Suggested Menu for a Passover Feast, Quarantine b’Mitzrayim
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One of the first lessons of the COVID-19 quarantine is that we are more busy, not less busy, as the illusion of independence falls away and we want to stay in touch with and care for friends and family ever more mindfully. Momentary Kitchen and this quarantined cook will be coming to your homes weekly from here on so that I may cook with you as well as teach and care for my people. You are still always welcome to drop onto momentmag.com with questions, ideas, pictures and requests, 24-7. There is always a seat waiting for you in my kitchen. Together, we’ll find our way through this time.
With best Passover wishes from my kitchen and family to yours, here are some recipes and food essays to tempt your palate, expand your repertoire and help bring you into the delight and meaning of the holiday, this year of 2020/5781, as we revisit Mitzrayim (Biblical Egypt) from our own narrowed places.
Wine and Juice
Some of us will be making our own matzah this week, for lack of access or simply to explore our kitchens more while in quarantine. The challenge for some is kashering the workspace so as to be free of chametz (leavened foods made out of the five grains—wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye). This recipe by Richard Siegel from My Jewish Learning simply sets out the rules. Plan for at least half a day—despite taking less than 18 minutes, baking matzah happens in small batches and thus is time consuming, but fun and meaningful as well.
Parsley with personal salted water
Matzah with charoset and maror (Hillel’s sandwich)
Everyone loves charoset, and everyone is a charoset critic. Fortunately, Chabad offers this quick and easy four-way charoset, providing enough mortar to keep guests connected till the shulchan orech, the actual festive meal. Best of all, this charoset is vegetarian, vegan, sugar free, low fat, dairy free, egg free, gluten free, soy free and wheat free.
Medium boiled eggs, crudite, olives, beets and pickles
Gefilte “Bellahat” with cumin and tomato
Bellahat are Egyptian ground fish balls flavored with cumin, lemon and cayenne, just a little bit more complex than the sweeter versions of the Pale. Corinne Rossabi’s recipe is adapted by Jayne Cohen for a series on the dish’s variations. A truly blended cuisine, Bellahat are delicious and recall in taste the bittersweet longing of some Egyptian Jews for their homeland. For those longing for days gone by, try it.
Roast chicken with caramelized onions, figs and honey
I have drawn from a non-Jewish, unauthored source for this particular mainstay of Passover, because this recipe is so simple and straightforward that just reading it eases the stress of nurturing holiness in this time of Coronavirus. I have roasted many chickens, and this method is good. It allows you to start with basics and then add in what you have in your larder. To this version, I like to add halved figs, whose sweetness makes the molasses in the brown sugar even more dimensional.
Food writer Joan Nathan’s favorite brisket is recreated with great, staged pictures in a recipe from the good people of Sour Cherry Farm, a homestead and cottage industry in the lower Hudson River valley.
This Middle Eastern staple is very easy to make, and yet it has such an aroma and presentation that it’s not just the vegetarians who will be indulging. Here is Tory Avey’s simple recipe, which takes you step by step from her trip to the fabled Dr. Shakshuka restaurant in Old Jaffa to your table. Leftovers, if that happens, make for a great Passover breakfast.
Barbara Rolek’s pareve zucchini kugel is a delicious and gluten-free side dish that any other day would make a great lunch. This is a forgiving feast dish. No matzah meal? No worries, just crumble some matzah or go without. Have two heads of broccoli and a potato? Mince and go. You can use the spiralizer for a fluffy kugel, or in a pinch, shred the zucchini and beat the whites of the eggs separately from the yolks for a little aeration.
This absolutely beautiful tzimmes by Debra Klein expands the traditional melange of root vegetables and prunes into a colorful garden of roasted and no-fuss goodness, which (as Klein points out) is ironic, since tzimmes means “fussed over.” Your guests won’t know the difference, especially if you’re on FaceTime, but they’ll want you to make it again when they come for Rosh Hashanah.
Baghdadi carrot cake/Halva
The tenth-century confection recounted in this recipe by Nawal Nasrallah in her cookbook Delights from the Garden of Eden will add a wonderful and sweet gluten-free complement to the afikomen, some dark chocolate and cut oranges. Cornstarch can be replaced easily with potato starch to conform to those refraining from eating kitniyot on Passover, but don’t skimp on those aromatic flavorings. To make pareve, or just because you love olive oil in your cakes as I do, leave out the butter.
Oranges and chocolates