Passover

ricottagnudiSpinach ricotta gnudi, made with no wheat flour, are my latest recipe, just in time for Passover. Since the Israelites had to flee their oppressors quickly they didn't have time to allow bread to rise, so the story goes. To commemorate that time, during Passover Jews eat foods made with matzo meal or matzo cake meal, but not with regular flour. Most other non-wheat flours are also not allowed.

Gnudi are a little larger and plumper than gnocchi but somewhat similar. Some people think of them as "ravioli without the pasta."  This recipe is very easy because you use one of those "blocks" of frozen spinach. The secret is getting as much water as possible out of the spinach. You want the dough to be very stiff.

Rolling the dumplings in potato starch also helps keep them from falling apart in the water when you boil them. Since I used potato starch instead of flour, these gnudi are also gluten free. I adapted my recipe from the Weelicious recipe for Spinach Gnocchi.

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bakedplumsatvickisPulling together any dinner can be a challenge but Passover adds special obstacles. Besides preparing the dinner, there are the accoutrements for the service (the lamb shank, parsley, hard boiled egg, fresh horseradish etc) and making sure there are copies of the Passover service--the Haggadah--in the house. Since flour and cream can’t be used on Passover, favorite desserts can’t be called on. Dessert still needs to feels like a treat. At a time like this the simplest dessert--baked plums--satisfies completely.

I've posted this recipe before but it's worth repeating. Not in season from local providers, plums can be found in most markets. They can be served by themselves (they’re really that delicious), with freshly made whipped cream, or ice cream. An added benefit: they look good on the plate.

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passover.thumb Passover is around the corner. In the past, thinking about cleaning out my cupboards, omitting all the Chametz(anything made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or oats or any product that is made with these grains and left to stand raw for longer than eighteen minutes) was a daunting task. No cereal, bread, waffles, pancakes, and most cookies for 8 days. Matzoh is the “grain” of choice and there are only so many ways one can eat matzoh (before it totally clogs up your system – and we all know how that goes).

Over the past few years I have become much more rigid in observing Passover. Mostly because I wanted my children to respect the holiday, understand what it means to sacrifice, and hopefully teach discipline through our values and our heritage.

Regardless, it can be a constant struggle. Yet, by the 3rd day, they all settled into the challenge at hand (not dissimilar to a cleanse) thus, their consciousness rises to the occasion. This year it is going to be much easier. Most of what we give up for Passover has already been omitted and almost forgotten as we lean more toward a gluten free lifestyle. But still, gluten free means we can eat rice, legumes, and most grains. Not the case during Passover.

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sheetofmotzoh.jpg I hate matzoh. There, I've said it. I may be Jewish but matzoh sure feels like penance to me. It was bad enough my ancestors had to wander through the desert for forty years, but adding insult to injury, they had to eat crumbly crackers with all the flavor of cardboard. I know there are some people who claim to love eating matzoh, but frankly, I don't buy it.

Sure, slathered with butter and liberally sprinkled with kosher salt or cinnamon sugar improves the taste of matzoh, but that treatment would work on just about any kind of tasteless cracker or bread. Don't try to sell me on flavored matzoh. Flavored matzoh tastes artificial. Whole wheat matzoh has to be the worst. I've never heard anyone even claim to like it. It's what I imagine must be served in jails or orphanages.

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darya_painting_lg.jpgIt is 1979, my first night of Seder in America since I fled Iran eight months before.  My husband remains back in Iran, hoping to salvage a small part of our valuable properties, our home and business, a chewing gum factory that remains the largest in the Middle East.  “Come with us,” I insisted, “It’s too dangerous, especially for Jews.” 

He would not hear of it.  I was "being an alarmist", as always, he will join us "in a few weeks", a couple of months at most. 

Now, in hindsight, I realize that we were blinded by a certain naiveté and senseless hope that is common with having lived in comfort—this could not be the end of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who had, with enormous pomp, crowned himself King of Kings in 1967. 

We were wrong of course.  Once we landed in LAX, I learned that the Air France Plane that carried me and my daughters, age two and ten, to safety was the last allowed out of Iran before Mehrabad Airport was shut down by the Islamic Revolutionaries.  It would take another three years before my husband would be allowed to leave the country.

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