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TODAY
updated 9/28/2005 2:25:49 AM ET 2005-09-28T06:25:49

At sundown tonight, Jewish people will sit down to a seder in honor of the first night of Passover, the eight-day observance celebrating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. As for many holiday meals, most Jewish families have traditions and recipes they follow year after year. But there is no reason, while keeping true to the spirit and rituals of the event, why you can’t mix things up a bit.

To demonstrate, Susie Fishbein, author of "Kosher by Design," visited the “Today” show with some updates on classic Passover dishes. (Passover recipes often involve the use of matzo, an unleavened bread used during the holiday to symbolize the Israelites’ speedy journey from Egypt. They had no time to let bread rise.)

Maverick Matzo Balls
(Yields 18 matzo balls, six of each variety. Matzo balls are traditionally eaten with a chicken broth soup at the start of the seder meal. Use three, one of each variety, per bowl of soup.)

ArtScroll/Shaar Press
Recipe: Spinach Matzo Balls (on this page) Recipe: Turmeric Matzo Balls (on this page)

Recipe: Tomato Matzo Balls (on this page)

Recipe: Poached Chicken in Leek Broth (on this page)

Recipe: Vegetable Puree (on this page)

Recipe: Praline Strips (on this page)

Recipe: Lemon Meringues (on this page)

From “Kosher by Design” by Susie Fishbein. Copyright ©2003 by Susie Fishbein. Excerpted by permission of ArtScroll/Shaar Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Recipe: Spinach Matzo Balls

Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
  • ½ cup matzo ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)
Preparation

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the spinach until pureed. Add 10 tablespoons of the puree into the egg mixture. Whisk to incorporate. Sprinkle in the matzo ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing as little as possible. Don't overwork it. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Meanwhile bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil. 

Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water. Using your hand, and manipulating as little as possible, scoop out a ping pong ball size of the mixture. Form it into a ball with your fingertips, using no real pressure. Turn the water/stock down to a simmer. Drop in the balls. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serving Size

Yields six balls

Recipe: Turmeric Matzo Balls

Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup matzo ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)
Preparation

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil. Add the turmeric into the egg mixture. Whisk to incorporate to an even yellow color. Sprinkle in the matzo ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing as little as possible. Don't overwork it. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil. 

Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water.  Using your hand, and manipulating as little as possible, scoop out a ping pong ball size of the mixture.  Form it into a ball with your fingertips using no real pressure.  Turn the water down to a simmer. Drop the balls into the water.  Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serving Size

Yields six balls

Recipe: Poached Chicken in Leek Broth

Ingredients
  • 4 leeks
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 cup white wine
  • chicken broth or chicken bouillon diluted with water
Preparation

This is a very beautiful and healthy dish. The leek ribbons make each chicken cutlet look like a perfectly wrapped present. Complement the colors of the white chicken and green leeks by serving them atop a one or two tone vegetable puree.

Cut the very bottom off two2 of the leeks. Separate each leek into individual long leaves. Clean the leaves. Using a sharp knife, cut each leaf in half so you have long 1/2-inch ribbon-like strips.

Pour water to depth of 1 inch in a large pot; bring to a boil. Drop the leek ribbons into the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds or until leek is softened; quickly remove from the water.

Lay 2 leek ribbons to form a plus sign. Place a chicken cutlet in the center. Tie each ribbon around the cutlet, knotting in the middle. Use scissors to trim any long pieces. Repeat process for all six cutlets. Place the chicken in a single layer in a large pot or heavy skillet. Slice the other two leeks into 1/2-inch strips. Scatter them over the chicken. Add the bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, lemon juice, parsley sprigs, and wine. Add enough chicken broth to cover the chicken.

Bring the liquid, uncovered, to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and poach for 15 minutes or until chicken has lost its pink color. If the tops of any of the packets are exposed, spoon some of the poaching liquid over them as they cook. Serve with Vegetable Puree (recipe below).

Serving Size

Serves 6

Recipe: Tomato Matzo Balls

Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup matzo ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)
Preparation

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil. Add the tomato paste into the egg mixture.  Whisk fully to incorporate. Sprinkle in the matzo ball mix.   Stir in with a fork, mixing as little as possible.  Don't overwork it. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Meanwhile bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil. 

Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water.  Using your hand, and manipulating as little as possible, scoop out a ping pong ball size of the mixture.  Form it into a ball with your fingertips applying almost no pressure.  Turn the water down to a simmer. Drop the balls into the water.  Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serving Size

Yields six balls

Recipe: Vegetable Puree

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh cauliflower florets, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 2/3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons soy milk
  • 5 teaspoons margarine
  • freshly ground black pepper
Preparation

You will get rave reviews on this healthy low-carb substitute for whipped potatoes. It turns a simple vegetable into a delicious and visually appealing treat. The recipe is written for cauliflower, but can be prepared with carrots as well. Just use 8 peeled and sliced carrots and let simmer longer.

In a large pot, place the cauliflower, garlic, chicken broth, and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to medium heat. Simmer about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is very tender.

Transfer the pot contents to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the soy milk and margarine. Process until smooth. Season with black pepper.

Serving Size

Serves six

Recipe: Praline Strips

Ingredients
  • 3-4 whole matzos
  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans or chopped almonds
Preparation

A friend gave me a great recipe similar to this one for use during the year. The pralines had a graham cracker base. I tried the recipe substituting matzo and was thrilled with the results, as was anyone who stopped by my house that day in December when I was working on this Passover section.  As you can imagine, I had to beg them to taste my Passover desserts, since they are not usually craved out of season. I will say, however, that almost everyone asked for a goody bag to go of this winner!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil. (I like to use a disposable sheet, as the sheet gets very sticky and messy.) Grease the foil with butter or margarine. Lay the matzos in a single layer, breaking as needed to fill the sheet completely. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter or margarine over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar; boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t boil over.

Pour the brown sugar mixture over the matzos, spreading evenly. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Turn the oven off. Remove the pan and sprinkle the chocolate over the matzos. Place it back in the oven for another 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate in an even layer. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans or almonds. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe: Lemon Meringues

Ingredients
  • Meringue ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar, super-fine if possible
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Lemon Cream ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 2 cups water
  • juice of 3 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 (8-ounce) container whipping cream
  • Garnish ingredients
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon margarine
  • 6 hazelnuts or cashews
Preparation

This is a fabulous Passover dessert. The three components: meringues, lemon cream, and chocolate-dipped nuts can all be prepared 2-3 days in advance and assembled right before serving. If not using for Passover, substitute cornstarch for the potato starch, add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to the egg whites when whipping them for the meringues, and try using dairy whipping cream and white chocolate-dipped nuts for dairy meals.

Meringue preparation:
Allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes If you are short on time, place the egg whites in a stainless steel bowl and set it in a bowl of warm water for 2 minutes to bring the whites to room temperature quickly.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to the lowest possible temperature, 140-175 degrees.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with the salt about 5 minutes or until soft peaks form; the tips will curl. Gradually add the sugar, beating on high until stiff peaks form; the tips will stand straight and sugar will be dissolved. Fold in vanilla and almond extracts.

Evenly spread the meringues into 12 circles. Flatten slightly so they have a diameter of about 3- to 4-inch circles. Place the two baking sheets in the oven for 4 hours. When they are done, remove from the parchment; if the bottoms are sticky in the center, return them to the oven for longer. You want them completely dried out but not browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

When completely cool, place in an airtight covered container. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Lemon Cream preparation:
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and potato starch. Whisk in the water, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice.

In a small bowl, stir the egg yolks with a fork. Add a spoonful of the lemon cream to the eggs. Slowly stir the egg mixture into the lemon cream. Continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes. Cover the top of the filling with plastic wrap, making sure it touches the cream or a skin will form. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days in advance.

In a large bowl, with mixer at a high speed, whip the whipping cream. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in 3/4 of the whipped cream into the lemon cream. Reserve rest of whipped cream for dollop on top.

Garnish preparation:
Over a double boiler or in a microwave, melt the chocolate with the margarine. Roll each nut in the chocolate and gently remove with a fork to a sheet of wax paper. Let stand until chocolate is set and shiny (can be put in refrigerator for 5 minutes). Store in an airtight container until ready for use.

Assembly:
Spread half the meringues with lemon cream. Top with remaining meringues. Place a small dollop of whipped cream on the top of each “sandwich” and top with a chocolate dipped hazelnut or cashew. Serve immediately.

Serving Size

Six servings

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