(VEGAN RECIPES/PASSOVER) Celebrating a vegan, traditional Jewish Passover might seem next to impossible given the abundance of associated dietary restrictions, but it’s easier than you’d think!
Read on for tips on how to modernize your Passover Seder and check out these great recipes for a vegan Seder, or “veder.” — Global Animal
LA Times, Karen Barrow
Holidays are often a challenge for vegans, who eschew all animal foods. But few holidays present more obstacles to vegan diners than Passover, which imposes a daunting set of dietary restrictions.
During Passover, forbidden foods include all leavened foods as well as grains, beans and corn – which are staples for many vegan eaters. In addition, some animal foods, like eggs and lamb, take center stage, forcing vegan Jews to choose between powerful religious traditions and their own values about the foods they consume.
“Passover is traditionally an egg-laden holiday, so the real challenge is to keep the traditional flavor without the eggs to hold everything together,” said Nava Atlas, author of “Vegan Holiday Kitchen.” “You can’t even use tofu.”
And while many Jews don’t hold to every law and commandment for the rest of the year, Passover holds an important place for many to hold to tradition. “More and more, people want to keep to the rules during Passover week,” said Ms. Atlas.
The cornerstone of Passover, the Seder, is a festive meal that features specific foods served in a distinct sequence. In fact, the word Seder is Hebrew for “order.”
“Vegans have a particular ideal, so the question becomes how do you fit your traditions into this exclusive diet,” said Rabbi David Greenstein from Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Montclair, N.J.
At every Seder, six foods symbolize some part of the story of Exodus, when the Jews escaped as slaves from Egypt. While four of those foods – horseradish, parsley, romaine lettuce and a mixture of apples and wine – are part of the vegan diet, two of them – the shank bone of a lamb and a hard-boiled egg – are decidedly not vegan.
Ann Lippel, 67, from Montclair, N.J., grew up with traditional, meat-filled, family Seders, but in the past year she adopted a vegan diet for health reasons. During Passover, she allows these non-vegan foods at her Passover table to represent the traditions she has embraced for a lifetime. “I don’t want the Seder plate to not have the symbols I’m used to seeing there,” she said. “I just don’t consume them.”
But many vegans aren’t comfortable putting an animal bone or eggs in the middle of their dining room table, so they turn to substitutes.
“I’m already used to giving up things I like because the values of veganism are critically important to me,’’ said Mayim Bialik, an actress and strict vegan currently starring in the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”
In place of the lamb’s bone, Ms. Bialik uses a roasted beet. For her, the beet is a good stand-in, its “bloody” appearance symbolizing the blood the Israelites used to mark their doors to ward off the last of the 10 plagues, death of the first born, from their homes.
As for the hard-boiled egg, which represents mourning over the loss of the Jew’s holy temple, Ms. Bialik uses her mom’s old wooden darning egg. For her children, she puts an egg-shaped musical shaker on their Seder plate.
Once you get past the Seder plate, Passover meals are simply supposed to be festive, so there is more room for vegans to be creative. However, many popular vegan foods are forbidden during Passover.
In addition to the ban on leavened food, Jews of Eastern European descent also avoid beans, corn and rice during the week of Passover, leaving vegans without many of their dietary staples.
Without soybeans and other soy products, lentils or rice, quinoa becomes a main ingredient in many vegan Passover meals. Quinoa is a berry but feels, looks and tastes like a grain. It is also high in protein.
“Quinoa is an important element to my Passover this year,” said Ms. Lippel.
There are plenty of traditional Passover dishes that can be adapted to be completely vegan. At her Seder, Ms. Lippel will be serving carrot tzimmes, an old-world dish of sweetened carrots and fruits. Ms. Bialik will be serving a kugel of leeks, spinach and zucchini.
But there is one Passover favorite that isn’t easily recreated as a vegan food: matzo balls, which are made with matzo meal held together with plenty of egg. Soy, a common vegan substitute for eggs, is a forbidden food, so vegetarian broth with matzo farfel — tiny pieces of matzo — will just have to do for Ms. Lippel.
“My matzo balls were out of this world,” laments Ms. Lippel. “I will miss my matzo balls.”
Nava Atlas’s Sweet Potato Tzimmes
In Yiddish, “tzimmes” means a big fuss or commotion. Fortunately, this signature holiday dish, a mélange of sweet vegetables and dried fruits, is not much of a fuss to make.
2 tablespoon olive oil or other healthy vegetable oil
1 large red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
3 large sweet potatoes, cooked or microwaved, then peeled and sliced
1 large pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup chopped dried prunes
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
2/ 3 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons minced fresh or jarred ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated)
1/ 3 to 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts for topping, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the carrots and continue to sauté until the onion is golden. Combine with the remaining ingredients except the walnuts in a mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed. Don’t worry if the potato slices break apart.
3. Oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Pour in the sweet potato mixture and pat in evenly. Sprinkle the optional walnuts over the top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top begins to turn slightly crusty. Serve hot.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Nava Atlas’s Spinach, Leek and Potato Matzo Gratin
This closely resembles the layered matzo casseroles, called minas, which are commonly served at Sephardic Seders. Consisting of layered matzos and vegetables, these make great main dishes for the vegans at the Passover table, and a nice side for everyone else.
8 medium potatoes
1 cup raw cashews
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into large chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large or 3 medium leeks, white and palest green parts only, chopped and well rinsed
10 to 12 ounces baby spinach, rinsed
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup matzo meal
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup pine nuts for topping, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook, bake or microwave the potatoes in their skins until just tender. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
3. Cover the cashews with 1 cup of boiling water in a heatproof bowl and let stand for at least 15 minutes. Drain the cashews, then combine with the avocado and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until smoothly puréed; drizzle enough water through the feed tube while the processor is running to give the mixture a thick, creamy texture.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the leeks and sauté over medium-low heat until golden. Add the spinach in batches, covering and cooking until wilted to make room for all of it. Stir in the cashew cream, dill and matzo meal. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Break each matzo in half, and place in a shallow container. Cover with room-temperature water in a shallow container until slightly pliable (don’t let them get mushy), about 2 minutes; drain. Lightly oil a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish.
6. Layer the casserole as follows: line the bottom with a layer of matzos, using two matzos per layer. Follow with a layer of potato slices, half of the spinach mixture, and another layer of matzos. Repeat, ending with a layer of matzo.
7. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until top is golden with spots of brown. Let stand for 10 minutes, then cut into squares to serve. If you will be topping with pine nuts, sprinkle them over the top about 10 minutes or so before the gratin is done, to allow them to get lightly toasted.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Nava Atlas’s Quinoa Pilaf
Contributed to “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” by Barbara Pollak, a longtime reader of Ms. Atlas’s, this pilaf is attractive when made with a combination of red and white quinoa, but either color can be used on its own. It is a veggie-filled way to celebrate quinoa’s becoming standard Passover fare.
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups prepared vegetable broth
3 tablespoons olive oil or other healthy vegetable oil
2 medium yellow or red onions, or 1 of each, quartered and thinly sliced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
One 16-ounce bag shredded coleslaw cabbage
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
1 cup sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh dill, more or less to taste
1. Combine the quinoa with the broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Test to see if the quinoa is done to your liking; if needed, add another 1/2 cup water and simmer until absorbed.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
3. Add the cabbage, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, ginger, basil, thyme and lemon juice to the skillet. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir-fry until the cabbage is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the cooked quinoa, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and dill, remove from the heat, and serve.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
More New York Times: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/a-vegan-passover/