Modify your favorite cuisine for Passover

By Annabel Cohen
Bring on Passover. It’s next weekend and we are busy not just thinking about the menu, but bubbling up “shissels” of soup and forming ground whitefish and onions into the gefilte fish that starts our meal.
However, some people are already bored by the prospect of serving flavorless brisket, steamed vegetables or another nut cake or flourless concoction they hope will taste, heaven forbid, non-Pesadik.
I, on the other, like the challenge of creating delicious, savory and sweet dishes to accompany my favorite Passover brisket and chicken. But there’s something to be said about traditional foods our families crave and expect for the Passover festive meal.
So along with the tried-and-true, we yearn for complex textures and modern flavors we’ve come to love, whenever possible. There’s no reason most any food cannot be adapted, if needed, to comply with Passover customs.
We’re pretty lucky that we have so many choices. If you’re Sephardic, as I am, your choices are even greater — we eat rice and beans with our Passover meals. In the old days, while some matzo-based dishes were created especially for the holiday, most people prepared the same foods they ate every Shabbat, with just a few Pesadik modifications.
Here we offer some old and some new ideas for Passover, and some inspiration to get you thinking about the possibilities to how you can adapt your favorite cuisine for the holiday. After all, there are eight days of eating, and gefilte fish and potato kugel on a daily basis can get boring very fast.
Chicken with Tomatoes,
Olives and Capers
6 small boneless and skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup matzo meal
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red or Bermuda onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
5 cups diced plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons drained capers
½ cup pitted olives, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
Remove visible fat from chicken breasts and flatten them lightly with a meat mallet to uniform thickness. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in the matzo meal. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté over medium-high heat, turning the pieces often until lightly browned, about 5 minutes (you may need to do this in batches). Add the remaining ingredients except parsley to the skillet (if your skillet is not large enough, place the sautéed breasts in a larger pot and add the remaining ingredients). Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered. Add half the parsley and cook for 5 minutes more or until the sauce has thickened. Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over, alone, or over hot Pesach noodles. Makes 6 servings.
Roast Chicken Pieces with
Ginger Orange Maple Glaze
2 3½-pound chickens, cut into 6 or 8 pieces, breast backbones removed, excess fat trimmed (alternatively, you may purchase individual parts such as breasts, thighs, and drumsticks — figure one breast or thigh or two drumsticks per person)
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
½ cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 cups orange juice
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
Grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Rub chicken pieces with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Arrange the chicken, skin side down, in a large disposable aluminum pan or in one or two large roasting pans (it’s OK to crowd the chicken).
Roast the chicken for 15 minutes (if you have two ovens, put one pan in each oven if using more than one pan; if you have one oven, place pans — if using more than one — on separate shelves and switch positions during the second cooking). Use tongs (not a fork) to turn the chicken over and cook for 15 minutes more. NOTE: You may prepare the chicken up to this point a day ahead and finish cooking the day you plan to serve it.
While the chicken is cooking, make the glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients except salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes.
Remove chicken from the pan and strain pan juices. Add 1 cup of strained juices to the pan and cook for 10 minutes more. Discard remaining juices or keep for another use. Place the chicken back in the pan, skin side up, and drizzle the glaze over. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes more. Makes 12 servings.
Spaghetti Squash Kugel
5-6 pound spaghetti squash
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 large eggs
½ cup potato starch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish or tube pan (Bundt) with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Use a sharp knife to split the squash in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds and strings (If you’d like to cut the squash into 4 pieces, that’s OK, too). Place the halves, cut-side down, in a microwave-safe dish large enough to hold them (you may need to cook the squash in batches if your microwave oven is small). Add ½ cup water to the dish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and microwave on high for seven to 10 minutes.
Remove from oven to check doneness. Using a fork, pull at the squash flesh. It should separate easily into strands if it’s done. If not, return to microwave, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes more and check again. When tender, allow to cool.
Combine sugar, oil, eggs, starch, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and whisk well.
Scrape squash onto a cutting board or bowl. Measure about 8-9 cups of squash and add it to the bowl. I find it’s easiest to toss all this together with your hands to mix (or use a spoon).
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake for 45 minutes (the tube pan will take longer, so bake for 1 hour). If the kugel is set, remove from the oven, otherwise cook until the mixture is set and golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving (allow the Bundt to cool a bit longer). Can be made a day ahead and reheated at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes 15-18 servings.
Scalloped Potatoes
¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine
¼ cup matzo cake meal
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or nondairy “milk”
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
8 cups russet potatoes, unpeeled and sliced
Spray a 9×13-inch or equivalent ceramic or glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or brush with melted butter or margarine (should be attractive because you will serve the potatoes in the baking dish).
Make the sauce: Melt the margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cake meal and stir for one minute. Add the liquid (broth or milk) and bring to a low boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and whisk until the liquid thickens to a pancake batter consistency. Add the parsley and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste (the mixture should be a bit salty to balance the blandness of the potatoes).
Layer the potatoes in the prepared dish, standing the slices up in the baking dish to allow the sauce to penetrate the potatoes. Ladle the sauce over potatoes (use all the sauce).
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake one hour more.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8-12 servings.
ABC Salad (Annabel’s Broccoli Crunch Salad)
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup vinegar, red wine or cider preferred
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups finely chopped broccoli florets and stems (about 2 medium broccoli crowns)
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced carrot
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
¹/₃ cup finely diced red onion
1 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
¼ cup toasted sunflower seed kernels
Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and whisk well.
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, pour the dressing over, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, stirring once or twice. Makes 8-12 side dish servings.
Roasted Dilled Root
Vegetables with Garlic
Sometimes I’ll add 8 ounces of Brussels sprouts (though not a root vegetable), halved, to this dish for color and texture.
2 cups peeled, diagonally sliced carrots (thin ovals or rounds)
2 cups peeled, diagonally sliced parsnips (thin ovals or rounds)
8 ounces fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise in halves
1 medium onion, trimmed, peeled and halved, each half cut into quarters
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
10 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh chopped dill
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
Put all the vegetables (except the dill) in a large bowl. Season well with salt, black pepper and about 3 tablespoons olive oil, and toss them with your hands to coat them evenly.
Arrange the vegetables on the prepared baking sheet and cook until they are beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Test for doneness. They should be tender but not mushy (they will continue to cook as they cool). Toss with the fresh dill and serve warm or at room temperature (drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if desired). Makes 8 servings.

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