No hametz allowed: Passover food
By STEVEN DeSALVO
For Montclair Local
In the past few weeks, especially when you head to the grocery store, you may have noticed an increase in some food items labeled “Kosher for Passover.” What exactly does this mean? In addition to the everyday rules of Kosher eating, there are additional rules specifically for Passover, the holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
As many people know, during the Exodus the Jews left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time for the bread to rise, which is why Passover foods include Matzo, or unleavened bread.
Less well-known to non-Jews are the restrictions against eating anything leavened during the eight days when Passover is celebrated.
The broad set of requirements prevent observers from eating “hametz,” which are fermented products made from rye, wheat, spelt, barley and oats. Unleavened products such as matzo almost always contain wheat, but these are made following strict guidelines that are used to prevent any sort of fermentation. Ashkenazi Jews (of eastern and central European ancestry) are also required to refrain from additional grains and legumes. However, since 2015 rabbis have allowed the consumption of these foods, called kitniyot (and Ashkenazi Jews were finally able to stop pestering their rabbis to be Sephardic for a week, or Spanish and Middle Eastern).
Observant Jews can even sell their whiskey, usually to their own synagogue, for a week, and redeem it when the holiday ends.
That has made it much easier for American Jews, since corn used to be restricted and now is not, and corn syrup is in so many things.
Passover desserts are always difficult, since flour and yeast are off-limits, which is one reason macaroons (the coconut egg cookie, not the French macaron) have long been a Passover staple. At the Livingston ShopRite, which draws Jewish shoppers from all over Essex County because of its large Kosher section, and, at this time of year, dedicated Passover aisle, macaroons were available not only in traditional chocolate and vanilla flavors but also in chocolate chip mint and cookies and cream.
Supermarket cakes made with matzo meal or potato flour are often disappointing.
Montclair establishments are jumping in to provide items that are Kosher for Passover so that loyal customers can continue to enjoy their wares. Gina’s Bakery at 110 Walnut St., is providing a number of baked goods that follow the necessary guidelines, including chocolate macaroons and a raspberry chocolate torte. By this past Friday, before the first Seder (there are two Seders), Kosher for Passover items were heavily depleted in many markets, and at some stores, sold out completely.
Included here is a recipe for matzo brei, a delicious breakfast food that can be made sweet or savory. It is as easy as scrambling eggs!
1 tbsp butter
Splash of milk
1 sheet of matzo
1. Break a sheet of matzo into small roughly 1 inch squares.
2. Mix up two eggs with a splash of milk in a bowl big enough for the eggs and the matzo. Add the matzo.
3. Let the matzo soak in the eggs for a couple of minutes.
4. Heat a small frying pan on medium heat, add the tablespoon of butter. Once it is melted and coats the whole pan, add the matzo-egg mixture.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Cook the mixture as if it was scrambled eggs.
Notes: for a sweet alternative you can add vanilla extract and some sugar to the egg mixture, but still add a pinch of salt as it helps bring out flavor! Also you can substitute interesting ingredients like sautéed mushrooms or truffle butter!