Pantry Staples to Get You Through Passover During a Coronavirus Lockdown
Passover, or Pesach, is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Families and friends traditionally gather for a Seder to commemorate the liberation of Israelites from Egyptian slavery. But this year, thanks to social distancing requirements for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), most of us cannot really gather together in person to celebrate. And the week following, when you are keeping up the dietary customs, you may also struggle as you're stuck home in quarantine with limited supplies and food.
"My family Seders have historically seated over 50 people for the religious service, where we read from the Haggadah and enjoy a multi-course holiday meal. This year is entirely different with social distancing in place," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. "Many people are making small meals at home and planning to celebrate over FaceTime or another video platform."
Thanks to technology, many families can still stay connected. "You can still enjoy time with your extended family through Zoom Seders, and even decide to cook the same traditional Passover food in your respective homes so your virtual gathering feels more cohesive," adds Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, owner of Chelsey Amer Nutrition and author of The 28-Day Pescatarian Meal Plan and Cookbook. "Although it's harder to access groceries in some parts of the country, many stores have been well-stocked on kosher for Passover staples for months and have these foods available for delivery," she says.
Also, don't be afraid to "cook outside the lines" this year, while still staying true to your beliefs and observing the holiday. For example, if you don't have walnuts to add to charoset (a traditional Seder food), omit them and rely on chopped apples and dried fruit, Amer suggests. "If you cannot safely obtain or create all items for your Seder plate, print out a picture from online for this year instead. It's essential to be flexible in order to stay safe at a time like this," she adds.
Here are a few pantry staples to add to your shopping list.
Matzo Ball Soup Mix
Matzo ball soup mix is a family staple: "Everything you need is in the box, except oil and eggs, and it makes several servings, enough for a family of four, plus leftovers. It's perfect if you are not one to make it from scratch," says Harris-Pincus. You can use this to make matzo ball soup to have for meals in the week, and you can make a large batch at once, too.
Gefilte fish is a Seder tradition that is shelf stable in glass jars, so it holds well and you can keep it in your fridge during the week of Passover. "Serve it with horseradish as an appetizer, and keep leftovers for lunch. I always think it looks better in slices versus in whole pieces," Harris-Pincus says. Or make it more sweet! You can play around with different seasonings or sauces to see how you like it.
Keep this orange, fiber-packed veggie at home during Passover. You can make easy side dishes with it, use in soup or stew, or you can make classic Passover dishes. "Tzimmes is a common Seder side dish made from sweet potatoes, prunes, and carrots. Make it easy and use canned sweet potatoes, packaged prunes and I would stick with fresh carrots for a better texture," Harris-Pincus says.
Try These: Passover Recipes for a Traditional Meal
You need to have matzoh in the house. Yet, go for whole wheat, which has a bit more nutrition and will keep you regular. "Since Passover is a time when lots of matzoh consumption makes it tougher to keep things 'moving,' I aim to add in as much fiber as possible," Harris-Pincus saus.
Whole-wheat matzoh is helpful for this, and a favorite way to eat it is by making matzoh brei where you soak matzoh in water until it is slightly softened, then you break it up and mix with eggs to scramble in a pan, she says. It's a great dish for breakfast.
Related: What Is a Matzo Ball?
Canned fish, like tuna and salmon, are long-lasting pantry items and kosher for Passover. "Canned salmon, for example, is packed with protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation," Amer says. "You can make a tuna or salmon salad by mixing flaked tuna with Greek yogurt or mashed avocado and enjoy it over salad or matzo." Alternatively, you can use canned fish to form patties, by replacing breadcrumbs with matzo meal or crushed up matzoh.
Crushed canned tomatoes are a pantry essential year-round, but especially during Passover. You can use them to make a delicious sauce for matzoh pizza. "Canned tomatoes actually have higher levels of the antioxidant lycopene than their fresh counterparts, which helps fight free radicals in your body and may even help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer," Amer says.
"To make matzo pizza, layer crushed canned tomatoes on a sheet of matzo and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 5 minutes at 375°F," she says. Then add on toppings!
Quinoa is one of few grains that are kosher for Passover, so scoop it up at the store. "Cook up a fluffy batch to add fiber and plant-based protein to your diet. Quinoa can be used as a side dish, in salads, as a pasta replacement throughout the days of observance, and as an oatmeal replacement at breakfast," Amer says.
Canned Artichoke Hearts
Constipation during Passover can be a real thing, but one way you can combat that is by adding more fiber-rich foods to your diet. "Canned artichoke hearts are a high fiber, shelf-stable vegetable that are filling and delicious to enjoy in salads. For example, combine with quinoa, diced canned tomatoes, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top for a delicious side dish or salad that's packed with fiber and filling fats," says Amer.
Shelf-stable fruit (like applesauce), canned fruit (like canned peaches), as well as dried fruit, are long-lasting and can be a great part of a well-balanced meal. "Add fruit to yogurt for a simple and quick breakfast, or use canned fruit or applesauce in your Passover baking to add moisture and a boost of fiber," Amer says.
See more Passover Recipes.