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Matzo, the unleavened cracker-like bread traditionally eaten during Jewish Passover celebrations, on one hand, a food you want to be proud of — a Jewish tradition. But frankly, it usually tastes like cardboard.

During Passover, leavened breads and most grains are prohibited. The tradition is intended to recall the flight of the Jews from Egypt after being freed by the pharaoh. As the story goes, they had no time to let their bread rise before baking it. So today, matzo — the production of which is a highly regulated process — is central to Passover meals.

It can be eaten as is, or ground into coarse crumbs or even a fine cake meal and used similar to traditional flours.

When cooking with Matzo chefs tend to treat it as a blank canvas upon which to build dishes. These days matzo is available in many varieties — including whole wheat — many of which taste quite good.

As a chef, try developing a tortilla recipe with tomato-mint salsa and guacamole.  We all know how much families like having a taco night and want a Passover-suitable option.  And then there’s always Pizza Night.  Try using Matzo in your pizza crust.  But remember to use a very hot oven when baking a pizza crust with Matzo.  This will ensure the matzo doesn’t get soggy.

One important thing to always remember, don’t be fooled into thinking that using matzo crumbs and meal is the same as using flour or breadcrumbs, and it’s recommend that you don’t go out of your way to try to use matzo products to recreate dishes you might make at other times of the year.

Matzo, unlike leavened breads, doesn’t have developed glutens (a protein that helps bread rise), so baked goods using matzo meal and cake meal won’t have the same textures as ones made with traditional flour.

One good trick for baking and cooking with matzo meal and cake meal is to start out by emulsifying it by whipping it together with olive oil and egg, almost like making a mayonnaise. This technique is great when making a matzo cake meal-based coffee cake and achieves very light and fluffy results.

Another favorite during Passover is fried green tomatoes made with a seasoned matzo crumb coating. Or try making a stew and soup thickened with a roux made by browning matzo meal and either olive oil or chicken fat. Matzo can be embraced it with plenty of culinary flair.

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Source:  Associated Press, 3.20.2013

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