Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The concept of having a cocktail party during Passover is one that is not often considered given all the dietary restrictions, but that doesn’t mean it is an impossible undertaking.  There are many fine kosher for Passover wines, and recently I discovered a brand of gin that is K for P as well. So, bring on the martinis!
Now that we have the drinks out of the way, deciding what small tidbits to serve (and which can be served) is easy. There are many holiday friendly cheeses that could find their way on a lovely cheese platter. Scatter some dried fruits such as figs and apricots around, and add some bowls of spiced almonds and cashews (peanuts might be a no-no for some folks). Corn is not a Passover-sanctioned food, so corn chips are out, but potatoes are on the approved list. You can pair homemade potato chips (or store-bought ones) with a caramelized onion dip like this one, and your guests will be thrilled. For some color, the bowl of dip can be placed in the center of a platter of beautifully blanched asparagus spears, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli florets.  Since this party is in a no-meat zone--cheese, that is dairy, is being served, and we are not mixing milk and meat products here--a variety of fresh salsas, both sweet and savory would also be flavorful additions. They can be served with sheets of whole-wheat and egg matzohs that have been broken into random shards.
A new addition to my cocktail party this year will be savory sables (sa-blays), buttery cocktail cookies. The recipe is a variation on the theme from the monthly #baketogether group that is initiated by Abby Dodge. Abby’s original recipe called for Parmesan cheese and a bit of cayenne pepper. I have taken the liberty of making it kosher for Passover by substituting a combination of matzoh cake meal and potato starch for the flour. I’ve also added a Latin flavor substituting Manchego, a Spanish sheep's milk cheese and smoked paprika (pimenton). In the preparation of making this dough, Abby introduces a technique called “fraisage." It is typically used when making pie dough and other flaky doughs and creates layers of flour and butter. It is not too difficult to master, and it makes the world of difference in the texture. 

While the cake meal/potato starch mixture does not create as sandy a texture as the traditional flour, I think this is still a pretty darn good kosher for Passover stand-in. In fact, these sables are good enough to serve outside a cocktail party--with just a glass of one of those great Passover wines that are in the markets now.
  • 1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) matzoh cake meal
  • 1 Tbsp. potato starch
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Manchego cheese (or other sharp kosher for Passover cheese)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 7 slices, well chilled
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons very cold water
To make the dough:
1. Put the matzoh cake meal, potato starch, cheese, salt and paprika in a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are slightly larger than pea size, about 10 to 12 pulses depending on your machine. Drizzle the water evenly over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough begins to form moist crumbs that are just beginning to clump together, about 8 or 9 more pulses depending on your machine.
2. Dump the moist crumbs onto the unfloured counter and gather into a pile. With the heel of you hand, push and gently smear the crumbs away from you until they start to come together in a cohesive dough. Two or three ‘smears’ should do the trick. Using a bench scraper, gather the dough together and turn it about 45 degrees and give it one or two more smears.  Gather the dough together and shape the dough into a 7 1/4-inch long cylinder. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm, about 3 hours, or up to 2 days.
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/4-inch slices and arrange about 1 inch apart (they don’t spread much at all) on the prepared sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until nutty brown around the edges, 16 to 18 minutes. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.
4. The dough can be shaped and frozen for up to a month and then thawed for about an hour on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight. Likewise, tuck the baked and cooled sables in a heavy duty zip top bag and stash them in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature and warm them for a few minutes at 325°F to refresh the flavors.

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