It’s no joke – Pesach is looming closer and there’s still so much to do. This is definitely not a time to rest! Who isn’t putting in their “all” these days? But there is just so much you can do. Keep in mind that the key to success is in the hands of Hashem, so as you toil through your tasks, remember to ask for His help.
At this point, you might be taking a short rest in your Pesach kitchen. But even if you haven’t reached that stage yet, there is something I’d like to point out.
As the family chef, you can always just throw a few peeled vegetables into a pot, add water and salt and cook up some kind of a soup. Your diners will probably even compliment you on the fantastic dish you’ve prepared if this is the kind of cuisine they’re accustomed to.
However, if you invest a bit of thought and a lot of heart in each step of the prep, if you pay attention to how much salt you’re adding and when, if you sauté the vegetables somewhat before you add the stock and remember to spice it all with a special tefillah, your soup will reach a totally different plateau! Concentrating on what you’re doing doesn’t lengthen the process but it makes all the difference in the outcome.
So just invest, Hashem will do the rest!
A personal passion of mine is Pesach cooking. Let’s address, then, some kitchen questions that will hopefully help you this year:
Q. We’re “making Pesach” for the first time this year. When and what should I start cooking?
A. Firstly, divide your cooking tasks into two categories: 1. Important and non-essential – as in cakes, cookies, jams and other sweets. 2. Important and essential, meaning the basics – gefilte fish, poultry, meat, sides and soups. Borsht and applesauce would probably overlap, belonging in both categories.
If you’re organized and you reach your Pesach kitchen a few days before Yom Tov, this is the time to cook up the non-essentials. Fill your freezer with useful extras that become quite essential, as you’ll have time to enjoy your Yom Tov out of the kitchen…
If you enter the cooking zone only on Erev Pesach, though, you’ll have to go straight to the basics, so roll up your sleeves and start ASAP! But don’t panic, you can earn some time out of the kitchen too if you make everything in big batches. Divide and freeze in bags or boxes for the rest of Yom Tov and save on dishwashing and general cleanup while you’re at it.
Q. How long do I need to bake salmon?
A. As a rule, most fish should be baked for under half an hour to make sure it doesn’t become dry and “rubbery.” This applies to a family-sized pan of portioned fish. But if you’re baking a whole fish or many portions, baking time will be longer. In general, to check fish doneness, pry a small piece with a fork to see if it flakes and its translucent color has changed to opaque.
Q. Is there any way I can watch my weight on Pesach when almost everything is made with oil and sugar?
A. Of course! If you bake your chicken and sauté your onions without a bit of oil (we’ve spoken about this already, haven’t we?), make your fish with vegetables and spices only and cut down half of the sugar in your baking recipes, you’re already on the right track to better health (and diet)!
More “slim” ideas: Bake your French fries. For mashed potatoes, add some of the cooking water instead of oil. “Fry” your chicken cutlets in a Teflon pan or even better, bake them!
Try these ideas and you’ll see the result after Pesach! Oh, and make sure you make enough for your whole family cuz they won’t let you dine alone…
Q. For some reason, the color of my borsht sometimes resembles “Kool-Aid” instead of the deep purple color we prefer. Why is this?
A. Good borsht starts with good beets. Pick only beets with young green leaves on top making sure the peel is taut, not wrinkled. Another tip that helps accentuate the ruby color of the beets is adding lemon juice to the water before cooking.
Q. I have quite a few ice cream recipes for Pesach but they all call for whipped egg whites which I’d rather not use because of salmonella. Do you have a different frozen dessert idea that’ll keep the kids cool and happy?
A. Try my sorbet!
Fabulous Fruity Sorbet
Easy and light, bursting with natural taste and color, you’ll want to make this sorbet all year around. Made from any fruit juice – fresh, squeezed, or bottled, they all come out great! My favorites are orange juice, grapefruit juice, and grape juice. We even tried with cola and bottled nectar, like peach and apricot.
Makes about 8 cups
3 cups boiling water
1-1½ cups sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of the juice)
3 cups fruit juice
½ cup lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, melt the sugar in the boiling water, stirring continually. Add the fruit juice and lemon juice. Stir to mix well.
Pour into a plastic container, and freeze, covered, until almost frozen through- about 6 hours.
Remove the sorbet from the freezer. In a food processor, puree the sorbet on high using the knife attachment until smooth and velvety.
Serve immediately or return it to its container and freeze for another time. Take it out of the freezer about 10 minutes before serving to make sure it will be soft enough to scoop.
Tip: Make a few flavors and wow your crowd with an array of colorful sorbet balls.