The outdoor, wood-burning ovens at Dufferin Grove Park were fired up and ready for the annual matzah bake run by Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism on March 25.
About 100 people, mainly young families from the downtown core, were ready to get their hands wet and gooey, despite the cold weather.
First they mixed flour with water. Then they kneaded the dough and rolled it out on large wooden pizza peels. They poked holes in the dough before it went into the oven.
The baked matzah came out in an array of shapes – round, oblong and free-form – which may have even resembled the original flat breads made by the Israelites as they prepared to leave Egypt thousands of years ago.
However, one parent observed that it is highly unlikely the Israelites had to endure the chilly weather that pervaded this year’s matzah bake.
Aaron Levy, founding director and rabbi of Makom, said that during the warmer weather of previous years, this event, which is partially sponsored by the PJ Library, usually draws about 250 people from across the GTA. “The matzah bake is a microcosm of Jews of all stripes and flavours.”
He said that given the weather, he was pleased with the turnout.
The matzah bake was run by a volunteer in the Dufferin Grove neighbourhood for 15 years until, Makom took on that responsibility last year, when the volunteer stepped down, Rabbi Levy recounted. “It was natural for us to promote this event.”
He explained that Makom, a downtown grassroots Toronto community that fuses Jewish tradition and progressive values, attracts a diverse group of Jewish people “who did not find their niche in other communities.
“We find ways to bring people together without needing to pigeon-hole them by denominational labels.”
Makom runs many of its programs, which include bimonthly Friday night services, a monthly communal vegan dinner, meditation and adult education, out of a storefront location at 402 College St.
The organization is also known for its after-school Hebrew-immersion and holistic Jewish education program, which is geared to children with working parents. The service is available up to five days a week at three different Toronto Board of Education junior public schools – Lord Lansdowne, Palmerston Avenue and Regal Road.
The rabbi, a Maryland native, came to Toronto in 2006 to be the campus rabbi for Hillel at the University of Toronto. In 2009 he founded Makom, which serves many young families, including his own. He is the father of two boys aged seven and 11.
The family has always celebrated Passover with a vegetarian seder, said Rabbi Levy, noting that his sons are partial to the Sephardic-style charoset of dry fruit and nuts made by his paternal grandmother.
As for kid-friendly Passover meals, Rabbi Levy said his boys enjoy pizza as a main course and almond cookies for dessert.
The following Passover recipes are geared to children’s palettes but would probably appeal to many adults. The pizza recipes were developed by Norene Gilletz and can be found in her book, Meal Leani Yumm! (Gourmania, 1998) or the updated version, Healthy Helpings: 800 Fast and Fabulous Recipes for the Kosher (or not) Cook (whitecap, 2011). The almond cookie recipe is from a Chabad Web site.
ο 3 cups matzah farfel
ο 2½ cups hot water
ο 2 egg plus 2whites or 3 egg
ο ½ tsp salt
ο ¼ tsp pepper
ο ½ cup matzah meal
ο 11 oz can of Passover tomato mushroom sauce
ο 2 cups mushroom, sliced
ο 1 green and 1 red pepper, chopped
ο ½ lb mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups grated)
Preheat oven to 375F
Place farfel in a mixing bowl. Add hot water and let stand 5 minutes to soften. Drain excess liquid Adds eggs, salt and pepper mix well.
Use a 10 x 15-inch baking pan with 1-inch sides. Spray with non-stick oil. Sprinkle pan with matzah meal. Spread farfel mixture evenly on the prepared pan. Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and firm.
Cool crust slightly. Spread it with the sauce. Top with mushrooms and peppers. Sprinkle cheese evenly over vegetables. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 12 slices
Quick matzah pizza
ο 1 matzah
ο 2 to 3 tbsp tomato sauce
ο 3 tbsp grated mozzarella cheese
ο 2 tbsp chopped red and/or green pepper
ο 2 mushrooms, sliced
ο 4 tomato slices
ο Salt, pepper and dried basil to taste
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Spread matzah with sauce. Sprinkle cheese on the peppers and mushrooms and top with tomato slices. Sprinkle the vegetables and cheese with seasonings
Bake 10 minutes in the prepared oven or microwave on medium for 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Almond Cookies (Chabad)
ο 1 cup natural almond butter
ο ½ cup sugar
ο 1 egg
ο ¼ tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350F
Combine the almond butter and sugar in a bowl and mix. Add the egg and salt, and mix well.
Scoop out even-sized balls of dough with a tablespoon. Roll the cookies gently and place them 1 inch apart on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten the cookies gently with a fork.
Bake them in the prepared oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the cookies before removing them from the pan. Makes 15 cookies.