Passover Don’ts, Dos, Cookbooks, & Dessert Recipes
Each year we have guests with assorted preferences, so I keep our Passover menus simple by emphasizing raw or cooked fresh vegetables and fruit and de-emphasizing stodgy potato and/or egg dishes. Passover customs we keep include using only one type of oil or fat—certified, kosher-for-Passover extra virgin olive oil, which comes from one of the holy seven fruits of Israel. (Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, and dates are the other six).
Some of our Pesach customs, also called “minhagim” (minhag, singular), sound like a list of “don’ts, but it’s a bunch of “don’ts” I’m happy about. We don’t use garlic, we peel all veggies and fruits, even organic ones, and we only use a few, select packaged products (such as potato starch and pure cocoa). Also, we don’t use matzoh meal or eat “gebrokts” (matzoh that’s come in contact with liquid) until the 8th day of the holiday. We don’t use dried fruit, except Passover-certified medjool dates, in the Sephardic tradition. We don’t use black pepper and most other spices.
And, we don’t use sugar. I have in the past because Pesach is, after all, a time of celebration, but the temptation to do tons of Pesach baking, which naturally involved a lot of experimenting, led to us eating way more sweets than we’re used to, and we felt pretty lousy from the extreme diet change. Of course, it took me years to recreate my grandmother’s recipe for nut cake with wine, and when I finally perfected it, that is when I realized—I can’t cope with the sugar.
Passover (and other) Cookbooks
If my non-traditional, health-oriented offerings aren’t to your taste, there are some terrific Passover cookbooks available.
You can find traditional recipes all over the web and there are many cookbooks devoted to Pesach (here are a few): Classic American/International-Jewish style, Heimishe Style, Upper West Side Jewish Style, Politically-Correct Jewish Style, Newbie Chabad Style, Gluten Free (see sidebar on right side of page for Tamar’s book), and so on. Each community has it’s own beloved customs and cherished dishes. If you’re looking for traditional Jewish Passover dishes that hail from Syria, Persia, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Egypt, and other lands, many Jewish cookbooks(of all types) have a Passover section. Many kehillas (communities) and shuls publish cookbooks, and I really enjoy these. You get to see what people are really serving at home.
Also, for serious mavens, the erudite Rabbi Gil Marks’ Encylopedia of Jewish Food contains some information on Pesach food. You can also visit his web site and blog (or buy any of his incredible cookbooks). His Olive Trees and Honey is also wonderful.
Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York, Roden, whose books I love and own, is an authority on the food of the Egyptian Jews (where she is from) and has a real grasp of other Sephardic and Eastern recipes, even those from India, but her Ashkenazic recipes are in some cases, not up to her high standards of authenticity and taste. I like to adapt recipes from her collection of non-Jewish recipes, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, and adapt them to my healthier kitchen.
Joan Nathan’s books are justifiably popular, big on creativity. Years ago, I got this Greek Jewish cookbook by Nicholas Stavroulakis when we went on a tour of Kehilla Kadosha Janina, the famous Greek synagogue on the Lower East Side, which is spiritual home to both Romaniote and Sephardic Greek Jews.
HJC Pesach Dessert Recipes
HJC Banana Crepes (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
(Makes 8 servings)
4 ripe bananas
Juice of one medium orange
8 Passover crepes (recipe, below)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Slice bananas lengthwise. In large skillet, saute bananas (in batches if necessary) over medium heat until they are slightly caramelized on one side, turn and saute until the other side is also slightly caramelized. (The more golden the banana becomes, the sweeter it will be). Add orange juice and cook over high heat, until juice is nearly evaporated. Place one crepe on plate, place banana on crepe, and roll up. Top with chopped walnuts.
Tip: When juicing citrus fruits, peel a thick “ribbon” of peel around the fruit’s equator to avoid getting the coating from the peel (on non-organic fruits, it’s waxed, sprayed), when you slice into the fruit with a knife. Also, citrus fruit is prone to infestation. The brown, bumpy scabs on it, which look like tiny lines, are actually scale insect. Black dots, if they can be scraped off with a fingernail, are also insects.
Variation: Finely grate a one-inch piece of peeled ginger onto a plate, catching the ginger juice, too. Scrape into pan a couple minutes before taking off the heat.
Passover Crepes (Noodles, too)
Versions of this recipe appear frequently in most Passover cookbooks. I don’t even remember where I got it from, but it’s not an original recipe.
(Makes approximately 8 crepes)
3 large eggs
2/3-1 cup water
1/4 cup potato starch
In food processor, blender, or mixing bowl, beat eggs well. Add water and mix well. With motor running (or while whisking by hand) add potato starch and salt, mixing until very smooth. You may make the batter thicker or thinner, depending on what you like.
Pour a about half a teaspoon olive oil (or other fat) into a 9 inch non-stick frying pan (you can use a larger pan if you prefer). With a piece of paper towel, wipe the oil around the pan and heat the pan on medium heat until hot. Using a 4 oz. ladle or measuring cup with lip, quickly pour 4 oz. or less batter into pan and swirl around until bottom of pan is evenly, but lightly, coated. You may pour off any remaining batter. Cook until top side of crepe bubbles and it is easily picked up. Flip, and cook another minute more.
When done, lay on a parchment paper lined plate and continue making crepes. (I usually quadruple this recipe and roll about half the crepes up, slicing into thin noodles. I divide the noodles into plastic baggies and freeze them and then pull them out about half hour before serving them in soup.)
HJC Chocolate-Orange Pudding
If you don’t tell anyone what this rich dessert is made of, they’ll never guess.
2 ripe avocados
2-3 tablespoons pure cocoa powder, to taste
6-8 large, soft medjool dates, pitted, checked for insects, and pureed in food processor until very smooth (you may add a couple drops orange juice to facilitate blending)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, for gloss (you can substitute extra virgin coconut oil, after Pesach)
Freshly squeezed orange juice (juice of one orange, as needed to taste)
Peel and pit avocados and place in food processor with cocoa and about 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Blend until smooth. Add about half of date paste, and process until blended will. Taste for sweetness. If necessary, add more date paste for sweetness and orange juice if the pudding needs to be thinner.
Serve well chilled in dessert dishes. (If you want, you can pipe it into dishes. I don’t bother.)
HJC Post-Seder or Chol Hamoed Breakfast for 2
Technically this isn’t a dessert. But, if you feel unfocused from the late night seders, the four glasses of wine, too much matzoh, and various and sundry Passover miracles, this makes a great breakfast (or lunch). You don’t absolutely have to have a juicer, you can throw everything in the blender if you prefer, just follow the blender version.
1 large, unwaxed, organic cucumber (peeled for Pesach if you prefer)
1 small organic beet, (peeled for Pesach if you prefer)
1 large organic carrot (peeled for Pesach if you prefer)
1 inch cube of ginger, peeled
Juice all ingredients. Serve right away.
1 large, unwaxed, organic cucumber (peeled for Pesach if you prefer)
1 ripe peach, peeled
Juice of one lemon or lime
1/2 cup pure water of coconut water, see tart recipe below
Blend until smooth, adding as much water as necessary. Serve right away or chill slightly. (You may use chilled ingredients to start).
HJC Refreshing Tropical Tart for Passover
6-8 medjool dates, pitted and checked for insects
2 cups blanched, ground almonds
extra virgin olive oil, as needed
In food processor, pulse dates with a dash of olive oil until smooth paste forms. If necessary, you may add a bit of room temperature water. Add almonds, and pulse until mixed. Press into parchment lined, 9 inch pie crust. Crust will be relatively thick. Chill for one hour.
4 medjool dates, pitted and checked for insects
2 young coconuts (they can be bought at Asian markets and many natural foods stores; make sure you purchase them from a place that keeps them refrigerated, otherwise they will rot)
Juice of one lime
2-3 very ripe, large mangos peeled and diced, leaving a few thin slices for top of tart
Open coconuts, and scoop out flesh with back of spoon, reserving liquid to drink another time. (Refrigerate). Yes, you do need to be confident with a knife to do this. Careful! (It’s worth it. It is perhaps one of my favorite drinks and foods).
In clean food processor, puree dates. Add coconut meat and lime, and pulse until well combined and smooth. Add ripe mango, and pulse until well mixed. Mixture does not have to be very smooth, some texture is nice. Fill pie crust with filling and top with a couple slices of mango or lime. Freeze for 30 minutes, and finish chilling in refrigerator for at least two hours. Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, and tightly covered and kept cold.
HJC Citrus Pie or Bars
In truth, if you make a traditional lemon curd with eggs (with or without sugar, sweetening with orange juice/apple juice), you’ll get a silkier filling. But I made this for a guest for a guest who is allergic to eggs and also doesn’t want to eat sugar, and he loved it. You may add up to 1/2 cup sugar if you want. If you do, reduce the amount of apple juice.
Make the crust from the Tropical Tart recipe, above and chill. If you prefer citrus bars, use a square brownie pan instead of a pie plate.
Juice 2 limes, 1 lemon (optional), and 2 juice orange. Add enough freshly squeezed apple juice (use peeled, very sweet apples such as Delicious or Fuji) to make 2 cups liquid. Taste! If too tart, add more apple juice.
Bring to a slow simmer the 2 cups of juice over medium-low heat in non-reactive saucepan (not aluminum). Place over low flame (on flame-tamer if you have one). Mix well 3 1/2 tablespoons of potato starch and 3 1/2 tablespoons of room temperature water in separate non-metallic bowl. Whisk quickly into hot liquid in saucepan until mixed well. Mixture should begin to thicken almost immediately. Do not boil. Remove from heat quickly. Set aside until warm, not hot and then spoon into prepared crust. Chill for at least two hours before cutting and serving.
My Favorite Dessert
Fruit salad. Seriously. You don’t need a recipe. Just make sure you use the best quality, ripest fruit, in season. Peel and cut into bite sized pieces. That’s it.