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Matzo Delights For Passover

Monday evening is the first night of Passover. Jews around the world will observe the holiday by not eating grains that have been fermented or leavened. So the main ingredient in many Passover meals involves matzo, which is essential a dry cracker.

The editors at Gourmet magazine know that it's not always easy to make tempting meals with the strict dietary restrictions during this holiday, so they have come up with some modern recipes using matzo that are delicious and easy.

Zanne Stewart, the magazine's executive food editor, shows how to make some of those recipes on Friday's The Early Show.

The following are the recipes:

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote With Matzo Streusel Topping
Serves 8
Active Time: 20 minutes Start to Finish: 1 1/2 hr.

If you can't find matzo cake meal, grind batches of regular matzo meal in a clean electric coffee/spice grinder until it has the consistency of flour.

For Compote:
1 1/4 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 lb strawberries (4 pints), trimmed and halved (6 cups)
1 1/2 lb rhubarb stalks, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (4 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

For Streusel Topping:
1 1/4 cups matzo cake meal
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces and softened

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Prepare Compote:
Stir together sugar and potato starch; then gently toss with strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, and zest. Transfer mixture to an ungreased shallow 3-quart (13- by 9- by 2-inch) baking dish.

Make Topping And Bake:
Whisk together matzo cake meal, brown sugar, potato starch, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps. Crumble streusel evenly over top of compote and bake until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool to warm on a rack before serving.

Cheese Matzo Blintzes With Asparagus And Dill
Serves 4 to 6 (Main Course)
Active Time: 1 1/4 hr Start to Finish: 2 1/2 hr.

If you are new to making crepes, you may want to make an extra half batch of batter to allow for a few imperfect crepes.

For Crepes:
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups matzo meal
4 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil plus additional for brushing skillet
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Filling:
1 lb medium asparagus, trimmed
3 cups small-curd cottage cheese (4 percent milkfat; 24oz)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
l large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

For Topping:
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Make Crepes:

  1. Blend milk, matzo meal, eggs, oil, and salt in a blender until smooth. Let batter stand 30 minutes.
  2. Stir batter before using. Lightly brush a 10-inch nonstick skillet with oil and heat over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking. Holding skillet off heat, pour in 1/3 cup batter - immediately tilting and rotating skillet to coat bottom. (If batter sets before skillet is coated, reduce heat slightly for next crepe.) Return skillet to heat and cook crepe until top is set and edge and bottom are golden, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and loosen edge of crepe with a flexible heatproof spatula. Quickly invert skillet over a plate to release crepe. Make 11 more crepes in same manner, brushing skillet lightly with oil for each and stacking crepes on plate as cooked.
  3. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make Filling:
  1. Cook asparagus in a wide 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to a cutting board to cool. Cut off and reserve tips, then finely chop stalks.
  2. Stir together cottage cheese, chopped stalks, dill, egg, pepper, and salt.

Assemble Blintzes:
  1. Put 1 crepe, paler side up, on a work surface and spread a scant 1/3 cup of filling in a horizontal line just below center of crepe, leaving a 3/4-inch border at each end. Fold in sides of crepe over ends of filling, then, beginning at bottom, roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to a lightly buttered 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan. Fill and transfer remaining 11 crepes in same manner.
  2. Bake blintzes, covered with foil, until filling is hot, 30 to 35 minutes.

Make Topping Just Before Blintzes Are Ready To Serve:
Heat butter in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add scallions and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in asparagus tips, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring until asparagus is heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dill. Spoon topping over blintzes.

Cooks' Notes:
Crepes can be made 1 day ahead, cooled completely, then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and chilled.

Asparagus can be cooked (but not chopped) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Turkey Breast Stuffed With Matzo And Fennel
Serves 10 to 12
Active Time: 1 1/4 hr. Start to Finish: 2 1/4 hr.

Most turkey breasts are sold with the bone and skin still attached. Instead of boning the turkey yourself, you can ask your butcher to do it for you-the weight of the turkey breast should be 4 to 5 pounds.

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb fennel (sometimes called anise), stalks and fronds cut off and discarded, then bulbs cut into 1-inch dice
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 egg matzos (about 6 inches square), broken into ½-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground in an electric coffee/spice grinder
1 (6- to 7-lb) whole turkey breast (bone and skin attached)
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 teaspoon potato starch

Special Equipment: Kitchen string; an instant-read thermometer

Make Stuffing:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add fennel, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel and celery are golden and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl to cool.
  2. Soak raisins in boiling-hot water to cover 5 minutes, then drain well and chop. Add to vegetables.
  3. Rinse matzo in a colander under hot running water until softened, 15 to 30 seconds. Drain, pressing gently on matzo to extract excess water. Add to vegetables along with egg, parsley, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir until combined.
  4. Stir together 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and ground fennel in a small bowl.

Bone Turkey And Remove Skin:

A very sharp thin-bladed knife is essential for boning a turkey. Put the turkey on a cutting board and turn it so the neck (wider) end is away from you.

  1. Starting at the neck end, make an incision through the skin along the length of the breastbone, exposing the bone.
  2. Now begin cutting one breast half free from bone (we started on the left): Use short, shallow knife strokes along the left side of the breastbone to separate the meat, allowing the bone to act as a guide (the blade should be scraping against it in a downward motion) and pulling the meat away as you cut.
  3. As you progress, you'll need to cut the meat free from the left side of the wishbone, which you'll feel with your knife at the neck end. The same shallow-cutting principle applies here, too. You need to get as close to the bone as possible and cut through the thick white tendon that is attached to the tender (the partially loose strip of meat running along the underside of the breast half). Continue cutting past the breastbone and along the rib cage (the job gets easier as you go along because most of the breast half will flap open like a book) until you can free the lobe completely.

Keeping the breast half skin side down, pull off the tender and save it for another use. Trim off any cartilage or blood vessels, then turn the breast over. Pull the skin away from the meat, cutting the fascia (the transparent stretchy tissue that connects the skin to the flesh) with the tip of your knife as you go.

Depending on whether you are right- or left- handed, you may want to turn the bird around, neck end toward you, before starting on the other breast half.

Butterfly And Flatten Turkey:

Arrange 1 breast half, skinned side down, lengthwise on work surface, with thinner, pointed end nearest you. Starting at top (thicker part), cut breast half lengthwise down middle, but not all the way through to work surface, with a boning knife or a sharp, small knife, stopping about 1 inch from end closest to you. Then, turning knife horizontally, cut turkey breast open on either side like a book jacket, beginning at lengthwise cut, to form 2 flaps. Open flaps, then put butterflied breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.

Pound turkey with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin until 1/2 inch thick. Butterfly and flatten remaining breast half.

Stuff And Roast Turkey:

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap from 1 breast half and pat turkey dry. Arrange with a short side nearest you and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mound half of stuffing in center, leaving a 1-inch border on each long side. Fold short end nearest you over stuffing to enclose, gently pressing on filling, then roll to form a cylinder (don't roll too tight, or filling will slip out of ends). Tie rolled turkey breast crosswise at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string. Season remaining turkey breast half with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then stuff, roll, and tie in same manner.
  3. Rub fennel oil all over roasts to coat. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy flameproof roasting pan straddled across 2 burners on moderately high heat. Add roasts (position 1 roast over each burner) and sear, turning with tongs, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Cover pan tightly with foil and roast turkey in oven until a thermometer inserted diagonally 2 inches into center of each roast (to touch stuffing) registers 165 degrees F, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer roasts to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes before slicing.
  4. While roasts stand, straddle roasting pan across 2 burners on moderate high heat, then add 1 1/2 cups broth and deglaze by boiling, stirring, and scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk together remaining 1/4 cup broth and potato starch and whisk into sauce, then boil, whisking, until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a sauceboat and skim off any fat. Serve turkey with sauce.

Cooks' Notes:
Roasts can be stuffed and tied 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature, then pat dry and rub with fennel oil before searing.

Matzo (also spelled matzoh) is a thin, brittle, unleavened bread traditionally eaten during the Jewish Passover holiday. Tradition states that matzo is made only with water and flour but some modern-day versions include flavorings like onion. Matzo can be found in Jewish markets as well as most supermarkets.

Matzo meal is ground matzo, generally available in two textures: fine and medium. Matzo meal is used in a variety of foods including gefilte fish, matzo balls and pancakes. It's also used to thicken soups and for breading foods to be fried. Matzo meal is available in Jewish markets and most supermarkets.

Source: The New Food Lover's Companion, Second Edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst. Barron's Educational Series.

Matzo farfel is generally a soup garnish made of minced noodle dough. But for Passover the dough is made with matzo and not traditional dough since that breaks the dietary restriction.

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