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No Processed Food for Passover

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There are many minhagim (customs) regarding Passover. Each branch (sect) of Judaism having their own special interpretations. Among Chassidim, and in our household, we do not eat Gebrokst (allow the matzoh to get wet) for the first 7 days of Passover. On the 8th day we allow the matzoh to be eaten freely with all foods and to be wetted and especially to make knaidlach and matzoh brei. We also take on many chumrahs (restrictions) such as eating only fruits and vegetables that can be peeled. Therefore virtually all spices are prohibited. In our sect, garlic is not used. You might think, that we are left with practically nothing to eat, since we take on the additional chumrah that we don’t use any processed foods, but make everything ourselves. The only processed foods we use are Salt, Sugar (boiled and filtered before Passover, and used in liquid form), Oil, Matzoh and Wine. In recent years, as the family has grown, we now buy potato starch, since we can’t produce enough of it just from slicing and soaking potatoes. (Here is a recipe for Potato Starch "Matzo" Balls)

In truth, I love Passover, because I think it is the healthiest 8 days of the year. No food colorings, no preservatives, no junk. I used to lecture on this subject to people first learning about Jewish Law, saying that if it reads “Kosher for Passover” we don’t use it. My point was, we make everything we can ourselves.

However, as a certified “pepperhead” I enjoy highly spiced foods, therefore I employ those foods that are easy to peel, yet impart strong flavors. Shallots find as prominent a place in my Passover kitchen as onions. I peel jalapeno peppers with ease, and make a very spicy condiment that can be used in a variety of ways. Frying the peppers with shallots in equal quantities will create a “chariff” that can be added to soup, sauces or used as a dip. I love habaneros, but have yet to find a way of peeling them easily. Their seeds however carry quite a heat, and I employ the seeds for my own tastes.

Last year I developed a tamarind sauce also as a dip for meat and poultry. It’s quite a job peeling and boiling down the tamarinds and separating the pits, etc (since we wouldn’t use tamarind paste) but I found it well worth the “patchkarei”. I love the taste of ginger which is quite easy to peel, slice, dice and grate using it to flavor soup and meats, and I added it to my tamarind sauce too.

For the “Chariff” it’s just too easy to make, and will vary according to your own taste. For starts you can use equal quantities of jalapeno (or any hot pepper you desire, if you’re not into “peeling”) and shallots, and fry them in oil, until browned and not yet burnt crispy. Salt to taste. If you want hotter, use the seeds, if you want it hotter yet, increase the ratio of pepper to shallots. You can use a hotter pepper or it’s seeds. This is not an exact “recipe” with quantities, it is an idea for you to play with. We make our own mayonnaise and mixing in some of this chariff makes another versatile flavoring.

One of the most refreshing delights at the end of the meal, is my wife's Lemon Ices, which rivals the finest Italian Ices I've ever tasted. Also, extremely simple, but made from scratch, nothing manufactured.

I love Passover, and find it cleansing both spiritually and physically. For those of you who know me, you can only imagine what 8 days without chocolate can mean. And I still love Pesach.