Panic-Free Passover!

Each year, Passover strikes an acute sense of panic in the hearts of most homemakers long before the spring holiday actually arrives. Several weeks in advance, the search starts – looking through cookbooks and recipe clippings, calling friends and family members asking about long-lost recipes, or searching the world-wide web for Passover recipes – something old, something new, something borrowed, something tried and true.

Even though today’s modern kitchens are outfitted with a wide selection of appliances to ease Passover preparation, the kitchen needs to be completely cleaned out and then restocked, from condiments to cookies, from sauces to snack foods. To make meal preparation and cleanup easier, disposable foil containers are often used for turkey, brisket, kugels and vegetables, and many people use fancy disposable paper plates, glasses and cutlery for the larger than usual crowds at the Passover table.

Today, a huge selection of prepared and packaged Passover products are available on supermarket shelves to help make preparation easier for those who don’t want to cook – or for those who don’t have the time. Caterers also offer up a variety of menus in large ads in the local newspaper. One might think that a famine wasn’t far away!

Your grandmother or mother may have had a live carp swimming in the bathtub for her homemade gefilte fish, but today you can buy delicious frozen gefilte fish logs and transform them into a colorful, three-layered loaf that will wow your guests. Instead of roasted chicken, you can add bottled Szechuan sauce and canned pineapple to create a quick, elegant main dish that looks like it took hours to prepare.

With a little creativity and the help of some packaged products, here’s how to prepare some scrumptious Passover fare with flair! Your family and friends will never know – unless you tell them!

TRICOLOR GEFILTE FISH MOLD (Pareve)

The layered look is in!

5 medium carrots, cut in chunks (or 20 mini carrots)
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach
3 packages frozen gefilte fish, completely thawed

1. Spray a 12-cup fluted tube pan with nonstick spray.
2. Cook carrots in boiling water until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.
3. Microwave or steam spinach for 3 to 4 minutes, until thawed. Let cool, then squeeze dry.
4. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process spinach until finely ground, about 15 seconds. Add contents of one package of gefilte fish and blend well. Spread mixture evenly in tube pan.
5. Spread with the contents of the second package of gefilte fish to make the second layer.
6. Process drained carrots about 15 seconds. Add contents of the third package of fish to carrots and blend well. Spread evenly in pan to make the third layer.
7. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of fish, then cover pan with aluminum foil.
8. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 1 1/2 hours. When done, top should be firm to the touch and edges should pull away from sides of pan. A skewer inserted into fish halfway between centre and outside edge should come out clean.
9. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Loosen fish with a long metal spatula. Cover pan with a serving plate, invert and shake gently to unmold. Wipe up any juices that collect on the plate.
10. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Slice and serve with bottled or homemade horseradish, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber slices.

Yield: 16 to 20 servings. This can be made up to two days in advance. Do not freeze.

SAUCY SZECHUAN PINEAPPLE CHICKEN (Meat)

You’ll get rave reviews when you serve this dish to family and friends at your Passover table!

3 onions, sliced
2 chickens (3 lbs each), cut up
Pepper and paprika, to taste
1 1/2 cups Szechuan-style duck sauce
1 can (19 oz) pineapple chunks, drained (reserve liquid)

1. Place onions in the bottom of a large sprayed roasting pan. Remove and discard fat from chickens but do not remove skin. Place chicken pieces on top of onions. Sprinkle lightly with seasonings.
2. Pour duck sauce and pineapple chunks over chicken, along with half of the reserved liquid.
3. Bake covered at 400°F for 1/2 hour. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 1 hour longer, basting occasionally.
4. When cool, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
5. Discard chicken skin and congealed fat from pan juices. Reheat covered at 350°F for 25 minutes.

Yield: 12 servings. Reheats and/or freezes well.

Copyright © Norene Gilletz 2011.

Norene Gilletz of Toronto, Canada is a kosher cookbook author and food consultant. She is the author of nine cookbooks, which include The NEW Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition (Whitecap, February 2011) and Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Whitecap). Her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” Her Pickle-icious feature appeared to great acclaim in BTUS Winter 2010/11 issue. For more information, visit http://www.gourmania.com or contact her at .