Guest Post: Cooking Up a Vegan Passover
My family has been calling me for a few weeks now, wondering if I am going to show up for Passover. This is my tradition, I like to keep them guessing. My family is precariously Jewish throughout the whole year, it is not uncommon to see shrimp and bacon on their h’ors d’ouvres tray at Hannukah or for them to sneak a little nosh before breaking fast at Yom Kippur. Even though I don’t follow Kosher law it makes me a little bit queasy, not just because I’m vegan but because they are supposed to be Jewish.
But they always get it together for Passover. We all have our little Kiddush pamphlets (could that be the first zine?) and we go around the table in our various degrees of Brooklyn accent asking the four questions.
I love them all dearly but after 18 years of vegetarianism they still don’t get that I won’t eat the matzoh balls even though there is only “A bisel of chicken stock.” So I do what any 7th level vegan would, I bring my own food.
Making a vegan Seder plate is easy and some people on my message boards had great ideas, like using an avocado instead of an egg. Or one person suggested flax seeds since seeds represent the same thing that an egg might, fertility, growth and potential, plus flax seeds make a great egg replacer so it really works. You can replace lamb with a yam (because it rhymes) but beets, I learned, are given the seal of approval by the Talmud itself.
Since the food laws of Passover vary from Ashkenaz and Sephardic, you may or may not want to bring your own Matzoh Ball Soup since it contains tofu and legumes are sometimes a no-no, but my rabbi says it's okay so I place the cooked matzoh balls in one Tupperware container and the broth in a separate one and away we go.
Here are some other Passover friendly recipes that are sure to make Elijah happy if he gets a little munchy after the wine:
Makes about 18
Sure, they’re a Hannukah tradition, but they’re Passover friendly so no one will complain!
2 1/2 pounds starchy white potatoes, peeled (russets, idaho, et al)
1 small yellow onion, peeled
1/4 cup potato or corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups matzoh meal
Lots of vegetable oil
If using a food processor:
Use the grating blade to shred the potatoes and the onion.
If shredding by hand, use a grater to shred all the potatoes. Dice the onion as finely as possible.
Have ready brown paper shopping bags or paper towels for draining the oil from the latkes. You may also want to have the oven on at 200°F to keep the latkes warm until you're ready to serve. If serving immediately then just have a baking pan covered with tin foil ready to keep the finished ones warm after they've been drained.
In a large mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon or your hands (I use my hands, it's faster) mix the potatoes and onions with the potato starch until the potatoes have released some moisture and the cornstarch is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper to combine. Add the matzoh meal and mix well. Set aside for about 10 minutes. The mixture should get liquid-y but sticky.
In the meantime, preheat a large preferably cast iron but definitely non-stick skillet over medium heat, a little bit on the high side. Add about 1/4 inch layer of vegetable oil to the pan. The oil is hot enough when you throw a bit of batter in and bubbles rapidly form around it. If it immediately smokes then the heat is too high and you should lower it a bit. If the bubbles are really lazy then give it a few more minutes or turn the heat up a bit.
With wet hands (so that the mixture doesn't stick) roll into small golf ball sized balls. Flatten into thin round patties. I do about 4 to six at a time. Fry on one side for about 4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip over and fry for another 3 minutes.
Transfer to the paper towels and proceed with the remaining latkes. Once latkes have drained on both sides, place in a baking pan to keep warm.
Sweet Potato Pear Tzimmes with Pecans and Raisins
2 pounds yams, peed and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
3 firm bartlett pears, cut into 3/4 inch chunks (without the seeds of course)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus spray on a little more if it needs it
2 tablespoons mirin (or any sweet cooking wine)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecan halves
3/4 cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 350.
Place yams and pears on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the oil and mirin and mix it all up to make sure everything is coated. I just use my hands for this. I use my hands for everything, actually. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and pecans and toss to coat.
Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tin foil and add the raisins. Carefully toss to combine using a thin flexible spatula and being careful not to break up the sweet potatoes. But tzimmes is a forgiving dish, so if some get mushed up that's perfectly acceptable.
Return to the oven uncovered and bake for a 1/2 hour more, tossing every now and again. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Mushroom Walnut Pate (this uses beans, too, so check with your hosts if that is okay)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 pound crimini or portobello mushrooms - chopped and any hard stems removed
3/4 teaspoon salt
few shakes of fresh ground pepper
1 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup cannelini beans - drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
up to 1/4 cup vegetable broth
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, thyme, tarragon, salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Next add mushrooms, and cook for 7-10 minutes until mushrooms are very soft, lowering heat if necessary.
While mushrooms are cooking add walnuts to food processor and process until fine.
Once mushrooms have cooked add the mushroom/onion mixture to the walnuts along with balsamic vinegar, cannelini beans and remaining tablespoon of olive oil and process until very smooth adding vegetable broth as needed. Texture should resemble a thick paste.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.