Before Passover arrives, cook yummy meals that clean out pantry as well

With only a few weeks to go before cleaning out our homes for Passover, I prepare by trying to use up all my pantry items that will get thrown out. This includes opened boxes of pasta, rice, baking powder, cornstarch and flour.

Unopened packages are “sold” and therefore are not in our possession, and I put them outside in a shed.

My heart and soul, however, are already focused on Passover, as I gear up to teach my favorite (and most popular) cooking class, Do-Ahead Passover Seder, at the new JCC in San Francisco.

Here are a few quick and easy recipes that rely on pantry items that are forbidden during Pesach. They also happen to be among my most favorite comfort foods.

Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Dill | Serves 6

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup cream
4 oz. lox trim
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
12 oz. dried pasta
2 Tbs. chopped dill
zest from 1 lemon

Heat the butter and cream in a large sauté pan. Add the salmon and the shallot, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the vodka, and bring to a boil to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Stir in the salt and white pepper.

Cook the pasta al dente, drain and add it to the salmon mixture. Mix together and simmer gently. Just before serving, toss in the chopped dill and lemon zest. Serve warm.

Pilafi Lemonato (Greek Lemon Rice) | Serves 6-8

2 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups water
juice of 3 lemons
4 lemon slices
2 tsp. coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups long grain rice
2 bay leaves
8 cloves

Place the chicken stock, water, lemon juice, lemon slices, bay leaves, cloves, salt and pepper in a 2-quart pot and bring to a boil.

In a 4-quart pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent. Add the rice and sauté until the onions turn golden brown. Stir in the hot chicken stock and cover the pot. Cook the rice over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the rice is dry on top. Remove the rice from the stove and place the covered pot in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes.

Butterscotch Pudding | Serves 8

4 oz. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cream, warmed
3 cups milk
2 egg yolks
3 eggs
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until it is bubbly and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the warmed cream, carefully, as the sugar will bubble up. Continue stirring until the butterscotch mixture in smooth. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, eggs, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the warm butterscotch mixture. Turn on the heat to medium low, and whisking constantly, thicken the pudding, about 15 minutes. Allow the pudding to cool, and divide the puddings into small ramekins. Cover if you don’t want skins to form, and chill well. Serve cold.

Rebeca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to J. or to [email protected].