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David Lissner
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Eat this! Matzo meal, a Passover staple

Ina's matzo-meal latkes.

Ina's matzo-meal latkes.

What it is: Matzo meal is ground-up matzos, crackers baked for the Jewish holiday Passover from just flour and water. Commercially, it comes in two grades: coarse regular matzo meal and flourlike matzo cake meal, used for baking. (An even coarser version is called matzo farfel.) Some cooks grind their own — three matzos make 1 cup regular matzo meal.

Ina Pinkney

Ina Pinkney

Where it comes from: Matzo was created in biblical times, when the ancient Hebrews, fleeing Israel, had no time to let their bread rise and so baked their dough as flat crackers. Thus during the commemorative celebration of Passover, other breads and grain products are prohibited. Over the millennia since then, clever cooks came up with a variety of ways to substitute ground matzos for the banned grains.

Ready-to-use, pre-ground matzo meal was introduced in the U.S. by the Manischewitz Co. in the early 20th century.

What to do with it: While matzo meal is most heavily used at Passover, many cooks use it year round for its crunchy texture and nutty flavor. (In fact, a small minority of Jews use matzo meal only outside Passover because their tradition calls for avoiding gebrokts, or matzo used as an ingredient, during the holiday.)

Matzo meal can be substituted cup for cup in any recipe calling for bread or cracker crumbs. It can be mixed with eggs for kugels and stuffings and goes into a variety of recipes for baked goods. Of course, its most famous uses are matzo balls (matzo-meal dumplings), probably followed by matzo-meal latkes. Chef Ina Pinkney of Ina’s in the West Loop calls these pancakes “my ultimate go-to comfort food.”

“I’ve made grown men cry (literally!) with these,” she says.

Matzo-meal latkes
Chef Ina Pinkney

Canola oil for frying
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup hot water

Put about 1/4 inch of canola oil into a large frying pan and heat on medium high.

In a small bowl, crack the eggs and whisk with a fork. Add the matzo meal, salt and 1 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. It will be thick. Add the hot water, stirring until incorporated and the mixture is evenly thin.

Drop by large spoonfuls into the hot pan, fitting as many as you can, but leaving a space between each. Cook until the bottoms turn golden and turn over. Watch until that side, too, gets golden. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel-covered plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Serve hot, sprinkled with sugar. 2 servings.

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