Doing More With Less
Wed, 03/13/2013
Special To The Jewish Week
From top left: Matzaroni and cheese, spinach and mushroom quinoa and baked spaghetti squash “ziti.”
From top left: Matzaroni and cheese, spinach and mushroom quinoa and baked spaghetti squash “ziti.”

If there’s anything most observant cooks don’t want on Pesach, it’s more restrictions. But that’s just what the authors of two new holiday cookbooks are doing — adding limits to their cooking beyond the usual flour, bread and oats — and forcing themselves to become even more creative.

“One year I decided to challenge myself — What would happen if I didn’t use one potato on Pesach,” said Aviva Kanoff, “and I was really surprised by the outcome.” Traditionally, people eat loads of potatoes to make up for other starches, such as pasta and rice, that are forbidden during Passover (the latter just for Ashkenazim).

Kanoff, author of the “The No-Potato Passover,” which she self-published last year, is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, and has worked as a personal chef, primarily for those with diabetes.

“I’m used to working with specific diets, and I kind of thrive on that challenge,” she said.

Kanoff turned to other ingredients to fill the void in her book, most prominently quinoa and spaghetti squash, but also parsnips, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. She says she has always been interested in cooking, particularly the creative process of recipe writing — and is now working on two gluten-free cookbooks.

“It has kind of been the joke in my family that I’ve been cooking since before I was allowed to use the stove,” she said.

Two other women with unique Passover culinary traditions have teamed up to write “Passover Made Easy,” published by Artscroll this year. Victoria Dwek, who hails from a Sephardi background, eats kitniyot — aka rice and legumes — on the holiday, which Ashkenazim do not. Leah Schapira, in addition to not eating kitniyot, doesn’t eat gebrokts, which is any matzah mixed with liquid, or buy any processed foods at all for the eight-day holiday. “Everything has to be homemade — no cheating,” Schapira said.

Their book includes no recipes for kitniyot and only a handful that would be considered gebrokts. There are “building block” recipes — like mayonnaise, bread crumbs and sauces — throughout.

That aside, Dwek said, “the successful recipes [that made it into the book] were when people did not care if they were Pesach or not.” The pair said that while the book includes 60 recipes, there are close to 160 that were tested but didn’t make the cut.

Schapira said she made the book’s biscotti recipe, which calls for potato starch and ground almonds, and left the biscotti in a jar on the table. They were gobbled up before she could tell her family they didn’t contain any flour.

The culinary duo first met when Dwek interviewed Schapira for an article about kosher food personalities. Despite their different backgrounds, “We both have kids and we both are night owls and we both sort of have the same schedule ... We have different strengths... We never fight,” they said. They also live 30 minutes away from each other in New Jersey — Dwek in Deal and Schapira in Lakewood — and can spend hours on the phone with each other while they each test recipes at home. They hope that “Passover Made Easy” will be the first in a series of ‘made easy’ cookbooks they put out together for Artscroll.

“When you have two people working on a book, a lot of the time recipes are most successful when you can talk about them, refine and think them through even before we get to the kitchen,” said Dwek.

Schapira chimed in: “This is what we love doing and this is what we love talking about. ... We can talk about the same recipe 10 times in the same day, and we think it’s the most fascinating topic ever.”

Matzaroni and Cheese - Serves 6 to 8

From “Passover Made Easy” by Victoria Dwek and Leah Schapira

5 matzahs, broken into small pieces

5 eggs

1 (16 oz.) container sour cream

1 (16 oz.) container cottage cheese

3 tbsp. butter, melted

1 tsp. salt

2 cups shredded mozzarella or muenster cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, arrange one-third of the broken matzah pieces.

2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, salt, and 1 cup shredded cheese. Pour one-third of the cheese mixture over the matzah. Repeat with two additional layers of matzah and cheese. Top with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 40 minutes. The cheese on top should be brown and bubbling.

Spinach and Mushroom Quinoa

From “No Potato Passover” by Aviva Kanoff

2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup quinoa

2 cups mushrooms, diced

1 large onion, diced

salt, pepper and garlic powder to season

1. Cook quinoa according to package and set aside.

2. In a large frying pan, brown diced onion.

3. Add mushrooms and spinach.

4. Sauté for 3 minutes until fully cooked.

5. Mix quinoa together with spinach, mushrooms and onions.

6. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Baked Spaghetti Squash ‘Ziti’

From “No Potato Passover” by Aviva Kanoff

16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 small spaghetti squash, (about 4 cups), baked, seeded and shredded

1 onion, diced

2 cups tomato sauce

1 package ricotta cheese (16 oz.)

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Mix all ingredients together.

3. Spread mixture into a greased 9 x 12-inch baking dish.

4. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted desired amount. If you prefer the cheese to be browned, this will need a little more time in the oven.

Amy Spiro writes The Nosh Pit for The Jewish Week. Find it at www.thejewishweek.com.