Just in time to liberate us from an overabundance of matzah meal and tired Passover recipes, chef Paula Shoyer is appearing at a Page From the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center on Sunday, April 10.
With a limited-availability master cooking class in the Kuniansky Family Kitchen at 3 p.m. and an author talk and book signing at 7:30 p.m., Shoyer will present “The New Passover Menu,” her impressive recipe and guide book of innovative, creative and healthy takes on Passover cooking and traditional holiday standards.
Shoyer’s thoughtfully crafted book includes menus and recipes for two full seders, as well as meals, including breakfast and lunch, for all eight days of Passover, with beautiful photographs of the individual selections and of dinner and dessert plated presentations.
The book includes helpful menus for the Shabbat and yom tov meals that fall during Pesach. It has recipes with an international flair and variations on holiday traditions, including gefilte fish and matzah balls, as well as charoset and Passover granola.
At the front is a section on “The Passover Pantry” (including a handy guide of Passover cooking and baking substitutes), “Preparing for Passover” and “The Seder.”
“The New Passover Menu” has a chapter on the holiday challenge of breakfast and closes with a full and extensive selection of sumptuous desserts that will make you feel you are simply not suffering enough. As stated on the cover page, Shoyer wants you to feel “Freedom from Passover food oppression.”
Shoyer comes from the Washington, D.C., area with impressive credentials. A Paris Ritz Escoffier-trained pastry chef and recovering lawyer, she is a renowned author, teacher, TV and radio personality, and consultant on modern kosher food and baking, including special-requirement cooking. She is also the mother of four children with “a lot of hungry people to feed” in her kosher household.
Shoyer was modifying a soup and preparing other items for Shabbat when we spoke recently about her upcoming appearances in Atlanta. She noted that recipes often “require way too many ingredients and way too many pots and pans, and I don’t have enough time for that, so I’m basically shortcutting.” She added that simple recipes requiring fewer dishes, especially for Passover, “when there’s so much to do,” are the focus of the offerings in “The New Passover Menu.”
“I want people to make the recipes. I want people to be successful at them, and I don’t want people to be put off by recipes that have too many steps,” Shoyer said. She explained that she has worked over time to simplify techniques and create “recipes that are not that fancy but just happen to look beautiful and look a little more complicated than they actually are.”
Shoyer said simplifying is especially important for Passover because it’s such a big holiday for entertaining. “You have so much work to do to just seat a table for 25 and go shopping for all the things you want to make, so I wanted to make the recipes really accessible.”
To that end, she emphasizes the use of ingredients that are already in her refrigerator.
Shoyer said cookbook writers and restaurant chefs today have to be sensitive to people on special diets. For her two most recent books, “everything is labeled gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, so whatever diet you’re on, you’ll find something.”
The indexes in the back group all these categories of special recipes in one place.
The request for a holiday-specific book came from her publisher because stores and chains were looking for a “really nice, contemporary Passover cookbook.” Because her basic food sensibility is healthy, with an emphasis on vegetables, Shoyer was a logical choice to create a contemporary take on Passover cooking.
If her variations on traditional matzah balls aren’t enough, Shoyer offers a new and healthy option: Chicken Soup With Chicken Meatballs and Zucchini. Made with ground chicken, the chicken meatball is gluten-free “and is healthier than your classic matzah ball,” Shoyer said, “so I try to take something traditional and make it healthier and more interesting.”
That recipe fits with her effort to minimize the use of matzah meal and to offer fresh, lighter recipes to counter the idea that Passover brings “heavy, tasteless, leaden food.”
Shoyer said she is especially proud of this book, not only because of its practical organization and beautiful photography, but also because it contains recipes that she makes for her family and for Shabbat all of the time. She said the carefully structured menus help make planning for Passover easier, and she craftily suggested that “The New Passover Menu” makes an excellent hostess gift for the holiday.
Who: Chef Paula Shoyer
What: Master cooking class at 3 p.m.; book talk and signing at 7:30 p.m.
When: Sunday, April 10
Where: Marcus Jewish Community Center, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody
Admission: $65 for JCC members and $80 for nonmembers for both events and a copy of “The New Passover Menu” or $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers for the book talk