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Spring zing

Passover and Easter are just two weeks away. Now is the time to start planning the menu. The main course is always easy. Most Jewish cooks prepare turkey, chicken, capon or brisket for the Passover seder. Easter dinner centers around leg of lamb or roast ham. The appetizers, side dishes and desserts should reflect the bountiful spring harvest of fruits and vegetables.

Today and next week, I’ll give you recipes for delicious dishes to be enjoyed during Easter and Passover. Since Passover is an eight-day celebration, some people can’t decide what to prepare for lunch or dinner once the seder leftovers are gone.

I never have a problem giving up bread, pasta and other foods that contain yeast during Passover. By day five, I make matzoh bagels — small rolls that are especially good when stuffed with tuna, egg or whitefish salad.

I always roast a turkey for our seder and although everyone in our family gobbles down my mushroom stuffing at Thanksgiving, I had to find a substitute for the herb stuffing mix. Matzoh farfel fills the bill nicely. All you have to remember is to keep the farfel moist.

Asparagus, once considered "the" vegetable that heralds spring, is now available year-round. I am constantly searching for new ways to prepare one of my family’s favorite vegetables. Tiny spring peas are now in the market, but they are among the forbidden foods for Passover. Mint is a traditional herb with new spring peas, so you should consider them for your Easter dinner.

Small white new potatoes are in the market as well. I made them for dinner last week with several heads of garlic. Edward and I enjoyed them so much, I will add them to our Passover dinner.

Passover desserts can be challenging, but I’ve found some recipes for those of us with a sweet tooth. Fresh ripe pineapple slices and juicy sweet strawberries are a tradition in our house.

Here are recipes for Passover and Easter. All recipes can be easily doubled.

Asparagus with Saut�ed Grape Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh asparagus
1 pint grape tomatoes
Drizzle of olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon or more, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 hard-cooked egg, grated or chopped in the food processor

Directions:

Place the asparagus in a large skillet or small roasting pan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for about five minutes or more, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain in a colander and set aside. If you wish to serve the asparagus cool, place in the refrigerator.

Place the asparagus on a pretty serving platter. Cut each grape tomato in half. Scatter the tomatoes all over the asparagus. Drizzle on desired amount of olive oil and lemon juice. Add the kosher salt and pepper and top with grated egg.

Serves six to eight.

Roasted New Potatoes with Garlic

Ingredients:

24 small new potatoes
2 heads garlic
Olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Wash the potatoes, but do not peel them. Place them in a shallow roasting pan. Separate the heads of garlic by placing one on your countertop and smashing them with the bottom of a small pot. No need to peel the cloves. Scatter the garlic cloves over the potatoes. Drizzle on the olive oil — about 3 to 4 tablespoons. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roast for 30 minutes. Toss with a large spoon, return to the oven and roast about another 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Serves six to eight.

Note: You can add some snipped fresh dill or rosemary leaves if you like.

Matzo Farfel Stuffing with Leeks and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 cups hot chicken stock
6 cups matzoh farfel
4 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 leeks, split lengthwise, washed well and sliced
1-1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms such as cremini, shiitake and button, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish if you are not using the stuffing to stuff a turkey, chicken or capon. Pour the hot stock over the farfel in a large bowl. Blend well. Allow to stand. If farfel feels a little dry, add more hot stock or water.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the leeks and mushrooms, and saut� until the mushrooms give up their liquid, about five to 10 minutes. Add the leek and mushroom mixture to the farfel. Add the salt and pepper and blend well.

Place the stuffing in the casserole and bake for about 45 minutes.

Serves six to eight.

Note: If you are going to stuff a bird, make sure the stuffing is completely cool or even cold. It is a good idea to make the stuffing a day ahead, refrigerate overnight and then stuff the bird of your choice.

Passover Rolls
(Matzoh bagels)
From 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy

Ingredients:

1 cup water
7 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups matzoh meal
5 large eggs

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Grease two baking sheets and set aside. Combine water, oil and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add matzoh meal all at once. Mix well. Return pan to low heat and cook, stirring, one minute. Remove from heat and cool about five minutes.

Beat in one egg. When mixture is completely smooth, beat in a second egg. Continue adding eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Drop batter by heaping portions of about 2 tablespoons each onto baking sheets, allowing about 1-1/2 inches between them. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden-brown and firm.

Makes about 18 to 20 rolls.

Note: Levy says you can use these as profiteroles, stuffing them with ice cream or pastry cream and topping with fudge sauce or a fruit sauce such as strawberry or raspberry.

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