The weeks preceding the Passover holiday are busy and hectic. First and foremost, according to the Jewish religious custom, homes must be cleansed of every last bit of hametz − leavened foods and beverages including pastry and beer, which are strictly forbidden during Passover. Most nonobservant households also seize the opportunity to launch that once-a-year Spring cleaning. In addition, gifts have to be purchased, visits with relatives and friends scheduled, family quarrels reconciled, guests invited, groceries bought, and elaborate meals planned and cooked, starting with the ritual Seder Night dinner.
And yet, practically every Israeli has fond memories of past Passover holidays, especially childhood ones. The weeklong national holiday gives people the opportunity to travel around the country and abroad, visit friends and relatives, and generally enjoy the glories of springtime. And then there is the traditional Seder meal − the ritual dinner and occasion for an elaborate family reunion, which brings us back to food, arguably the trickiest part of the Passover celebrations. Certain food categories are untouchable − not just all leavened pastry but many grains and legumes as well. In short, a completely different menu is called for.
Over the centuries, numerous dishes have been developed and a host of ingenious substitutes for the usual fare have evolved to take the place of the forbidden ingredients. Some of these dishes are so good they deserve to be savored throughout the year.
Photo: Danya Weiner (from The Book of New Israeli Food)