HARD-TO-MAKE-HEALTHY PASSOVER RECIPES
by Steven Raichlen
is one of the most festive and beloved Jewish holidayseven
though for eight days you're not allowed to eat bread, cake, beer
or other leavened foods. One reason for its popularity is that
it's a holiday of liberation, celebrating the escape of the enslaved
Jewish people from Pharaoh's Egypt. Kids love Passover because
they get to ask the Four Questions ("Why is this night different
than all other nights?") and hunt for the afikohman, a
hidden piece of matzah whose finder gets a prize. Adults love
Passover because they get to enjoy special holiday foods that
are only eaten once a year.
the celebration of Passover is the proscription of any food that
contains leavening. The Old Testament tells us that the ancient
Israelites were forced to leave Egypt in a hurryso abruptly,
their bread didn't even have time to rise before baking. To commemorate
the departure, Jews all over the world eat matzah, unleavened
bread, and avoid any foods that contain yeast or baking powder.
Matzah is available in supermarkets everywhere. For a real treat,
try to find an artisanal whole-wheat matzah, called shmurach matzah
(literally "watched" matzah). It's available in Jewish grocery
stores, or through your local synagogue.
being a burden, Passover gives you the opportunity to enjoy traditional
holiday foods like matzah brei (a sort of matzah French toast),
matzah balls (dumplings served in chicken soup), and all manner
of matzah meal desserts, like sponge cake. Most North American
Jews also celebrate the holiday by eating an oniony fish pâté
called gefilte fish.
So the health
conscious Jew has two challenges for Passover. The first of course,
is to cook without any sort of leavening. The second is to prepare
dishes that are high in flavor and low in fat. I hope you'll enjoy
the following heart healthy recipes whether you're Jewish or not.
NEW TWIST ON A HOLIDAY SOUP
To most Americans
the ultimate Passover dish is matzah ball soup. Greek Jews have
a wonderful twist on this holiday favorite, made by replacing
the rice in traditional Greek avgolemono
(egg lemon soup) with matzah farfel (toasted matzah bits). You
can find matzah farfel in supermarkets and Jewish grocery stores.
The eggs make the soup thick and creamy, while the refreshing
tang of the fresh lemon juice makes this unlike any chicken soup
you've ever tasted. To reduce the fat, I used two whole eggs instead
of the traditional eight yolks. The soup thickens beautifully
this way, while containing only a fraction of the fat.
holiday food is gefilte fish,
a molded pâté made from ground freshwater fish and served with
tongue-blasting doses of horseradish. There are two secrets to
making great gefilte fish: use a variety of freshwater fish (like
carp, pike, whitefish and trout) and don't grind the fish too
finely. My Aunt Annette used an old-fashioned hand-cranked meat
grinder to make gefilte fish that was legendary in three states.
I'm not going to ask you to trade in your food processor for a
hand-cranked meat grinder, but if you do use a food processor,
grind the fish in short bursts, a little at a time, and grind
it until finely chopped, but not pureed. For ease of preparation,
you can use boneless, skinless fish fillets, but ask your fishmonger
for the bones, skins, and fish head to flavor the cooking liquid.
Again, to trim the fat, I've reduced the number of eggs.
THAN AIR: SPONGE CAKE
nothing if not creative when it comes to baking, and the injunction
against the use of leavening agents during Passover has made us
work even harder to create feather-light desserts. The secret
is to use the leavening power of stiffly beaten egg whites to
raise cakes, like my lemon poppyseed
cake. The theory is simple enough: when you bake a sponge
cake, the tiny air bubbles in the beaten egg whites expand, causing
the cake to rise. The same method is used in making soufflés.
The rising action of the egg whites enables you to have your cake
and eat it too, because technically, you get an airy cake without
the use of leavening agents.
PROPER WAY TO BEAT EGG WHITES
a half-teaspoon of cream of tartar, lemon juice,
or vinegar to the whites before you start beating
them. The acidity helps stabilize the whites as
they rise, giving you sturdier bubbles.
the beater speed slowly. Start beating the whites
on low speed, then medium, then high. This forms
smaller, more even bubbles, which are less likely
to collapse when the cake is cooled. The whole beating
process should take about 8 minutes. You can do
it in less time, but the whites are more likely
a couple tablespoons of sugar during the last 2
minutes of beating. The French call this meringuing
the whites and it makes the air bubbles firmer and
overbeat the egg whites for sponge cake. They should
be light and airy, but still softthe consistency
of soft ice cream. Overbeaten egg whites rise quickly,
but fall quickly too.
Steven Raichlen's Recipes:
Egg Lemon Matzah Soup
Lemon Poppyseed Passover Sponge
Raichlen is the author of 22 books, including the
IACP/ Julia Child Award-winning Barbecue Bible and
the new How to Grill (both published by Workman).
His book on low-fat Jewish cooking is called Healthy
Jewish Cooking (Viking). He recently created a Barbecue
University at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
You can reach him at his web site: www.barbecuebible.com.
He has appeared numerous times on national television, including The Today Show and Good Morning America as well as CNN and The Discovery Channel. Raichlen lives in Coconut Grove, Florida, with his wife Barbara.