Passover comes once a year -- but that box of Passover matzo meal seems to last forever.
The holiday, which commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, this year begins on the evening of April 5.
During the eight days, no leavened foods are eaten, in remembrance of the Jews' hasty departure, when there was no time to allow the bread to rise.
Matzo, matzo meal, cake meal and potato starch take the place of bread, flour, cornstarch, baking powder and yeast.
Most families follow a traditional Seder menu on the first and second nights of Passover. For the rest of the holiday, it is a challenge to find palatable recipes that meet the dietary guidelines.
When it's over, one is invariably left with half-full boxes of Passover ingredients that must be frozen until the following year, thrown out or used up.
But the traditional Passover ingredients lend themselves to recipes that are delicious enough to include in menus throughout the year.
* Matzo: Many people eat matzo all year as a cracker; it may also be used as an ingredient.
The "Geschmirte" matzo recipe has been handed down through many generations. When I served it at a Passover service 20 years ago, an 80-year-old man told me the last time he had eaten it was in Poland, where his great-aunt made it.
It is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner and any time in between.
Matzo brie is a pancake made from matzo and eggs, fried and served with cinnamon-sugar, honey, maple syrup or preserves. It, too, has stood the test of generations -- the mark of a good recipe.
* Cake meal and potato starch: These two ingredients often are used together to create the right blend for cakes and pastries.
To convert a "regular" recipe to one that is acceptable for Passover, replace each cup of cake flour with 1/4 cup matzo cake meal mixed with 3/4 cup potato starch. The cake meal provides the substance and the potato starch gives the lightness.
Mandelbrot uses both ingredients and resembles the biscotti so beloved in Italy. It can be eaten all year, and in our house it usually is.
The spinach gnocchi or dumplings are Italian in origin and use potato starch.
It is also good to remember that potato starch can be substituted for cornstarch.
* Matzo meal: Matzo meal is the main ingredient in matzo balls, which are eaten year-round.
It may be used instead of bread crumbs for breading fish and chicken.
Makes 36 squares.
1/2 cup milk
16 ounces soft cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon potato flour
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the milk into a large shallow dish and lay the matzos in 1 at a time, turning to soak both sides. Set the matzos on a greased cookie sheet.
Beat remaining ingredients (except the cinnamon-sugar) until smooth. Spoon onto matzos, spreading to cover. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Bake for 10 or 15 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned. Remove from oven; cut each matzo into 9 squares.
Per serving: calories: 80; fat: 5 grams; cholesterol: 33 milligrams; sodium: 44 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 60.
Makes 3 to 4 servings.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Pour boiling water over the matzos; soak for 10 minutes. Drain Heat oven to 350 degrees. Divide batter into 2 pieces; form each into a 12-inch roll on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until dry but not crisp through. Remove from oven and cut each roll into 16 slices; lay slices on the cookie sheet (you may have to add another cookie sheet) and bake another 10 minutes. Turn the cookies onto the other cut side and bake 10 minutes more, or until crisp and lightly browned.
Per serving: calories: 116; fat: 8 grams; cholesterol: 20 milligrams; sodium: 40 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 64.
Makes 24 large or 40 small dumplings.
2 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons potato starch
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients and form into balls the size of a walnut. (Wet your hands to make rolling easier.)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and drop the dumplings into the water, boiling a few at a time. They will drop to the bottom and rise to the surface when they are done.
Remove from water, drain and serve with Parmesan cheese as a side dish or with tomato sauce as a light meal.
Per gnocchi (24 gnocchi total): calories: 41; fat: 2 grams; cholesterol: 15 milligrams; sodium: 113 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 52.