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When Life Hands You Too Much Matzah ...
I'm ashamed to admit that I often lose track of the leftover matzah products purchased for Passover. After the holiday, they languish in my pantry, getting bypassed by a new season of ingredients. I promise to consume them, but that never happens once the challah and croissants compete for my attention.
As July rolls around, I invariably discover boxes of matzah meal and matzah-ball mix, while rooting around for brown sugar to heighten the barbecue sauce. By then, anything made with matzah will be a hard sell to family and friends, who expect corn on the cob and blueberry pie. With a good measure of Jewish guilt, I have slipped Passover products into the trash -- when no one was looking, of course.
But this year, with the economy still in turmoil, it makes no sense to be so wasteful. Instead of storing matzah products in a cabinet, I have lined them up on a kitchen counter, as a reminder of their great potential. I even perused my extensive repertoire of Passover recipes, attempting to turn these precious foods (both symbolically and financially) into delectable dishes.
I've always maintained certain standards when it comes to Passover fare. I won't serve matzah-laden foods unless they're good enough to eat all year long. Indeed, I embarked on a week of furious cooking, but after tasting dozens of flavors, I couldn't rely on my palate for accuracy.
So I turned to my husband, who has impeccable taste in food and drink. This may be the result of his Italian-Jewish background. David grew up on Mediterranean cuisine, decades before it became trendy.
When he gave the thumbs up to my lasagna -- claiming the matzah layers tasted like whole-wheat pasta -- I was thrilled. I deemed the other recipes a success if David and two other people asked for seconds.
Here is what I learned during a week of cooking with abandon, which has exhausted me and my supply of matzah.
Sprinkle matzah cake meal into meatloaf, meatballs or stuffed peppers, along with onions, garlic and an array of spices.
Don't eat matzah-ball soup exclusively at Passover. It's an evergreen offering on diner menus, so why not enjoy it at home after the holiday? You might still be able to get it on sale (two-fers, anyone?) at supermarkets.
Introduce the element of surprise. Matzah balls have a destiny beyond their traditional clear broth setting. Try them in soups, such as tomato, beef and vegetable, and chicken broth bursting with poultry and produce.
Defrost every slice of Passover cake from your freezer and drizzle melted chocolate over these pastries. Make bark candy from excess matzah. Put this tempting treat on a plate and watch it disappear.
Although these suggestions won't help you consume a glut of Passover products if you overshopped this year (which many did not, due to the economy), next year you might be more judicious. Plan menus for the holiday's eight days. Calculate just how much of each matzah product you'll need. This way, you won't face a surplus. In fact, it's such good advice, I intend to follow it myself.
Beef-and-Vegetable Matzah-Ball Soup
1 large zucchini
1 bunch of carrots
6 celery stalks
1 large onion
6 pieces of flanken, about 33/4 lbs., cut into chunks between the bones, about 18 pieces
1/2 lb. yellow wax beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 beef bouillon cubes
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
3 quarts of water or enough to submerge ingredients
2 beef bouillon cubes
matzah meal or 1 packet of matzah ball mix
Coarsely dice zucchini, turnip, parsnip, carrots, celery and onion. Place all ingredients in a stockpot. Bring to a boil.
Then simmer on a medium flame for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If meat is not soft and falling from bones, simmer a bit longer.
While soup simmers, start to prepare the matzah balls.
Place 2 bouillon cubes in 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Prepare matzah-ball batter according to the recipe on box of matzah meal or matzah-ball mix, or use your own family recipe.
Wet hands with water and form batter into balls about the size of a walnut. Do not overhandle! Drop balls into boiling broth and cook for the time specified in your matzah-ball recipe, about 30 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, lift matzah balls from broth, and place in soup with vegetables and beef.
Serve immediately. This recipe freezes well.
Serves 6 to 8.
Passover Vegetable Lasagna
3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp. butter
2 extra large onions, skinned and sliced thin
kosher salt to taste
4 Tbsps. olive oil, or more, if needed
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 pieces of matzah
3 packages (10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
11/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 mushroom, sliced thin
juice from 1/2 lemon
You will need two 8x8-inch baking pans (2 inches deep), two large skillets, and a 10x15-inch Pyrex pan.
Boil 1 quart of water and dissolve bouillon cubes in water. Cool to room temperature. Coat baking pans with butter.
Separate onion slices into rings and sprinkle with salt. Using 2 large skillets, sauté onion rings in oil, until caramelized, stirring frequently.
Add garlic when rings start to brown.
Transfer equal amounts of onion-garlic mixture to bottoms of prepared baking pans.
Pour cooled bouillon into large Pyrex pan. Briefly submerge 2 pieces of matzah in bouillon bath until softened but not soggy, about 1 minute.
Lay 1 matzah piece over onions in each pan. One piece won't quite cover the allotted space. Submerge another piece of matzah until soft. Break off pieces to fill in the gap between the edge of the matzah and the pan. Onions should be completely covered now.
Squeeze excess liquid from spinach by placing it in a colander and pressing down with the palm of your hand.
Cover first matzah layers evenly with spinach. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese over spinach. Submerge 3 pieces of matzah in bouillon and cover spinach and cheese, using the method above. Reserve bouillon.
In pan used for onions, sauté mushrooms until brown, adding more olive oil, if needed. Spread mushrooms over the second layers of matzah. Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese over each mushroom layer.
Whisk the eggs, adding lemon juice. Pour half of the egg mixture over each lasagna. Pour half of the remaining bouillon over each lasagna.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Let lasagnas absorb liquids for 5 minutes. Bake until lasagnas bubble and brown on top, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately. Recipe freezes well.
Serves 4 main-course portions per pan (8 in all) or 8 side-dish portions per pan (16 in all).
Pollo Al Pomodoro ('Chicken in Tomato Sauce')
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsps. olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomato purée
1/2 tsp. dried crushed basil leaves
2 Tbsps. dry red wine
4 whole chicken legs (legs and hips)
2 Tbsps. olive oil for brushing, plus 5 Tbsps. for frying, or more, if needed
1/2 cup matzah cake meal (not matzah meal)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
To Prepare the Sauce: In a saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil on a medium flame, until transparent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle in salt.
Stir in the tomato purée, basil and wine.
Cover pan, reduce flame to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes, remove from flame and cool.
To Prepare Chicken: Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Brush chicken all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
In a plastic bag, place cake meal and salt. Close and shake until combined. Place one leg at a time in the bag. Close and shake until leg is evenly coated. Move to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 3 legs.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté legs in oil until golden-brown on both sides. Move chicken to a plate.
Carefully pour excess oil and browned meal into a heat-proof container. Cool skillet and wipe out remaining cake-meal crumbs with a paper towel. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in skillet and return chicken legs. Ladle tomato sauce over chicken.
Cover skillet and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.
Matzah Bark Candy
(Pareve or Dairy)
1 lb. semi-sweet or milk chocolate (two 8-oz. packages)
2 pieces of matzah
2 pieces of parchment paper
48 pieces of slivered almonds or about a large handful (optional)
Fill bottom pot of a double boiler with 2 inches of water.
Fit top pot in position and place chocolate inside of it. Cover with the lid. (Or you can use a heat-proof bowl that fits over a pot. Use foil to cover bowl.)
Bring water to a fast simmer and melt chocolate. Remove top of double boiler from hot water. Bring chocolate to room temperature, while still covered.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Break each piece of matzah into four equal strips along perforation lines. Break each strip into 3 rectangles.
Move rectangles to a rimmed baking pan. Place rectangles in a single layer without overlapping. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the matzah is warm but not browning. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Give melted chocolate a stir. Submerge matzah rectangles in chocolate on both sides, letting excess chocolate drip back into pot.
Place rectangles on parchment paper.
While chocolate is still warm, arrange 4 pieces of slivered almonds on each rectangle.
Refrigerate the cookie sheets for 2 hours, or until chocolate is firm.
Move squares to a platter and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Makes 24 pieces.
Linda Morel writes from New York. E-mail her at: [email protected].