Reviewing: “My Pesach Kitchen” by Faigy Murray. Mesorah Publications Ltd. 2021. English. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422627839.
It’s that time of year again.
The hamantaschen have been consumed, the costumes have been hung away, and as you try to make room in your pantry for those bottles of sparkling grape juice that mysteriously appeared in your kitchen, reality hits: Pesach is less than a month away. The concept can be daunting even for those who have been making Pesach for years, but have no fear—recipe developer and food blogger Faigy Murray is out with an all-new ArtScroll cookbook, with more than 130 recipes and a step-by-step pre-Pesach planning guide.
The owner of Union Spice Blends and editor at Taste magazine and Voice of Lakewood, Murray’s @mykitchen_mystudio Instagram account has an impressive 19,000 followers. and for good reason. Her recipes walk that fine line between enticing and approachable, and she brings that same vibe to “My Pesach Kitchen,” which is all about keeping your Yom Tov stress-free, with uncomplicated recipes for delicious meals.
Ah, but before the cooking starts, there is work that needs to be done, my friends, and God bless Murray for sharing her Pesach notes with us so that the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Reminders not to go overboard when outfitting your Pesach kitchen and to focus those cleaning efforts only on areas that have actual chametz are on the money, and I am totally in the same camp as Murray when it comes to stashing stuff on my counters over Pesach to avoid the hassle of emptying out cabinets to make room for essentials.
Even if you aren’t the type to make menus during the year, it is well worth doing so for Pesach so that you can buy what you need and not end up with random items that you won’t end up using. For those who have space, Murray advises keeping surplus Pesach staples such as canned foods, and well-wrapped spices and dry goods from year to year with your Yom Tov supplies, and keeping any extra double-bagged ground nuts in the freezer for future use. Obviously, you don’t want to save anything that is about to expire, and you should make a list of saved items so you don’t purchase duplicates next year. And mark down that recipes worked well and which were less appreciated to help you fine tune next year’s menu.
But, of course, getting there is only half the job. The question remains … What are you going to cook other than chicken and potatoes? “My Pesach Kitchen” has plenty of answers divided into nine chapters, a significant number of which are marked as freezer-friendly, a godsend for those who are able to cook in advance.
While I am a big minimalist when it comes to Pesach, Murray’s dip section resonated with me because things like garlic confit, onion dip and matbucha really take just minutes to make and are real crowd-pleasers. Murray even has a mock techina that uses almonds in lieu of sesame seeds, and gourmet olive lovers will rejoice in the simplicity of her spicy olives.
With a three-day Yom Tov coming up, the idea of eating chicken soup so many nights in a row doesn’t work for me, and Murray steps up to the plate (I mean bowl) with a variety of veggie-based soups that won’t pack on the pounds. Kudos to Murray for adding a dash of panache to her soups, with pastrami croutons enhancing the butternut squash soup, mini meatballs gracing the sweet potato soup, shredded chicken topping the potato leek soup and a splash of wine upping the ante in the double mushroom soup.
Also breaking up the chicken-meat monotony that often sets in are 13 fish recipes, with the parmesan crusted tilapia and the avocado and jalapeno-topped tuna platter really calling my name. And while I am not a gefilte fish lover, Murray’s oven-roasted loaf with a sprinkling of spices is an easy way to make sure the traditionalists in my family get their gefilte fix in.
By my count, there are 10 Yom Tov meals that need main dishes and Murray doesn’t disappoint. Several of her roasts cook in the oven overnight, including a slow roasted London broil, and her intriguing chicken marsala is freezable. What could be better than that? But No. 1 on my list of must-make mains is Murray’s potato kugel chicken, a genius idea that is exactly what it sounds like—an all-in-one dish that will likely yield zero leftovers.
While so many of the recipes that we rely on year-round are already Pesach friendly, desserts pose the biggest challenge for me, and Murray’s chapter on sweet goodies was the first one I turned to when “My Pesach Kitchen’’ arrived on my doorstep. The recipes are uncomplicated, contain no gebrokts (a real boon to the gluten-free folks out there), and several were completely nut-free as well. I am hoping that by the time you read these words I will already have pans of Murray’s jam bars, crinkle cookies, cinnamon cake and strawberry-banana ices all neatly stacked away in my Pesach freezer, though that frozen chocolate mousse cake is looking awfully tempting as well…
Murray wraps the book up with a chapter on Chol Hamoed meals, a timely addition given the realities of this year’s calendar. Having spent so much time cooking Yom Tov meals, I always find the idea of having to come up with more food on Chol Hamoed to be slightly frustrating, but with enticing recipes for shawarma, pulled beef fries, shepherd’s pie and even poutine, I suspect we may be enjoying some lovely mid-week meals this year.
Be sure to check out the final pages of “My Pesach Kitchen” for a sample menu, as well as Murray’s shopping, inventory, to-do list and menu templates. Whether you decide to make copies of those pages or just use them as samples, they will get you started in a positive direction.
Yup, Pesach is indeed coming. But take a deep breath and smile—“My Pesach Kitchen” is here for you, making the journey to the finish line as smooth and delicious as possible.
Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected]