Next year in Jerusalem!

Hope everyone is in the midst of a good Pesach or a happy Easter, or like me, both! I tried out a couple new recipes this year and was very pleased with the result, so this is a recipe heavy entry, at least where my blog is concerned.
Passover is a very special holiday to me, because its the first Jewish holiday I celebrated when I started to get in touch with my spiritual side (if you will) a few years back. That year, I actually went out and bought the materials for my own seder and had a little solo dinner- with a beet root subbing for the lamb shank and a parsnip for the egg. :) I knew that if I found it meaningful and exciting on my own, that I would really like it once I had some others, be it family or friends, to celebrate with.

Since that year I've hosted my own seder for 13 people, and had other years where, for whatever reason, I found myself pretty much on my own. But luckily this year I had no need to celebrate solo! My friend Karen had a seder at her house along with her fabulous roommates. I offered to make the charoset (an apple-nut mixture which is used on the Seder plate) and to bring a few vegan options. I decided to make the Cauliflower-Leek Kugel from VWAV and also to try to veganize some coconut macaroons, one of my fave desserts from years past. 

                       Vegan Macaroons alongside other goodies

I thought they turned out pretty decently, so here's the recipe.
Passover Macaroons
1 Bag coconut (in the baking aisle)
6 T sugar
1  T arrowroot flour
2-3 egg replacer eggs (Ener-G brand works for me)
1 tsp. almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, mix together coconut and sugar. Toss together w/ arrowroot.
2. Add in wet ingredients and mix well with your hands. 
3. Drop by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake until slightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Let them sit for a few minutes before carefully putting them to cool on a cookie sheet. (This is the part where they tend to fall apart, so use caution!)
At any rate, Karen's Seder went off, relatively, without a hitch. One of the cool things about Passover is that its a holiday that doesn't merely venerate the past, but rather asks participants to think about the present. In what forms does slavery still exist in the modern world, and what have we done in the past year to eradicate it? For me, in addition to being a sobering reminder about human trafficking and child soldiers, this always brings animals to mind. To look at our actions, it would appear that we consider animals objects who only exist to serve our needs and have no other purpose in life. Vegetarianism is a great way to reverse this treatment, but around Passover I always try to think about other ways to help the fight for animal liberation.  
But aside from philosophical considerations, its always nice to eat a big dinner with friends. And my charoset, a mixture of apples, walnuts, kosher wine, and figs (my secret ingredient!) went over great as well. So what if Karen and I kept the drinking going far past the proscribed 4 glasses with dinner...
I got to have a second holiday supper today, since part of my family celebrates Easter and part celebrates Passover. So tonight we had a sort-of Passover-friendly Easter dinner, and I took the opportunity to jazz up the kugel I served on wednesday and try out another dish I've been gunning for lately (with, you guessed it, beets.)
You see, I felt the cauliflower leek kugel, as is, is a bit bland for my tastes. I think its because I'm not so keen on dill, which is the main flavoring. So I changed it up a bit, and here's my new version, with mad props to both Isa and Bon Appetit (the source of the non vegan recipe.)
Cauliflower-Leek-Mushroom Kugel with Herb Crust

2 small heads cauliflower, cut into smallish pieces
3 (egg-free) matzohs
2 leeks, white parts only, well-rinsed
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
3/4 C. mushrooms, sliced
1 container silken tofu
1/2 C. almonds
1 tsp. agave nectar
Parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, cook cauliflower about 10 minutes, or until soft. When done, drain and put in a large bowl- mash it up!
2. While cauliflower is cooking, crumble up two of the matzohs into the food processor and grind into bread crumb consistency. Set aside. Then empty the silken tofu into the food processor and liquefy until creamy. Once the cauliflower is mashed, add the tofu and bread crumbs, using your hands to combine.
3. In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium low heat. Add in garlic, sliced leeks, and onions. Cook until onions are transparent. Next, add in mushrooms, and cook 3-5 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. 
4. Add leek-mushroom mixture into cauliflower mixture, combining with your hands. (You could put a little more salt and pepper in at this point if you wish.) Pour the whole thing into a lightly oiled casserole dish.
5. Now, for the topping: chop almonds coarsely and put into a bowl. Crumble the third matzoh in there with them. Then, chop a good amount of parsley (maybe a third a cup) and add that in there as well. Drizzle with olive oil and 1 tsp. agave nectar, and mix it up with your hands. Sprinkle this mixture over the casserole until it is covered.
6. Cook for about 40 minutes and let stand a few minutes before serving. :)
This last dish has no symbolic meaning for Pesach or Easter, but I saw some delicious looking golden beets at the grocery store the other day and I.... I just couldn't help myself. I was inspired to try a walnut dressing from Mark Bittman's preparation in the Times last month, and this turned out just great. Basically, roasted beets are coated in a simple dressing of walnuts, roasted garlic and olive oil, to which I added a little bit of lemon juice and agave nectar. It turned out fabulous.
Roasted Beets with Walnut-Garlic Dressing

1/4 C. Olive Oil
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 C. walnuts
Juice from one lemon
1 T. Agave nectar, or 1 T brown sugar

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in whole garlic cloves, and let them roast until browned on all sides.
2. Add in walnuts and cook a few minutes longer, until lightly browned.
3. Remove from heat and wait a few minutes before adding to a small food processor. Add in lemon juice, agave or brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Grind until no large pieces remain.
4. Toss with chopped beats and serve at room temp. YUM! (This is also nice over mixed greens for the leftovers.)
I hope everybody's holiday was as fun and full of leftovers as mine was! 

Song of the Day: Metric- Gimme Sympathy


vintageveggie said...

ooooh i love finding other vegan/vegetarian blogs!

all those recipes look amazing.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Maybe I will learn to enjoy beets with the recipe you shared? All of the food looks delicious!

Mihl said...

Those macaroons...they look divine! Great to hear you had such an awesome Passover.

Anonymous said...

You really pulled out all the stops! So impressive! Glad you had such a lovely celebration!

allularpunk said...

what great holiday eats! you rule for bringing the vegan awesomeness to the table not once, but twice!

Chelsea said...

Wow, what beautiful food! Thanks for giving a little more info about Passover - I like the consideration of slavery and thinking about the present. And now I know what a kugel is! :)

Bianca said...

Multicultural families are the best! That way you can celebrate more holidays! I'm not Jewish at all, but I decided this year that I might start celebrating Passover next year...just for fun. I mean, my great-great grandpa was Jewish, but he married a Native American woman and it stopped the line.

All your eats look delish, especially those roasted beets.

jessy said...

how awesome on the seder & celebrating Passover with friends! that's just too cool! i don't know much about Passover, but i'm quite interested now and i'm gonna do some research! thanks, T!

your charoset looks amazing and sounds gloriously goooooood! the macaroons look divine - and thanks for the recipe! :) dan loooooooves coconut more than anything, so i'll be making these for him soon, fo 'sho!

i've seen the golden beets, but never tried them. now i'm gonna have to give 'em a whirl! superw00t! oh yeah - and the kugel looks great! i love the combination of cauliflower, mushrooms and leeks (i too am not one for dill! ahahhahaaa!). i can imagine how tasty that has gonna be! mmmmmmmm!

so much awesomeness! yay!

jd said...

This is really cool!

Not only does all of that food look/sound fab, but the dinner conversation that all of you had sounded really awesome, too...

I give you major props for turning a somewhat blah holiday (re: my family, anyway) into something worthy of anticipation every year. Well done :)

I ♥ puggies said...

Your macaroons and beets look sooo yummy! Happy Passover!

michelle said...

Ohhh, those macaroons! I had a good stare/drool at them momentarily. Will have to try soon! It looks like you had a pretty awesome holiday weekend.

Anonymous said...

Yum. All the food looks so good. We had Passover and Easter celebrations as well.

VeganView said...

You must try matzo ball soup next year. That recipe I use is amazing. I love your blog, and will follow it from now on ... Kugel for me will be next year ;)