apple-carrot-saladAdding the word “healthy” to Passover can almost be a case of gilding the lily. The Passover holiday, when Jews celebrate their freedom from centuries of slavery under the yoke of Egypt and their miraculous yet hasty departure from that land, demands adherence to a strict set of temporary dietary laws in addition to the kosher laws that apply during the rest of the year.

Due to the Israelites’ hasty flight, they didn’t have time to bake bread for their journey, so they took dough, pressed it flat, and flash-cooked it into matzah, then beat their retreat into the desert. As a result, no products with leavening are permitted to be eaten during the eight-day Passover holiday.

But this also means that any products that could inadvertently be leavened are also prohibited, so many ingredients, mostly those from grains, are forbidden. (For this reason, many Passover recipes serve double duty as gluten free.)

What’s left? Lots of fruits, greens, nuts, olives, dates, and root vegetables. And isn’t this the type of diet experts encourage everyone to eat? Here’s an easy, healthful menu for Passover that takes advantage of the best of the season’s produce.

Red Watercress Soupred-watercress-soup

Makes 8 servings
2 teaspoons light olive oil
4 cippolini onions, minced
4 cups red or green watercress, trimmed,rinsed thoroughly, and chopped
4 cups clear vegetable broth Sea salt and red pepper to taste
Fresh chives

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions in hot oil for several minutes until soft. Add watercress, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring just to boiling; reduce heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes.
Place one third of the mixture in a blender. Cover and blend until smooth.* Repeat with remaining two thirds of the mixture.
Heat mixture through and ladle into bowls. Serve garnished with fresh chives.

*Note: When heated mixtures are blended, their volume expands rapidly and with force. To protect yourself from burns, fill the blender only one third full. Leave lid open just a crack to release pressure, then cover blender with a clean towel and pulse until the lid can be held firmly closed and the mixture blends smoothly.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 41; Total Fat: 1 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 238 mg; Carbohydrates: 6 g; Fiber: 1 g; Protein: 1 g

Date Flandate-flan

Makes 12 servings
11⁄4 cups sugar
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs
1⁄3 cup finely chopped Medjool dates

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Heat half of the sugar in a nonstick pan over medium heat until it becomes lightly golden brown, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Pour immediately into the bottom of a clean, dry glass flan dish or round 11⁄2-quart glass baking dish, coating the bottom evenly. Combine milk, vanilla, remaining sugar, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Place over low to medium heat and cook until almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, beat eggs in a large bowl. Gradually strain the milk mixture, 1⁄4 cup at a time, through a sieve into the eggs, whisking to combine. Stir in dates. (Dates will settle toward the bottom and appear on top of the flan when presented.)orange-fennel
Place flan dish in a large roasting pan. Pour flan mixture into the dish; place combined pans on middle rack of oven. Carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to within an inch of the top.
Bake 60 to 65 minutes, until custard is just set (mixture should jiggle slightly). Remove from oven.Remove flan dish from water bath and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap, poking a few holes in the wrap with a toothpick to avoid condensation. Refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.
To serve, run a thin spreader or knife around the edge of the flan. Place a large serving plate (must overlap flan dish by at least an inch) on top. Invert flan onto plate.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 183; Total Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g; Monounsaturated
Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 79 mg; Sodium: 56 mg; Carbohydrates: 32 g; Fiber: 1 g; Protein: 5 g

Orange-Fennel Rutabagas

Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 teaspoons walnut oil
1 pound small rutabagas, trimmed, peeled, and
cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch-thick rounds (if using larger rutabagas, cut into half or quarter rounds)
1 small bulb fennel, cut into 8 wedges
1 cup orange juice
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon leaves

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly saute rutabaga slices and fennel for 3 to 5 minutes, turning often. Add orange juice and salt; reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 18 to 20 minutes, or until rutabaga slices are just tender and juice is reduced to about 1⁄4 cup. Add tarragon in the last 30 seconds of cooking. Serve immediately.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis (based on 4 servings): Calories: 107; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 174 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Fiber: 5 g; Protein: 3 g