Robin Cohen has a couple of suggestions. Her Passover-inspired jam offerings include Passover Sweetness, bursting with the charoset-like flavors of apples, walnuts, honey and kosher wine. The savory flavor of Spring, is a conserve of apples, horseradish and dill. The zesty chutney will bring out the hearty-tasting variety of unleavened bread, new for this season of Passover, the eight-day Passover holiday that begins this year on Friday evening, April 22.
Cohen, who won Micheal Ruhlman’s 2011 national holiday cooking challenge for her rugelah, is the founder and chef behind Doves and Figs, an Arlington-based food company that uses locally grown ingredients for a dazzling array of Massachusetts-made jam and preserves. Growing up in a fruit-picking, jam-making Jewish family in New York, Cohen creates Jewish holiday varieties as well as offering kitchen-tested recipes on her website and blog post. Her jams are not yet kosher-certified.
Not so long ago, the choices on Passover supermarket shelves offered limited choices: plain or egg matzah, traditional or sweet gefilte fish, chocolate, almond or coconut macaroons. Decisions were often brand-driven. Would it be Manischewitz, Horowitz Margareten or Streits. More recently, some Israeli products including Aviv, have made their entrance.
In today’s consumer-driven, health-conscious, foodie-driven environment, the choices are mind-boggling and Passover shopping can take as long as ridding the house of chometz, any bread and other leavened food that is forbidden during the holiday.
Manischewitz, which claims to be the number one baker of matzah in the world, offers whole wheat, gluten free, the traditional hand-made schmura matzah and a flavored Mediterranean variety. It now includes the Horowitz Margareten and Goodman’s brands.
Kedem Foods, which is debuting the Yehuda brand Ancient Grain Organic Spelt Matzo, has been stepping up to the expanding palate with choices to meet today’s savvy and more demanding Jewish consumers with a wide array of tastes and needs.
For the last decade, the large New Jersey-based kosher food company has partnered with Whole Foods to bring more natural and organic choices in kosher foods, including many specifically for Passover. Their goal is to meet consumer interest in high quality, responsible sourced products without artificial ingredients, according to Harold Weiss, executive director of Kayco, the company that includes Kedem. Weiss has been at the helm of the partnership with Errol Schweizer, executive grocery coordinator at Whole Foods.
Weiss points to Avivo Organic Grape Juice as an example. Made from NY Finger Lakes region organic grapes, it is sold exclusively at Whole Foods.
The offerings have definitely evolved, according to Roger Perrett, senior grocery buyer for the Whole Foods North Atlantic region. In the ten years he’s been in the position, there’s a broader spectrum of offerings beyond the traditional matza and cake meal, he told The Journal.
There are now more than 100 Passover products tailored for the holiday, he said. New this season is The Chosen Bean, a fair-trade coffee, as well as fair trade chocolate chips and a kosher for Passover Olive Oil. A Passover granola, Matzohah, comes in several varieties, including Whole Wheat Maple Nut with almonds and other nuts, raisins, maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil and coconut. With 240 calories in one-half cup, a sprinkle over yogurt is a tasty treat.
The organic spelt matzah, made from organize unbleached whole spelt flour, which does contain gluten, and water, has an earthy, nutty flavor that would work well in stuffings or as the base for matzah brei. Also new in the matzah department is a Gluten-Fee Unsalted variety, also from Yehuda Matzos.
Even the century-old Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup is in on the action, with an “All-Natural and Fair Trade Chocolate Syrup,” for Passover. It’s among some of the groceries, including a Tilapia Gefilte Fish and Glick’s Salted Chocolate Macaroons, that are available only at Whole Foods.
Other entries in the sweets department is Rebecca & Rose’s Gluten Free Brownie Crunch made from sugar, potato starch, eggs and cocoa powder.
Robin Cohen’s Passover favorites using her holiday jams
“My favorite sweet Passover dessert is a trifle with layers of Passover angel food cake (store-bought or homemade either is fine), layered with fat-free plain yogurt and Seder Sweetness and fresh sliced strawberries. It is super light and springy and not too sweet.
Serve this at the seder to complement the combination of greens, bitter herbs and the sweetness of freedom.
“On the savory side, I love serving roasted asparagus with a dollop of Spring! chutney.
She also suggests delicious and fun Passover Lamb Sliders. “Take one pound ground lamb, mix in 2-3 tablespoons of our Spring! chutney, one egg and sprinkle of matzo meal. Form into small patties and grill or cook in frying pan until desired doneness. Serve on matzo diner rolls.”
Doves and Figs available online at dovesandfigs.com; gift packs available at City Feed in Jamaica Plain.