Passover is a Jewish holiday that extends for eight days, requiring observers to avoid leavened bread. That's the basic rule. No problem. I don't remember the last time I ate leavened bread.
Beyond this -- the rules get a little fuzzy. You could join 10 different families for Passover on the same street and have 10 different experiences of what Passover is. Even to this good little Hebrew-school-educated nutritionista, it gets confusing.
For example: wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats are forbidden, unless those foods are labelled "kosher for Passover." Matzoh, the primary symbolic 'food' of Passover is made most often with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. Confusing, and you can throw your gluten-free dreams out the window. Food can get the stamp of approval if rabbis have determined that foods containing these grains are cooked in 18 minutes or less -- after which time the natural leavening in the grains would cause foods to rise.
Typically "Kosher for Passover foods" are those made specifically for the holiday under the supervision of a rabbi. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a nutritionist rabbi, and much of the kosher foods are loaded with hydrogenated and modified vegetable oils, monosodium glutamate, and refined flours and chemical preservatives.
Additional foods that are usually forbidden during Passover include: rice, millet, corn, beans and lentils. These are forbidden as they can be ground up and cooked like flour and therefore can be mixed in to stuff and baked and rise, therefore falling into the leavened bread category.
Quinoa is the saving grace of those trying to observe both gluten-free health and Passover.
I respect those that choose to follow the traditions of their culture combining those with the traditions of their families.
The question I have is how a holiday that was intended to celebrate the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, evolved into a holiday filled with heavily processed 10 pound matzoh bagels, kosher for Passover toothpaste and chewing gum, cakes that use a dozen eggs, the most constipating food combinations there ever were, ridiculously sweet bad wine, and the swapping of day-to-day dishes for disposables for eight days to avoid contamination (some people do have a second set of real dishes for this holiday).
The traditions have evolved and some of these may not be working. I'm pretty sure this was not how the holiday was celebrated 500 years ago, let alone 50 years ago.
What if "the way it's always been done," or the ways our families celebrate it, just doesn't work for our own personal values and philosophies? Then what do we do?That's where we ask:
Is this working?
It is time to UnDiet your Passover!
- Instead of artificially coloured horseradish, make your own horseradish using beets.
- Instead of mystery gefilte fish with hydrogenated oil and sugar, make Quinoa Quiches.
- Instead of traditional potato and matzo meal knishes, make these shiitake mushroom knishes.
- Instead of sulphite-laden dried fruit compote, make baked apples.
- Instead of a Matzo Meal Cake that uses 1/2 dozen eggs, make these Sweet Potato Buckwheat Brownies
- Instead of palm-oil crusted fruit flan, make a grain-free fruit crumble.
- Instead of faux chocolates with mystery fillings, make chocolate covered fresh figs.
- Instead of those creepy jelly lemon wedge candies, make this almond honey brittle.
What are you cooking up this year for Passover or Easter? Are you UnDieting your own holidays?
Get the Parsley Fennel Salad recipe We know parsley in salt water is going to happen, because it has to. But this is just an infinitely tastier way to enjoy this leafy, green herb.
Get the Apple Beet Charoset recipe from What Jew Wanna Eat
Get the Lemon Basil Deviled Eggs recipe from Food52 Our grandmothers always fed us eggs in salt water on Passover. It's symbolic, sure, but it's also kind of gross. How about a luscious deviled egg sprinkled with salt instead?
Get the Gefilte Fish Loaf recipe Once you go homemade, you will really never buy a jar of this weirdness ever again.
Get the Chopped Liver recipe from What Jew Wanna Eat
Get the Light and Fluffy Matzo Balls in Chicken Soup recipe
Get the Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa recipe from Food52
Get the Roast Chicken with Rosemary, Lemon and Thyme recipe from Manger The recipe for the gravy that accompanies these chickens calls for flour -- obviously a Passover no-no. You can substitute finely ground matzo meal!
Get the Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash recipe from Food52
Get the Passover Brisket recipe from Baked Bree
Get the Slow-Roasted Lamb Shanks with Horseradish Jus recipe Sub matzo meal for flour in the jus and you're on your way to Passover deliciousness.
Get Alice Medrich's New Classic Coconut Macaroons recipe from Food52
Get the Chipotle Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from Simply Recipes
Get the Meringue Nests with Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce recipe
Get the Matzo Meal Pancakes recipe Breakfast is always the trickiest meal of the day during Passover.
Get the Matzo Brei recipe from Simply Recipes The classic breakfast stalwart of Passover.
Follow Meghan Telpner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/meghantelpner