Vegetarian fare for Passover? You bet! Writer Elizabeth Bauchner shares her non-traditional menu ideas for this festive holiday.
An update on the traditional Seder
In my home, the Jewish holiday Passover, or Pesach, brings together an eclectic mix of friends and family for a not-so-traditional Seder. Sure, we read the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt in the Haggadah. We drink the requisite four glasses of wine (grape juice for the kiddos). And my in-laws recite the correct Hebrew prayers at the correct time (not always easy to do after the third glass of wine). What's not so traditional is the vegetarian menu (oh, and the fact that I'm not Jewish!).
As always, the Seder table is set with candles, flowers, bowls of salt water and a haggadah for each person. Wine is poured for each guest, and a cup of wine is set out for Elijah. A plate with three Matzot, covered, is placed on the table. The centerpiece is the Seder Plate. Traditionally, the Seder Plate contains Maror (bitter herbs such as grated horseradish), Karpas (vegetable such as celery), Chazeret (bitter vegetable such as Romaine lettuce), Charoset (apple, nut, spice and wine mixture), Zeroa (shank bone) and Beitzah (egg).
Because there are vegetarians in the family, our Seder Plate has one minor break from tradition. Instead of the shank bone, symbolizing the sacrificial lamb, we place a long, skinny yam. My mother-in-law says that we replace the Pascal Lamb with the Pascal Yam. Vegans may also wish to replace the roasted egg. Some people replace the bone and egg with olives and grapes, or a beet and avocado seed. Other vegetarians have even used papier mache models.
I won't go into detail here about what comprises a Seder, or try to explain the history and story of Passover. If you're interested in learning more, there are many websites that can teach you all about this eight-day holiday (see www.holidays.net/passover or www.passover.net to start). For an excellent vegetarian Seder menu, however, read on.
Vegetarian Seder menu
During the first part of our family Seder, we eat the vegetable on the Seder plate dipped in salt water, matzoh, the bitter herbs, and hard-boiled eggs and potatoes. We also eat the charoset with matzoh and bitter herbs. We usually skip an "appetizer" and go right to the festive meal, but you may want to try the Kishke. It looks good!
Vegetarian Seder recipes
Stuffed kishke recipe
Vegetarian Matzoh ball soup recipe
Serves 8 to 10
For the Matzoh balls, purchase a Matzoh Ball mix at the store and follow directions on box. Add to soup before serving.
To make vegetable stock: simmer vegetable scraps (such as onion peels, carrot tops, mushroom stems, celery tops) in water for 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Strain into bowl. Can be used immediately or frozen for later use.
Vegetable nut loaf recipe
Oven roasted potatoes recipe
Beet, carrot and cabbage medley
Serves 4 to 6
No-bake chocolate matzoh roll recipe with berry garnish
Serves 10 to 12
This dessert is very rich and a little goes a long way!
In a large mixing bowl, beat margarine until fluffy. Add chocolate mixture, beating well. Stir in matzoh and nuts.
Place a piece of wax paper about two feet long on your work surface. Use a long spoon to shape a mass about 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the wax paper around it and shape it into a cylinder. Tuck the ends under, place it on a plate, and refrigerate at least 3 hours until firm.
After it's chilled for at least 3 hours, melt the glaze ingredients together. Unwrap the roll, pour the glaze over it, and chill again. To serve, arrange on platter surrounded by berries. Slice with a serrated knife.
A women's Seder
My mother-in-law, Susan Bauchner, occasionally gathers with other women for a women's Seder. During their celebration, they tell the following story, which has been circulating for several years. No one knows for sure if it's real or Jewish feminist myth. At any rate, it's become a tradition for us, and one, I believe, worth continuing.
"Among the symbolic foods on our Seder plate is an orange. It has special meaning for women's Seders. In the days when women were just beginning to become rabbis, scholar Susannah Heschel was traveling in Florida, the land of oranges. One night she spoke at a synagogue about the emerging equality of women in Jewish life -- as rabbis, teachers and students of Torah, synagogue presidents and in all other ways. After she spoke, a man rose in wrath, red with fury, and said, 'A woman belongs on the bimah [altar] as much as bread belongs on the Seder plate!'"
"'No,' said our sister Susannah, 'The teachings of women do not violate the tradition, but rather renew it. Women bring to the bimah what an orange would bring to the Seder plate. Transformation, not transgression.' The orange on our Seder plate is a symbol that women belong wherever Jews carry on sacred life."
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