Making Passover Memorable and Delicious Without Too Much Fuss

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By Elizabeth Kurtz | JNS.org

Everyone needs crowd-pleasing recipes we can turn to over and over again. This is important for every holiday, but especially for Passover, when ingredients are usually more limited.

At the heart of every Jewish celebration is family or friends gathered around the table enjoying stories, conversation, tradition and great dishes. I believe with all of my heart that these traditions, these meals and these remarkable memories have held us together as a Jewish people for thousands of years.

The art and creation of an inspired (and delicious) Passover meal can be challenging. For some, making the same recipes each year represents tradition, comfort and familiarity and, for others like me, trying new recipes makes me excited to come to the table and share new tastes with others.

The effort and energy one extends to prepare for family on any holiday creates a connection and the memories for one’s family that will be cherished forever.

I am motivated to inspire people to taste new dishes, to broaden one’s palate, or mostly to enjoy the moments they spend in the kitchen preparing for Passover. My mission is to share fantastic recipes with my readers so they can make a fresh, fabulous, and easy meals that will be loved, wow guests and be treasured for years to come.

Here are my tips and tricks to making Passover cooking easy and delicious, followed by three Passover-friendly recipes — soup, main course and dessert — from my kosher cookbook, CELEBRATE.

Whenever possible, stick to recipes that are naturally kosher for Passover — recipes that include great natural flavor enhancers, like lemon and other citrus, fresh garlic, onion, wine, fresh and dried herbs, toasted nuts and the freshest vegetables and fruits. Stay away from lots of matzo meal and potato starch dishes. You will feel better and look better, too.

Make lists, lots of lists. Lists like: your menu, your grocery list, the ingredients that you were able to store from last year, favorite recipes each year, guests at each meal, how much you bought and what you need to replace before next year. Keep these lists to use from year to year.

Create a menu so you can be organized and generate new lists from your menu. Always add one or two new recipes to the menu, but do not make a full menu of new recipes. Trust me, you will become overwhelmed and the cooking time could become burdensome.

Make ahead anything that can be stored in the freezer, like roasts, soups, dips, some kugels and desserts. Especially recipes that are better prepared ahead of time, like stuffed cabbage, short ribs, roasts and briskets.

A few days ahead of time, prepare recipes that can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, like salad dressings, dips, desserts, kugel and definitely chicken soup.

Follow these freezing tips: Let cool before freezing. Cover food with heavy-duty aluminum foil for the freezer. Defrost most food in the refrigerator, then move to the counter before reheating. Recipes with sauces freeze well, as do soups and roasts. Label the items in the freezer. Reheat fried foods like schnitzel and starchy dishes like potato kugel, directly from the freezer into a 250-degree oven. Do not defrost first; it might get soggy.

Cheat a little. Encourage guests to bring dishes to contribute to the meal; it makes them feel like a part of the event. Or buy something that looks great and makes life a little easier. Remember, you can dress up a flourless chocolate cake with some pureed berries and whipped cream and make it look almost homemade.

If you are joining or hosting a Passover seder that is more traditional and plan on following a hagaddah completely, remember to serve your guests and children something before you start. I recommend a few meatballs with tomato sauce on baked potatoes. This way, everyone can enjoy the experience without hunger pains.

Albondiga Soup

This exotic Spanish soup is a Passover favorite for my family, precisely because it tastes nothing like Passover. Carrots and zucchinis, fresh cilantro, wonderful rich broth and flavorful meatballs — albondigas — make a filling first course that your family and guests will love.

Albondigas soup; Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Thinkstock.com

For the meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey

cup matzo meal

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon ground cumin

teaspoons kosher salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

 

For the soup:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 avocado, pitted and chopped, for garnish

1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish

To prepare the meatballs: Combine the turkey, matzo meal, cilantro, parsley, cumin and salt in a medium bowl. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the mixture until blended.

Add the egg, mixing until combined. Form into 1-inch balls.

To prepare the soup: Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about six minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the broth, water and tomato paste, stirring to dissolve. Add the carrots; bring them to a boil over high heat.

Reduce to a simmer and add the meatballs; cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the zucchini; cook until the carrots and zucchini are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper. Serve warm with avocado, lime wedges and a sprinkle of minced cilantro.

Serves 10

Roasted Chicken with Shiitake Mushrooms and Artichokes

Your house will smell amazing when you make this chicken. Wine, chicken, shallots, garlic, lemons, mushrooms — whoa! Artichoke bottoms are available in both the freezer section and in a can. If using frozen artichokes, thaw before using. You can also use marinated artichoke hearts from a jar in place of the artichoke bottoms. Just be sure to drain them before using. This must be served warm.

2 (3- to 4-pound) chickens, cut into eighths

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 pound artichoke bottoms (or zucchini sliced in

1-inch rounds)

¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced

10 large cloves garlic

8 shallots, peeled and halved

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup pitted green olives

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle it with two tablespoons of oil, and season with the salt and pepper. Zest each lemon into long strips; squeeze the juice into a separate small bowl. Set the juice aside. Combine the lemon zest, artichokes, mushrooms, garlic, shallots and thyme in a medium bowl. Add the remaining three tablespoons of oil; toss to coat. Arrange the mixture in a pan around the chicken.

Roast until the chicken is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven. Pour the reserved lemon juice, wine and olives over the chicken. Return the chicken to the oven and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm with vegetables and pan juices.

Serves 8

Chocolate Angel Pie

 

For the meringue crust:

4 egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon potato starch

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

¾ teaspoon Passover vanilla extract

 

For the filling:

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

teaspoon salt

2 cups pareve whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form, divided

Generous amount of chocolate and pareve white chocolate shavings, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. To prepare the meringue crust: With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and potato starch, constantly beating. Stir in the vinegar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form and the meringue is thick and glossy.

Spoon the meringue into the prepared pie pan; press against the sides to form a crust. Place in the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the meringue in the oven for 3 hours; remove

the pan to cool. The meringue can be stored for up to 2 days, covered, in a dry place.

To prepare the filling: Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Cool to lukewarm. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, water and salt until frothy. Stir into the pan of melted chocolate. Cook the mixture over low heat, whisking constantly until thick, about four minutes. Cool completely.

Fold the chocolate mixture into half of the prepared whipped cream. Pour it into the cooled shell; chill in the refrigerator until the mousse is set. Top with the remaining half of whipped cream; garnish with the chocolate and white chocolate shavings. Store the pie in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serves 10

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