Clever uses for matzo, the common Passover ingredient, enliven the table

For Miriam Baxter, the hardest part of Passover is "not having matzo in everything" and finding things that are different.

The most common ingredient used for Passover, matzo is an unleavened crackerlike bread symbolic of the bread that had no time to rise when the Jews fled Egypt. It's used in many parts of the meal, from appetizers to soups to desserts. It can be used in its sheet form, as matzo cake meal or as matzo farfel.

Clever cooks find ways to put different spins on matzo preparation, using the sheets as layers for lasagna-type dishes, crumbling the sheets to use as a topping for apple crisp and using it in desserts.

But the search for creative side dishes is a common issue with Passover because starchy side dishes are limited — you can't use rice or pasta.

To add variety to side dishes during the holiday, whose first-night Seder is April 8, Baxter, 45, of West Bloomfield, Mich., includes sweet potato souffle and matzo muffins, something other than the dry matzo.

What helps today, Baxter says, is that more products are available.

"I started cooking when there were already more products available . . . and the last 10 years there's been an explosion in products," she says. "They even have fake noodles and lots of syrup flavorings."

Last year there was a nationwide shortage of matzo because of a manufacturing issue at Manischewitz, a large processor of kosher products.

Stores that carry Passover foods sell plenty of matzo. Some even carry 5-pound packages for about $6 to $7, which is a savings.

Heidi Budaj, director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, says people do very traditional things at Passover, but they also enjoy the nontraditional.

"You can go out of the box and do lamb chops, fish or chicken pieces instead of whole roast chicken," she says. "We take great care to prepare tasty, nutritious food for this holiday, so we are always looking for new recipe ideas."

"The reason Passover is so important to us is it's one way we pass on traditions from generation to generation," Budaj says. "But it's the sights, sounds and smells of preparing for the holiday . . . this is what creates memories."

>>easy

Portobello Stacks With

Honey-Balsamic Ketchup

For the mushrooms:

Vegetable oil for frying

4 large portobello mushroom caps

1 cup matzo meal

¾ cup matzo farfel

2 teaspoons imitation mustard

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large eggs

6-inch skewers

For the ketchup:

½ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon pareve chicken consomme powder

Fill a medium frying pan halfway with oil. Heat oil over medium heat, maintaining it at 375-400 degrees.

Scoop out and discard the gills from the bottom of each portobello cap. Peel the skin from each cap and discard. Slice each cap into 8 to 12 triangles, depending on the size of the mushroom. Set aside.

Place matzo meal, matzo farfel, mustard, salt and pepper into a shallow container. Using your fingers, toss to mix.

Place eggs into a second shallow container and whisk lightly.

Dip each portobello triangle into the eggs and then into matzo-meal mixture, patting to coat well.

When all the mushrooms are coated, carefully lower one into the hot oil (it should gently bubble but not burn) and cook to a golden brown. If the oil is not hot enough, the mushrooms will soak it up; if it is too hot, the mushrooms will burn. Fry the mushrooms in batches, about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Slide 3 to 4 mushroom triangles on each skewer.

To prepare the ketchup, mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with the mushroom skewers.

Serves 8. Preparation time: 30 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving: 226 calories (36 percent from fat), 9g fat (1g saturated), 31g carbohydrates, 7g protein, 539mg sodium, 79mg cholesterol, 21mg calcium, 2g fiber.

Source: Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99)

>>easy

Matzo Primavera

3 unsalted, plain matzo sheets

1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

¼ cup olive oil

6 fresh basil leaves, minced

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 zucchini, unpeeled, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

2 yellow squash, unpeeled, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

2 to 3 Asian or Japanese eggplants, unpeeled, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

6 Roma tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

¾ teaspoon pareve chicken or vegetable consomme powder

Finely chopped fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a 9- by 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place matzo sheets in 1 or 2 jelly roll or other shallow pans large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour stock over matzo just to cover and allow to stand for several minutes until matzo is pliable but not mushy.

Meanwhile, pour ¼ cup olive oil into another jelly roll pan. Add basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place sliced zucchini, squash, eggplant and tomato slices into oil mixture. Turn each piece to coat.

Place in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are slightly soft.Remove from pan.

In the prepared 9-inch pan, arrange a single layer of overlapping zucchini. Place 1 matzo sheet on top of it. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon consomme powder. Top with a single layer of overlapping squash slices. Layer a second matzo sheet. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon consomme powder. Top with a layer of overlapping eggplant, followed by third matzo and another ¼ teaspoon of consomme powder. Top with a final layer of overlapping tomato slices. Drizzle any oil and remaining seasonings on the baking sheet over the tomatoes. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil arranged in narrow rows.

Serves: 6. Preparation time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving: 325 calories (41 percent from fat), 15g fat (2g saturated), 45g carbohydrates, 8g protein, 587mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 71mg calcium, 13g fiber.

Source: Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99)

>>easy

Passover Chocolate Matzo Torte

5 eggs

½ pound bittersweet chocolate

½ pound unsalted margarine

1 cup sugar

12 whole plain matzo sheets

½ cup favorite ground nuts

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, beat the eggs well. Add the chocolate, margarine and sugar. Cook over low to medium heat until well mixed and smooth. Remove from stove.

Line a sided baking sheet with wax paper. Place 2 matzo sheets side by side. Spread the chocolate mixture on top of each matzo until it covers. A pastry brush works well. Place a second sheet of matzo on top of the first. Repeat with the remaining matzo and chocolate. (You may need more matzo.) Brush the sides of the matzo with the chocolate. Place a thicker layer of chocolate on the last layer. Sprinkle the ground nuts on top of each torte.

Chill overnight and serve, cutting with a serrated knife.

Makes 2 tortes (12 slices each). Preparation time: 45 minutes (plus chilling time).

Nutritional information per serving: 235 calories (55 percent from fat), 14g fat (4g saturated), 25g carbohydrates, 4g protein, 15mg sodium, 44mg cholesterol, 11mg calcium, 1g fiber.

Source: Gail Mintz, West Bloomfield, Mich.

>>easy

Shiitake Mushroom Matzo Balls

¼ cup melted chicken fat (schmaltz) or vegetable oil

4 green onions, including white parts and half the green parts, thinly sliced

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, finely chopped (1 to 1 ½ cups)

1 envelope (about ½ cup) matzo ball mix

1 ½ cup matzo meal

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

⅛ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon kosher-for-Passover baking powder (optional, see note)

2 tablespoons club soda, chicken broth or water

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken fat over medium heat. Add the green onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the matzo ball mix with the matzo meal. Add the eggs and mix well. Stir in the mushroom mixture (with the oil), parsley, salt, white pepper and baking powder, if using. Add the club soda and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and lightly salt it.

Form the mixture into balls that are about the size of a golf ball, wetting your hands if necessary to keep them from sticking. Drop the matzo balls into the boiling water and cook, covered, at a slow, steady boil (not a hard boil) until tender, about 30 minutes (depending on the size of the balls).

Carefully remove the matzo balls with a slotted spoon and serve in soup.

Makes 30 golf ball-sized matzo balls. Preparation time: 1 hour, plus chilling time.

Note: Kosher-for-Passover baking soda is available. It can be certified kosher because it is a chemical rather than a natural (yeast-based) leavening agent. If, like many observant Jews, you feel uncomfortable using baking powder during Passover, it may be omitted.

Nutritional information per matzo ball: 67 calories (34 percent from fat ), 3g fat (0 saturated), 10g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 158mg sodium, 28mg cholesterol, 20mg calcium, 1g fiber.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes From the Rabinowitz Family by Judy Bart Kancigor (Workman Publishing, $19.95)

>>easy

Spicy Potato Stacks

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 ½-inch slices, ends discarded

2 large red potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into ½-inch slices, ends discarded

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced into ½-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 powders, 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.

Makes 8 stacks. Preparation time: 45 minutes.

Note: Use potatoes similar in diameter so they stack nicely.

Nutritional information per potato stack: 225 calories (28 percent from fat ), 7g fat (1g saturated), 37g carbohydrates, 4g protein, 175mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 31mg calcium, 4g fiber.

Source: Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99)

Clever uses for matzo, the common Passover ingredient, enliven the table 03/31/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:30am]

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