All the world is nuts about
What's in The Nut Gourmet
PASSOVER WITH PROMISE
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Passover presents some challenging meal planning for the strict vegetarian, especially one whose family follows Ashkenazic rather than Sephardic tradition. Families who came from Eastern Europe, the Ashkenazic Jews, forbade the use of all grains and legumes during Passover with the exception of matzoh and products derived from matzoh, such as matzoh meal. The practice was to commemorate their Jewish ancestors who were slaves in Egypt and were preparing to leave after receiving permission from the Pharoah.
The Jews began to bake their bread on the shore of the Red Sea but were forced to leave hurriedly when Pharoah reversed his decision and sent his army to destroy them. Carrying their possessions, including their unleavened bread, the Jews fled into the Red Sea.
Following their traumatic exodus, the Jews settled on the shores of the Sinai Desert and realized their bread had baked in the sun before it had time to rise. Each year Jews around the world eat unleavened bread called matzoh to remember their ancestors' bread of affliction.
Since grains have the ability to rise when mixed with yeast, the Ashkenazic Jews have eliminated them from the Passover menu, along with legumes that 13th century Jews thought might resemble grains.
Sephardic Jews, whose families emigrated to Spain and Portugal, honor the occasion similarly, but with some variation. They include legumes along with rice, at their Passover table. Since the majority of Jews in America are from Ashkenazic ancestry, grains and legumes are not found on their Passover tables.
For strict vegetarians, or vegans, the Passover menu consists of a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Is it possible to get sufficient nourishment on this regimen? Absolutely! Nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables will offer more than enough of the important nutrients like protein, fiber, carbohydrates, beneficial fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Center your meal on a succulent Brazen Raisin Pesach Stew with Baked Sweet Potatoes. Main dish stews made frequent appearances on the holiday tables of Eastern European Jews. Following in our ancestors' footsteps, we've created a beguiling stew of cabbage, carrots, onions, and parsnips laced with kosher white wine and raisins to represent the sweetness of spring renewal.
Avid fans of eggplant can relish a side dish of Nutty Baked Eggplant that involves minimal preparation and partners well with the stew. Simply slice, dip, and bake a plump eggplant and feast on a melt-in-your-mouth creation that's crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.
To further enhance the Nutty Baked Eggplant, we've included a light, silky Cashew Horseradish Cream Sauce that turns the simple eggplant into an entirely new taste delight. Add simmered diced beets and the side dish becomes a WOW! presentation.
Veggie Matzoh Brie is a revered old standard with a no-cholesterol list of ingredients to lend variety during the eight days of Passover. Start the morning with a 5-a-day boost from this delicious stir-fry that includes the sweetness of red bell pepper, the earthy zap of mushrooms, and the pleasing crunch of walnuts. For a more nutritious breakfast, turn to whole-wheat matzoh that's kosher for Passover.
Another idea to create variety during the week of matzoh, matzoh, and more matzoh is to add a tasty topping of Winter Fruit Butter to spread over your matzoh and bring sweet rewards to a palate seeking relief.
How simple ingredients combined with a pinch of love can produce such satisfying flavors is often a source of wonder. Freshness is one key--the other is the sweetness that raisins can impart to create a delicious broth for the stew. Paired with sweet potatoes, this delectable dish may just endear itself into becoming an annual Passover favorite.
BRAZEN RAISIN PESACH STEW
WITH BAKED SWEET POTATOES
Yield: 6 servings
6 medium sweet potatoes, yellow or orange
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium head cabbage, sliced 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
2 cups (480 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) kosher dry white wine
2/3 cup (160 ml) black raisins
1/2 cup (120 ml) golden raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons arrowroot or potato starch
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (Gas Mark 8) and have ready a large baking sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil, shiny side down.
- Scrub the sweet potatoes, place them on the baking sheet, and bake them for 1 hour or until they are soft when gently squeezed.
- To prepare the stew, combine the onions, water, garlic, and olive oil in a 12-quart (12 liter) stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened and transparent.
- Add the cabbage, carrots, parsnip, water, wine, raisins, salt, and pepper and cover the stockpot. Bring it to a boil over high heat, lower the heat to medium, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the vegetables are soft and cooked down, combine the arrowroot and water in a cup or small bowl and stir it into a thin paste. Add the paste to the gently simmering vegetable stew, stirring continuously for about 1 minute, or until it is lightly thickened. Simmer for another minute to temper the arrowroot.
- To serve, cut a lengthwise slit into each of the sweet potatoes but don't cut all the way through. Widen the potato openings and spoon a generous portion of the warmed stewed vegetables into the cavities.
Dipped in seasoned hazelnuts and oven roasted, this eggplant creation makes friends quickly as a side dish that enhances any meal. Lovers of this vegetable adore it almost any way it is served but will find this simply prepared creation especially satisfying because the flavors are not obscured with heavy seasonings.
NUTTY BAKED EGGPLANT
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup (240 ml) matzoh meal
1/3 cup (80 ml) finely ground hazelnuts*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice or kosher dry red wine
1 medium eggplant, about 3/4 pound
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Gas Mark 5) and lightly oil a jellyroll pan or line it with parchment.
- Combine the matzoh meal, hazelnuts, salt and pepper in a wide shallow bowl and set it aside. Pour the lemon juice into another wide shallow bowl and set it aside.
- Wash the eggplant but do not peel it. Cut it into crosswise slices about 3/8-inch (.5 cm) thick. Dip the slices into the lemon juice to moisten both sides, then dredge both sides in the matzoh meal mixture. Place them on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
* To grind the hazelnuts, place them into the food processor and process until they become tiny tidbits.
Note: If you would like to enhance the eggplant, spoon a teaspoon-size dollop of Cashew Horseradish Cream Sauce into the center of each slice and sprinkle a pinch of parsley over the sauce.
White as a puffy cloud and velvety smooth as a satin sheet, this sassy sauce is just the thing some dishes need to make them pop. Cashews are the base of the sweetness and the thickening, while the prepared horseradish lives up to its reputation to add a lively spirit, even as a little dollop. You can easily prepare this sauce a day or two ahead but warm it gently before serving for best results. If the sauce needs thinning, add small amounts of water, like a tablespoon or two at a time, and stir well while warming.
CASHEW HORSERADISH CREAM SAUCE
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)
1/2 cup (120 ml) raw cashews
1 cup (240 ml) water, divided
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
3/4 teaspoon salt
- Combine the cashews and 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the water in the blender. Process on slow speed for a few seconds, then switch to high speed and blend for a full minute to completely puree the cashews. Add the remaining 1/2 cup (120 ml) water and blend to a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Transfer the cashew sauce to a 1-quart (1 liter) saucepan, add the horseradish and salt, and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning the sauce.
Thinking outside the box led to this unique treatment for enhancing baked eggplant that adds refreshing nuance to the Passover menu. By combining cooked beets with the finished Cashew Horseradish Cream Sauce, you can create a dazzling red garnish to the baked eggplant. All it takes to tease a WOW out of your guests is a couple of spoonfuls centered onto the eggplant.
Beet Horseradish Sauce
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) peeled and diced beets (about 3 small beets)
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1/4 teaspoon salt
- Combine the beets, water, and salt in a 1-quart (1 liter) saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to the lowest setting and steam the beets for 10 minutes, or until they are fork tender.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the beets and add them to the Cashew Horseradish Cream Sauce. Stir well and add a small amount of the beet cooking liquid if needed to create a creamy texture.
- To serve, spoon about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture onto the baked eggplant slices and serve.
Breakfast becomes a joy when you have a tasty matzoh brie to entice you into the kitchen. The preparation can be as easy or complex as you choose. If you don't have time to include all the vegetables, the dish will still be wholesome and satisfying. Serve with a fresh fruit salad and a steaming cup of herbal tea.
VEGGIE MATZOH BRIE
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
4 pieces whole wheat matzoh, broken into coarse pieces
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound (225g) sliced cremini or button mushrooms
1/4 cup (60 ml) raw walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
- Break the matzoh into 2-inch chunks and put them into a deep bowl. Pour hot water over the matzohs to cover, and soak them about 1 minute. Pour off the water, draining well, and set the matzohs aside.
- Pour the olive oil and water into a large, deep skillet and heat for 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients, including the soaked matzoh, and cook and stir over high heat for about 2 to 4 minutes, or just until the onions become softened and translucent.
- Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Note: A pinch or two of cayenne added to the pan while stir-frying offers a pleasant punch to the morning entrée.
Matzoh has earned its ages old reputation as a fiber-less wonder for good reason. To counteract its many shortcomings, count on a spread that not only offers enticing flavor dimension, but also comes to the rescue with digestive benefits and plenty of fiber. The recipe makes plenty and should carry you through the holiday, but if you run out, you can easily whip up another batch.
WINTER FRUIT BUTTER
Yield: about 3 cups
2 cups (480 ml) dried apple slices
18 pitted dates
12 pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water, divided
- Combine the apple slices, dates, prunes, and 1 cup (240 ml) of the water in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover and bring it to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and steam for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the cooked fruits, liquid and all, to the food processor and add the remaining 1/2 cup (120 ml) water. Process until smooth and creamy.
- Store the fruit butter in a covered container in the refrigerator where it will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
Note: If you have leftover Winter Fruit Butter (WFB) after Passover, never fear. There are a million ways to enjoy it. Here are a few:
Put a shmear of peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread and top it with WFB.
Heap a generous spoonful of WFB over cooked oatmeal or whole-wheat cereal and spread it with the back of your spoon.
Spoon a dollop of WFB over rice pudding or tapioca pudding.
Place the WFB in the blender and thin it slightly with a little water to create a tasty sauce to top pancakes or waffles.
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