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March 29, 2013

Noshing in the matzah zone

PLATTSBURGH — Today marks the fourth day of Passover, the middle period of the eight-day festival commemorating Israeli emancipation from slavery in ancient Egypt.

“The first night and second night, we have big dinners,” said Rabbi Kari Tuling of Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh.

“Chicken is pretty common,” Tuling said. “The congregation dinner was fairly traditional — matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, chicken with vegetables and potatoes and a flourless cake for dessert.”

During Passover, matzah, unleavened bread, replaces chametz, or leavened bread. Products made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt are forbidden. So that means a fast from cakes, pancakes, crackers, noodles, cookies, bread, pasta and most alcoholic drinks.

“Matzah is flat bread that looks very much like a cracker,” Tuling said. “It’s one that doesn’t go stale. It’s always the same dry, crumbly thing. According to the story in Exodus, the Israelites didn’t have enough time to bake bread as they were leaving Egypt. Hence, that’s why the unleavened bread. The Exodus story said (you) will not have any leavened bread in your house. You’re not supposed to have any leavened products. It shouldn’t be found in your settlement. Consequently, you’re not supposed to own it.”

During Passover, traditional Jews purge their kitchens of chametz, which extends to vinegar products.

Matzah is not the most nutritious foodstuff, and neither does it contain much fiber.

“But you can go to town,” Tuling said. “There are all kinds of stuff for Passover — cookies, cakes, pickles and gefilte fish. It’s a fish cake, really. It’s chopped fish with egg and matzah. It’s between a meatball and a cake. It’s uniquely Jewish. It’s tasty. I love them.”

Matzah flour can be rolled into balls, usually using chicken fat. Chopped onions can be added to the mixture.

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