The Ins and Outs of Kosher Meals for the Creative Cook
The article that I wrote for the magazine detailed some of my favorite dishes for Passover—or Easter, and I kept it kosher-style. Kosher-style is a term used by restaurants to indicate that this isn't strictly kosher, but we're staying with the spirit of the law.
I am Jewish, and though I do not keep kosher, I enjoy celebrating Passover and making a kosher-style meal for my friends and family. Here is some clarification on kosher (and kosher-for-Passover) laws, and how I chose to interpret them for Spring Feast:
KOSHER LAW #1: DO NOT COMBINE MILK AND MEAT. In the article, I recommended serving a salad with cheese before the meat is served, as milk is allowed before meat (as long as you eat something parve, or neutral in between). But you must wait 6 hours before having milk after meat, much to the frustration of kosher ice cream lovers. Most folks keeping a strict kosher home wouldn't put milk and meat in the same meal, even with the milk-before-meat technicality. I'm not that strict.
ASHKENAZI KOSHER LAW #2: LEGUMES ARE NOT ALLOWED ON PASSOVER. In the beginning, the following five grains were not allowed on Passover: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye. And then there was a geographic split between the Sephardim and the Ashkenazi Jews and things got confusing. Ashkenazi Jews added a few more items to the "do not eat" list, including green beans (and other legumes, including, but not limited to, rice, corn, soy beans, peas, lentils) during Passover, so my Green Beans with Shallots and Hazelnuts side dish is off limits. But Sephardic Jews are okay with legumes.
Though I am of Ashkenazi descent, I love the Moroccan, Spanish, and Indian flavors in Sephardic cooking. So when it comes to festive Jewish meals, I go with my Sephardic tribesman.
KOSHER FOR PASSOVER LAW #2: NO FERMENTED GRAINS. I can argue a Jewish rationale for dairy and green beans in this meal. But I did make one mistake that's hard to make a case for: I called for bourbon in one of the recipes.
Bourbon is required to be made of at least 51% corn. But that other 49% is usually a combination of wheat, rye, and/or barley. These ingredients are not permissible during Passover. However, there are 100% corn bourbons, like Hudson Baby Bourbon, that would, technically speaking, be permissible -- if you're following the Sephardic approach. (I said it was hard to make a case for bourbon, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try.)
Cooking Light asked me to share my recipes. I did that. They aren't 100% kosher. But they sure do taste good, and they're faithful to what I enjoy making for the holiday.
When I was growing up, a good friend of mine from grade school (who went on to become a rabbi) made a memorable comment when she came to my house. When she saw the wreaths that my mom used to decorate our home (inside and out), she said: "This is not a Jewish home. No Jew decorates with wreaths."
As it turns out, it was a Jewish home. And the woman at the helm was raised Protestant and spent a year with the rabbi in order to become Jewish. So although the wreaths weren't consistent with my friend's concept of Jewish decorating, that didn't make my mom (or the home) any less Jewish. Like many Jews, I'm comfortable keeping the traditions of Passover without keeping a kosher home. I tend to follow the most obvious kosher rules, like combining milk and meat and avoiding leavened bread during Passover, but there are other specific kosher rules that I do not choose to follow.
I am sorry if I have mislead any readers, and happy if I've helped others who take a similar approach feel like they've got a kindred spirit out there. I hope you enjoy these recipes on Passover if you're not keeping strictly Passover kosher, or afterwards if you are. My non-Jewish relatives tell me they just love that orange curd. Couldn't find matzoh meal where they live, but they slathered it between two layers of boxed cake mix and it was a hit.
Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday),