This year Passover, an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrating both freedom and the arrival of spring begins at sundown on Friday, April 3rd and ends at sundown on Saturday, April 11th. On the first two nights of Passover, most Jews take part in a special feast called the Passover Seder while retelling the biblical story of Exodus.

Why Matzo?

Jews are most careful about what they eat during Passover, due to the strict prohibitions against eating chometz, or leavened foods like breads, cakes, crackers and certain cereals. Leavening agents include yeast, baking powder, baking soda, sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate. Grains like barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt are prohibited because they expand with water. Matzo and matzo meal products are the staples of this holiday because flour and water are mixed together and baked in less than eighteen minutes under rabbinic supervision. Matzo replaces bread and is used to make traditional dishes like matzo ball soup and matzo brei, a typically breakfast dish.

Other Favorite Passover Foods

  • Coconut macaroons (not to be confused with French macarons) are a confection made with egg whites, sugar, and dried coconut and piped with a star-shaped tip.
  • Haroset is a coarse mixture of chopped apples, walnuts, grape juice (or wine) and cinnamon and served with matzo at the Seder table. Haroset is symbolic of the mortar used by the Jews to build during the period of slavery.

Sweet Matzo Brie Recipe

(Choose organic ingredients when available):

  • 3 pieces of matzo (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or organic sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Break up matzo and place in a large bowl covered with milk. Soak for 5 to 10 minutes then drain excess milk. Mix in eggs, maple syrup (or sugar) and cinnamon. On medium heat, add olive to a non-stick skillet. Pour matzo mixture into skillet and cook until bottom browns, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook covered 3 to 4 more minutes. Serve with applesauce or season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serves 3.

Nutrition Facts per serving (158 grams): 240 calories, 6 grams fat, 84 milligrams sodium, 229 milligrams potassium, 37 grams carbohydrate (12.5 grams sugar), 1.2 grams dietary fiber, 9.8 grams protein, high in calcium and iron.

 Haroset Recipe

(Choose organic ingredients when available.):

  •  4 medium apples, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet red wine or grape juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours. Some of the liquid will be absorbed. Serve with matzo.

Serves 8.

Nutrition Facts per serving (114 grams): 110 calories, 4.8 grams fat, 2 milligrams sodium, 156 milligrams potassium, 14.4 grams carbohydrates (9.7 grams sugar), 3.2 grams dietary fiber, 2.2 grams protein, high in vitamin C.

For more healthy recipes and a diet geared towards optimal health without deprivation, pick up a copy of Layne’s book: Beyond The Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets Of The Super-Healthy.

Bon Appétit and Happy Passover!