“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
"I am the dean of religious life at a liberal arts college.
Yesterday, I went to a Maundy Thursday service (interdenominational Protestant), a Holy Thursday service with foot washing (Roman Catholic), and the second seder.
Having been raised Roman Catholic, I resonate with the words and sounds of prayers and hymns of my childhood so powerful that it is almost instinctual, but in my adulthood I have come to discover and be spiritually nourished by other traditions, particularly Judaism.
At last night’s student-planned seder, many of the participants were not Jewish but have participated every year of college and wouldn’t miss it. That has to be a good thing."
-Jennifer, a commenter to Judith Warner's opinion piece, "This I Believe" New York Times, April 9, 2009-
All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives.
-The Dalai Lama-
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This year I'm hosting a group of friends-who-are-like-family for Passover Seder 2011. This is definitely going to be a group effort--with everyone bringing a dish. A very stress-free celebration.
This year the first night of Passover arrives on a Monday evening--April 18th--not so easy for long-distance-mid-week travel to celebrate with family. With my kids all in St. Louis, and my sibs in Cincinnati & Florida--I'm grateful to have a close group of "in-town" empty-nest friends whose families also live out-of-town.
It's going to be my first-ever Plant-Based & Gluten-Free Passover! If you know anything about Passover, this is a serious challenge. This is the no-flour, no bread, no grains (wheat, spelt, barley, oats, or rye), no beans, no legumes holiday. If your ancestors came from Eastern Europe, as mine did, it means eight days of mostly matza, lots of oil, lots of eggs, brisket, chicken, gefilte fish, and matza pizza.
Oops! Left out something. I'm not on a gluten-free diet! But one of my guests is on a gluten-free diet--which is why gluten is "mostly" out of this Seder--matza balls excluded! And yes, she has scored a box of one of the hardest-to-get commodities in town--Gluten-Free Matza!
If you're eating plant-based with no-added oil, a traditional Ashkenazic Passover is not going to work out very well in the health department--so I'm loosening up the rules this year & taking on the Passover customs of the Mediterranean Sephardic tradition--and eating what's known as "kitnyot" click here for a list: rice, beans, legumes, soy & corn are allowed. Still no grains, none of my usual savory "cheezy" or pumpkin oatmeal, no bread of any kind, no soba noodles, or whole wheat pasta. Quinoa, thankfully, is on the OK-to-eat list. This is going to be a very easy Passover.
What's on My Plant-Based "Mostly" Gluten-Free Passover Menu?
OK. Full Disclosure. I'm not Orthodox, not an expert on Passover--so take my menu under advisement
Chickpea Gefilte "Fish" cakes with horseradish sauce
Fennel, Leek, Spinach Matza Ball Soup
Chef AJ's Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna with Brown Rice Noodles
Veganomicon's Quinoa with Black Beans & Mango
Roasted Asparagus or Susan's Seductive Stawberry Salad
Macaroons, Jane's Un-Named Dessert, or raspberry sorbet
Gefilte "Fish" and Horseradish Sauce
Gefilte "Fish" with Horseradish Sauce
Serves 8 (small portions)
I'm using a non-fat adaptation of Ellen Allard's "Tuna Fish" recipe, and shaping them into gefilte fish patties or mini-loaves.
15 ounce can of no-salt chickpeas, drained
2 stalks of celery finely chopped
1 TBS fresh snipped dill, or 2 tsp. of dry dill weed
1 tsp. celery seed
2 TBS. finely chopped dill pickle or pickle relish
1 TBS. capers (I LOVE capers)
1 tsp. kelp flakes (don't worry if you can't find this. I found it at Whole Foods)
1/4 cup or more of my version of Chef Del's "Mayonnaise" *see below
1/2 tsp sea salt (optional)
1/4 tsp ground white (or black) pepper
Mash all the beans in a bowl using the bottom of a flat-bottomed drinking glass (or a fork, or a potato masher, or if you like to dirty more dishes, carefully use a food processor). You want the beans broken, but not pulverized--kind of a mix of chunky & smooth.
Add the vegetables & seasonings & mix in the mayo. Add more if needed. Form into mini-patties or mini-gefilte fishes
Serve with white horseradish, or Chef Del's Horseradish "Mayo"
*My version of Chef Del's Mayo
Makes 1 1/2 Cups (use half for the horseradish mayo)
1 (12 ounce) package firm silken tofu in aseptic box (Mori-Nu brand)
1/2 tsp dry mustard (or Dijon mustard)
1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 fresh garlic clove (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt (optional)
2 TBS. lemon juice
1 TBS. cider vinegar
Process in a food processor or blender. Adjust seasonings if needed.
Mix half of this to make horseradish sauce by mixing in 1 TBS of horseradish--add more to taste.
Matza Ball Soup
Fennel, Leek, Spinach Soup (Dick's Soup)
This has become my staple Passover soup ever since I tasted it at Fran & Dick's seder quite a few years ago. Dick found the recipe from a 1997 Bon Appetit--and I've modified it to eliminate the margarine. It's so easy--so delicious--and so healthy!
- 6 cups chopped fresh fennel bulbs
- 4 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3-6 cups of baby spinach (or more--you know how it just melts down to nothing)
1. Heat a large soup pot on medium high
2. Add fennel and leeks. Lower heat to medium. Sauté until just translucent, about 15 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of broth or water, as needed, when the vegetables start to stick--and to deglaze the pan. Once the vegetables are translucent, add broth & cover pot. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Once cooled, puree soup in small batches in blender until smooth, adding spinach to last batch before pureeing. Return soup to same pot. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)
4. Rewarm soup over low heat, stirring occasionally.
5. Ladle into bowls. Add 2 matza balls to each bowl and serve.
Isa & Dr. J's Matza Balls without Oil or Eggs
OK--Maybe these aren't the usual light fluffy giant matza balls you're used to--and they look like falafel--but these are pretty darn tasty! Tasted great in my lunch time sweet potato soup.
I owe this recipe to Dr. J, who perfected this "baked version" of the matza ball recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan with a Vengeance--and to blog-reader Barbara who suggested using avocado instead of Isa's oil. I tried them with oil--and with avocado--and I couldn't tell the difference--so why not just use avocado?
The matza ball challenge: to boil or bake?
Isa gives elaborate boiling instructions and I followed them to a tee. I didn't like the result. They sort of fell apart and I had floating matza meal in the water--and the texture seemed water-logged.
Dr. J's baked version, on the other hand, is much easier & they turned out beautifully They're small--but the same size as Isa's boiled ones. Plus, they're delicious, can be made ahead & will be perfect in my Fennel Leek Soup!
1 1/2 cups whole wheat matza meal
3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 (12 ounce) package of firm silken tofu in the aseptic box (Mori-Nu)
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup plus 2 TBS. soft avocado (Isa uses 1/4 cup + 2 TBS. of extra-virgin olive oil, if you want to use her version)
1/2 carrot peeled & shredded
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix matza meal with salt & pepper in a bowl--set aside
3. Crumble tofu into a blender or a processor (preferred). Add 1/2 cup broth & puree until smooth. Add the avocado (or the oil if you're going that route) & blend again.
4. Mix the tofu mixture with the matza meal, making sure that everything is moist. Add the grated carrot. I did need to add just a little more vegetable broth to get the mixture moist enough--it was a little too dry--but don't overdo it!
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
6. Form into tightly packed walnut-sized balls & bake in a 350 degree preheated oven. Total baking time is 20 minutes--but turn them half-way through.
After 20 minutes the matza balls were brown and held together well--the center was a little moist but tasty--so taste-test them, & cook them longer if you like--or make them ahead & reheat them in the oven before serving your soup.
Dr. J adds them into individual soup bowls at serving time. Do not attempt to boil these in the soup--they may fall apart! I'm going to make mine a day ahead, refrigerate them, warm to room temperature & reheat before serving.
The Main Course--Sephardic Italian Style
Chef AJ's Spinach Mushroom Lasagna with Brown Rice Noodles
This is something I can make ahead. It will do well warming up in a slow oven as we read through the Haggadah. Plus, it tastes great, and is gluten-free!
Click here for the recipe. I may cut the cashews in half in the tofu filling--and a reader told me she succesfully substitutes walnuts for the cashews when she makes Faux "Parmesan". Walnuts beat cashews hands-down for health benefits!
Quinoa--Passover's Miracle Food
Veganomicon's Quinoa with Black Beans & Mango (This is a possibility for our 2nd main course)
Click here for the recipe
Note: leave out the oil in the dressing--substitute lime or orange juice--or use orange or lemon vinegar.
Quinoa is Passover gift--kind of like manna from heaven. It's not really a grain--so it's Passover-approved--whether you're Ashkenazic or Sephardic! It can be used in place of rice or couscous or bulgur for any recipe--plus it's a high-fiber complete protein.
Click here to read why quinoa is such a winner--and to get to the fabulous Inca Quinoa Salad recipe--another Passover possibility. Ditch the oil in that recipe--and substitute 2 TBS of lime juice or rice vinegar or orange juice.
My Favorite Quinoa? Eden brand--t hey use a mechanical rubbing process to remove the protective saponin coating from the grain (which can leave a bitter flavor), rather than a water wash. This retains more flavor, fiber & nutrients. When I compared the nutrient values of Eden's with other brands, it had the highest in all categories.
Quinoa for Passover Breakfasts: I'm planning to substitute quinoa for my morning oatmeal--both the "savory cheezy" kind--and a delicious dried-cherry & raisin version. Click here for the dried cherry quinoa cereal. For "savory & cheezy" quinoa, just follow the directions on your quinoa package, but add in my seasonings for "cheezy savory" oatmeal--and top it with "melted/microwaved spinach".
Best Quinoa Cooking Technique: My friend Susan who is a professional caterer in the Maryland/D.C. area (Chocolate Chili) recently included this fool-proof quinoa cooking tip in her Chocolate Chili newsletter. I haven't tried it yet--but I trust Susan!:
My first try with quinoa didn't turn out well. I simmered it in standard rice proportions: 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. It was waterlogged, tasteless and mushy.
So I tried again, using new instructions from the Gourmet Today cookbook:
1. Rinse 1 cup quinoa in 3 changes of cold water.
2. Bring 3 to 4 quarts water to a boil in a saucepan. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon salt, then add quinoa and boil for 10 minutes.
3. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water.
4. Bring about 1½ inches of water to boil in the same saucepan. Set the sieve with the quinoa over the saucepan. Cover with a kitchen towel and a lid, folding edges of towel over the lid so they won’t burn. Steam 10-15 minutes, until quinoa is fluffy and dry.
Perfection! Each grain was distinct and fluffy, even after I added herbs and a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette. Next time I make it, I plan to add corn, cilantro, chilies and feta cheese for a Mexican twist; or maybe tomatoes and basil for something a bit more Italian. Quinoa is basically a blank canvas that you can dress up with all sorts of flavors.
The Passover Side Dishes
This is the easy part. It might be roasted asparagus. It might be Susan's Seductive Strawberry Salad.
The Passover Dessert
This one belongs to Barbara. We're considering Jane Esselstyn's Un-Named Dessert, gluten-free traditional Passover macaroons ( Elana's Pantry egg-white version or maybe a gluten-free & vegan version), and maybe some homemade VitaMix raspberry or peach sorbet.
What About Something Special for the Rest of the Week? How About a Mina de Masa/Matzoh?
No doubt about it, Mina de Masa rocks! But it also contains eggs, butter, farmer's cheese, feta cheese, pine nuts, and Parmesan. And to think I thought this was so healthy!
Hoo Haa! Just spotted the mother-lode of Mina de Masa recipes. Hop on over to this piece that just appeared on NPR today for all kinds of very easy Mina de Masa fillings! Use your imagination and make your own "Easy as Pie" Mina de Masas! Click here for the recipes, Mina template & story.
Mina de Masa - a Greek Style Mediterranean Matza Lasagna
Something to enjoy later in the week. I've always loved Tina Wasserman vegetarian version made with farmer's cheese, feta, eggs, and butter Here's my attempt to enlighten it!
Mina de Masa (the enlightened vegan version for Passover)
The Matza Lasagna "Noodles"
8 regular or whole wheat matzo squares
2 cups warm vegetable or mushroom broth
2 TBS grated Faux Parmesan cheese: In a food processor, grind 1/3 cup of raw cashews or walnuts, 3 TBS. nutritional yeast and 1/4 tsp of salt-free seasoning, until a powdery mixture is achieved. If you like it more chunky, process less.
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Lightly spray a 9 X 13 pan with spray canola
3. Make filling no. 1 (the tofu filling) in a food processor fitted with the "S" blade, by adding tofu, dill, garlic, lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast, nuts and nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Add drained spinach and process again.4. In a large non-stick saute pan, saute chopped onion in 2 Tbsp water or broth until translucent, about 8 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Add garlic, mushrooms and tamari and saute until browned. Taste mixture, adding more garlic/tamari according to your taste. Cook until mushrooms appear to be glazed and there is no more liquid left in pan. This can take awhile if the mushrooms release a lot of liquid. Be patient--you want all the liquid to evaporate.
5. If the artichoke pieces are large, cut them in quarters. Add them into the mushroom mixture and stir to heat through. Set aside.
6. Heat the 2 cups of broth in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Pour into an 8 inch square casserole or a deep dish that will hold the liquid and soak 2 sheets of matzo at a time until soft & pliable. Do this with the next 2 matzos and as they become soft fit them in the bottom and sides of the greased 9 X 13 pan. This sounds complicated, but it's not!
7. Spread the spinach & tofu mixture carefully over the matzos and then top carefully with the mushroom/onion/artichoke mixture.
8. Soak the remaining 4 sheets of matzo in the broth and then cover the filling. Trim or tuck the sides in to look neat.
9. Pour 1/2 cup of the remaining broth evenly over the entire casserole.
10. Sprinkle the Faux Parmesan cheese over the top and bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: Sorry, I haven't tried making my enlightened plant-based oil-free version yet--but I can't see why it wouldn't work. It basically substitutes Chef AJ's tofu filling for Tina's cheese filling--and then uses Tina's mushroom/artichoke filling. It leaves out Tina's pine nuts, eggs, farmer's cheese, feta, butter, Parmesan.
Happy Holidays to Everyone - Passover or Easter!
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