Guest Post: Vegan Passover Guide for Hungry Jews
When Passover comes to mind I immediately find myself closing off my nostrils and breathing through my mouth. This innate physical reaction is due to trauma – gefilte fish trauma. I think of the beautiful traditions associated with Passover, like the Four Questions, and leaning to the left in our seats to eat the way royalty used to eat. But I personally find myself leaning left to avoid the dinner guest next to me with the gefilte fish breath, who is all hopped up on Manischewitz and wants to give me a loving embrace. I lean to retreat. That is no way to enjoy a Seder.
Last year, word got out to the family that my sister and I had recently started our own vegan food company, so of course they said that if we wanted our Passover to be animal-free, we would be cooking – for all 40 of us! We couldn’t slide by anymore with our own veggie side dish. It was time for some action. We knew there would be a few skeptics in the crowd, so we had to act strategically, with everyone’s food preferences in mind.In planning the menu the first thing I did was make some changes to the Seder plate. We said no thanks on the lamb shank. Instead, we used a beet grown in a friend’s garden. Not only are beets used to symbolize the color of the blood that lamb shanks represent, their high iron content can revitalize our own blood as well. I don’t want us to be too selfish, but let’s get the most out of our Seder experience. Beets have other amazing nutritional benefits, including detoxifying the liver. After guzzling four cups of White Concord Grape Manischewitz (my personal fave), who wouldn’t appreciate that?
Instead of the hard-boiled egg, we used fresh flowers. Flowers are symbols of spring and new growth. They are beautiful and they smell a million times better than their hard-boiled counterparts. You can also go the extra step to get some roses, pansies or other edible flowers for the Seder plate. Eating flowers with loved ones is sure to make your Passover more memorable, and roses are known to be a powerful antioxidant. Click here to learn more about edible flowers.
My sister and I knew we had to do something about the gefilte situation, so we decided to make fresh spring rolls instead of gefilte fish for our first course. Spring rolls have the same shape, and, oddly enough, similar color to gefilte fish, so they do the trick. The whole family was elated to try something deliciously different.
Below is my recipe for Passover Spring Rolls. The recipe is not too traditional, but when tradition involves opening a jar of compressed fish in a jelly and letting it thump out of the glass, don’t feel bad about breaking tradition. If your Jewish family is like mine, as long as something is wrapped in some sort of doughy wrapper, with a little sauce, everyone will be happy. Involve friends or family in rolling these guys if you have a big party. They do take a little time and effort. Note that these spring rolls do include rice ingredients. While Sephardic Seders permit rice, you may want to consult your Ashkenazi relatives if you think it will be a problem for them.
The lesson that I learned in treating my family to a vegan Passover is that the most important traditions are those of tempting smells, new experiences, and good karma all the way from the Seder plate to the meal. There is so much love and thoughtful preparation that go into creating a Passover dinner that it only seems fitting to make it cruelty-free.
As an end note, though it may be a pain in the tuchas to cook food for the entire family just to prove to them how right we are for being vegetarian, you kind of have to because even if you only make food for yourself, everyone else will want a bite anyway when all of your food smells the best. That is why the recipes below are portioned to feed ten hungry Jews. Double the recipes for bigger parties or really hungry Jews.
Fresh Spring Rolls
Yields 10 servings
1 Tbsp. roasted hot sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. agave
2 cups thin rice noodles, or bean sprouts
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced into thin strips
6-8 shiitake mushrooms
2 avocados, sliced into strips
1 cup shredded carrots
8-10 rice wrappers
*Optional: ½ cup pine nuts
Bring a quart of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles as directed. Set aside when finished. Add sesame oil, rice vinegar and agave to the noodles. If using bean sprouts instead, blanche the bean sprouts and toss with the sesame oil, rice vinegar and agave.
Place the sliced pre-cooked rice noodles, cucumber, avocado, and shredded carrot in separate bowls or plates, like an assembly line.
When you are ready to roll your fresh rolls, soak each rice wrapper in water until slightly softened. This should only take about 10 seconds. Place the wrapper on a flat working surface and fill with a line of your choice of the fillings, beginning with about 2 tablespoons of rice noodles or bean sprouts.
Begin by folding the bottom flap over your filling. Bring the two sides over the folded bottom flap and then bring the remaining side over the entire roll, to create a burrito shape. The trick is to not overfill the spring roll. This will make it much easier to wrap.
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup hot water
1/4 cup organic tamari
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. sesame oil (with or without chilies)
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* Optional: 2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
In a medium pot, add almond butter and hot water. Whisk until the almond butter is thin. Add remaining almond sauce ingredients. Whisk until uniform and creamy. Add water if the sauce is too thick.
Roasted Beet Salad With Maple Glazed Walnuts
6 medium-sized beets, either golden or red
¼ cup olive oil
Dash unbleached sea salt
6 cups fresh baby greens
2 ripe large avocados
2 large Japanese tomatoes, medium dice
2 English cucumbers, peeled to the core
Maple Glazed Walnuts:
2 Tbsp. vegan non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth balance margarine preferred)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 ½ cups raw walnut halves or pieces
Dash sea salt
*Optional – 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of your favorite dressing
Preheat oven to 375°.
Wash and trim beets and place them in a small roasting pan. Coat them in the olive oil and salt. Roast for approximately 25 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted and taken out with no resistance, and the skin appears wrinkled.
Remove from oven and cover to steam. This helps separate the skin from the beet. Set aside.
To prepare the remaining salad ingredients, wash and dry the lettuce and set aside in a shallow bowl or platter.
Cut the avocado into fourths, and slice small slits along the length of the avocado, but keep the avocado wedge intact. Spread gently with your knife to make a fan shape. Place along the salad, either in 4 corners or in a row.
Peel the cucumber with a peeler, and discard skin. Continue to peel cucumber lengthwise until you reach the core. You should have long strips. Place in bunches along the platter of salad. Sprinkle diced tomato over the salad for color.
To prepare glazed walnuts, melt the margarine in a medium sauce pan. Add the maple syrup and stir with a spatula. Syrup will bubble. Quickly add the nuts and coat in the mixture. Add salt and cayenne pepper (optional).
Once the liquid has disappeared, turn off the flame and let the nuts cool. Set aside.
To peel the cooled beets, put on a glove. Using your knife as a guide, peel the skin from the beets. Slice and place on salad.
Top the salad with the cooled candied nuts and serve with the dressing of your choice on the side.
TIP: Look for smooth, hard, round beets, with the darkest color to ensure freshness. The beet greens should be green for the most nutrition!