My first Passover in San Francisco resembled more of a Vegas buffet than a traditional Seder meal.

About 30 people gathered in the rec room of a friend's apartment complex. We each had brought a dish to display on a table that ran the length of the room. There were several varieties of brisket, enough salads to feed an army and side dishes both Passover-friendly and not.

As often happens during Passover the eight-day holiday commemorating the Jews' exodus from Egypt during which no bread products are consumed hardly a soul glanced at the "flour-free" dessert table. But in the back, a pile of matzo brittle was devoured in minutes.

It was my introduction to the chocolate-covered toffee crackers. I decided it was the only Passover dessert worth eating. Instead of fretting over weeping meringues and overly sweet macaroons, I've put myself on matzo-brittle duty every year.

In recent years, I've experimented with different toppings. As the chocolate layer dries I'll sprinkle anything from chopped roasted nuts or mini chocolate chips to my personal favorite a generous pinch of coarse sea salt. My sister-in-law even puts blue and white sprinkles on hers to make the dessert more kid-friendly.

The recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, and makes plenty to share with friends or keep.

Those who observe a strict Passover diet can use margarine instead of butter for the caramel which also means it will keep throughout the holiday week and beyond.

Vegas buffets are behind me at this point my holiday seders will be much lower-key this year. But at the end of our dessert table will surely be a platter of matzo brittle. And you can bet it will be the first thing to go.

Matzo Brittle

Serves 20

For variety, I sprinkle half of the brittle with roasted almonds, and the other half with Maldon sea salt (you can use any coarse salt) before breaking it into pieces. If you'd prefer to have all one kind, just double the amount of nuts or use more salt to your liking.

4-5 sheets Passover matzo

2 sticks butter or margarine

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips

cup chopped roasted salted almonds, or coarse sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

Arrange matzo in one flat layer in the pan, breaking up and fitting pieces as needed to cover the pan.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Once it starts to boil, cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until it turns into caramel.

Remove caramel from heat and pour evenly over matzo, using an offset or regular spatula to coat. Bake about 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand for 1 minute, until topping is slightly solidified. Pour chocolate chips evenly over matzo, and return to oven for 1 minute to soften chips.

Remove from oven and, using the spatula, spread the melted chocolate out over the matzo in one layer.

Sprinkle nuts over one half of the sheet, and salt over the other (or add toppings to your liking). Let rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate at least 1 hour, uncovered.

Break into pieces and store between parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 1 week until ready to serve.