At sundown on Saturday, millions of Jews worldwide will be marking the start of Passover with a Seder meal. The eight-day Jewish holiday celebrates freedom commemorating the Jewish exodus from Egypt. During the Seder meal, the retelling of the exodus takes place through stories, songs and ceremonial foods. Certain foods symbolic of Passover include bitters herbs and matzo, arranged on a Seder plate.
It’s a strict food holiday that requires Jews to rid their pantries of all leavened products. No leavening ingredients (baking powder, yeast, baking soda) are used. Wheat products, like flour, are not used, so in many Passover recipes, matzo cake meal and matzo meal are used instead.
Key ingredients for Passover include eggs and matzo.
Eggs are symbolic because they signify springtime and rebirth. They also serve as a leavening agent – especially beaten egg whites. Matzo in sheets or ground is ubiquitous during Passover. The cracker-like sheets symbolize the bread that had no time to rise as the Jewish people fled Egypt.
Because leavening ingredients are forbidden, desserts can be a challenge.
Our all-time favorite dessert for this holiday is Passover Lemon Cheesecake. It keeps to tradition and would be an ideal dessert to serve with a dairy, or parve, meal. (Jewish dietary rules forbid eating meat and dairy at the same meal.)
We gleaned our archives for five favorite Passover recipes. We hope you enjoy them, too, any time of the year.
Spinach or tri-color Matzo Balls
Serves: 6 / Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 1 hour (including freezing time)
Due to the high water content of fresh spinach, the spinach matzo balls may be a little harder to roll than the other two flavors. If this occurs, add some extra matzo ball mix or matzo meal, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the batter can be rolled into balls. Use as little extra as possible so the matzo balls remain light and fluffy. See the cook’s note for variations.
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup matzo ball mix (usually both bags from a box)
Water or chicken stock
In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the spinach until it’s pureed. Squeeze the water out of the spinach.
Add the spinach puree into the egg mixture. Whisk to incorporate. Sprinkle in 1 cup of the matzo ball mix.
Stir it with a fork, mixing as little as possible. Don’t overwork it. Chill the mixture in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil.
Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water.
Using your hand, and manipulating the mixture as little as possible, scoop out a Ping Pong ball size of the mixture. Form it into a ball with your fingertips, using no real pressure.
Turn the water down to a simmer. Drop the balls into the water. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with some of the broth or water.
Cook’s note: To make tri-color matzo balls, for each color use only 1/2 to 3/4 cup matzo ball mix and substitute for the spinach 3 tablespoons tomato paste to make red ones and 1 teaspoon turmeric to make yellow.
From “Kosher by Design Entertains” by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99).
Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Passover Chicken Roulade
Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
1 cup dried apricots
4 whole boned chicken breasts, with skin on
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced carrot
2 matzo sheets, crumbled
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil; set aside. In a small saucepan, place the apricots and add enough water to cover by 1/2-inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until just soft. Remove from the heat and drain well. When apricots are cool, finely dice them.
Cut each chicken breast in half. Place each breast, skin side down, between plastic wrap. Evenly pound out to an even thickness.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté until just tender; do not let the onion brown. Add the apricots and combine well. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool about 5 minutes.
Add the crumbled matzo, egg, salt and pepper to taste; combine well.
Divide the filling into eight portions.
Place the pounded chicken, breast skin side down, on the work surface. Add the stuffing in the center and roll-up. Tie the breast with strong twine and place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue baking 5 minutes more or until the chicken is tender and crisp.
Remove from the oven and transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board. Cut each breast on the bias and serve.
Adapted from Kosher Too Catering, West Bloomfield. Tested by Susan Selasky.
Spicy Potato Stacks
Makes: 8 stacks / Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
Use potatoes similar in diameter so they stack nicely.
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into 1/2-inch slices, ends discarded
2 large red potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into 1/2-inch slices, ends discarded
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced into 1/2-inch slices, ends discarded
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic and onion powder, paprika, black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper.
Place all the sliced potatoes into a large mixing bowl.
Pour the oil over the potatoes. Toss to coat. Sprinkle in the spice blend. Toss to coat well. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast the potatoes, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Season with a sprinkle of salt.
Make layered stacks using the three kinds of potatoes. Stick a rosemary skewer through the top to secure each stack. Serve hot.
From “Passover by Design” by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99). Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Passover Lemon Cheesecake
Serves: 10 (or more) servings / Prep time: 30 minutes / Total time: 5 hours (includes cooling time)
For those observing Passover, be sure to use ingredients that are labeled kosher for Passover.
¾ cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled
⅔ cup sugar
⅔ cup matzo cake meal or matzo meal finely ground
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 heaping tablespoon grated lemon zest
Curls or julienne of lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in middle.
In a food processor, pulse almonds, sugar, matzo cake meal and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter until combined well. Press the mixture onto the bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.
Bake until the crust is firm and a shade darker, 12-15 minutes. Cool crust completely in pan on a rack.
Meanwhile, make filling.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in zest and vanilla.
Put the springform pan in a shallow baking pan and pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set 1½ inches from edge but the center is wobbly, about 45 to 50 minutes (filling will continue to set as it cools).
Remove from the oven and transfer cake in pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around edge; let it cool about 30 minutes. Then remove the side of the pan and cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours.
Adapted from www.epicurious.com and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Quinoa with Mushrooms and Kale
Quinoa (KEEN-Wah), according to https://oukosher.org, is kosher for Passover “when processed with special OU Passover supervision and bearing the OU-P symbol.”
Serves: 6 to 8 / Prep time: 20 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
¾ cup quinoa
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, peeled, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large shallot, peeled, halved, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
8 to 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, bottoms trimmed, half and sliced
8 to 10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, bottoms trimmed, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 to 3 cups chopped curly kale leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons white truffle oil (optional)
Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water; soak 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the quinoa and 1½ cups water in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Set it aside.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cremini and shiitake mushrooms and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in 1 clove of the garlic, salt and black pepper.
Drain the porcini mushrooms from the soaking water and, using paper towels, squeeze out any excess liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms and stir them into the mixture.
Place the kale in a medium bowl, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and massage the oil into the leaves to soften them. Add the kale to the skillet and cook 2 minutes.
When quinoa is cooked, stir it into the mixture. Add the remaining clove of garlic and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, mixing everything together. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Place in a serving bowl and, if using, drizzle the truffle oil on top and mix it in.
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: 313-222-6872 or [email protected] Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.
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