Passover lowdown

By Annabel Cohen

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugars and starches, and nearly all foods contain them. Many of us want to avoid carbs.
But we don’t have to completely steer clear of carbs (we need them for energy), IF we choose the right ones. Complex carbohydrates are often acceptable on low-carb diets. Whole grains, legumes and brown rice (for you Sephardim) and most vegetables are good carbs. What we must pass up are “simple carbs” — white sugar and flour, very sweet fruit, and starchy vegetables such as white potatoes and carrots.
But you CAN eat low-carb during Passover. For gefilte fish, leave out the “fillers” and substitute low-calorie sweetener for sugar. Cut the onions a bit; don’t eat the carrot. Make roast brisket, but leave out sugary ingredients such as ketchup and wine. Even matzah balls can be made with whole-wheat matzah meal.

Sara’s Gefilte Fish

This recipe, from a friend in Bloomfield Hills, has already been adapted to be naturally low-carb.
NOTE: I prepared this without the matzah meal with good results.

  • 1 large white onion (about 8 oz.)
  • 3-1/2 lb. ground fish (from about 4 lb. whole whitefish and 3 lb. pickerel; reserve head and bones)
  • 1/2 c. ice water
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. whole-wheat matzah meal


  • Reserved heads and bones of fish
  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled
  • Water
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

Prepare fish: Peel and cut the onion into small chunks (reserve both ends of the onion). Place the onion pieces in the bowl of a food processor and process the onion until it very finely chopped (almost a paste).
Place the fish in a large bowl. Add the onions and water and mix with an electric mixer until combined. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. white pepper). (To test seasoning, place a small amount of fish on a dish and microwave for 1 minute. Taste for seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.) Mix in the matzah meal. Chill mixture until ready to use.
Prepare the stock: Place the reserved fish heads and bones in a large pot. Season the heads and bones well with salt and pepper. Add the whole onion and reserved onion ends. Cover with water and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low boil and cook for 30 minutes. Strain the stock into a large bowl and discard the head and bones.
Place the stock back into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Bring another pot of water to a boil (to use if needed later).
Using wet hands, form the fish mixture into 12–20 egg-shaped balls (depending on the size you prefer) and drop them into the boiling stock. Add enough boiling water (if needed) to cover the fish. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook for one hour more (shake the pot occasionally so that the balls do not stick to the bottom of the pot). Turn off heat and allow the fish to cool in the stock.
Remove fish to a deep dish and cover with stock (reserve carrots if desired). Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Microwave Mashed Cauliflower

If you’d like to add cheese to this recipe, stir in 1/2 c. of Parmesan cheese (or your favorite cheese), or 1/2 c. softened cream cheese, to the mixture.

  • 2 lb. cauliflower florets (from about 2 cauliflower heads)
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced cauliflower
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle

Place the cauliflower florets in a large microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cook on high for 6 minutes, or more, until the cauliflower is very tender. Place the hot cauliflower in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the mixture into the dish and drizzle with oil. Bake for 30 minutes and keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 8 or more servings.

Whole-Wheat Matzah Balls

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. sparkling water, seltzer or club soda
  • 1 c. whole-wheat matzah meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place eggs in a large bowl and whisk well. Whisk in the oil and water. Add the matzah meal, salt and pepper and stir well (taste the batter for saltiness). Chill (uncovered) for 1 hour. Use wet hands to form the batter into about 16–18 1-inch balls.
Bring a large pot of water with 2 tsp. of salt to a boil (the balls need room to expand, so don’t crowd the matzah balls). Drop the balls into the water. Immediately cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes or until cooked through (limit lifting the lid of the pot for best results). Makes about 8 servings (eat less for low-carb).

Bertha’s Vegetable Soup

We grew up with this soup, served “as is” — chunky — or pureed (with a bit of olive oil).

  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 1-1/2 c. chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 chayote squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1-1/2 c. 1/2-inch zucchini chunks
  • 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • Water to cover, plus 1/2 inch
  • Salt and to taste

Combine all soup ingredients in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for an hour or more, until the vegetables are very soft and the broth is golden. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 8, or more, hearty servings.

Cheesecake with Walnut Crust


  • 1 c. ground walnuts (or walnut meal)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. Splenda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon


  • 1-1/2 lb. (3 packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. Splenda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • Fresh strawberries, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Prepare crust: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well. Press the crust in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Place a large length of foil on a counter and lay the springform pan on it. Lift the sides of the foil to wrap the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside. Pour very hot water into a pan with at least 2-inch sides that’s large enough to accommodate the springform. Place in the oven while you prepare the cheesecake.
Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and Splenda in a large bowl until creamy, Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well until incorporated. Add lemon juice and sour cream and beat well. Pour this mixture into the crust-lined pan.
Place the springform in the pan of hot water and bake for 1 hour. Since not all ovens heat equally, check the doneness of the cake by shaking the pan lightly (it should not “jiggle”); the top should be dry and firm to the touch. If it is not, bake for up to 30 minutes more, checking every 10 minutes for doneness. Remove from oven and cool. Serve cold, with fresh berries on the side. Makes 16 servings.

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