Variations on Matzo
Matzo is matzo, but there are several ways to spell it. There are two basic variants: Israeli and Sephardi (Sephardim are Jews from Spain, southern Europe, and Arab countries), and Ashkenazi (Ashkenazim are Jews from Europe). Among the first group, considered to have the purest pronunciation, the word for unleavened bread that appears in the Bible is transliterated into English as “Matza” or “Matzah,” the plural of which is “Matzot” with a hard “t” sound at the end accorded to the Hebrew letter “tav.” Among the second group, unleavened bread is transliterated as “Matzo” and “Matzoh,” the plural of which is “Matzos.” In the Ashkenazi tradition, the Hebrew letter “tav” is given a soft “s” sound, as in Shabbos for Sabbath; Israelis say “Shabbat.” All variants in transliteration can be traced to these two traditions. So the Matzot on the supermarket shelf will probably be labeled “Matzos.”
Sweet Wine Matzos
Makes 6 matzos
This delicious matzo using anise seed is more like a cookie. The sages, of course, considered any matzo containing ingredients other than flour and water to be “matzo ashira” or “bread of opulence,” permitted only after the first Seder night.
- 2 1/2 cups sifted unbleached flour (as fine as possible, or use cake or pastry flour for a lighter cookie)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons anise seed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Sift flour and dry ingredients.
- Mix in anise seed.
- Mound the dry mixture.
- Make a well in the center of the mound and add the wine and oil; mix together to form dough and roll out and bake as in the Homemade Matzo recipe.
One universally loved Passover dish is Matzo Brei (pronounced to rhyme with tie), or Fried Matzo. It’s common to all Jewish cuisines and is usually eaten at breakfast. While there are many different recipes for Matzo Brei, it usually consists of matzo soaked in water to soften, wrung dry, mixed with eggs, and scrambled in hot fat. Matzo Brei is usually served with jam or jelly. There are variations in the length of time the matzo is soaked or wetted, and whether water or milk is added to the mixture. (Milk would have been treif—non-kosher—for the vast majority of Jews in the Old World. Whether the mixture is cooked like an omelette or scrambled, this is an easy recipe. Matzo Brei is easy to make, economical, and very satisfying.
I started experimenting with Matzo Brei several years ago during a Passover week. I tried out herb- and spice-inspired toppings and flavorings that are conspicuously absent from traditional recipes. At first I used leftovers from the Seder Plate—“karpas” and “haroset” (explained below)—then I looked into my early spring garden, my herb cupboard, and among my windowsill herbs. You may think of other herbs and spices; feel free to experiment.
2 to 3 servings
- 3 matzos (plain or part whole-wheat)
- 2 or 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, margarine, or butter for frying
- Salt and pepper to taste
Method 1: Scrambled Matzo Brei
- Break up the matzos into medium (not small) pieces and place them in a bowl.
- Pour hot water over them and set the bowl aside for a few minutes. Experiment with soaking times to get the texture you like. If you prefer Matzo Brei on the dry side, simply soak for less time. (I usually soak the matzos for about 5 minutes.)
- Then drain off the water and squeeze with your hands until it’s as dry as possible.
- Melt the margarine or butter in a frying pan.
- Add the eggs to the matzos, beat together, and pour the mixture into the hot pan, stirring and turning it until it is well done. It should be crispy on the top, and softer, but not soggy, in the middle.
Method 2: Pancakes Matzo Brei
- Prepare the batter as above. Instead of pouring the entire mixture into the hot, oiled pan, drop the batter by large spoonfuls.
- Cook these cakes until they are crisp and golden brown on both sides. A friend who grew up on a farm where the family made their own maple syrup in the spring recalls that this was what they always used on Matzo Brei in any form.
- Choose your own favorite sweet topping, fruit preserves, or the Haroset below.
Method 3: Omelette Matzo Brei
- Prepare the batter and pan as for Scrambled Matzo Brei.
- Pour the mixture into the hot pan.
- When the eggs begin to set, turn the mixture over with a spatula.
- Wait a few minutes, then remove the omelette from the pan. It should be crispy on top and softer inside.
Click here for the main article, The History of Matzo.
Jo Ann Gardner is an avid gardener, writer, and cook who resettled in the Adirondacks. She and her husband have written a book to be released in April called Gardens of Use & Delight (Fulcrum Publishing).