For me, Passover time is a gourmet adventure. It’s a time to get back to basics. Being a chef, I have learned how to make something from nothing and that is what I pass onto my students at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute.
Before we get to the recipes, here are a few guidelines and tips that will make Passover a more enjoyable experience, without getting stressed and feeling that the holiday is just one big cooking chore with never-ending meals.
First, get organized! Preparing for Passover is exhausting. The cleaning is intense and tiring, the shopping is challenging and expensive, and the cooking is time consuming and difficult. The only way I’ve found to stay on top of the exhaustion is to do a little at a time. If weeks before the holiday, you make a time chart to organize your tasks by day and time, you stand a better chance of having a pleasant Pesah prep experience.
Learn from experience. Keep your Passover shopping list and your Passover menus and recipes every year. You can save them on your computer or printed out in a notebook. Only keep the recipes that worked well!
Keep it simple. The Seder is a big event in itself. There will be a lot of action at the table. Your guests will drink wine and eat from the Seder plate before they even start to eat the meal. Your menu can be traditional and simple. There is no need to overdo it.
Prepare ahead of time. Choose recipes that can be made in advance. It’s best to do as little cooking as possible the day of the Seder. Setting the table, preparing the Seder plate, getting the family dressed and cooking the food that must be made that day will keep you busy enough.
Avoid the rush and shop early. Clean your freezer first and then stock it with meat, poultry and fish. If you need any new cooking utensils or items, buy them early too. This will help spread out Passover expenses and save you shopping time closer to the holiday.
Buy economically. Don’t buy too many processed Passover foods like cookies and cereals. They are very expensive and no one will want to eat them after the holiday. If you run out of these items during the holiday week, you can go back to the store to buy more. And your kids might even surprise you by eating fresh fruit instead of processed snacks.
Start cooking early. Passover cooking takes time. Pesah restrictions mean ingredients, cooking utensils, pots and pans and even the layout of your kitchen will be new. You may have to think twice about where you put that one good Pesah knife. You might have used that big pot for the cauliflower, and now you have nowhere to put your soup. I usually start cooking two or three days before the Seder.
Remember the real goal of Passover. With all the work you’re doing, it is important to stay focused on what is really important. The food is important, but your guests are actually more likely to be affected by your mood. While preparing for the Seder, stay focused on the goal of arriving at the Seder table feeling rested, calm, and happy.
Potato Gnocchi with Garlic Cream Sauce
Add enough water to a saucepan to reach a depth of 1.2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place potato in a metal steaming basket. Place steamer in saucepan (make sure base of steamer doesn’t touch the water). Steam, covered, for 15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a bowl and mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the egg and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add half the potato flour and stir until combined. Add the remaining potato flour, in 2 more batches, until well combined and a firm dough forms. (If dough is too soft, add more potato flour.) Turn onto a lightly (potato) floured surface and knead until smooth. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Divide dough into 4 portions. Roll 1 portion into a 1 inch diameter log about 11 inches long. Use a lightly (potato) floured knife to cut into 1 inch pieces. Repeat with remaining dough. Lightly (potato) flour your hands and roll each piece of dough into a ball. Use your thumb to roll each ball over a (potato) floured fork. Place on a tray.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add one quarter of gnocchi (drop onto base of pan in a single layer) and cook for 3 minutes or until they rise to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to drain and transfer to a bowl. Cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat, in 3 more batches, with the remaining gnocchi.
Garlic Cream Sauce:
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
• Dash salt and pepper
• 1 tablespoon butter
In a small saucepan, saute garlic in a small amount of butter until soft, but not brown, for about a minute. Add the heavy cream, bring to a simmer. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer, reduce and become thicker, for about 10 minutes. Serves four.
Red Tuna with Broccoli and Spring Onions
• 2 lbs red tuna fillet, skinned and cut into 4 pieces
• 1½ cups broccoli, divided into small florets
• 6 scallions, sliced into 2 inch lengths
• 1/2 cup chopped tomato
• 1 tablespoon of paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon of hot paprika
• 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
• Non-stick cooking spray
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 1 teaspoon minced sage
• Salt and pepper to taste
Season tuna pieces with salt, pepper and paprika. Put 1 teaspoon olive oil and nonstick cooking spray in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tuna fillets and sauté on both sides for a total of 6 to 8 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and it flakes with a fork. Remove the tuna from the skillet, set aside and keep warm.
In a pot of boiling water, add the broccoli and boil for 1 minute. Add the scallions and boil 1 more minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a bowl, mix together the broccoli, scallions and chopped tomato. Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil with lemon juice and garnish with lemon slices, garlic and sage. In the skillet where you cooked the tuna, add the vegetables and oil and lemon juice mixture. Heat for 1 minute. To serve, set the tuna on a plate. Top with the vegetables and pour any remaining pan juices on top, serves four.
Eggplant and Beef Rollatini with Tomato Sauce
• 24 plum tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, minced
• 1 tablespoon salt
• Large eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch lengthwise
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 4 lbs ground beef
• 1 large onion, minced and sautéed
• 8 eggs, whole
• 1 tablespoon salt
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a sharp paring knife, score the bottoms of the tomatoes with an x. Blanch the tomatoes for about 10 seconds until the skin begins to fall off. Remove immediately and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
Chop the tomatoes fine. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add tomatoes and season with salt. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook over low heat for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Place eggplant on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with oil and season with salt.
Bake in a 400˚ oven for about 15 minutes, until soft. In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients. Work together using your hands until the meat mixture thickens and the egg is incorporated into it, about 3 minutes. Place some meat filling onto a slice of eggplant and roll over. Place seam side down in a greased baking pan. Pour tomato sauce over rolled eggplant and bake covered in a 350˚ oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serves ten.
Sweet Potato Passover Canelloni
• 3 medium sweet potatoes
• 3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
• 3/4 cup diced apple (skin on)
• 3 tablespoons chopped chives
• 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, half grated and half shaved
• ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
•Freshly ground pepper, to taste
• Vegetable-oil cooking spray
• 1 tablespoon walnut oil
• 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 375˚. Wrap 1 sweet potato in parchment, and then in foil. Pierce several times with a fork. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350˚.
Peel remaining sweet potatoes. Cut potatoes lengthwise into very thin slices until you have 30 slices. Trim each to a 2 by 4-inch rectangle. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half the sweet potato slices, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place slices on a baking sheet to cool slightly. Repeat.
Remove peel from baked sweet potato, and puree flesh in a food processor until smooth. Add cottage cheese, and puree until smooth. Transfer potato-cheese mixture to a large bowl. Stir in apple, chives, grated Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
Coat a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1 heaping tablespoon filling in center of a sweet potato slice, and roll up. Place, seam side down, in dish. Repeat. (Finished product can be refrigerated, covered, overnight; bring to room temperature before baking.)
Brush oil over cannelloni. Bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with walnuts and shaved Parmesan. Serves six.