkin pancake recipes, chocolate chip and raspberry ones and countless others.
Last year, for the first time ever, I was alone on the last night of Passover.
No big deal, right? I had managed to get home to Montreal for the first two nights of Seder, had a steady supply of matzo and a fridge packed with leftovers, and to be honest, was kind of looking forward to not having to eat neon orange, kosher for Passover cheese now that I was on my own — so what was the problem?
But, for Moroccan Jews, Passover isn’t Passover without Mimouna, a kind of bread and carb-filled smorgasbord that takes place at sundown on the last night of the holiday.
So, along with another friend who keenly felt the absence of her grandmother’s mufletas (a Moroccan crêpe served with about 18 spoons of sugar or honey), we tried to organize our own Mimouna.
Like anything else in the Moroccan-Jewish community, no one can agree about the origins of Mimouna. Some say that the name comes from emunah, or faith, or even from the Arabic word for luck. Others argue that it’s a pagan holiday co-opted for Passover purposes, and has absolutely no religious component.
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).