The Pesach Palate
Photographs by Dan Engongoro
I love Pesach. I should rephrase that. I love coming up with new recipe ideas for Pesach. Everyone has different stringencies on Pesach – there are those who can eat most things from a reliable hechsher that says Kosher for Passover and there are those that minimize buying all processed food (to that there are many versions of what processed foods are allowed and what are not). If you have Kosher for Passover products available to you, then Pesach cooking isn’t much different that all year round. If you ingredient list is quite short, however- cooking becomes a real challenge.
Featured here are recipes that use just basic ingredients. You don’t have to serve potatoes and chicken from the soup at every meal. You don’t have to without your favorites- sometimes it just takes a little bit of creativity. Have fun creating these dishes from scratch- and you might just want to go back to the basics all year round.
French Roast with Caramelized Sugar
With limited ingredients to work with, cooking for Pesach is a challenge. When it comes to meats, my no-fail Pesach secret was to simply cook meat using the best wine I could find. But now I needed a new idea. When my friend Krassie shared this recipe with me, I started dreaming about how delicious it sounded before I even tasted it.
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 to 4 pound French roast
2 large onions, sliced in rounds
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
2 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons cold water
Rinse the French roast and pat dry. Season well with salt, pepper, and paprika. Place the sugar in a sauté or braising pot (pot should also be large enough to fit the meat, covered). Over low heat, cook sugar, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and turns into a caramel color. Add the meat to the pan. Using a fork or tongs, rotate meat, searing all sides twice.
When all surfaces of the meat are browned, lift the roast and place the onions underneath. As the onions cook, the water from the onions will mix with the sugar, creating a sauce. Cover and let cook over medium low heat for 21/2-3 hours. (Make sure the flame is low enough so as not to burn the meat, but high enough so that the sauce is still bubbling slightly.) Remove meat from pan.
In a small bowl, combine the potato starch and water. Add to the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens. Slice meat and serve with caramelized onion sauce.
To freeze and rewarm, slightly undercook the roast. Freeze the meat and sugar-onion sauce separately. Rewarm the sauce, only adding the potato starch and water at this point. Slice the meat and reheat with the sauce.
Roast and a Bottle of Wine
If you don’t use sugar on Pesach (there are some out there who don’t), try my version of this roast, cooked in wine. Season the meat with whatever spices you do use for Pesach. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sear the meat on all sides. Remove meat from pot. Add two diced onions to the sauté pan and cook 10 minutes, or until soft. Return the meat and a full bottle of red dry wine to the pot. Cover and cook 3 hours. To reheat, slice and heat in the sauce.
Yerushalmi Noodle Kugel
When we have a favorite recipe all year long, we can’t help but “passoverize” it…and it's possible yes, even noodle kugel.
9 large eggs
9 tablespoons potato starch
¾ cup water
18-20 crepe leaves
¾ cup oil
1½ cup sugar, divided
5 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease a medium-sized bundt pan with oil or nonstick cooking spray.
To prepare crepe leaves, combine eggs, potato starch, water, and salt using a hand beater or immersion blender. Grease a 10-inch skillet. Heat skillet over high heat. Pour crepe batter into pan, turning pan to coat bottom. Cook for 1 minute or until bottom sets. Flip and cook an additional 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining batter.
Cut crepe leaves into medium thin strips (roll 8 leaves together as a jelly roll and slice). Lay them out on a baking sheet and let dry 6 hours or overnight.
In a large pot, heat the oil with ½ cup sugar. Heat until sugar turns golden brown. Remove from heat.
Add 5 cups warm water. Return to heat and raise to high, bringing liquid to a boil. Add the sliced crepes (the noodles). Add remaining 1 cup of sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Let cool. Add the beaten eggs, incorporating very quickly into the noodles.
Fill bundt pan ¾ of the way full.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Yield: 2 nine-inch round kugels or 1 deep ten-inch kugel in bundt pan.
This is one sauce recipe I double and triple. It works great on chicken, meat, or simply slices of avocado.
2 red onions, diced
2 white onions, diced
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
Add oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Add the orange juice. Continue to cook until the juices reduce by half.
If you don’t want to pull out pots to make a sauce and are looking for something quick, try this savory mango sauce. You still need a food processor, but in my house, the food processor sits out all Pesach long. If you use vegetables with the peel, add a jalepeno to the food processor for a delicious spicy kick.
1 ripe mango, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
4 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons lemon juice
½ tsp salt
Combine the mango, onion, juices, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until well combined.
4 large plums
½ small red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch fresh black pepper
Peel and dice the plums. Set aside
Sauté onion in oil on high for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cook for a minute. Add the diced plums and cook for 2 minutes. Add the orange juice, salt and pepper. Cook on high for 10 minutes or until plums are soft.
Orange Glazed Root Vegetables
If you’re trying to watch your waist, Pesach is the hardest week in the world. This side dish may help you a bit. I’m not big into tricking my kids and I prefer telling them what they are eating. When I made this, my children assumed it was potatoes and sweet potatoes and they ate peacefully and filled up. Only the one with finer taste buds realized something was different.
2 sweet potatoes
1 large turnip
1 medium celery knob
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper
Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Peel all vegetables and cut into evenly sized chunks. In a large bowl, toss vegetables in with the juice, oil, sugar, salt and pepper.
Spread vegetables on lined baking sheet. Bake at for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender.