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Thursday, April 02, 2020

So by the time you read this, I will have “turned” my kitchen over, and will be happily cooking away, preparing my meals in advance for Pesach, so that I can relax and enjoy the Chag. Hahaha. One can dream. Reality check: I am actually in that twilight zone of desperately wanting to be done with kashering the kitchen, sealing the chametz cabinets, and starting to eat the “other” food. But I’m not quite there yet.

It is so hard being in the middle, hovering between chametz and kosher for Passover. You really can’t stay there. But, I say to myself, there is still another week. Another whole week ahead in which chametz can still be eaten. So I resist forging ahead, because everyone has that nagging fear that once you are pesadik there will be nothing to eat. Or that you don’t want to make anything that you might eat on Pesach before Pesach, because then no one will want to eat it on Pesach. Sigh. At some point, the time comes when I must say: “This is it. This is when we turn over.” Once you make the commitment, you have to go all in. There is no looking back. (Except for outside the house—go ahead and eat all the pizza you want!)

It’s silly, really, to think that there is nothing to eat on Pesach. Almost all of my recipes can be easily converted and adjusted to be useable on Pesach. Anything that needs flour, use matzah or cake meal. Anything that needs a crispy coating, use gluten-free crumbs. Anything rice related, use quinoa. Fresh vegetables, roasted vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat, chicken, veal, lamb. Even cookies and cakes and ice cream. Plenty to eat. But the second I tape the cabinets shut, I know the panic sets in. The kids will start asking “what is there to eat?” Okay, so now I need to list the contents of the pantry and refrigerator. Let’s see, there’s yogurt, cheese, fruit. But, because I neglect the day-to-day meals while I am planning the meals for the following week, it seems like there is nothing to eat right now. There are no actual cooked meals prepared to eat now, while I am in the throes of preparations for next week. There is so much food, but no one is allowed to touch it yet. I have not been worried about now, I am worried about later.

To calm everyone down, all I need to do is bite the bullet, close the chametz cabinet doors, and open the Pesach ones, so that life can return to normal. (Also do the boiling water thing all over the granite…) It’s time to stop dreaming and time to start cooking. Dinner must be served!

Layered Vegetable and Cheese Casserole (Pesach Ready!)

1 large, firm eggplant (about a pound)

1 lb. ricotta cheese

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/4 C. grated parmesan

1 tsp. oregano

1 clove garlic, minced

2 C. shredded cheddar

1 large zucchini, scrubbed well, and sliced into ¼ inch rounds, or on diagonal

1 C. marinara sauce (divided)

1-2 C. shredded mozzarella

Preheat broiler in oven. Generously spray a large baking sheet with oil. Slice eggplant into rounds, about 1/3 of an inch thick. (Just wash skin, no need to peel.) Lay rounds on baking sheet, and spray tops generously with oil. Place baking sheet in oven and broil for 5–7 minutes on each side, until browned. Watch carefully so they don’t burn, as every oven is different. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, parmesan, oregano, and garlic. In a 9x9 ceramic baking dish, pour ½ cup of the marinara sauce. Layer the eggplant rounds on top of the sauce, covering the entire bottom, overlapping is ok. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture carefully on top of the eggplant, pressing it down with the back of a large spoon. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the ricotta. Layer the zucchini slices across the top of the cheese. Spread the remaining marinara sauce on top of the zucchini, and top with the mozzarella cheese. Bake covered loosely with foil for about 45 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 10–15 minutes to brown cheese. Let the casserole sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Rachel is a Real Estate attorney, currently trying to figure out what to make for Pesach. Subscribe to her blog at TheKosherDinnerLady.com. Contact her at [email protected]

By Rachel Berger