Casual Passover meals remain faithful to religious traditions

March 16, 1994|By Kyra Effren | Kyra Effren,Dallas Morning News Universal Press Syndicate

Passover begins at sundown March 26 with the traditional Seder dinner.

And, as they have for generations, Jews will partake of the ceremonial dishes of Seder as they begin their celebration of the Jews' flight from Egypt to freedom.

But these days, families celebrating Passover are creating Seder menus and dishes that update traditions to reflect today's more casual lifestyles.

This trend shows up in the "holidays" section of the cookbook "From Generation To Generation" ($16.95), recently published by the Sisterhood of Temple Emmanu-El in Dallas.

Editor Louise Rosenfield says even holiday recipes, which tend to be the most traditional, reflect contributors' heritages and their 1990s lifestyles.

Contributor Roselee Cohen substitutes farfel (egg barley pasta) for corn bread stuffing to go with her turkey and says, "Matzo Pizza is a big hit with the kids." Matzo, a flat, unleavened bread, is used as the base for the pizza.

The formality of the Seder meal also is giving way to a more relaxed, though no less devout, celebration.

"Recently, our Seders have become more casual," says Leslie Bass. "Last year we even used a paper cloth and plates and had such a good time, that will now become part of our tradition."

In the cookbook, she recalls the more traditional Seders celebrated by her family in Lockhart, Texas: "For our family it was our annual gathering, remaining unchanged for more than 25 years. We lived in a small Texas town with no synagogue, yet the relatives from all the nearby cities came to us for Passover. The huge Passover meal never varied, and to this day I know exactly who prepared which dish, and can quote the menu by heart."

Byrna Frank, who submitted chocolate toffee matzo to the book, serves the same Seder menu her grandmother served -- gefilte )) fish, soup, roast, sponge cake -- using some of the same serving dishes.

Tina Wasserman, a cooking teacher who contributed to the book, follows her mother's menu for the Seder. But during the rest of the eight days she offers lighter, more healthful fare. "I have even considered throwing a chili or two into some of my dishes," she says.

Passover zucchini frittata

Makes 12 servings

1 1/2 pounds fresh zucchini

1 chopped onion

3 tablespoon oil

5 matzo

5 eggs (or egg whites equal to 5 eggs)

1 1/4 cups grated Cheddar cheese

ZTC 1 cup cottage cheese

1 teaspoon salt or salt substitute

sliced zucchini or parsley for decoration

Heat oven to 350 degrees; grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and set aside.

Peel and grate zucchini; place in medium-size pan. Add onion and oil; saute over high heat until tender. Break matzo and soak in warm water for 5 minutes; squeeze dry.

Mix eggs, cheeses and salt, then mix with sauteed zucchini and onion. Stir in matzo and mix until ingredients are well-combined. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes.

Note: Yellow squash or a mixture of yellow squash, zucchini and carrots can be substituted.

Per serving: 192 calories; 11 grams fat; 103 milligrams cholesterol; 352 milligrams sodium; 50 percent calories from fat.

Chocolate toffee matzo

1/2 pound matzo (approximately)

Makes about 2 pounds of candy

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1 cup toffee candy pieces (optional)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch jellyroll pan with aluminum foil. Fit matzo in pan in a single layer, covering entire pan. (Some may be left over.)

In a small pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and brown sugar. Boil until mixture coats a spoon (about 3 to 5 minutes). Pour mixture over matzo layer. Bake 4 minutes; remove from oven.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake 1 minute more. Remove from oven and gently spread melted chocolate to cover as completely as possible. Sprinkle with chopped nuts or toffee candy, if desired.

Cool completely in refrigerator. Break into pieces and store in covered tin in refrigerator.

Per serving: 162 calories; 9 grams fat; 17 milligrams cholesterol; 86 sodium; 50 percent calories from fat.

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