April 16, 2014

Cooking up new traditions


Monday night was the first night of passover, and I cooked all day for our family seder, but didn't make a single thing that usually appears at every holiday meal at our house. There was no potato kugel, no cranberry sauce, no big tofu centerpiece-thing — nothing I've always connected to a holiday feast — except maybe for the green salad. There were no complaints, and no one refused the containers of leftovers that were sent home when it was clear that, as usual, I had made way too much food. Passover is a holiday with many dietary restrictions which vary according to which tradition you subscribe to. No one eats wheat, spelt, barley, rye or oats, or their derivatives, but the Ashkenazic tradition also excludes any food that swells when exposed to liquid, like rice, beans, etc. If we did that, there would be almost nothing for us to eat, so we subscribe to the Sephardic Jewish customs, as they relate to Passover, and which allow grains, seeds and beans except the five mentioned above. Quinoa, for various reasons I won't go into, is okay. It's also forbidden to eat food which has been leavened with yeast, baking powder or soda, or by fermentation. This used to seem like a big deal, but since I started avoiding gluten, except for the leavening bit, it's pretty much business as usual. We're actually not very religious, but we like tradition.

After the Seder service, the meal traditionally begins with matzoh ball soup. I used to dearly love matzoh balls, back in the old days, when gluten was no object, but this year I made something entirely different and untraditional, and it really made me happy. I started with a version of the eat your greens detox soup from The Oh She Glows Cookbook (recipe here). I used half reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and their broth for half of the mushrooms in the recipe. The soup is so good, and so stuffed full of veggies, it's practically a meal in itself. Instead of matzoh balls, I made a recipe of the 'egg' topper from Miyoki Schinner's chicken and egg dish in her book, Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, It's a simple blended mix of silken tofu and arrowroot that is cooked on top of the soup. It has the same comforting effect as matzoh balls have, and makes the perfect replacement. (recipe here.)
               

I found a recipe for Passover quinoa pilaf on Nava Atlas' blog, Veg Kitchen that seemed perfect for a holiday meal. Filled with cauliflower, dried cranberries, onions, garlic and parsley, and topped with toasted pine nuts, it was both simple and delicious. It's a dish you won't want to save just for holidays. (recipe here.)


To go with the quinoa, I made maple-orange baked sweet potatoes with a touch of cinnamon. I don't really like sweet potatoes, but these tasted good to me. I really appreciated the touch of orange — both the flavor and the color! I don't have a recipe for this — just made it up on the spot.


I also served a big platter of chia corn cakes from a recipe in the book, Chia (reviewed here), except they didn't contain chia seeds or baking powder, as in the original. I used two flax eggs (two tablespoons of ground flaxseed mixed with six tablespoons of water, and whipped with a fork to a thick, slimy, goo) instead of baking powder, and it worked perfectly. They were loaded with green onions, which the ones in the photo are missing. I cooked them on a cast iron griddle in the afternoon, and warmed them, covered, on a baking sheet before dinner. I think the corn cakes were the highlight of the meal. There was also a salad, but you all know what salad looks like.


For dessert, I whipped up yet another batch of gluten-free chocolate almond brownies from The Oh She Glows Cookbook (recipe here). Seriously, you might as well just go buy the book. The brownies were just a little flatter than usual because I left out the baking soda and subbed extra flax eggs, but they were no less delicious. (I also used less fat and sugar.) The brownies become even better the second day, so I recommend making them the day before you need them. These are way too good to have around the house.

Maybe for the next holiday dinner I'll revert back to my old patterns, or repeat this dinner, or forge ahead and try something completely different. Do you tend to make the same holiday meal over and over, following family traditions, make something new every time, or combine new and old? What are your traditional choices for Passover or Easter?

p.s. I didn't take a single photo at our actual meal, so all the photos are of leftovers the next day, except for the corn cakes. The corn cakes photo is from a previous post, because there weren't any leftovers!

26 comments:

  1. I never knew there were so many restrictions for Passover seder. It is a shame most vegan protein staples are excluded. :( Good on you for making a delicious feast.

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    1. The restrictions are actually for the entire eight days of Passover for those observing the holiday. As I mentioned, not all observers follow the same rules, and the sephardic tradition is allows everything except wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye — seeds, legumes and other grains are okay. It would be pretty hard to be an observant vegan and an observant Jew at the same time if you tried to adhere to the stricter rules.

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  2. What a gorgeous spread! And I love that you always make too much. My mom and I are planning my sister's law school graduation party, and we were just talking about how it's better to too much food than too little! Because, leftovers!

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    1. Thanks! I LOVE leftovers, but I would have been buried under leftovers had I not sent food home with the guests. I think everything tastes better the next day (and the next!) anyway.

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  3. Oh, the detox greens soup looks so great with those tofu dumplings! They're very cute too.
    my family has one or two dishes we repeat for the same holidays, but for the most part, the menu changes. Especially since I am usually in charge of one or two dishes and I have such a huge list of bookmarked recipes to try that I wouldn't otherwise, were there not a holiday.
    Hoping that the fact that you didn't take any photos from the actual seder means that you were too busy having a good time.

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    1. I think you would love the soup — it would be perfect for your current dietary direction. Tastes great, too.
      The problem for me is that there are certain dishes that only appear at holidays, and I look forward to them so much I never make anything else. Guess I'll have to make them for an ordinary dinner.
      I was way too busy to take photos — too many people waiting to eat for me to start futzing with the camera. Besides, the light is better in the afternoon. :)

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  4. Better too much than not enough. :-) Love your new spin on tradition - it looks like a great meal!

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    1. I agree that too much is better — said after just consuming another brownie! I think the soup and the quinoa pilaf might make it onto the "tradition" list.

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  5. I impressed by all of this, but most of all by the fancy plating of your leftovers. Full disclosure: mine are usually eaten as packed: in compartmentalized containers! Thanks for explaining the whole KforP thing; I wasn't going to blog my eats this year for fear of having to do so; now I can lazily just cite you! Happy holidays.

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    1. Thanks for being impressed with my "fancy plating" and for not being here to see the actual scenario. Hahaha is all I have to say about my plating skills. (And my plates.) The explanation thing was harder than the plating, and I don't blame you for not wanting to do it. I didn't either, but if you think my interpretation is okay, link away. I'm looking forward to ogling your feast, which I'm sure was impressive!

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  6. Everything looks delicious, especially the brownies! I'm a big fan of Oh She Glows!

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    1. Thanks! The brownies were the first OSG recipe I tried, but now that I have the cookbook, I know there will be many more.

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  7. These are such great ideas for Passover! Those sweet potatoes look especially delicious.
    Growing up my family always observed a traditional Ashkenazi Passover and it was miserable--just an overload of eggs, meat, potatoes, and matzah. Such heavy, heavy food, and mostly tasteless. I always felt like I was walking around with a brick in my stomach for the entire 8 days.
    Since going vegan I too have embraced kitniyot. I see no reason not to eat them as the restriction against them came from rabbis rather than from the Torah. A vegan Passover is a lot more pleasant when beans, corn, and rice are allowed to be involved!

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    1. I suppose that vegans could just eat quinoa and vegetables for eight days, but I agree that embracing kitniyot is the way to go. The sweet potatoes were great - I just heated some oj and maple syrup and tossed it with the baked sweets, then baked them a little longer, tossing again to cover them with glaze.

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  8. All look very scrumptious. I actually do not observe any religion or tradition. I've been living away from the family for so long now that I kind of go with just what fancies my imagination for the special times of the year which are usually just the end of year celebrations and birthdays. But I remember when I was a kid, our family did have certain traditions which, me being a kid, just enjoyed the good food!

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    1. The family I grew up in was not very religious, but we did follow some traditions for holiday dinners and such, mostly involving festive foods. I'm kind of the same way, though I do like to honor certain traditions that connect me with my history. The food at our Passover celebration, though, was completely different from any holiday food we've had in the past.

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  9. It's really interesting that there are so many restrictions and still the food that is served for passover is so different from country to country. So it seems there's still a lot of room for variety. I really like your idea of cooking up new traditions because that's what we have to do for a vegan Easter celebration as well.

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    1. Some of the traditional foods are easy to veganize, or are already vegan, but I just felt like doing something completely different. One of the traditional recipes I usually use came with my great-grandmother from Russia. I suppose holiday food variations are similar to general food variations from country to country.

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  10. What a feast - it all looks beautiful! And every tradition has to start somewhere - if we see chia corn cakes on every Passover table in a couple of years' time, we'll know where it all started!

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    1. Hahaha! I'll be watching the news for the "latest in Passover cuisine ideas!"

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  11. Those gluten free chocolate brownies...*drools*

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    1. Wouldn't it be lovely to see wholesome and delicious treats at commercial establishments?

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  12. As a new vegan, I'm surprised at how much I don't miss old traditions, like Easter ham and potatoes au gratin covered in cheese and egg. I just cooked up a balsamic-marinated portobello mushroom cap and my mom saved some potatoes for me to mash for myself before she covered the rest in cheese. Everything else I could eat. I'm really enjoying making up new vegan holiday traditions. And your Passover looks delicious!

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    1. I don't miss the animal parts of the traditional foods, but some of the other things, like potato stuffing and cranberries have always been a part of our celebrations. I guess I just felt rebellious this year. :) Cooking a portobello mushroom was a good idea, and sounds like the start of a new tradition.

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  13. Gluten-free brownies sound really good now! I tried Fran’s fudgy brownies (from the Vegan Chocolate cookbook) and they taste amazing, too! No worries about making too much for a holiday feast - I bet they are tasty leftovers, we also love having leftovers and not having to worry about cooking or getting ingredients the next day!

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    1. I'm really disappointed if we don't have leftovers — all that good food deserves more than just one meal! I have Fran's cookbook on my wish list.

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