Is Shmura Matzah Healthier?

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Every year rabbis in certain regions of the country and the world spend countless hours watching and examining designated wheat fields for the sole purpose of producing Pesach flour to make Shmura (“watched” or “guarded”) Matzah for Seder ceremonial use. While the intent for checking these fields is to insure that no moisture has contaminated the wheat (which could lead to fermentation and make it chametz or unkosher for Pesach), there may be the indirect benefit of creating a better quality, better tasting, and even healthier wheat flour. Could farmers learn from these rabbis about the best ways to take care of their fields? Check out this very interesting article yesterday and you will learn some interesting things as well.

Rice and beans for Ashkenazim on Passover? You could be lucky too.

Beans_Kidney_BlogWhile many Ashkenazim (Germanic or Eastern European Jews) have long considered Sephardim (Spanish/Mediterranean Jews) or Mizrahim (Middle Eastern Jews) lucky for being able to consume rice on Passover, this staple grain may soon be accepted for them as well. As the American diet continues to change (where individuals can choose to be gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or vegetarian) there has also been an ongoing debate in the Ashkenazi community about whether to start accepting kitniyot into the weekly Passover diet. Kitniyot (from the Hebrew word for “little things”) is a general category for such foods as legumes, pulses, corn, soybeans, peas, poppy seeds, and even rice, that like chametz (cereal grains such as wheat, or processed foods containing cereal grains such as cake or pasta) have been forbidden by Ashkenazi rabbis for centuries. (While many in the Sephardic world do consume kitniyot, it really varies region to region, such as Moroccans who generally do not consume rice, but may have chickpeas and fresh green beans). Because of today’s stricter labeling and processing requirements, it’s difficult to defend the tradition based on the possibility that a food product could have been contaminated, and the rule against kitniyot is not written in the Torah.

While some are starting to change by embracing rice and beans during Passover, many still prefer sticking to what they were brought up with. (It’s hard to change tradition!)

Here are some interesting and recent articles about the topic,
and the changes that some rabbis in the conservative movements are making.

And another regarding the legality of quinoa.

Eight Charosets with a Different Story

My Syrian dried apricot charoset (listed as #5) has been featured with several other interesting charosets on KosherLikeMe in a post entitled,”8 Charoset Recipes Sure to Spark Chatter at your Passover Seders.” Check out this delicious article, and let me know what type of charoset you plan to make this coming holiday!

Modern Matzah with Old Fashioned Attitude: “Would it kill you to try something new?”

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©Photo by The Matzo Project

A year ago I received an email from Kevin Rodriguez, asking me if I could teach him how to make matzah. He had read about my “Lotsa Matzah” class at the JCC, and had a particular passion for anything matzah. The other day (just one Passover later) I received an email update from Kevin with the exciting news that he and his old summer camp friend, Ashley Albert, had since embarked upon a ragtag “Matzoventure” (as he called it) and were producing their first limited batch of matzah for this upcoming Passover. (I’m hoping to taste some samples very soon…)

Under the title of, “The Matzo Project,” these “guilt-free” matzahs will become available (just Salted flavor for now) starting this Friday, April 15th in five specialty stores in New York City: Greene Grape Shelsky’s, Stinky Bklyn (Chelsea), Peck’s, and Farmigo, and when they’re gone, well, they’re gone. (Kevin told me that not even their parents are getting a box this Passover!)

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©Photo by The Matzo Project: Kevin Rodriquez and Ashley Albert

There are three flavors of matzah at the moment:
Salted, Cinnamon Sugared, and Everything (plus Two Other Things), and each box promises to bring “surprisingly delicious matzo” (without the guilt, for once, suffering optional).

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©Photo by The Matzo Project

You can also pick up a jar of their Chocolate Matzo Butter Crunch, available in 3 flavors:
Milk Chocolate Pecan, Dark Chocolate Almond, and Pecan Cinnamon Bun!

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©Photo by The Matzo Project: Matzo Butter Crunch

Oy, what are you waiting for —
would it kill you to try something — nu?

Charazoti: Georgian Flavors Come Through in their Charoset.

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version of this charoset was described to me by Irina Kazhiloti. The walnuts, which are commonly found in Georgian cooking, are added in a larger quantity than the rest of the nuts, while the addition of pears and peeled chestnuts give it a thick texture similar to a pâté. Try serving this with one or two other charosets at your Seder table this year!

Charazoti 
(Georgian Style Pear and Wine-Soaked Raisin Spread
with Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Chestnuts)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes About 2 1/2 Cups

For Charazoti:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup peeled and cooked chestnuts (fresh or packaged)
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 ounces ripe pear, cut into cubes (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces Red Delicious apple, cut into cubes (about 3/4 cup)
2/3 cup black raisins soaked in 2/3 cup sweet kosher for Passover red wine for 1 to 2 hours
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

For Serving:
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds (or mixture of all three)

STEPS:
1. Pulse walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, sugar (if desired) and salt
in a food processor for about 30 seconds or just until coarsely ground and crumbly
(do not over grind).

2. Add the pieces of pear, apple, raisins (and the wine it was soaked in),
and orange juice and pulse until mixture becomes smooth and thick, almost like a pâté.

3. Place into an air-tight container and chill for 2 hours. Serve in one or two small decorative bowls garnished with chopped nuts. Charazoti may be store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

From Haman to Pharoah: Common symbolism in Purim and Passover.

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The holiday of Purim has some parallels to Passover, and marks the beginning of the 30-day countdown to the Seder. In both cases we retell a time when the Jewish people faced near extermination and were saved. On Purim we read in the Book of Esther, how Haman (the evil vizier of King Ahasuerus) tried to annihilate the Jews and Queen Esther stepped in to save them. During Passover we retell the story of the Book of Exodus when Moses saved our ancestors from the evil Pharoah by bringing us out of Egypt.

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Interestingly enough, the original date when Haman first cast his lot (to choose when to destroy the Jews) was the 13th of Nisan, while the 14th of Nisan (the first eve of Passover) was when Queen Esther called for the Jews of Susa to join her in a 3-day fast before appealing to the King to protect her people. (It was later that the fast dates were set to begin on the eve of Purim — the 13th of Adar.)

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Food in many Eastern cultures, and especially in Judaism, plays an important role in commemorating particular moments in our history. By consuming matzah —
“the Bread of Affliction” — we relive the story of Passover by recalling when our ancestors fled through the desert without having enough time for the bread to rise. During Purim,
we destroy Haman’s evil plan to kill all the Jews by eating stuffed pastries that symbolize his pocketful of lots (for selecting the date for annihilation), or money (to bribe the king). The most well known Purim pastries in the United States (brought over by German Jews) are called Hamantaschen, meaning, “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish/German, and while we often see them filled with either prune or apricot filling, the original pastries had poppy seeds, and were based upon popular German cookies called, Mohntaschen (meaning, “poppy seed pockets”).

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I decided to prepare Hamantaschen this year as a way to kick off my preparations for Passover, as well as teach my kids how to make them. To give a slight Middle Eastern flavor I added a few teaspoons of orange blossom water to the apricot jam, and I cooked down prunes with dates, cinnamon, and a little sugar for my own homemade prune butter (blending it until very smooth in the food processor). I don’t have a cookie recipe of my own to share, but you can follow one of the hundreds of good ones out there, and try my idea for the fillings.

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Chag Sameach!

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Free Syrian Pistachio Passover Macaroon Demo at the Broadway Panhandler this Saturday, March 19th!

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Come on down this Saturday afternoon for a free demo and tasting of my Syrian Pistachio & Orange Blossom Water Passover Macaroons at the Broadway Panhandler before this legendary store closes its doors for good. (My girls Micah and Sacha will be assisting!)

The Broadway Panhandler
65 East 8th Street
Saturday, March 19th
2:30-4PM

 

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