The most celebrated of Jewish holidays
Ask most Jewish children, “What’s your favorite holiday?” and you’d think “Hanukkah” would be the quick response. For me all the blue and gold beribboned boxes in the world can’t hold a shammos to Passover. To my mind, you just can’t beat the cuisine. It’s the most celebrated of all Jewish holidays, and even those who rarely step into a shul all year knock themselves out cooking for Passover. While the Seders get all the glory, this is an eight-day holiday, and the creativity and careful planning that went into producing the Seder meals can be drawn upon for the rest of the week as well with some help from the myriad of Passover cookbooks out there…and, surprisingly, from others that are not even Jewish, much less dedicated to Passover.
Breakfast can be especially challenging on Passover, which begins this year at sundown on Wednesday, April 5. With bread and flour forbidden for eight days, you’ve got to get creative. While experts tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, on Passover, with no toast, bagels, or cereal to speak of, pickings can be slim. Not to worry. Michele Streit Heilbrun, the “matzo heiress” (yes, that Streit!), author of “Matzo: 35 Recipes for Passover and All Year Long,” (Clarkson Potter, $14.99), has devised some tempting breakfast options: Matzo Chilaquiles with Homemade Salsa Verde, Blueberry and Cheese Blintzes, L.E.O. Matzo Brei (lox, eggs and onions in a matzo scramble), and the light and luscious Cheesy Lemon Pancakes featured here. But eggs are not just for breakfast anymore. Any of these dishes would make a delicious lunch or even, dare I say, light dinner. Matzo in its various forms easily substitutes for the forbidden bread and flour.
“Most Jews think about matzo only at Passover when it appears on their Seder table,” observed Heibrun, fourth-generation co-owner of Streit’s Matzo, the legendary kosher baker since 1925. “But things are different for me. I’m a Streit, which means matzo has been a vital part of my life every single day. The journey of matzo from the Passover table into everyday food is long overdue. Consider this cookbook a matzo makeover.”
When Heilbrun’s great-grandfather, Aron Streit, a baker in Austria, emigrated to the U.S. in the 1890s, he saw a need to supply matzo to the burgeoning immigrant Jewish population on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. At first, he made it by hand, but as the business grew, he opened a factory, later bringing in his sons Irving and Jack, Heilbrun’s grandfather.
While the focus of our Passover meal preparation centers around the two Seders, the celebratory and symbolic meals in which we retell the story of our ancestors’ flight from slavery in Egypt, we have 22 other meals to consider before the holiday ends. Vegetarian cookbooks are a great resource for the kosher cook on Passover as well as throughout the year. And as a bonus you’ll be eating more healthily as well.
“We shouldn’t have to choose between eating healthy and eating delicious,” says Vasudha Viswanath, author of “The Vegetarian Reset: 75 Low-Carb, Plant-Forward Recipes From Around The World” (The Collective Book Studio, $35). While many of the dishes come from her native India, the book is really a culinary journey around the world. “We can no longer outrun a bad diet, no matter how many spin classes we take,” she writes. “It is now widely recognized that overconsumption of refined or processed carbs leads to frequent blood sugar spikes and subsequent insulin resistance and is deeply linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and several other chronic diseases. Raw salads will not keep your palate happy forever. So how do you make a healthy, vegetarian lifestyle satisfying and delicious, and thereby sustainable?” These recipes provide one delicious answer.
“Due to their focus on vegetables, the recipes in this book tend to be moderately low-carb, and predominantly gluten-free,” making them perfectly adaptable for Passover. Many call for almond flour and cauliflower rice, such as her take on arancini, for example, using what she calls cauliflower risotto. (After Passover try any of the recipes using chickpea flour as well.)
Recently Melissa’s Produce hosted Viswanath on Youtube as she went through the book, recipe by recipe, showing the accompanying mouth-watering color photos (don’t watch it on an empty stomach!) and demonstrated her zucchini bread and Pav Bhaji, a street food that consists of a one-pot, spicy vegetable mash. Describing the Unda Kathi Roll featured here, she explained: “We use an omelet wrap and a cauliflower shawarma that is so flavorful, and raita for moisture.”
Unda Kathi Roll
“This recipe uses an omelet (“unda” means “egg”) to make a high-protein wrap, which is stuffed with the most decadent cauliflower shawarma and raita.”
Yield: 2 servings
Shawarma spice blend
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin.
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon +2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pound small cauliflower florets (1 1/2 inch pieces)
2 to 3 tablespoons water, as needed.
1/4 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
1 baby cucumber or 1/2 large cucumber
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, divided
- Mix shawarma spice blend ingredients in large bowl.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, the ginger, and garlic to spice blend and mix well to make marinade. Add cauliflower, florets and toss until well coated with marinade.
- Heat medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add cauliflower and 2 tablespoons water and mix. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding another tablespoon of water to deglaze pan if needed, until florets are soft and deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Mix raita ingredients and set aside.
- To make each wrap, beat 2 eggs with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat medium nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil and swirl pan to coat sides. Pour eggs into pan, swirl pan to coat bottom fully, and cook, pushing dry edges gently toward center with spatula so liquid egg from center flows to sides, until top is just cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully transfer to plate and repeat for a second omelet.
To assemble, spoon half the raita into the center of each omelet and add cauliflower. Fold sides to make a wrap. Use a 12 x 16-inch sheet of foil to wrap bottom half of each kathi roll to hold it together. Serve hot.
Source: “The Vegetarian Reset” by Vasudha Viswanath
Cheesy Lemon Pancakes
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup cottage cheese (or ricotta)
Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
Confectioners’ sugar, fruit, or maple syrup, for serving (optional)
1. In large bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt. In medium bowl, sift together cake meal, potato starch, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet, using rubber spatula to mix until just combined. Do not overmix or pancakes will be tough.
2. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment or whisk and large bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form until consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Using rubber spatula, gently fold 1/3 of egg whites at a time into batter until well incorporated, taking care not to overfold. Gently fold in cheese – batter should be streaky with visible lumps of cheese curds throughout.
3. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancake, working in batches if needed. Cook pancakes until edges are golden brown and bubbles begin to form on top, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is golden, another 2 minutes. Serve with confectioners sugar, fresh fruit, maple syrup, or your favorite pancake topper.
Source: “Matzo” by Michele Streit Heilbrun
JLIFE FOOD EDITOR JUDY BART KANCIGOR IS THE AUTHOR OF “COOKING JEWISH” (WORKMAN) AND “THE PERFECT PASSOVER COOKBOOK” (AN E-BOOK SHORT FROM WORKMAN), A COLUMNIST AND FEATURE WRITER FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS AND CAN BE FOUND ON THE WEB AT