By Elke Probkevitz
In the weeks before Passover, grocery stores begin to display kosher-for-Passover products. The shelves are filled with boxes of processed foods with unusual ingredients that people might not usually think of feeding to their families. And yet during Passover we become a little desperate for a snack food to tide the kids over or to find the right ingredient for a recipe.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s shift our focus to a more natural way of eating just for those eight days–a way of eating we probably should take on all year long, eliminating processed foods and sticking with all-natural ingredients. Our bodies will thank us for it.
- A large pot of hearty soup is always good, especially on Seder night when everyone is anticipating that first course. You can’t go wrong with matzah-ball soup. So many different fish dishes can be made on Passover, from gefilte to salmon to sea bass. Serve alongside a salad or green beans.
- Who wouldn’t be satisfied with a delicious veal shoulder or lamb roast, a fall-apart braised pot roast, or whole stuffed chicken? There are so many ways to cook your proteins; just beware of bottled products full of strange, unhealthy ingredients. Use fresh or dried herbs, wine, citrus, and vinegars, and you’ll find these dishes will taste as amazing as ever. Make sauces out of fresh herbs and garlic like a gremolata or chimichurri, or reduce balsamic vinegar to make a balsamic reduction to liven up your fish and meats and give them a flavor explosion.
- The salad is the easiest course, since almost any salad you use all year can be made during Passover. Make simple dressings and use fresh produce that is available at the market to liven up your meal and lighten up your main course. Add cooked vegetables as well to add more weight to the salad to serve as a side dish.
- Other than grains, there is a huge range of possibilities with vegetable sides on Passover. Mashed potatoes with add-ins like fried shallots or sautÃ©ed spinach with garlic. Kugels made with a blend of veggies like potato, zucchini, and carrot, or cauliflower and leek with an almond-herb crust. Roasted spring vegetables with a shallot vinaigrette or chimichurri sauce drizzled over. Couscous made of chopped and sautÃ©ed cauliflower is a great grain substitute; it could even fool your kids.
- PurÃ©e fresh fruit or melon like watermelon with mint or cantaloupe and basil, then freeze in a shallow glass dish. Scrape up after about an hour and serve in martini glasses to make a refreshing granita. Homemade coconut macaroons are a classic Passover dessert with the fewest processed ingredients you can get away with–just the sugar. Combine unsweetened coconut flakes with egg whites, vanilla, and sugar for these delicious Passover treats. You can also melt dark chocolate and spread over matzah, then sprinkle chopped nuts to make matzah-brittle for an easy dessert option. v
Lamb Shoulder Roast With Smashed Vegetables
4Â½ lb. bone-in lamb shoulder
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 head garlic, broken into cloves (unpeeled)
6 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for rubbing lamb
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1Â½ lb. potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into small chunks
Â½ large rutabaga, peeled, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. potato starch
2 cups chicken stock
2 heaping Tbsp. capers, drained and chopped
1 large bunch fresh mint
2 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
Heat oven to 450Â°F. Cut slits all over lamb roast with a sharp knife. Lay half of the rosemary sprigs and half the garlic cloves on the bottom of a roasting pan. Rub the lamb all over with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in pan on top of rosemary and garlic, and place the rest of the rosemary and garlic on top of lamb. Cover the tray tightly with foil and place in the oven. Turn oven down to 325Â° and cook for 4 hours, until meat can pull apart easily with a fork. To brown more, uncover and turn up heat again to achieve a nice brown crust.
When lamb is almost cooked, put potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga into a large pot of boiling salted water for 20 minutes until cooked through. Drain, keeping some of the cooking liquid to add for consistency, and allow to steam dry, then smash with a fork, adding a little olive oil at a time and some of the cooking liquid until you get the desired consistency.
Remove lamb from the oven and place on a cutting board; cover with foil and a kitchen towel to rest. Pour most of the fat from the roast pan, discarding the rosemary. Put roasting pan on stovetop over medium heat and add in potato starch to thicken. Add stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to create a gravy. Add capers, turn down heat, and simmer a few minutes. Chop mint finely and add to sauce with the red-wine vinegar. Serve with shredded lamb.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.