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Passover: Israel style

By Judy Lash Balint/JNS.org

Layout 1JERUSALEM—Not every Israeli observes Passover, but every Israeli knows Passover is coming.
Preparations for the seven-day holiday are impossible to ignore and encroach on almost every facet of life in the weeks leading up to seder night.
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that 88 percent of Israelis will take part in a seder and 47 percent will eat only kosher for Passover items during the holiday.
As for Israel’s army, some 200 IDF chaplains, including reservists, are pressed into service to commence the massive task of koshering the hundreds of kitchens, mess halls and eating corners used by soldiers at bases all over the country. According to Rabbi Zev Roness, a captain in the Armored Training School, “It’s a whole operation… The army prepares more than a month before Passover to ensure that all of the army kitchens meet the highest kosher-for-Passover
standards.”
Street scenes in Israel change every day before Passover according to what’s halakhically necessary: Several days before the seder, young men wielding blow torches preside over huge vats of boiling water stationed every few blocks on the street and in the courtyard of every mikveh.
The lines to dunk metal utensils start to grow every day, and at the last minute before the seder, blow torches are at the ready to cleanse every last gram of chametz from oven racks and stove tops lugged through the streets by kids or overwrought mothers.
Prominent newspaper ads from Israel’s Energy Ministry feature dire warnings about the dangers inherent in cleaning gas burners. The text of the ads advises on the minutiae of taking apart the metal covers to get at that last bit of chametz.
No alarm clock is needed in the pre-Passover period–clanging garbage trucks do the trick as they roll through the neighborhood every morning during the two weeks before Passover to accommodate all the refuse from the furious cleaning going on.
Two days before the seder, there’s the annual pickup of oversized items and appliances. Dozens of antiquated computer monitors and old toaster ovens stand forlornly next to the garbage bins.

Koshering underway on a Jerusalem street. Credit: Judy Lash Balint.

Koshering underway on a Jerusalem street.
Credit: Judy Lash Balint.

The day before Passover, families seek out empty lots to burn the remainder of their chametz gleaned from the previous night’s meticulous search. The city is dotted with sputtering fires despite ads posted by the Jerusalem municipality announcing the location of official chametz burning bins and banning fires in any other areas.
Most flower shops stay open all night for the two days before Passover, working feverishly to complete the orders that will grace the nation’s Seder tables.
Observant Jews mark the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot by carrying out some of the laws of mourning–one of these is the prohibition against cutting hair. As a result, barber and beauty shops are jammed with customers in the pre-Passover days.
Mailboxes overflow with appeals from a myriad of organizations helping the poor. Newspapers are replete with articles about altruistic Israelis who volunteer by the hundreds in the weeks before the holiday to collect, package and distribute Passover supplies to the needy.
In Jerusalem alone, more than 40 restaurants close a few days before Passover.  They clean out their kitchens, revamp their menus and open up with rabbinic supervision for the holiday to serve kosher-for-Passover meals to tourists as well as the hordes that are sick of cooking after the Seder.
Since most of the country is on vacation for the entire week of Passover, all kinds of entertainment and trips are on offer. The annual Boombamela beach festival, kid’s activities at the Bloomfield Science Museum, concerts in Hebron, explorations at the City of David, solidarity excursions to the Shomron and music festivals at the Dead Sea are all popular. The popular Hebrew Bananagram game has even invented a special Passover version with points for words in the Haggadah.
The Passover theme of freedom and exodus in Israel even extends to criminals. Israel Radio announces that 700 prisoners will get a furlough to spend the holiday with family.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Israel’s fishmongers will sell 1,100 tons of carp, 80 tons of St. Peter’s fish and 300 tons of mullet this Passover season to satisfy the tastes of gefilte fish lovers, as well as the Moroccan-style chraime fish eaters.
In every ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, men and boys block the narrow streets with hand trucks piled high with sacks of carrots, potatoes and oranges and cartons of eggs—all courtesy of the Kimcha D’Pischa funds that funnel donations from abroad to Israeli Haredim.
At the entrance to many large supermarkets, teenagers hand out flyers listing suggested items generous shoppers may purchase to be placed in bins for distribution to needy families.
Israel’s chief rabbis sell the nation’s chametz to one Hussein Jabar, a Moslem Arab resident of Abu Ghosh. Estimated worth: $150 billion secured by a down payment of NIS 100,000. Jabar took over the task some 16 years ago, after the previous buyer, also from Abu Ghosh, was fired when it was discovered his maternal grandmother was Jewish.
At the Kotel, workers perform the twice-yearly ritual (pre-Passover and pre-Rosh Hashanah) of removing thousands of personal notes stuffed into the crevices of the Kotel, prior to burying them on the Mt. of Olives.
Finally, the end of Passover is marked by the festive Maimouna, a traditional holiday celebrated by North African Jews immediately following Passover.
In recent years, Maimouna has become a national day marked by music, eating sweets and pastries and political glad-handing before everyone heads back to work until the fast-approaching season of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Jerusalem Day.

passover

Koshering underway on a Jerusalem street.
Credit: Judy Lash Balint.

Toil & Joy, too: Cleaning for Passover
By Mark Mietkiewicz

Cleaning and cooking and so many dishes
Out with the hametz, no pasta, no knishes
Fish that’s gefillted, horseradish that stings
These are a few of our Passover things.
[http://bit.ly/passclean8]

If Passover cleaning isn’t one of your favorite things, you’re not alone. But as days count down to Passover, just remember you’re not alone – there are plenty of people who want to share their cleaning tips with you.
And you can’t get much more user friendly than a web page with a title like: “How to do your Pesach Cleaning Happily in Less than One Day.” In it, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner passes along the basics: how to deal with children’s clothing, medicines and toiletries, high chairs, cars, and of course, the kitchen. He concludes, “In light of what is written above, it should take about an hour to clean the house, another hour for the dining room, and two-three hours to kasher the kitchen. In short, about one day!” Wow. [http://bit.ly/passclean1]
On the other hand,  there’s Stephanie Savir. I’m sure she means well. She really does. But if you look at her site and haven’t started your own cleaning, perhaps you should just file away Stephanie’s advice for next year. Her Ten Tips for Reducing Pesach Pressure includes advice for  what to do “7 weeks before Passover: Review and copy recipes; Buy paper goods and cleaning supplies.” At 6 weeks: “Buy Yom Tov outfits for family; Clean bedrooms”. At 5 weeks: “Clean basement and cars” And so on. [http://bit.ly/passclean2]
Before he gets into the nitty and the gritty, Rabbi Moshe Finkelstein explains why modern Passover causes cleaning angst. In the past, wealthy people who lived in large homes often had many servants to do their cleaning. Poor people who could not afford servants lived in small homes with one or two rooms. “Today, we seem to be caught in a trap.” Our homes are larger. Furniture, utensils and clothing are more plentiful. But we don’t have the servants to do the cleaning. So the weeks before the holiday become filled with cleaning. [http://bit.ly/passclean4]
Whether or not you enjoy cleaning, do take care with those industrial strength cleansers. Yona Amitai, a senior toxicologist at Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem warns that “the number of accidental poisonings of children from cleaning fluid triples during the two or three weeks before Passover.” Amitai also advises parents to be extra cautious when cleaning out medicine cabinets to ensure drugs to end up in the hands of children.  [http://bit.ly/passclean3]
Surprisingly, there are some people who actually look forward to the annual ordeal. Like Emuna Braverman. In “The Joys (?) of Passover Cleaning,” Emuna Braverman utters some very controversial words: “I’m beginning to feel like an endangered species, because I like Passover. It’s actually my favorite holiday.” This fact dawned on her after she attended one of those Passover getaways where everything but everything is done for you. “And I learned an important lesson. Studying the ideas underlying Passover was not the true preparation… It was the physical effort that led to the emotional and intellectual preparation. I felt less prepared when I didn’t take out my special dishes, when I didn’t clean my children’s bedrooms… And I felt more alone. That crucial link to other Jewish women was not being forged… So, much as I would like a vacation, as tempting as some events sound, I’ve returned to what
I enjoy. I can’t wait to start cleaning.”  [http://bit.ly/passclean9]
Ms. Braverman may have found a kindred spirit at the Chabad.org site. Bella Shapiro’s revelation hit about “forty minutes to the deadline to get rid of all remaining chametz. I commandeer the kids, assigning rooms, brooms and vacuums. I run about frantically. … Weeks of intense labor have brought us to this moment. There is so much to do, so little time, and failure to finish not an option.” And then it dawns on her. “What an incredibly easy religion.” Those really are Bella Shapiro’s thoughts (and not the byproduct of industrial strength cleansers) but you’ll have to check out her essay to find out more. [http://bit.ly/passclean10]
I’m not quite sure how they conducted their survey but according to the Brandman Research Institute, 43 million man-hours are spent Israel in cleaning preparations for the Passover. Curious use of the term “man-hours” since the study found that 29 million cleaning hours are done by women and 11 million hours by men. Persons paid to clean account for the remainder. [http://bit.ly/passclean13]
Speaking of roles and responsibilities, let’s just say that one husband didn’t win big points when he broke it to his wife that he couldn’t do his share of the Pesach cleaning because he’d be on the road the week before the holiday. He tells all in his blog entry, Mars & Venus on Erev Pesach Cleaning.  [http://bit.ly/passclean14]
A while back, I came across the story in the Jerusalem Post about Yael M., a resident of Jerusalem’s Old City who made sure her cleaning paid off – literally. “Every couple of years, Yael M. enters a frenzy of Passover cleaning, wiping out kitchen cabinets, washing out the refrigerator, emptying out closets and vacuuming the furniture in her apartment. Then she moves out.” In exchange for renting out her home to a family eager to spend Pesach near the Kotel, Yael earned $1,500 to $2,000 in cash. But then again, that meant Yael had to move in with her parents for eight days. [http://bit.ly/passclean15]

When the plagues strike
When the lice bite
When we’re feeling sad
We simply remember our
Passover things
And then we don’t feel so bad.

Have a chag kasher v’samayach – a kosher and happy holiday.

Mark Mietkiewicz can be reached at highway@rogers.com – when he isn’t cleaning.

 

SLICE  OF LIFE
By Eileen Goltz

Pesach brings me to new levels of creative crazy when I’m trying to find recipes that don’t contain any matzo. I don’t, or rather my tummy doesn’t like matzo and it doesn’t like me. I’ve found that a great way to “avoid” having to utilize matzo or matzo meal as a binder or filler is to create dishes that stand on their own as works of art along with tasting good. I am, of course, talking about stacking my ingredients vertically.
Simply put, creating a stack is a basic cooking technique that consists of layering food so that it becomes two or three inches high, often utilizing a mold to create the structure then removing it for the big reveal on the plate. Lots of foodie magazines and online web sites will tell you that you have to have special moulds or rings to create these culinary masterpieces. Truly you don’t have spend beaucoup bucks to buy these pricey moulds. You can utilizes an empty large tuna fish can (wash it very very well) and remove both ends of the can. Voila! A perfect mold to make your stacks. If you lack the time (or ambition) to create individual stacks for your guest or family you can always create a one dish strada or utilize a spring form pan.
Stacks can be served hot or cold and are perfect for an appetizer or main course depending on when (seder and chole chomde are good) where (you can take these to a party and dress them there) and how (cold or hot) you want to serve them even if it’s not yontif.

PORTOBELLO STACKS (pareve or dairy)
(Cut the vegetables about 1/4 inch thick for uniform stacking)
4 small Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1/2 cup sliced red onion
2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese or herbed cream cheese (optional)

In a self sealing plastic bag combine the mushrooms, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, basil and pepper. Shake gently to coat and let sit at room temperature for 25 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425. Remove the mushrooms from the bag (save the marinade) and place it in a 9X9 baking dish. Pour the wine over the top of the mushrooms and set them aside. Place the zucchini, yellow squash, and onion on a baking sheet and drizzle the  marinade over the top. Bake the mushrooms and the vegetables for about 10 minutes or until slightly soft.

Place 2 mushrooms, gill sides up, on a baking sheet, layer the vegetables any way you like, top with cheese (you can omit it if you want to) and top with the remaining mushroom gill side down. If you use the cheese bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve immediately. Makes two. This recipe can be doubled or tripled
My files, source unknown

POTATO TOMATO SALMON STACKS (pareve/fish)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon mince garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz smoked salmon
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and boiled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 to 2 avocados diced
1/2 red onion diced
1/2 cup chopped black olives
Extra parsley if desired

In a bowl combine the tomatoes, parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Mix to combine and set aside. (you will need to repeat this 8 times) Using a mold placed on a salad plate, place one slice of potato on the bottom then layer the  salmon on top. Place the onion on top of the salmon then the avocado on top of the onion. Spoon some of the tomato vinaigrette over the top and decorate with the black olive and any additional parsley. Serves 8. This recipe can be doubled and made ahead of time up until you top with the tomatoes. Do that just before you serve.

ROASTED VEGGIE STRADA (dairy)
1 eggplant, cut lengthwise into 6 slices
1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 4 slices
1 yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 4 slices
1 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 425. Grease 2 baking sheets with vegetable spray or olive oil. Place the sliced vegetables on the baking sheets in a single layer and spray then lightly brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper and bake 15 to 20 until tender. Let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350, coat an 8 inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, place 3 slices of the roasted eggplant in the bottom of the baking dish, spread half of the ricotta cheese,  1/3 cup of parmesan cheese, half of the chopped basil, and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese over that. Continue to layer with zucchini slices, yellow squash slices, and strips of red peppers, spread the remaining half of the ricotta cheese and basil, and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese on top. Place the remaining 3 slices of eggplant over that and top with tomato sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese amd 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted, cut into 4 squares and serve.
From about.com submitted by Rita Restorie Indianapolis, IN

GEFILTE FISH STACKS (pareve/fish)
12 to 15 fresh spinach leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
2 green onions sliced thin
4 large red and yellow tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 loaf prepared gefilte fish or 1 lb smoked white fish
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a bowl combine the lemon juice, oil, dill, pepper, parsley, and green onions and whisk until combined. Set aside. Arrange the stacks on 8 salad place alternating tomato slices, fish, spinach strips. Drizzle with dressing and serve. Serves 8.

©  Eileen Goltz stacks 13

 

Pesach Substitutions
By Eileen Goltz

At some point during Pesach preparations we’ve all tried to convert a mainstream recipe into a Pesach one only to discover that we don’t have a clue as to what to substitute for a chometz ingredient. This panic moment is why I started compiling my COMPLETE LIST OF PESACH SUBSTITUTES. I’ve added some great new substitutions this year. If anyone has any other substitutions that they would like to share please let me (eztlog@gmail.com) know

1 oz. baking chocolate (unsweetened chocolate) = 3 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon oil or melted margarine
16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate = 6 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1/4 cup oil and 7 tablespoon granulated sugar
14 oz. sweet chocolate (German-type) = 3 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus 2 2/3 tablespoon oil and 4 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar minus 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1 tablespoon potato starch pulsed in a food processor or blender
1 cup sour milk or buttermilk for dairy baking = 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 1 cup measure, then fill to 1 cup with Passover nondairy creamer. Stir and steep 5 minutes
Butter in baking or cooking use pareve Passover margarine in equal amounts. Use a bit less salt
1 cup honey = 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water
1 cup corn syrup = 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/3 cup water, boiled until syrupy
1 cup vanilla sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 split vanilla bean left for at least 24 hours in a tightly covered jar 1 cup of flour, substitute 5/8 cup matzo cake meal or potato starch, or a combination sifted together
1 tablespoon flour = 1/2 tablespoon potato starch
1 cup corn starch = 7/8 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon cream of tarter = 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or 1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup graham cracker crumbs = 1 cup ground cookies or soup nuts plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup bread crumbs = 1 cup matzo meal
1 cup matzo meal = 3 matzoth ground in a food processor
1 cup matzoth cake meal = 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon matzo meal finely ground in a blender or food processor and sifted
3 crumbled matzo = 2 cups matzo farfel
1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese = 1 cup cottage cheese pureed with 1/2 stick butter or margarine
Chicken fat or gribenes = 2 caramelized onions, Saute 2 sliced onions in 2 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cook until the onions are soft. Puree the onions once they are golden.
1 cup milk (for baking) = 1 cup water plus 2 tablespoon margarine, or 1/2 cup fruit juice plus 1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk = 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup boiling water and 3 tablespoons margarine. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. To thicken, let set in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
1 cup wine = 13 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon sugar. Mix together and let set for 10 minutes.
For frying: Instead of chicken fat, use combination of olive oil or vegetable oil and 1 to 2 tablespoons pareve Passover margarine.
Eggs: Passover egg substitutes don’t work quite as well as the chometz egg substitutes. For kugels, matzo balls, fried matzo and some cakes the recipes will probably be ok. However, if you want to avoid them (and I do) you can add one extra egg white and 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil for each yolk eliminated when baking. Use only egg whites as the dipping to coat and fry meats.
Italian Seasoning = 1/4 teaspoon EACH dried oregano leaves, dried marjoram leaves and dried basil leaves plus 1/8 teaspoon rubbed dried sage. This can be substituted for 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning.
Curry Powder = 2 tablespoons ground coriander, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 2 tablespoons red pepper, 2 tablespoons turmeric, 2 tablespoons ground ginger. Makes 2/3 cup.
Pancake syrup = use fruit jelly, not jam and add a little water to thin. I always like to combine the jelly and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat it gently before I serve it.
Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar = 3 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 tablespoon white wine, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix to combine. Makes 1/4 cup
Flavored Vinegar =  lemon juice in cooking or salad, grapefruit juice in salads, wine in marinades.
Water Chestnuts =  substitute raw jicama
Orange liqueur = substitute an equal amount of frozen orange juice concentrate
You can mince the tops of green onions and use them in recipes that call for chives or use celery tops instead of parsley (who are we kidding, we always have parsley during Pesach)

SOY SAUCE SUBSTITUTE
This soy sauce substitute doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing, but it makes a flavorful alternative for Pesach stir fry.
2 tablespoons beef broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup boiling water
Combine all the ingredients. At this point, you can either a) use the sauce as is, leaving for an hour to give the flavors a chance to blend, or b) for a thicker, richer sauce, boil the liquid until it is reduced by half, about 3 tablespoons. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Makes 2/3 cup. Use the sauce within 3 – 4 days.

CASHEW SOUR CREAM
It’s creamy and you can use it in any recipe that calls for sour cream. It refrigerates well.
1 cup raw cashews (must not be roasted or salted)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 small lemon, juice
Cover cashews with water and soak for a few hours, or overnight. Pour off all water, and place nuts in food processor. Add 1/4 cup cold water, salt, vinegar and lemon juice. Puree for 3-4 minutes or until completely smooth and creamy in consistency. Use in any recipe that calls for sour cream. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week. Makes 1 cup.

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