One of the (many) blessings of Passover is that we see some delicious dishes that are traditionally made only once a year….not from a lack of access to particular ingredients (who doesn’t keep matzah in their pantry year-round??), but because the dietary restrictions of Passover require us to utilize ingredients that we don’t generally use year-round. For many, this means the holiday is the one time a year we see the Passover dishes that we remember our parents making since we were children. This year, Marnina made her mom’s peach kugel that was so good that we were scraping the sides of the 9 x 13 baking dish to salvage all of the caked-on pieces. And for the Seder, my mom made a flanken tzimmes with carrots, sweet potatoes, and prunes – the meat and veggies are slow-cooked with honey and sugar to the point where they are so tender and sweet that they just instantly melt in your mouth (don’t worry, we avoided the prunes at all costs).
There are multiple types of Passover foods and recipes. First, there is the type primarily made from Passover ingredients (matzah meal and potato starch) that hardly comes close to even pretending to mimic the real foods, such as pancakes, Passover cereal, noodles or matzah rolls. Second, there are those foods and recipes that come closer to matching their non-Passover equivalent (and are tastier in our opinion) such as matzah pizzas, kugels, and soups. Finally, the third type includes dishes with no flour or other ingredients characterized as chametz making them kosher for Passover. Overall, we tend to steer away from foods in the first group. The Passover cereal and pancakes just don’t do it for us (not to mention they don’t sit well either!). Believe it or not, we have yet to open one box of matzah. We have eaten small amounts of matzah (at others’ seders) but have survived the first half of the holiday without opening a box of our own. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me! Instead, we have tried to keep our diets focused on the third type of foods. As a result, we have been eating lots of eggs, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, meat and potatoes (both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes). We take pride in our consumption of sweet potatoes. We only go through an average of 6-12 per week. Not bad, right?
This past week, while enjoying the company of some friends, we tried out a new recipe with…well, you will never guess…SWEET POTATOES! We made Passover sweet potato gnocchi that tasted remarkably similar to the non-Passover version. This gnocchi serves double-duty; it is a great alternative to any of the potato starch ‘pastas,’ and helps you (for the most part) avoid the kosher-for Passover processed foods, which are often akin to cardboard.
This recipe is definitely a top choice for a Crohn’s diet because it is relatively easy on the digestive system. First, Marnina finds that potatoes (although preferably regular and not sweet potatoes) are one of the first foods that she reintroduces into her diet if her GI system is acting up. This recipe’s primary ingredient is mashed sweet potato. The nature of the sweet potato and the fact that it has already been mashed should make it slightly easier for her to digest. Nutritionally, sweet potatoes are well recognized for their nutritional superiority as an excellent source of beta-carotene; They also deliver some vitamin C and potassium. They have a bit of a different nutritional make-up compared to regular potatoes, which have more vitamin C and potassium, but are seriously lacking in the beta-carotene department.
Second, Marnina tries to limit the amount of ‘harder’ fresh herbs that she consumes, such as rosemary. We will often use these types of herbs to flavor dishes, but she will then pick them out of her portion…..she has no trouble eating lighter non-branchy herbs like parsley or basil as long as they are cooked. In most cases, fresh herbs are cooked to the point where they will not irritate her intestines. Marnina does fine with dried herbs and spice powders too. This dish includes fresh sage, but its purpose is merely to infuse the gnocchi and is not meant to be consumed. This is another healthy way to incorporate herbs into your diet but not eat them.
Finally, you will also notice that the recipe calls for margarine or butter. We chose to use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) instead, which is one of the foods (others being salmon, garlic, and turmeric) that has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. EVOO has certain compounds that can repress the expression of several pro-inflammatory genes.
Gnocchi are soft dumplings primarily made from wheat flour, as well as eggs, potatoes, breadcrumbs, or other similar ingredients. At first, we were a bit nervous to try out this recipe because we have heard that gnocchi can turn out gummy or too heavy. However, this particular batch came out light and tender, and by sautéing them in a pan with olive oil and sage, they took on the flavor of the sage and gained a slightly crisp exterior that was a good balance to the tender interior. Don’t let us fool you, they are definitely Passover gnocchi. You can taste the ‘Passover’ in them. However, as a Passover dish, we definitely give it lots of credit and would definitely make them again next year!
Pictured with the gnocchi is a cheesy potato frittata. These egg-based dishes are a great option for Passover because they do not contain matzah, they are quick and easy, they can be dairy or pareve (if you omit the milk), and you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. They are also much lower in fat than a quiche, and they pack a good dose of protein. We opted to use mostly egg whites instead of whole eggs. Frittatas also have the added bonus of being a one-pan meal, which means little work and little clean-up.
Passover Sweet Potato Gnocchi
makes about 3-4 servings
1 cup mashed sweet potato (hot or cold)
1/4 cup ricotta (kosher for Passover ricotta was so expensive that we used cottage cheese instead)
1/2 cup matzoh meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup oil (we used extra virgin olive oil)
10 fresh sage leaves
Mash together the sweet potato, cottage cheese, matzah meal, potato starch and salt. When the dough is well mixed, break it into four even pieces. Roll each and cut about a 10 inch roll and cut into small pieces, about 15 per piece of dough. Using a fork, roll the bits of dough to flatten them slightly and make indentations. Boil in salted water just until they rise to the surface.
In a large saucepan, preferably non-stick, heat the oil and add the sage leaves, after a few minutes add the gnocchi and cook until the sage leaves are crisp and the gnocchi is slightly crisp on the outside.
Recipe adapted from Cooking with Amy: http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/2009/04/passover-sweet-potato-gnocchi.html