I used to follow football and some how I’ve drifted away from it in recent years. However, I’m still a bandwagon Superbowl enthusiast. I don’t even need to watch the game, I usually just come for the food. What can I say, I just love foods that encourage you to eat with your fingers, and Superbowl parties tend to offer that opportunity.
Right now, I’m basically just using this Sunday’s Superbowl 50 game with the Panthers vs the Broncos as an excuse to finally post a new recipe for spinach and artichoke dip. This is one that I came up with over Christmas. It was a huge hit at a gathering I hosted so I promised that I would share the recipe. Though the party was filled with all vegan guests, every single one of them said that if they didn’t know the dip was vegan they would have seriously questioned it.
While not as healthy as my other spinach and artichoke dip, this one is super satisfying and very reminiscent of classic cheesy dips. It’s the perfect dip to share with your omnivore friends, on special occasions, of course.
This recipe utilizes some of my favorite non-dairy cheese substitutes, but if you can’t find these particular brands, or have your own favorites, feel free to substitute. For mozzarella, I use Follow Your Heart’s soy free Vegan Gourmet Shreds, which can be found at Whole Foods Markets, Follow Your Heart Market in Canoga Park, CA, as well as other natural foods stores. My favorite vegan cream cheese is Kite Hill, which can found exclusively at Whole Foods Markets.
Spinach artichoke dip
Serves 8 to 12 people Ingredients 2 bags spinach, chopped and wilted
2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
½ cup Cashews, soaked
½ cup water
4 Oz vegan cream cheese*
3/4 cup vegan mozzarella shreds, divided
4 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
Dash cayenne, or more to taste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1. Rinse spinach under cool water, drain, but leave damp. Add to a pan over medium heat, cover until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Squeeze out as much water as possible with the back of a spoon and set aside in a mixing bowl.
2. Combine 1/2 cup mozzarella shreds, along with remaining ingredients, except spinach and artichoke, in a blender and process until smooth.
3. Pour mixture over the spinach in the mixing bowl. Add in artichokes and remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella. Stir well to combine.
4. Transfer to a 8 inch casserole dish, or a bread bowl. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Mixture should thicken slightly.
*If you cannot find vegan cream cheese, or prefer not to use it, sub with an extra 1/4 cup of cashews and 2 Tablespoons water or non-dairy milk.
Eggplant Parmesan has been one of my favorite dishes for as long as I can remember. It has a lot to do with growing up as a vegetarian in New York City where eggplant parm sandwiches are in abundant supply. That ooey, gooey, saucy, cheesy sandwich was often a go to option for me, with it’s oily fried eggplant slices stuffed into a perfectly toasted Italian roll that excelled at its job of soaking up a sweet marinara sauce and holding the lightly charred mozzarella cheese in its place. If I went out for a “fancier” Italian dinner, I ordered the eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. It was also one of my grandma’s go to orders and we’d often end up splitting or taking bites from the other’s plate on the rare occasions either of us ordered something else.
Of course while the taste was above and beyond measure, so were the calories. I couldn’t even fathom eating something as decadent as that now. But, since I like to reminisce about past favorites, and it is eggplant season, I just had to create a healthier version of this New York classic.
For this healthier vegan eggplant parmesan, I ditch the breadcrumbs, making it naturally gluten free, and opt to bake the eggplant instead of frying it. For a little extra oomph factor, I add in a simple basil pistou, but since this is the oiliest part of the dish, it may be omitted. There are a lot of components that go into making the final dish, but the sauces are actually all very simple to make and each contains only a small handful of ingredients. To make it even simpler, and eliminate one step, you can use a pre-made jarred tomato sauce.
1 large eggplant, about 1 pound
olive oil for brushing, or spray
3 packed cups basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Sundried Tomato Sauce
1/2 Cup sundried tomatoes, soaked (liquid reserved)
1 cup tomato puree
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic
reserved soaking water as needed
Nut Cheese Sauce
1/2 Cup cashews and macadamia nuts (or other combo), soaked
3/4 Cup water, or more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, depending on how much tang you want
1 teaspoon miso
1. Cut eggplant into rounds about 3/4″ thick. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt to draw out bitterness. Leave for at least 10 minutes. Pat with paper towel. Arrange on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush both sides with oil. Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes, flipping half way through. You want them to be easy to cut with a fork, but firm enough to not fall apart.
2. While eggplant is cooking, prepare sauces.
Pulse garlic, salt and basil in a food processor a few times to chop. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until combined. Adjust seasoning.
Sundried Tomato Sauce
Place everything in a blender, except reserved soaking water and blend until smooth, adding soaking water little by little until desired consistency is reached. Set aside and rinse out blender.
Nut Cheese Sauce
If you have a high speed blender, you only have to soak the nuts for a minimum of 10 minutes, in warm water. For lower speed blenders, soak 8 hours or overnight for a creamier texture. Add all the ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
3. Assemble Eggplant Parm.
Top eggplant slices with tomato sauce, drizzle cheese sauce, bake 5 minutes. Top with pesto. Layer 3 or 4 on top of each other, if desired. Serve as is with a side of greens or a fresh salad, or layer into a toasty piece of (gluten free) bread.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen corn making its way into the grocery stores and farmers market, and have caught a few glimpses of okra as well. The okra is a little early as it usually comes into peak season around August or early September, but seeing it alongside corn inspired me to take advantage of this colliding of the seasons.
Succotash isn’t something I regularly eat these days, but I hold a fondness of it from childhood.
If you’ve never had or heard of succotash, it is a traditional Native American dish typically made with corn and lima beans or other shell beans, and may be combined with a variety of other summer ingredients like peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes. The name is derived from the indigenous people from Narragansett (now Rhode Island) who referred to m’sickquatash, meaning “boiled whole ear of corn”, or something along those lines.
Naturally vegan and gluten free, Succotash is typically a side dish, but may be transformed into a hearty entree with beans.
When making succotash with okra, I find the best flavor and texture comes from pan searing the okra first. This okra cooking technique helps to cut down on the slime you may get if you stir your okra too much or allow it to be exposed to too much moisture while sautéing.
Summer Succotash with Okra
Serves 2 – 4.
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound okra, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 or 2 ears corn, kernels cut off and cobs
8 ounces fresh beans (baby lima beans,
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pint), halved
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Pan sear okra until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. Heat remaining olive oil in pan and add onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in corn, jalapeno, fresh beans, and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.
3. Return okra to pan stir in vinegar. Remove from heat, add basil, salt, and pepper, and adjust seasonings, to taste. Serve.
With a quick stop over in Istanbul, Jacques and I hopped on board Celestyal Crystal for a six day cruise through the Greek Islands. It was my first time on a cruise and while I didn’t love everything about the experience, I am glad we chose to spend our honeymoon like this. It was a great opportunity to sample the islands, so to speak, to discover which we would like to visit again sometime for a longer stretch of time.
It had always been a dream of mine to visit Greece. I grew up reading a lot of Greek mythology so it was a place that has always been near and dear to my heart. I always joke with Jacques that the reason I started dating him was because his Greek ancestry meant we’d get to go there to visit extended family. Of course, while we enjoyed the gorgeous views and were impressed by ancient ruins, my favorite part was all of the incredible food!
We ate mostly traditional taverna style food, which is more of the home cooking style, so it meant a lot of the same dishes, prepared in slightly different ways. On the islands, this was the easiest way to eat vegan. Most menus are traditionally heavy on the vegetables, and in many cases where the dishes do contain yogurt or cheese, you can often request for it to not be added.
Our first island stop was Santorini, known for its picturesque views, its coastline is the most photographed place in all of Greece and often considered the most beautiful place in the world. I don’t disagree.
After a tour of the island, with a visit to the adorable village of Oia, we arrived in the capital city of Fira, perched upon the cliffside. We perused the menus of a few restaurants, with our attentions caught most by the tomato fritters and the fava puree with caramelized onions offered by Archipelagos.
We were not disappointed. We started with bread and olives; a pillowy soft bread served with delicate olives, large salty capers, and flavorful sundried tomatoes. The tomato fritters were one of the best things we ate our entire trip. Flavored with dill, parsley and capers, fried to light, fluffy perfection, with just the slightest hint of creaminess in the middle created by undercooked flour. My goal is to figure out how to recreate these at home, though I know it will be difficult as the famed Santorini baby tomatoes are what really make them unique. The fava bean puree was delightful and the salad was the perfect companion, crisp lettuce and spinach, smoky mushrooms, sweet bell peppers and a tangy lemon caper dressing.
Our next island stop was Crete, where we enjoyed the most amazing culinary experience, and possibly one of the best meals of our life. We started out on an adventure from the Port of Agios Nikolaos to the town of Neapoli in pursuit of olive oil tasting at Vassilakis Estate.
At Vassilakis Estate, we sampled and bought some of their award winning olive oil and left with a great tip on a place to grab lunch back in Agios Nikolaos, called Portes. We arrived at Portes, a tiny, vibrantly painted taverna, slightly off the beaten path of the super touristy port area and were greeted by the smiling, friendly owner and chef extraordinaire, Manolis.
Manolis escorted us to a table (we were the only ones in the restaurant at the time), and per our request, promptly served us an ouzo and a glass of white wine straight from the barrel. We told him we heard he makes wonderful food and informed him of our dietary restrictions. “No problem at all!” he said, then headed to the kitchen without ever showing us a menu or taking our order. Shortly after, he emerged with a few plates of food – boiled greens (Horta), stuffed eggplant (Imam Bayilidi) and rice with lentils (Moujendra). We dug in, wide eyed and thrilled as each bite tasted even better than the last.
Manolis emerged again with several more dishes, potatoes and zucchini (Briami), artichoke with peas in lemon dill sauce (Agkinares me Araka), black eyed peas with fennel (Mavromatika me Maratho). Again, each dish was better than the last and we were in awe of how amazing everything tasted.
We don’t know how we managed it, but we definitely joined the clean plate club.
I told Manolis that if I had more time in Crete, I would spend at least a day in his kitchen to learn from him the wonders of making delicious Greek cuisine.
After Crete, we cruised over to Symi (there may have been a stop or two in between, but truthfully, I’ve lost track of our days!). We didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend in Symi, just enough to enjoy an evening stroll around the port and take in a meal around sunset. We settled on a cute, family owned spot called To Spitiko because of its sweet hostess who walked us through the appealing menu. We ordered a variety of dishes, and welcomed the beginning of our obsession with Giant Beans (Gigantes).
Our last island stop before heading to the mainland was Mykonos. We got to Mykonos just before sunset so after walking around for a little bit, we scoped out a prime spot along the famed Little Venice for a drink and a beautiful view.
Once the sun was down, we ventured into the small winding streets of Mykonos Town, getting lost at every turn as one is apt to do when wandering there. Tired of getting turned around at every corner and hungry to the point of tummies rumbling and early onset crankiness, we decided to settle for dinner at the next veg friendly place we came upon. Opa Tavern was the winner because it was packed and lively, and had food we could eat. The food was acceptable, but certainly not in the top list of favorite meals.
The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market has been brimming lately with vibrant colors of a new season of produce. The sweet and cooling fruits and vegetables of summer are becoming abundant and inviting.
On my last visit to the market, I was drawn in by glowing baskets of sunshine at the Tutti Frutti Farms booth. In late winter, early spring I always stop at this particular farm to stock up on their sweet and flavorful carrots. Come summer, they are the farm I turn to for juicy, heirloom tomatoes, including the Golden Jubilee tomatoes that inspired this recipe.
Golden Jubilee are a beautiful yellow fleshed tomato with a mild flavor and low acidity. They are great for eating raw, juicing or blending. Roasting brings out their delicate flavor in a different way, which makes it a lovely sauce tomato as well.
This Golden Heirloom Tomato Sauce recipe contains only three ingredients and is incredibly simple to make. Thinning out the sauce also turns the recipe into an exquisite soup as well. If you don’t have access to Golden Jubilee tomatoes, use any heirloom variety for best flavor. Non-heirloom varieties will be more acidic and may require an acid neutralizer like baking soda or sweetener.
Golden Tomato Sauce Ingredients
4 medium golden tomatoes, about 1 pound
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
small bunch fresh basil, chiffonade (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Chop the tomatoes into large chunks. Coat the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Add tomatoes, onions and garlic to the pan, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Cover and roast for 40 minutes, until onions are very soft and juices release from the tomatoes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes to allow the onions and tomatoes to get a little browned on top.
4. Carefully transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a pot and stir in basil, if using. Adjust for seasoning. Reheat, if necessary. Serve with favorite pasta or vegetables, or add vegetable stock, water or non-dairy milk to thin out a little and serve as a delicious vegan cream of tomato soup.
A few weeks ago, Jacques and I traveled to Greece for two and a half weeks to finally celebrate our honeymoon. Before venturing through a majority of the more popular Greek islands, and eventually spending a week on the mainland in Athens, we spent one jam packed day in Istanbul.
Let me start by saying that a day in Istanbul was not nearly enough. We had an amazing time, but even with as much as we crammed into 24 hours, there was so much more we wanted to see and much, much more we wanted to eat. Seriously, I feel like we did not eat nearly enough!
Before we left for our trip, I put together a list of places and things we wanted to eat, but time and location got the better of us and we didn’t even hit up half our list. However, we ended up eating a lot of really good, quick, grab and go street food. We were a little afraid that it would be difficult to eat vegan in Istanbul, but it was actually much easier than we’d expected.
First, let’s start with breakfast at our hotel. We stayed at the lovely Sokullu Pasa Hotel which offers a wonderful spread every morning. Unlike an American continental breakfast, which is laden with sugary cereals and donuts, the Turkish breakfast offered lots of fresh fruits and freshly prepared salads. Fruit jams and olives are also abundant.
After touring some of the sites, including Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sofia, we were ready for a snack. The smell of roasting chestnuts was so enticing, that we had to stop and purchase a small bag to share.
We also grabbed a simit from one of the many vendors selling them; simit is the Turkish version of a pretzel or bagel (look for the seeded variety without the egg wash on top).
I couldn’t resist the lure of fresh pomegranates I saw getting squeezed into juice everywhere I turned, so we decided to stop for a cup to wash down our snacks.
We finished up our snacks, visited a few more sites, including the Blue Mosque (didn’t get to go inside due to Friday prayers) and the Basilica Cistern, nearly got abducted by a friendly gentleman trying to sell us his carpets, then made our way over to the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.
At the spice bazaar, we were greeted by the tantalizing aroma of all different kinds of spices, herbs and teas. Each shop had someone trying to aggressively sell us their Turkish Delight, but we were just browsing and taking it all in before shopping. We stopped in front of a shop called Cikita so that I could admire the saffron, skeptically telling Jacques that something is up for it to be so yellow and so cheap. The salesman overheard and said, “That’s not real saffron, I’ll show you the real saffron.” He took us inside and told us, in a very informative and non-pushy way (a very different experience and vibe than with every other shop), about the different types of saffron they carry. We really liked him, and liked that we didn’t feel like we were being sold to, so we asked him questions about some of the teas, and about their Turkish Delight, also known as lokum.
Up to this point, my experience with Turkish Delight had been way to sweet, gummy candy that tasted like eating roses. He assured us that his were higher quality and offered us samples. Their lokum is made with mastic gum from the Greek island of Chios, lightly sweetened with honey, filled with pistachios, and some of it infused with pure pomegranate juice.We were blown away! This was unlike, and so much better than, any other lokum we’d had. We bought a box to bring to our family in Greece, along with a couple of teas and some pure, top quality Iranian saffron to bring home – red gold at a great price!
Egypt Bazaar, No 18
+90 212 527 32 39
All stocked up on spices and Turkish Delight, we decided to take a walk across the Galata Bridge to the new city, into Taksim Square. Along the way, we stumbled upon a cafe selling Cig Kofte (pronounced chee koftah), which I had read about before our trip and was eager to try.
In a word Cig Kofte is amazing! That is, if you like spicy, which we both love. And thankfully, my stomach has been in good shape and I was able to handle it. We asked over and over to make sure this was vegan because it is listed on the menu as “raw meatball”. This is because it used to be made with raw meat, but the government put a stop to that because of health code regulations. Instead, it’s now a flavorful paste made with bulgur and a blend of tomato and spices. We opted to order it durum style (in a wrap), filled with lettuce and a deliciously sweet and tart pomegranate sauce.
Late in the evening, we finally made it back our hotel in the Sultanahmet district via funicular and metro after about a 3 mile walk through the new city. Thoroughly exhausted from a full day of walking, sight seeing and eating, we decided on a light dinner at a cafe down the street from our hotel. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but there was truthfully nothing all that special about it anyway. We just enjoyed a nice, simple mezze platter to tide us over for the night and get us ready for the next leg of our journey the following day.
My mom was not a cook. I got that love from my dad. My mom did enjoy baking, however. Especially pies. I remember my mom always experimenting with different pie recipes. She even made a Mock Apple Pie once made from Ritz crackers instead of apples. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but it was rather tasty if I recall. Mom would mostly make pumpkin pies, but every now and then, although very rarely, she would whip up a lemon meringue pie.
Back then, I wasn’t the biggest fan of lemon meringue, but I just discovered something this week that was kind of mind blowing. Chickpea meringue! If you follow food trends, this is a hot one right now. It’s one of those things that I heard about, but didn’t believe it could possibly be true. So I had to try it for myself. And it was so cool, that I wanted to share it with you.
If you google “Aquafaba” you’ll see a slew of videos and blog posts singing praise to this amazing discovery. A French man named Joel Roessel discovered that you can whip chickpea water (that’s the slimy stuff you get when you drain a can of chickpeas) into a fluffy cream, identical to the texture and firmness of whipped egg whites. WHAT?!?
With Mother’s Day coming up and vegan meringue being the latest trend, I decided to start experimenting. This is just a teaser – I’m working on a healthier lemon meringue pie recipe in honor of mom. 🙂 First run was okay. It tasted great, but the meringue fell when I took it out of the oven. Going to keep tweaking it though!
In the course of experimentation, I also made (sugar based) meringue cookies, mostly following this recipe from Kelly Paloza (slightly adapted):
1 15 ounce can chickpeas
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Pour the liquid from the can of chickpeas into the bowl of a stand mixer, or use electric hand mixers. Add the cream of tartar. Whip the bean juice with the whisk attachment at high speed until it starts to thicken. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping. This process took me about 5-7 minutes, but it could take up to 15 or 20 minutes.
2. It’s done when the mixture reaches the consistency of thick whipped cream, and stays on a spoon when you hold it upside down.
3. Pipe the cream onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 210 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until firm and very, very lightly browned on top.
Now that you’re intrigued, start saving your chickpea water (aquafaba), dust off your stand mixer with whisk attachment, or your hand mixer, and get playing! I promise you’ll be as impressed as I was. I’m still experimenting and playing around with new recipes that I can’t wait to share.
If you do some playing of your own and come up with anything you’d love to share, email me and I’d love to feature your recipe in my blog and/or next newsletter!
We only have one planet to live on (at least for now) and we’ve got to do a better job taking care of it.
For me, everyday is Earth Day in the choices I make and the actions I take:
consuming a plant-based diet
shopping for locally grown produce
reusing bags when I go to the store
filling up my reusable water bottle
shutting off the water while brushing my teeth or doing dishes
recycling more than I throw away
and so much more!
There’s always more I could be doing, but I like to think that I’m making great efforts to do my small part.
I pulled together some great resources for you to learn more about Earth Day, discover ways in which you can help the planet, and encourage you to consider going vegan, if not for your health and for the animals, then for the Earth.
Drought has been a hot topic here in California as of late, as the state is in its fourth year of consistent severe drought. It’s not just the state of California experiencing problems, however, as nearly half the country is experiencing some form of drought, or abnormal dryness. California’s legislature is urging people on the local level to reduce the amount of water consumption, but we must also look to a larger scale; particularly, consider the effects of animal farming. Many of the resources I list below, show how eating a plant-based/vegan/vegetarian diet, even just one or two days a week, can make a huge impact on our environment.
http://www.cowspiracy.com/ – download and watch the groundbreaking environmental documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret for just $1
Chickpeas are most commonly known as the Hummus Bean, but they are so much more versatile than that. I love using chickpeas for everything from breakfast scrambles to tacos, to burgers, to crispy roasted snack alternatives, and in soups. I’ve yet to try them for dessert as Blondies, or a grain free cookie dough dip, though I’ve seen many of those around the internet. More recently, their liquid has even been used as an egg replacer to make meringue.
The versatile legume is high in protein, fiber, iron, folate and manganese. It supports digestion, cardiovascular health and helps regulate blood sugar. Chickpeas are dense and hearty, but at the same time light enough in flavor to absorb whatever seasonings you add to them.
For this Easy Weeknight Meal, I’ve used chickpeas to create a high protein, vegan curried chickpea salad. It is packed with flavor and crunch from fresh vegetables. Lots of color in the chickpea salad means you are eating the rainbow and covering a full scale of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.
The vegan chickpea salad can be enjoyed with nothing more than a spoon, or use it to top leafy greens, stuff between slices of sandwich bread or roll in a wrap, lettuce, collard or otherwise. However you eat it, have fun with it!
Curried Chickpea Salad
Makes 3 to 4 servings
1/4 Cup diced red onion (optional, soaked in apple cider vinegar and water)
1 1/2 Cups cooked chickpeas (one can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1 Tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons coconut milk, or vegan mayo
1/2 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced small
1/4 Cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: bread, collard wrap, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, or other favorite accompaniments
1. Optional: In a small bowl, submerge diced red onion in 2 parts apple cider vinegar and 1 part water. Let sit for at least half hour; drain and rinse.
2. Using a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind chickpeas until flaky. Transfer to a bowl. You may also use a hand masher instead of food processor for chunkier texture.
2. Add remaining ingredients a mix well with a fork to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.
What’s your favorite way to eat chickpeas? Leave a comment below!
Friday begins Passover, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
I grew up in a half Jewish household, on my dad’s side. What this pretty much means is that we didn’t really celebrate any of the religious aspects of holidays, but we sure embraced much of the food. When Passover rolled around, there were certain items we’d have on hand, as well as dishes that my dad liked to prepare.
For starters, we ALWAYS had Matzo on hand. My family loved Matzo so much, that my parents would even stock up on it when it went on sale after Passover. I don’t even know if I’d be exaggerating to say that we’d still be eating Matzo all the way through Hanukkah.
Another favorite Passover item that could be found in our pantry, (and in the pantry of my Catholic grandmother and great Aunt who were probably getting in touch with their formerly Jewish “Cohen” roots) was macaroons. Man, did I love eating those Manischewitz macaroons. The ones with the tiny chocolate chips were my favorite.
I also loved chugging on Kedem Grape Juice. The flavor is so much richer and sweeter than any other grape juice I’ve ever had. It is way too intense for me now to have any more than a sip, but as a kid, I couldn’t get enough of that stuff.
When I was in my 20s, I finally experienced my first (abbreviated) seder. Having only minimal knowledge of what the celebration of Passover was all about (in that I knew the story, but didn’t know what a seder entailed), I was surprised by how important a role food played in the celebration. The seder includes a Seder Plate containing six symbolic foods that each hold special significance to the retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
While we never went through the ritual of a seder growing up, I did enjoy a few key Passover dishes that dad cooked up.
With all the matzo hanging around the house, there also came lots of Matzo Brei, which is basically an omelet or scramble made with matzo that has been soaked in water until soft. He also made Matzo Ball Soup, which I’ve since veganized on multiple occasions and remains one of my favorite dishes.
Lastly, I could never resist the sweet smells of raisins and cinnamon that waft out of the oven whenever dad would have a kugel baking. Kugel is a pudding or casserole, traditionally made with egg and noodles. However, on Passover, the noodles are replaced by matzo or another starch.
When my client asked me to make a Passover dinner for his family, I knew that I needed to include a kugel. Scouring the internet for ideas on how to make a vegan, Passover friendly Kugel, I came across a recipe on About.com for a vegan sweet potato kugel that sounded just perfect. I adapted it ever so slightly, and reduced the quantity of ingredients to make enough to feed a family of four, instead of a small army. Using my food processor to grate the potato and apple made this recipe super quick and easy to make.
Sweet Potato Kugel
1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated (3 cups)
1 sweet apple, peeled and grated (I used a gala)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup matzo meal
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (reserve some for the top)
1/2 cup water
Mix all the ingredients together. Press into a baking dish and bake at 375ºF until crisp on top, about 45 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the top with the reserved walnuts. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes to settle and cut into pieces more easily.