Today is the first day of Passover. Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt and is observed for seven or eight days. During that time, Jewish Kosher dietary laws become more challenging, and even those who do not keep Kosher are expected to at least refrain from eating leavened food products such as pasta or bread.
The reason for this is rooted in the story of The Exodus: when Jews escaped Egypt with Moses, they were in such a haste that they did not have enough time to wait for their bread to rise before heading out into the desert. As a result, Matzah or Matzo, a pretty tasteless unleavened bread, is the star of the Passover kitchen.
I personally do not observe Passover, but I can’t resist all the boxes of Matzo that suddenly pop up in my grocery store in the weeks leading up to Pesach. And beyond the basic Matzo Balls, there’s a lot of ways to use Matzo in fun and simple recipes. Here are three of my favorites.
Matzo Crusted Salmon
Ingredients: Two Servings
- 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard (I used old fashioned Maille mustard with grains, but any Dijon would work)
- 1/2 tbsp plain yogurt (mayonnaise would work too but plain yogurt is healthier)
- 2 boneless salmon fillets
- Half a matzo cracker, crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil or canola oil spray. While the oven heats up, whisk together mustard and yogurt.
- Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Brush each fillet with the mustard mixture then sprinkle crumbled Matzo over them, pressing it down to make a crust.
- Transfer salmon to greased baking sheet and bake until just cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Serve with steamed vegetables.
- Just spread some of your favorite tomato sauce (around 3 tbsp) on a matzo. Top with some shredded mozzarella (around 3 tbsp) and graded Parmesan (around 2 tbsp) and bake at 400 degrees F, directly on oven rack until cheese melts, 6 to 7 minutes.
- Once out of the oven, top with the toppings of your choice (try to avoid pepperoni though… and while we’re on that topic, check out Buzzfeed’s hilarious list of Passover food fails such as a fried egg, basil, mushrooms or anchovies.
My personal favorite. It’s pretty much a regular s’more but with Matzo instead of Graham Crackers, and Nutella instead of chocolate.
- Start by breaking the Matzo into squares (that can be tricky).
- Melt the marshmallows in the oven; it’s pretty quick under the broiler.
- Spread the Nutella on a square of Matzo — since the Matzo isn’t sweet like the Graham Cracker, you might want to put a little more chocolate.
- Top with the melted marshmallow and sandwich with another square of Matzo.
DGS Delicatessen Chef Barry Koslow is putting a modern spin on the traditional seder dinner.
Instead of the traditional schmaltz, Koslow adds bone marrow to the matzah ball soup, and an herb-rubbed halibut takes the place of gefilte fish on the spread. Braised lamb, crispy artichokes and an apple, rhubarb and walnut crumble with cardamom ice cream are also on the Passover menu, which is available March 25 through 31 during dinner.
The seder dinner is $40 per person or $60 with wine pairings from beverage director Brian Zipin. DGS is at 1317 Connecticut Avenue NW. For more information, visit the restaurant’s website.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to turn a bland box of matzah into the city’s next biggest dish (or building), listen up. Because the Jewish Food Experience has a contest for you.
DC has a new way to cook, experience and share Jewish food — and it’s just in time for Passover. The Jewish Food Experience, an ongoing culinary project supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s United Jewish Endowment Fund, aims to bring together shared dishes and stories with both traditional and modern Jewish recipes.
The project kicked-off last week at Equinox, where Chef Todd Gray prepared a breakfast spread with recipes from the Jewish Food Experience (think: Matzah Brei with Strawberry Compote and Quinoa Salad with Figs and Mint) and did a live demonstration on how to cure salmon.
And now it’s your turn to demonstrate your skills… with a box of matzah. The Jewish Food Experience’s new contest is asking that Washingtonians get creative in the kitchen.
The cooking-impared don’t need to worry — the contest isn’t just for recipes. The Jewish Food Experience wants participants to send either a favorite recipe using matzah or a photo of some fun, unusual way to use matzah (think buildings, art projects and useful household items). The entry deadline is March 29. For more information and to submit entries, visit their website.
From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.
It’s really hard to take an appetizing photo of a matzah ball.
Maybe that’s because the better a matzah ball tastes, the worse it photographs. Light, fluffy matzah balls are uneven and lumpy-looking. Smooth, spherical ones may look nice, but they have a taste and texture that give matzah balls a bad name.
I didn’t realize I had such strong opinions on the topic, but in writing this post, I learned that my family’s matzah ball technique (circa 1950, Springfield, NJ) contradicts the instructions in many recipes, including from some of New York’s famous delis. Therein lies its strength.
In fact, when I look at other recipes, I feel like I am not even making the same dish. Your matzah ball should never sink. They don’t need oil. They don’t need seltzer. (I don’t think seltzer fizz does anything to make them lighter — it’s basically just adding water.) They don’t need baking powder. (This would count as leavening, and so couldn’t be used at Passover, no?)
Most importantly, they are not difficult and should not be cause for stress, failure or familial kvetching (leave that to the other aspects of Passover).
Matzah Ball Tips
Good matzah balls are actually pretty simple as long as you remember the following:
- Separate your eggs and beat the whites separately. This will get the egg whites really fluffy and create light, airy matzah balls (no seltzer or leavening necessary).
- Don’t smush! Use the lightest touch you can to mix and mold the matzah balls, to preserve as many air bubbles as possible.
- There is no substitute for schmaltz. Yes, that’s rendered chicken fat. If you make your matzah balls with chicken fat rather than oil, they will be far and above any you have ever tasted.
Fortunately getting schmaltz isn’t so hard. If you’re making matzah balls, you’re most likely making chicken stock, too. Just scrape off the fat that rises to the surface of the stock (you’ll see an obvious layer of it after refrigerating the broth overnight — it becomes solid when it’s cold). Ta da. You can also render your own from chicken pieces, but the stock route is easier and, well, more appetizing.
Making Matzah Balls
This recipe makes about 8 matzah balls.
- 4 fresh eggs, carefully separated. Bring them to room temperature ahead of time for fluffier egg whites.
- 1 teaspoon kosher (or other coarse) salt
- Dash of pepper
- 2 teaspoons grated onion (about 1/2 an onion)
- 2 tablespoons chicken fat (schmaltz)
- 3/4 cup matzah meal (you can buy it or make your own by finely grinding matzah in a food processor)
- If you’re making your own matzah meal, finely grind matzah (I used about 4 pieces) in a food processor. I had been buying matzah and matzah meal separately for years — who knew that they are the exact same thing? Measure the meal to make sure you have the right amount (3/4 cup).
- Combine egg yolks, salt, pepper, onion and schmaltz in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Don’t overdo it or the whites will start to look dry and break apart, and they’ll eventually deflate.
- A little bit at a time, alternate adding the matzah meal and the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture. Start by adding some matzah meal. Fold in with a spatula. Add some egg whites. Fold. Repeat until all the ingredients are combined, ending with egg whites. Important: It is important to do this with the least amount of stirring and smushing as you can, so that you keep the fluffiness of the egg whites.
- As you do this, you are going to think, “Wow, this is not working. These are never going to combine.” But eventually they do. You are not going to end up with a homogenous, smooth mixture. That’s good. You just want to make sure you don’t have dry spots of matzah meal or large clouds of egg white left.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Bring your chicken stock to a gentle boil. Use a large pot as the matzah balls need room to expand while they cook.
- Wet your fingers and gently shape a golf-ball sized portion of batter. You do not need to pack it tightly — it will hold together in the broth on its own. You’re not going for perfection here. Remember, photogenic = bad. Just loosely form the ball and wet your fingers again if it starts to stick to your hands.
- Gently drop the ball into the boiling broth, then repeat step seven and eight with the remaining batter. If you’ve done your job right so far, the ball should float. If it sinks, it may be that you have mixed your batter too much and deflated the egg whites. If this happens, don’t despair. They will still taste delicious, even if they are not as fluffy as you would like.
- As they boil, resist the urge to stir or poke them for the first couple of minutes. Poking them too soon will cause them to break apart. Just let them bob around and do their thing until they solidify a bit.
- After two minutes or so, start to gently turn them with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes to keep them moving. Let them boil for about 20 minutes.
- At this point they are ready to serve, or you can store them in the chicken broth and reheat to serve whenever you are ready.
Serve at Passover, or any other time that calls for comfort food. Bask in the glory of a matzah ball well done.
This post first appeared in rookery.