Passover is a holiday about freedom. It’s the special time of year where Jews are asked to recall our time of slavery in Egypt, and be thankful that we were freed. Of course, that’s not the only time in history that our people were oppressed, so we extend the message to be thankful for all the times we were freed and to rejoice in our good fortune to be living in freedom right now.
And as my habit is with all holiday celebrations, I relish in the freedom to eat what I want.
You might think that Passover would be my ideal holiday, the perfect time to eat healthy and maintain a lower-carb diet. When you’re forced to eliminate flour and oats (and barley, spelt, and rye – but those aren’t a usual suspect in my diet anyway), there are some significant changes make. No oatmeal for breakfast. Must avoid my typical low-carb lavash wrap for lunch. That pre-workout Zone bar I always have? I’ll need to get my protein some other way. Don’t even think about pasta with dinner (ok, that one is easy for me.)
But don’t fret – there are still plenty of carbs to go around. Our family seders start with matzoh ball soup, end with sugar-laden desserts, and somewhere in between you’ll find plenty of kugel. And I enjoy it all – perhaps a little too much!
Kugel is one of those things that’s hard to explain because it really refers to nothing more specific than a casserole. Some of the more popular varieties are a sweet dairy noodle kugel, or a mixture of egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese or ricotta, beaten eggs, cinnamon, and lots of sugar baked to perfection. Sometimes this is studded with dried fruit. Then there’s a sweet noodle kugel without dairy – my family enjoys this version on Rosh Hashanah. Noodles and sliced apples and raisins, bound together by eggs, loaded with cinnamon and sugar and baked so that it’s soft on the inside, with addictingly crispy browned bits on top. Then there are vegetable-based kugels; perhaps the most traditional is the potato kugel, which sort of falls in between hash browns and baked mashed potatoes. And on Passover, a typical kugel might consist of a matzoh base, made sweet with apples and raisins (at my mom’s table) or filled with seasonal vegetables (at mine.)
I realize I am a little late in sharing this kugel, since most of you have already had your Passover seders. But maybe you are going to one this weekend and you’re still trying to figure out what to bring. Maybe you’re hosting a joint Easter-Passover celebration, and need a dish that everyone can enjoy. Or maybe you’ll just remember this next year when planning your menu.
Chag Pesach Sameach and Happy Easter. If you are reading this, you are lucky enough to be living in a free world. Hopefully someday, everyone in the world will be so fortunate.
Leek & Artichoke Matzoh Kugel
8 sheets matzoh
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium leeks, thinly sliced and rinsed well
3 14oz cans quartered artichokes, drained
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 9×13″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Break the matzoh into small pieces in a bowl, and add enough warm water to cover. Let sit for a few minutes to soften, the drain in a colander.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the leeks and saute, stirring occasionaly, for about 20 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Add the artichokes, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl along with the dill and nutmeg. Fold in the matzoh and the vegetable mixture, and pour into prepared dish.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until fully set and lightly browned on top.