Monday, March 11, 2013

"Passover Made Easy" is imaginative, attractive and frequently gluten-free

"Passover Made Easy: Favorite Triple-Tested Recipes" takes potato starch to a new -- and delicious -- level. The bonus? Most of the recipes in the book are gluten-free, so even if you don't observe Passover, this book is worth a look.

(Potato starch is just what it sounds like -- a pure white powder made from potatoes. It's often used as a thickener, but the authors of this book frequently employ it as a flour. You can find potato starch in the spring at supermarkets that carry Passover foods, and Amazon sells several brands.)

Leah Schapria, author of, and Victoria Dwek, managing editor of the kosher food magazine Whisk (published weekly by Ami Magazine), have compiled 60 interesting recipes in this attractive new book ($15.99 Mesorah Publications, Ltd.). The dishes that rely on potato starch include crepes (which double as egg-roll wrappers and lo mein noodles), crackers, chicken nuggets with apricot dipping sauce, banana french toast,  frozen lemon wafer cake, and chocolate-nut biscotti.

The book is beautifully photographed, and each chapter begins with step-by-step explanations of how to plate one of the dishes, which is a nice touch.

My only quibble is that the book seems geared toward experienced cooks; the ingredient lists and directions can be inexact. If you need details -- what type of chocolate to use in a cake, how much oil to pour into the pan when deep-frying, the size of a squash best-suited for a specific recipe --  this book probably isn't for you. If you're an experienced cook who's looking for something new and unusual, however, I think you'll find a lot to like.

These nuggets are a family-favorite meal that can be enjoyed year-round. The authors suggest also using the batter to make fried fish or onion rings.

(To see a recipe for Spaghetti Squash Kugel from "Passover Made Easy," click here.)

Yield: 4 servings

For sauce:
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed (see tester's note)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch coarse black pepper

For chicken:
1 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons oil, plus more for deep-frying
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets, cut into nuggets

Prepare the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine jam, sugar, ketchup, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Prepare the chicken: In a medium bowl, stir together potato starch, salt, paprika and baking powder. In a small bowl, stir together water, 2 teaspoons oil and eggs. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chicken.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat. When oil begins shimmering, add chicken nuggets a few at a time, letting excess batter drip back into the bowl. Fry nuggets in batches if necessary, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden, about 5 to 6 minutes; drain on paper towels.

Remove crushed garlic from sauce. Serve nuggets with dipping sauce or toss sauce and nuggets together in a hot skillet.

Tester's note: The recipe suggests preparing the sauce while the nuggets are frying. I made it in advance, which gave the flavors time to meld. In addition, I put the garlic through a press rather than crushing it.

Recipe adapted from "Passover Made Easy" and photo from "Passover Made Easy" used by permission of the publisher.

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