From the First Family of Matzo, 3 Recipes for Passover & Well Beyond
Michele “Mikie” Streit Heilburn, whose family owns Streit’s Matzos, has said it once, and she’ll say it again: “As a really little kid, I wished I was an Entenmann—boxes of doughnuts and coffee cakes to come home to!”
A “matzo princess” according to the New York Times, she didn’t always understand “the level of meaning [her] family had to Jewish culture”—which, if you’ve ever attended or hosted a Passover seder in the US, you’ll know is great.
This year, however, Streit Heilburn is out with a cookbook, co-authored with David Kirschner, that revolves around the family business she once took for granted. Matzo: 35 Recipes for Passover and All Year Long promises to nudge matzo into this century and assist the “bread of affliction” in shrugging off its awful reputation. (For what it’s worth, we’ve promised that shellacking matzo with butter, sugar, and chocolate can do the same—but a meal for eight days it does not make.)
But why publish this book now? What made this year different than the rest? “It really all came down to the factory,” Streit Heilburn told me, speaking about the shuttering of the original Lower East Side facility and its relocation to New Jersey. “My parents both passed away, and the factory was the last place I could see myself as a child. And I loved it.”
And besides, “it wasn’t like our family owned a horseradish company, where there’s only so much you can do.” Matzo “has such potential, so many possibilities, and I felt like my cousins and I really needed to keep reaching out and trying to recreate ourselves.” The reality of the situation, as Streit Heilburn understands it, is that consumer base for kosher food is only so big—if a company does not market itself to younger generations of Jews, their customers are going to die off.
What it means to be Jewish is changing, and with it, so must matzo, Streit Heilburn explained. “It’s much more part of our mainstream culture to be Jewish, so why can’t matzo be? We’re all grappling to hold onto the past but also make it modern.”
Streit Heilburn herself grew up with traditional Passover recipes and to this day, she salvages the last remaining box of matzo post-holiday and eats it simply, with Temp Tee cream cheese and strawberry jelly. So to create innovative, sea-parting recipes, she enlisted the help of chef David Kirschner, who showed her how to approach matzo as a blank slate for creativity.
To make matzo pieces as crisp as tortilla chips, so that they won’t bloat or sink in the salsa verde for his Matzo Chilaquiles, or under the weight of grated cheese in his Matzo Nachos, Kirschner briefly deep-fries them. He makes matzo croutons for panzanella by brushing the sheets with olive oil and toasting them in the oven. He treats matzo meal as dredging for crunchy fried chicken. He makes tortillas out of matzo meal, warm water, and olive oil—the perfect vehicle for leftover brisket. In other words, he makes matzo magic.
The matzo spanakopita, in particular, is so many worlds apart from the sad, soggy spinach and cheese casseroles I’ve cooked for myself in years past that I might just have to make it this week—and then again for my seder.
Find more recipes from the book (out now!) here:
By Sarah Jampel
By Sarah Jampel
By Sarah Jampel
What are your favorite classic—and not so classic—matzo recipes? Tell us in the comments below.
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