Friday, April 7, 2006 Noon ET

Passover Cooking

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Gil Marks
Jewish cooking expert
Friday, April 7, 2006; 12:00 PM

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Wednesday, April 12, at sundown. This eight-day holiday commemorates the exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt during the reign of the Pharoah. The first two nights are celebrated with seder feasts, which include many culinary symbols and traditions connected to the story of the Hebrew flight from slavery.

Jewish cooking expert Gil Marks took questions and comments about Passover and its many food traditions.

A transcript follows.

The founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine, Gil Marks is also a rabbi, playwright and culinary historian. He is the author of several cookbooks, including "The World of Jewish Cooking," "The World of Jewish Desserts" and "The World of Jewish Entertaining." His newest title, "Olive and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes From Jewish Communities Around the World," is a 2005 James Beard Foundation award winner and a 2006 IACP Cookbook Award finalist.


Reston, Va: I usually make a traditional Ashkenazic (with almonds and walnuts) and Sephardi (with pistachios) charoset, but this year I have to make the charoset with no nuts because my grandson is highly allergic. Do you have any good recipes for nut-free charoset?

Gil Marks: Turkish Charoset
(About 4 cups)
1 1/3 cups (8 ounces/about 24 whole) chopped dates
1 cup (about 6 ounces) finely chopped dried figs
1 cup (about 5 ounces) finely chopped raisins or dried apricots
1 to 2 peeled and cored apples
¾ to 1 cup (3 to 5 ounces) chopped walnuts, almonds, or any combination (optional)
About ¼ cup sweet red wine

Finely chop together the fruits. Add enough wine to make a thick paste. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

Yemenite Charoset
(About 2 cups)
This version of Yemenite charoset contains a unique seasoning, chili. Also some Ashkenazim do no eat sesame seeds on Passover.

10 ounces (about 15) dried figs, chopped
6 ounces (about 15 medium) pitted dates, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of ground coriander or cardamom
1 small chili pepper or Pinch of cayenne
Dry red wine

Finely chop the figs, dates, sesame seeds, cinnamon, ginger, coriander or cardamom, and chili or cayenne. Stir in enough wine to make a paste. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

If your grandson is not allergic to pine nuts (from pine cones), then:

Greek Charoset
(About 2 cups)
½ cup black currants, finely chopped
½ cup raisins, finely chopped
½ cup pine nuts, finely chopped
½ cup dates, finely chopped
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
Sweet red wine

Combine all ingredients, adding enough wine to make a paste.


Frederick, Md: My Jewish step-grandmother had this wonderfully simple, delicious recipe for "apple noodle" pudding that I have lost over the years. I remember parts of it, including that by today's standards it was almost sinful, in terms of fats and calories, but I would love to make it again for my family. This is what I remember: You combined sour cream and cottage cheese (don't remember the proportion, and there may have been one more ingredient) together, then added cooked egg noodles. You put down one layer of the noodle mixture into a buttered caserole dish, then a layer of canned baking apple slices, then a layer of noodle mixture again, and then topped it with crushed corn flakes. Then baked - what temp, how long, I don't remember. Does this sound familiar? Does anyone have a recipe?

Gil Marks: Stiriai Metelt (Hungarian Noodle Kugel)
(6 to 9 servings)
1 pound fine or medium noodles
½ cup (1 stick /4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
½ to ¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup apricot jam or 2 pounds (about 5 cups), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Grease 13- by 9-inch baking dish.
2. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, then stir in noodles. Cook until tender but still firm (7 to 10 minutes for medium noodle; 3 to 5 minutes for fine noodles). Drain. Add butter and toss to melt.
3. Beat together eggs, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir in noodles.
4. Spoon half noodle mixture into baking dish. Spread with jam or arrange apples over top. Top with remaining noodle mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake until golden brown (about 1 hour). (Kugel freezes well.)

Kugel Corn Flake Topping
Combine 1½ cups crumbled corn flakes, ¼ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup melted butter or margarine and 1½ teaspoons cinnamon and sprinkle over kugel.

Kugel Streusel Topping
Combine 1 cup plain bread crumbs, ¼ cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon brown sugar; and sprinkle over the kugel.


Pesach desserts: I have some relatives who are allergic to chocolate and other relatives who have high cholesterol and wish to limit their intake of egg yolks.
I have found few Pesach desserts, aside from mandelbread, spongecake or fresh fruit, that are chocolate-free. Do you have any suggestions for any other desserts?

Gil Marks: Chremslach
(About 3 dozen small pancakes)
1 cup matza meal
1/2 cup (4 ounces) chopped almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 cup water, sweet wine, or mead
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
oil for frying
1 1/2 cup honey

1. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in liquid and eggs. If mixture is thin, let sit until thickened (about 10 minutes).
2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls and fry until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
3. Stir honey into skillet and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. (Honey may boil up.) Add chremslach, tossing to coat. Store chremslach in honey syrup.

(About 14 pancakes)
Crepe is the French word for a thin pancake. A crepe by any other name is a blintz. For a quick and delicious treat, fill a crepe with fresh fruit and whipped cream or spread with fruit preserves.
Cake meal crepes are best for folding and stacking. Potato starch crepes work best for rolling and blintzes.

Cake Meal Batter: Potato Starch Batter:
4 large eggs, beaten 4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups cake meal 2/3 cups potato starch
2 1/2 cups water 1 cup water
dash of salt 4 teaspoons oil
dash of salt

1. Gradually beat cake meal or potato starch, water, (oil), and salt into eggs until pale and smooth. Let stand for 30 minutes. Stir batter to mix.
2. Spread a little oil in a heated 6 or 7 inch skillet. Pour about 3 tablespoons batter into pan, tilting to coat bottom. Cook over a moderate heat until dry. Turn out onto waxed paper. Repeat, oiling pan each time.
3. To fill, spoon about 1/4 cup desired filling into center of each crepe. Fold over one side and roll up. Arrange seam side down in a serving dish and warm in a moderate oven. (To make a blintz, place 1 to 2 tablespoon filling in center of pancake, fold over sides, and roll up jelly-roll style.)

Apple Filling:
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1. Sauté apples in hot butter or margarine until tender-crisp (5 to 7 minutes).
2. Add remaining ingredients and cook until apples are glazed.

Passover Strudel II
(About 36 pieces)
2 cups matza cake meal, sifted
½ cup oil
½ cup sweet red wine
¼ teaspoon salt
Filling (see following)
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a large baking sheet.
2. Combine cake meal, oil, wine, and salt to make a smooth dough.
3. Divide dough in half and shape into balls. On a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap, roll out each ball into a thin rectangle. Spread with filling. From long edge, roll up jelly roll-style.
4. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. If desired, brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown (about 1 hour).

Sour Cream Strudel
(About 36 pieces)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 cups sifted matza cake meal, sifted
Confectioners' sugar

1. Beat butter or margarine until light. Beat in sour cream and, if desired sugar and/or almond extract. Stir in cake meal. Divide dough in half or thirds, form into a balls, cover and refrigerate several hours and up to 1 week.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll out to a 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Spread with filling. From long edge, roll up jelly roll-style.
4. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and lightly cut a slash at ½- to 1½-inch intervals. Chill while working on remaining dough.
5. Bake until golden (about 45 minutes). Remove to wire rack and cool completely. (Strudel may be frozen at this point.) Dust with confectioners' sugar. Cut each strudel into 12 pieces.

ALTERNATIVE - Wine Strudel: Substitute ½ cup sweet red wine and ½ cup vegetable oil for sour cream and butter.

Cheese Filling
Beat together 1 pound farmer, pot, or cottage cheese, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated lemon zest. If desired, add ½ cup raisins.

Date-Prune Filling
Spread pastry with lekvar (prune butter); and combine 1 pound chopped dates with 1 to 1½ cups (4 to 6 ounces) chopped nuts, ½ cup granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Poppy Seed Filling
Use about 1 cup poppy seed filling.

Raisin-Orange Filling
Grind together 15 ounces (2 2/3 cups) raisins, 2 unpeeled oranges and ½ lemon; stir in ½ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup apricot preserves, and 3 tablespoons matza meal. If desired, stir in 1½ cups chopped nuts or 1 cup grated coconut.

Jam (Apricot/Orange) Strudel
2 cups (16 ounces) apricot preserves, strawberry jam, or orange marmalade
1 to 1½ cups (4 to 6 ounces) chopped nuts
1 to 1½ cups (4 to 6 ounces) grated coconut (optional)
1 to 1½ cups raisins (optional)
½ cup granulated sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Spread jam over dough and sprinkle with coconut and nuts. If desired, sprinkle with coconut and/or raisins and/or cinnamon-sugar.

Apple Jam Strudel: Add 3 peeled, cored and grated apples, ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Dried Fruit Jam Strudel: Add raisins, 1½ cups chopped dried figs, 1½ cups chopped dried apricots, and 1 cup chopped dates.

Apple Crisp
(6 to 7 servings)
Crisps lend themselves to many other fruits including peaches, pears, plums, and cherries. Simply substitute equal amounts for the apples.

2 pounds (about 6) apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cake meal
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter or margarine

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a shallow 2-quart casserole.
2. Combine apples, sugars, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Place in prepared pan.
3. Combine cake meal, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in butter or margarine until crumbly. Spread evenly over apples.
4. Bake until browned and apples are tender (about 30 minutes).

Banana Flambé
(6 to 8 servings)
To make this dessert an impressive event, light at the table in front of your guests.

5 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange or banana liqueur
4 bananas, split and halved
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy

1. In a large skillet, melt sugar until lightly browned. Add butter or margarine, juice, and liqueur and simmer until creamy.
2. Add bananas and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
3. In a small saucepan, warm cognac or brandy. Pour over bananas, ignite, and serve.
Poached Pears
(6 servings)
1½ cups dry white wine
1½ cups water
¾ cup sugar
4 (2-inch) strips orange rind
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
6 medium-size firm pears
3 tablespoons orange liqueur

1. Pare pears leaving stems attached. Cut a small slice off bottom of each pear. Leaving the pears whole, scoop out the core (a melon baller works well). Sprinkle with lemon juice.
2. In a large saucepan, simmer wine, water, sugar, rind, and cinnamon until sugar dissolves. Add the pears, standing them upright, and simmer until tender, but not mushy (10 to 30 minutes depending on size and variety of pears).
3. Remove from heat and let cool in liquid. When cool, remove pears and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
4. Mix liqueur into poaching liquid and chill.

Apricot Sorbet
(6 to 8 servings)
½ pound (about 1½ cups) dried apricots
1 cup apricot jam
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apricot liqueur or brandy (optional)

1. Soak apricots in water to cover until very soft (8 hours or overnight). Drain.
2. Puree apricots with remaining ingredients. Press through a strainer. Place in freezer overnight.

Easy Banana Ices
(12 cup cake-size)
2 cups mashed banana (about 3 large)
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all of the ingredients. Spoon into paper-lined cupcake tins or six 4-ounce paper cups. Freeze. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes.

Frozen Lime Pie
(6 to 8 servings)
The ice cream-like texture and tart taste of this pie is the perfect ending to a heavy meal.

1¼ cups cookie crumbs
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter or margarine, melted
5 large eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup lime juice
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To make the crust: Combine crumbs and sugar. Stir in margarine. Press into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. To make the filling: Beat yolks with ½ cup sugar until pale and thick (about 5 minutes). Gradually add lime juice only to mix. Cook in a double boiler, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat a spoon or 180 degrees on a candy thermometer (5 to 10 minutes). Let cool.
5. Beat whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating until the whites hold a point, but not dry. In 3 additions, fold into lime mixture.
6. Pour into prepared crust, mounding high in the center. Bake until lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Let cool. Do not worry, the pie will shrink. Freeze. Cover with plastic wrap. Serve frozen.
Lemon Cookies
(About 36 cookies)
¾ cup matza cake meal
¼ cup potato starch
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup finely chopped almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets and place a second sheet underneath. (These brown on the bottom quickly.)
2. Sift together meal, starch, and salt. Beat together egg yolks and sugar. Add lemon juice and zest and beat until thick and creamy. Stir in dry ingredients, then nuts.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into dough. Let stand until dough thickens (about 30 minutes).
4. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared sheet. Bake until golden (about 20 minutes). Let stand for 1 minute, then transfer to a rack and let cool. If desired, toss with confectioners’ sugar.

Mustachudos (Nut Crescents)
(About 48 cookies)
These chewy cookies get their name meaning "mustaches" because they are curved into a crescent shape.

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons matza meal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (optional)
4 cups (1 pound) ground walnuts (or 2½ cups ground almonds and 1½ cups ground walnuts)
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets.
2. Combine eggs, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and, if desired, zest. Stir in nuts.
3. Form 1-inch balls of dough into 2-inch-long and ½-inch-thick crescents. Place on prepared baking sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake until golden (10 to 12 minutes). Cool on sheets for 10 minutes and, if desired, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Move to racks and cool completely. (Store in an airtight container in freezer or refrigerator.)

Angel Food Cake
(10 to 12 servings)
¾ cup potato starch
¼ cup cake meal
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups (about 12 large) egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon almond liqueur or orange juice
½ teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together potato starch, cake meal, and ½ cup sugar.
2. With mixer on low speed, beat egg whites until foamy (about 30 seconds). Add salt, increase speed to high, and beat until soft peaks form (about 1 minute). Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar and vanilla sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy (5 to 10 minutes).
3. Stir in almond liqueur or orange juice and extract. Gently fold in starch mixture.
4. Pour into ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean (50 to 60 minutes). Remove from oven and let rest 1 to 2 minutes. Invert cake onto a bottle and cool completely.

Torta de las Reyes (Sephardic Orange-Almond Cake)
(1 9-inch round cake/8 to 10 servings)
2 cups (10 ounces) almonds
1½ cups sugar (divide sugar)
¼ cup bread crumbs or matza meal
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
5 large eggs (1 cup)
About 1 tablespoon orange blossom water or 2 tablespoons orange juice

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom (but not the sides) of a 9-inch springform pan, line with parchment or waxed paper, and grease the bottom again.
2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the almonds and ¼ cup sugar until finely ground. (If using a nut grinder, add the ¼ cup sugar with the crumbs.) Add the crumbs, zest, salt, and, if desired, cinnamon.
3. Beat the eggs and remaining 1¼ cups sugar until thick and creamy, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the nut mixture and orange blossom water.
4. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Place on a rack and let cool. (Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or the freezer for up to 2 months.)


Long Beach, Calif: My Grandmother and my Mother, as well as aunts, all made matzo balls -which they identified as German- from whole matzo rather than from matzo meal ... I know the basic ingredients -matzo (my Mother preferred Goodman's Tea Matzo, if memory serves), sautéed onion, chopped parsley, chicken fat, salt and pepper], rolled in golf ball size, chilled in the refrigerator, and just before the seder dropped in boiling water, removed, and placed in bowls of homemade broth -yearly alternated between beef -which my Mother made from top sirloin- and chicken. These were absolutely the best ever, far better to my mind than the ubiquitous matzo meal ones. I have never seen or heard of a recipe for these and would be forever grateful if you could reference one for me.

Thanks much,

Lee S.

Gil Marks: Matza Kloese (Matza Farfel Dumplings)
4 cups (about 8 ounces/about 6 whole) crumbled matza
2 cups water
2 tablespoons schmaltz or vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
About 1/3 cup matza meal
Salt and pepper
Dash of ground ginger (optional)

1. Soak matzas in water until soft but not mushy (about 3 minutes). Drain and squeeze out excess liquid.
2. Heat fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent (5 to 10 minutes). Stir in matzas and sauté until smooth.
3. Remove from heat and stir in eggs, matza meal and seasonings to taste. Let stand for at least 1 hour. (Batter may be prepared up to 2 days ahead and stored in refrigerator.)
4. Wet hands and form matza mixture into 1-inch balls.
5. Bring 2 quarts salted water to a rapid boil. Drop in kloese, stirring to prevent sticking. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes). Do not open pot for at least 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.

NOTE - This batter can also be used as poultry stuffing.


Washington, D.C..: When I was growing up, my grandmother always prepared a fantastic brisket for the seder meal. The family recipe has been lost, and I've never been able to match it. Any suggested recipes for a brisket. Thanks so much.

Gil Marks: “Boiled” Beef Brisket
(8 to 10 servings)
This is actually slow-simmered.

1 (4- to 5-pound) beef brisket, preferably first cut
Salt and pepper
2 large yellow onions, sliced (about 3 cups/8 ounces each)
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
5 to 6 sprigs parsley
3 to 4 bay leaves
4 to 5 whole cloves
1½ teaspoon dried thyme
About 2 quarts boiling water

1. Rub brisket with salt and pepper. Scatter onions in a large pot or roasting pan and place brisket and remaining ingredients on top. Add water to cover.
2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until meat is fork-tender (about 3½ hours). Brisket tastes great when covered and refrigerated overnight in the cooking liquid. Slice brisket across the grain about 1/8-inch thick. Fresh brisket tends to shred more than when allowed to rest overnight in the cooking liquid. If desired, serve with horseradish sauce, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

Fruited Brisket
24 ounces (2 cups) apricot jam
½ cup chili sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
16 ounces (2½ cups) mixed dried fruit

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, stir jam, chili sauce, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper over medium heat until jam melts.
2. After baking brisket for about 2¼ hours, uncover, spread ¾ cup apricot mixture over top of brisket and roast, uncovered, until browned (about 25 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, stir 2 cups brisket cooking liquid into remaining apricot mixture in saucepan. Add dried fruit. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until fruit is tender (about 20 minutes). Serve brisket with fruit sauce.

Tomato Brisket
(8 to 10 servings)
1 (4- to 5-pound) first-cut beef brisket
1 clove garlic, halved, or 1 teaspoon dry mustard
About 2 teaspoons salt
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced (about 3 cups/8 ounces each)
2 bay leaves
3 medium carrots, cut into chunks (optional)
2 to 3 stalks celery, sliced (optional)
1 sprig fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (optional)
1 sprig fresh or 1 teaspoon thyme (optional)
2 cups dry red wine (such as Pinot Noir/Burgundy)
1½ cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes

1. Rub brisket with garlic or dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven pan or roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add brisket and brown on both sides. Remove.
2. Scatter onions and bay leaves in roasting pan. If desired, add carrots, celery, and/or herbs. Place brisket over top. Add wine and tomatoes.
3. Cover and simmer over a low heat or bake in a 350-degree (175 C) oven until meat is fork-tender (2½ to 3 hours). (Brisket can be prepared ahead to this point, cooled, and stored in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Skim off fat before reheating or slicing.)
4. Slice brisket across the grain (muscle line) about 1/8-inch thick. (For chilled brisket, place meat slices in a roasting pan, reheat brisket gravy, pour hot gravy over meat, cover, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.)

ALTERNATIVE - Substitute 3 to 4 cups tomato juice for wine and tomatoes.

Brisket Tzimmes
(6 to 10 servings)
1 (3- to 5-pound) first-cut beef brisket
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
3 to 4 large yellow onions, sliced
2 cup water
1 pound pitted prunes
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, cut into chunks
¼ cup granulated or brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon.
8 to 10 small new potatoes (optional)
1 bay leaf

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 C).
2. Rub both sides of meat with salt, pepper, and if desired, mustard. Spread half of onions over bottom of shallow roasting pan. Place brisket, fat-side up, in pan and top with remaining onions. Add ¼ cup water. Bake, uncovered and basting occasionally, until meat and onions begin to brown (about 1 hour).
3. Add remaining water and remaining ingredients. (Liquid should never reach more than halfway up side of meat.) Cover, reduce heat to 300 degrees (150 C) or place over a low flame, and cook until meat is fork-tender and thickest part of brisket registers about 175 degrees on a meat thermometer (2 to 3 hours -- allow about 1 hour total cooking time per pound).
4. Cover brisket loosely with foil and let stand 20 minutes before carving. (Brisket may be prepared up to 2 days ahead and reheated.) Slice brisket diagonally against grain about 1/8-inch thick.


first time matzo ball maker, Silver Spring, Md: Hello, I am making my first Matzo balls this Passover. Any hints to make the "floaters" instead of the "sinkers?"

When they are light and fluffy, they are the best, but how do you get them that way?


Gil Marks: Knaidlach (Matza Balls)
(About 16 balls)
As a rule of thumb, the firmer the batter, the heavier the matza ball. So use a little less matza meal for lighter balls.

4 large eggs
¼ cup schmaltz or vegetable oil (or 2 tablespoons each)
About 1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Dash of ground ginger (optional)
About 1 cup (4.25 ounces/120 grams) matza meal
¼ cup club soda, seltzer, hot water, or hot chicken soup

1. Beat together eggs, fat or oil and seasonings. Stir in matza meal. Add liquid. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Wet hands and form matza mixture into 1-inch balls.
3. Bring 2 quarts salted water to a rapid boil. Drop in knaidlach, stirring to prevent sticking. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until tender (about 40 minutes). Do not open pot for at least 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.


Stamford, Conn: Could you tell us about the different foods allowed for Passover in the Sefardic tradition, as opposed to the more familiar eastern European customs? I have heard that the Sefardic Passover diet is easier for vegetarians to follow.

Gil Marks:
Keftes de Espinaca (Sephardic Spinach Patties)
(About 16 patties)
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups/8 ounces)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds chopped fresh or 30 ounces (4 cups cooked) squeezed thawed frozen spinach
1 cup matza meal
3 to 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon (optional)
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg or ½ teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent (5 to 10 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and add spinach, matza meal, eggs, salt, pepper, and, if desired, lemon juice and/or nutmeg or red pepper.
3. Heat about ½-inch oil in a large skillet.
4. Shape spinach mixture into 3-inch-long and 1-inch wide patties. In batches, fry patties until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. If desired, serve with lemon wedges.

Mina de Maza (Sephardic Matza Pie)
(6 servings as a side dish; 4 as a main course)
Double the recipe and bake in a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
4 whole matzas
1 recipe Sephardic meat or vegetable pastry filling (see
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the oil over
an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or ovenproof skillet and
place the pan in the oven to heat.
2. Soak the unbroken matzas in warm water until semisoft
but not mushy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the matzas and
place on paper towels to drain.
3. Carefully cover the bottom and sides of the prepared
pan with 2 matzas, breaking 1 apart to fill in the spaces.
Spread with the filling, then cover with the remaining
matzas. Spread the egg over the top.
4. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let stand
about 5 minutes before serving. Mina can be prepared
several days ahead, stored in the refrigerator, then
reheated before serving. Serve warm.

Combine the egg topping with 1 cup mashed potatoes and spread over the top of the mina.

Layered Mina: Cover the bottom of the prepared pan with 2 matzas; spread with half of the filling; top with 1 additional matza; spread with the remaining filing; and cover with the remaining 2 matzas.

Gomo de Berenjena (Sephardic Eggplant Filling)
(about 2 1/4 cups)
1 large (about 1 1/2 pounds) eggplant
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup matza meal or 1 cup mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
about 1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste

1. Cut several slits in the eggplant. Place on a baking sheet and bake on a 375 degree oven, turning once, until tender, about 30 minutes. Peel the eggplant, then mash the pulp.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggplant and remaining ingredients. If the mixture is too thin, stir in a little additional matza meal.

Gomo de Berenjena y Queso (Eggplant and Cheese Filling): Reduce the eggplant to 1 medium (about 1 pound) and add 3/4 to 1 cup farmer or feta cheese, 3/4 to 1 cup (3 to ounces) grated kashkaval, Muenster, Gouda, or Swiss cheese.

Gomo de Berenjena y Carne (Eggplant and Meat Pie): Reduce the eggplant to 1 medium (about 1 pound); add 1 pound ground beef to the sauteed onion; and saute until the meat loses its red color, about 5 minutes.

Gomo de Carne (Sephardic Meat Filling)
(about 2 1/2 cups)
Sephardim prepare many variations of meat filling adding favorite flavors such as eggplant, spinach, chopped huevos haminados (brown eggs), pine nuts, mint, dill, and cinnamon.

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions or leeks, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 pound ground beef or lamb
2 tablespoons matza meal or 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
about 1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions or leeks and saute until soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Add the meat and cook until it loses its red color, about 5 minutes. Pour off the excess fat and let cool.
3. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Gomo de Queso (Sephardic Cheese Filling)
(about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated kashkaval, Muenster,
Monterey Jack, or Swiss cheese
3/4 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese, 3/4 cup (6 ounces) pot or farmer cheese, or 2/3 cup (about 2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mashed potatoes
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
about 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all of the ingredients.

Gomo de Espinaca (Sephardic Spinach Filling)
(about 2 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion or 6 scallions, chopped (about 1/2
10 ounces thawed and squeezed frozen spinach or 1 pound
fresh spinach or Swiss chard, chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup mashed potatoes or finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or dill
about 1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Gomo de Espinaca y Queso (Spinach and Cheese Filling): Substitute 3/4 cup farmer or feta cheese and 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) grated kashkaval, Muenster, or Swiss cheese for the potatoes/nuts.


Arlington, Va: Gourmet Magazine had a recipe for a passover cake that called for "concord grape red wine". Now, there is a rule that you shouldn't cook with wine you wouldn't drink. However, I feel like they are trying to get me to use Manischevitz wine. Is there other concord wine that is not super sweet and kinda gross (for wine). Or is this what the recipe is looking for? Because I don't know anyone who would drink Manischevitz if they didn't have to.

Gil Marks: Although I generally avoid the cloyingly sweet wines, I have used them for poaching fruit. There are several brands of sweet wines on the merket to chose from.


Great Neck, NY: Gil:

I enjoy your books very much. My question concerns the use of baking powder or baking soda during Passover. I've read that these leavenings may be used since the prohibition against using a leavening involves yeast which is sour tasting. How do you interpret this tradition and apply it to your Passover baking recipes?

thank you, Stephanie

Gil Marks: one of the biggests misnomers is that chametz means yeast. Obviously it does not, since wine is also made from yeast. You canuse any kosher for Passover leavening in your baking. By the way, chametz is actually enzymatic activities. I researched this for a book I'm writing about Passover.


Arlington, Va.: Hi, I've always been curious about the history of matzo. Do
you have interesting anecdotes to share?

Gil Marks: Actually, matzah was originally soft, like a firm pita bread. Yemenites and some Sepahrdim still use soft matzahs. The hard WEstern style matza is only about 500 years old.


Arlington, Va: Do you have any recommendations on what to serve vegetarians (and possibly a vegan) at a seder dinner? I want to prepare something that has protein and seems like a main dish rather than a side dish. It should be pareve because it's part of a meat meal -- and one of the vegetarians may be vegan. This seems like quite a challenge to me. Thank you for any ideas.

Gil Marks: It's hard for PAssover dishes not to have eggs. So I suggeest some salads.
Here are a few kugels:
Zucchini Kugel
(9 servings))
3 medium zucchini, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
1 to 2 medium onions, chopped
1 medium potato, grated
1 cup matza meal
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.
2. Combine all ingredients. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake until golden brown (about 1¼ hours).

Matza and Vegetable Kugel
(6 to 8 servings)
2 cups (about 4 ounces\3 whole) crumbled matza
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups/8 ounces)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 medium boiling potato, peeled and grated
1 sweet potato, peeled and grated
½ cup grated carrot
½ cup grated parsnip
½ cup chopped spinach
½ cup grated zucchini

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Grease a 2-quart or 8-inch-square baking dish.
2. Soak matzas in water until softened but not mushy (about 2 minutes). Drain well.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened (5 to 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in matza and remaining ingredients.
4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until golden brown (about 50 minutes).

TO CUSTOMIZE - Double recipe and bake in a 13- by 9-inch pan.


Bloomington, Ind: What are some suggestions you have for a college student on a limited budget who would like to keep kosher for Passover?

Gil Marks: Contact you local synagogues and Lubavitch. They should have programs to invite students to homes for holiday meals. Also check with your local Hillel.


Clarksburg, Md: My United Methodist Church is having a seder meal this holy week. I don't know what to expect. What types of foods are typically served at a Seder meal?

Gil Marks: The fondness among Franco-German communities for dumplings led to the creation of the most well-known Passover food -- matza knaidlach (matza balls). Although the stereotypical matza ball is a plain dumpling made from matza meal, other variations are made from crumbled matza, filled with meat or fruit, cooked in a sauce or sweetened.
Other traditional Ashkenazic Passover dishes include gefilte fish with chrain (horseradish), gebratener hindle mit matzafullung (roast chicken with matza stuffing), gedempte hindle (stewed chicken), carrot tzimmes or glazed carrots, matza kugel, potato kugel, matza brei (fried matza), blintzes (crepes) and eingemachts (preserves). Desserts include compote, nut cakes, honey cake, sponge cake, mandelbrot and ingberlach (ginger candies).
Visitors to a Sephardic Seder would notice a number of differences from its Ashkenazic counterpart: Sephardim use escarole or endive, not horseradish, for the bitter herbs; many Sephardim use vinegar instead of salt water for dipping; and Sephardic charoset contains dates and
other fruits in addition to apples, nuts and cinnamon. A typical Sephardic Seder might begin with huevos haminados (brown eggs), sopa de
prassa (leek soup) and a fish appetizer. A main course of lamb -- Egyptian Jews often eat roast lamb -- or poultry may be accompanied by mimulim (meat-stuffed vegetables), kibbe ib gheraz (Syrian meatballs with cherries), okra, green beans and apio (sweet and sour celery or celeriac), which is often con safanoria ("with carrots"). Desserts
include pan de Espagne (sponge cake), torta de muez (nut cake), tishpishti (a syrup-drenched cake) and mustachudos (nut crescents).


New York, NY:
Seeking suggestions for a one person seder, low-cost, limited income.

Cannot travel due to recently broken leg.

Any easy-on-the foot recipe ideas welcome for my individual seder and for the days of Passover to follow.

Someone else will need to the shopping as it is against medical advice for me to go up/down apartment stairwells.

Thank You!

Gil Marks: Contact your local synagogue or Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) organization. They are very helpful for someone laid up. Also see if Fresh Direct has any kosher for Passover items to deliver.


Stressed, Virginia: Passover table will have 17. In addition to a 16 lb. turkey, I want to serve brisket. How many pounds should it be???? I can't leave anyone hungry! OY VEY!!!!

Gil Marks: Allow approximately 1 to 1½ pounds of turkey meat per person.

1 (4- to 5-pound) beef brisket serves at least 10 people.

The often impoverished Jews of Eastern Europe could rarely afford to "live high on the cow" -- buy the better, more tender cuts from the rib and chuck. With great ingenuity they learned how to make do with the cheaper, less desirable parts of the cow such as the brisket, plank, and shank. Not coincidentally, Shabbat and holiday fare tended to feature these cheaper cuts, and these dishes became part of Jewish lore. Over the centuries brisket became a traditional Chanukah dish.
Brisket is the meat covering the cow's breastbone, situated between the foreleg and the plate and below the short ribs (flanken). (In a pig this area is used to make bacon.) A whole, untrimmed brisket can weigh more than 14 pounds (trimming the fat will reduce the weight to about 12 pounds), but usually runs about 6 to 8 pounds (partially trimmed and the very fat point removed). Do not trim too much of the fat from the brisket, as it keeps it moist and adds flavor during cooking.
Brisket is generally sold in halves, cut at the point where a thick layer of fat runs diagonally through the center of the cut. The squarish-shaped first cut (also called flat cut) is leaner and thinner, covered with a cap of exterior fat. A first cut roast, generally weighing 4 to 5 pounds, is preferable for most dishes. The second cut (also called point cut), an irregular shape, contains more interior fat and is coarser -- the extra fat carries flavor in cured brisket, such as corned beef, and barbecue, producing a more flavorful meat. The top section of the second cut is sometimes called a deckel.
As a well-exercised part of the animal, brisket is a tough, fatty cut of meat with much connective tissue. In order to tenderize the brisket, it is necessary to break down the connective tissue by converting the collagen in it to gelatin -- through grinding, marinating, or a slow-cooking method -- braising, stewing, or barbecuing. The liquid and, most importantly, the steam produced during slow cooking begins to convert the collagen into gelatin after the internal temperature passes 150 degrees (shortly before the point at which meat begins to extrudes it moisture at 147 degrees). When the temperature reaches 210 degrees, enough of the collagen converts into gelatin that the brisket transforms into a tender, flavorful dish.
Marinades, containing an acid such as wine, vinegar, or fruit juice, act to soften the tissue as well as impart added flavor. However, the marinade generally only reaches about ¼-inch into the meat, not particularly effective in a large cut like brisket. Use about ½ cup marinade for every pound of meat. Marinate cubed meat several hours and large cuts overnight. Do not overmarinate or the meat may become too sharp. Drain meat and pat dry before browning.
Ironically brisket is no longer an inexpensive cut of meat. Since brisket emerged as "Jewish soul food," the demand has increased and price subsequently has increased. In addition, Americans recently found a use for this cut that was once practically given away: Brisket has become the favorite cut of meat for barbecuing.


Washington, D.C.: What's your favorite Pesach food?
Is it something you enjoy eating now or something connected with childhood memories and/or family memories?

Gil Marks: That's like chosing which child you like best. Still some dishes are certainly very nostalic.

Each Passover I prepare all sorts of fancy desserts for my family and friends, often experimenting with adaptations of sophisticated modern fare. Yet every year I repeat one particular dish, chremslach (bite-size matza meal pancakes in honey). The recipe I use is scribbled in my grandmother's handwriting on a yellowed, wine-splattered index card. I scrupulously follow the directions, making certain that the pancakes are the size of a quarter and not too brown. Inevitably my father sneaks a sample of the nearly finished product with the excuse of "quality control," remarking on how they take him back to his childhood and the ones his mother used to make. The mere sampling of a piece of pancake transcends time, linking generations.


New York, N.Y.: Hi--do you have any suggestions for recipes that someone like a college student on a budget could cook, though, if they wanted to cook on our own? I would like to make Passover meals for myself but find everything to be very expensive--any tips on cutting down on cost?

Gil Marks: Buy as few processed items as possible. The more things you make from scratch, the less expensive and usually healthier and tastier.


Washington, DC: As I understand, quinoa is acceptable for Passover and is a good protein source for vegetarians. Can you recommend a dish with quinoa?


Gil Marks: QUINOA
More than 5000 years ago, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah and meaning "mother grain" in Incan) was cultivated in the Andean highlands. This grain (technically, quinoa is the fruit of a leafy plant, not a seed of cereal grasses, but it is treated like a grain) became of such importance to the Incas that they considered sacred. Indeed, at the beginning of the growing season, the emperor himself would dig the first shovelful of earth with a golden spade and plant the first quinoa. The Spanish leader Francisco Pizarro, however, viewed this unfamiliar grain as a component of paganism and determined to exterminate its. Even the mere possession of this pre-Columbian grain was declared a crime. In place of quinoa, the Spanish planted the more familiar barley, in order to produce beer, and wheat. Only in the remote highlands far from the reach of the conquistadors did quinoa survive. Only in the 20th century, as botanists searched for specially nutritious grains to help feed the masses, was quinoa rediscovered by the world.
This pre-Columbian pseudo grain, there are actually more than 1,800 varieties, has long been prized as a source of nutrition. Quinoa is the only grain that contains complete protein as well as the highest protein content (about 17 percent) of any grain. It is also high in thiamine, iron, phosphorus, lysine, and vitamin B-6. Among quinoa's other attributes is that it flourishes in harsh environments and requires no insecticides since the grains are coated by saponins which naturally repel birds and insects. The quinoa, however, should be well rinsed since the saponin is bitter.
The primary way to prepare quinoa is to simmer it in water. The germ, located on the outside of the grain, splits when cooked, but the grain retains a crunch. In South America, it is also ground and used to make tortillas.

1 cup raw quinoa = about 4 cups cooked
1 cup cooked quinoa = 171 calories

Basic Quinoa
(6 to 8 servings/about 8 cups)
Serve as a side dish, casserole, croquette, salad or add to soups.

2 cups quinoa
4 cups water or broth
Pinch of salt

1. Cover quinoa with cold water, swirl, and drain. Repeat till water runs clear.
2. Bring water to a boil, add quinoa, return to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 18 minutes). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Quinoa Pilaf
(6 to 8 servings/about 9 cups)
2 cups quinoa
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups/8 ounces)
4 cups broth or water
Pinch of salt
¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)

1. Cover quinoa with cold water, swirl, and drain.
2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft (5 to 10 minutes). Add quinoa and sauté until lightly colored (about 3 minutes).
3. Add broth or water and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. If desired, stir in parsley.

ALTERNATIVE - Toasted Quinoa: Omit oil and onion; and shake quinoa in a hot dry saucepan until lightly toasted.

TO CUSTOMIZE - Quinoa Timbales: Divide mixture between twelve ½-cup or eight ¾-cup timbale molds or custard cups and invert onto serving plates.

Middle Eastern-Style Quinoa Pilaf: Add to sautéed onion 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon turmeric and sauté for 30 seconds. Add with water 2/3 cup dried currants or raisins. If desired, add with onion ½ cup pine nuts or pumpkin seeds.

Quinoa Pilaf with Tomatoes: Reduce broth to 3 2/3 cups and add ½ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes.

Tex-Mex Pilaf: Reduce broth to 2 cups. Add with broth 2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes, 2 cups tomato juice drained from cans, and 1 to 2 seeded and minced jalapeno or serrano chilies. Substitute ¼ cup chopped cilantro for parsley.


Curious: What are your plans for Passover this year? Do you cook or
let someone else do it? Thanks for doing this.

Gil Marks: My parents are in Israel this year, so I'll be going to a sister. My neices and nephews are lookign forward to my desserts.


Washington DC: I am making a pot roast for my sader. At the Kosher butcher the meat is marked as a pot roast. What is this cut of meat called at a non-Kosher grocer?

Gil Marks: The lower portion of the chuck contains the arm. Cuts from this section are called arm pot roast. There is also a chuck-eye roast and shoulder roast.

In this classical moist-cooking method, food is first browned in fat (seared) and then slowly simmered in a small amount of liquid in a covered vessel until tender. The term braising is derived from the French word braise ("hot coals"), reflecting the original method of searing and cooking the food in a pot set over embers in a fireplace. Although in the modern kitchen, braising is done on or in an oven, the concept remains the same. Braising differs from another moist-cooking method, stewing, which calls for a larger amount of cooking liquid and small pieces of meat. Braising is used for transforming tough cuts of meat into a tender delicacy.
Those parts of the animal that get a lot of exercise have a larger amount of connective tissue, a membranous film that covers the muscle fibers. Muscle fibers, due to a large amount of water content, are tender, while connective tissue, composed primarily of collagen, a protein, is tough. The trick is to convert the collagen into gelatin (a process known as solubilization), thereby softening the connective tissue. Collagen begins to solubilize at 150 degrees and quickly converts to gelatin at 200 degrees. However, at an internal temperature of 180 degrees, beef discharges its moisture, resulting in a very dry piece of meat. Thus, if you cook high-connective cuts at high temperatures, the meat will pass 180 degrees long before the tissues have been tenderized. Therefore, tough cuts require slow cooking. The liquid and, most importantly, the steam produced during slow cooking gradually convert the collagen into gelatin before the internal temperature passes 180 degrees, transforming tough cuts of beef into the most flavorful of meat dishes.
A bed of chopped onions, carrots, and celery, called mirepoix, is often used to protect the meat during the lengthy cooking process as well as contributing flavor and texture to the dish. The vegetables are sweated until soft to bring out their flavors before adding the liquid. After cooking, the vegetables can be used to thicken the broth by pureeing.
Most of the fat in pot roasts is rendered out during cooking and can be removed by chilling the roast; the fat congeals on the top and can easily be skimmed off. And chilling the meat does not harm the flavor and, indeed, many claim that the flavor actually improves as it sits for a few days.
Plan on serving 1 pound of boneless beef for every 2 people.
There are a few things to keep in mind to ensure tender and flavorful braised meat:
* To avoid drying out, use large pieces of meat from well-exercised parts of the animal. Never use lean cuts. Chuck roasts and second-cut briskets are the most moist.
* Browning the meat in fat, both sears the meat, keeping in the juices, and gives the meat deep color and flavor.
* Adding a little wine helps to both tenderize the meat as well as adding extra flavor to the dish.
* Always cook the meat on a simmer; never boil or the meat will toughen.
* Use a pot just large enough to hold all the ingredients. If the lid does not fit snuggly, cover the meat with aluminum foil or parchment paper so that the liquid does not evaporate and the meat cooks slowly.

Basic Pot Roast (Gedempte Fleisch)
(6 to 8 servings)
1 (3½- to 5-pound) boneless beef chuck, chuck-eye, or shoulder roast
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups/8 ounces)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme or basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato paste or 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
2 cups chicken broth or water (or 1 cup chicken broth and 1 cup beef broth or dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

1. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 4- or 5-quart Dutch oven or roaster with a tight-fighting lid over medium-high heat. Place beef in pot and brown -- not blacken -- on all sides (about 20 minutes total). Remove roast.
2. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, carrots, and celery, and sauté until softened and lightly colored (about 10 minutes). Add garlic, paprika, thyme, and, if desired, marjoram or sugar, and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds). If desired, stir in tomato paste and cook until slightly darkened (2 to 3 minutes).
3. Add broth, stirring to remove any browned particles. Add bay leaf. Return beef and any accumulated juices. If necessary, add enough water to reach halfway up sides of roast. Cover and bring to a simmer on top of stove.
4. Simmer over a low heat or place in a 300-degree oven, turning every 30 minutes, until fork tender (3½ to 4 hours). (Roast may be prepared up to this point up to 2 days in advance, cooled, covered, and stored in refrigerator before reheating.)
5. Remove from heat and let stand 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain cooking liquid, pressing out solids. Boil over high heat until reduced to about 1½ cups (about 8 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Slice meat against the grain and transfer to a warmed serving platter. Serve with the cooking liquid.


Springfield, Va.: Can you clear up a perpetual confusion for me? I never know which oils are appropriate for cooking/as ingredients. I know corn is out and olive & peanut are fine. But what about canola, sunflower, etc?


Gil Marks: There is a disagreement among authorities as to whether derivatives of kitniyot (mei kitniyot), such as oils and extracts, are permissible for consumption, as there is no fear of confusion with the Five Species. In a related but different category is the question as to whether derivatives from plants unknown at the time of the original custom of kitniyot, such as peanut oil and corn syrup, are permitted. In regards to the latter, the answer is affirmative according to some scholars -- including Morenu Solomon Mordechai Hakohen Shwadron (1835-1911) of Brezhan, Galicia, known as the Maharsham; Rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888); Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman (1843-1921), head of the Hildesheimer Seminary of Eisenstadt, Germany, in Melamed le-Ho’il; Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), first chief rabbi of Israel; and Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (1903-1993). Thus in America before the 1960s, many kosher supervised products for Passover contained corn syrup and kosher-for-Passover peanut oil was common in many homes. Yet once again, the forces of stringency pressured the supervising agencies, and today few Ashkenazic kashrut agencies permit peanut or corn derivatives.
Some authorities (i.e. Minchas Yitzchak 4:114) expanded the ban even to items that are not edible as seeds, but can be processed for edible derivatives, such as cottonseeds. In addition, cottonseeds are also not ground into flour, piled like grains, and can in no way be mistaken for grain. The oil of the seeds has only been used for food since the mid-19th century and was once accepted by most people on Passover and permitted by many authorities, including Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918), Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Grunwald (the Tzelemer Rav d. 1980). Yet here too the forces of stringency have gradually reduced its availability. (Whether cottonseed oil, refined with chemicals, is difficult to digest and unhealthy is another matter.)
Soy is an East Asian plant unknown in Europe at the time of the custom. Soybean oil, although derived from a legume, is processed in a petroleum by-product (i.e. hexane, later removed through evaporation) to leach out the oil, and does not come into contact with water (the beans are dehulled after cleaning). Thus soybean oil is technically acceptable, as under similar circumstances even derivatives from the Five Species would not be chametz. Although some authorities permit soybean oil, of course, those promoting stringency veto its use.
Similarly, rapeseed (a.k.a. colza), a member of the cabbage family and, therefore, a relative of mustard, was cultivated in Europe since the 13th century, used for animal food and the inedible oil from its seeds for lamps. In 1968, after the development of genetically modified rapeseed plants with low-erucic acid and renamed canola (liftit in Hebrew), the oil (also a source of lecithin) emerged as a food crop (only approved as food in the U.S. in 1985). As with other derivatives and items not consumed at the time of the custom or in its natural form, the use of canola oil precipitated disagreement as to its Passover status. Most canola plants grow in Canada and, some people claim, in too close proximity to wheat fields, rendering them problematic. The Israeli rabbinate ruled that canola oil is a kitniyot derivative and now most American supervising agencies advise “canola oil is not recommended.”
Few non-Ashkenazim subscribe to the ban on kitniyot. However, there exist many differences between communities over which foods are permissible on Passover. Today, Sephardim, as a rule, only eat fresh legumes, such as green peas, fresh fava beans, and green beans, and not dried ones. Generally, those Jews from Arabic-speaking countries eat rice, except some Moroccans, while those from European countries do not. Thus the Sephardic list of acceptable Passover foods commonly includes rice cereals (those under rabbinic supervision). Even the families who eat rice, have the practice of carefully examining the kernels, some repeating this three and others seven times, to ascertain that no wheat or barley grains are mixed in. Some Middle Eastern Jews, who eat rice on Passover, still refrain from fresh corn, although generally allowing corn syrup. Although Italian Jews eat kitniyot, they eschew all dairy products for the entire holiday, since the animals may have been fed forbidden grains. Many Moroccans also abstain from dairy during Passover.
Although kitniyot does not generally present a problem in America where Ashkenazim are the majority community, the situation is quite different in Israel with its large number of Sephardim and Mizrachim (Easterners). Thus many of the Israeli products labeled “kosher for Passover” contain kitniyot.


Arlington, Va: Are soy products in general kosher for Passover?

Gil Marks: The Torah (Exodus 13:3) is very explicit about what is forbidden for consumption during Passover –- chametz. The Talmud (Pesachim 35a; Challah 1:2) precisely defines what can become chametz -- only the Five Species of grains. Therefore, other grains, most notably rice and millet, and legumes are perfectly acceptable. From Moses and for millennia afterward, this principle remained the standard of practice. Then an enigmatic custom of unknown origin and questionable rationale (various commentators over the centuries offer more than two dozen different reasons for it) emerged in medieval France forbidding the consumption of kitniyot (singular kitneet), a Talmudic term, derived from the word katan (small), originally referring primarily to legumes.
The first recorded reference advocating the practice of not eating kitniyot on Passover was in the book Amudei ha-Golah, commonly called Sefer Mitzvot Katan (222:12), by Rabbi Isaac ben Joseph (d. 1280), called the Semak, of Corbeil (16 miles south of Paris), stating, “Concerning kitniyot, such as peas, beans, rice, lentils, and the like, our Rabbis are accustomed to prohibit eating them at all on Passover, and this seems correct.” He contends that this custom was observed since the time of the kadmonim (“early ones,” denoting the Ashkenazic authorities before the First Crusade in 1095). However, nowhere do any of the early Ashkenazic authorities –- such as Rabbi Gershom ben Judah Me’or Hagolah (960-1028), Rashi (1040-1105), or Rabbi Judah ben Samuel Ha-Chasid (1150-1217) -- mention the custom of kitniyot.
Although unsure of the reason for the custom, one obviously in conflict with the Talmud and disputed in his time.

The prohibition against kitniyot found almost no foothold outside of the Ashkenazic community and faced much opposition within. Indeed, Rabbi Isaac of Corbeil records that Rabbi Yechiel of Paris (d. 1265), his father-in-law and teacher, ate yellow split peas (pois in Old French) on Passover. Since Rabbi Yechiel was the leading Ashkenazic scholar of his time, his rejection of the custom was notable and telling. Rav Samuel ben Solomon of Falaise (13th century), the Sir Morel, calls it (quoted in the Or Zaruah 2:59c) an “erroneous custom (minhag ta’ut).”

Nevertheless, the custom not to eat kitniyot continued to gain adherence within the widespread Ashkenazic community and, further complicating matters, additional items were gradually included among those considered kitniyot. In this vein, the Rama (Orach Chaim 453:1) expresses the prevailing Polish practice in the 16th century, “There are those who prohibit (kitniyot), and the custom in Ashkenaz is to be stringent, and one should not change this.”
Over the course of time, more and more items have been subsumed in the category of kitniyot. Rabbi Jacob Backofen Reischer (1670-1733) of Prague declared in his commentary on the Shulchan Arukh (Chok Yaakov), “One should not add to the list of prohibited items because the prohibition is a stringency.” Technically, this is the official rabbinic position. Nevertheless, in practice, due to obsession and frequently ignorance, more and more items were added to the list. Pointedly, in 1966, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:63) permitted the consumption of peanuts, since they were unknown in Europe at the time of the establishment of the custom. Indeed, until relatively recently, most American Jewish households used peanut oil replete with kosher supervision and some ate actual peanuts on Passover. Similarly, some authorities permitted fresh green beans, another American native, since they cannot be ground into a flour and do not appear similar to grains when boiled. However, the objections of certain elements of the Jewish community led to the banishing of these items. (I know a very prominent Ashkenazic rabbi who privately admitted that peanuts and green beans are perfectly permissible, but would never say so publicly in fear of the inevitable backlash.) Former chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (1873-1960), emphasizes in Mikraei Kodesh that wheat kernels roasted in their husks are permitted to eat on Passover, yet people are more stringent with peanuts, prohibiting to eat them when roasted in their shells.
Kitniyot is an imprecise and changing term and, therefore, exactly which “small items” are subsumed under the category varies. Quinoa, the fruit of a leafy plant native to the Andean highlands -- not a seed of cereal grasses, although treated like a grain -– popularized outside of its native region only toward the end of the twentieth century, has been accepted by many Ashkenazim as acceptable for Passover. Nevertheless, in 2005, a Chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) newspaper added quinoa to the unacceptable list. Whether quinoa remains acceptable or bows to pressure from stringent forces awaits to be seen.
There was even an attempt by Rabbi Abraham Danzig (1748-1820), author of the book Chayei Adam, to include potatoes as kitniyot. Thus soy is not acceptable to Ashkenazim.


Milwaukee, Wis.: Do you have any ideas for a pareve dessert that doesn't include matzoh meal or any special passover items? Something that would taste good year round but coincidentally is kosher for Passover?

Gil Marks: I never serve a dessert on Passover that I would not serve the rest of the year.

Poached Pears
(6 servings)
1½ cups dry white wine
1½ cups water
¾ cup sugar
4 (2-inch) strips orange rind
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
6 medium-size firm pears
3 tablespoons orange liqueur

1. Pare pears leaving stems attached. Cut a small slice off bottom of each pear. Leaving the pears whole, scoop out the core (a melon baller works well). Sprinkle with lemon juice.
2. In a large saucepan, simmer wine, water, sugar, rind, and cinnamon until sugar dissolves. Add the pears, standing them upright, and simmer until tender, but not mushy (10 to 30 minutes depending on size and variety of pears).
3. Remove from heat and let cool in liquid. When cool, remove pears and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
4. Mix liqueur into poaching liquid and chill.

Chocolate Pears - Melt 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler. Carefully dry pears with paper towels. Dip pears into chocolate, spooning over pears to cover completely, letting excess chocolate drip off.

Oranges in Caramel
(8 servings)
8 large navel oranges
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup warm water

1. In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil without stirring. Continue cooking until brown.
2. Remove from heat and place base of pan in a bowl of warm water. Pour the ½ cup warm water into the saucepan.
3. Return to heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve caramel. Pour into bowl to cool.
4. Meanwhile, peel oranges, removing the white membrane. Slice each orange in ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices across the segments. Reshape oranges and secure with toothpicks.
5. Arrange oranges in a baking dish and pour caramel on top. Chill.

Prunes in Red Wine
(8 to 10 servings)
4 cups (about 1½ pounds) pitted prunes
About 3 cups water
3 cups dry red wine such as Beaujolais, Gigondas, or Port
1 cup granulated sugar or honey
5 to 6 thin orange slices
2 to 3 thin lemon slices
3 cups sliced strawberries (optional)

1. Cover prunes with water, cover, and let plump at room temperature for 24 hours. Drain.
2. Bring prunes, wine, sugar, orange and lemon slices to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Remove from heat and let cool. Serve chilled or at room temperature. If desired, just before serving stir in strawberries.

Substitute 1 vanilla bean for orange and lemon slices.

Gebrennte Mandlen (Burnt Almonds)
(1¼ cups)
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1¼ cups whole unblanched almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Brush a baking sheet with oil. Set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring constantly. When sugar is dissolved and the syrup is boiling, stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer. Continue boiling until thermometer registers 220 degrees.
3. Add almonds and cinnamon, stirring constantly, and continue cooking until syrup becomes bubbly and granular (about 240 degrees).
4. Quickly pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Separate nuts with a two forks. Cool.

Fruit Leather
(About 1 pound)
2½ pounds ripe fresh apricots or purple plums, peeled and pitted, or
Sugar or honey
Lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 175. Lightly oil a jelly roll pan or line with parchment paper.
2. Choose your favorite fruit or mixture of fruit. Puree. Spread in a thin layer over pan.
3. Place in oven, leaving the door slightly ajar. Leave in oven until fruit is dried (about 3 hours).
4. Peel fruit leather from pan. Cut into desired size and roll up in plastic wrap.


Washington, D.C. : I refuse to serve that sweet Manischewitz wine at my seder. Do you have any kosher wine recommendations? I've heard that Hagafen makes some very good kosher wines.

Gil Marks: I have not used a sweet wine at the Seder, except in charoset, since I was a teenager. I was obviously a picky eater even back then. There are many excellent kosher wines -- from Israel, California, France, Chile, and even Australia. Check your local liquor store and make sure they give you some recommenations.


Reston,Va.: Lamb was the traditional passover entree mentioned in the bible. Why don't more people serve it? and do you have any favorite recipes for it--either rack or leg.

Gil Marks: Some Sephardim still serve lamb at the Seder. However, earlly on Ashkenazim developed the custom to not only avoid lamb (which was rare in part of Europe anyway), but to not serve grilled meats at the Seder.

Braised Lamb Chops with Tomatoes
(8 servings)
8 (¾- to 1-inch thick) shoulder lamb chops
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced or chopped (about 2 cups/4 ounces each)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
¾ cup dry red wine
2 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
3 to 4 sprigs fresh or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary (optional)

1. Trim fat from chops. Score edges to prevent curling. Pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chops and brown on both sides (4 to 5 minutes per side). Remove chops and keep warm. (If you prefer less fat in your sauce, pour off the fat and add another tablespoon of oil.)
2. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent (5 to 10 minutes). If desired, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add wine, stirring to loosen brown particles. Simmer until reduced by half (about 3 minutes). Add tomatoes or puree and, if desired, rosemary.
3. Return lamb, cover, and simmer over low heat until tender (about 20 minutes) or bake at 350 until tender (40 to 60 minutes). Transfer chops to a warm plate and spoon sauce over the lamb.

Codrero al Horno/Gebrateneh Lammschulter
(Roasted Lamb Shoulder)
(6 to 8 servings)
A whole shoulder of lamb weighs 4 to 6 pounds; a boned shoulder weighs about 30 percent less, about 3 to 4 pounds. However, the cooking time for boned lamb is more since it is rolled up. This is a favorite holiday dish in many Sephardic households, particularly on Passover.

1 (4- to 6-pound) lamb shoulder, bone in
4 to 8 cloves garlic, slivered (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary or thyme (optional)
About 3 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
Olive or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (165 C).
2. If desired, make slits in surface of lamb and insert garlic and/or rosemary or thyme. If desired, rub surface of lamb with lemon juice. Rub lamb with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Place in a shallow roasting pan. Roast, basting occasionally, until exterior is browned and interior is slightly pink about 15 minutes per pound or until thermometer registers 145 degrees for rare (1 to 1¼ hours) or 150 degrees for medium (1¼ to 1½ hours). Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

M'hamra (Moroccan Roast Lamb): Combine ½ cup dry white wine, ½ cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried mint, and a pinch of ground ginger and pour over lamb.

Codrero in Papel: Wrap and seal lamb in aluminum foil or parchment paper and bake as above.


Oakland, Calif.: I know bitter herbs are used as part of the meal - what herbs would one use? I'm not Jewish and thought I would expand my knowledge. Best wishes.


Gil Marks: This should expand your knowledge. If it's too wordy, just skim through.

The use of the plural form “marrorim” reflects that many items are acceptable for the commandment and not simply a plant called maror. The Talmud (Pesachim 39a) revealed that it must be a vegetable and enumerated their characteristic features -- any bitter herbage that possesses “seraf ('white' sap)” and “has a pale (grayish) green appearance,” thereby excluding vegetables that are bright green. In regards to the coloring, Rashi elucidated, “It does not have the dark green color of leeks, but is pale (dull/light) green.” He translated seraf into Old French as laiton (milky). Similarly, the Korban Ha-Eidah (David Frankel) in his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 2:5,18a) noted, “If you cut it in a thick place there exudes from it a white liquid like milk; all of these are the signs of maror.” Thus candidates for maror are limited to those plants that are a dull/light green in color and possess a white latex sap (or at least their ancestors did in Talmudic times), which severely limits the possibilities.
In addition, all of the possibilities for maror share a similar pattern -- after the winter rains cease in Israel, these plants push upwards from the ground in time for Passover, sporting relatively mild-flavored leaves, which when mature form a hard central stalk as the leaves become tough and bitter. The Talmud (Pesachim 39a) notes, “Why are the Egyptians compared to maror? To teach that just as this maror is at the first soft but at its end is hard, so too the Egyptians at the beginning were soft but at the end were hard (harsh).” Only the kelach (stalk) and leaves, but not the root, are valid for the maror (Pesachin 39b). When using the stalk, it may be moist or dry, while the leaves must always be moist. The Talmud also noted that the bitter herb cannot be pickled or cooked for use at the Seder, but must be raw.
The Mishnah (Pesachim 2:6) listed five items that, having met those qualifications, could be used use for the bitter herb: "chazeret, ulshin, tamcha, charchavina, and maror.” The Gemorah concluded that the five forms of maror were listed in order of preference and that chazeret was the preferable vegetable. The order may also reflect the degree of bitterness, with chazeret being the mildest of the group. As with many Biblical and Talmudic flora, the identities of these five have become less certain over the course of time due to changes in locales, language, diet, and the plants themselves.
There is unanimity that chazeret refers to lettuce, an annual herb native to the eastern Mediterranean region. Egyptian hieroglyphics reveal that lettuce was being consumed at least 4,500 years ago. This vegetable, however, has changed dramatically since that time. Rudimentary lettuce, originally culled wild from the fields, consisted of an elongated central stalk sporting loose prickly, red-tinged light green leaves. The ribs of wild lettuce contained a considerable amount of white latex sap, hence the source of its Latin name, lactuca (milky). It was also rather bitter, particularly when mature, sometimes requiring boiling to be palatable. The plant was finally cultivated around 800 B.C.E., eventually becoming more like modern lettuce. Nevertheless, it remained primarily a seasonal item and, during the fall and winter, a luxury, as reflected in a Talmudic (Avodah Zarah 11a) sign of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi’s wealth (died c. 220 C.E.) -- “lettuce, chate melon, and (black) radishes were not absent from his table either in summer or winter.”
It was the Romans who developed the now common head lettuce and also gradually reduced or entirely bred out much of the crimson, latex, and bitterness from most varieties. The Moors brought the vegetable to Spain and were credited with developing the modern form of Romaine, also called Cos in Britain after the Mediterranean island of Cos. Modern Romaine has an upright elongated head; the dark green outer leaves coarse and slightly bitter with heavy midribs, while the small, light-green or yellowish inner ones are crunchy and sweet. Romaine has long been the standard maror in many Sephardic homes, a role it has recently gained among an increasing number of Ashkenazim. Iceberg lettuce, bland and pale, was only introduced in 1894 and lacks any of the traditional attributes of maror. The Tur (Orech Chaim 473) ruled, “the best way to fulfill the commandment is with lettuce; if lettuce in not available choose from the others in the list, their order also being the order of preference.”
If lettuce, especially when young, is not overly bitter, why was it the preferred plant for maror? The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 2:5, 18a) explained the symbolism, “Just as lettuce is first sweet (when young), then bitter (after going to seed) so was the behavior of the Egyptians to our ancestors.” Thus the Chazon Ish insisted on using only mature, bitter heads of lettuce for maror, although most authorities permit younger, less bitter plants. For lettuce is also symbolic of God’s mercy (Pesachim 39a), its Hebrew name, chassah, a homophone for the Hebrew meaning “protection/compassion,” this attribute another root for the term pesach. A merciful result of using lettuce is that it requires the Seder participants to only have a taste of bitterness, not to actually suffer. Perhaps the red tinge on rudimentary lettuce in biblical times, which was generally bred out by the Talmudic period, also provided a visual symbol, a reminder of the blood, while the white sap was reminiscent of mother’s milk and compassion.
Ulshin is either endive or chicory or both, since the two close relatives, members of the Asteraceae family, have long been confused with each other. Hindvei, the Talmudic synonym (Pesachim 39a) for ulshin and the more widely understood term for this plant at that time, is obviously a cognate of endive, as is the Arabic word for endive, hindab. Rashi translated it in Old French as crespele (related to “curly”), also reflecting endive. (Similarly, the English word “crisp” is derived by way of French from the Latin for curled.) The Talmud assumed plain ulshin to refer to “garden (cultivated) endive” and “ulshin of the field” to denote “wild endive,” the former possibly referring to endive and the latter to chicory. The Mishnah (Kilayim 1:2) noted that “ulshin of the field (wild)” and “garden ulshin” are considered as one species in regards to kilayim (sowing separate species).
As late as Talmudic times, endive and chicory looked rather similar to each other. One of the primary differences between the two cousins is that chicory is a perennial (a life cycle lasting more than two years), while endive is annual or sometimes biennial (a two-year life cycle). The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (Natural History, XIX 8:129) noted that chicory was darker and more bitter than endive. Not surprisingly, the ancients preferred the latter to chicory. Similar to lettuce, chicory and endive both are milder when young, in the early spring corresponding to Passover, and grow very bitter with age; chicory more bitter. In Talmudic times, the leaves and stems also contained a milky sap, an attribute found as well in many feral descendants.
Wild chicory (Cichorium intybus), which still grows in parts of Israel, is much like wild lettuce in appearance. The plant has long, narrow, serrated leaves growing close to the ground spreading out into a rosette. After chicory was first cultivated in the 16th century, it developed into larger and less bitter leaves. Modern chicory forms loose heads of bitter, narrow, ragged-edged, light green leaves that are white nearer the heart and milder near the center.
Endive, possibly a hybrid of chicory and Cichorium pumilum, also called dwarf chicory, or possibly a cultivated subspecies of Cichorium pumilum, had already developed into a distinct species in prehistoric times. Endive now consists of two cultivated sub-species –- escarole and curly endive. Escarole (Cichorium endivia var. latifolium), also called scarole, broadleaf endive, and Batavian endive, has flat, broad, murky green leaves that form a loose head. It is the least bitter member of the chicory family with a milder flavor and coarser texture than curly endive. Curly endive (Cichorium endivia var. crispum), also called frisée (French for “curly”), sometimes mistakenly called chicory, was first recorded in 1586. It consists of a loose head of rather bitter, narrow, curly, green outer leaves that become yellowish/whitish and slightly milder toward the core. Belgian endive (witloof chicory) is not a separate species of endive, but the same plant as chicory that has been treated differently. Introduced in Brussels in 1850, it was, according to legend, discovered when a Belgian farmer threw some chicory roots into a shed and, in the spring, noticed that the roots had grown yellow-tipped white shoots. Radicchio (red chicory) is another relatively recent form of chicory. Although both are bitter, since neither of them are green, they fail to fulfill that characteristic of maror.
Both endive and chicory were common in ancient Egypt and most certainly could have been used for the first Seder. The Talmud (Pesachim 39a) acknowledged both wild ulshin and garden (cultivated) ulshin as acceptable for maror. The Italian scholar Ovadiah Bertinoro (1450-1516) asserted in his commentary on the Misnah that ulshin is endive and most subsequent authorities agreed, although the terms endive and chicory were frequently employed interchangeably. Pointedly, Pinchas Kehati in his contemporary edition of the Mishnah, translated ulshin as tzeekoreem (“endive” in modern Hebrew), which he specified as endive in French, and not olesh (modern Hebrew for chicory). Considering the kinship and confusion of chicory, endive, and escarole, it is hardly surprising that each is used as maror in various Sephardic and Mizrachi (Oriental) households.
In line with the Talmudic depiction of maror, all of the early rabbinic authorities considered tamcha, similar to the other four kinds of maror, to be some sort of leafy dull-green herb. Rambam (Commentary to Mishnah Pesachim) viewed it as garden endive. Pointedly, Rashi (Pesachim 39a) translated it as “marrubie” in Old French, which is horehound (Marrubium vulgare). Similarly, the Arukh (Saadiah Ibn Danan; second half of 15th century) identified tamcha as horehound. The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 2:5,18a) translated it as gingidin. This could refer to Daucus gingidium, a member of the Apiaceae family and close relative of the carrot that looks something like chervil and grows near the Mediterranean coast. However, this plant lacks some of the essential characteristics of maror. Thus one of the predominant commentators on the Jerusalem Talmud, David Frankel (Korban ha-Eidah) of Berlin explained that gingidin is marrubie. Hence the leading candidate for tamcha is horehound, also called white horehound and, in Arabic, hashishat al kalib, a plant whose primary usage today is in cough medicine and liqueurs. Its Latin designation (Marrubium vulgare) is a cognate of the ancient Hebrew name for the plant, marrob. In modern Hebrew, horehound is called Marrubion m’tzoi; the latter word meaning “common.” Its English name, a misspelling of hoarhound, derived from the hoary (grayish) color of it foliage. This member of the Lamiaceae family, reaching about 2 feet in height, has bitter, crinkled, wooly, grayish-green leaves. Pointedly, horehound also contains a latex sap.
This identification of tamcha generally comes as a surprise to the many contemporary Ashkenazim who currently mistranslate it as horseradish. Indeed, horseradish root seems a most unlikely candidate for a “bitter herb,” being neither bitter nor an herb. The fleshy horseradish root, a member of the mustard family, is pungent and fiery, not bitter, a completely different taste. Even the horseradish leaves possess a sharp, somewhat mustard-like taste and not a bitterness. The requirement for maror is only leaves or stalks, but, for culinary purposes, horseradish is a root. Although the top of the root may stick above the ground, that does not make it a stalk. Horseradish also lacks the other characteristics prescribed by the Talmud -- latex sap and dull green foliage; horseradish leaves are dark green. Moreover, the consumption of an amount of raw unprocessed horseradish, whether whole or ground, equaling a kazayit (olive) would generally prove dangerous if not impossible.
Indeed, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), a native of southern Russia, was unknown in Israel in Talmudic times and was only adopted for use as maror when Jews found themselves in colder climes of northern Europe and bereft of early spring greens and the advanced agronomy of the Mediterranean. Pointedly, horseradish was not mentioned in Ashkenazic sources until they began moving into eastern Germany. No early Ashkenazic authority referred to horseradish as maror or identified it with tamchah. Interestingly, the earliest verification of horseradish in a rabbinic source, Rabbi Eliezer ben Nathan of Mainz (c. 1090-1170), refers to its use as an ingredient in charoset and not for maror. The first written record to permit using horseradish for morar, but only when the preferable lettuce was unavailable, was by Israel ben Joel Susslin of Erfurt (14th century). Subsequently, as Jews moved further north and greens became impractical, horseradish became a norm. The practice developed among Germans to use whole pieces of horseradish, while Eastern Europeans generally insisted on grating it. Nonetheless, many Ashkenazic authorities, such as Joel Sirkes (1561-1640) of Poland in (Bayit Chadash/Bach, Orech Chaim 483) continued to prohibit horseradish for the maror. To further complicate matters, horseradish is called chazeret in modern Hebrew. Today with plenty of fresh greens at their disposal, many Ashkenazim have reverted to using the Talmudic chazeret, although some combine romaine lettuce with horseradish to maintain the tradition.
There is an opinion in the Talmud (Pesachim 39a) that charchavina “is the creeping vine that grows around palm trees.” Rashi translated it as the unknown vedille in Old French. Rambam (Commentary to Mishnah Pesachim) identified it as a species of bitter grass. Alfasi (1013-1103) and the Italian commentator Ovadiah Bertinoro (1450-1516), in his remarks on the Mishnah, used the Arabic term al-kartzina, which is eryngium. In this vein, Pinchas Kehati in his modern edition of the Mishnah translated charchavina as eryngium. However, to further complicate the situation, this could refer to either of two members of the Umbelliferae family – field eryngo or sea eryngo. Field eryngo (Eryngium creticum), called erygion in Greek and charchavina machilah in modern Hebrew, is a perennial herb thistle that grows up to 3 feet (90 cm) in the dry soils of fields and rocky places around the Mediterranean. The plant bears bitter, toothed, heart-shaped gray-green leaves that, when young, are soft and edible. As the plant ages, the leaves turn dry, hard, blue, and spiny. The smaller sea eryngo (Eryngium maritimum) is also called sea-holly and, in modern Hebrew, charchavina chofeet. As its name indicates, this perennial grows near the maritime areas along the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Sea eryngo, which reaches a height of about 2 feet (60 cm), has spiny evergreen leaves, shaped like holly, which, when young, are generally boiled, but can be eaten raw. Shakespeare (The Merry Wives of Windsor) mentions eryngoes, referring to its candied roots. Both of these plants bear a large thistle atop erect stems, which, along with their spiny leaves, gave rise to the name charchavina, a compound of charcahr (to bore/sting) and beenah (to pierce/split).
Ironically, of the various possibilities for fulfilling the commandment of bitter herbs, the identification of the one called maror created the most disagreement and, as the last in the sequence, was the least preferable of the five. The Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 2:5,18a) explained that it is “a bitter vegetable, silvery (over the green), and possessing seraf (white sap).” The Arukh (Saadiah Ibn Danan; second half of 15th century) and Rambam viewed it as a wild lettuce, although some versions of the latter read “a type of coriander.” Similarly, Ovadiah Bertinoro identified it as a type of “kosbar” (cilantro/fresh coriander). (I am not sure if there is a connection, but the seed of the coriander is used to describe the manna.) Rashi asserted that maror was “amerfoil,” possibly burdock (Arctium), a broad-leaved weed, or wormwood (Absinthium), a European perennial herb with extremely bitter gray-green leaves, once used to treat indigestion and worm infestation.
Some authorities claim maror is sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus), pointedly called murar in Arabic. The English names of this annual herb from the Asteraceae family -- hare's thistle, hare's lettuce, and sowthistle -- are a reference to it being a favorite food of rabbits and pigs. The plant, which can reach up to two feet in height, bears grayish-green spiny leaves with a bitter flavor and notably the stems secrete a milky sap. Interestingly, sowthistle resembles wild lettuce (Lactuca serriola) in appearance. Although deemed to be an invasive weed in America, in the ancient world it was considered to possess numerous medicinal properties and, as the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder related, it was also used as a food. Indeed in parts of Asia and Europe, young sowthistle leaves, considered wholesome and strengthening, are still added to salads. However, the identity of the Talmudic maror having been lost, is, therefore, no longer considered appropriate for the ritual and the application of its benediction.


Carb Addict: Chag Sameach. Any suggestions for dairy or pareve Pesach lunch ideas that don't involve a hard-boiled egg or tuna fish?
My normal lunch fare is pizza, pasta salad or leftover dinner (we do have a microwave available).

Gil Marks: Grilling and roasting vegetables caramelizes the sugar in them while imparting a smoky flavor. Be sure to clean the grate as any bits of charred food will impart an off flavor in the vegetables.
Most vegetables require no advance preparations except brushing lightly with vegetable oil, olive oil, or seasoned butter. For extra flavor use a flavored oil. Marinating generally results in soggy vegetables. Since the time it takes to grill vegetables is too short for them to pick up flavors from the wood, it is best not to waste flavored wood chips.
Small vegetables or pieces of vegetables can be grilled on skewers, on a large sheet of fine mesh (such as a window screen) set on the grill, or wrapped in aluminum foil.
Grill vegetables over medium-high heat (hold your hand 5 inches above the fire for 4 seconds), turning and brushing occasionally, until tender:

Bell peppers (halved and seeded) 10 to 15 minutes
Carrots (small carrots wrapped in foil) about 30 minutes
Eggplant (cut into ¾-inch-thick slices) 8 to 10 minutes
Endives (halved lengthwise) 6 to 8 minutes
Fennel (cut lengthwise into
½-inch-thick slices) 10 to 15 minutes
Leeks ((halved lengthwise) 12 to 15 minutes
Mushrooms (about 2-inches in diameter) 6 to 8 minutes
Portabello mushrooms 8 to 10 minutes
Onions (cut into ½-inch-thick slices) 6 to 10 minutes
Scallions (whole) about 5 minutes
Tomatoes, cherry about 3 minutes
Tomatoes (cut into ½-inch-thick slices) about 4 minutes
Tomatoes (halved) about 6 minutes
Zucchini/summer squash (halved lengthwise) 8 to 12 minutes

Grilled Beets
Heat coals until medium-hot. (You can hold the palm of your hand 4 inches above the coals for no longer than 3 seconds.) Wrap each whole unpeeled beet in foil. Place on coals and roast until fork-tender (30 to 60 minutes).

Grilled Garlic
Peel off outer skin layers, leaving the whole head intact. Brush with olive or vegetable oil and, if desired, sprinkle with 1 chopped sprig fresh or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, thyme, or oregano. Wrap in aluminum foil and grill over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, for about 45 minutes.

Grilled Potatoes
Heat coals until medium-hot. (You can hold the palm of your hand 4 inches above the coals for no longer than 3 seconds.) Wrap whole white or sweet potatoes in heavy-duty foil, place over coals, and cook, turning frequently, until tender (45 to 60 minutes).

ALTERNATIVE - Grilled Potato Slices: Boil potatoes until tender, cut into ¾-inch-thick slices, brush with hot oil, and grill (about 5 minutes per side).

Grilled Ratatouille
Thickly slice eggplants, zucchini, green bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Marinate in olive oil, fresh herbs, and a splash of white wine. Arrange vegetables on skewers. Grill or broil over medium heat, turning once halfway through cooking, until tender (8 to 10 minutes).

Grilled Winter Squash
Heat coals until medium-hot. (You can hold the palm of your hand 4 inches above the coals for no longer than 3 seconds.) Cut acorn or butternut squash in half lengthwise and discard seeds. Brush with butter or margarine and sprinkle with brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon water. Wrap in heavy-duty foil. Place cut side down on grill and cook until tender (40 to 60 minutes).

Brush fruit lightly with vegetable oil and grill over medium coals 4 to 5 inches from heat, turning once halfway through cooking, until tender (6 to 8 minutes).

Apples, halved and cored
Peaches, halved and pitted
Pears, halved and cored
Plums, halved and pitted
Nectarines, halved and pitted
Pineapple, cut into 1-inch-thick slices or 6 to 8 wedges

ALTERNATIVES - Grilled Fruit Kabobs: Cut fruits into thick wedges -- or use small fruit such as grapes and cherries -- and alternate on skewers.
-Foil-Wrapped Fruit: Add 1 teaspoon water, wrap in aluminum foil, and grill until tender.

Glazed Grilled Fruit: Bring ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon rum extract, and 1½ teaspoons cornstarch to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Brush occasionally over fruit.

Grilled Apples
Wrap whole apples in aluminum foil and cook on grill, turning occasionally, until tender (about 50 minutes).

Grilled Bananas
Place unpeeled bananas on grill and cook, turning occasionally, until peels turn black (5 top 10 minutes).


Washington, DC: Any suggestions on where one can find Passover cookie recipes that do not require eggs?

Gil Marks: Masas de Vino (Turkish Wine Cookies)
(About 65 cookies)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sweet wine
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups ( ounces) ground almonds
3 cups matza cake meal
About 65 whole blanched almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine oil, wine, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in almonds. Gradually stir in cake meal to make a workable dough.
3. Form into 1½-inch balls, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and flatten. With tines of a fork, make a cross-cross pattern on top or, if desired, press a whole almond into center of each cookie.
4. Bake until lightly colored (20 to 25 minutes). Cool on sheets for 10 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely.

(About 24 thin cookies)
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup water
Sorbet or mousse

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Finely grind sugar and almonds in food processor. Stir in water and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
3. With pastry bag or spoon, pipe or spoon 1-inch rounds 4 inches apart on prepared sheets. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until golden (8 to 12 minutes).
4. With scissors, cut paper between tulips. Working as quickly as possible, mold onto outside of custard cups or bowls or shape over rolling pin or jars until firm (2 to 3 minutes).
5. Carefully peel off paper. Just before serving, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons sorbet or mousse into bottom of each tuile. If desired, garnish with fresh berries or berry sauce.

NOTE - To make tuiles without parchment paper, bake 1 or 2 cookies at a time on greased and dusted baking sheets, cool slightly until cookie begins to firm (about 1 minute), loosen with metal spatula, and shape.


Washington, DC: What makes wine kosher for Pesach? I was asked this question yesterday, and I have no idea what the answer is. I know what makes wine kosher, but not specifically for Pesach.

Gil Marks: The yeast for Kosher for Passover wine must not come from a chametz source. There was a big scandal about 15 years ago when the ultra-Orthodox agency in Israel allowed chametz bread yeast in their wine. Fortunately, all the big winereies -- Yarden, Gamla, Carmel, etc. were ok.


Gil Marks: I'm told that our time is up. I hope I answered your questions and you have some new recipes to try. Thanks for participating and have a happy and healthy Passover.




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