Home March 2013 De-Frazzled Festivities

De-Frazzled Festivities

Did you ever think the day would come when you’d hear the words “Passover” and “easy” in the same sentence?  All that cleaning!  All that fussing!  All that cooking!

Leah Schapira, author of Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking and co-founder of CookKosher.com, an online kosher recipe exchange, has teamed up with Victoria Dwek, managing editor of Whisk, a popular kosher food magazine published weekly by Ami Magazine, to produce Passover Made Easy: Favorite Triple-Tested Recipes (Artscroll, $15.99), the first in a series of “Made Easy” cookbooks to be published throughout 2013 and 2014.

No, Schapira and Dwek won’t help you with your housework, but you will find more than 60 creative, on-trend, doable Passover recipes to take you through not only the Seders, but the weeklong celebration as well, with ease and panache.

Tired of gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup?  (Not that there’s anything wrong with them!)  Try unique starters like Brisket Eggrolls, Antipasti Rolls, Lime-Infused Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts or Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup.  Apple-Jam Chicken Drumettes, Potato-Chip Zucchini Sticks and Matzaroni and Cheese are sure to please the kids (and the young at heart).  For Seder I’m choosing Braised Short Ribs in Homemade Duck Sauce, an easy, hearty dish you can make ahead so you can de-frazzle your preparation and enjoy your guests.  And save room for dessert: Choose from Frozen Lemon Wafer Cake, Pecan Pie with Cookie Crust or Hot Apple Pie with Cinnamon Streusel Ice Cream (non-dairy), to name a few.

First you eat with your eyes.  All the recipes are accompanied by dazzling color photographs with plating and styling tips throughout.

Most appreciated in the book are the wine pairing suggestions.  Passover is our most observed holiday, and even those who never step inside a synagogue celebrate Passover, with every adult drinking four cups of wine at each of the two ceremonial Seders.  No wonder kosher winemakers consider this their busiest season.

Not so long ago, the words “kosher wine” brought to mind that syrupy sweet, almost cough medicine-like concoction served as an accompaniment to prayers, with your choice being between blackberry and grape.  Not anymore.  Observant Jewish baby boomers, hipper and more sophisticated than their parents, have demanded the same selection and quality found in the non-kosher world, and winemakers have taken notice.  Kosher wines have exploded onto the market with award-winning kosher wines being produced all over the world.

The overwhelming majority of kosher wines are kosher for Passover, and a “P” or the words “kosher for Passover” will appear on the label.  But what makes a wine kosher?

Grapes themselves are kosher, but kosher wine contains only certified kosher additives and ingredients, the exclusive use of equipment under rabbinical supervision and its handling by Sabbath-observant Jews from the crushing of the grapes to the sealing of the bottle.  Flash pasteurization renders some kosher wine “mevushal” with no sacrifice in quality or flavor, winemakers claim.  Mevushal wines may then be handled by anyone.  Passover kosher wine must not contain leavening or any other prohibited products or have come in contact with them.

In Israel additional rules apply.  Biblical agricultural law forbids the production of wine until the fourth year after a vine has been planted.  And if a vineyard is located in Biblical territory, the Torah requires that it must lie fallow every seventh year.

Just who is buying kosher wine?  Not just observant Jews, but millions of others who associate the word “kosher” with purity and higher standards.  Wine is so central to the celebration of Jewish festivals that grapes are the only fruit that has its own special blessing.  And now the selection is endless.

“Sipping a glass of wine while enjoying a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal just makes everything taste better,” writes Dwek.  “As a host, I know that my guests really get excited when I bring one of their favorite bottles to the table.”

In pairing kosher wine with food, the same precepts apply as with their non-kosher counterparts.

For the Braised Ribs, Schapira suggests Psagot Merlot from Israel.  Enjoy big reds, she says, with “rich proteins such as braised ribs, hearty beef dishes and anything you’ve thrown on the barbecue.  Bitter veggies like eggplant or arugula, or a meaty fish, like grilled tuna steak, will also work with these reds.”

No matter how elaborate, satisfying and filling the holiday meal, there’s always room for dessert.  No flour for a week?  No problem!  We Jews are a resourceful lot, necessity being the mother of invention and all.  “Light, refreshing, and lemony, [Frozen Lemon Wafer Cake] is the perfect dessert to finish off heavy holiday meals,” notes Schapira.

Braised Short Ribs in Homemade Duck Sauce

You can also use this sauce over flanken, chicken or fish.

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon oil

1 red onion, diced

6 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

Juice of ½ lemon (about 1½ tablespoons)

2 teaspoons potato starch

1 cup orange juice

Salt, to taste

Coarse black pepper, to taste

3 pounds short spare ribs

1 Preheat oven to 300°F.

2 Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until mixture is syrupy.  Add ginger and lemon juice.

3 Dissolve potato starch in orange juice and add to pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until sauce thickens, about 3-4 minutes.

4 Place ribs into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour sauce over ribs.  Cover tightly and bake for 2 hours.  When serving, pour sauce over ribs.

Frozen Lemon
Wafer Cake

You can make more layers simply by cutting each layer in half and stacking them with cream between each to form a four-layer cake.

Yield: 40 bars

12 egg whites

1½ cups sugar

2 tablespoons potato starch

3 cups ground almonds

Lemon Curd Cream

2 whole eggs

8 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

¾ cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons margarine

Nondairy whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

1 Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line 2 jellyroll pans with parchment paper.

2 In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy.  Slowly add in sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.  Add potato starch and ground nuts.  Divide batter between pans and use spatula to spread evenly.  Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes.

3 Prepare lemon curd cream: Combine eggs, yolks, sugar and lemon juice in double boiler.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Mixture may curdle slightly.  Blend mixture using an immersion blender (if using a standard blender, blend and return mixture to pot).  Whisk in margarine.

4 Using a spatula, spread half the cream over one cake.  Carefully place second cake over cream.  Spread remaining cream over second cake.  Freeze until firm.  Slice into squares or bars and serve frozen.  Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

Source: Passover Made Easy by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek

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