It’s been a month of bad news on every possible level: personal losses, professional disappointments, you name it. To keep our spirits up, we’re trying to eat healthy and well, and today I was inspired to put a little French elegance into our dinner with this simple version of a salade niçoise. The components of this nice composed salad are easy to make and a breeze to assemble.
I’m not particularly in love with the pre-made fake tuna product we used, Vegan Toona, and next time I make this recipe I’ll make a chickpea substitute from scratch (this recipe looks intriguing.) But let’s discuss the different components.
Ready-made stuff you’ll need include cherry tomatoes (colorful ones are especially fun,) Persian cucumbers, tiny radishes, and good olives (not the nasty canned stuff.)
You’ll also need tiny waxy potatoes–we used red and purple–which you can bake for about 20 mins. at 350 degrees, and green beans, which you’ll steam or pressure-cook (I do it for 1 minute in the Instant Pot on high pressure) and, when still crunchy, drop immediately into ice water.
Another component is my beloved tofu eggless salad, which I made this time with olives in lieu of pickles, lots of green onion and parsley, and some kala namak salt for extra egginess.
And finally, Toona is sorta good if drenched in fresh lemon juice and mixed with some thinly minced green onions.
After organizing all the components on the plate, drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Herbs de Provence.
We’ve been invited to a post-Thanksgiving party called You’re Welcome! And we’re not coming empty-handed. This beautiful (and entirely vegan) pie will be our contribution to the festivities.
6 ripe pears
1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1 herbal tea bag (we used rose hip and lavender)
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
1 splash whiskey
1 homemade or bought pie crust
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp agar flakes
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered nutmeg
Halve the pears and core them. Place the pear halves in a bit pot. Add cranberry juice, herbal tea bag, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, and whiskey. Then, add hot water to cover the pears. Simmer for about 15-20 mins.
Remove pear halves from syrup. Wait until they cool down a bit, then slice thinly and arrange in pie crust.
Strain syrup from all whole spices, add powdered spices, agar, and maple syrup. Cook until reduced to a syrupy consistency (a bit liquid is okay; the agar will help it gel). Drizzle onto pie to cover pears. Bake for 30 mins at 350 degrees. Let cool completely.
It’s Passover Eve! Hurrah! And we are invited to celebrate this holiday of spring, freedom, and questionable historical existence, with our good friends of 15 years from the East Bay!
Our friends are having the entire meal catered, and we were told not to worry about food. But I assume most of the invitees are not vegan. On one hand, I don’t like disrupting other people’s plans for the meal; on the other, I don’t want to just bring clandestine tofu blocks for the two of us and ignore everyone else around the table. Also, in the off-chance that anyone around the table eats kosher under the Ashkenazi rules, I don’t want to flood the table with soy or other beans. I’ve come up with two solutions and I plan to do both!
Ori Shavit’s wonderful blog is full of terrific vegan recipes, with an entire section devoted to Passover that I’m sure I’ll be using for years to come. I used her leek latkes recipe with a few minor substitutions. For non-Hebrew readers, it’s as follows:
5 leeks, white and light green parts 4 tbsp matzo flour 1 large onion 4 garlic cloves 1 large fistful parsley 1 large fistful cilantro (I substituted oregano and sage) celery leaves from 5 stalks 1 tsp salt 1 tsp black pepper 1 tsp Hawaiiej (I have the real deal, but you can substitute with cumin and cardamom) safflower oil and potato flour for frying
Cut each leek into three pieces. Place in a pot, cover with water, boil and simmer for 10 mins. Drain. Then, place cooked leeks and all other ingredients into food processor and process until smooth. Heat safflower oil in a large pan. Place spoonfuls of the mix into the pan (you can dip them in potato flour to assist the frying) and fry a few minutes on each side, until firm and golden.
This Passover, I’m a guest, not a hostess. My cooking contributions include a slightly modified version of the greens quiche I made last spring (this time, with green garlic in lieu of leeks!), as well as a simple and special dessert: date/pecan/raisin balls.
It is a very simple and easy recipe, and there are countless versions, of course; you could add a bit of wine (port or sherry would work really well), and any sort of nut or dried fruit. I like the spices in this combination, and it looks quite pretty in its little “home” — a pod-shaped Tunisian serving dish.
25 medjool dates (the meaty, squeezable kind) a big handful of dark raisins a big handful of raw pecans 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground clove 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 cup grated coconut
Pit dates and place in food processor bowl. Process until smooth (it will become sort of a soft ball after processed). In the meantime, chop pecans to little pieces. Place date ball on a cutting board, and work pecans and raisins into it. Add spices and keep working the “dough”. Make little balls from the mixture. Roll little balls in coconut. Place in refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
Happy Spring, and Happy Freedom Holiday. May it bring freedom to many people of the world who are in bondage as we, fortunate enough, get to enjoy a meal with our relatives and friends.
The Israel-dwellers among my gentle readers are probably still contemplating their bellies in pain and reflecting on the gorging fest they may have taken part in lately, otherwise known as “the Yom Ha’atzmaut Mangal“. We discussed this interesting anthropological phenomenon last year. And, without fail, the woods were thick with meaty smoke this year, too.
We were invited to a barbecue (=mangal) at the home of dear friends, and in lieu of vegetable skewers I decided to bring something else. A short search on google for vegan patties yielded all sorts of things, but none of the versions really captured the spirit of the holiday. Since this is Israel, I wanted the patties to have a bit of falafel aroma, which you can obtain using cumin and turmeric and paprika; also, the patties have a mix of lentils and chickpeas. I use oat bran to bond them together. They held nicely on the grill and were all eaten immediately (by us and by the meat eaters!). Not a morsel was left. Fortunately, my friend Ilan was around with his new camera and managed to take a picture before they disappeared.
Vegan Patties with a Hint of Falafel
3 cups green lentils 1/2 cup chickpeas 1/2-3/4 cup oat bran 5 garlic cloves 3 tbsps cumin 3 tbsps turmeric 1 tbsp paprika big handful of parsley salt and pepper to taste
Soak lentils and chickpeas in water; chickpeas take longer – a few hours – but lentils are happy after they’re soaked for twenty minutes or so. Then, strain and cook in a big pot of water until tender. Strain again, saving about 1/2 cup of the liquid. Place lentils and chickpeas in food processor bowl. Add 1/4 cup oat bran and process. Add water if the thing refuses to puree, and oat bran gradually until the lentil paste can be shaped into small burgers that hold their shape. Add spices and parsley and garlic and keep processing. Taste to correct – since ingredients are cooked, it’ll give you a pretty good idea of what it’ll taste like eventually.
Place gently on grill (preferably on a tray, though these things don’t fall apart so easy), and eat with pita, tchina and vegetables.
This quiche is brilliant. I was looking for something that would enable me not to use flour, and in this dish, the grated potatoes do a great job. It’s full of wonderful seasonal spring greens, and you’re welcome to substitute them for whatever greens you like – except bok choy. I have a feeling bok choy won’t work so well in this dish.
Green Quiche 3 large or 5 smallish potatoes 150 gr feta cheese 150 gr spicy yellow cheese (it’s possible to substitute for feta, though two kinds of cheese make it really nice and interesting) 3 large cups of chopped greens: white beet leaves, kohlrabi leaves, broccoli leaves and stems, kale, collard, anything you have at home 2 white parts of leek, chopped in rings 2 eggs 2 garlic cloves
This recipe is much easier to do in a food processor, but is doable by hand, as well.
Heat up oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Grate the potatoes (I don’t bother skinning them), and mix them with the cheeses, eggs and garlic.
Some separate the thicker stems from greens when cooking them; I think this can easily be avoided by simply chopping the stems smaller, since the quiche will be cooking for a long time anyway. Chop up greens, and add, with leeks, to the mix. Mix well. If it’s still too liquid, add some more greens or another small potato. If too dry, add a little bit of cheese. You’ll feel if it’s the right consistency if it doesn’t move too much and seems packed with solids.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a fork sunk in the middle comes out dry. It’ll be a little airy when right out of the oven, but it becomes more solid as it rests outside after it’s baked.
We’re getting ready for the Passover Seder, here, and most of the heavy cookery is over. The menu includes some contributions from other members of the family (the fish and meat, obviously, weren’t prepared by me, and folks are bringing them with), but the stuff I’m making here is all fresh out of the Chubeza special holiday box we requested.
I decided to go with fresh and seasonal, which meant that some dishes are improvised. We only got the fresh box this afternoon, so had to make some adjustments to the original plan. Anyway, we’ve finished setting the table:
This beautiful table is mostly the work of my mom, who has a real talent for designing parties and events. She brought in the beautiful table and matched it with candles and napkins in silver and gold.
These beautiful napkin holders (each of them is different!) remind us of our happy years in Ecuador.
Our menu will not, perhaps, be meticulously kosher, but it’ll be springy in the sense that it’ll only showcase seasonal, fresh, organic vegetables. So tomorrow my family can expect to eat the following:
On the table seder plate matzos
Starters gefilte fish (grandma) deviled eggs cherry tomatoes stuffed with tofu “uncheese” pickled red peppers (mom) pickled eggplant (mom)
Soup grandma’s chicken broth kneydalach
Main Courses walnut roast (mom) mixed grain plate (mom) roasted potatoes with rosemary, onion and garlic baked carrots with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg roasted beets with kimmel quiche of greens green ful and fresh peas in lemon and zatar bean noodle stir-fry with celery and shiitake mushrooms green salad with avocado and red grapefruit cucumber, pepper and tomato salad with sprouts carrot-radish grated salad (dad)
Coffee/Tea fresh-ground coffee (from Colombia) chamomile tea nut cookies (mom) egg-foam cookies (gift from our neighbor) charoset from dates, walnuts, almonds and apples (Chad_ chocolate truffles (mom)
So, I sat down and figured out what we’re going to serve folks for the Seder. The only who non-vegetarian items on the menu are my grandma’s traditional gefilte fish, whose absence would lead the masses to charge on the Bastille, and chicken broth, to which we will provide a mushroom broth alternative for non-carnivores. Apart from that, some of this stuff has already been featured here (but will be served in a more festive manner), and some of it will be posted when I do trial runs for everything. Caveat for kosher keepers – we eat grains and legumes during Passover, and, while there’s a chicken broth option, the parfait is dairy.
On the table during the Readings:
seder plate homemade olives nuts and almonds deviled Eggs
gefilte fish tomatoes stuffed with quinoa salad mushrooms stuffed with vegetables and herbs
chicken broth Shiitake mushroom broth
eggplant-tomato bake with soy and herbs roasted roots/root mash greens with garlic lentil pancakes onions stuffed with rice and spices green salad with avocado and grapefruit colorful veg salad
lemon parfait matzoh layered chocolate cake fruit plate coffee and teas
These days we’re a bit excited, foodwise; we’ve managed to convince all our family, which lives in the North, to come have the Passover Seder with us in Tel Aviv! Usually in our family, as for many families we know, the younger folks go hang out with the older ones. The parents or grandparents put up the holiday at their house, and the thirtyish folks come as guests.
Last year, we had the Seder here in Tel Aviv, and though a good time was had by all, we were afraid it was too much to ask for folks to drive all the way here on a holiday evening. However, it seems they enjoyed it so much that they want to come back – if anything, they were concerned whether it wasn’t too much for us to have them over! It certainly isn’t. In holiday times, small apartments seem to expand and make more room for rowdy, happy guests.
Everybody’s enthusiasm is interesting in light of the fact that, at our place, they can’t really expect large trays (or small trays, for that matter), of juicy meat; we serve a vegetarian meal. Our only concessions to tradition are my grandma’s fish balls and her clear chicken broth. Last year, someone brought a dish of fish, we forgot to serve it, and when we remembered, no one wanted any! They were quite happy with the lovely array of spring vegetables and fruit on the table. It’s important for us to have a beautiful, colorful display of seasonal local vegetables, because we see Passover, first and foremost, as a Spring festival. We like to read the story behind the holiday, of liberation and freedom, as a metaphor for, or a parallel to, the liberation of the Earth and Her children – trees, bushes, flowers, roots – from the winter cold, and the freedom to bloom and ripen.
The reason I exhaust you, kind readers, with all this theological and familial information, is because plenty of the recipes that will show up in this blog for the next month or so are “practice sessions” for the Seder meal. Some of them are things we made last year, and some are things we’ll try this year for the first time.
One humble but flavorful vegetable dish was a mix of celery and Shiitake mushrooms in a gentle, herb-flavored sauce. Here’s how we made it last year.
Celery and Shiitake Mushrooms in Broth and Soy
1 tbsp canola oil 3 garlic cloves 1/2 inch piece of ginger 1/2 tbsp of Thai Curry, or fresh ground red pepper large head of celery, with about 10 fresh, green celery stalks 10 dried shiitake mushrooms 1 cup hot water 1/2 cup vegetable broth 3 tbsp good quality soy sauce A few stalks of parsley, sage and thyme
Place mushrooms in a small bowl, and pour hot water on them. Leave to soak for about twenty minutes. In the meantime, you can prep the other ingredients: remove celery stalks from head, wash well, and cut into small, 1/3 inch pieces. Chop up the parsley, sage and thyme. Slice up the ginger and garlic cloves (bear in mind that, when feeding large crowds, some will dislike the ginger, so if you’ll need to fish it out before serving, do not chop it too thinly). Heat up the canola oil in a wok, add garlic cloves, ginger and Thai curry or red pepper. After about a minute, when kitchen becomes fragrant, add the celery stalks. Move them around the wok for a couple of minutes. Then, go back to your shiitakes, squeeze them well and keep the liquid. Slice ’em up and add to the celery stalks. After a couple of minutes, add to the wok broth, soy, herbs, and as much of the mushroom water as you like. It’ll be very flavorful. Stir and cook for another ten-fifteen minutes, or until celery is soft and nice, and most of the liquids have been absorbed.
The art above is by Arthur Szyk (see more beautiful and interesting Judaica at http://www.szyk.org/szykonline/index.html)