Four Recipes for Passover
Food in Religious Life: The Passover Meal
Passover begins April 22
Those of you who know me might be wondering why I chose to share recipes for the Jewish Spring festival of Passover, when, in fact, I’m not Jewish. If you’re like me, you have friends who are of the Jewish faith, but the Passover holiday is a bit of a mystery to you. You wonder what the traditions mean. What do the foods symbolize? What is a Seder meal?
Passover signifies birth and rebirth, and commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. It begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which this year falls on April 22nd. It lasts for seven days, with the ritual Seder dinner served at dusk on the first night.
The book of Exodus tells the story of how God helped the Israelites escape slavery by inflicting ten plagues on the Egyptians, one of which was the death of the Egyptian first-born. The Israelites were to mark the doors of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb, and the first-born were thereby passed over in that home. This is how the holiday got its name. The story of Passover also tells us that when the Israelites were freed, they left in such a hurry they could not wait for the bread dough to rise, or leaven. And so the tradition of eating unleavened bread during Passover began. Matzoh is the traditional unleavened bread, and Passover is often called The Feast of the Unleavened Bread.
This month I’m sharing four recipes for Passover given to me by two dear Jewish friends. These recipes are ones that I hope everyone will enjoy regardless of religious orientation. I made Matzoh Balls for the first time, and just loved them. So light and fluffy, simple and satisfying. This recipe uses plain chicken stock and carrots for the soup, but feel free to use your own chicken soup recipe and add the matzoh balls to it. The Strawberry Fluff reminds me of desserts my Mom made us growing up. The Matzoh Balls and Strawberry Fluff recipes come courtesy of the Beth-El Women of Reform Judaism.
Tzimmes (Yiddish slang for “a big fuss”) is a traditional Passover stew, made with carrots, dried fruits and sweet potatoes simmered slowly, and sometimes made with beef short ribs, as I did here. This hearty stew is sweet and earthy and pairs nicely with the cool Asparagus Ribbons, which are served uncooked.
If you’re of the Jewish faith and celebrating Passover, I hope you’ll add these new recipes to your holiday celebration. If you’re not Jewish, you can make them anytime to expand your experience with foods from other cultures and religions.
Matzoh Balls (recipe courtesy Beth-El Women of Reform Judaism)
Yields approximately 64 matzoh balls (halve this recipe for smaller groups)
16 T oil
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp pepper
1 T salt
2 T soup stock base or bouillon powder
8 oz sparkling water
4 cups matzoh meal
4 quarts chicken stock
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
Beat the eggs and oil in a large bowl until well-mixed. Add the spices and soup stock/bouillon powder, mix well. Add matzoh, mix well. Add soda water, gently stir. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. (You can use chicken stock instead of water if preferred)
Remove the matzoh from the refrigerator. Using even scoops and a bowl of water, wet your hands and gently roll scoops of the dough into 1 inch balls and set aside. (The more you handle the dough, the tougher the matzoh balls will be.)
Place as many balls as will fit comfortably in your pot without being too crowded. This may take several batches. Boil for 30-40 minutes until they’re fluffy and the inside is fully cooked. You may need to cut into one to check.
Cook the sliced carrots in the chicken stock for 15 minutes. Add the matzoh balls and serve.
[According to a friend, “there is no shame in using a matzoh ball mix. Manishevitz is a good brand.”]
Tzimmes – (Yiddish slang for “a big fuss”) – Recipe from The Passover Table by Susan Friedland
Freshly ground black pepper
6 lbs. lean, meaty flanken (beef short ribs)
4 cups chopped onion
4 cups boiling water
11 oz. dried apricots
1 lb. pitted prunes
3 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Film the bottom of a large, heavy pot with vegetable oil. Salt and pepper the meat and brown each side in the oil, cooking in batches to avoid crowding the pot and steaming the meat. Remove the meat to a plate as each piece is browned.
In the same fat, saute the onions until soft. Replace the meat, cover the pot, and cook for about 1 hour over very low heat.
Pour the boiling water over the apricots and let soak for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
After the meat has cooked for an hour, add the prunes and apricots with their soaking liquid to the pot, along with the carrots, sweet potatoes, lemon juice and lemon peel, ginger and cinnamon. Replace the cover so the top browns. The Tzimmes can be served immediately or reheated. It improves as it stands, and will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week, and frozen for several months.
1/2 lb. asparagus (choose the fattest stalks for this recipe)
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds
2 Tbsp. fresh basil chiffonade (to chiffonade: stack basil leaves on top of one another. Roll into a tight cigar shape, cut into thin strips with kitchen shears and fluff strips apart)
Snap off the bottom ends off the asparagus by holding the stalk between your thumbs and forefingers. The tough stalk ends will automatically snap off exactly where they’re supposed to. Laying each stalk on a cutting board, and using a vegetable peeler, slice the stalks lengthwise into very thin strips while the stalk is laying on the cutting board. This makes it easier to get nice thin strips.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus ribbons and gently toss until evenly coated. Add the almonds and basil and gently toss to combine.
(This recipe was adapted from www.thekitchn.com)
>Video – Watch Nancy make Asparagus Ribbons at Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Strawberry Fluff (Recipe courtesy Beth-El Women of Reform Judaism)
2 egg whites (or pasteurized equivalent)
1 cups sugar
2cups frozen thawed strawberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
This one is so simple. Place all ingredients in the mixer. Mix on medium low for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.
Pour into a 9×14 glass cake pan and freeze. Slice frozen and serve.
Nancy Farrar is the Chef Impersonator. Reach her at ChefImpersonator@gmail.com or visit www.ChefImpersonator.com. View her food photography at www.FarrarFoodPhotography.com