I’ve always loved Passover. It all started with my private elementary school, where we had to eat lunch in the cafeteria—not my favorite food establishment. Passover was the only time of year when I could bring my own lunch. Every day my parents sent us to school with something new, exciting and delicious to complement the box of matzah we kept in our lockers. A week without rubberoni and disease (what we called the cafeteria’s macaroni and cheese)!
When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I was overwhelmed with mixed feelings around Passover. On the one hand, no more matzah (or chocolate-covered matzah, matzah brei, matzah balls, matzah casseroles…you get the idea); on the other, Passover became a year-round holiday for me (especially since my family eats kitniyot—legumes and grains like rice, corn and soy).
But despite my love for the holiday, there’s no denying that of all the Jewish holidays, Passover gets the shaft. Even Yom Kippur, which is about not eating altogether, isn’t as dreaded as the holiday of cardboard and indigestion, as some people call it.
The problem—even for me, especially when guests are added and kitniyot are removed from the equation—is variety. The Seder is one thing, but it’s just the beginning—there’s still a whole week of Passover eating after that!
That’s why a lot of us will be pleased to get our hands on Paula Shoyer’s brand-new cookbook, The New Passover Menu. Not even two months old, the book has already skyrocketed to number one on Amazon’s Jewish Holiday Cooking bestseller list. The book itself came together quickly; I remember speaking to Shoyer in late summer when she was working on it. From conception to delivery to the bookstores, this impressive baby took less than one year.
Filled with gorgeous photos, the book is divided into menus, such as the “Updated Ashkenazic Menu,” with banana haroset and fresh salmon gefilte fish loaf, the “French Dairy Menu,” with gratin dauphinois and seared tuna with olives and capers, and the “Italian Vegetarian Menu,” with potato gnocchi with pink sauce.
Shoyer returns to her baking roots with a drool-worthy dessert section, especially since most of the recipes are gluten-free. Some highlights are the opera cake, the linzer tart (recipe available here) and the flourless chocolate cake with marshmallow icing.
Shoyer’s menu is modern Ashkenazic (no kitniyot), and she notes where a recipe is gebrokts, dishes containing matzah, or a matzah product, mixed with liquid, which some Jews avoid “because of the chance that the liquid might cause any unbaked flour in the matzah to become chametz.” Modern extends past the menus, too, with Shoyer offering recommendations and bright images that show that the Passover table isn’t just about your Bubbe’s starched white tablecloth.
As a young professional hosting a crew for the Seder this year, I was pleased to find, as noted at the top of each recipe, that most dishes take no longer than 30 to 45 minutes (for both prep and cooking) and can be prepared in advance and refrigerated or frozen. For those who use different dishes for the holiday, Shoyer also includes a list of “equipment” at the top of each recipe—tongs, colander, cutting board, for example. Maybe you weren’t planning on buying a Passover-designated waffle iron, but at least now you know that if you do, it won’t just sit in your house collecting dust.
I’ve already added the chicken scaloppini with mushrooms, crunchy quinoa with sweet potatoes and cranberries, and fully loaded cookie bars (and several other recipes…) to my Seder menu, but with so many delicious options, I’m starting to worry that I won’t even skim the surface this Passover. Luckily this is a cookbook you can use all year long, too—even if you don’t have Celiac disease.