Known also as the Festival of Freedom, the Passover holiday begins at sunset Monday, March 23.
There are many ways to celebrate this holiday whether alone or as a family. I would suggest that you call your local temple to see what has been scheduled in your area. Some make Passover crafts and enjoy an appropriate snack, while some have scheduled a time to learn of the history of Passover and sing songs or perhaps even enjoy a community Seder meal. Friends of mine informed me that the Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro in Boston is offering a three-course Passover dinner. Whatever you do, you will enjoy taking the time to embrace this holiday and its significance.
Matzo is a large, flat cracker traditionally eaten during Passover. When the Israelites made their Exodus from Egypt, there was no time for bread to rise, so matzo, made without yeast, symbolizes that journey to freedom. Top whole matzo with spreads or cheese. Use ground matzo meal for making cakes and matzo balls.
This surprisingly easy vegetarian recipe layers matzo, cheeses and Swiss chard in a lasagna-like dish. Serve it hot or at room temperature. This doubles well (using a 9-by-13 inch pan), and may be frozen.
Swiss Chard Matzo Torte
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bunch Swiss chard, rinsed thoroughly, discard stems.
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 whole squares matzos
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-by-8 inch pan.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes.
While onion cooks, prepare Swiss chard. Remove excess water and finely chop leaves to get about 4 cups, loosely packed.
Add chard to onion and continue to cook for 4 minutes, until leaves are limp but bright green. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.
Place ricotta, eggs, and salt in a small bowl and mix well. Stir in chard until well combined.
Place 1 matzo in bottom of prepared pan. Top with about 1 cup of the Swiss chard mixture. Top with second matzo. Repeat. There should be about 1/4 cup of the chard mixture remaining. Top with third matzo and spread remaining bit of chard mixture on top, then sprinkle with feta cheese.
Bake just until golden, about 30 minutes. May be made in advance and refrigerated up to 2 days. Reheat.
Good to hear from you
I was totally surprised at how many of you like to bake bread, or were semi-beginners who had not baked bread very much, but that you were inspired to bake this month; it must be the snowy weather we have been getting. Below I shared some emails from readers that had some issues with baking bread. I know I learn from others’ experiences.
To all who are more experienced in baking bread, write me if you have any bread baking tips to share with us.
I just read your recipe for Whole Wheat Bread with Raisins and Walnuts in the Gloucester Times. I was wondering if this recipe can be doubled without adjustments. Even though I’m an OK cook, I have never baked much. This recipe sounds tasty and I want to give it a try!
Hello Peter, I have not doubled this recipe but most bread recipes are good to double, just follow the basics. Have your ingredients room temperature, have the kitchen warm (for rising). If you are unsure about something, King Arthur Flour has a “baking hotline” that you can call for assistance: 1-855-371-2253.
Have a good baking day, Pat
I am going to bake some bread this weekend, but the last time I tried it the dough did not seem to rise very well. Has this happened to you, and do you have any suggestions?
It has happened to me. There are a few things that could cause this: 1. Old yeast; 2. water was too cool to activate the yeast or so hot that it killed the yeast; and 3. Rising place too cool. My mother had the greatest luck with her bread rising and I follow her “tricks.” For a nice, warm rising place with no drafts, she turned the oven on warm, opened the oven door, and set her bread to rise on a chair in front of door, but not right on top of it. She covered the bread with towels to keep drafts away. This has worked for us.
Good luck, Pat
I’m in the mood to bake some bread. I’m going to try oatmeal raisin bread. I have made white bread before but it did not brown very much on the sides. The bread tasted OK, but could have been much less pale. What do you think about this?
Ruth W., North Andover
I looked up some bread baking sites and did see this problem listed on one. There could be two reasons for the bread not browning well on the sides: 1. pans are too bright and reflect heat away, and 2. overcrowding of pans in the oven if baking several loaves at a time. Hope this helps.
I finally had time to sit down and read your column on Alaska and salmon. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I have always wanted to go to Alaska and you make it sound even more inviting. Mostly, I have only thought of a cruise, but your experience flying to Anchorage and driving through the interior sounds good too.
I just wanted to tell you that it was a very interesting article.
Patricia Altomare invites your letters; email her at email@example.com or care of the Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930