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The Passover seder, celebrated by Jews all over the world, begins with these words, "This is the bread of affliction our forefathers ate." The affliction was the slavery of the Jewish people in Egypt and the bread refers to a crisp unleavened cracker-like flatbread called matzoh that the Jews baked in haste in order to flee their oppressors.
Bread is forbidden during this holiday as is any other preparation made with yeast. Matzoh sits on the table at each meal as a substitute. It is quite tasty spread with a bit of butter, cheese, or jam. But, in many Jewish homes, matzoh is used to create any number of substantial dishes that can be eaten as a side dish, main dish, or even dessert.
Every Jewish home has its own special innovative matzoh dish and mine is no exception. When my sons were small, they thought they would perish if pizza was eliminated from their diet during the Passover holiday. So, they invented "matzoh-pitzah," a concoction that was nothing more than spreading tomato sauce and cheese over a sheet of matzoh and then placing it in the microwave for a minute or two. They claimed it was better than the real stuff and it has become part of our Passover menu and memories.
Although matzoh is available all year round, this is the only time of year that Jews are compelled to eat it. The following dishes have evolved from having an over abundance of matzoh and the love and tradition of eating it.
Crispy Matzoh Pancake
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon butter or oil
Break matzohs into one-inch pieces and place in medium bowl. Cover with cold water and let stand about one minute. Drain matzoh, squeezing out excess water, and return to bowl. Beat eggs with milk, salt, and pepper and stir into matzohs. Mix well. Heat butter in seven- inch non-stick skillet until hot. Pour matzoh mixture into skillet and smooth surface with spatula. Cook over medium heat until pancake is set, about six minutes. Slide onto plate and invert back into skillet. Cook another two minutes. Remove to platter and cut into wedges. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and cinnamon.
Mushroom Matzoh Lasagna
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper
1 cup grated Jack cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup tomato sauce
Heat oil in large skillet. Cook onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft, about six minutes. Stir in tomatoes and oregano and simmer 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an eight-inch square baking pan. Soften matzohs by holding under warm running water for a few seconds. Spread two tablespoons tomato sauce on bottom of pan. Layer matzohs alternately with mushroom-onion mixture and jack cheese ending with a layer of matzoh on top. Pour remaining tomato sauce over all, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let cool slightly and cut into squares to serve.
Apple Walnut Matzoh Kugel
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large tart apples: peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a nine-inch round or square cake pan.
Break matzohs into one-inch pieces and soak in milk until soft, about five minutes. Drain well and place in bowl. Whisk together eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt until well blended. Combine with matzohs and stir in apples, walnuts, and raisins. Pour into baking pan and dot with butter. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool and cut into wedges or squares.
Louise Fiszer is a Bay Area freelance food writers and the co-author of several books including Sweet Onions & Sour Cherries and A Good Day for Soup and A Good Day for Salad.