In Russia in the time of the Czars, the Jews were forbidden to keep their traditions, including Passover. Lo and behold, a new czar came to power and determined it would be good for the Jews to follow the traditions of their ancestors. He allowed them to practice their customs and laws. In a small town in Russia, Moshe came home, happy to announce to his wife that they could once again practice the tradition like the Jews of the past. His wife, Sarah, responded with glee, "That's wonderful Moshe, but couldn't we wait until after Passover?"
Passover -- it's here again! We are all filled with dread and joy at this thought. In the kitchen, try to work in advance, making plenty of lists and a schedule you can live with. Most important, ask God for help!
Many people ask me, "Isn't it difficult to cook for Passover? You can't use so many things." These gourmet Passover recipes will show you that it's just not true. One delight is that I use many fresh ingredients in place of dry or frozen.
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SMOKED WHITEFISH GEFILTE FISH WITH LEMON-HORSERADISH SAUCE
These delicate fish dumplings are steamed and chilled between layers of cabbage leaves to keep them moist. Leftovers can be refrigerated for a couple of days.
3/4 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots
1/4 cup matzo meal
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green onions
4 large eggs
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 lbs. mild white fish fillets (such a sole or flounder), cut into small pieces
2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (about 8 ozs.), carefully boned
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 large cabbage, separated into leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup prepared white horseradish
2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
Butter lettuce leaves
FOR GEFILTE FISH:
Cook carrots in pan of boiling salt water until very tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water in a small bowl. Stir matzo meal into water; let stand 10 minutes. Place carrots in processor. Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and saut? until soft, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Add onion mixture to carrots in processor. Add matzo meal mixture; blend until mixture is pureed and smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and lemon juice in large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mixture from processor; do not clean processor bowl.
Blend fish fillets, smoked fish, salt and pepper in same processor bowl until fish in finely chopped. Add remaining egg and blend to coarse paste. Add fish mixture to matzo meal mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.
Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Using wet hands, shape 1/4 cup fix mixture for each dumpling into egg-shaped oval. Place on prepared sheet. Cover with waxed paper and chill while preparing cabbage and steamer.
Set vegetable steamer rack in large pot. Fill pot with enough water to meet, but not cover, bottom of rack. Line rack with cabbage leaves. Arrange 8 fish dumplings on leaves; cover with additional cabbage. Bring water to boil. Cover pot and steam dumplings until cooked through and firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer upper cabbage leaves to platter. Top with cooked dumplings. Cover with bottom cabbage leaves. Steam remaining dumplings in additional cabbage leaves in 2 more batches. Cover and refrigerate gefilte fish until cold, at least 6 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Push garlic through garlic press into small bowl or mince garlic and place in small bowl. Mix in horseradish and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in mayonnaise. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Cover; chill up to 1 day.
Line plates with lettuce leaves. Arrange 1 or 2 fish dumplings on each. Spoon lemon-horseradish sauce alongside.
Makes about 24 dumplings.
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SALAD OF BITTER GREENS AND ORANGES
Paired with the fresh taste of oranges, slightly bitter greens complement the menu.
3 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsps. minced shallot
2 1/4 tsps. chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsps. grated orange peel
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 5-oz. bags baby greens or 12 cups torn mixed greens (such as arugula, sorrel, watercress, radicchio and endive)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
3 oranges, peeled, halved, cut crosswise into half-circles
Combine lemon juice, shallot, thyme and orange peel in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover, chill. Bring to room temperature and whisk to combine before using.)
Combine greens, green onions, radishes and dill in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Add oranges; toss again and serve.
Makes 8 servings.
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BRISKET WITH DRIED APRICOTS, PRUNES AND AROMATIC SPICES
Begin this at least one day ahead. Make sure to check prunes and apricots for insects where applicable.
2/3 cup quartered dried apricots (about 4 ozs.)
9 large garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 4 1/2- to 5-lb. flat-cut beef brisket
3 tbsps. olive oil
4 cups chopped onions
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-salt beef broth
2/3 cup pitted prunes, quartered
chopped fresh cilantro
Combine 1/3 cup apricots, 3 garlic cloves, salt, cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. pepper in processor. Using on/off turns, chop to coarse puree. Using small sharp knife, make 1/2-inch-deep slits all over brisket. Set aside 1 tbsp. apricot mixture. Press remaining apricot mixture into slits.
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 300° F. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle brisket all over with salt and pepper. Add brisket to pot and saut? until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate, fat side up; spread with reserved 1 tbsp. apricot mixture. Add onions to same pot. Saut? over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add carrots, ginger, cayenne pepper, remaining 6 garlic cloves; saut? 3 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced almost to glaze, stirring up any browned bits, about 5 minutes. Return brisket to pot. Add stock and bring to simmer. Spoon some of the vegetable mixture over brisket.
Cover pot and place in oven. Roast brisket 2 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices. Add prunes and remaining 1/3 cup apricots. Cover; roast until brisket is tender, about 30 minutes longer. Cool brisket uncovered 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled overnight.
Spoon off any solid fat from top of gravy; discard fat. Scrape gravy off brisket into pot. Place brisket on work surface. Slice brisket thinly across grain. Bring gravy in pot to boil over medium-high heat. Boil to thicken slightly, if desired. Season gravy with salt and pepper. Arrange sliced brisket in large ovenproof dish. Spoon gravy over. Cover with foil. (Can be made 2 days ahead; refrigerate.)
Re-warm covered brisket in 350°F oven about 30 minutes (or 40 minutes if chilled). Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Makes 8 servings.
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POTATO-LEEK MATZAH BALLS
A leek adds rich flavor. This side dish is especially good with the brisket and gravy.
1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only; from 4 large)
1 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups matzah meal
1/3 cup olive oil
2/4 tsp. ground black pepper
6 large eggs
1 tbsp. salt
Steam potatoes until very tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to large bowl and mash well.
Combine 2 cups leeks and broth in heavy medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and boil until mixture is reduced to scant 1 1/4 cups, about 7 minutes. Transfer to processor and blend until smooth. Add to mashed potatoes. Add matzo meal, oil and pepper and blend very well. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and salt in medium bowl until thick, about 8 minutes. Fold egg mixture into potato mixture in 3 additions; fold in remaining 2 cups leeks.
Brush 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish generously with olive oil. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Using wet hands, form 1 rounded tbsp. potato mixture into ball; place on sheet of moistened foil. Make about 17 more and drop into water. Cover tightly, reduce heat to medium and boil until matzo balls are cooked through and tender, about 35 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer matzo balls to prepared dish. Refill water in pot if necessary, add more salt and return to boil. Repeat with remaining potato mixture. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly, cover with foil and chill. Steam 10 minutes or bake covered in 350°F oven 25 minutes to re-warm.)
Makes about 36.
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CHICKEN TAGINE WITH SPRING VEGETABLES
1 lemon, halved
6 medium artichokes, stems trimmed to ½ inch
1/2 cup (about) olive oil
1 lb. onions, chopped
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsps. (packed) grated lemon peel
2 tsps. Hungarian sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsps. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
8 tbsps. chopped fresh dill
8 tbsps. chopped fresh mint
4 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, bulbs quartered vertically
5 large carrots (about 1 1/2 lbs.) peeled, cut into 1-inch lengths
Fill large bowl with water; squeeze in juice from lemon. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, break off enough outer leaves to expose pale green leaves. Trim dark green areas off stem and base. Quarter artichoke lengthwise; trim artichoke quarters to 1 1/2 -inch lengths. Scrape out choke; drop quarters into lemon water.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saut? until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add next 7 ingredients and 6 tbsps. each parsley, dill, and mint; saut? 3 minutes longer. Scrape contents of skillet into heavy large pot; reserve skillet.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsps. oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of chicken and saut? until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to pot with onion mixture. Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls if needed. Add broth to skillet; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Transfer broth to pot; add fennel to carrots. Drain artichokes and add to pot.
Bring tagine to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer until chicken and all vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to large bowl. Boil sauce until reduced enough to coat spoon, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return chicken and vegetables to sauce. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)
Re-warm tagine over medium heat. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tbsps. each of parsley, dill and mint.
Makes 8 servings.
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STRAWBERRY COMPOTE WITH BLOOD ORANGE JUICE
6 1/2 cups halved hulled strawberries (about 2 lbs.)
6 tbsps. fresh blood orange juice to orange juice
3 tbsps. sugar
2 tsps. grated blood orange peel or orange peel
Place berries in large bowl. Add orange juice, sugar, and orange peel; mix gently. Let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, tossing occasionally.
Makes 8 servings.
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Unsweetened coconut can be found at natural foods stores.
5 large egg whites
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 cups long-shred unsweetened coconut (about 6 ozs.), lightly toasted
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted, cooled, ground
12 oz. bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 275°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place egg whites in large bowl; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until meringue is very thick (similar to marshmallow creme), about 5 minutes. Fold in coconut, then almonds. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing mounds 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake macaroons until pale beige outside and dry-looking (insides will still be soft), about 25 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks; cool macaroons completely. Transfer macaroons to work surface; re-line pans with clean parchment.
Place chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water. Stir chocolate until smooth; remove from oven water. Dip bottom of 1 macaroon into melted chocolate to depth of 1/4 inch. Place on prepared sheet, chocolate side down. Repeat dipping with remaining macaroons. Chill until chocolate is firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated. Let macaroons stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)
Makes about 5 dozen.
RECIPES FROM: Bon Appetite by Joyce Goldstein.
For more Passover recipes visit our Passover Cooking site!