Passover is the most observed Jewish holiday – even those who never step foot in a synagogue pull out all the stops for this one. With our celebratory meal, the seder, we retell the 3,500-year-old story of our ancestors’ flight to freedom from the land of Egypt. The centrepiece is the seder plate, which holds the traditional symbols, but to spark a lively discussion this year, I’m going for the unconventional.
With several vegetarians on my guest list, I’m giving the seder plate a vegan makeover. I’ll substitute an avocado pit for the egg and a roasted beet will replace the customary shank bone.
Instead of my grandmother’s borscht, I’ll be serving quinoa, beet and spinach salad, which I got from Secret Restaurant Recipes by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek. The cookbook includes recipes, tips, techniques and cooking secrets from kosher chefs from around the world. This salad was created by chef Elad Asnafi of the Soyo restaurant in Jerusalem and London. Asnafi suggests cooking the quinoa with a touch of cumin and bay leaves, to capture the true Mediterranean flavors. He also recommends giving this recipe a twist by using dried apricots instead of cherry tomatoes.
Beets have had a long association with Passover among Ashkenazim. One of the few vegetables available to eastern European peasants, they could be stored throughout the winter. No wonder borscht became a staple. My mother remembered her mother starting to make russel (fermented beet juice) weeks before Passover. When she was done, she had a clear, bright red liquid that smelled like wine. Then, when she wanted to make borscht, she would go down to the cellar and ladle out some russel to use as a base, adding fresh beets and sugar to the pot.
A welcome source of variety for the holiday, quinoa, a newcomer to the Passover table, is gluten-free, high in protein and a rich source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Although it resembles some grains that are forbidden on Passover, it is considered a pseudocereal. In 2014, it received rabbinic approval for Passover, after the Orthodox Union sent a rabbi to Bolivia and Peru, to observe how it is grown. Since quinoa grows near the top of the mountain and grain grows near the bottom, quinoa processed in approved factories got the coveted “OU” seal of approval.
Each year, I like to surprise my family with something new for dessert. The chocolate angel pie from the cookbook Celebrate by Elizabeth Kurtz looked so tempting that I had to try it. “It’s called an angel pie because the meringue looks simply angelic as a pie shell – white and glorious,” noted Kurtz. “Make sure to start this recipe ahead of time. The layers need to be cooled completely and the meringue takes time to cook. Separate the eggs before you start the recipe, so the egg whites can come to room temperature before whipping, and reserve the yolks until ready to use.”
Quinoa, Beet and Spinach Salad
ο 175 ml (3⁄4 cup) quinoa
ο 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
ο 1 medium beet, peeled and diced
ο 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
ο 250 g (8 oz) baby spinach, roughly chopped
ο 1⁄2 red onion, finely diced or thinly sliced
ο 100 g (1⁄4 lb) green beans, roughly chopped (for those who eat kitniyot)
ο 125 ml (1⁄2 cup) cherry tomatoes, halved
ο 15 ml (1 tbsp) Passover mustard
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) brown sugar
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) honey
ο 75 ml (1⁄3 cup) olive oil
ο 125 ml (1⁄2 cup) fresh basil, loosely packed
ο 1 clove garlic
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).
In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until germ separates from seed. Strain if necessary.
Place sweet potato and beet on baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Bake until soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
Quick-steam green beans by placing them in a dish with a couple teaspoons of water. Microwave for 1-2 minutes.
In large bowl, combine quinoa, sweet potato, beets, spinach, red onion, green beans and tomatoes.
To make the dressing, combine mustard, brown sugar, honey, olive oil, basil, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Toss with salad and serve. Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from Secret Restaurant Recipes by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek.
Chocolate Angel Pie
ο 4 egg whites, at room temperature
ο 280 ml (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) sugar
ο 10 ml (2 tsp) potato starch
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) distilled white vinegar
ο 3.75 ml (3/4 tsp) Passover vanilla extract
ο 50 g (2 oz) Passover unsweetened chocolate, chopped
ο 4 egg yolks
ο 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
ο 30 ml (2 tbsp) water
ο 0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) salt
ο 500 ml (2 cups) pareve whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form, divided
ο generous amount of Passover chocolate and pareve white chocolate shavings, for garnish
Preheat oven to 230 C (450 F). Grease a 23-cm (9-inch) deep dish pie pan.
To make the meringue crust, beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and potato starch, constantly beating. Stir in vinegar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is thick and glossy. Spoon meringue into prepared pie pan; press against sides to form a crust. Place in oven and turn off heat. Leave meringue in oven for 3 hours; remove pan to cool. Meringue can be stored for up to 2 days, covered, in a dry place.
To make the filling, melt chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Cool to lukewarm.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks, sugar, water and salt until frothy. Stir into pan of melted chocolate. Cook mixture over low heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 4 minutes. Cool completely. Fold chocolate mixture into half of the prepared whipped cream. Pour into cooled shell and refrigerate until mousse is set. Top with remaining half of whipped cream; garnish with chocolate and white chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: Pie can be prepared up to two days in advance. Store, lightly covered, in refrigerator. Do not freeze. You may whip the cream for topping and prepare the chocolate shavings in advance, storing in refrigerator. Garnish before serving. Makes 10 servings.
Adapted from Celebrate by Elizabeth Kurtz