There’s a lot of food that gets eaten over the week-long-plus holiday of Passover, and for those who eschew eating hametz – the foods like bread and pasta that are verboten during the spring holiday — or don’t want to eat too much matzah, which offers its own digestive issues, it can be a trying time of year.
“Passover has its own challenges,” said Andreas Marinkovits, the executive chef at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. “I tweak things three days before the seder [an elaborate Passover eve meal], based on what actually ends up in my kitchens.”
The menu for hotel’s two seders, the special meals served on the first and second nights of Passover (Israelis have only one, but visitors from abroad often have two) is fairly traditional, said Marinkovits.
There are gefilte fish balls served with a carrot carpaccio, chopped chicken livers with caramelized apples, and alongside the chicken-matzah ball soup, another option of Jerusalem artichoke soup, topped with deep-fried artichoke peelings.
Marinkovits avoids using matzah as much as possible when planning the menus for the hotel’s 900 seder guests as well as for the meals for the following week. Side dishes for veal, lamb chops and duck will include braised endive, potatoes sliced and brushed with olive oil and herbs (and then shaped into flowers with a little egg yolk) and puréed potatoes.
He also uses ground nuts rather than matzah meal (finely ground matzah) or flour in many dishes, a more expensive option but ultimately healthier and easier on the stomach.
“You don’t really need flour; it’s pretty easily avoided,” he said.
Ground almonds, mixed with just a little matzah flour, are one alternative for schnitzel “breading.” “Kids love it,” he said.
Cookbook author and food personality Gil Hovav also likes to use ground almonds, rather than matzah meal, which, he says, “tastes like sawdust.” He uses ground almonds in quiches and salads; to make the parsley-filled tabbouleh, he subs in a chunky version of crushed almonds for the couscous or bulgur usually used in the salad.
Orly Ziv, whose “Cook in Israel” cookbook includes several kosher-for-Passover recipes, does use a little matzah meal in her almond chocolate chip cookies, but a scant third of a cup, with two cups of slivered almonds that provide much of the body and crunch in the cookie.
“I came up with these cookies because I wanted to offer a fun, kosher for Passover dessert for kids,” said Ziv. “They have a great, crunchy texture and perfectly sweet flavor that makes them great all year round.”
- 100 grams butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup matzah flour
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 2 cups almond slivers
- Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
- Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and flour and mix to combine.
- Gently mix in the chocolate chips and almonds.
- Using a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon, drop 30 or so balls of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
- Transfer to wire racks and cool.
Makes about 30.
For another matzah meal-free treat, the Inbal’s Marinkovits prepares strawberry sabayon, a white wine-based sauce spooned over fresh or macerated strawberries, and coconut pyramid cakes, made from shredded coconut, mixed with a little margarine (or coconut oil) and sugar, and then dipped in raspberry sauce and frozen.
Of course, not everybody avoids matzah. Chef Nir Zook, who will be serving a seder at Cordelia, one of the three restaurants at his Jaffa compound, loves nothing more than matzah brei, the pan fried-matzah-and-egg pancake often served during the holiday.
“I can eat it every day, and I eat it until the matzah is done,” said Zook, who breaks the matzah into very small pieces before soaking them in warm water, and then squeezing out the water and whisking the soft matzah with milk and egg. “At home, we eat it with horseradish and sour cream in the morning, and at night with jam.”
(The Inbal’s Marinkovits, who originally hails from Austria, also eats a savory matzah brei, mixing the wet matzah with sauteed onions and kosher sausage.)
Zook also likes to focus on tradition at Passover, turning his simple, peppery gefilte fish into a communal project — “we bring a big carp, open a bottle of wine, and make a night of it, sitting around making the gefilte fish balls” — and making sure that his haroset, a mixture of ground dates, honey and nuts served at the seder (his is the Middle Eastern version, while those from an Eastern European background generally eat a mixture of apples, walnuts and sweet wine) — uses only the best ingredients.
“People make haroset that really isn’t tasty; they make it taste horrible,” he said. “I love using pecans and pistachios, but you can also use walnuts, and Deglet Noor dates rather than the sweeter, softer Medjool dates, and I mix it all with honey and a few turns of black pepper.”
He’ll be serving both haroset and gefilte fish for the seder at Cordelia, one of his three Jaffa eateries, not counting his Culinary Bazaar at the First Station complex in Jerusalem.
Despite the focus on the traditional, Cordelia is not kosher. Still, bread will not be served, at least at the seder.
Bread will, however, be making an appearance at the Inbal, in bagel form.
Marinkovits created a New York style bagel, complete with a hard crust and fluffy interior that is kosher for Passover.
“The greatest challenge in creating the Passover bagel was to get it to be perfectly fluffy and not too dense on the inside,” said Marinkovits. It’s no surprise to hear that it took a series of experiments to find that boiling the bagel brought out the best results.
But this is one Passover delicacy that won’t be sans matzah meal. Turns out Passover bagels can’t be made without it, he says.