This week’s recipe: Risotto with Salmon, Leeks, and Peas
There’s a hot new diet in town, have you heard of it? It’s called the Passover Diet, and it’s all the rage in such trendy enclaves as the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Palm Beach County, Florida, and the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. Jewish celebrities like Natalie Portman and Ivanka Trump do the Passover Diet every spring to “reset” their cravings after months of heavy winter foods, get their bodies ready for swimsuit season, and fulfill the commandments as laid out by the Lord in Exodus Chapter 12 and Leviticus Chapters 22-23. But while its secrets were once only available to a secretive circle of Hebrew- and Aramaic-speakers, it’s becoming increasingly mainstream among health-conscious foodies who are looking for the next hot elimination diet.
The rules of the Passover Diet are simple. For eight days, you can eat anything you want, as long as it’s not wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, rice, corn, millet, soy, peanuts, sesame, peas, beans, lentils, alfalfa, or sunflower seeds. (Actually, you can have wheat flour, but only if it’s been specially watched by a rabbi so that it doesn’t become leavened and does taste like ass.) Oh, and you also have to follow all of these rules too. Simple, right?
But I have to say, as someone who is preparing to do the Passover Diet for the 28th time, it’s really the only way to truly make sure that you’re doing what’s right for your body, in accordance with God’s law. There are none of the little loopholes and leniencies that make other elimination diets ultimately ineffective.
You find yourself getting tempted by the cookies in the cabinet or the pizza in the freezer? If you follow the Passover Diet, you have to throw out all of your non-compliant food and clean every inch of your house, lest some rogue grains lurking under the dishwasher cause you to fall off the wagon. For good measure, just in case you missed any, you have to sell all of your non-Passover Diet food to a friend for the duration of the eight days. So if you find yourself sneaking a spoonful of peanut butter, not only are you cheating, you’re also stealing.
You’re looking for a cleansing experience that goes beyond juice fasting? I get that. Little do most people realize that they are drinking that oh-so-healthy juice from a glass that might have once held something other than juice. What if some of that ultra-toxic liquid, such as dairy milk, leached into the glass and ruined your whole cleanse? Luckily, the Passover Diet requires you to buy an entirely new set of plates, utensils, cookware, etc., so there is no chance that you will inadvertently consume the essence of some grains that once sat on your plate.
You accidentally ate some soy sauce on your Whole30 and had to start all over again? Well, on the Passover diet, if one of the forbidden foods passes your lips, you’re cut off from the Jewish people and condemned to hell for all eternity! How’s that for motivation?
You conveniently develop “allergies” to any foods that the experts say make you gain weight? On the Passover Diet, if you buy packaged food, you can only buy products that were not even processed anywhere NEAR any of that bad stuff, like gluten. And because of the incentives of American agriculture, corn and soy are in or near EVERYTHING. So basically, you won’t be able to eat anything! You’ll lose a ton of weight!
While actual experts in nutrition Torah scholars say there is no scientific halakhic basis for many of these prohibitions, true adherents to the Passover Diet know how truly toxic for your soul rice, corn, and legumes can be. At the end of eight days, your skin will be glowing, you’ll fit into your “skinny” jeans, and God will not withhold His life-giving rain from your fields and vineyards.
At the close of the Passover Diet, we recommend slowly easing yourself back into eating potentially toxic foods by stuffing your face with a disgusting deep dish pie from Pizzeria Uno.
So anyway, here is a yummy risotto recipe that I used to try to get rid of some of the non-Passover-compliant foods in my house. This recipe tastes like spring to me, and it’s as colorful as it is tasty. It’s from what is probably my all-time favorite cookbook, The Community Table, a fabulous kosher cookbook put together by the JCC of Manhattan. Every recipe I’ve made from it has been a winner, but this is one of my favorites. Enjoy it with a crisp glass of white wine – after you finish your Passover diet on the evening of April 18th, of course! Happy holidays to all those who are celebrating, and to the rest of you, you’re a bunch of lucky bastards.
Risotto with Salmon, Leeks, and Peas
From The Community Table
- 5 to 6 cups of fish or vegetable stock
- 1 cup shelled fresh or defrosted frozen peas
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only
- 2/3 cup white wine
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 6 ounces salmon filet, skin removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Grated zest of 1 small lemon
- Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer gently.
- If using fresh shelled peas, blanch them in boiling water in a medium saucepan for 2 to 4 minutes, until bright green and partially cooked. Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt half the butter with the oil over low heat. Add the leek and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the wine, turn up the heat to medium, and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
- Add the rice, stir well, and pour in just enough of the simmering stock to cover. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Make sure to maintain an active simmer. Stirring constantly, continue to add more stock, about 1/2 cup at a time as each addition has been absorbed, until the rice is approaching tender-firm, about 12 minutes. As you cook, be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent the rice from sticking.
- Add the salmon to the saucepan and stir until the rice is tender and the salmon is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir gingerly to avoid breaking up the salmon pieces. After 3 minutes, add the peas and stir through. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and serve immediately.