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6 flavor-packed recipes for Passover

Sephardi Chicken Soup with Herb Flecked Kneidelach and zehug (chile garlic relish)
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

‘Mexican’ matzo brei, Persian chicken soup and more dishes for Passover

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All year round I read recipes with an eye toward Passover. Eight days of meals that contain no leavened wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye is a challenge. Even the additional Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) restriction of legumes, corn and rice is not insurmountable — though admittedly, I choose to follow the Sephardi (of Spanish origin Jewish) and Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) traditions, in which legumes and pulses are permitted.

Some of the most successful Passover dishes I have served were not necessarily developed for Passover but are inherently void of the forbidden foods. I especially like to look toward international ingredients and flavors that reflect the broader spectrum of Jewish cuisine. These recipes are of that sort and tap into Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic culinary traditions.

Inspired by Middle Eastern spicy lamb shawarma and Italian wedding soup, cookbook author Lindsay Maitland Hunt’s Spiced Lamb Meatball and Escarole Soup is redolent with the flavors and textures of both. Any leafy green can be substituted for the escarole.

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Ben Mims’ recipe for Sticky-Sour Tamarind Lamb Shanks features the taste of Indian tamarind chutney. Brown sugar and raisins add sweetness to the fruity sauce while the spices and chile deepen the umami of the low-and-slow braised meat.

Chef Todd Aarons rubs lamb shoulder with fragrant spices like cumin, allspice and nutmeg before dousing it with pomegranate molasses and sliding it into the oven for a long, slow braise. The resulting Pomegranate Braised Lamb is juicy and luscious, rife with flavor.

Cookbook author Joan Nathan was inspired to develop Chilaquiles, Mexican “Matzo” Brei as an homage to the multicultural foundations of Los Angeles. Swap matzo for corn tortillas and suddenly you have a Mexican-flavored Passover dish.

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To make Sephardi Chicken Soup With Herb-Flecked Kneidelach, cookbook author Faye Levy adds Yemenite zehug (a chile garlic relish, also spelled zhug or, at Trader Joe’s, zhoug) to classic Ashkenazi chicken soup. Spiking the matzo balls with herbs helps them stand up to the richly spiced broth. When serving, leave the zehug on the side and let guests add as much (or as little) as they choose.

Persian Chicken Soup With Chicken Dumplings is fragrant with Persian limes and cardamom as well as other flavors of the Middle East. Chef Todd Aarons binds the dumplings with matzo flour but they have a different texture and flavor from the soft, delicateAshkenazi matzo meal dumplings. They are spiked with cardamom and then poached in the savory broth.

Pomegranate braised lamb

The roast — seared in olive oil, rubbed with a fragrant spice blend of cumin and allspice, mint and nutmeg — is liberally doused in pomegranate molasses before a two-hour braise.
Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8
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Chilaquiles, Mexican "matzo" brei

This Chilaquiles, Mexican "matzo" brei was inspired by a phone conversation with Jonathan Gold.
Time 35 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Spiced Lamb Meatball and Escarole Soup

This soup with lamb meatballs, escarole and beans is inspired by the flavors of spiced lamb shawarma and the components of Italian wedding soup.
Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Sticky-Sour Tamarind Lamb Shanks

Tart tamarind, spicy fresh chiles and loads of heady spices add seasoning to match the intense flavor of lamb shanks.
Time 3 hours 30 minutes, largely unattended
Yields Serves 4 to 6
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Persian chicken soup with chicken dumplings

The rich stock is infused with dried Persian limes, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon; the dumplings, also bound by matzo flour, are spiked with a generous dose of cardamom.
Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Yields Serves 12

Sephardi chicken soup with herb-flecked kneidelach

Chicken broth with herb-flecked matzo balls is a hallmark of Ashkenazic cooking. Zehug, a zesty chile-garlic relish, is a distinctive component of Yemenite (Sephardic) cuisine.
Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8