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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Passover is a special holiday with its own culinary traditions

By Joan Namkoong
Advertiser Food Editor

Faye Levy doesn't stint on recipes in her aptly named book, "1000 Jewish Recipes."

The repertoire is vast; the variations numerous. It all points to simple cooking that celebrates seasonal foods and the tradition of dining, both of which are important parts of Jewish life.

Here are some recipes that can be incorporated into our own daily menus. First, Levy's mother's favorite sabbath dish, a simple chicken stew that is slowly cooked for the Friday night meal.

Pauline Kahn Luria's Chicken and Barley Cholent

  • 4 pounds chicken pieces, excess fat removed
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4cup navy beans or other white beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 3/4cup brown beans or red kidney beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 cup barley, sorted and rinsed
  • 6-8 fairly small boiling potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6-8 large eggs in shells, rinsed

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat oil in a large stew pot or Dutch oven. Add onions and saute over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 5 minutes until onions begin to brown; they don't need to soften. Remove from heat. Add chicken to pan and sprinkle with paprika, cumin and pepper; mix well.

Add beans and barley to the pan. Peel potatoes, if you like; add to pan and sprinkle with salt. (If the potatoes aren't very small, cut them in halves or quarters.) Add enough water to cover ingredients by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat for 20-30 minutes. Set eggs gently on top of stew and push them lightly into liquid. Cover pot tightly and place in oven; bake overnight, without stirring. Serve hot.

• • •

This is the classic dish of Ashkenazic cooking, a potato casserole that's as inevitable as rice on an Island table.

Potato Kugel

  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil in a skillet. Add onions and saute over medium-low heat about 10 minutes or until light golden. Transfer to a large bowl.

Coarsely grate potatoes, put in a large strainer and squeeze out excess liquid. Add to bowl of onions. Add eggs, salt, pepper and matzo meal.

Generously grease a 7-cup baking dish. Heat in oven for 5 minutes. Remove dish from oven and carefully spoon potato mixture into dish. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake about 1 hour or until kugel is browned and set.

• • •

As is true in most cultures, Jews associate certain foods with certain holidays. Passover, which begins on Saturday, is the springtime festival that commemorates the freeing of ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. It lasts for eight days.

A special ceremonial dinner known as the Pesach Seder is prepared on the first and second nights.

Most significant for this holiday is matzo, the traditional unleavened bread served both as a bread and used as an ingredient in dumplings and cakes.

It is a flat bread that symbolizes the Hebrews' hurried flight from Egypt, when they could not wait for their bread to rise.

The symbolic Seder plate usually displays haroset, a reddish-brown spread of fruits and nuts representing the bricks and mortar the salves made in ancient Egypt; horseradish, recalling the bitter lives of the slaves; a roasted lamb bone to recall animals of sacrifice, and a celery stalk or parsley sprig reminiscent of spring.

Haroset is served cold or at room temperature, as a spread with the cracker-like matzo.

Here are recipes from the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions. Use sweet-tart apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gala.

Ashkenazic Haroset

  • 3/4 to 1 cup walnuts
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2-3 large apples, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-4 tablespoons sweet red wine

Grind walnuts with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until fairly fine, leaving a few small chunks. Transfer to a bowl.

Grate apples on large holes of a grater. Add to nut mixture. Stir in cinnamon.

Gradually stir in enough wine to make a thick spread. Add more sugar if desired.

Spoon into a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature or cold, as a spread with matzo.

Sephardic Haroset

  • 8 ounces pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 sweet apples such as Golden Delicious or Gala, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-4 tablespoons sweet red wine
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Halve dates and remove any pits or pit fragments. Put dates and almonds into a medium bowl.

Grate apple on large holes of a grater. Add to date mixture.

Stir in cinnamon, then gradually stir in enough wine to make a thick spread.

Spoon into a serving bowl. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, if using.

Serve at room temperature or cold, as a spread with matzos.