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We started a new Pesach tradition three years ago when a family member who was a vegetarian stayed with us during the holiday. While not a vegan (no dairy products or eggs either), she was amazed that I was able to create delicious full-flavored vegetarian recipes without the use of tofu and the other chametz products that make up the bulk of her diet. By using a little creativity I found that the traditional cholesterol-laden array of foods usually associated with Passover tables could easily be augmented with or even replaced by scrumptious and healthful vegetarian recipes.

Below are a few of the recipes we’ve served over the past three years and they should help anyone looking for a parve or vegetarian recipe to round out a Pesach meal. I tend to use a lot of eggplant and mushrooms, as they both have a firm meat-like texture that lends itself to a variety of main and side dishes. If you like them well enough, any of the recipes can be made as is or converted to use chametz when Pesach is over.

Baby Eggplants Stuffed With Mushrooms and Nuts (Parve)
6 eggplants, small, cut in half
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place eggplant halves in a saucepan, cover with boiling water, and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Scoop out flesh with a teaspoon, leaving shells intact. Chop flesh and reserve. Place shells in a greased ovenproof dish. Warm the oil in a pan over moderate heat. Add onion, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the eggplant flesh, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes. Take off heat and add the tomato, parsley and most of the pine nuts, reserving some for decoration; season well. Spoon filling into eggplants, sprinkle with pine nuts, bake for 15 minutes, and serve. Serves 4. 

Creamy Broccoli Soup (Parve)

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 medium potato, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound broccoli florets
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 cups parve “chicken” bouillon or vegetable stock
Sprig fresh thyme for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add shallots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, broccoli, thyme and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth. Return to pan and reheat, adjusting seasonings if needed. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. Serves 6-8.

Eggplant Caviar (Parve)

1 pound eggplant
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup green pepper, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup green onion, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons black olives, sliced

Using a fork, prick the skin of the eggplant in a few places. Place eggplant on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until soft and starting to collapse. Remove cookie sheet from oven and set aside to cool. In a non- stick skillet, saute mushrooms and green peppers in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add green onion and garlic and saute an additional 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Allow vegetables to cool for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove stem, and cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape the soft flesh of eggplant into a food processor or blender. Discard skin. Add the sauteed vegetables, along with the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt, or pepper if needed. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Place pine nuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Decorate top of eggplant caviar with the sliced olives and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts. Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

Hawaiian Fruit Compote (Parve)
2 cups fresh pineapple cut into chunks or 1 can pineapple chunks in juice, drained (20-ounce size)
2 tangerines or oranges, sectioned and cut in small pieces
1 banana; peeled and diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup lemon-lime soda

In a large bowl combine the pineapple chunks, tangerines, banana, strawberries, orange juice concentrate and soda. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Serves 6 to 8. 

Jicama and Orange Salad (Parve)

Jicama is a Mexican root vegetable with a taste and consistency like a combination of a water chestnut, apple and potato. It can be combined with any number of fruits and vegetables because it blends so well with so many flavors.

1 head Romaine lettuce, cleaned and dried
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and sliced paper thin
6 seedless oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 red onions, sliced
2 teaspoons red chile powder
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
Freshly ground black pepper

Line a shallow bowl with the Romaine leaves. Alternate overlapping circles of jicama, oranges and onion rings on leaves. Combine remaining ingredients in a small glass jar and shake well. Pour dressing over salad and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

Melon and Orange Vinaigrette (Parve)
1 cup cantaloupe, cut into cubes
2/3 cup orange juice
2/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients; process for 1- 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Use as a dressing for salads or fruit or to add flavor to grains or vegetables. Makes 2 cups. 

Mushroom and Eggplant Cakes (Parve)

1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup orange or yellow pepper, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup baby bella mushrooms or other mushrooms of choice, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic is great)
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons freshly chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup matzah cake meal
3/4 cup matzah meal
1/4 teaspoon paprika

In a large non-stick skillet, saute onion and both types of peppers in olive oil for 5 minutes to soften. Add eggplant and saute an additional 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute an additional 3 minutes. Add wine and vinegar, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the fresh herbs, salt and pepper and continue to simmer until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from heat and set aside to cool. When mixture is cool, transfer to a large bowl; add matzah cake meal and mix to combine.

Lightly oil a non-stick cookie sheet and set aside. Place matzah meal on a plate, toss it with the paprika, and set aside. Divide vegetable mixture into 12 portions. Using your hands, roll each portion into a ball, then flatten slightly to form cakes. Press cakes into the matzah meal, covering them evenly on all sides. Place cakes on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat procedure for the remaining vegetable mixture. Cover and chill cakes for 2 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown; flip cakes over and bake an additional 5-7 minutes or until golden brown on the other side. Serve two cakes per person. Makes 12 cakes, serves 6.

Mushroom Schnitzel (Dairy or Parve)

Portobello mushrooms, broiled simply with olive oil and garlic slivers, are just as good as any steak. This is based on a recipe in “The Jewish-American Kitchen” by Raymond Sokolov.

3/4 cup parve margarine or butter
1 cup scallions, minced, including some green tops
1 cup onions, minced
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup matzah meal
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Melt 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons margarine or butter in a heavy non- stick skillet over medium heat. Cook scallions and onions 3-4 minutes until soft. Add mushrooms and saute over medium high heat 10-15 minutes, until liquid has evaporated. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and let cool. Stir in parsley and eggs. Gradually add matzah meal until mixture has enough body to hold together during frying. Add another 1-2 tablespoons matzah meal if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Melt remaining margarine or butter in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Form each schnitzel by placing 1 heaping tablespoon of mushroom mixture in the hot butter and pressing with back of a wooden spoon to a 3-inch diameter. Fry 3-4 minutes per side until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 8 to 10.

Passover Fruit Kugel (Parve)

8 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
No. 2 can crushed pineapple (save juice)
3 apples, peeled and grated
1/2-3/4 cup matzah meal
1 pound prunes, chopped
1/2 pound apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 7 x 11-inch pan. In a bowl combine the eggs, sugar and oil. In another bowl combine the pineapple with the juice, apples and matzah meal. Combine contents of both bowls; mix thoroughly. Add prunes and apricots. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 6 to 8. Great served with sour cream. 

Potato And Mushroom Croquettes With Red Pepper Sauce (Parve)

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 cups water
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 pound mushrooms
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup matzah meal
1 tablespoon oil

Boil potatoes in water until tender. Drain and mash potatoes. In a separate pan, saute onions and mushrooms in oil and water over medium-high heat for three minutes. In a large bowl, mix mashed potatoes, sauteed onions and mushrooms, seasonings and matzah meal together. Form 10 croquettes. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and fry croquettes for 8 minutes on each side. Serve with Red Pepper Sauce (recipe below). Serving size is 2 croquettes per person. Serves 5.

Red Pepper Sauce (Parve)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Place oil in a skillet. Heat over medium heat until hot. Add red pepper and garlic; cook, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside and cool slightly. Place pepper mixture in a blender or food processor; add chopped basil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Makes about 2 cups. 

Tummy friendly: How about some meals sans matzah?

It’s Pesach so it must be time to have that talk about what matzah can do to your digestive tract. For some, there is no major impact on the natural rhythm of things and they can consume boxes of the stuff with nary a problem. For others (like me!), eating matzah truly embodies the meaning of the bread of affliction.

Because of the issues my stomach, colon and semi-colon have with matzah I tend to introduce as many fruits, vegetables and salad greens into the menu as I possibly can. In the following recipes I keep the matzah, matzah meal and farfel to a minimum. You can usually substitute any dried fruit for any other dried fruit in these recipes. 

Almond Strawberry Salad (Parve)

This recipe was the Grand Champion Winner of the 1989 Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Fla.
Glazed Almond Topping:
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 large bunch romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

Sweet and Sour Dressing:
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 drops red pepper sauce
Dash black pepper

For Glazed Almond Topping: In a small skillet, cook almonds and sugar over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted and almonds are coated. Sprinkle almonds onto a sheet of waxed paper; let cool. Break almonds apart and set aside.

For the salad: In a large salad bowl, toss salad ingredients until combined. For the Sweet and Sour Dressing: In a small container with a tight lid, combine Sweet and Sour Dressing ingredients and shake to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine. Sprinkle Glazed Almond Topping over salad and serve immediately. Serves 6-8. 

Apple and Tuna Tossed Salad (Fish)

1 medium head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups diced apples, unpeeled
1 6 1/2-ounce can tuna, drained
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, walnuts, apples, tuna and mandarin oranges. Toss together. In another bowl combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well. Toss dressing with salad. Serve immediately. Serves 6. 

Chicken and Grape Salad (Meat)

6 3/4 ounces chicken, cubed
1 cup seedless grapes
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoon slivered almonds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
Lettuce leaves
1 tomato, cut in wedges

In a bowl combine chicken with grapes, celery, green peppers and almonds. In another bowl combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss dressing with chicken mixture. Mound chicken salad on lettuce leaves. Add tomato wedges. Serves 4.

Chicken, Broccoli, Raisin and Cashew Salad (Meat)

Great for using up leftover turkey or chicken
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large bunch broccoli flowerets
1 cup white onion, chopped
2 cans mandarin oranges, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups soft raisins
1 cup cashew pieces
2-3 cups turkey or chicken, cut into small pieces

In a bowl combine mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar and paprika. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In a large bowl combine broccoli, onion, oranges and raisins. Just before serving, add cashews and chicken or turkey. Toss with dressing and serve. Serves 10- 12.

Classic Frozen Fruit Salad (Dairy)

A kid favorite at any meal.
3 tablespoons finely chopped maraschino cherries
1 can (8-9 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 banana, ripe but still firm, chopped

Place chopped cherries on paper towels to absorb moisture; set aside. In a bowl combine sour cream, sugar, lemon juice and salt; stir in pineapple, walnuts and cherries. Stir in chopped banana. Spoon mixture into paper-lined muffin cups and freeze until firm. Let stand at room temperature for a few minutes to soften just slightly. Serves 8-10. 

Pear Tuna Salad (Fish)

1 pear, diced
1 3-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained
2 tablespoons diced green pepper
1 tablespoon French or Italian dressing
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch sugar
2 large lettuce leaves

In a bowl combine pear, tuna and green pepper. In another bowl combine dressing, lemon juice and sugar. Pour dressing over tuna salad and toss. Spoon into lettuce cup and serve. Serves 1. Can be doubled or tripled.

Turkey Strawberry Salad With Strawberry Honey Dressing (Meat)

For dressing:
1 pint fresh strawberries, divided
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic is good)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

For Salad:
1 pound turkey or chicken, cut into pieces
10 ounces fresh greens or baby spinach
1/2 cup walnuts, roasted

Cut 1 cup of the strawberries in half and place in a blender. Cut remaining strawberries into quarters and reserve to garnish salad. To the strawberries in the blender, add the honey, vinegar, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend to emulsify. In a salad bowl combine the turkey, walnuts and greens. Drizzle dressing over top, toss to combine, garnish with strawberries and serve. Serves 4.

Olive Salad Dressing (Parve)

1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted, chopped
1 cup oil-packed black olives, pitted, chopped
3-4 sweet cherry peppers or pepperoncini, seeded, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup red onions, sliced
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon each oregano and basil, chopped (fresh is best)
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salad greens

Combine all ingredients except salad greens. Refrigerate in a covered container overnight before using. Use with salad greens with frisee and radicchio, sliced pickling cucumbers and wedged fresh ripe garden tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups. 

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