So here it is early spring, which for observant Jews can mean only one thing: It’s time for The Great Pre-Passover Eatdown, when the goal is to eat everything in your house that is not kosher for Passover, and to avoid going to a supermarket before you do your big shopping trip for the week-long festival!

For many, that means two weeks or so of making do with what you already have on hand, from long-forgotten leftovers to half-empty boxes of pasta to the entire jar of smoked chili paste that you bought even though you needed like one teaspoon for a recipe you don’t even remember making. But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo fresh ingredients, scrumptious meals, and plenty of choices. After all, you can always convert!

(No, of course I am kidding – do you have any idea how hard it is to find a priest willing to perform an adult baptism between Ash Wednesday and Easter? Of course you don’t – you’re an observant Jew!)

But for those who are willing to use a touch of creativity and imagination, these few weeks can be a great opportunity to explore new cuisines — and discover fresh uses for that weird thing that’s been sitting in the back of the refrigerator in an unmarked Tupperware container for the past nine months. Maybe it’s a chicken breast, or possibly a slice of wedding cake. Let’s try a few recipes and find out!

 Something Like Fritters

1 small zucchini, shriveled but not yet gooey, sliced thin
1 nearly empty package of frozen broccoli
1 large egg
1 tablespoon canola oil (you can substitute the tiny container of pareve margarine you held onto after your last plane ride)
1 plastic envelope soy sauce, kept in junk drawer along with extra chopsticks, ketchup packets, and expired coupons for carpet cleaning

  1. Mix the zucchini and egg in large bowl
  2. Add broccoli, while asking, “Who bothers putting away so little broccoli?”
  3. Fry in oil or margarine
  4. Serve with soy sauce while gazing out kitchen window in despair

Some-Sort-of-Meat Wraps

1 package frozen mystery item marked “fleishig
¾ cup canned black beans, which you promised to set aside for the synagogue food drive
½ cup barbecue sauce, ketchup, or that Asian dressing you picked up at the kosher market because you thought it looked interesting – in 2011
6 10-inch flour tortillas (in a pinch, you can use 6-inch tortillas, or even –let’s be honest here — a package of freezer-burned hot dog buns)

  1. Defrost frozen protein, and determine that is edible and not a child’s lost craft project
  2. Toss shredded protein with beans and sauce
  3. Sauté in skillet until you are too hungry to know the difference between this crap and real food
  4. Serve inside tortillas or buns or even rolled up in a leaf of wilting lettuce. Or don’t. What’s the point, anyway?

 Chocolate surprise

1 package chocolate instant pudding mix that you don’t even remember buying
1 bag Israeli wafer cookie crumbs that you couldn’t bear to throw away
1 bag knock-off kosher Gummy worms, which, having eaten the real thing before you kept kosher, you know are too sweet and not really the right texture
½ pound of rugelach left over from shiva – whose shiva, you are not even sure
2 cups milk

  1. Whisk together pudding mix and milk. Chill 5 minutes, or longer if all this lousy food is making you really tense
  2. Place crushed wafer cookies evenly on bottom of pie tin.
  3. Pour pudding on top of cookie “crust,” and crumble rugelach and the weird Gummy-like worms on top
  4. Serve with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and apologies

You see? The weeks before Passover don’t need to be a time of deprivation or existential dread. You can eat well and enter into the cleaning, cooking, and other preparations for Passover with pleasant anticipation. All you need to remember is that Passover is supposed to be a time of liberation – and that a majority of cooking wines contain between 12.5 and 15 percent alcohol!

L’chaim!