The Passover kitchen

Let the fruit and vegetables of this special season inspire fresh springtime dishes. You might keep cooking them past Passover and over the rest of the year.

Grilled vegetables in a red-wine marinade (Illustrative) (photo credit: TNS)
Grilled vegetables in a red-wine marinade (Illustrative)
(photo credit: TNS)
The easiest way to cook for Passover is to fall back on old favorite recipes, and too often, that’s what we do. The family expects traditional dishes.
You’re too worn out getting ready for the holiday to try anything new.
But take a walk through your local outdoor market.
Enjoy the fresh winds and mild sunshine; notice eager shoppers going from stand to stand, choosing the best produce. Piles of juicy tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, firm green zucchini and leafy greens beckon with a promise of a delicious summer to come. Grab a kilo or two of fresh Israeli-grown garlic. Hang it up by its flexible stalks to dry in a shady, ventilated place – our Israeli laundry rooms are ideal for that – and enjoy the pungent flavor in your savory cooking. Let the fruit and vegetables of this special season inspire fresh springtime dishes. You might keep cooking them past Passover and over the rest of the year.
Green herbs give amazing to bland chicken breast meat here.
Makes six servings.
6 skinless chicken breast halves
1 egg
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup matza meal
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup of one or more chopped fresh herbs: parsley, basil, scallions, coriander leaf, rocket
1 cup toasted walnuts
Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220°.
Combine the matza meal, salt and pepper in a medium- large bowl.
Fit the knife blade into your food processor. Grind the walnuts and herbs in it until the nuts are chopped fine. Mix the nuts and herbs with the matza meal and seasonings.
In a separate medium-sized bowl, beat the egg and lemon juice.
Dip each fillet into the egg/lemon mixture, turning it over to coat all sides. Then place it in the nut/ matza meal mix. Press the dry coating on lightly to make it stick.
Place the coated fillets on a rack, over a baking pan. You may wish to line the baking pan with parchment first, as the fillets will release some juice while cooking. Dribble olive oil generously over the fillets.
Bake for 12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Cover the fillets with a sheet of tin foil if it seems that the crust is starting to burn.
Summer barbecues start on Passover vacation. You smell grilled meat and watch smoke billowing from balconies and patios, in parks or on the beach. What to serve on the side? Load marinated vegetables onto skewers and grill them too.
Makes eight servings.
1 large eggplant, sliced thickly
2 zucchini, sliced into thick sticks
3 large tomatoes, sliced thickly
2 large bell peppers of different colors, cut into large chunks
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into thick rounds
16 large button or Portobello mushrooms
Put all the vegetables and the red-wine marinade (recipe below) in a bowl. Refrigerate for four hours, mixing everything gently once. Skewer the vegetables and grill for five to 10 minutes until tender.
Red-Wine Grilling Marinade
¹⁄3 cup dry red wine
¹⁄3 cup olive oil
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
½ cup chopped sage
¼ cup chopped rosemary
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. coarse salt
1 Tbsp. crushed black peppercorns
Combine all the ingredients. The marinade may be stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to three days.
(Adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur)
Passover soup doesn’t have to be all matza balls, all the time. This one is a one-pot meal and perfect for making ahead when you anticipate returning home with a ravenous and impatient family after a long day’s jaunt. Just reheat and serve the soup. Children especially love the chicken dumplings.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
1 kg. chicken wings
2 onions, chopped
1 large celeriac or parsley root, or 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks with their leaves, chopped
3 liters water
3 Tbsp. oil
1 cup mixed chopped dill, coriander leaves and parsley
2 potatoes, chopped into large chunks
2 leeks, trimmed of their green tops salt and pepper
250 gr. ground chicken
1 cup fine matza meal
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A small handful of fresh coriander or parsley leaves, chopped fine 1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup soup
In a large pot, brown the chicken wings in the oil, together with the onions and celeriac (or substitute root vegetable). Add the celery stalks and leaves. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring to brown all sides of the chicken wings.
Add three liters of water and chopped green herbs. Bring to a boil and then cook for an hour, covered, over medium heat. Allow to cool slightly; strain broth into a clean pot. (Keep cooked meat from the chicken wings for some other use, such as chicken salad.)
Add potatoes and leeks, with a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil again and lower heat to medium. Cook 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare dumplings.
Mix all dumpling ingredients well and refrigerate, covered, for a half hour.
Once the soup vegetables are tender, wet your hands and lightly form balls the size of large eggs. Cook dumplings in the soup, covered, for 20 minutes. The dumplings will rise to the top. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper to taste.
My daughter’s Moroccan mother-in-law taught her this colorful fish recipe that sizzles with bold flavors. My daughter passed it on to me; a reversal of the mother-to-daughter tradition, but typical of Israel’s culinary melting pot, where different ethnic streams meet in each other’s kitchens and savor each other’s food. However, I’ve never convinced my Moroccan mehutenet to taste gefilte fish.
On summer Shabbat evenings, we sometimes forgo the usual chicken-based menu and eat this light stew alone, mopping up the juices with plenty of halla. At Passover, matza substitutes for halla, but we always serve a leafy tossed salad with a sharp dressing as a refreshing foil to this rich dish.
Serves four as a main dish, six as an appetizer.
1 kilo fresh white fish fillets. Frozen Nile perch may be used, but should be rinsed, then refreshed in a bath of cool water with the juice of a lemon for one hour before cooking it. If using Nile perch, slice the fillet into pieces “three fingers wide,” as my mehutenet says.
¹⁄3 cup olive oil
2 onions, halved if only medium-sized, quartered if large
8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole.
2 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thickly sliced
4 carrots, quartered vertically
2 large potatoes, thickly sliced
½ tsp. turmeric powder
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 cup water
Slices of 1 lemon
1 entire package of coriander leaves or parsley, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 or 2 small hot red chili peppers. This is for those who relish a truly fiery bite in their food.
Use a wide, shallow pot with a lid. This is important because the pot liquid is less likely to dry out in this quick-cooking recipe when cooked so.
Fry the vegetables, except for the potatoes, until soft in the olive oil. Season with the spices and salt and pepper. A light hand with the salt and pepper is needed here, as you’ll be seasoning the fish later.
Place the potatoes on top of the fried vegetables.
Tuck the hot peppers in, if using. Add the water and bring to a light boil.
Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the potato slices are cooked about three-quarters through.
Place the fillets or Nile perch slices on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the lemon slices on top of the fish. Sprinkle the chopped greens over all.
Cover the pot and set it over a medium flame. Check it after 20 minutes, making sure that the vegetables and fish aren’t drying out. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed. A rich sauce should form at the bottom of the pot. When the fish’s color has changed to white and it flakes away from a fork, and the potatoes are melt-in-the-mouth soft, the dish is ready. It should take about 30 minutes altogether.
When the Seder menu offers several hot, rich dishes, the diners will need something light and refreshing between courses. This not-too-sweet and mildly acidic sorbet will sweep heavy flavors off the palate and prepare family and guests for the next impressive dish.
Makes eight half-cup servings.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cups juice of pink (or white) grapefruit – (2 to 3 fresh grapefruits)
In a medium pot, bring the sugar, water and mint to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the syrup for five minutes.
Take off the heat and cover. Let the syrup infuse 10 minutes.
Juice the grapefruit while the syrup infuses.
Strain the syrup into a large bowl. Strain the grapefruit juice over the bowl with the syrup and mix.
Pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container, preferably a flat one for convenience of serving later. Cover it tightly.
Freeze the mixture an hour or two, until slushy. Beat the slushy mixture, re-cover it, and freeze until solid.
The sorbet can be made up to 48 hours ahead; it loses flavor after that.
Remove the sorbet from the freezer to the refrigerator an hour before you intend to serve it.