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Vegan for the Holidays


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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegan Vegetarian Recipes


Veganizing Easter and Passover Celebrations

Easter Menu ************ Passover Menu

Easter and Passover share many common threads. Each of the holidays connects Christian and Jewish people throughout the world to their spiritual roots, brings families and friends together, and celebrates the occasion by preparing foods that are part of a long tradition.

From continent to continent vegans, too, enjoy commemorating holiday traditions while recognizing that their animal friends are sentient beings with whom we were meant to live in harmony. With such an abundance of delicious, animal-free foods available, anyone can create a banquet of holiday dishes that never cause animals to suffer pain or death.

EASTER CELEBRATION

Easter Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ and ends a 40-day period of fasting and penitence that commemorates Jesus' fasting in the wilderness. Because Easter is the recognition of Jesus' return to life on the third day after his crucifixion about AD 27 to 33, the holiday is the most auspicious celebration for Christians.

For Western Christians, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox about March 21. Since the holiday is recognized by the lunar cycles rather than our current calendar, it can fall sometime in March or April.

Easter borrows some of its customs from the pre-Christian or pagan era, marking the vernal equinox when day and night are of equal length. Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, was also known as the dawn goddess. She was known by other names as well: Ostara, Ishtar, Astarte, and Ashtaroth. Legend holds that the goddess, who was also honored as the goddess of fertility, took an egg-laying hare as her symbol, apropos since rabbits give birth in the spring.

The myth of the egg-laying hare arrived this country in the 18th century with Germans who settled in Pennsylvania. They may also have started the tradition of dying the eggs. Today, young children are told that if they are good, the Easter Bunny might bring them an Easter basket filled with dyed eggs, candies, and chocolates.

Because of the multicultural diversity of our American population, we find a multiplicity of variations on the familiar traditions that surround Easter. Some begin the Easter Sunday with a sunrise service at church where it is traditional to face east toward the rising sun.

Other practices that mark the day include dressing in festive clothes and attending Easter parades, decorating the home with Easter lilies, ringing the church bells on Easter morning, presenting the children with Easter baskets, and watching them find their treasures during the customary Easter egg hunt.

Vegans celebrate many of the same traditions, but the packaging takes on a slightly different focus. For example, the vegan Easter basket would not likely be filled with the typical candies made of refined sugar whitened over charred animal bones. The vegan Easter basket would also not contain eggs. The compassionate Easter basket might be filled with fruit juice sweetened, whole-grain cookies made without eggs. Nuts in the shell may appear in the basket along with tiny wrapped packages containing simple gifts like toy cars, little dolls, or small books.

Though eggs may seem like a benign food that does not kill the chickens, confined chickens raised for egg production suffer a miserable, painful life. Instead of hunting for hidden Easter eggs, vegan children might search in the garden or the house for fresh baby carrots and mini boxes of raisins and later help prepare a dinnertime carrot-raisin salad. Possibly the hunt may take on a special theme that appeals to children, like searching for little toy dinosaurs or other animals.

In most American homes, the Easter meal is centered on the time-honored ham. However, in the vegan household we spare our friend, the highly intelligent pig, and choose a planet-friendly entrée instead. With readily available vegetarian meat substitutes made from soy and wheat gluten, the main course can easily imitate the flavor of ham without disturbing the real piggy from his nap or playful romp in the mud.

Because we aim to bring healthful and joyful foods to the holiday table, we plan our innovative menu with lively colors, textures, and flavors that blend together to offer extraordinary taste sensations. Our festive, plant-based dinner then lingers as a joyful and memorable observance of an awe-inspiring religious event.

The Eggless Deviled Eggs is a conversation-piece appetizer. To imitate the appearance of hard-boiled egg white halves, cut half-inch thick slices of firm tofu. Using a paring knife, shape the slices into several small ovals that resemble egg whites. Then scoop out the centers and fill them with a tofu mixture seasoned just like the real deviled eggs. Sprinkle them with paprika, bring them to the table, and be ready for the flurry of questions sure to follow: "What? These are not real eggs? Well, then, what are they?"

Our Easter dinner begins with a spring salad of inviting mixed greens and an array of chopped chunky vegetables like carrots, radishes, celery, sugar snap peas, and cucumbers. The tangy Triple Citrus Dressing blends orange, lemon, and lime juice with zesty seasonings to create an appealing salad that guests will welcome with pleasure.

The main course, a Curried Veggie Ham Polenta, features a polenta-based dish dotted with a confetti of bright green peas, diced red bell pepper, and totally fat-free veggie ham made from soy and wheat gluten. An ideal accompaniment is Pear Raisin Chutney with deliciously sweet, pungent flavors.

Quick 'N Tasty Black Beans infused with garlic and tomatoes offer pleasing flavors and a flamboyant color contrast cuddled next to the polenta. A tasty alternative to the beans might be Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples. Steamed Asparagus is the ideal choice for this spring celebration and offers that perfect splash of green to the plate.

With such a hearty and satisfying meal, you and your guests will appreciate the bite-size Pistachio Peanut Bonbons along with a bowl of plump, fresh Strawberries to conclude the meal. Delicacies that deliver that little touch of something sweet at the end of the meal serve well when guests don't have room for a really big dessert.

EASTER DINNER

Easter Menu Recipes Below

Appetizer
Eggless Deviled Eggs

Salad
Salad with Triple Citrus Dressing

Entreé
Curried Veggie Ham Polenta
Pear Raisin Chutney
Quick and Tasty Black Beans
Steamed Asparagus

Dessert
Pistachio Peanut Bonbons
Fresh Strawberries


With a creative spirit and a few extra minutes, this unique version of deviled eggs emulates the real thing rather closely without ever causing our friend, the chicken, to give up a moment's pleasure as she pecks for worms in the barnyard.

Deviled Eggs

EGGLESS DEVILED EGGS

    Yield: 16 halves

    Mock Egg Whites
    2 cups (480 ml) warm water
    1 teaspoon salt

    1 pound (450g) firm tofu

    Mock Deviled Filling
    1/2 pound (225g) firm tofu

    1/2 cup (120 ml) plus 1 tablespoon Vegenaise or other soy mayonnaise
    2 teaspoons rice vinegar
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/2 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
    1/8 teaspoon pepper

    Paprika 2 to 3 lettuce leaves
    Cherry tomatoes

  1. TO PREPARE THE EGG WHITES combine the water and salt in a large baking dish, and stir well to dissolve the salt. Set aside
  2. Drain and rinse the 1-pound (450g) of tofu and cut it vertically into one-half-inch (1 cm) thick slices. Cut each slice in half to become 2 pieces that are almost square. Using a small paring knife, form each square into an oval, imitating the shape of a hard-boiled egg half.
  3. Using a small spoon, carefully scoop out the centers of each of the ovals to form a cavity, reserving the cut-away pieces for the filling. Marinate all the prepared ovals in the salt water while preparing the filling.
  4. TO PREPARE THE DEVILED FILLING: Drain and rinse the 1/2 pound (225g) tofu and crumble it into a medium-size bowl.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients except the paprika and cherry tomatoes, and stir well to distribute the seasonings evenly. Adjust the seasonings if needed
  6. Drain the mock egg whites on several layers of paper towels and fill the cavities with the prepared deviled filling.
  7. Sprinkle the tops of the deviled mock eggs with paprika and arrange them on a lettuce-lined platter, leaving the center open. Fill the center with the cherry tomatoes.


With citrus fruits readily available year round, this dressing doesn't have to wait for a special season to share its bright, zesty flavors.

Triple Citrus Dressing is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

TRIPLE CITRUS SALAD DRESSING

    Yield: 2 cups (480 ml)

    1/2 cup (120 ml) cashews

    1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
    1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
    1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    1/2 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum

  1. Grind the cashews to a fine meal in an electric mini-chopper/grinder or coffee grinder and transfer to the blender.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend, starting on low speed. Switch to high speed and blend for 1 full minute, until smooth and creamy.
  3. Using a funnel, transfer the dressing to a narrow-neck bottle or similar container for easier serving. Serve immediately or thoroughly chilled. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, Triple Citrus dressing will keep for one week.


Dazzling polka dots of color and alluring flavor combine to make this dish a welcome Easter entrée. With its bits of no-fat veggie ham and an array of bright veggies incorporated into the polenta, it's an ideal vegan alternative. Bring the meal together with ease by preparing the dish a day or two ahead and reheating it briefly at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. For guests who may be timid about curry spices, consider using the smaller amount in the recipe. For medium spicy, use one full teaspoon of curry powder.

Curried Ham Polenta

CURRIED HAM POLENTA

    Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas

    1 5.5 ounce (155g) package Yves Veggie Ham, diced
    1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 quart (1 liter) water
    1/2 cup (120 ml) plus 2 tablespoons soymilk
    1 1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder

    1 cup (240 ml) medium or coarse cornmeal (polenta)

    Garnish
    Fresh herb sprigs, such as parsley, rosemary, or oregano
    Tomato slices or cherry tomatoes

  1. Have ready a 5-cup (l.25 liter) ring mold or an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish. Put the frozen peas into a medium bowl and thaw them by pouring water over to cover. Set them aside to defrost.
  2. Combine the veggie ham, onions, peppers, the 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, garlic, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and oregano in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Set aside.
  3. Combine the 1 quart (1 liter) of water, soymilk, salt, and curry powder in a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan and bring them to a boil over high heat, uncovered. Watch carefully to prevent a messy boil-over. Add the cornmeal and lower the heat to medium high. Boil gently, stirring frequently for about 10 to 12 minutes for the medium cornmeal, or 15 to 25 minutes for the coarse grind cornmeal. The polenta should have thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal.
  4. Stir the cooked vegetables and ham into the polenta. Drain the defrosted peas thoroughly and gently stir them into the polenta. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spoon the polenta into the ring mold and refrigerate it for 1 hour to firm.
  5. To warm the polenta, cover the ring mold with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and place it in a cold oven at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 15 to 20 minutes. Unmold the polenta onto an attractive serving dish and intersperse the herb sprigs and tomato slices around the outer edge.


A pungent sweet-and-sour accompaniment adds welcome flavor balance to the savory polenta. With pears still in abundance throughout the spring, this festive Easter menu enjoys the addition of a tasty chutney dotted with raisins and laced with fresh ginger. The chutney is a good keeper and can be prepared several days ahead and refrigerated.

Chutney

PEAR AND RAISIN CHUTNEY

    Yield: about 3 cups (720 ml)

    3 Bosc, Anjou, or other firm pears

    1 cup (240 ml) organic sugar
    1 cup (240 ml) apple cider vinegar
    1/4 cup (60 ml) black raisins
    1/4 cup (60 ml) golden raisins
    3 cloves garlic cut in half lengthwise
    1-inch (2.5 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne

  1. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems. Cut the pears into crosswise slices 1/4-inch (.5 cm) thick and put them into a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring them to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-high and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool completely before refrigerating.

NOTE: For a sweeter chutney, add 1/4 cup (60 ml) additional organic sugar.


With the complexity of bringing together a festive meal, you will value the simplicity of this dish that has hidden rewards: Great flavor and quick preparation. The earthiness of the garlic, cooked briefly with the tomatoes, adds such pleasing flavors you'll welcome this easy recipe into your repertoire and enjoy it often.

QUICK 'N' TASTY BEANS

    Yield: 6 servings

    1 3/4 pounds (790g) Roma tomatoes, chopped
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water
    6 cloves garlic, minced

    2 1-pound (450g) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
    Salt and pepper

  1. Combine the tomatoes, water, and garlic in a large, deep skillet and cook and stir over high heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beans to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook 5 to 6 minutes longer to blend the flavors.


At the end of a hearty meal, those inevitable sweet cravings seem to arrive without fail. But you can be ready to pass these delicious fruit and nut confections in an instant. Prepare them up to a week or two in advance, refrigerate them, and they'll be ready the moment your guests ask, "Where's dessert?" Stored in a covered, airtight container in the refrigerator, the bonbons keep well for two to three weeks.

Pistachio Peanut Bonbons is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet; Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

Pistachio Peanut Bonbons

PISTACHIO PEANUT BONBONS

    Yield: about 20 bonbons

    1/4 cup (60 ml) coarsely chopped raw pistachios or chopped salted peanuts

    1 cup (240 ml) chopped pitted prunes
    3/4 cup (180 ml) Fearn's Soya Powder*
    1/2 cup (120 ml) chunky natural peanut butter
    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
    2 tablespoons vegan carob or chocolate chips, chopped

  1. Place the chopped pistachios in a bowl and set them aside.
  2. Combine the prunes, soya powder, peanut butter, maple syrup, and carob chips in a large bowl and mix well. You'll be employing a little muscle power when the mixture becomes thick, but it's important to distribute the bonbon ingredients evenly
  3. Roll the bonbon mixture into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Dip one side into the reserved chopped pistachios and place them on an attractive serving dish or store them in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

*Soya powder is made from soy flour that has been cooked. The texture is lighter and finer than soy flour and leaves no aftertaste.

VARIATION: Pistachio Peanut Bonbon Log

Spread a piece of waxed paper, about 25-inches (65 cm) long, horizontally on the countertop. Spoon the bonbon mixture onto the waxed paper and form a log, about 18-inches (45 cm) long and 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches (2.5 cm to 3.5 cm) in diameter.

Sprinkle the surface with the reserved pistachios and roll the bonbon mixture to press the pistachios into the bonbon log.

Fold over the waxed paper to cover the log and twist the ends to seal it tightly. Wrap the bonbon log in plastic wrap to retain the moisture and chill for several hours or overnight.

To serve the Pistachio Peanut Bonbon Log, unwrap it and cut it into slices 1/4- to 3/8-inch thick (.5 cm to .7cm). Refrigerated, the bonbon log keeps well for 2 to 3 weeks. Makes about 15 to 20 slices.



**********************



PASSOVER SEDER

Passover, or Pesach, commemorates the many years that Jews were slaves in Egypt and the series of dramatic events that led to the Jews' exodus from Egypt three thousand years ago. The Passover Seder, celebrated by Jewish people all over the world, is a re-telling of their story and revolves around foods that symbolize each of the momentous occurrences during the Jews slavery. Passover begins at sundown on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan on the Jewish lunar calendar. The Passover Seder is celebrated on the first and second nights of the eight-day holiday.

Friends and family gather around the table to recreate the historic event with ritual foods, prayers, and songs. The Passover Seder mentions freedom often, and recognizes that even today, many people in the world wish to be free, yet still struggle for their freedom.

Haggadah Many consider the holiday a somewhat bittersweet occasion. On the one hand they remember the struggle their ancestors experienced living in a hostile land under the rule of a cruel Pharaoh. On the sweeter side is the joyous feeling the Jews expressed when they were finally free and able to establish their lives in Israel.

On every Seder table is the ritual Seder plate. Traditionally, a roasted lamb bone representing the Paschal lamb that the ancients sacrificed for this holiday has its place on the plate. Vegans, however, spare the lamb and roast a beet or a "Paschal yam."

In place of the roasted egg that symbolizes life, they may use a roasted or boiled potato or a mushroom. Horseradish, a bitter herb, represents the bitter life of the Jews in Egypt, while charoset, a sweet tasting mixture of grated apples, chopped walnuts, wine, and sweetening represents the mortar the enslaved Jews used to build the pyramids.

Greens such as parsley, watercress, or lettuce are dipped in salt water and eaten to symbolize hope and renewal that the spring season brought to the Jews when Moses led them into their new land of Israel. Matzoh, the cracker-like bread eaten during the week of Passover, represents the unleavened bread the Jews took with them when they hurriedly left Egypt. The matzoh is the only bread eaten during the Passover holiday.

Wine, symbolic of redemption, is an important part of the Seder ritual with the cup refilled four times during the service. Though wine is traditionally served at every Jewish ceremony, many vegans prefer to partake of the fruit of the vine in the form of pure grape juice.

Especially appealing to the children is the hunt for the afikomen, a piece of matzoh that the head of the Passover service hides some time during the meal. After dinner, the hunt commences, sending children scurrying all over the house to see who can find it. The enticement is a small gift or money presented to the one who finds the hidden afikomen treasure first.

Finally, after the ceremonial Seder service that can last an hour or more, the long-anticipated dinner is served. The traditional meal begins with chicken soup and matzoh balls. But, as you've no doubt guessed, vegans spare the chicken and, instead, opt for Mock Chicken Soup, a richly flavored, homemade vegetable broth. The ideally feather-light Matzoh Balls are often a subject of teasing when they turn out leaden-weighted. The eggless vegan version averts the teasing and, instead, earns praises for its light-as-a-feather texture.

The traditional entrée is usually roasted chicken or roasted brisket. Once again, we depart from tradition and choose a hearty Almond Nutloaf with robustly seasoned Tomato Herb Gravy as the festive centerpiece. The wholesome nutloaf combines onions, potatoes, and nuts and pairs them with the zesty flavors of garlic, herbs, and a hint of cayenne.

Passover foods typically celebrate spring and renewal with generous portions of colorful vegetables. With a platter of Spring Green Veggie Medley we celebrate spring's bounty that brings visual appeal, crunch, and pleasing balance to the meal.

A bright saffron color takes its place on the plate with the Carrot and Parsnip Ragout that blends such pleasing flavors it needs no special seasonings. The traditional Seder meal almost always includes a matzoh kugel, a sweet or savory pudding usually made with noodles or potatoes. Our present-day version is the Fruited Matzoh Kugel with Prunes, Apricots, and Raisins flavored with cinnamon and ginger but without the customary eggs.

In many households the Charoset, or apple relish, is so favored it remains on the table as a dinner accompaniment. As Jews settled in various parts of the globe, they brought the cuisines of those countries into their traditional dishes. The Charoset presented here is a Sephardic version that differs from the typical Ashkenazic recipe.

The finishing touch is always an abundance of sweet treats. In place of the typical Passover sponge cake that calls for a dozen eggs, or the macaroons made with egg whites, a healthy vegan option places Poached Pears in Wine Sauce at the top of the list. Accompanying the pears is a platter of Medjool Dates and giant Sultana Raisins.

One last symbolic ritual signals the end of the Passover Seder celebration. At the beginning of the Seder, a single cup of wine for the prophet Elijah takes its place in the center of the table. When the meal is over, one of the children is asked to open the door for Elijah to enter and drink from the cup of wine. This tradition is especially intriguing to children as they stare at the cup to see if the invisible Elijah has made some of the wine disappear.

PASSOVER DINNER

Passover Menu Recipes Below

Soup
Mock Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls

Ceremonial Accompaniment
Charoset (Apple Relish)

Entreé
Almond Nutloaf with Tomato Herb Gravy
Spring Green Veggie Medley
Carrot and Parsnip Ragout
Fruited Matzoh Kugel

Dessert
Poached Pears in Wine Sauce
Medjool Dates and Sultana Raisins


Think Jewish cooking and the dish that often comes to mind is chicken soup. It's so embedded into the cuisine that it's almost synonymous with Jewish cooking, but not so for vegan Jewish cuisine. Our Passover mock chicken soup gleans its great flavor from a blast of fresh vegetables that infuses the broth with goodness worth gorging on.

MOCK CHICKEN SOUP

    Yield: about 10 1/2 cups (2.5 liters)

    8 dried shiitake mushrooms
    3 cups (720 ml) boiling water

    5 medium carrots, sliced
    2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
    1 parsnip, coarsely chopped
    3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    10 cups (2.5 liters) water
    2 bunches green onions, trimmed
    1 potato, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
    1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
    1 clove garlic, sliced
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon thyme
    1/2 teaspoon marjoram

    Salt and pepper
    Onion powder (optional)
    2 carrots, sliced

  1. Place the shiitake mushrooms into a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over them, and set them aside to soak for 45 to 60 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the carrots, onions, parsnip, celery, 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, and olive oil into a large stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.
  3. Add the 10 cups of water, green onions, potatoes, ginger, garlic, salt, thyme and marjoram to the stockpot. Snip off and discard the stems from the shiitake mushrooms, and slice the mushrooms thinly. Add them to stockpot along with strained soak water.
  4. Cover the stockpot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer about 45 to 50 minutes.
  5. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or strainer, pressing on them to extract all the liquid. Discard the vegetables or reserve them for another purpose.
  6. Season the soup to taste with salt, pepper, and onion powder, if desired, and add the sliced carrots. Simmer about 5 to 7 minutes to soften the carrots and serve.


Creating vegan matzoh balls for Passover poses quite a culinary challenge. The traditional ingredient that binds the mixture together is egg. Vegans usually rely on egg replacer that works perfectly for many baked items. However, although egg replacer is kosher, it is not kosher for Passover.

A logical alternative is to bind the mixture with tofu, a very untraditional ingredient in Passover cooking. Tofu, derived from soybeans, is an ideal binder in many recipes, but is not able to live up to its reputation when the matzoh balls are boiled. The only solution is to bake them. Voila! Vegan Matzoh Balls! Many Rabbis accept the use of legumes for Passover when they are altered from their original form, such as when they are mashed. The matzoh balls can be prepared a day or two ahead and refrigerated.

MATZOH BALLS

    Yield: about 14 matzoh balls

    1/2 cup (120 ml) matzoh meal
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper

    6 tablespoons water
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil

    1/3 cup (80 ml) well mashed firm tofu

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Gas Mark 6) and have ready a well-oiled baking sheet or line it with parchment.
  2. Combine the matzoh meal, salt, onion powder, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the water and vegetable oil and mix well.
  3. Add the mashed tofu, mix the batter thoroughly, and refrigerate it for 15 minutes.
  4. Form the matzoh ball batter into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 30 minutes. Cool the matzoh balls completely, then refrigerate them.
  5. Next day, gently warm the soup and add the matzoh balls to each soup bowl just before serving.
Note: You'll notice the baked matzoh balls are not round like the traditional boiled "dumplings" and take on a totally different textural character. Yet, they are a delicious addition to the Mock Chicken Soup.


Charoset, or apple relish, symbolizes the mortar used to secure each stone the Jews used when building the pyramids while enslaved in Egypt. While the European Ashkenazic-style charoset is usually a simple combination of apples, sweet wine, and walnuts, the Sephardic Jews from Spain and the Middle East enhance their relish with a variety of dried fruits, dates, cinnamon, and sweetening. Here we offer an irresistible recipe that follows the Sephardic tradition with one exception--this recipe is wine-free and uses grape juice made kosher for Passover instead. This Sephardic combination is so tasty and nutritious it ought to be enjoyed throughout the year. Serve it as a sweet accompaniment to any savory meal. If you prefer to follow the ages-old tradition and use wine instead of grape juice, measure the same proportion as the grape juice.

Apple Relish is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

Charoset

CHAROSET (APPLE RELISH)

    Yield: about 3 1/2 cups (840 ml).

    1 large crisp, sweet red apple, unpeeled
    1 large green apple, unpeeled

    2/3 cup (160 ml) sweet Concord grape juice
    1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped dates
    1/3 cup (80 ml) diced dried peaches or apricots
    1/3 cup (80 ml) golden raisins
    1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced almonds
    1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped walnuts
    1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    Organic sugar

  1. Core and finely chop or coarsely shred the apples into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and sweeten with organic sugar to taste.
  2. Refrigerate the relish and allow it to marinate for 4 to 12 hours. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, Charoset will keep for three to five days.


A special occasion entrée is usually a little fussier than an everyday family-style dish, but I'm betting on no regrets once you've tasted this scrumptious nutloaf that's especially attractive when baked in a springform pan. For convenience, prepare it a day ahead, cover it with aluminum foil, and reheat it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Then present this majestic nutloaf with a delicious, savory, and charismatic Tomato Herb Gravy that brings a special vigor to the dish.

Almond Nutloaf is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

Almond Nutloaf

ALMOND NUTLOAF

    Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    1 pound (450g) russet potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely cut into chunks

    2 medium onions, coarsely chopped, divided
    3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
    2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
    Water

    2 cups (480 ml) whole almonds

    1/3 cup (80 ml) walnuts
    1/3 cup (80 ml) pecans

    4 medium tomatoes, diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) matzoh meal
    1/4 cup (60 ml) tomato paste
    4 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 or 2 pinches cayenne (optional)

    Garnish
    1 or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
    1 bunch fresh dill, basil, or parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Gas Mark 5) and line a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan with parchment cut 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pan. Snap the collar back on and lightly oil the sides. Cut away the excess parchment with scissors. Put the springform pan on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Put the potatoes in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and add 1/4 of the onions. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and water to cover. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, put the remaining onions in a food processor and pulse-chop until they are finely minced. Transfer them to a large skillet and add about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened.
  4. Put the almonds in a food processor and process until they are finely ground, yet slightly textured. Transfer them to a large bowl.
  5. Process the walnuts and pecans in the food processor until they are finely ground, yet slightly textured. Add them to the bowl with the almonds.
  6. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Transfer them to a medium bowl and mash them thoroughly. Add the onions and the mashed potatoes to the bowl with the nuts.
  7. Add the tomatoes, matzoh meal, tomato paste, garlic, remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil, thyme, marjoram, pepper, and optional cayenne to the bowl. Mix the ingredients thoroughly to distriute the seasonings evenly.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan, packing the mixture firmly with a spoon or your hands to avoid air pockets.
  9. Arrange the diced tomatoes over top and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Place the springform pan on a large serving platter. Loosen the edges of the loaf with a knife and lift off the springform collar. Garnish the platter with fresh herbs. To serve, cut the nutloaf into wedges and serve as is or with Tomato Herb Gravy on the side.


A few handy sauces in your repertoire can earn a pack of goody points when it comes time to prop up a dish or when you just want to add touch of enhancement. A sauce with a tomato base does wonders for many dishes and one that's infused with dried herbs bestows the sauce with a welcome complexity.

TOMATO HERB GRAVY

    Yield: about 3 1/4 cups (780 ml)

    3 cups ((720 ml) water
    3 medium size Roma tomatoes, diced
    2 large cloves garlic, crushed
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder

    1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
    1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
    Salt and pepper

    2 tablespoons arrowroot or potato starch
    2 tablespoons water

  1. Combine the water, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, and onion powder in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan.
  2. Create a bouquet garni by placing the rosemary, thyme, and sage into the center of a small piece of cheesecloth. Then gather up the ends to enclose the herbs, and tie it securely with a string. Add the bouquet garni to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and simmer about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and discard it. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine the arrowroot and water in a small cup or bowl and stir it well to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the gently simmering tomato gravy a little at a time stirring with a wire whip for about 1 minute, or until the gravy is thickened to desired consistency. Cook one minute longer and season with salt and pepper.


An appealing medley of spring vegetables, this quick stir-fry works best when all the vegetables are prepared before starting to cook. If you choose to use the dried shiitake mushrooms, plan ahead to soak them in very warm water for 1 hour before cooking them. Cut off and discard the tough shiitake stems after soaking them.

SPRING GREEN VEGGIE MEDLEY

    Yield: 6 servings

    1 pound (450g) asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) lengths
    1 bunch bok choy, chopped
    2 broccoli crowns, chopped
    1 large onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
    1 red bell pepper, chopped
    1/2 pound (225g) cremini mushrooms, sliced
    1/4 pound (110g) fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced or 2 ounces (56g) dried
    2 tablespoons water
    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    Salt and pepper

    Garnish
    1 medium carrot

  1. Combine the asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, water, and olive oil in a large deep skillet and cook and stir over high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook 1 minute longer. Spoon the vegetable medley into an attractive serving bowl.
  3. To garnish, peel the carrot and use the vegetable peeler or a stripper to slice a long strip of carrot from top to bottom. Form the carrot strip into a free-form curl and place it in the center of the bowl.


When you want a brilliant accent of color, you can count on this appealing combo of root vegetables. It's the ideal marriage--both partners are endowed with natural sweetness and contribute perfect balance to the festive Passover Seder dinner.

Carrot Parsnip Ragout

CARROT AND PARSNIP RAGOUT

    Yield: 6 servings

    4 large carrots, sliced
    4 large parsnips, sliced
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water

    Salt and pepper
    Dash of nutmeg

  1. Combine the carrots, parsnips, and water in a 3-quart (3 liter) saucepan. Cover the pan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to low and steam the vegetables about 5 to 7 minutes or until they are fork tender.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked carrots and parsnips to the food processor. Add 1/2 to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) of the cooking water and process to a smooth puree, adding more water if needed. Season the ragout with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.


The ancient merchants traveled countless miles to bring exotic spices from distant lands to the people of Europe. While we consider spices like cinnamon and ginger fairly common today, we reap their delicious benefits in dishes like kugel that comes to life with the treasures of the silk route merchants. With its delicate spices and fruity ingredients this festive kugel adds the ideal sweet touch to the Passover meal. To ease the many preparations surrounding the Passover Seder, prepare the kugel the day before and simply reheat it, starting in a cold oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Though tofu is not considered a typical Passover food in the Ashkenazic tradition, many Rabbis accept the use of legumes for Passover when they are altered from their original form, such as when they are mashed. In this recipe, the vegan approach of using mashed tofu forms the ideal binder in place of the traditional eggs.

Fruited Matzoh Kugel

FRUITED MATZOH KUGEL

    Yield: about 5 to 6 servings

    3 matzohs
    Boiling water

    2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and coarsely grated
    2/3 cup (160 ml) well mashed firm tofu
    1/4 cup (60 ml) organic sugar
    1/4 cup (60 ml) black raisins
    8 pitted prunes, chopped
    8 dried apricots, chopped
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) and lightly oil a 9-inch (23 cm) spring-form pan or an 8-inch (20 cm) glass baking pan.
  2. Break the matzohs into small pieces and put them into a large bowl. Soften the matzohs by pouring boiling water over them and immediately drain off all the water.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the matzos and mix well to distribute all the fruits and spices evenly.
  4. Spoon the kugel mixture into the prepared spring-form pan and use the back of the spoon to spread the mixture evenly in the pan.
  5. Bake the kugel for 1 hour, or until the top is lightly browned around the edges. Cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan to release the kugel before removing the springform collar. Place the springform base on an attractive serving platter and cut the kugel into wedges with a serrated cake knife.


No matter how hard one tries to simplify the Passover menu, the meal invariably turns out to be labor-intensive with its numerous symbolic foods and traditional dishes. Go easy on the family chef, lavish well-deserved praise, and complete the ceremonial meal with a light, quickly prepared, wholesome dessert to conclude the evening's festivities.

To add the finishing touch to the sweet course, fill the outside of a an attractive serving platter with medjool dates and place a generous quantity of giant sultana raisins into the center.

Poached Pears

POACHED PEARS IN WINE SAUCE

    Yield: 6 servings

    6 firm Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled and cored, stems left on

    1 cup (240 ml) kosher dry red wine
    3/4 cup (180 ml) organic sugar
    1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice

    1 stick cinnamon
    4 whole allspice berries
    2 whole cloves
    1 slice crystallized ginger, chopped

    1 tablespoon arrowroot
    1 tablespoon water

    3/4 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (Gas Mark 3) and have ready an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking pan. Arrange the pears in the baking pan and set it aside.
  2. Combine the wine, organic sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and ginger in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and bring them to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and gently simmer for 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Combine the arrowroot and water in a small cup or bowl and stir to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the gently simmering sauce and stir for 1 minute, or until the sauce is lightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the pears and sprinkle the raisins into the sauce. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil, shiny side down.
  4. Place the pears into the oven and poach them for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they are fork tender. Serve the pears warm or chilled. To serve, place a pear into each dessert bowl and spoon some of the sauce along with the raisins over them.



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