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Carole Kotkin

Of all the Jewish holidays in the year, none is as joyous as Passover, or as closely associated with delectable traditional food. Many of these cherished dishes are time consuming to prepare so we are always on the look-out for hassle-free holiday menus.

This year we turned to our readers for some Passover advice. Passover, which celebrates the exodus from Egypt after years of slavery, begins at sundown on March 31 with the Passover Seder (in many homes a Seder is held on the second night as well). This ceremonial feast includes storytelling and prayers read aloud from the Haggadah (the book that tells the Passover story) by family members and guests, and numerous courses of symbolic foods.

When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt to escape persecution, there was no time for the bread to rise, and the resulting flat bread became the first matzoh. Since that time, no leavening or leavened products such as flour, bread, baking powder, baking soda, or yeast can be used during the week of Passover as a symbolic reminder of the Jews' historic passage to freedom. Matzoh replaces bread during Passover, and matzoh meal, matzo cake meal, ground nuts, and potato starch are used instead of flour in all baking and cooking. Jewish laws passed down through time prescribe what foods may be eaten and how foods should be prepared. Packaged foods must be marked "Kosher for Passover". As with any Kosher meal, meat and dairy foods cannot be served together.

To make matters even more challenging for the Passover cook, kosher-for-Passover ingredients vary according to geographic heritage. European Jews do not eat legumes, corn, or rice since these products can ferment, but to Jews of Spanish origin these products are allowed. Before Passover, the whole house is cleaned of any "chametz" (products made with leavening). Devout families use separate sets of dishes, cutlery, and cooking utensils. Since no flour can be used, everything imaginable is made with matzoh: cakes, stuffing, omelets, and fish dumplings (gefilte fish).

A typical Seder menu would begin with gefilte fish (reader Linda Spitzer suggests giving giving canned gefilte fish a homemade taste by simmering the fish juices with fresh carrots, onion, and celery, cooling the liquic and then combining with the fish), followed by matzoh ball soup (Linda Spitzer enhances the flavor of canned chicken broth with fresh carrots, parsley and celery), and roasted chicken stuffed with a matzoh-based stuffing. Roast lamb is frequently the choice of Sephardic Jews. Passover cakes, often flavored with nuts, are light because they don't contain any flour.

Featured Recipes:

> Breast of Veal Stuffed with Matzoh Broccoli Stuffing

> Broccoli Farfel Stuffing

> Grandma Lillie's Easy Knubble Borscht

> Annette's Kugel with Apples

> Spinach Kugel

> Cheese Pancakes

> Passover Strawberry Cake Roll

> Mom's Walnut Macaroons

By Carole Kotkin, co-author of MMMMiami--Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere

You can buy the book from our affiliate, Barnes and Noble, online!

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