Whether you’re a gourmet cook or an amateur, an adventurous eater or a traditionalist, a family with young children or a fan of exotic ethnic foods, Naomi Nachman’s got you covered in her handsome new cookbook, “Perfect for Pesach: Passover recipes you’ll want to make all year” (Mesorah Publications, $29.99).
Nachman, known as “The Aussie Gourmet,” knows how time-consuming and exhausting it can be to prepare for Passover: As a child growing up in Australia, it was her dad’s job to keep the children occupied while her mother and grandmother cooked, cooked, cooked for the upcoming holiday. One year, by the time the preparations were finished, her mother was so exhausted that she actually passed out at the seder.
We don’t want that to happen to you. Nor do we want you to pass out from boredom as you prepare the same dishes you’ve made for decades, and eat the same dishes you’ve eaten for decades. New times and new access to fresh, wholesome ingredients call for new recipes – and “Perfect for Pesach” has them.
These recipes are so tasty and easy that you’ll truly want to prepare them all year long. And Nachman has even included a “Year ’Round” page so you can easily alter the recipes when the holiday ends. For example, “Crispy Flounder with Pickled Onions” makes for a memorable fish taco, and you can use spaghetti, instead of spaghetti squash, in the “Mock Sesame Noodles.”
Cooks will appreciate Miriam Pascal’s dazzling 8.5-by-11-inch photographs of each prepared dish, the book’s large print, tips that accompany each recipe and the simple time-saving instructions for preparing the recipes in advance and freezing and defrosting the dishes.
New cooks, or perhaps someone preparing a first seder, can use this cookbook to create an impressive meal. Nearly all the recipes have fewer than a dozen ingredients, and staples – such as matzah balls and Sweet and Savory Brisket – are included. But don’t stop there: Guacamole Deviled Eggs combines two favorite and are an amazingly easy appetizer, Pesach Egg Noodles are a snap and will dress up your matzah ball soup, and “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” – well, the name says it all.
For households with young children, Passover can be a trial. Put a smile on the tykes’ faces with the simple, familiar desserts that kids favor, like Vanilla Cupcakes, Betty’s Fruit Sorbet or Rocky Road Fudge. These recipes are so easy that the kids can even help prepare them!
For more advanced cooks – and more adventurous eaters - you could start a Passover meal with the mouth-watering Cauliflower Sushi, or Seafood Cakes (which start with a defrosted gefilte fish loaf), or Hawaiian Poke, move on to Moroccan Salmon or Ultimate Pesach Cholent for the entrée, and then finish up with Fudgy Chocolate Bundt Cake with Coffee Glaze or Frozen Red Wine Strawberry Mousse.
And, if you’re not cooking yourself this Passover, “Perfect for Pesach” makes a, well, perfect gift for your hosts.
pareve – yields 8 servings
1 cup blanched, sliced almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cream Malaga or sweet red wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
5-6 ounces baby spinach OR choice of lettuce
3 Granny Smith apples, with peel, diced
8 dried dates, pitted and diced
Prepare candied almonds: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add almonds, sugar and cinnamon; cook for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved – do not overcook or sugar will burn. Spread the nuts in a single layer on prepared baking pan; set aside to cool.
Prepare the dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a container; cover tightly and shake to combine.
Assemble the salad: Add spinach, apples, dates, and candied almonds to a large bowl. Just before serving, drizzle with desired amount of dressing (you will have extra); toss to combine.
Prepare Ahead: Nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week. Dressing can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge for about a week.
Cook’s tips: Be careful when working with the candied almonds, as hot sugar can cause a painful burn. This recipe makes a large quantity of dressing. Keep any extra in the fridge and use it to dress salads all week.
pareve – yields 10 servings
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 teaspoons potato starch, sifted
1 (16-ounce) container nondairy whipped topping
6 strawberries, sliced
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar, vinegar, and sifted potato starch; beat until a soft and glossy meringue forms. Pour the meringue mixture onto prepared parchment paper, shaping it into a large circle with a narrow rim. Bake for 90 minutes, or until crisp on the outside. Turn off oven and allow the meringue to cool inside the oven for several hours.
Prepare the topping: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat non-dairy whipped topping until stiff peaks form.
Assemble: Immediately before serving, spread whipped topping over the top of the cooled meringue shell. Top with fruit.
Prepare Ahead: Bake meringue up to a week in advance and store airtight at room temperature.
Cook’s Tips: Feel free to replace the strawberries and kiwis with the fruit of your choice. To make a layered Pavlova as shown in the photo, double both the meringue and whipped cream. No need to double the fruit, as that only goes on the top layer. You can make these as mini pavlovas. Form meringue into 2-3-inch circles and bake at 250°F for 30 minutes.
Recipes and photos reprinted from “Perfect for Pesach” by Naomi Nachman with permission from Artscroll/Shaar Press / March 2017.
CYNTHIA BENJAMIN is an editor, writer and chef. She is a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, in Woonsocket.