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I Can't Believe It's Kosher: Matzo Meal
Brian Mailman

Professor Eliezar Segal of the University of Calgary (aka Uncle Eli) answers the First Question "Why is this night different from all other nights?" in his whimsical but accurate "Dr. Seuss' Four Questions with the response:

"Yes/on all other nights/we eat all kinds of bread/but tonight of all nights/we munch matzo instead."

Matzo, the main event of the holiday, is simply flour and water mixed and baked quickly. Fervent Fellini fans know that simple isn't always simple (as demonstrated in "Juliet of the Spirits" when the visiting Spaniard was explaining a simple glass of water to Juliet, but I digress). As simple as matzo may appear, it is a manifestation of everything we're doing for the holiday; on the surface just a simple flat crisp crunchy cracker but built over thousands of years with layers of meanings.

It is baked rapidly, within 18 minutes (18, "chai" the gematria for "life," begins to be living) because we left Egypt in haste and did not have time for the bread to rise. It serves as well as a symbol of the swift overnight Redemption -- one day slaves, the next day a free people. It is "lechem oni" (the poor man's bread) because it represents our slavery in Egypt. Matzo represents the choice we have as free and liberated people.

Do we passively let the dough sit and let the process happen without any input beyond our control? Or do we have the option to guide the course and influence the outcome since we are able to be the captains of our souls? The Sages teach, "mitzvah haba'ah leyadcha al tachmitzena," rather loosely -- OK, extremely, VERY extremely loosely -- "act quickly to perform good deeds when given the opportunity, or they become chametz (rotten, fermented)."

This means there's no need to ponder the right thing to do, no need to discuss, debate, dilly dawdle and delay -- one knows and one acts.

Noted queen of lean cuisine, kosher cookbook author Norene Gilletz via favorite foodie Faygie, shares with us this must-have lower-fat appetizer (it is one of my tribe's favorites year-round) main dish, or children's lunch item; solving at least one day of what-do-we-send-them-to-school-with. They take well to freezing, so a
double- or triple-treat batch are always ready to reheat. Always considerate, she provides a matzo meal substitution for those communities/families that don't eat "gebrochts" (matzo mixed with water) during Pesach. Served with a low-fat cocktail sauce or even a tartar sauce, oops, I mean a "herb-infused garlic aioli," these
mini-gefilte-chicken-loaves are a first-class members of the clean plate club. Hint here from Merlin's Kitchen(tm): no matzo meal? Grind it yerself in the food processor.

Another matzo form, farfel (matzo bits but no kibbles), takes shape in archivist Annice Grinberg's capable hands. These copious cups can hold their own with fillings such as unchopped liver with mushrooms in a red wine sauce; perkily perched on a bed of greens and filled with a chicken or tuna salad; or even for one of my own creations, the New York deli omelet (diced pastrami, onions, and bell peppers).

Candy is dandy, but tired of those sliced fruit jells? (I'm not, but that's beside the point, I gotta talk about another kind of matzo recipe here). Some years ago Barbara Wasser sent us "Marcy Goldman's Caramel Matzo Crunch" and it's become a perennial list favorite, no Passover passes by without the list's rave reviews of this caramelicious delight. Warning, this recipe MUST be tripled. One batch for "quality control," one batch for a private stash...

Chicken Muffins (M, KLP, TNT)
Source: "MealLeaniYumm!" by Norene Gilletz
Serves: 12
2 cloves garlic
2 medium onions
2 carrots
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs plus 2 egg white, or 3 eggs
1/3 cup potato starch, or 1/2 cup matzo meal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Drop garlic through feed tube of processor while machine is running. Process until minced.

Cut onions, carrots, and chicken in chunks. Process in batches in processor until finely minced, about 30 seconds. Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Spoon into 12 sprayed or greased muffin cups. Smooth the top of each muffin with a spatula. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes until golden.

These reheat and/or freeze well. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serve with salsa [bottled or homemade].

Fat Saving Secrets: Substitute 2 pounds lean ground chicken. However, if you grind the chicken yourself, you can control and fat content to ensure that no fatty skin is added. Turkey can be used instead of chicken to reduce the fat content even more.

Mini Chicken Muffins: Bake mixture in greased miniature muffin tins for 15 to 18 minutes. They're perfect as hors d'oeuvres, or to put in the kids lunch boxes.

Posted by Faygie
Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A

Farfel Cups (M/P, KLP, TNT)
Source: Adapted from an old Manischewitz flyer
Serves: 8

4 cups matzo farfel/ferfel; or 6 matzos, broken
1/2 cup margarine; or less
1/2 cup onion; minced
1/2 cup celery; minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons pareve chicken soup powder
1 egg; beaten
1/4 cup parsley; chopped
1-1/2 cups hot water
1 cup nuts; broken

Sauté veggies in margarine until tender. Add farfel/ferfel and toast lightly. Combine seasonings and water and add nuts.

Form into cups on an oiled baking sheet, using a 1/3 cup measuring cup to shape them.

Bake about 20 minutes at 375 F.

Posted by Annice Grinberg
Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A

Caramel Matzo Crunch (P, KLP, TNT)
Source: Marcy Goldman, "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking"
Serves: 30
6 unsalted matzo
1 cup unsalted butter, or margarine
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1-1/4 cups chocolate chips, approximately
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheets completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking. Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzo, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.

In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil, about 2 to 4 minutes. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzo, covering completely. Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 F. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning. If it seems to be
browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325 F, and replace the pan.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzo. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set. (Nate, Amy and I thought it wasn't necessary to cut or break the pieces apart until after it was good and solid.)

As a variation, Marcy suggests using "coarsely chopped white chocolate or a combination of white and dark, and chopped or slivered toasted almonds, sprinkled on top as the chocolate sets. You can also omit the chocolate for a caramel-alone buttercrunch."

Poster's Notes:
The first time we made the recipe we followed the instructions, using pareve margarine and added 1 teaspoon vanilla. It was finished very quickly. So Amy and I just made the crunch again using butter. Much better with butter, but we added 1/2 cup more brown sugar; used 6 matzo and 1-1/4 chocolate chips. This comes from Marcy Goldman's "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking," and the full title of the recipe is My Trademark, Most Requested, Absolutely Magnificent Caramel Matzo Crunch. It's so easy and incredibly delicious. I make this throughout the year.

Marcy says, "If you make only one thing at Passover, make this."

Raya Tarab comments: Every word that Barbara says is true and more: it gets finished more quickly that you can say "my magnificent ..." etc.

Posted by Barbara Wasser
Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A

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Brian Mailman (c)2004