During Passover each year much of the culinary focus is on the Seder, the celebratory meal that commemorates the Jewish liberation and exodus from ancient Egypt.

But the special dietary restrictions that go with the holiday last at least a week, which can challenge even the most creative of cooks to come up with interesting meals.

But for generations, Jewish cooks have turned these restrictions into a culinary challenge of sorts. Some people actually find the week devoid of these foods a refreshing change.

Laura Frankel, author of cookbooks such as "Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes," points out that many people treat Passover as a kind of second New Year celebration because of the historical new beginning the holiday represents. And since Passover occurs at the start of spring, Frankel sees the holiday as a chance to transition from heavy winter cooking to lighter fare.

Leah Koenig, author of "The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook," agrees with the philosophy of celebrating what you can eat rather than what you can't. And, apart from a few favorites she makes with matzo -- such as granola made with matzo farfel (tiny pieces of matzo) -- she tends to stay away from trying to re-create dishes one might normally make with any of the forbidden grains, such as cakes and other baked goods.

For easy meals during Passover, we've created two dishes that are sure to please family and friends who might be feeling a little deprived.

>Matzo Brei Shepherd's Pie

For the filling:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced yellow onion

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

1 1/2 cups diced carrots

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup matzo meal

1/2 cup dry red wine

3 cups diced cooked brisket

1 1/2 cups beef broth

Salt and ground black pepper

For the topping:

4 matzos

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add onion and saute until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown, about another 5 minutes. Add the carrots and thyme, then cook, stirring often, for another 7 minutes.

Stir in the matzo meal and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes.

Stir in the diced brisket and beef broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is simmering and has thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

To make the topping, crumble the matzos into a large colander placed over a bowl to catch crumbs, then hold the colander under running cold water until the matzos are moist and softened, 15 to 20 seconds. Transfer to the bowl with crumbs. Add eggs and salt and mix gently with a fork, then spread in an even layer over the brisket mixture, then sprinkle with pepper. Bake until the matzo brei topping is golden and the brisket filling is bubbling.


>Passover Sliders With Caramelized Onions

For the caramelized onions:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the sliders:

1 1/4 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

1 teaspoon onion powder

3/4 cup matzo meal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup kosher chicken fat, duck fat or extra-virgin olive oil

For onions, in a medium saucepan over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and quite golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

For sliders, in a large bowl, gently mix the ground beef and onion powder (don't overmix). Form the beef into 8 equal 2-by- 3/4 -inch patties. Transfer to a plate and set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the matzo meal, salt and pepper.

Dip each beef patty into the beaten eggs, turning to coat, then transfer to the dish with the matzo meal. Turn gently to thoroughly coat. Return the coated patties to the plate.

In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat the fat over medium-high. Fry the coated patties in the hot fat, turning once, until crusty and golden brown, 3 minutes per side for medium-rare or 5 minutes per side for well-done. Serve topped with caramelized onions.