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Jewish Journal

Going green for Passover

by Judy Zeidler

April 10, 2014 | 7:34 pm

The mainstays of a traditional Passover seder, celebrating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, tend to be a carnivore’s dream: gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzah balls, stuffed turkey and lamb shanks.

Today, though, more and more families are planning a vegetarian Passover seder menu.

It is easy and timely, as the Passover holiday arrives each year at the same time that the first crop of fresh and appealing spring fruits and vegetables appears. They make welcome substitutes for the dried, canned and frozen foods normally used during the Passover observance, which begins this year at sundown on April 14. They also are in tune with today’s interest in more healthful eating.

The ceremonial foods on the seder plate already consist mostly of vegetables. They can include parsley, green onions, celery, romaine lettuce or horseradish to represent the bitter herbs, and we always serve small steamed new potatoes dipped in coarse salt as part of the service, symbolic of the Israelites’ tears of sorrow (the salt) and subsequent rebirth (the potatoes). For many years, we have also included a roasted beet as a replacement for the shank bone.

It’s a small step to infuse the rest of your holiday celebration with veggies in new and interesting ways. European charoset is usually a combination of chopped apples, walnuts and wine, but this year replace them with pears and pecans, or make your own combination. The soup can be a medley of fresh vegetables served in their own cooking broth, or a puree of the vegetables made by blending the mixture in the food processor. Mini Matzah-Parsley Dumplings are a perfect addition.

For the main course, serve cabbage rolls that are filled with zucchini, carrots, celery and parsnips and baked in a fresh tomato-mushroom-wine sauce. And to cap things off, make a Passover Carrot-Apple Sponge Cake — along with fresh pineapple and strawberries dipped in Passover chocolate — to serve with tea and coffee.


PEAR AND PECAN CHAROSET

2 pears, unpeeled, cored and finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup minced golden raisins

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sweet Passover wine

In a bowl, combine pears, pecans, raisins, honey and cinnamon; mix well. Stir in enough wine to bind mixture. Serve in bowl or roll into 1-inch balls and arrange on serving plate.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups or 20 balls.

SPRING VEGETABLE SOUP

Mini Matzah-Parsley Dumplings (recipe follows)

3 tablespoons oil

4 onions, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

3 zucchini, unpeeled, thinly sliced

1 rutabaga, peeled and diced

4 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 quarts water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare Mini Matzah-Parsley Dumplings; set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add celery, carrots, parsnips, zucchini and rutabaga. Sauté for 10 minutes, mixing with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. (For a thicker soup, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until thickened.)

Drop dumpling mixture by tablespoonsful into boiling soup. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; do not uncover during this cooking time. Ladle into hot soup bowls.

Makes about 12 servings.

MINI MATZAH-PARSLEY DUMPLINGS

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup water

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley

Put egg yolks, water, salt and pepper in small bowl; beat with a fork. Set aside.

In large bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. Combine matzah meal and parsley. With rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah meal and parsley mixture into the beaten egg whites to form a light, firm batter. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Makes about 10 dumplings.

VEGETABLE-STUFFED CABBAGE WITH TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

Tomato-Mushroom Sauce (recipe follows)

1 large cabbage

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup safflower or peanut oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and grated

1 parsnip, peeled and grated

1 zucchini, grated

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons golden raisins

4 mushrooms, chopped

1/4 cup ground pecans

1/4 cup dry red wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prepare Tomato-Mushroom Sauce; set aside.

Rinse cabbage; cut off about 1 inch from base of cabbage leaves. Place cabbage in saucepan with boiling water to cover and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook 3 minutes or until leaves have wilted. Remove cabbage from water; drain. Set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini; toss well. Sauté 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add parsley, raisins and mushrooms; mix thoroughly. Simmer 5 minutes. Blend in pecans and wine; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté 5 minutes, cover; set aside.

Place 1 cabbage leaf on flat surface; shape some of stuffing into a ball, place it on base end of cabbage leaf, and roll up leaf to enclose filling, envelope-style. Repeat until all stuffing has been used.

Place rolls close together in skillet, submerged in Tomato-Mushroom Sauce. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. If skillet is ovenproof, transfer to oven (or transfer cabbage rolls and sauce to an ovenproof baking dish) and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

1/4 cup safflower oil or peanut oil

2 onions, chopped

3 tablespoons minced garlic (optional)

1 celery stalk, chopped

3 cans (11 ounces each)  tomato-mushroom sauce

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons honey

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper  to taste

In large ovenproof pot, heat oil and sauté onions, garlic and celery until tender. Add tomato-mushroom sauce, wine, honey and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add additional honey and lemon juice to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 cups.

PASSOVER CARROT-APPLE SPONGE CAKE

Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

9 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup matzah cake meal

2/3 cup Passover potato starch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Prepare Chocolate Glaze; set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 1 cup sugar until light in color and texture. Add carrots, applesauce, lemon juice and lemon zest; blend well. Combine almonds, matzah cake meal, potato starch, salt and cinnamon; blend into egg yolk mixture.

In large bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold one-fourth of whites into batter. Add remaining whites and fold in gently until well-blended.

Pour the batter into an ungreased, 10-inch tube pan. Bake until cake springs back when touched and wooden pick inserted in center comes out dry, about 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and immediately invert pan to cool. Loosen sides and center of cake. Frost with Chocolate Glaze, slice, and serve.

Makes 1 (10-inch) cake, 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate

2 tablespoons apricot preserves

1 cup Passover concord grape wine

Melt chocolate and preserves in top of double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave. While hot, add wine, and blend well. Add additional wine if the mixture is too thick. Let glaze cool slightly, then pour over cake.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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