New York – While the holiday of Pesach is preceded by a massive cleaning frenzy in Jewish communities all over the world, there is no doubt that the centerpiece of the eight day holiday is the food, as strict dietary limitations challenge both professional chefs and home cooks to create multiple festive meals, often for large numbers of people.
The days of living on chicken and potatoes are a distant memory for many, as each year new products emerge on store shelves, offering kosher consumers things as incongruous as non-gebrokts flatbread, full sized pizzas and gluten free pasta. While the most recent Pesach craze to hit the Jewish world was the certification of kosher l’Pesach quinoa by several kashrus agencies, this year brings with it several new items that could become Pesach staples.
Watch below Exclusive: Chef Edward Boarland of the famous Prime Grill doing a live cooking for pesech with VIN News reporter Sandy Eller.
“Pesach in 2016 doesn’t feel restrictive due to the many options available now,” Shlomo Klein, chief operating officer of Joy of Kosher magazine, told VIN News. “We shot the pictures for our Pesach issue in February and served all the dishes we tested and no one realized that they were eating Pesach food.”
Manishewitz is offering several new products, including gluten free matza meal, but by far the one receiving the most attention is its all new grape juice produced in conjunction with Welch’s under the rabbinical supervision of the Orthodox Union. Identifying a facility for the specialized kosher product was no small task, according to Rabbi Aron Hayum of Manishewitz.
“The entire process took 18 months to implement,” said Rabbi Hayum. “Not all of their plants were small enough to kasher and we also needed to be able to bring in a mehadrin type hechsher and a team of experienced mashgichim.”
Rabbi Hayum described the product as tasting more like a Concord grape than other commercially available products.
“If people are used to a certain flavor profile it may not be easy to get them to change but we think it is a superior product,” said Rabbi Hayum.
Kayco, a division of Kedem Foods, is debuting fair trade coffee, microwavable mashed potatoes and gluten free crackers this year but executive vice president Harold Weiss’s favorite is a much more humble choice: organic, peeled, ready to use, pre-packaged beets.
“They may be a traditional Passover product but over the last three years, beets have been one of the hottest items out there, not just for horseradish or borscht but for plain eating,” reported Weiss.
While gluten free flours have been available in the past for Pesach, the introduction of coconut, quinoa and almond flours by Pereg make the products readily available to a much wider market. Appealing both to those who don’t eat gebrokts as well as the year round gluten free market, Pereg has high hopes for the debut of its new flours, which will give cooks greater flexibility and more options.
“We worked for the past few months on flours that will fit the KFP kitchen, as well the gluten free field,” said Joy Ashwal, resident spice expert at Pereg. “As the product is very fresh to the market, and not yet on shelves, this Passover will be the first chance consumers will have the chance to try them out. We’re very excited to hear how they will use them to make traditional recipes now kosher for Passover thanks to this multi-purpose flour line.”
Restaurateur Joey Allaham of the Prime Hospitality Group said that he uses all three alternative flours in different ways at both his restaurants and at his Pesach hotel program.
“Quinoa is great but has a very distinctive nutty flavor and aroma so we combine it with potato starch for more structure and binding power,” said Allaham. “We use almond flour in many of our pastries but we always have to make the guest aware because of possible allergies. Coconut flour is also good but it does have a very bold coconut flavor.”
Noted cookbook author Levana Kirschenbaum prefers to combine coconut flour with tapioca for a better product, but calls quinoa flour her favorite.
“Quinoa is a rock star,” said Mrs. Kirschenbaum. “You can use it one for one instead of flour in cookies, although it doesn’t work as well in cakes because a cake has to rise and quinoa is not going anywhere. Apples to apples, it is a great replacement for white flour when you use it in cookies and muffins.”
13 year old teen chef Eitan Bernath, who appeared on a Food Network cooking competition two years ago in his yarmulka, said that almond flour based chocolate chip biscotti are a Pesach tradition in his home.
“Nowadays Passover food is much more than just potato starch and matzo meal,” said Bernath. “There are so many new amazing products out there that really are game changers, in terms of the flavors and kinds of food you can make.”
While many chefs enjoy using alternative flours, others, like Chef Edward Boarland
“I approach cooking for Passover exactly the same way I did when I started cooking kosher,” explained Boarland, who cooked in world class, Michelin-starred restaurants in England and France before moving on to Rafael, an upscale kosher restaurant in Paris.
“Instead of trying to find a way to substitute for ingredients that I couldn’t use because they weren’t kosher, I made sure to focus on ingredients that were acceptable. Passover is the same way. Don’t look for ways to replace flour. Instead focus on the wonderful produce that is available, fresh fish, beautiful meats and other items that can be eaten all around the year.”
As the chef for the Prime Grill’s Pesach program in Santa Monica, California, Boarland will be preparing a variety of restaurant quality meals every night for several hundred guests. Surprisingly, Boarland said that he doesn’t find the dietary restrictions of Pesach to be in any way difficult or limiting.
“You work with what you have,” said Boarland.
In an exclusive VIN News cooking demo, Boarland discusses cooking Pesach-friendly foods while preparing two kosher l’Pesach dishes in the Prime Grill kitchen. Both the main dish Waldorf salad topped with grilled chicken and Eton mess, a traditional English dessert consisting of whipped cream, strawberries and meringue, are beautiful in their simplicity and require no special adaptations for Pesach.
“Both of these dishes are elegant, fresh, delicious and completely kosher for Passover,” said Boarland. “Why settle for food that is anything less than fabulous?”