Dishes to save your Seder

Caroline Ogulnick, Staff Writer

For the Jewish holiday Passover, which falls on April 3, special dietary restrictions are observed. To commemorate the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate when they left Egypt, chametz, or any food or drink that contains traces of wheat, cannot be consumed.

Most bread, cake, cereal, pasta, alcoholic beverages and other processed foods can be considered chametz, can leave participants with slim pickings throughout the celebration. Matzah, or flat, unleavened bread, can be eaten as a replacement for the grains, making it one of the most essential foods during the holiday.

The highlight of Passover is the Seder that is held on the first two nights of the eight-day festival. Many families join together during the Seder to celebrate the history of the Jewish people and enjoy the special foods that are eaten. Though there are dietary restrictions, there are countless recipes that abide by the rules, many of which include the use of matzah.

One of the classic ways to begin a Seder is with a large bowl of matzo ball soup. Matzo ball soup is one of the most traditional recipes to make with matzah, and is a simple dish made with a chicken and vegetable stock base. Popular meats to eat during the Seder include chicken and beef — particularly brisket, which is slowly cooked, thinly sliced and often served with potatoes and roasted vegetables.

Matzah can be used in many creative ways to help you stick to the dietary restrictions.  Matzah pizza is an easy go-to snack, as it only includes three ingredients. Top a piece of matzah with tomato sauce and cheese, and bake it the oven until the cheese becomes perfectly melted. Another way to snack with matzah is by pairing it with butter or cream cheese. Ditching bagels for eight days will not be a problem since you can top matzah with cream cheese spread and slices of lox.

Kugel, which is similar to pudding or casserole, is also a popular Passover food. Whether you are enjoying it as a snack or dessert, a baked apple-matzah kugel is an enjoyable dish with sweet and cinnamon flavors. Matzah granola is another easy option, and this quick treat can be combined with an array of nuts and dried fruit of your choice.

Enjoying dessert during Passover can be tricky, as leavening agents such as flour have to be omitted. One common way around this is to make flourless chocolate cake, which provides a delicious dense, chocolate flavor that won’t leave you missing regular cakes or cookies. Incorporating matzah into dessert with a caramel matzah crunch is a simple confection that you will want to enjoy even outside of the holiday.

Though the Jewish holiday has dietary restrictions, many Passover recipes, especially those that include matzah, provide you with delectable dishes that don’t make it seem like you are missing out.

Caramel Matzah Crunch Recipe

Ingredients:

4-6 unsalted matzahs

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.

2.  Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzahs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces. In a saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about two to four minutes). Boil for three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzah,
covering completely.

3.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325 degrees, and replace the pan).

4.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chocolate. Let stand for five minutes, and then spread the melted chocolate over the matzah. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Mar. 24th print edition. Email Caroline at [email protected]