Looking outside the window at my snow covered backyard, I do wonder about my sanity. How did I move from the Mediterranean glory to the Minnesota tundra? Frozen ground in March? More snow to come stil? What was I thinking, when I moved here???? I guess, I wasn't - I was in love... Don't get me wrong, I have built a life I love with a man I cherish, who is my best friend, but... you get my drift, right?
So, March is here and spring is unfolding in Israel; the fragrant almond trees are blooming, the temperatures are rising and Passover is around the corner. That means the countdown has begun and preparations for this demanding holiday are underway. My mom approached this holiday with the planning and order of a military general. Every closet would be aired and cleaned out, every drawer sorted and re-lined with crisp paper. Dishes, pots and pans would be scrubbed clean and every appliance would sparkle. Her minions (us kids) got recruited into indentured labor for the two weeks before the holiday and once it arrived, we would all breathe a sigh of relief, fatigued and, of course - hungry!
With all the food restrictions during Passover, somehow the Middle Eastern Jewish communities managed to develop a whole repertoire of sumptuous dishes, that were delicious, though kosher for the holiday. More so, these dishes do not rely on bread substitutes or Matza and therefore are great for year round eating, as well as for those who are on a gluten free diet.
Recently I taught a cooking class focused on a Middle Eastern Passover and posted pictures of the dishes on social media. The requests for recipes started pouring in! So... here they are!
We start with a smoky, zingy roasted eggplant appetizer (be warned - bold flavors!!), then we continue to a Moroccan version of comfort food; Ma'akouda, a delicately flavored, fragrant potato pie, studded with diced vegetables and Italian parsley. The main event is the spiced beef meatballs (you can use ground lamb, turkey or even chicken), baked in a velvety tahini sauce (these use Matzah meal or panko, but feel free to use oats for a GF version). To round up all those flavors, we finish off with an airy, light chocolate tart, served in a crispy coconut crust.
So, this menu is NOT a list of traditional Passover items (like brisket and Matzah ball soup), but it's flavorful, colorful and delicious! This spring try something new and break away from tradition, or at least, supplement it!