(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Often families play "find the matzo" during the Passover Seder dinner and children search the house for the hidden treasure. However, a hidden treasure you may have been overlooking is the preparation of your own homemade matzo.
With the convenience and quality of store-bought matzo, it is little wonder few people make their own, but it's a fun and easy project to try yourself or with your kids that yields delicious results. Supermarket trade group surveys show it is a cracker enjoyed by people of all faiths. Every store-bought matzo is uniformly square and has perfectly proportioned lines of pinpricked holes. Homemade matzo looks much more rustic and usually turns out oval with rough edges. The flavor will charmingly vary slightly from batch to batch since it's not being commercially produced.
The crackers are perhaps the perfect Seder potluck offering from busy people: They take just 8 minutes to prepare and 3 minutes to bake. In fact, in accordance with the Israelite slaves' quick exodus from Egypt, traditional matzo recipes require that no more than 18 minutes pass after the flour and water are mixed because natural leavening by fermentation could occur at longer intervals. Led by Moses, the slaves fled so quickly the bread they were making had no time to rise and was eaten unleavened to nourish them on their journey to Mt. Sinai. The 18 minutes represents the time estimated to walk a Roman mile. Eighteen also represents "chai," the Hebrew for "life."
Matzo "should be very crisp, dark around the edges, hard and very flavorful," notes Robert Sternberg, a rabbi and author of "Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet's Approach to Jewish Cooking". He thinks homemade matzo has a major flavor advantage since it does not have the preservatives that can sometimes be included in commercial preparations. "The result (of preservatives can be) matzo that lacks proper crispness, is vapid and uninteresting in flavor and crumbles instead of cracks when you break it apart."
If you do make your own, once you do break it apart, in addition to eating it as a topped cracker, you can use it in countless Passover recipes, like stuffed meats or poultry. One of the most loved recipes is matzo brei, a milk- or water-soaked, egg-coated fried dish that can be sweet or savory. The slight variations among all the ingredients between families --- including the use or not of homemade matzo --- mark the recipe as uniquely their own.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
4 pieces homemade or store-bought matzo
1/2 cup water
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons kosher for Passover vegetable oil
Yields 4 servings.
In mixing bowl, break matzo into 1-inch pieces. Bring the water to a boil and carefully pour over matzos. Quickly toss the matzo and drain off any excess.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Mix the eggs, salt and pepper into the matzo.
Over high heat, heat the butter and oil in a saute pan. Add the matzo and fry until crisp. Flip over to fry the other side, breaking into pieces as it cooks. Serve with maple syrup or preserves.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Yields about 8 servings.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix the 2 flours and add water until you have a soft, kneadable dough. Knead for about 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for a couple of minutes.
Break off egg-shaped portions of dough. Stretch each portion as thin as you can before rolling it into even thinner, oval slabs. Prick each slab with a fork.
Place them on the baking sheets and then immediately into the oven. Bake until the matzo is crisp and buckled, about 3 minutes. Cool before serving.
-A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
.QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
While living as an American married to an Italian in Naples, newlywed Katherine Wilson learned many lessons the hard way, like being scolded for eating her pizza crust before the rest of her slice was devoured. She tells many funny stories in her "Only in Naples"
memoir. The themes are food and family, with much of the culinary advice coming from her Italian mother-in-law, such as how to school butchers to achieve the perfect thinness of prosciutto or how to test the freshness of eggs one-by-one by holding in front of a light bulb before purchasing.
at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.