Suzanne Hanein, an experienced Sephardic cook, shared that during Pesach, Sephardim eat rice and green beans, which traditional Ashkenazi Jews eschew.
“This does not include corn, black or navy beans; but we are able to have dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with rice, for example.”
She explains that in step with the Mediterranean diet, a lot of Sephardic dishes are tomato-based. Instead of traditional gefilte fish, they have white fish or salmon cooked in tomato sauce with garlic, onions and fresh parsley. ”Our haroseth is not apple-based, but boiled dates and raisins pureed through a handheld gadget from Egypt. We top it with chopped walnuts. The paste is very sweet.”
Hanein shared this recipe with the AJT:
Pesach Roasted Squash Casserole
4 pounds yellow summer crook neck squash, cut in large chunks
1/2 cup matzah meal
4 eggs or egg whites, or egg substitute)
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
Pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Grease a 9-by-13 Pyrex dish or casserole. Put the squash and onions on a cookie sheet. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix well with your hands. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until soft and a little crispy. Put eggs and matzah meal in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the squash and onion mixture and fold in gently until well incorporated. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Sprinkle with matzah meal and lightly spray with Pam or other spray oil.
Cook for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 F until bubbly and crispy on top.
Terri Hitzig Bogartz, pastry chef and maven of savory dishes, experiments with Jewish comfort food and recipes she has never before prepared. “Passover is a really good time to prepare chopped liver. I also experiment with different apple varieties for haroseth and drop in some sangria.”
Her tips for running a “ship-shape” kitchen: use a scale and convert to grams to get precise measurements and consistent results; dig in and use your hands for forming shapes; and try new flavors like passion fruit and hibiscus. When asked about preparing a seder, Terri joked, “Going to my mother-in-law’s who will do the real work.”
For a sweet dessert, try Bogartz’s recipe for:
Blackberry Curd Tart with Date and Nut Crust
1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup dates
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup blackberry puree
1 stick butter, cut up into cubes
Preheat oven to 325 F.
To make the crust, combine nuts and dates in a food processor and blend until mixture resembles crumbs. Press mixture into 8 mini tart pans or 10-inch tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.
To make the curd, combine the eggs and sugar in a double boiler over medium heat. When combined, add the puree. Add the butter cubes. Stir until thick, about 15 minutes Pour curd into cooled tart shells and garnish with whole blackberries Enjoy!
Devoted home cook Debbie Wexler’s meringue recipe came with a weather caveat: “Sugar absorbs rainy day humidity and could result in something akin to bubble gum and marshmallows. Always prepare meringues in a dry atmosphere.”
Wexler used this spring pre-Passover time to trek to the DeKalb Farmers Market to refresh spices.
“Over time, spices lose their ‘oomph’ and gradually deteriorate. Some spices like nutmeg, cumin, coriander and often black pepper are better in their whole form and grinded at home. Herbs like dill and cilantro are best bought fresh and can be frozen at home and made into paste.” She cautions that frozen they will be flavorful, but not attractive for plating. She advises to always have plenty of fresh ginger and garlic on hand.
Here’s how to make Wexler’s holiday treat, which she says offers a nice alternative to macaroons.
3 large egg whites, room
temperature is best
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, or potato starch
For chocolate chip:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini or regular chocolate chips
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
Preheat oven to 250 F.
Line baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
In bowl of a mixer (whisk attachment if you have one) place egg whites, cream of tartar or lemon juice. Beat on slow speed until foamy, then add the salt.
Slowly speed up the mixer until the eggs have increased in volume and are opaque. Here is where the magic happens. Mix the starch into the sugar, added gradually. Add the sugar mixture with the mixer running gradually, about a tablespoon at a time. Beat until fluffy and shiny and hold a peak when you lift the beater from the bowl.
Gently fold in the extract and nuts or chocolate. If using nuts, save some for sprinkling on top. If using chocolate chips, fold them all in. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites; proceed gently using a silicone or rubber spatula.
Drop the mixture by tablespoons onto the prepared sheet. It helps to use two kitchen spoons, one to scoop and one to ease it off the other spoon. Bake for 30 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 225 F and bake for another 2 hours. The meringues should be pale in color and feel light and dry.
Turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool in the oven with the door propped open. Place on rack and store in airtight containers when completely cool. They will keep for days.