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Israeli chefs get creative during Passover

Israeli chefs recount to Al-Monitor how Passover restrictions force them to become more innovative than ever before in their cooking and baking.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man dips cooking utensils in boiling water to remove remains of leaven in preparation for the Jewish holiday of Passover in the city of Ashdod April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen - RTX3497Q

The Passover festival celebrated by the Jewish people this week (which began the evening of April 10) involves dietary restrictions commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt that took place, according to Jewish tradition, in the 13th century B.C. According to the Torah, the Israelites fled Egypt so quickly that they could not wait for their dough to rise and ate unleavened bread instead (matzo). Thus, Jewish law prohibits the eating of “chametz” (leavened food) throughout the weeklong festival. Chametz is defined as flour made from wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye that came into contact with water and rose as a result. Since wheat and barley flour are important ingredients in most cakes, many cooked foods and even drinks, the prohibition against chametz at Passover creates fascinating culinary challenges leading to remarkable and unique creativity.

“New things for Passover are being invented all the time, and this involves professional satisfaction and inventiveness that you don’t see the rest of the year,” said renowned Israeli confectioner Malki Adler. Adler, who is married and the mother of three, is a former accountant who abandoned that field in favor of her true love: baking. She describes an almost detective-like hunt for food combinations and raw materials to create substitutes for all types of foods that are forbidden at Passover. “My personal challenge is doubled,” she said. “Ashkenazi Jews [of European origin] do not eat Kitniyot at Passover. This means that we cannot prepare food products from flours made from humus, rice or corn flour."

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