April 6, 2014
When Amy Kritzer was growing up in Connecticut, her mother made lasagna from matzo each Passover.
The holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery for the Hebrews in ancient Egypt, calls for Jews to avoid leavened grain in products such as regular pasta and bread, so it's matzo's biggest moment of the year. But lasagna?
"We almost never ate lasagna the rest of the year," Kritzer, 31, laughed. "I was sure I could live without it that one week. But it was like a little challenge, what to do with the matzo."
In recent years, matzo has undergone a makeover as the people who churn it out - by hand or machine - and the people who eat it have come up with new recipes and flavors for the large cracker with a big place at the Seder table - but a bad rep in the taste department.
"It turns out it's a pretty darn good canvas," said Lucinda Scala Quinn, executive editorial director of food at Martha Stewart Living, where the company's test kitchen has been coming up with new ways to use matzo. "We live in an age where everybody, it seems, is an inventive cook. Matzo has been this undiscovered ingredient waiting to be used beyond just kind of breaking it at the Seder," she said.
This year, Passover begins the evening of April 14, and at Kritzer's house in Austin, Texas, where she often hosts Seders, matzo has some new buddies.
"Ironically, all of my non-Jewish friends love matzo," said Kritzer, who has a recipe blog called Whatjewwannaeat. "I think because they don't have to eat it, they're like, 'Matzo, it's delicious.' And all of the Jews are like, 'What, I don't want to eat this.'"
In addition to boxed matzo, from onion-poppy to chocolate-covered, we now have Matzolah, a commercial matzo granola that was 35 years in the making in Wayne Silverman's kitchen.
He put it on the market last year, after selling it in stores briefly more than a decade ago, and earned accolades at Kosherfest, an annual showcase for kosher foods. There's maple nut, whole wheat maple nut and gluten-free cranberry orange.
"When a Jewish person sees matzo they say, 'Oy, matzo.' Dry, sticks to the roof of my mouth. And when they see a product for Passover they say, 'Oy, Passover. Even worse.' We've tried to get people away from that notion," said Silverman, in Decatur, Ga.
He chose "The Trail Mix of the Exodus" as Matzolah's slogan.