If you never thought you would hear the words “healthy” and “Passover” in the same sentence, think again. “Quinoa is the greatest new addition to the Passover pantry,” says Paula Shoyer, author of The New Passover Menu (Sterling Epicure) Gluten-free and high in protein, quinoa is a rich source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. And although it resembles some Passover forbidden grains, it is considered a pseudocereal and is actually related to beetroots and spinach.
Because of its high protein content, quinoa is even being considered by NASA as a possible crop in their Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-term space flights, but we love it as a welcome source of variety for the eight-day holiday. “It finally received definitive rabbinic approval for Passover in 2014,” notes Shoyer, “after a rabbi was dispatched to Peru and Bolivia to see how quinoa is grown. He learned that quinoa grows at very high altitudes, while the grains that are prohibited on Passover are grown much farther below it. The authorities concluded that there was no risk of intermingling.”
In addition to Shoyer’s Crunchy Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries, she also recommends her Roasted Peppered Carrots, another healthful and vibrantly coloured addition to your Passover table. To prepare the dish, cut twelve large carrots into matchsticks, toss with 1-1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and roast at 400, stirring once or twice, until you can just pierce them with a fork, about 25 minutes.
It is Passover after all, and the old adage “everything in moderation” comes especially to mind for those mindful of their health and weight when faced with the endless and tempting Passover dessert buffet. What is it about the restrictions of Passover that seem to challenge Jewish bakers to create ever more unusual and satisfying desserts?
“Passover is the holiday when you have to be a home baker,” Shoyer explains. “Even major cities have few bakeries, if any, that sell Passover desserts, and if they do, they are usually not worth eating. The packaged Passover cakes and cookies often taste like cardboard. If you want flavourful Passover desserts, you have to bake them yourself.”
Fortunately Shoyer, a graduate of the Ritz Escoffier pastry program in Paris and widely known for her previous baking books, The Kosher Baker and The Holiday Kosher Baker, has provided a wide variety of Passover choices in her new book, including Triple Chocolate Biscotti, Glazed Chocolate Fudge Sponge Cake, Pistachio and Strawberry Roll, Pear Frangipane Tart and Cheesecake with Roasted Cashew and Chocolate Crust.
“Flourless chocolate cake is ubiquitous at Passover, but I began to tire of the same recipe year after year,” recalls Shoyer, who adorns this version with a lovely, comforting marshmallow topping. And bittersweet chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, so enjoy!
Crunchy quinoa with sweet potatoes and cranberries
“My husband, Andy, eats quinoa for breakfast with blueberries all Passover long,” says Shoyer. “This dish is a great combination of colour and texture.”
o 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
o 2 cups water
o 1 tsp. salt, or more to taste, divided use
o 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. cubes
o 7 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
o 4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
o 2 tsp. honey
o 1 tsp. ground cumin
o 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
o 1/2 tsp. black pepper
o 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
o 1/3 cup dried cranberries
o 3 green onions, cut into 1/4-in.-thick slices
Preheat oven to 400.
Place quinoa in small saucepan with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, or until water evaporates. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Off heat let quinoa sit, covered, at least half an hour. Quinoa may be cooked 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered.
In roasting pan, toss sweet potato cubes with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cubes can be pierced with fork. Set aside.
Dressing: In small bowl, whisk together remaining 6 tablespoons oil with vinegar, honey, cumin, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
Assemble: Use whisk to break apart any clumps of quinoa; transfer to large bowl. Add dressing; whisk well. Add sweet potatoes, pine nuts, cranberries, green onions and salt to taste, if needed. Mix gently. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6-8.
Flourless chocolate cake with marshmallow icing
“Here, I’ve dressed up this classic dessert with a sweet cooked icing that perfectly complements the bitter chocolate cake,” says Shoyer.
o 1 tsp. oil, for greasing pan
o 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
o 1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
o 6 large eggs, separated, whites at room temperature (see note)
o 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
o 1/2 cup sugar
o 1 cup sugar
o 1/4 cup warm water
o 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
o 1 tbsp. honey
o dash salt
Preheat oven to 350. With parchment paper, trace and cut out a circle around bottom of 9- or 10-in. springform pan. Grease bottom of pan with 1/2 tsp. oil. Press parchment circle on top. Grease top of parchment circle and sides of pan with remaining oil so finished cake will easily slide onto serving plate.
Melt chocolate and margarine over double boiler, or use heatproof bowl over saucepan filled with simmering water, whisking often until thoroughly melted. You can also microwave at 30-second increments, mixing after each heating cycle. Remove melted chocolate mixture from heat, add egg yolks and cocoa, and whisk well.
In separate bowl, with electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites until stiff. Reduce speed to low, add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and mix. Then turn speed to high for 1 minute.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture in four parts, mixing more slowly after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 minutes, or until cake is set when jiggled. Cake will puff up and look cracked on top, but will fall a bit when cooled.
Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
To serve, open spring; remove sides of pan. With metal flat-blade spatula, separate parchment from bottom of pan and slide parchment and cake onto serving plate. Tuck waxed paper or parchment paper under cake to keep platter clean when icing.
Icing: Pour a few inches of water into bottom of double boiler or medium saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Off heat, place sugar and warm water in top of double boiler, or in heatproof bowl that fits into saucepan without falling in. Whisk to dissolve sugar. Add egg whites, honey and salt; beat with hand-held electric mixer for 1 minute on medium-high speed. Place bowl over gently boiling water and beat with hand-held electric mixer on high speed a full 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
Trim any dry pieces from top of cake. If top of cake is uneven, place parchment on top of cake and turn over to ice bottom. With metal spatula, spread icing on sides of cake, then top. Smooth top and sides or, if you plan to toast them with a blowtorch, use small spoon to create waves or texture on top. Remove waxed paper or parchment pieces from under cake. Store cake in fridge. Use blowtorch to brown waved edges until golden-brown.
Note: To bring egg whites to room temperature in 10 minutes, separate eggs and place whites in metal bowl. Place bowl over another bowl filled with 2 inches of hot water. Stir eggs occasionally, and they will be at room temperature within 10 minutes.