Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Passover 2014 - Exploring Old Traditions...

My Delicious Seder Passover Feast!

My husband and I are not Jewish, not by a long shot, and we are not particularly religious. My husband was raised in a pretty lax house of mixed faith - Catholic/Christian - then grew up to be an Atheist. I grew up in a somewhat stricter Christian environment that included Biblical Stories, Sunday School, and regular visits to church. In high school I began to reconsider what it was I believed and found that I was more inclined to a Buddhist style of faith, and living. I still adhere to the principals of Buddhism today, although I would say I follow it more as a philosophy then a strict religion. I’d say I’m more spiritual then religious - and as a spiritual person I still from time to time feel sentimental about the traditions I grew up with. Easter for example is a holiday I always liked, because it meant the beginning of Spring, and time shared with family. Passover is a holiday I never celebrated, but I’ve always had an interest in Judaism, and thus an interest in Passover as well. Normally I work on Passover - at least that’s been the case these past 4 years - this year, however I found myself surprisingly free of any obligations and so I decided to take the opportunity to celebrate Passover for the first time, with a delicious Seder meal.

I know enough about Passover to know that it last eight days - and normally takes place in April, just before Easter. I know it’s celebrated as the commemoration of Jewish liberation by God from slavery in ancient Egypt, and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.  It commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in The Bible. I’ve always preferred the Old Testament to the New - better stories if you ask me, - and the Exodus is certainly an interesting story. 10 Plagues, death of the first born, the struggle for freedom and then finally obtaining that freedom. It’s a good story, and freedom - no matter what your faith - is a pretty universal concept. Everyone desires freedom from something or someone. Freedom is something worth celebrating in my opinion, and what better way to do so then with a nice meal, and some old school traditions?

Simple Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup 

Since I have no understanding of what’s acceptable to cook/eat for Passover I looked to my copy of Nava Atlas’s “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” for some inspiration. From her lovely book I picked several dishes to make that sounded interesting to me, and I have to say I was quite happy with the results.

Since Matzo is a traditional food eaten at Passover, we decided to start our meal with the Simple Vegetable Soup with Vegan Matzo Balls. I really enjoyed making this soup, it was relatively quick and easy, and something about the process made me feel really good. I felt connected to a time and a place, and a tradition - so much so that I thought a lot about the Exodus as I worked to prepare the soup. Now, I’ve never eaten a Matzo anything in my life, so I wasn’t sure how I’d actually like the soup in the end - especially since I always hear that Matzo is somewhat bland - but I was really blown away by this soup. It was so flavorful. In fact it reminded me very much of the Chicken Noodle Soup my Oma used to make when I was a child - minus the Matzo of course. It’s a simple mix of carrot, celery, onion, dill, potato, and then of course the matzo balls.  The balls are made using matzo meal, and quinoa flakes, as well as water, oil and salt. I really loved the way the balls broke up into the soup, and the contrast of the flavorful broth with the soft squishy matzo.

In fact I loved this soup so much I can’t believe I’ve never eaten it before, and I know I’ll probably make this soup again and again, whether it’s Passover or not.

Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzo Gratin 

Originally I was also going to serve a salad along with our meal but in the end I decided to skip it only because I was tired, and didn’t feel like going through the extra trouble of roasting beets - which were a component of the salad I’d planned to make.

An Inside Shot of the Gratin 

For our main course I made the Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzo Gratin. Which I thought was very good, but honestly it was a pain in the ass to make. First you cook the potatoes and then peel them! Do you know how difficult that is? Ugh! Then you need to soak the matzo to make them pliable, you have to cook the leek and spinach. There’s a lot of steps and when I opened my box of Matzo a lot of them were broken. So you’ll have to excuse the poor picture, and bad presentation but given it’s my first time making anything of this sort I think I deserve a break, right?

Now, I didn’t end up using the optional vegan cheese or the pine nuts in this Gratin - simply because I didn’t have either, - and I thought it could have used more salt and pepper but like I said I enjoyed it. It might not have been my favorite meal in the world but there was something hearty and comforting about It that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. As my husband said “It’s like a Jewish lasagna!” and I suppose he’s right. FYI - we ate the leftovers today with extra salt, and pepper, and a drizzle of Sriracha and man oh man did that really kick this dish up a notch! I’ve no idea if Sriracha is aloud on Passover, but if you’re not strict then give it a try it’s delicious!

Sauteed Asparagus and Broccolini 

As a side to accompany the Gratin I made the Sauteed Asparagus and Broccolini which was a pretty simple mix. Asparagus, Broccolini, and Yellow Bell Pepper are sauteed in oil, then lemon juice, salt, pepper, and Olives are added for a really nice, simple touch.

Passover Fruit Crisp 

For dessert I decided to go with the Passover Fruit Crisp, because, well - I love a good fruit crisp, and this one was different. Thinly sliced apples and pears mixed with maple syrup and cinnamon and topped with quinoa flakes. Not my favorite crisp ever, but pretty darn good nonetheless. Of course I think it’s a travesty to eat a fruit crisp without ice cream and so I made a batch of homemade Sticky Date Ice Cream with Butterscotch Sauce from Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Vegan A La Mode” I don’t know if ice cream is aloud on Passover but it was mostly made with coconut milk and dates. Dates are pretty old world - and aloud as far as I understand - so maybe it wasn’t a terrible choice.

Passover Fruit Crisp with Sticky Date Ice Cream

And that about wraps it up. I have to say I really enjoyed our little celebration. I enjoyed the feeling of enacting long standing traditions, and enjoyed cooking, trying, and sharing new - to me - foods. We didn’t read from the Hebrew Bible or drink wine or bless the matzo, or any of that other stuff but who knows, maybe next year, because we’ll definitely do it all over again next year.

I hope everyone out there who celebrates Passover had a nice time!

1 comment:

  1. Wow!! Looks like a amazing meal! Have a wonderful Easter!