There is so much to say about Naomi Nachman’s new cookbook, Perfect for Pesach. SO MUCH. Given that we’re in the midst of Pesach preparations, if you want to save some time (although, there is a surprise coming up!) I can summarize my review for you in one line:
Go and buy this book ASAP!
Now for all the details…
I love this holiday! I can’t help but feel, when you put your maximum effort into something, and work so hard, the rewards reaped are so much greater. And what better example than Pesach? Our home is cleaned and prepared meticulously, and menus and grocery lists are made with the greatest attention to detail, culminating in the seder to begin the yuntif - the most elaborate meal of the year! I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the entire process is a completely stress-free event – yes, turning over the kitchen is difficult, as is clearing the apartment of chametz when you have two kids under three who are rarely without animal crackers, cereal or cookies in their little hands. This will be my FIFTH year making Pesach and each year I’ve learned more and more to help make everything come together smoothly. I’ll forever be grateful to all of the families that opened their doors and seder tables to me, year after year, despite having family in town and all of the additional expenses this holiday brings. I was thrilled to be able to bring Y to their houses for his first two Passovers, and as we now host our own meals, their recipes, stories and traditions have seamlessly blended into ours - forever a part of our story.
When it comes to cooking for Pesach, the pressure is on. I’m always hesitant to try new things given that if it’s a fail, the expense put into the ingredients is tougher to bear than a mishap the rest of the year. At the same time, rotating the same potato kugel, butternut squash kugel or chicken dishes becomes tiresome. I want Pesach to be something my husband and kids also look forward to. I don’t want it to be associated with the stress of cleaning or bland food. I do my best to keep as calm and organized as possible, to keep stress at a minimum and anticipation high. All this to say that encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone with recipes for Pesach is not an easy feat.
If you want an authority on Pesach cooking, Naomi is about as close as it gets. Her family ran a Pesach hotel program for 28 years. TWENTY EIGHT. This is coupled with her extensive catering and teaching resume. Her knowledge, experience and expertise makes this a stand out cookbook and not one that you’ll only invest in to refer to for eight days a year. The tag line, “Passover recipes you’ll want to make all year,” is more than just a fun idea, it’s a fact. I tested this out by making Shabbos using a handful of recipes from this book - a month before Pesach - and it was a success! I didn’t once hear, “pesachdik” in reference to any of the dishes! We’ve already made four recipes from the book and my Pesach menu is filled with another six, everything ranging from soup to salads, appetizers to mains.
The ingredients listed are generally found in your local supermarket – something that is super important to me! I try to keep my grocery list filled with as many fruits and vegetables as possible and limit my spending on kosher l’pesach items to necessities – potato starch, oil etc. This book is completely in line with that! The majority of the recipes feature ingredients you’d find year-round! And if you do invest in a certain sauce or vinegar for one dish, you can find others in the book to make use of it as well! The whole goal of this cookbook is to avoid complicating matters. You’re set up for success with a very clear introductory section, outlining everything from which salt, eggs and more to use, as well as information about the variety of oil available, basic kitchen equipment, and freezer tips – especially handy if you’re looking to begin preparations early! There’s also a how-to section which details preparing basics such as crepes and zoodles that can then be incorporated into a variety of different recipes.
The layout is crisp and clean, and organized efficiently and effectively. Recipes are often accompanied by a, “Cook's Tip” gleaned from her years of professional experience. These tips cover topics such as making a recipe pareve, alternate methods of preparation, complimentary sides or how to approach preparation overall, among other matters. There are also “Prepare Ahead” boxes with information to help you begin cooking as early as possible, and “Year-Round,” providing options to adapt the recipe to one that can incorporate chametz (pretty much the opposite of my other cookbooks!). The instructions are concise and broken down into steps to make putting everything together as straightforward as possible.
The photos in the book (photographed by the awesome Miriam Pascal) capture each dish clearly and pleasantly, providing the final little push, if needed, to try it out.
As for the food itself, there are so many new flavourful, affordable options that don’t require a thousand ingredients and that are sure to elevate your menu this year. We’ve already tried:
Zucchini Mushroom Soup
Roasted Root Vegetables with Spiced Pecan Crunch
Yes. Cupcakes. Non-Gebrokts, gluten-free, cupcakes! Everything was fresh, delicious and almost more importantly, easy to prepare!
This year we’ll have ten meals, (two Sedarim, two dinners, four lunches and Shabbos) and that’s not taking into account Chol HaMoed. With all of that on our plate (haha!) standing in the kitchen cooking for days on end isn’t how I’d like to spend my yuntif and with this cookbook, I won’t have to! On our menu as of now, from this cookbook specifically:
Ultimate Pesach Chulent
Bobby's Stuffed Cabbage
Mum's Marinated Eggplant
South Western Chicken Egg Rolls
Shepherd's Pie Potato Skins
None of these recipes drew the word, “pesachdik” from my husband. None of these recipes require me having to run to speciality stores to find ingredients. Not one of these recipes require me to set aside a large portion of time to prepare and assemble dishes. They’re innovative, creative, delicious and encourage me to add new flavours to our menu.
I'm so excited to try out the chulent, and the South Western Chicken Egg Rolls are the perfect creative way to use up whatever leftovers we'll have from the Roast Chicken I have on our menu. The Shepherd's Pie Potato Skins sound so great, I just know they'll be a year-round staple as well!
Honestly, when I wrote out the recipes that I knew I'd both be willing to make and would be well received here, upon a quick glance, my list had over 21 titles! The more time I spent flipping through the pages, the longer the list grew. The Roasted Tomato Soup will be added to my weekday dinner rotation, while the Zucchini Ravoli looks too awesome not to try out right away too! There are more than 125 recipes in this book, and I know this will be an important consideration to many - 120 of them are non-gebrokts and gluten-free (If you're gluten free than this cookbook is a definite must!). It really is fantastic and a cookbook you'll be referring to for meals outside of Pesach as well. It's a worthwhile investment and will not only elevate your menu, introducing new flavours and creative dishes, you also won't have to spend weeks in the kitchen to work it all out!
Whether you’re making Pesach for the first time or twenty-ninth, whether you have your go-to recipes or are trying to compile fresh ideas, this cookbook has something for everyone. It will take the guesswork and stress out of planning your menu and cooking, and give you a safe and flavourful base to stand on.
I’m so excited to share a recipe with you today (with permission). The Zucchini Potato Soup really has it all. It’s rich and creamy, perfect for all year round, healthy, relatively low in calories and you won’t have to run around looking for a ton of ingredients! As Naomi suggests in the “Cook's Tip” section, you can garnish with fried mushrooms for an extra special touch!
And while I’m excited to share this recipe with you, I’m even more excited to share this BOOK with you!! Artscroll has generously provided one (1) copy of Naomi Nachman's Perfect for Pesach to give away! Head over to my Instagram account to enter, and for a bonus entry you can leave a comment here telling me what your favourite Pesach memory is! There always seems to be so much stress around cleaning, cooking and budgeting, let's put it all into perspective and remember the moments that made it even more worthwhile!
The contest is open to US entrants (the cookbook will only be shipped to a US address). The contest will run from Sunday, March 26th, 2017 to Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 8pm EST, when 1 (one) winner will be chosen. No purchase necessary. Naomi Nachman's Perfect for Pesach will be shipped directly to the US address, Itsy Bitsy Balebusta assumes no responsibility for shipping. The winner will have 24 hours to respond before there is a re-draw for the prize. Good luck!
Here’s wishing you the smoothest of preparations, beautiful memories to make it all even more worthwhile and a Chag Kasher v’Sameach!
This cookbook was provided as a review copy from the publisher. All opinions and ideas expressed in my review, are solely my own.
Zucchini Mushroom Soup
Pareve - Yields 10-12 servings - Freezer Friendly
(Naomi Nachman, Perfect for Pesach, p. 72, Artscroll 2017).
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 cups cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4-6 medium zucchini, washed with peel, cut into chunks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
Water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper or to taste
1. In a large (10-quart) soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions; sauté for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
2. Add mushrooms; sauté for a few more minutes. Add zucchini and potatoes.
3. Add enough water to fill pot to just under vegetables. Don't add too much liquid, or soup will be too watery. Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until vegetables are soft, approximately 45 minutes.
4. Use an immersion blender to process soup for a full 3 minutes, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.