SWAMPSCOTT – Looking for matzah ball soup, chopped liver, brisket, potato kugel? Well, you can take care of that yourself. Health coach and culinary instructor Debra Klein is not buying it. In fact, she’s not buying anything. Everything in her just-released cookbook, “Unprocess Your Passover” is homemade, healthy and engineered for great taste.
The southern California native trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, an online institute based in New York. Klein, who is 55, has been a health coach and personal trainer since 2011. Debra is married to Steven Klein, who grew up in Swampscott. They have two children, Wilson and Sydney.
Her cookbook has 56 recipes, her own eye-popping photographs on nearly every page, shopping lists, tips to get organized and nine categories of food. Readers will find condiments, sauces and dips, main courses, salad dressing, salads, soups, sides, breakfast, snacks and desserts. All are dairy and sugar-free, gluten and oil-free, and kosher for Passover.
If the eight-day Passover holiday is known for delivering the Jews from slavery into freedom, Klein wants to deliver today’s Jews from the slavery of bad food into the freedom of good taste, whole foods and healthy living.
Take a walk down the Passover aisle of your favorite supermarket and you will find, according to Klein, “fake food products.” She declines to even label them “food.” Besides matzah, “there are packaged and processed food products and preservatives. There’s nothing wholesome that our bodies can use for vibrant, good health and wholesome energy. Even the ‘Kosher for Passover’ ketchup is filled with processed sugar and oil,” said Klein. “It’s the same with salad dressing.
“In this book, you’ll learn how to take broccoli stalks and turn them into ‘rice,’” a substitute for forbidden grains on Passover. Instead of buying a jar of ‘Kosher for Passover’ processed pasta sauce, Klein offers reader a recipe for sauce made from tomatoes and onions.
Growing up in Southern California, Klein remembered how her European-born grandmother would cook everything from scratch, including the Passover meals.
“She’d always make homemade chopped liver. She never bought a package of anything,” said Klein, commenting that “Unprocess Your Passover” offers a meatless “mock chopped liver” recipe.
A recipe in the book shows how to prepare “pasta” from either sweet potatoes or squash and top it with pesto or a vegan “meat” sauce.
Her book demonstrates how dairy-free “cheese” can be made from cauliflower.
“When anybody from our family comes here to eat, it’s always beautiful and delicious. After they finish, they feel really good and they like the way they feel,” said Klein.
Outside of her kosher home, she admits, her children may “eat what they want.” But Klein’s plant-based approach “is not an all or nothing proposition.” While there are numerous avenues to eating better, she observes that what they all have in common is consuming more fresh vegetables and whole, real food.
“It’s something everyone can agree is good for your health,” she said.
“Unprocess Your Passover,” is not only relevant for the holiday, which starts April 9; it’s good any time of year. “Every recipe will help people learn to bring more plants into their life. It’s a good place to start to lose weight, improve health and longevity and make the most of the years you have.”
Referring to the difficult time we are experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic, Klein noted that while there are scarcities in supermarkets, “there are fresh fruits and vegetables available. Let’s use them. The holiday is eight days. We need a blend of foods without getting bored.”
Don’t look for matzah brei in Klein’s cookbook. She doesn’t use any recipes calling for matzah because it would require oil, sugar, matzah meal and eggs.
When asked what he highlight of the seder meal, she referred to the main course: vegetable lasagna with “noodles” made from squash and “ricotta cheese” made from cauliflower. Traditional recipes, she said, are presented with a “modern twist.”
A Seder without matzah ball soup? Well, yes, if one of her children requests it, Klein can make it; but you won’t find it in her cookbook.
You can access eBook here.