“Perfect for Pesach” review

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Naomi Nachman grew up in Australia watching her mother and grandmother prepare weekly feasts for her family. She started her own kosher personal chef business The Aussie Gourmet to provide kosher meals for families within Long Island’s Five Towns. In 2007, she created a Culinary Arts program at Camp Dina and is the director of the Culinary arts program for VIP-Ram’s Pesach program in Florida. She also hosts “Table for Two with Naomi Nachman” on the Nachum Segal Network and writes a monthly magazine column for Mispacha.

In “Perfect for Pesach: Passover Recipes You’ll Want to make All Year,” Naomi collects a diverse range of tempting Pesach recipes that feature international current food trends, from Southwestern chicken eggrolls, cauliflower sushi, cauliflower crust lachmagine and Hawaiian poke to pistachio-crusted salmon, tequila lime chicken, chicken piccata, and guacamole deviled eggs. I particularly enjoyed the salads, including the goat cheese salad with raspberry vinaigrette, kale and roasted butternut squash salad, arugula pomegranate salad, Mediterranean eggplant salad, and beet salad with candied nuts.

I love that Naomi uses fresh, quality ingredients over processed foods like margarine, Kosher for Passover baking mixes, and soup mixes. She offers tips on freezing, including pointers on meat, fried foods, chicken and kugel, and soup that allow you to make dishes ahead for stress-free dinners. There are also super-handy photo guides to preparing zucchini noodles (“zoodles”), spaghetti squash, and no-flip Pesach crêpes that will make recipe prep a breeze. Handy sidebars for “Prepare Ahead,” “Cook’s Tips” and “Year-Round” also further assist.

An important note is that foods considered Kosher for Passover differ between Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions; in addition to chametz (any food made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and rise), Ashkenazi Jews also avoid kitniyot during Passover, which includes rice, corn, millet, dried beans and lentils, peas, green beans, soybeans, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppyseeds, and mustard. “Perfect for Pesach” eliminates kitniyot.

You’ll find plenty of familiar favorites like vegetarian chopped liver, matzah balls, kugel, and gravlax next to creative updates like crispy flounder with pickled onions, sweet and salty pecan chicken cutlets, zucchini ravioli with spinach ricotta filling, and vegetarian-friendly dishes like guacamole deviled eggs, spinach-stuffed mushrooms, mum’s marinated eggplant, and arugula pomegranate salad. The cauliflower sushi is a great way to take advantage of the current trend of riced cauliflower as a low-carb stand-in for rice; if you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joes, you can purchase this as a prepared product. The dishes are elegant without being labor-intensive and use ingredients you’re already likely to have on hand (very few require special kosher-for-Passover-specific items), and the vibrant food photography by blogger and author Miriam Pascal (Overtimecook.com)  will want to make you cook your way through the book cover to cover.

The desserts section offers a wide range of options from fruit sorbet and pomegranate pistachio semifreddo to chocolate mousse, chocolate almond butter bark, frozen red wine strawberry mousse, and baked goods.

The best part is that “Perfect for Pesach” can be used year-round as recipes also offer instructions how to adapt recipes for the rest of the year, and this is also a great option if you have any guests or family members on gluten-free diets as the recipes are creative and delicious ones that the whole family can enjoy. The Year ‘Round guide on page 235 includes ways to adapt recipes for the rest of the year; if your family allows kitniyot, then some of these variations may be appropriate for Passover (using beans in soups and baked dishes, for example; using rice for the cauliflower sushi and stuffed capons, etc.).

Overall, “Perfect for Pesach” is a gorgeous book with elegant yet approachable recipes that any level of cook can master, and the wide range of international influences and modern food trends will make this a frequent go-to for Passover or any time of year!

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