Passover foods with fiber: Is that even possible?

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The word "fiber" written in flour
The word “fiber” written in flour (J Esteban Berrio / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

By Linda Morel

Most Jews look forward every Passover to their family’s traditional foods: matzah balls, briskets, kugels and rich desserts.

They enjoy matzah with a myriad of delicious toppings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

However, the religious prohibition against eating any leavened wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats essentially eliminates much of the fiber from the typical American diet. Jews of Eastern European descent also avoid legumes, cutting out even more fiber. But this change in diet presents many people with a situation they rarely discuss — constipation.

To complicate matters, the foods many American Jews use to replace these grain-based staples aren’t high-fiber fruits and vegetables but rather starchy, fiber-free packaged foods.

Matzah is made from fiber-free white flour and water. It’s the main ingredient in many popular Passover recipes, such as matzah brei, kugels, pizza, lasagna and matzah meal cakes. But the Bread of Affliction is also a digestive system blocker.

Constipation is a completely normal side effect of eating a large quantity of refined white flour products with practically no fiber, explained Danielle Zolotnitsky, a dietitian, in a Diet and Nutrition article.

She suggested the best thing to do to counteract matzah-induced constipation is to eat lots of fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. Drinking plenty of water can also reverse the slowing effect of dense gluey carbs.

Here are some ways to increase fiber in your diet during Passover:

Eat whole wheat matzah, which has three grams of fiber per sheet. Regular matzah has zero grams. Include fruit in your breakfast, such as berries, melon and citrus.

Snack on raw vegetables. Add veggies and fruit to kugels. Serve side dishes brimming with produce. Eat fruit for dessert, or bake it into pastries. Dip strawberries or dried apricots in melted chocolate, and refrigerate it until serving.

Reaching for fruits and vegetables instead of packaged foods will encourage your digestive system to run smoothly during Passover and throughout the year.

Chicken vegetable soup
Chicken vegetable soup (ma-k /iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Chicken vegetable soup

Serves 8

  • 1 small cabbage, 2-3 pounds
  • 2 split chicken breasts, 4 pieces in all (with
  • bones; and with or
  • without skin)
  • 6 carrots
  • 6 celery stalks
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 chicken bouillon cubes
  • Kosher salt to taste

Cut the cabbage in half. Remove and discard the core. Slice the leaves into ribbons, and then chop them. Place the cabbage in a large pot. Peel and dice the carrots, celery, parsnip and onion. Add them to the pot, along with the remaining ingredients.

Pour in enough water to cover the ingredients by 2 inches. Place the lid on the pot, and bring it to a boil on a high flame. Then lower the flame to medium so that the soup simmers. If the water is boiling off too fast, lower the flame. Simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.

With a slotted spoon utensil, remove the pieces of chicken. Cool them down to warm. Discard the skin. Pull the chicken off the bones and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pot and stir.

Serve immediately, or cover the pot and refrigerate until serving. This can be made 2 days in advance.

Kale salad
(AnnaPustynnikova/iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Kale and strawberry salad

Serves 8

  • 1 bunch kale, any variety
  • 2 (16-ounce) containers of strawberries
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Rinse the kale under cold water and drain it on paper towels or in a salad spinner. Remove the spines of each kale leaf. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces. Move it to a large salad bowl.

Rinse the strawberries under cold water and drain them on paper towels. Cut off the leaves. Slice the strawberries into bite-sized pieces, about 4-6 pieces per strawberry.

Peel and core the apples. Dice them into bite-sized pieces. Add the strawberries and apples to the salad bowl. The salad can be made to this point several hours ahead if covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.

Sprinkle on the salt. Drizzle on the oil and lemon juice. Toss the ingredients together until well combined. Serve immediately.

Thyme-roasted zucchini and yellow squash

Serves 8

Equipment: 2 large skillets; an 11-inch-by-7-inch baking pan, such as Pyrex

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 2 extra-large onions
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed to sauté, plus oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon thyme

Coat the baking pan with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Slice the zucchini and yellow squash thinly. Place them on separate plates and reserve. Slice the onions thinly.

Coat each skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the skillets on medium-low flames until warm. Put 1 sliced onion into each skillet. Sprinkle the onions with salt. Sauté, turning every few minutes until caramelized. The onion slices will break into rings. Lower the flame if the onions brown too quickly. Add more oil, if needed. When caramelized, distribute the onions evenly across the bottom of the prepared pan.

Layer the zucchini slices over the onions. Drizzle a small amount of oil over the top. Sprinkle on the salt and ¼ teaspoon of thyme. Repeat with the yellow squash. Cover the vegetables with parchment paper or loosely with aluminum foil.

Place them in the oven. Remove the parchment or foil after 20 minutes and continue roasting for another 40 minutes, or until the zucchini and yellow squash are cooked through and the yellow squash is browned on top.

Baked pears with cinnamon and chocolate

Serves 8

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 4 ripe Bosc pears
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter; or unsalted, dairy-free margarine
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (Glicks brand is kosher for Passover and dairy-free)
  • Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice
  • cream or coconut sorbet

With a chef’s knife, cut the pears in half lengthwise. Cut off a small slice from the rounded part of the pear halves, so they will rest evenly while baking. With a paring knife, remove the cores, seeds and any trace of the stems.

Sprinkle each half evenly with sugar and cinnamon. Dot each cavity with ¼ teaspoon of butter or margarine. Bake for 1 hour, or until the centers are softened. Remove them from the oven and cool them to room temperature.

Set up a double boiler with an inch or so of water in the bottom part. Place the chocolate in the top part and cover it with the lid. (Or rig up a double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a pot of water and use aluminum foil as a lid.)

Bring the water to a rolling boil. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts. Remove the top pot (or bowl) from the boiling water, and cool the chocolate briefly.

Using a dinner fork, stir the chocolate. Drizzle the chocolate a little at a time over the pear halves, creating haphazard but attractive lines of chocolate.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate them until the chocolate hardens. Cover the pears loosely with aluminum foil.

Bring the pears to room temperature before serving. They can be served with vanilla ice cream or coconut sorbet.

Linda Morel is a food columnist. 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I was surprised by the chicken soup recipe including ( chicken bouillon soup cubes plus kosher salt to taste. That’s an enormous amount of sodium added to chicken that’s been koshered. So much of processed food includes loads of salt and I believe it dulls our ability to taste it, requiring even more to be added. I have switched to no added salt foods, as much as possible. Comparing standard recipe vegetables, such as canned tomatoes, to no salt added canned tomatoes displays the higher quality of the nsa product. One comes with time to be able to taste the vegetables themselves. I just wonder how many milligrams, or grams, of sodium is in each serving the chicken vegetable soup published in this issue. My lips are puckered just reading it. 😖

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