Photo by Jim Norton/age fotostock
Passover commemorates the story of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. Their immediate escape meant they had no time to wait for the bread to rise, and the unleavened bread they were able to bake and take with them constituted the first matzo. From this evolved the tradition of abstaining from food that contains leavening agents (“chametz”) during Passover, which lasts for seven days and celebrates various well-loved dishes. Here are recipes for favorite Passover dishes that can carry over into dinner parties and everyday meals throughout the season.
For breakfast during Passover, start with Classic Matzo Brei by Faye Levy. Softened matzo fried with eggs is a common Passover breakfast dish of Ashkenazi origin. A staple year-round on deli menus, it can be served either sweet, topped with jam or applesauce, or savory, more like an omelette or frittata.
Matzo is the centerpiece of Passover dishes from matzo brei to matzo ball soup, and it’s worth the effort to try making the traditional unleavened bread from scratch.
This recipe for My Matzos by Lauren Groveman makes a version of the traditional unleavened flatbread that’s more flavorful than the store-bought, boxed kind, especially topped with peanut butter, cream cheese, chopped liver or “schmaltz” (rendered chicken or goose fat)
Chopped liver is a classic topping for matzo, its creamy richness an ideal counterpoint to the cracker’s crunch. This recipe for Grandma Dora’s Chopped Liver by Molly O’Neill is extraordinary served atop matzo, getting its creaminess from the rendered chicken fat. White onion and paprika give the dish a savory kick. Also try Chopped Liver the Way My Mother Makes It by Faye Levy.
Matzo Ball Soup like this version by Christopher Idone introduces the age-old question of consistency: sinkers or floaters? Light as a feather, practically disintegrating into the surrounding moat of chicken broth, or substantial and al dente, providing a chewy, solid density? The “kneidlach” in Idone’s recipe call upon schmaltz for flavor, seltzer for buoyancy and beaten eggs for fluffiness.
Latkes are traditionally eaten during Hanukkah, with the cooking oil used to fry the latkes symbolizing the oil of the legendary long-lasting flame in the Hanukkah story. But they’re so crispy and satisfying served as an appetizer, a side dish, or snack, there’s no reason not to eat them year-round. This recipe for Potato Pancakes by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner is made with matzo meal, so this recipe is suitable for Passover as well.
Popularized as an economic way to “stretch” fish by combining it with matzo meal, Gefilte Fish such as this version by Sharon Lebewohl also solves the religious dilemma created by the stipulation that while the boning of fish is forbidden on Shabbat, the Talmud indicates fish should be eaten on Friday nights. Homemade gefilte fish is a far cry from the gelatinous canned supermarket version, flavoring whitefish and carp with onions, celery and carrot.
Brisket is the customary and beloved focus of the Passover Seder in America, and for good reason: Braised slowly until the meat is juicy and fork-tender, brisket is an impressive main course that doesn’t require much preparation work. The meat should be sliced thinly against the grain to deliver the tenderest morsels. Be mindful that this recipe for A Simple Braised Brisket Pot Roast by James Beard calls for butter in the sauce: You’ll need to substitute vegetable oil to avoid combining meat and dairy. Other options are Brisket by Lora Brody and Easy Brisket for Every Holiday by Judy Bart Kancigor. Bubbie’s Passover Muffins by Molly O’Neill make an excellent accompaniment.
The prohibition against leavened food and regular flour in Passover desserts gives cooks the opportunity to rise to the challenge, without the help of yeast or baking soda. Coconut macaroons fit the bill: crispy on the outside but chewy and airy within, their lightness is provided by egg whites. Try these Giant Coconut Clouds by Julie Hasson, or Almond Macaroons by Faye Levy.
Or try this Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake by Sarah Magid: A reliable flourless dark chocolate cake recipe is a staple in every good baker’s repertoire, and another go-to Pesach pleasure. This gooey, dense torte is rich, smooth, and divine served with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Published March 15, 2012