Three ways to get creative this Passover

Passover is almost upon us, and it’s a time of year when creative cooks come up with amazing dishes that abide by the holiday’s dietary laws: no wheat, oats, barley, spelt or rye, and no fermented foods. That makes many of them especially welcome for anybody who avoids these ingredients — whether or not they observe.

I’m Alice Short, the acting food editor at The Times, filling in for cooking columnist Ben Mims, who is on a special assignment, and today I’d like to recommend an essay written by Julie Giuffrida, a cook and a recipe tester on our Food staff.

Julie writes that she has three basic approaches to cooking for Passover. The first? “Cook the way I normally do, but swap out the flour, pasta, breadcrumbs and the like for matzo meal and other pesadic (kosher for Passover) products.”

Approach No. 2? “Celebrate the ‘holiday of matzo’ concept and cook with it outright, flaunting it whole and in large pieces.”

And approach No. 3? “Use recipes that don’t require forbidden ingredients. I tend to do a little of each, depending on the circumstance.”

Julie extols the virtues of the “Passover roll” that uses cream puff pastry (pâte à choux) made with matzo cake meal. She makes “no-bake cakes and savory casseroles with layers of whole matzos and, of course, I make lots of matzo brei.” And she loves the ease of flourless chocolate cake. For starters, check out our recipes for Passover gougères with leeks and mushrooms and sour cherry-almond cookies.

Passover Gougères With Leeks and Mushrooms

The dough for these is fast and easy to make. It’s essentially pâte à choux — the dough used to make cream puffs and éclairs — but made with matzo meal instead of flour. And what better to fill them in the springtime than leeks?
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

Passover gougeres with leeks and mushrooms.

(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Sour Cherry-Almond Cookies

Now that the gluten-free trend has taken hold, it’s easier than ever to find Passover-appropriate dessert recipes. Think of these crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside cookies as something like Italian amaretti — if amaretti had a tart pop of dried sour cherry inside.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Almond sour cherry cookies from Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley.

(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Matzo Brei Chilaquiles

This breakfast mash-up from cookbook author Joan Nathan, inspired by a phone conversation with Jonathan Gold, is a true reflection of L.A. Swap in matzos for corn tortillas and use kosher-for-Passover cheese, and you’ve got a perfectly Passover-friendly take on the Mexican breakfast standby.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 35 minutes.

A plate of chilaquiles made like matzo brei, topped with cheese, avocado and cilantro

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Parsley- and Garlic-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Passover can be a tough time for religious vegans, who might feel they have few food options — but it doesn’t have to be, as this recipe for meaty, garlicky mushrooms shows. It’s worth making whether or not there are any vegans at your table.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Parsley and garlic stuffed portobello mushrooms are on the menu for vegan Passover.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Roast Chicken With Thyme and Honey

There are infinite ways to dress up plain roast chicken. This version, from Leah Koenig’s “The Jewish Cookbook,” uses a mix of fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables that soak up the drippings as the bird cooks and caramelizes with its honey glaze.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 55 minutes.

A pan of roast chicken parts with honey, thyme and root vegetables.