Matza to the rescue

Worried about not having enough food? Here are some easy solutions.

Matza 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Matza 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
When the Seder is only hours away, for some cooks the perennial worry sets in: Will there be enough food? Will it be ready on time? Perhaps extra guests are coming at last-minute notice. Maybe there were schedule interruptions, and carefully laid plans to cook the food in advance weren’t realized.
Fortunately, there’s no need to panic. There is an ingredient that comes to our rescue – Passover’s most traditional food, matza. It’s the basis for all sorts of fast, easy-to-prepare side dishes and even sweets. And on the first day of the holiday, matzabased dishes are welcome.
No. 1 on my list of quickly made side dishes is matza kugel. It’s homey and hearty and it tastes good. You can buy Passover noodles at the store but when you make kugel with matza, it tastes, as my mother would say, “more Pesachdik.” Besides, matza kugel is quicker to assemble than any other kind – there are no noodles to cook and no potatoes to grate. You just break up the matzot, moisten them slightly, mix them with beaten eggs, add plenty of flavoring, put the kugel in the oven, and you’ll have a satisfying side dish that will be ready when you need it.
Flavorings can be savory, like sauteed onions, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli or other roasted or cooked vegetables; or they can be sweet, like grated apples or pears or just nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Be sure to add a little oil to the mixture and to drizzle some over the top so the kugel won’t be dry.
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If you’d like a kugel that’s different from the oldfashioned ones, you can make a Moroccan-flavored carrot kugel, as Jayne Cohen does in Jewish Holiday Cooking. She sprinkles the crumbled matzot with dried mint, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cayenne and lemon juice and moistens the mixture with carrot juice heated with garlic. Grated carrots, olive oil and eggs complete the kugel mixture, which bakes to a savory-sweet casserole.
Cohen also makes a chard and mushroom matza kugel flavored with onions sauteed in olive oil, fresh and dried mushrooms, garlic, sauteed chard, thyme and dill.
FOR A substantial yet easy-to-prepare kugel that can help extend the entree, you could add ground meat. Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin, authors of The Second Avenue Deli Cookbook, serve a matza kugel with spicy beef. To make it, they enhance the basic matza-and-egg kugel mixture with sauteed ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato, dried mint, curry powder and chili powder. The recipe for this kugel is below.
Serving a stuffing is another way to stretch a main course, and matza can be the basis for some of the easiest ones. You can bake matza stuffing inside a chicken or alongside a roast. Jeffrey Nathan, author of Adventures in Jewish Cooking, makes farfel dressing part of an elegant Passover entree, serving it to accompany a rack of veal. First he toasts the farfel lightly in a skillet, and then moistens it with stock. The rest of the method is like preparing kugel, but with less egg. To the toasted farfel Nathan adds an egg and flavorings – sauteed onion cooked briefly with diced sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and chopped wild mushrooms.
The mixture is finished with fresh basil and arugula and baked.
If you’re concerned that your dessert may not make enough servings, add another quick matzabased sweet. Chocolate-covered matza is a favorite that’s easy to make at home. A recipe for a delicious version called “matza brickle” appears in the Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook (edited by Joan Schwartz Michel). To make it, you heat butter (or margarine) and brown sugar until bubbling, pour it over a layer of matza on a baking sheet and bake it briefly. Then you top the matza with chocolate chips and return it to the oven for just a minute, to melt the chocolate. Next you spread the chocolate to a smooth layer and sprinkle it with nuts.
Break it in pieces and keep this treat in the freezer.
Even simpler to make are no-bake chocolate-nut farfel cookies, which appear in the same book. To make them, melt 450 gr. (1 pound) semisweet chocolate, stir in 1⁄4 cup sugar, then 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts and 11⁄2 cups toasted matza farfel.
All you do is drop tablespoons of this mixture onto a foil-lined baking sheet and refrigerate the super-easy cookies until they are firm.
If everything is going according to your plan and you don’t need to add to your Seder menu, you’ll find that these dishes might be just what you need for other meals during Passover.
Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.
MATZA KUGEL WITH LEEKS AND CARROTS Make this kugel by breaking up matza or, even to save time, use matza farfel, which comes in little pieces. This delicate kugel is delicious with roast chicken, lamb or veal, or, for a meatless meal, with baked fish or roasted eggplant.
1 large or 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts 11⁄2 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock 5 cups crumbled matza or matza farfel 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin oil Salt and freshly ground pepper Pinch of cayenne pepper 2 large carrots, coarsely grated 2 large eggs, beaten 2 tsp. chopped dill Pinch of paprika (for sprinkling) Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
Split leeks twice lengthwise and dip them repeatedly in a large bowl of water to rinse. Cut leeks in thin slices.
Pour stock over crumbled matza in a large bowl. Let stand to soften while sauteing leeks.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add leeks, salt, pepper and cayenne and saute over medium heat, stirring often, 5 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring often, 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and stir in carrots. Add vegetable mixture to bowl of farfel and let cool. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in eggs and dill.
Lightly oil a 2-liter (2-quart) casserole. Spoon stuffing into casserole. Sprinkle with remaining oil, then with paprika. Bake for 45 minutes or until firm.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
This recipe is from The Second Avenue Deli Cookbook.
Authors Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin write that their kugel is inspired by Indian recipes for meat samosas (turnovers). If you’re not serving the kugel immediately, you can cover it and keep it warm in a low oven.
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons more if needed 1 cup finely chopped onions 1 Tbsp. finely chopped or crushed fresh garlic 450 gr. (1 pound) ground beef 10 matzot 4 eggs, beaten 1 large tomato, chopped into 1-cm (1⁄2-inch) pieces (remove seeds) 1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley 1 tsp. dried mint leaves 2 tsp. curry powder 1⁄8 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne 1 tsp. salt Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and brown onions well. At the last minute, add garlic and brown quickly. With a slotted spoon, remove onions and garlic to a large bowl and set aside.
If pan is dry, add 1 to 2 teaspoons oil. Saute ground meat in the pan, stirring frequently and breaking up lumps with a fork, until meat is fully browned and in loose pieces. Remove to bowl with onions and garlic; Mix thoroughly.
Place matzot in a colander. Run cool water over them to soften, and squeeze out excess liquid. Crumble the matzot and drain. Return drained matzot to a separate large bowl.
Combine eggs with matzot and stir thoroughly. Add meat-onion-garlic mixture, tomato, parsley, mint, curry powder, chili powder and salt; mix well.
Place mixture in a 25-cm (10-inch) square, lightly greased baking pan and bake for 40 minutes, until top is lightly browned and crunchy and inside is firm.
Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings