As executive chef for many years at restaurants in Seattle and La Jolla, Calif., I took great pleasure in celebrating the major Jewish holidays at the restaurants.
At Passover, we would create a special kosher-style, five or six-course menu so that guests could reserve a table, perform the seder service on the first or second night, and have a wonderful traditional menu (with creative twists, of course!) and have someone else serve and clean up.
The menu (billed as kosher-style only because the restaurants weren’t kosher) would continue for the rest of the holiday nights, and I remember talking with so
many grateful guests happy to enjoy some different Passover food during the week — it broke the tedium of having to eat without easy meal-time “fixes.”
Since then, I’ve noticed many cookbooks and articles about Passover food are “seder-centric,” focusing on the joys of creating delectable, memorable seder meals. But they don’t spend a lot of time on delicious foods that can be easily prepared for the other six days of our favorite holiday.
True, our hearts are captured by the seder days and nights, with friends and relatives around, and the bustle of preparation leading up to sitting together with song and story and feasting as we forget our normal lives for two precious nights in early spring.
Yet normalcy returns on the second morning as we dive back into work and school and traffic jams and stress — and who has time for making quick and easy meals out of matzoh meal and for some of us, no rice, beans, peas or even cereal grains? Most of us have “standbys” that we look forward to and then don’t want to see, much less eat, for another year.
Some ambitious cooks follow the example of the wonderful book, Matzo 101, by Jenny Kdoshim and Debbie Bevans, which shows how, step-by-step, to make matzoh enchiladas, matzoh quiches and just about anything in the culinary compendium out of matzoh. But, practice definitely makes perfect in making a great matzoh enchilada and, facing facts, most of our modern lives leave little time to get the hang of baking the perfect matzoh chocolate chip cookie!
So, since I’m not much of an advocate of eating frozen Passover pizzas either (we’ll get back to good pizza soon enough!), here are some easy recipes to slip into your everyday Pesach week to make eating more fun than just scarfing another matzoh to take care of hunger pangs while you figure out what to pack for lunch, eat for a quick breakfast, or throw together for another dinner.
I created this recipe while working for Streit’s Matzoh Co., designing new non-Passover matzoh flavors. They wanted something made from Passover matzoh to sell as a breakfast cereal and this recipe turned out to be so simple it can easily be made at home with 5 minutes mixing and 20 minutes doing something else while it bakes, stirring after 10 minutes. And so delicious, it was gone within 10 minutes of opening any quart-sized sample bag in the Streit’s offices.
Easy, Yummy Matzoh Granola
4 whole matzohs, crumbled into a bowl as for matzoh brie; break into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup warm water (about)
3/4 cup honey, heated in a pan with
1/4 cup oil (not olive)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon, or more to taste
Oil for greasing a cookie sheet
Lightly grease a cookie sheet with oil and heat the oven to 350º
Crumble the matzohs till no large pieces remain. Sprinkle about half the water over the matzohs and toss with your hands. Let sit while heating the honey and oil over low heat until too hot to touch with your finger. If the matzohs are still dry in places, sprinkle on the rest of the water and toss to distribute. Mix together the cinnamon and salt and toss with the matzohs to coat evenly.
Stir the honey and oil with a wooden spoon — the mixture will only superficially combine — and slowly pour it over the matzohs, tossing the matzohs with the spoon to make sure it coats evenly.
Spread the granola on the greased cookie sheet in one layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn and stir with a spatula so it won’t burn and will get crisp on all sides. Bake for five more minutes, stir, and bake for five more minutes. If it isn’t evenly golden, bake for a couple to five minutes more, but it burns easily at this point so check often.
Turn out the granola into a shallow bowl to cool and crisp up, breaking it up with your hands when it’s cool enough to taste. For a real treat, toss with kosher-for-Passover mini chocolate chips when it first comes out of the oven. Or, add chopped walnuts or almonds to the mixture before baking, or add raisins or chopped dried fruit while still warm after baking — I’m sure you’ll think of more goodies to add. Let cool completely. Great as a breakfast cereal or to offer to friends for a snack.
Makes about 4 cups — pareve
Here are some delicious spreads, very simple to make in a food processor and keep on hand to embellish matzoh for lunch or for Passover eating “emergencies.” They’re also good toasted on matzoh halves for a quick dinner with soup and a simple salad. Both keep very well for the week covered and refrigerated, or for two months in the freezer.
Roasted Tomato Spread with Garlic and Basil
1-1/2 lbs. roma tomatoes
1 cup good olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 oz .fresh basil (1 package or small bunch)
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400º. Wash the tomatoes, cut in quarters and sprinkle with salt. Lightly grease a shallow baking pan or baking sheet with sides and arrange the tomatoes on it, cut side down. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until browned and lightly scorched.
Meanwhile, lightly smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, slip off the skins and combine with the olive oil in a small pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook gently for 10 minutes, until the garlic is very fragrant and starting to turn golden. Let cool.
Chop the basil roughly (just the leaf tips and small stems; discard the “branches”). Scrape the roasted tomatoes — remove the skins if you’d like — into the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, basil, salt and half the oil and process till the mixture is getting smooth but still chunky.
Taste, add the sugar and lemon juice to taste and enough more oil to make a spreadable consistency. Add black pepper or a tiny touch (or more) of cayenne and voilá! A fresh matzoh spread.
Makes 3 cups — parve
This really succulent spread is incredibly easy after the onions are peeled and sliced. To avoid tears, peel the onions and put them in the fridge, lightly covered, for a couple of hours or overnight. This recipe takes about an hour, but most of the time is spent doing something else while turning the onions every once in a while.
Caramelized Onion Spread with Rosemary
5 medium-large onions
4 Tbs. (1/4 cup) olive oil (not extra virgin)
3 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup Passover wine (a little less if it’s sweet)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or 2 tsp. dried and crushed
1 tsp. freshly ground black peppers
Cut the onions in half lengthwise (from stem to root). Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (you’ll have a big pile). If you have a really large (10” to 12” across) skillet or sauté pan, use it to cook all the onions. If not, use two smaller ones — you’ll take up more of your burner space but not more of your time.
Heat the oil in the sauté pan(s) over medium-high heat until very hot, almost smoking. Divide the onions between the two pans or put them all into the big one, sprinkle evenly with salt. If it seems like a lot of onions, don’t worry, they’ll cook down. Turn the heat down to medium and let the onions cook five or six minutes or until the bottom layer starts to turn brown. Turn over with a spatula and again cook until the bottom onions begin to brown. Repeat until all the onions are an even light brown color.
Turn the heat to low and continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, as they caramelize and turn a deep, mahogany brown. When evenly colored, turn up the heat until the onions sizzle, then pour in the wine. Stir and let the onions bubble for a minute, add the rosemary and black pepper, reduce the heat to medium and let cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the alcohol in the wine is gone. Simmer another few minutes, taste for salt (the onions should be sweet and very savory) and let cool a bit. Purée in a food processor until almost smooth and try not to eat it all at once!
Makes 3 to 4 cups — parve
Here’s the easiest delicious fish dish for all of Passover, served hot or cold. Use filets instead of steaks for easier eating.
Fish Filets Roasted in Yogurt Cream
2 lbs. fish filets — halibut, salmon, rock fish (cod), sole, flounder, tilapia, etc.
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup plain yogurt, nonfat, lowfat or, most delicious, full-fat Greek style
3/4 cup sour cream, lowfat or regular
1 small lemon
1 small orange or 1/2 pink grapefruit
6 small green onions, 2 inches of the green cut off, sliced thin
Preheat the oven to 350º. Rinse the fish and pat dry; cut out any small bones if using cod filets. Cut the lemon and orange (or half grapefruit) in half lengthwise, then cut one half of each fruit in thin slices.
Sprinkle the green onion slices in the bottom of a baking dish that will hold all the fish filets in one overlapping layer. Put in the fish and squeeze the juice of the uncut halves of the citrus evenly over the filets. Sprinkle with salt. Mix together the yogurt and sour cream and pour over the fish.
Place the citrus slices decoratively over the top. Bake uncovered 20 minutes for thin filets, 25 to 30 minutes for thick, or until the fish begins to flake when gently pressed with a fork.
Serves 6 — dairy