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A Passover Meal To Appeal To All

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins next week.

Dietary restrictions accompany it, so people frequently believe they must eat boring, tasteless food.

Cookbook author Laura Frankel disagrees.

Her book, "Jewish Cooking for All Seasons," is full of delicious recipes that anyone would enjoy eating all year long, Jewish or not!

As The Saturday Early Show's "Chef on a Shoestring," Frankel prepares a three-course Passover meal for four, on a budget of $40.

Frankel guarantees eveyrone will find it scrumptous!

The menu includes Asparagus Soup, Herb-Roasted Chicken with Quinoa-Mushroom Pilaf and Chocolate Mousse Puffs.

RECIPES

ASPARAGUS SOUP

(serves 4)

The optimum season for fresh asparagus is Feb - June. When buying, choose firm bright stalks with tight tips. It's best cooked the day it's purchased.

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound fresh asparagus
olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

METHOD: Trim the tough woody ends of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside about 1 cup of pieces.

Heat a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat and lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Cook the onions and asparagus, with salt and pepper to taste, until very soft and fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking until the wine has evaporated.

Puree the vegetables in batches in a blender or food processor, adding some of the Vegetable Stock, if needed, to make a smooth puree. Return the puree to the saucepan and add the remaining stock, lemon zest and juice, and the reserved asparagus pieces. Simmer the soup until the asparagus pieces are tender and the flavors have melded, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream just before serving, if using.

HERBED ROASTED CHICKEN WITH QUINOA-MUSHROOM PILAF

(serves 4)

Quinoa is often called a "supergrain" because it's packed so full of nutrients. It's actually a grass, not a grain, making it appropriate for Passover. It cooks like rice.

INGREDIENTS:
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon
juice and grates zest of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 head garlic
1 lemon, quartered
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 medium shallots, chopped
water or chicken stock, if necessary
quinoa-mushroom pilaf

METHOD: Preheat the oven to 400F.

Rinse the chicken thoroughly, pat them dry, and place breast side up on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Whisk together the herbs, citrus juices and zests, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. (kosher chickens are salty to begin with, so use salt sparingly). Use your hands to rub the chicken thoroughly inside the cavity and out with the herb mixture. Place the garlic and quartered lemon into the chicken cavity. Tuck the wings under the body of the chicken and tie the legs together if you wish (this helps keep the shape a little nicer).

Roast the chicken to 20 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 200F and slowly roast, brushing on more of the herb mixture 2 or 3 times, until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 160F, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken to a cutting board or platter. Allow the chicken to rest, loosely covered with foil, before carving. Discard any herb mixture that you haven't used.

Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a small bowl or measuring cup, and set aside to allow the fat to rise to the top. Skim off the fat; you should have about 1 cup juices (add some water or chicken stock if needed). Set the roasting pan over medium-high heat and add the wine and shallots. Reduce the wine, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits. Pour in the reserved juices and boil the sauce, stirring, until reduced by one-third. Transfer the sauce to a warmed gravy boat or small pitcher for serving.

To carve the chicken, cut down the center along the breast bone on both sides and remove the breast bone. Pull the chicken apart slightly to expose the back bone. Cut along both sides of the back bone and remove it. Cut each half in half again and place the quarters on a serving platter. Serve with the sauce and Quinoa-Mushroom Pilaf.

QUINOA-MUSHROOM PILAF

(serves 4 to 6)

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups quinoa
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (use shitake, cremini, button, or a combination)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD: Thoroughly rinse the quinoa in a large bowl filled with cold water, rubbing the grains together to remove their slightly "soapy" film. Drain the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer the quinoa to a medium saucepan and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook the quinoa over medium heat until it is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain off any excess water, and lightly drizzle the quinoa with olive oil.

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat, and lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Saute the shallot and mushrooms until lightly browned and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the quinoa with the lemon juice and pine nuts and season with salt and pepper.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PUFFS

(serves 4)

These are perfect for Passover because they require no flour or leavening products, plus they use no dairy.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil, such as canola
sugar for coating ramekins
4 ounces best-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup brewed coffee, espresso, or water
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extracted or seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Suggested Garnishes: fresh fruit, sorbet, or raspberry coulis

METHOD: Preheat the oven to 350F.

Lightly brush the bottom and sides of six 4-ounce ramekins with oil to coat. Sprinkle the ramekins with sugar to coat and turn the cups upside down to remove excess sugar.

Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Set the chocolate aside to cool slightly.

Whip the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar at high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract or seeds using a rubber spatula.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, whip the egg whites at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and continue to whip until they hold stiff peaks. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture using a rubber spatula. Ladle the mixture into the prepared ramekins, filling them to the top.

Bake the puffs in the oven until puffed and fairly solid, 10 to 12 minutes (if the puffs have been chilled, they may take a little longer). Serve puffs immediately with your choice of garnish.