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Making the Most of Natural Flavors on Passover


I don't know about you but in my family we are pretty strict on Pesach. It's a funny thing though because when I talk to some people, they seem to think we are so lenient. Considering that Pesach standards stretch from eating rice to not using dishwashing soap (a relative of mine actually washes her dishes with kosher salt!), I guess I can see why some might consider me lenient.

So what do we, or don't we, eat? Well thankfully, my family does not use shmaltz. We opt for nut oil instead. We don't use spices or processed condiments like ketchup, mayo, and duck sauce. So our seasonings mostly involve kosher salt and liquid sugar (a simple syrup that is made by boiling water and sugar and pouring it through a cheesecloth). The liquid sugar really comes in handy for my mom because she loves to make everything sweet. She pours it over sweet potato cubes for perfect candied potatoes, adds it to roasts, fruit salads, and even nut-pancakes.

While cooking with minimal (or no) spices and herbs is a challenge, it's also an opportunity to get back to the basics. During the year, we rely so heavily on bottled sauces and marinades that its nice to relearn how to bring out the natural flavors of foods using minimal processed ingredients. All you really need is a simple sprinkling of salt to bring out the flavor in your dishes.

While my mom likes to use sugar to spruce up some of her recipes, I like to make use of the inherent sweetness found in fruits and vegetables instead. Sauteed onions are great way to add natural sweetness to so many dishes. I know some people who prepare vats of it before Pesach and freeze it in individual portions. Most of my family's meat and chicken Pesach recipes include sauteed onions as a base and some kind of braising liquid like wine or juice. The onions practically melt into the juice and the resulting sauce is delicious over mashed potatoes.

Another great way to bring out the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables is to roast them. Try roasting the apples for your applesauce, or the beets for your vinaigrette. The taste is incomparable to those that are boiled. When you boil your fruits and vegetables, a lot of the natural sweetness and flavor gets released into the water. Roasting, on the other hand, concentrates the flavors so that it's more full-bodied and sweet.

Try this Orange Chicken over roasted mashed sweet potatoes or sliced roasted beets for a delicious naturally sweet meal.