Passover foods. Two words. Oy vey! I start moaning and complaining about Passover weeks before its arrival. Seder foods aside, which I actually enjoy, the intermediary days can be dreadful, as far as dietary restrictions are concerned. Besides refraining from eating gluten, grains, etc., I do not eat meat, and am allergic to eggs. I also try to avoid matzo as much as possible, as it does not do well with my digestive system (does it do well with anyone?). At times it can feel like there is absolutely nothing to eat, or at least nothing I want to eat.
This year I am determined to see Passover as a challenge I can take on, and have fun with in the process. I collected Passover-friendly recipes from some of the best local chefs in Tucson. Fresh, new ideas for Passover cooking is giving me hope that it won’t be such a miserable eight days.
Creating or modifying recipes that are Passover-friendly involve either substituting the ingredients that cannot be eaten during Passover or crafting a recipe that does not rely on a starch. There are five grains that can’t be eaten during Passover; wheat, rye, spelt, oats and barley, unless they have been turned into matzo. Kitniyot, which include rice, millet and legumes are a bit trickier. Jewish people of Ashkenazic descent (e.g. Russian, Polish, German, Czech) do not eat kitniyot during Passover, while Sephardic Jews (e.g. Spain, Morocco, Yemen) do not have this restriction.
The custom of prohibiting kitniyot during Passover originated, arguably, during the 13th century, although discussion on the topic can be found in texts from the Tannaim period, from approximately 10 – 220 C.E. While kitniyot are not mentioned in the Torah as prohibited during Passover, rabbis argued that rice and millet are so close to grains that they could be used to make matzo, and should therefore be avoided. Kitniyot are boiled and prepared similarly to grains, yet another reason that people might get confused. Some Conservative and Reform Jews do eat kitniyot during Passover, depending on which teaching or school of thought they follow.
I put a call out to local chefs, asking them to design recipes that would work during Passover. Their submissions range from traditional side dishes, such as Chef Albert Hall’s Passover noodle kugel, to cold dishes that would be hearty enough for a meal, such as Chef Ken Foy’s chilled cucumber and brie soup. For meat eaters, there’s a garlicky chicken dish.
Chef Kenneth Foy – Dante’s Fire
Chilled Cucumber and Brie Soup
½ white onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup matzo meal
3 cups heavy cream
¼ wheel of brie, skinned and cubed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 tablespoon dill
2 European or hot house cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine onions, celery, garlic, dill and butter and sweat over low heat.
Slowly incorporate flour.
Add vegetable stock and cream, bring to simmer. Add Brie.
Puree mixture using blender or emulsion blender.
Strain and chill.
After mixture is chilled, return to blender and add cucumbers and sour cream.
Season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy your soup!
Chef Jonathen Landeen – Jonathan’s Cork
Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime
3 T. olive oil
¼ C. lightly packed fresh mint leaves
2 T. kosher salt
6 med. garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 T. black pepper
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tsp finely grated zest and ¼ C. juice from 2 limes
1 Tsp. minced habanero chile
1 4 lb. whole chicken
Process all ingredients except chicken in blender until smooth paste forms, 10-20 seconds. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully loosen skin over thighs and breast and remove the excess fat. Rub half of paste beneath skin of chicken. Spread entire exterior surface of chicken with remaining paste. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken. Place in gallon-sized zipper lock bag and refrigerate 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
Place on rotisserie and cook 1-2 hours, depending on heat.
Chef Albert Hall – Acacia
1/2 pound wide kosher for Passover egg noodles
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 pound cottage cheese
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Boil the noodles in salted water for about 4 minutes.
Strain noodles from water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine noodles with remaining ingredients and pour into a greased, approximately 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Bake until custard is set and top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Chef Ryan Clark – Agustin Kitchen
Passover Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
1 1/2 cups walnut halves (5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts until golden brown. Let cool and then chop.
In a large bowl mix together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, chopped walnuts and salt. In a separated bowl beat the egg whites and vanilla until combined. Add the egg white mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until smooth.
Line a sheet pan with parchment and spoon the batter into 6 even mounds. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until the cookies are shiny and lightly cracked. Cool completely before serving.
Marianne Baines – Kingfisher
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE
Makes one 9-inch cake
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces unsalted butter softened
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts, pecans, or almonds
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1-2 cups toasted, finely ground nuts
12 (or more) perfect strawberries, stems on, washed and dried on paper towels
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and paper a 9-inch cake pan. In a double boiler set over simmering water, melt both chocolates with the butter, stirring until smooth. In an electric mixer, whip the eggs and sugar together until a ribbon forms. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture, then vanilla and nuts. Spread in pan and set the pan in a larger baking pan filled with hot water. Bake for 1 ½ hours, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and water bath and let cool on a rack. Transfer to refrigerator and chill several hours or overnight until firm.
Make ganache: Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream to simmering and pour over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Cool until firm enough to spread.
When cake is chilled, remove from pan by heating pan slightly and inverting. Crumb coat the cake and chill for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes. Reheat ganache to pouring consistency and pour over cake, allowing the ganache to flow down the sides without touching it, to give it a perfect glaze. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cake in spirals or lines and draw a toothpick through to make a design. Chill until almost set. Press toasted nuts into side of cake if desired.
Dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate and allow to chill until set. Make little rosettes with thickened ganache all around the cake and place a strawberry on each one.