"Modern" isn't a word typically associated with Passover. For starters, the holiday, which begins April 14 this year, commemorates the Jews' escape from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago and is rife with age-old traditions. And when it comes to the food served throughout the eight days, many will tell you their families have been eating the exact same stuff since they can remember.
What's more, options are limited by Passover being the holiday of unleavened bread, where the only grain product permitted is matzo (unleavened bread). Though much can be made from matzo's byproducts, such as matzo flour and matzo meal (coarsely ground matzo), it's easy to tire of it all around day three.
This is where 4 Bloggers Dish: Passover; Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors comes in handy. The new kosher e-cookbook ($3.99 plus tax on Amazon) is a medley of twists on traditional recipes (think caprese matzo brei and sweet potato, apple, fennel, and onion kugel) and thoroughly modern ideas (think turkey-and-quinoa-stuffed cabbage and blueberry walnut chicken salad lettuce wraps).
Co-author and Miami Beach resident Whitney Fisch says the idea behind the book was to eschew packaged foods and to create a "handbook on how to do a whole-foods approach to Passover." Fisch is a young mother and a school counselor, as well as the creator of JewHungry, a kosher food blog. The Georgia native describes her culinary style as "semi-hippie healthy and semi-Southern decadence."
Her unique approach led influential kosher food bloggers Sarah Lasry of the Patchke Princess and Amy Kritzer of What Jew Want to Eat to ask her to collaborate on a cookbook. They also sought out the expertise of Liz Rueven, author of the blog Kosher Like Me.
Their different personalities and culinary backgrounds ensure varied recipes catering to myriad tastes. Fisch also points out that the majority of the dishes can be prepared year-round and cater to gluten-free and grain-free diets, while some recipes are even vegan. For example, Fisch's spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce and quinoa meatballs excludes gluten and animal bi-products.
Everything from appetizers, to side dishes and dessert is featured in the book, as well as prep-ahead rules and freezer instructions. Fisch says the problem with keeping kosher is how expensive the products are, especially ones designated as kosher for Passover. For this reason, all the recipes were put-together with money-saving tips in mind.
Fisch says she wishes Miami had more affordable kosher dining options, like House of Dog, which is known for its delicious hotdogs and creative toppings. Her other favorite local spots include Cine Citta Cafe for pizza and homemade pasta, and Bunnie Cakes for vegan and kosher cupcakes.
The blogger is also a friend and huge fan of Zak Stern, AKA Zak the Baker. Stern has plans to open a kosher bakery and café in Wynwood this month, expanding upon his much praised sourdough bread. Fisch credits Stern with playing a major part in getting people to realize that kosher food can appeal to a broader audience.
On the next page, Short Order has Fisch's recipe for cauliflower mac 'n' cheese -- a favorite of her toddler daughter, and a main that's satisfying 365 days a year.
Cauliflower Mac n' Cheese
Serving Size: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
I love this recipe because it's creamy and drowning in my favorite food----cheese! It's also a great way to sneak in some vegetables for the kids without them even knowing it. ~ Whitney
• 1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets
• Vegetable oil spray
• 1 cup 2% milk, whole milk, or heavy cream
• 1.5 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
• ¼ cup sour cream
• 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, plus 1/2 cup for topping the casserole
• 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 1/8 tsp garlic powder
• 1/8 tsp nutmeg
• Yummy Add-ons: Sauteed spinach and/or kale (cut up small and sautéed in a bit of oil, salt, pepper and garlic); Almond flour - During the last 5 minutes of baking, sprinkle almond flour on top of each casserole dish and sprayed with a bit of vegetable oil so it gets nice and brown.
Oven Temp: 375 degrees
Cook Time: 15 - 30 minutes
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
2. Spray individual ramekins with vegetable oil spray (note: You can make this in one big casserole dish as well. The difference is that the cooking in the individual ramekins is a) fun but b) the natural moisture of the sauce and cauliflower cooks out a bit when cooked in a large casserole dish).
3. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry. Transfer the cauliflower to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
4.Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine.
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5.Scoop out into the ramekins (do not fill to the top; only fill the ramekins about ¾ of the way full) and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes. Serve.
Tips: Will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days, making sure to cover tightly. Not a freezer-friendly recipe as the moisture from the freezer will cause the casserole to become too soggy.
Follow Valeria Nekhim on Twitter @ValeriaNekhim