A Sweet Passover for Celiacs

What does it say about me that one of the holidays I most look forward to is Passover, and I’m not even Jewish? But I do live in New York, where the holiday is widely observed. Many grocery stores have a special section set up for the occasion, and that’s normally a goldmine for gluten-free items. Passover — also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread — generally prohibits the consumption of grains (rice and beans are also on the forbidden list for Ashkenazi Jews). I say “mostly” since one staple of the regular Passover diet is matzo, an unleavened bread that’s made from wheat. That means anything made with matzo — such as matzo-ball soup, gefilte fish, and any product made with matzo meal — isn’t celiac-safe.

Still, options abound, especially when it comes to treats. Passover desserts range from traditional macaroons to raspberry rolls, chocolate-covered marshmallows to fudge brownies, and marble loaf cake to chocolate-chip cookies. One brand that I’ve grown to know well over the past few years is Shabtai Gourmet, a bakery that is entirely gluten-free; they are also dairy- caesin- and soy-free, and their products are certified kosher. If you live in the continental USA, they offer free mail-order delivery of their products. Take a look at their offerings at [web] www.shabtai-gourmet.com, or call [tel] 516-652-5671.

There are other companies that prepare gluten-free items for Passover, such as Manischewitz (which makes potato starch noodles) and Dr. Prager (which makes spinach-and-potato pancakes). Nancy Lapid, About.com’s celiac guide, prepared a great list of items to watch for in “The Jewish Holiday of Passover: A Gluten-Free Bonanza.”

Finally, thanks to Google, I’ve learned that there’s even gluten-free matzo available now. Created by a rabbi based in England, Shemura Oat Matzos are gluten-free and meet the strict requirements of Passover foods (the oats are literally watched as they’re baked, to ensure that they don’t rise). The product is available in the US and Canada, as well as Australia, South Africa, Belgium, England, and Israel. Shops that sell it in North America include:

Kosher Cajun [address] 3519 Severn Avenue, Metairie, Louisiana [tel] 504-888-2010 [web] www.koshercajun.com

Fishman’s Delicatessen & Bakery [address] 4100 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, Minnesota [tel] 952-926-5611 [web] www.fishmanskosher.com

Also, Kosher.com will ship orders anywhere in the US. I wish everyone who celebrates the holiday a very sweet Passover.

UPDATE 04/03/2010: I’ve found a few articles — and recipes — that are well worth checking out: