April 16, 2014
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!