Joan Nathan’s Cheesy Passover Dishes

We’re pretty excited to welcome Joan Nathan to Murray’s on May 10 for an evening of cheese and chatting.  As the author of ten cookbooks, and a James Beard awardwinner to boot, Joan knows a thing (or three) about cooking with cheese.  In May we’ll be tasting cheese, sipping wine and trying a few recipes from her latest cookbook.  And this month, with Passover right around the corner, we asked Joan to share a few of her favorite cheese-filled recipes that she uses at her own Seder.  

FARFEL AND CHEESE – From Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

About four days into Passover when my daughter, Daniela, was young she commented that, “We look forward to the Seder for so long that we forget after a few days, matzah gets old!”  I adapted this farfel and cheese recipe precisely for that reason.  No one can get sick of mac and cheese!  Especially when it’s full of cheddar AND sour cream. 

4 large eggs

3 cups matzah farfel

½ lb cheddar cheese (so many options here!  Try Tickler, Cabot Clothbound, or Montgomery’s – or a mixture of many)

1 ½ cups sour cream

6 tablespoons butter or pareve margarine

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

     Beat 3 of the eggs and pour over the farfel.  Mix well.

     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a casserole.  Pour the farfel mixture into the casserole.

     Cut the cheddar cheese into a small dice.  Add the cheese to the farfel.  Using a spoon add the sour cream in dollops and dot with the butter or margarine.  Mix together the milk, remaining egg, salt, and pepper, and pour it over the casserole.

     Bake covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and let brown for 10 to 15 minutes more.  Scoop out onto plates.

Serves 8.

PAPETON D’AUBERGINES (EGGPLANT GRATIN) – From Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous

Eggplant is a favorite of mine and I never need an excuse to make it.  In this recipe, roasting the eggplant makes it nice and smoky and with all the cheese, no one feels the least bit deprived.  I like to serve it alongside a simple green salad and use whatever cheeses I have on hand.  You should feel free to experiment.

1/4 cup olive oil

3 large eggplants, about 4 pounds

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled

1 cup grated Gruyere or Mozzarella cheese

1 sprig thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 sprig oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano

4 tablespoons matzo meal

Freshly grated pepper to taste

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 6-cup gratin dish with some of the oil.

If grilling the eggplants over a gas stove, make small slits all over the outside.  Using tongs, hold them over the open flame, rotating them every few minutes until they are soft and collapsed. If roasting them in the oven, cut them in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with olive oil, and place them cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until very soft.

Place the cooked eggplant in a sieve over a large bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and let cool and drain for about 15 minutes.  Peel, discarding the skin and any liquid that has accumulated, and, using 2 knives, chop the eggplant in a sieve over a bowl. 

Stir the feta and gruyere cheeses, the thyme, the oregano, 3 tablespoons of the matzo meal, a few sprinklings of pepper and all but a tablespoon of the remaining oil. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and stir into the eggplant mixture. Then pour everything into the gratin dish. Brush with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining matzo meal. Bake for an hour or until golden on top.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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