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Published: Tuesday, 4/8/2003

Innovative dishes fill Passover table

For those observing the eight days of Passover, there will be no flour, bread, or yeast eaten during the Jewish holiday that begins at sundown April 16.

Fermented or leavened foods are not eaten during Passover; the observance commemorates the Jews' exodus to freedom 3,000 years ago that was carried out in such haste that only unleavened dough could be taken into the desert. Instead, matzo products are used.

Matzo is a flat, unleavened bread. Matzo meal may be used in gefilte fish, matzo balls, pancakes, and even baked goods.

Through the centuries, Jews have created all kinds of baked goods from soaked matzo and matzo cake meal. Flourless tortes using ground nuts, matzo cake meal, potato flour, and matzo have become favorites.

“I use little matzo meal. It's used mostly for matzo balls,” says Fagie Benstein, past president of Temple B'nai Israel. “I use more potato starch and matzo cake meal, which is finer than matzo meal.”

For Passover Roasted Chicken with Stuffing, Mrs. Benstein's recipe uses matzo farfel, which she describes as “basically broken up matzo. I use it for stuffing and kugels. It's similar to stuffing cubes.”

You can make a pie crust with matzo meal. But note that it is not a rolled pie crust. The crust is pressed into the dish.

Some innovative flourless desserts don't use matzo cake meal. Chocolate Cream Passover Torte is a light and airy chocolate cake made with finely ground almonds, eggs, and cocoa. Stiffly beaten egg whites are folded into the batter, which is baked in a jelly-roll pan. After baking, the cake is cut into four equal pieces, which are layered with cocoa whipped cream; the cream also frosts the sides and ends of the cake. Toasted sliced almonds decorate the dessert.

For those who debate the nuances of their favorite recipes, each with distinguishing qualities that set it apart from other similar recipes, The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook edited by Joan Schwartz Michel (Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, $29.95) has recipes for matzo balls that are firm or fluffy, plain or filled, made with chicken fat, oil, or marrow. The 250 recipes include home-style and contemporary recipes from generations of Hadassah women. (Hadassah, founded in 1912, is a Jewish women's volunteer organization.)

Among the tips: To convert any recipe for Passover, use two tablespoons matzo cake meal with six tablespoons potato starch for 1/2 cup flour.

“You should use less [matzo cake meal] than if you are making the recipe with regular flour,” advises Mickey Sokobin of Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim. Such products are dry, she says.

Well-known Toledo cook Judy Weinberg notes: “I make everything for Passover that are recipes I wouldn't do any other time. I've never converted [regular recipes]. I use recipes from Passover cookbooks.”

Passover recipes can also be found in You Should Have This Recipe: Traditions From Toledo's Best Kitchens produced by Girlfriend Connection of United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo.



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