Even experienced cooks find Passover overwhelming because of all the extra preparations, shopping, cooking and meal planning.
To minimize stress, plan your menus and shopping lists early. This year, why not add some gluten-free, wheat-free recipes to your regular repertoire? Wheat-free recipes are also ideal for those who refrain from eating gebrokts (matzah or matzah meal combined with water or other liquids) on the first seven days of Passover.
Many Passover recipes are naturally gluten-free. Additionally, some of my favorite recipes can be adapted with simple modifications. Wheat-free does not have to mean taste-free!
• Baked spaghetti squash strands make a terrific substitute for noodles. Top with tomato sauce or mix together with cottage cheese and butter or margarine.
• Fried eggplant slices can be used instead of pasta to make lasagna that is gluten-free/non-gebrokts.
• To replace matzah meal as a coating for fish or chicken, substitute finely ground almonds, potato starch or crushed Passover potato chips.
• Instead of matzah meal as a binder in hamburgers and meatballs, substitute finely-grated potato. A medium potato is enough to bind about two pounds of ground meat.
• To replace alcoholic beverages in cooking and baking, substitute apple, orange or grape juice.
• Use potato starch to thicken gravies and sauces. Substitute one tablespoon potato starch for two tablespoons flour or cornstarch in non-Passover recipes when converting them for Passover use.
• Substitute one tablespoon potato starch for two tablespoons matzah meal in kugels and latkes.
• To replace one cup of flour in baking, use 5/8 to 3/4 cup (ten to twelve tablespoons) potato starch.
• To replace one cup of cake meal in Passover sponge cakes, use one cup finely-ground almonds.
• For one large egg (in baking/cooking), substitute two egg whites. You can usually replace up to half the eggs in baking recipes.
• When converting your baking recipes, use Passover baking powder and baking soda. They contain potato starch, whereas regular baking powder and baking soda contain cornstarch.
• Passover Icing Sugar: Process one cup granulated sugar with 1/2 tablespoon potato starch in a food processor or blender for two to three minutes. The texture will be grainier than regular icing sugar.
EGGPLANT MOCK CHOPPED LIVER
Yields 8 servings of 1/2 cup each
Enjoy this gluten-free vegetarian spread on Passover—or any time! Serve it on gluten-free matzah crackers or scoop it onto crisp salad greens as an appetizer. A food processor helps speeds up preparation.
1 large eggplant (about 1 ½ pounds/750 grams)
2 large onions, cut in chunks
2 cups mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 hard-boiled large eggs, halved
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (omit for a nut-free version)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prick the eggplant with a fork. Microwave on high for 7 to 8 minutes, until soft. Let cool. (Or cut in half lengthwise and place cut-side down on a broiling rack. Broil the eggplant about 4 inches from the heat for 15 minutes. Don’t turn over.)
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, coarsely chop the onions and mushrooms, using 4 or 5 quick on/off pulses.
Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Transfer the onions and mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until nicely browned, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Scoop out the eggplant pulp with a spoon and place in the processor bowl. Discard the skin.
Add the onions, mushrooms, eggs, nuts, salt and pepper. Process with quick on/off pulses, just until combined. Chill several hours or overnight for the best flavor.
Note: Keeps 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Don’t freeze.
APRICOT CRANBERRY CHICKEN
Yields 8 servings
Elegant and easy! This dish can be doubled or tripled, so it’s perfect for a crowd. Dried fruits, ginger, orange juice and balsamic vinegar add a festive touch. Marinating makes the chicken tender and flavorful.
2 chickens (about 3 pounds each), cut in pieces
Salt, pepper, paprika and dried thyme
2 teaspoons minced ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
3/4 to 1 cup dried apricots, cut in quarters
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Wash chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towel. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a large baking dish or roasting pan. Lightly sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and thyme. Add garlic and ginger and rub seasonings over chicken on all sides.
Scatter apricots and cranberries over chicken. Drizzle with orange juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake chicken covered for 1 hour, then uncover and continue to bake for a 1/2 hour longer until glazed and golden, basting occasionally. Drizzle pan juices over chicken to serve.
Note: Reheats and/or freezes well.
Photos: Estee Gestetner
Yields 8 to 10 servings
This is a wonderful way to transform potatoes into a colorful company dish that looks and tastes great. It makes an excellent egg-free side dish for those who want to limit their intake of eggs on Passover.
8 to 10 large baking potatoes (preferably Idaho)
4 green onions or scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 red pepper, diced
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub potatoes well and pierce skin in several places with a fork. Bake for 1 hour or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle them.
While potatoes are baking, heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onions, red pepper, carrots and zucchini; sauté 5 minutes, until golden and slightly softened. Add garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Cut a slice off the top of each potato. Scoop out potato pulp with a spoon, leaving a wall about 1/4-inch thick. Place potato pulp in a large bowl and mash well. Stir in sautéed vegetables, broth, dill, basil, salt and pepper. Potato mixture should be moist but not mushy.
Fill potato skins with potato mixture and arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (These can be covered and refrigerated up to a day in advance.)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Note: Recipe multiplies easily. These reheat well and can be frozen.
Variations: The potato mixture also makes a terrific filling for blintzes (see recipe below).
Omit green onions, red pepper, carrots, zucchini and garlic. Substitute 2 chopped onions and 1 cup chopped mushrooms; sauté in oil until golden, about 10 minutes. Continue as directed.
For a dairy version, bake potatoes as directed above. When cool enough to handle, scoop out potato pulp and mash with 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt. Fill potato skins with potato mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese (about 2 tablespoons cheese per potato). Bake until cheese is melted and golden, about 25 minutes.
EGG ROLL BLINTZES
These gluten-free, dairy-free blintzes are very versatile. You can also fill these paper-thin crepes with leftover cooked chicken, meat or mashed potatoes. Cheese blintzes make a nice treat for a dairy meal.
Yields about 14, depending on size
3 large eggs
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup potato starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine the eggs, water and oil in a bowl and whisk together.
Add the potato starch and salt and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. (You can also use your food processor—it takes about 15 seconds to process the batter until smooth.)
Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. This makes the blintzes tender.
Lightly grease an 8-inch non-stick skillet (or spray with non-stick spray). Heat the skillet on medium heat.
Stir the batter very well as the potato starch will have settled to the bottom of the bowl.
Pour about 3 tablespoons of batter into the skillet (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan).
Rotate the skillet to spread the batter evenly. Cook about 1 minute, until the top surface is dry. Use a metal spatula to flip the blintz onto the other side and cook 10 seconds longer. Turn out onto a paper towel.
Repeat with the remaining batter, stirring between making each blintz to prevent the potato starch from settling to the bottom of the bowl. Place waxed paper or parchment between blintz leaves to prevent sticking.
Yields about 12 servings
2 tablespoons oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon potato starch, if needed
2 tablespoons oil for frying or baking blintzes
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and mushrooms and stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes, until tender-crisp.
Add carrots, cabbage and garlic and stir-fry 2 minutes longer. Season with salt, pepper and ginger. The mixture should be fairly dry. If necessary, sprinkle with potato starch to absorb extra moisture. Remove from heat and let cool.
Place a heaping spoonful of filling on the lower third of the blintz and roll up, turning in ends. (These can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for a few hours or overnight.)
To fry blintzes: Brown the blintzes in hot oil in a large skillet on all sides, until golden and piping hot.
To bake blintzes: Preheat oven to 400°F. Pour oil into a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Place in oven and heat until oil is piping hot, about 5 minutes. Carefully arrange blintzes seam-side down in baking dish. Bake uncovered until golden, about 20 minutes, turning blintzes over with a metal spatula halfway through cooking. Serve with duck sauce if desired.
Chicken or Meat Filling
Grind 3 or 4 cups cooked leftover chicken or roast brisket. Add 2 eggs and mix to combine. Fried onions add additional flavor.
ROCKY ROAD BROWNIES
Yields 3 to 4 dozen, depending on size
These gluten-free, nut-free brownies are excellent for Passover—or any time of year!
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup potato starch
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups miniature Passover marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
Beat eggs and sugar until light. Gradually add oil and beat until blended. Sprinkle potato starch, cocoa and salt over egg mixture and mix just until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle miniature marshmallows evenly over brownies and return pan to oven.
Bake 5 minutes longer.
Prepare chocolate glaze as directed. Drizzle over marshmallow topping in a zigzag design.
Cut into small squares and serve in miniature paper cupcake liners.
Note: These freeze well—if they last that long!
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ tablespoons hot water or brewed coffee
In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat. (You can microwave it on medium power, stirring it once or twice.)
Add honey and hot water or coffee. Blend well. Drizzle over marshmallow-topped brownies.
Norene Gilletz of Toronto, Canada, is the author of nine cookbooks, including The NEW Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition (Vancouver, Canada, 2011) and Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Vancouver, Canada, 2009). She is a freelance food writer, culinary consultant, cookbook editor, lecturer and culinary spokesperson.