If you’re anything like me, just thinking about Pesach is enough to send shivers down your spine. The “P” word can conjure up images of having to prepare a seemingly endless number of meals in a marathon cooking spree in order to feed a virtual army of hungry friends and family members who are hoping that you will somehow wave your enchanted kitchen wand and make gourmet meals magically appear out of your limited Pesach grocery supply.
Well, never fear, my intrepid readers. Paula Shoyer is here to save the day with an all-new Pesach cookbook, and with 65 gorgeous new recipes, the legendary kosher baking guru might as well be wearing a shiny superhero cape with a big “P” emblazoned on the back as she banishes those Pesach blues forever.
The New Passover Menu is a gorgeous book, loaded with enticing pictures. Almost as exciting as the recipes themselves (and trust me, there are some awesome ones here) is the way the book is laid out, with eight individual menus (updated Ashkenazic Seder, International Seder, Shabbat, Yom Tov, French Dairy, Italian Vegetarian, BBQ Dinner and Easy Chicken) as well as two sections that make short work of both breakfast and dessert. Shoyer also graciously offers up additional lunch menus in the introductory section of the book, allowing you to cross “prepare Pesach menus” off your pre-Yom Tov checklist. A pantry section includes a handy list of Pesach-friendly substitutions for items like corn syrup, cream of tartar and even flour. For those who are less familiar with holiday customs, there is a quick primer on how to prepare for Pesach and a multi-page guide to demystify the Seder. Finally, recipes are clearly marked to let you know how many servings you can expect to get, preparation and cooking time estimates and a list of necessary equipment. Many, but not all, of the recipes let you know right up front if they are suitable for those who don’t eat gebrokts or are on a gluten-free diet.
But as always, it is all about the food and the recipes offer contemporary twists on traditional foods; some look so good you might just be tempted to make them all year round. There are some fun riffs on Pesach classics, with charoses that includes both apples and bananas and an innovative Seder plate salad that incorporates elements of the most memorable night of the year into a novel Chol Hamoed lunch or dinner. The gefilte fish of the alte heim is completely inverted in a unique loaf that has a whole salmon fillet embedded in the center of a stick of frozen gefilte fish. Coconut shnitzel with almond butter sauce, lamb stew with apricots, pears and mint and potato gnocchi with pink sauce all prove that Pesach food need not be boring.
Needless to say, dessert is the best part of every meal and there is no reason to settle for sponge cake when you can indulge in Shoyer’s fabulous linzer tart, which incorporates three different kinds of nuts instead of matzah meal. Need something chocolatey to top off your meal? Whip up a flourless chocolate cake with marshmallow icing and, for those of you who are really adventurous, feel free to pull out your Kosher L’Pesach blowtorch to toast the marshmallow topping and really knock this one out of the park. For a lighter option, check out the lemon cream-laced meringue fruit tarts, a real showstopper that will let you indulge without totally wrecking your diet.
Packed with creativity and fresh ideas, The New Passover Menu, published by Sterling Epicure, may just be the answer to your Pesach dreams.Sandy Eller