Traditional Passover dish matzo brei can be savory or sweet

Matthew Haber puts stock in appearance and taste.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Matthew Haber puts stock in appearance and taste.

WHO: Matthew Haber, 37, of St. Petersburg, owner of Real Sparks, a marketing and website construction company.

WHAT: Matzo Brei

ABOUT THE RECIPE: Hot off the frying pan, matzo brei — or fried matzo — is comfort food that can be seasoned to everyone's tastes. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar to make it sweet; salt and add fresh herbs to turn it savory. Although it's often served as a traditional Passover dish, it can also be eaten as a specialty breakfast.

Growing up on Staten Island, Haber and his family loved the salty version. He's been making it since he was a "hungry teenager," but has perfected his technique over the years. Now he shares the family dish with people who are close to him.

The summer before his junior year, Haber decided to take summer classes at an upstate New York university instead of returning to Staten Island. Broken-hearted over a girl and far from home, the English major decided to better himself instead of dwelling on his love life. That's when he plunged into what he calls his "cooking revolution."

After that summer, experimenting in the kitchen became his passion. He recently modified his recipe for matzo brie, adding scallions, onions and mushrooms. While he sauteed the vegetables, his black-and-white kitten, who adores crunching on matzo crackers, mewed for tidbits.

"I like how food looks in addition to how it tastes," he said. He especially loves making salads and stir-fries — it's like creating "a little world" in which every bite is different.

TIPS: Don't fry the matzo on a high heat or it will burn. Make sure to flatten it with a spatula and cook it evenly on both sides.

CAN'T COOK WITHOUT: Spices. "I put sesame seeds, black pepper, red pepper, in just about everything," he said. "I remember when I was a poor college student, I used to dream of the day that I'd have enough money … to own spices."

Emily Young, Times correspondent

If you have a recipe that you would like featured, or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, email jkeeler@tampabay.com with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Or mail to Taste, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

>>Easy

Matzo Brei

2 (2.5-inch) squares of matzo

1 egg

Cooking spray or butter

Salt and pepper, parsley to garnish

Break matzo into half-inch squares. Place in a bowl, soak in cold water and drain quickly. Beat along with egg. Fry in frying pan, coated with cooking spray, on medium-high heat. Press down flat with spatula. Brown evenly on both sides. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn.

Garnish with salt, pepper and parsley as desired.

Veggie variation: Slice 1 to 2 scallions (according to taste) and 2 baby bella mushrooms and dice about one-third of a green pepper. Cook the scallions in frying pan until they are bright green and crispy (al dente), then remove from heat. Cook mushrooms and peppers together, and repeat the process. Mix with matzo/egg mixture. Proceed with above directions to cook matzo mixture.

Serves 1.

Source: Matthew Haber,

St. Petersburg

Traditional Passover dish matzo brei can be savory or sweet 02/12/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 6:58pm]

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