Kosher for Passover

    Keeping kosher will be easy this year now that I have discovered Claudia Roden’s brilliant book, The Book of Jewish Food. I have to say that irrespective of religion, culture, or background, this is one of the best books I’ve ever cooked out of. The flavors are outstanding and all of the recipes I have tried have been simple to prepare and quick. I included some of my favorites, which are great for Passover, or just any old day for that matter. In keeping with our theme, we have two different versions of matzo brei for brunch and FINALLY, we have found two gorgeous kosher wines from the Napa Valley that are sure to take your Seder up a notch (sorry Mr. Manishevitz)

    Happy Pesach!


    From Michael Berg

    Passover is understood as the commemoration of the Israelites being led out of Egypt by Moses, after having been slaves under the pharaoh’s rule for hundreds of years. The kabbalists explain that in truth, the story of the Israelites in Egypt is the story of each one of us.

    Egypt represents our negative ego, as the kabbalists call it, the desire to receive for the self alone, that part of us that pushes us to care only about ourselves and to disregard others. The redemption from Egypt, then, is the process of transformation that each one of us is meant to go through throughout our lives so that we can achieve the blessings and fulfillment for which we are destined. We are meant to diminish the power of “Egypt” and selfishness in ourselves and become a person more concerned with others, sharing more, caring more, and through this, awaken a great Light and blessings for ourselves.

    From this we can understand the concept of eating kosher for Passover. During these days we refrain from eating leavened bread, that is, bread that has risen. Leavened bread represents our ego, our need to be known, to rise, to overtake others, all the negative aspects of ego and selfishness. This time of year, then, is an important time of reflection -- what is my “leavened bread;” what is it about myself that I want to refrain from, that I want to remove from my life? Through this reflection we become better, stronger, and more connected to the supernal Light, receiving the blessings and fulfillment for which we are destined.

    Michael Berg is a Kabbalah scholar and author. He is co-Director of The Kabbalah Centre, You can follow Michael on twitter, His latest book is What God Meant.

    Turkey Schnitzel
    (Recipes from Claudia Roden)

    Claudia says:

    “Ask anyone in Israel to name a wholly Israeli dish and the answer will be turkey schnitzel.”

    I left out the flour to make this delicious comfort food kosher for Passover. Kids love this.

    Serves: 4

    • 4 large slices of turkey breast, less than 1 cm (about ½ inch) thick
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 eggs lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water
    • flour
    • matzo meal
    • oil for frying
    • 1 lemon, quartered

    If the turkey slices are not thin enough, flatten them between 2 pieces of greaseproof paper. Put a board on top and hammer it. Season the slices with salt and pepper. Dip in flour, then in the beaten eggs, and finally dredge in the matzo meal. Fry in sizzling medium hot oil, about 1 cm (1/2 inch) deep, for about 4 – 5 minutes on either side, until lightly browned. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with lemon quarters.

    Chicken Soup (2 versions)

    Instead of the usual matzo balls, I cooked up a pair of Claudia’s amazingly simple and delicious versions.

    Minestra Dayenu (Chicken soup with Matzos)

    The matzo emulsifies to make this creamy. Claudia says “It’s the traditional Passover soup in Turin”

    Serves: 6

    • 1.75 litres (3 pints) well-flavoured chicken stock.
    • 3 matzos, cut in small pieces
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Bring the chicken stock to the boil, throw in the matzo pieces, and simmer ½ hour, until the matzo is very soft and bloated. In a soup tureen, beat the egg yolks with the cinnamon and 4 – 5 tablespoons of cold water, then gradually pour in the soup, stirring constantly. (This needs a grating of pepper to bring out the flavors)

    Sorba bi Djaj (Chicken soup with rice)

    Definitely not your Bubbie’s chicken soup with rice, “this thick, creamy, aromatic soup was eaten on cold winter mornings in Baghdad.” The cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and lemon redefine the recipe. Rice is chametz for some Ashkenazi jews, so skip this if you are extra strict.

    Serves: 6

    • 16 chicken wings
    • 3 celery ribs and a bunch of celery leaves, chopped
    • 125 g (4 ½ oz) short grain rice
    • salt
    • 4 cardamom pods
    • juice of ½ - 1 lemon
    • ½ teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Put the chicken wings in a pot with 2.5 litres (4 pints) of water. Bring to the boil and remove the scum. Then put in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 1 ½ hours, or until the rice has softened so much that it gives a creamy texture to the soup. Lift out the chicken wings. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and put the meat back into the soup. Serve hot.

    Mina de Espinaka (Matzo and Spinach Pie)

    Claudia says, “A pie made with spinach, or spinach and cheese, was eaten during the Passover week in the Judeo-Spanish Ottoman world.” This recipe was soooo tasty. By accident I added a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon as well as the nutmeg and I would make the same mistake next time.

    Serves: 8

    • 1 kg (2lb) spinach
    • 5 eggs
    • 250 g (9oz) feta or cottage cheese
    • salt and pepper
    • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    • 8 matzo squares
    • 500 ml (18fl oz) milk, warmed

    Make the filling first: wash the spinach and remove any hard stems. Drain and squeeze the excess water out, then put the spinach in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Steam for a minute or two, until the leaves collapse into a soft mass. (You might need to do this in batches.) Mix the spinach, including the green juice, with 3 eggs (beaten) and the cottage cheese. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

    For the crust: dip 4 – 5 matzo squares in the milk until only just softened and fit 2 layers on the bottom and sides of a 30 cm (12 inch) shallow oiled baking dish. Cover with the spinach filling. Soak the remaining matzo sheets in milk and arrange in 2 layers on top. Beat the remaining eggs with what is left of the milk and pour all over the pie. Bake in a preheated 350 ˚ F/ 180 ˚ C/ gas 4 oven for about 45 minutes.

    Saluna (Iraqi Sweet and Sour Fish)

    This is crazy good and very fast and easy.

    • 1 large onion, sliced
    • light vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
    • 1 small pointed (semi-hot or mild) green pepper, slices
    • 2 large beef tomatoes, peeled, cut in half, then in slices
    • salt and pepper
    • juice of 2 lemons – about 125 ml (4fl oz)
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
    • 4 cod fillets weighing about 1 kg (2lb)

    1.Fry the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil with the green pepper till soft and transparent, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I continued to gently sauté the tomatoes for the next two steps as I like them well cooked.)

    2.Make a sweet and sour syrup by simmering the lemon juice with the sugar, a little salt and the tomato paste until the sugar dissolves.

    3.In another frying pan, briefly shallow-fry the fish in hot oil, turning the fillets over so they are lightly colored but still undercooked. Then transfer them to the frying pan with the onions and tomatoes. Pour the syrup over the fish and vegetables and cook 10 minutes or until the fish is done. (I cooked on medium heat, making sure that all the liquid didn’t evaporate and burn the fish)

    Born and raised in Cairo, Claudia Roden now lives in London. She won the James Beard Award for “The Book of Jewish Food” and is also the author of “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food,” and most recently, “Arabesque.”

    Uncle Morty’s Gourmet Matzos Brie
    (Recipes from Steven Spielberg)

    First crumble but don’t emulsify a box of unsalted matzos (Streit’s Matzos—in business since 1925). Marinate the matzo until soft in whole milk. Draw the milk—it can be reused but not in breakfast cereal because the kids hate that. In a separate bowl, scramble 5 eggs. Meanwhile, sauté a yellow onion, finely chopped, in a little oil or butter if you aren’t of a mind to have your matzos brie with jelly. Add the cooked onions to the eggs. Add the eggs and onions to the soft matzos. Toss these ingredients about and pour into a frying pan with a generous amount of butter. Turn often until golden brown. You want the matzo to still be moist when served so don’t overfry! Add salt (or better yet, truffle salt if you’re feeling decadent) and pepper. Serve it up hot.

    From Joan Nathan

    The first time I met a real McCoy matzo brei maven, I was in the Bronx at my Polish mother in law’s. She took a matzo square and carefully set it into cold water. Then she dabbed it dry, scrambled some eggs over and under it, heated up some margarine or chicken fat in a frying pan, and carefully placed the matzo on top of the sizzling fat. Gently cooking it until golden on both sides, she served it to us. For my husband Allan, this is matzo brei.

    Yiddish for “fried matzo”, this is one of those holiday recipes that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion- just gastronomy. An eagerly anticipated Passover treat, it is also served year round for breakfast or brunch in the United States. In Europe, it’s a common Passover dinner.

    Despite the simplicity of the dish, matzo brei has as many variations as there were shtetls in Eastern Europe. Though one thing is certain- it cannot be made with milk (unless, of course, you’re Steven Spielberg). With milk, it is like pastrami on white bread or chicken livers with mayonnaise. How could Eastern European Jews, with only goose fat available for frying, include milk in matzo brei?

    Perhaps the American fascination with matzo brei began in the Jewish hotels in the Catskills, or it may just be the ease of preparation at home. After all, it consists of soaking matzo in water, squeezing gently, and then frying in grease with an egg. The dish can be molded to a savory or sweet palate, depending on how it is served, and it can also be made soft or crispy. For savory breis, mushrooms, Swiss chard, spinach or whatever is available in your supermarket or farmers’ market will do. Sweet toppings include honey, cinnamon-sugar, and even — by some iconoclasts — catsup!

    One Passover I held a matzo cook-off when the late Sheila Lukins was visiting. I honestly can’t remember who won, but her secret ingredient, caramelized onion, proved that the wonderful variations of matzo brei are truly endless, and every household claims that its version is the best. The following is my most basic version of this Passover classic, one that I am told the famous Emanuel brothers – Rahm, Zeke, and Ari make. Be creative and put your own imprint on this age-old recipe.

    Matzo Brei, adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

    Serves: 2-3

    • 3 matzo squares
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 2 tablespoons chicken fat, oil, or butter for frying
    • cinnamon-sugar, honey, maple syrup, or catsup

    1.Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and pour into a bowl. Break the matzos and soak in the water for about 5 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze dry. Return the matzos to the empty bowl.

    2.Stir the eggs and salt and pepper with the matzos.

    3.Heat the chicken fat, oil or butter in a frying pan. Then, take tablespoonfuls of batter at a time, gently frying, patting the center down a bit. You can make several small pancakes or one large pancake. When golden brown on one side, turn gently with two spatulas and fry on the other. Serve as is or topped with cinnamon-sugar, honey, maple syrup, or even catsup!

    Joan Nathan is the author of numerous cookbooks, including “Jewish Cooking in America” (Knopf, 1994), “Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Schocken, 2004) and “The New American Cooking” (Knopf, 2005). She has won two James Beard awards and a Julia Child Award, among other honors, and is the executive producer and host of the PBS series “Cooking in America With Joan Nathan.” She is currently working on her upcoming book, ‘Quiche, Kugel and Couscous: In Search of Jewish Cooking in France’ due out in the fall of 2010 (Knopf). You can find out more about her appearances and articles at

    From Jeff Morgan

    On Covenant, Kosher Wine

    I wish I could tell you that Covenant wine was born from some highly spiritual quest. But it really started with a dare. Back in 2002 my friend and now partner in Covenant wines, Leslie Rudd, told me he didn’t really think we could make a great wine that was kosher. We were both making non-kosher wine in the Napa Valley. But as non-practicing Jews, we didn’t have much faith in those syrupy sweet, weird Concord grape wines we’d grown up drinking at Passover.

    Prior to becoming a winemaker, I had been a wine writer, most notably for Wine Spectator. I’d learned over the years that there is no “kosher winemaking” method. In fact, all wine starts off kosher. But to keep it kosher, it can only be handled by Sabbath-observant Jews. Leslie and I found grapes in an old Napa vineyard originally planted in 1889. We were then able to convince one of only three kosher wineries in California to lend us their cellar crew to help with our project. We used the same time-honored winemaking methods that our non-kosher friends and colleagues—many of whom make some of the most famous wines in California and Europe—employ for their own wines. The right grapes paired with the right winemaking techniques yielded some excellent results.

    I’ve been generously welcomed into the fold by a Jewish community I would never have known had I not become a kosher winemaker. This powerful bond that I now feel with Jewish history has given me a greater sense of belonging.

    As we drink the four cups of wine at Passover this year, I’ll be pouring Covenant. The wine has been a gift to me. And it’s a gift that I am happy to share. And if anyone reading this is planning a trip to the Napa Valley, come visit us for a taste of Covenant too!

    Jeff Morgan

    Jeff Morgan is the winemaker and co-owner of Covenant wines. He lives with his wife and two daughters in the Napa Valley.

    The goop collection