Passover Inspiration with 12 Tribes Food

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Orange Custard. Photos by Rebecca Joseph, courtesy of 12 Tribes Kosher Foods.
Orange Custard. Photo by Rebecca Joseph

Happy Passover! What are you cooking? Passover, even more than Thanksgiving, is a home and family holiday. Of course, there are restaurants doing Seder-inspired meals; in San Francisco, Passover at Delfina brings their Edible Seder Plate, Stoll Family Matzoh Balls, and other Italian-Jewish specialties, all much anticipated by regulars. This year, they'll be serving matzoh made by their former sous-chef, Brad Joffe, who now runs Beauty's Bagels in Oakland, source of the excellent weekend bagels at Wise Sons. (And by the way, pastrami lovers, Wise Sons is closed for Passover; they'll re-open on Sunday, April 15.)

Firefly has a delish-sounding brisket and root-vegetable tsimmes on this week's menu, along with a spring vegetable plate with matzoh kugel and yellowfoot-mushroom sauce. (And for those who don't mind a little trayf, don't worry, they've still got the shrimp-and-scallop dumplings on the menu.)

But for many of us, Passover is a time to slow down, reconnect with family and friends over dinners at home, and pay attention to what we're eating. Jewish dietary laws forbid the eating of grains during the 8-day holiday, especially anything yeasted or naturally leavened. So, no bread, no bagels, no pasta, no rice, just matzoh, a flat cracker that must be mixed and baked in less than 18 minutes, to prevent any natural rising of the dough from occurring. So, much kvetching can be heard this week from toast-lovers like myself, and, for those with a sweet tooth, a whole lot of dependance on ground nuts and matzoh meal in lieu of flour, plus whisked egg whites for fluffiness.

However, Rebecca Joseph, rabbi and owner of 12 Tribes Food, a kosher catering and prepared-meals business, looks at the holiday's restrictions with abundance in mind.

"What I suggest to people who say that they dread the holiday because they can't eat bread is to think of this as a time to celebrate freedom from habitual food choices or ways of eating that may be less than optimally healthful. Also, when we focus on all the things we can eat, especially early spring produce, then Passover meals can be really delicious and seasonal."

Joseph describes her Orange Custard recipe, below, as "a very easy dessert (no separating eggs or weird ingredients involved) that's a great break from nuts and matzoh meal. It's also parve (containing neither meat nor dairy), so it's good for people who are lactose intolerant, gluten-free and/or have nut sensitivities."


For those of you, like myself, who have had egg-separating mishaps and fallen-spongecake disasters, this recipe couldn't be simpler. Only three very basic ingredients, no whisking, no folding. A splash of orange-flower water would probably add a lovely perfumey touch. With the money you're not spending on coconut macaroons in a can, get really fresh, gold-yolked eggs from happy, pasture-raised chickens. Joseph dresses her custard up with lightly toasted coconut shards, but you can also get crazy and let your guests dive into David Lebovitz's toffee-licious Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch as well.

Orange Custard. Photos by Rebecca Joseph, courtesy of 12 Tribes Kosher Foods.
Orange Custard. Photo by Rebecca Joseph

Recipe: Orange Custard
Recipe courtesy of 12 Tribes Food

Made from just eggs, sugar, and orange juice, this easy dessert takes just a few minutes to put together. Unlike a typical baked custard, it contains no dairy, so it can served as dessert after a meat meal by those following kosher dietary laws.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
Total Time: 40-45 minutes
Yield: 6 custards

5 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups fresh orange juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. In a small pot, heat orange juice until lukewarm.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until well blended. Beat in the sugar. To produce a smooth, creamy custard, the mixture should be well combined, but not frothy. Slowly add the orange juice, beating to combine.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup of the custard mixture into each of 6 ramekins. Place the ramekins in a large pan and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until just set. Remove the ramekins from the pan of hot water. Cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate. Serve chilled.
  5. Serves 6.