March Madness is coming to a close, now it’s time for Matzah Madness! It’s that time of year again when some of us start to overload on carbs because we won’t be able to eat them for a whole eight dayss. Yes, Passover has come upon us Jews, and this eight-day long holiday (Hannukah’s not the only holiday that goes on for eight days, unfortunately) has its own set of dietary laws that come along with it. For these eight long days (not the eight crazy nights Adam Sandler sings about), we must avoid grains like wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt that “have not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after first coming into contact with water.” And most Ashkenazi Jews also avoid rice, corn, peanuts, and beans because, apparently, they resemble grains a great deal and no one wants to accidentally eat a grain during Passover. Rules aside, Passover is a great holiday deeply ingrained in food (no pun intended), as most Jewish holidays are. I’m not going to get into the details here, but I’ll throw in some traditional Passover foods for those of you who can eat grains for the next eight days and may want to learn something new.
Keeping kosher for passover is really hard for me. Maybe it’s healthier to go without carbs for a week, but believe me, that doesn’t make it any easier. Carbs are hands down my favorite food group, but Passover presents a great challenge for foodies like me to be creative and adventurous. So here are some ideas to help you get through the holiday, keeping in mind that you may be confined to dining hall options. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who goes all 365 days of the year with no carb-restrictions, I hope you’ll find something that whets your appetite.
First up is dining hall matzah pizza. Matzah pizza is a classic food for many American Jews and as a Jew who grew up in NY, it’s definitely a favorite of mine. I mean, is it really possible to go a week without pizza? Thankfully, we don’t have to find that out over Passover. I’m not the biggest proponent of using matzah meal to replicate foods that we eat regularly throughout the year, but Matzah Pizza uses matzah in its original form and tastes different enough from pizza that it does not feel like a substitute bad rather a whole new meal altogether.
Matzah pizza is a classic, but can be challenging to recreate in the dining halls so here are a few tips. Using the panini press ensures a warm, melty pizza without the sogginess brought on by using the microwave.
- Start with your matzah, add sauce and cheese (I’d recommend the shredded cheese)
- Think about adding some toppings (mushrooms, spinach, broccoli)
- Place the matzah on the panini press, bring the top of the press down as much as you can without touching the top of your pizza
- Take off panini press when cheese is melty and pizza is warm
Those who keep kosher year round are forced to think about what they’re eating very regularly. Passover is a great opportunity for me to think about the food I eat in a religious way and to get a taste of what it may be like to follow a set of dietary restrictions. For me, eating kosher pasta and cereal is not very meaningful, so I embrace my love of fruits and veggies instead. Here are some easy salad recipes, in case you get tired of your go-to salad over the next eight days.
- Roasted beets, goat cheese, and oranges with a nice balsamic
- French carrot salad—grated carrots with lemon juice, raisins, cinnamon, dijon mustard, honey, and scallions
- Tomato, mozzarella salad with basil and balsamic glaze. This salad would also make a great matzah open-faced sandwich
- Go Greek with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, onions, dill, olive oil, lemon juice
The Seder plate, another aspect of food on Passover, is a symbolic representation of the holiday of Passover and therefore the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Each food on the plate represents a particular aspect of the story. My favorite food on the plate, culinarily and symbolically, is haroseth, a salad of chopped apples and nuts that represents the mortar used by Jews when they were enslaved in Egypt. Haroseth is the only sweet food on the Seder plate, which may or may not be the reason it’s my favorite, and is fascinating because it’s prepared differently based on where your family originates from. Typically it consists of apples, walnuts, and wine with cinnamon, sugar, and other dried fruits as optional ingredients.
If you get bored of haroseth as your sweet matzah-topping throughout the week, there are plenty of other options. I’ve recently discovered how easy it is to make lemon curd (which is much tastier than its name suggests). Other options include caramel (also fairly simple to prepare) and fruit compote.
Before I conclude, I would like to have a little showdown: macaroons v. les macarons.
Both of these desserts are spelled the same way in English, so I used the French spelling to denote the French version.
Macaroons are those coconut bites that come out just for Passover and are really the easiest dessert that Jews could think to make without using flour. The main ingredients are condensed milk and shredded coconut, but several varieties are available. I promise that these treats are much better if they are homemade! And if you can’t bake macaroons, then you probably don’t have much hope in the kitchen when it comes to baking and you definitely should not attempt making macarons.
Macarons were invented in Italy by Catherine de Medicis and were developed in France by Medicis’ chefs that she brought over from Italy. In the early 20th century, Laduree’s grandson had the ingenious idea to fill two macaron cookies with a chocolate ganache forming the beautiful sandwich cookies that fill Instagram and trendy pastry shops today. This cookie’s main ingredients are almond flour, egg whites, and sugar, kind of like a fancy meringue. Macarons come in a wide variety of flavors, and the best ones I’ve had in my life are chocolate banana and chocolate passion fruit fresh out of Pierre Hermé’s macaron shop in Paris.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret, even though the coconut macaroons are the ones that Jews eat on Passover, the lovely French macarons are also kosher for passover! So this Passover, impress your family and friends with the better macarons, by baking some yourself or heading to a Parisian pastry shop. I would recommend Miam Miam Macaronerie in Boston if for no other reason than their logo, an adorable little jumbo.
I wish you luck as you embark on your week free from bread. And if you’re not keeping kosher for Passover, I encourage you to talk to your friends about the holiday and how it may change their relationship with food for the week. I also encourage you to try traditional Passover food, even if it’s just a macaroon from the passover buffet at Dewick.
– Allie Wainer
Cover photo source.
This has been a guest post. Allie Wainer is a junior majoring in Quantitative Economics who serves as treasurer of the Culinary Society. She loves all things French, especially French food, and can speak the language as well. On campus you can find her working away in Eaton or recording her podcast in the Tisch Media Center.