Passover Roundup!

Passover dessert last year, at my dear friend Karen's house.

Passover always officially marks the beginning of Spring in my year. To me, the holiday is about remembering slavery and oppression, as well as trying to recognize it in our daily lives and the lives of those elsewhere on our planet. It is also about hope for future liberation, and in recognizing another year to do the work of making the world a better place. In that respect, I also find it very compatible with my feelings about being a vegetarian and working for equality and social justice. The awesome feast doesn't hurt, either.

Since Passover is so special to me, I think being in another country is no reason not to celebrate it. Sure, I have no idea where to find kosher wine or matzoh flour here in Belgium... but its gotta be available somewhere, and I will find it by Tuesday, when 7 people descend on my tiny cramped apartment demanding matzoh ball soup. Until then, I am scouring the internet for awesome recipes that can be made with my limited funds, space, and ingredients.

Here's some of the great stuff I've found for those of you hosting your own seder, or just wanting to contribute a vegan dish to one you might be going to. (Nicely, since vegan food contains no dairy, you are safe bringing these dishes to a Seder regardless of whether its a meat or dairy one!)

The Times has a Mark Bittman recipe for... wait for it... making your own matzoh! Not quite sure my kitchen can handle it (500 degrees on a glorified toaster oven?) but I'm very tempted to try.

Over at Tofu Mom's site she has a recipe for vegan matzoh balls (just leave out the leavening to make it kosher for Passover.) Damn if she doesn't always post a recipe I need the week before I need it! As for the soup, here is a nice recipe for faux chicken soup if you don't have access to not-chicken broth.

At Not Derby Pie (non-vegan) there are a few nice veganizable recipes, and I am eying this Crisp Potato Eggplant Tart.

Epicurious has a Passover guide, like every year, and there are some great and multi-cultural ideas to be culled from it. I have tried their different versions of charoset every year, but the traditional apple and walnut version always wins. I should also mention that Epicurious has a lot of info on the Passover traditions, as well as videos of how to make a perfect matzoh ball. :)

Even PETA has a Passover guide, with a number of surprisingly appealing recipes, including tsimmes. (I don't mean to be snarky, but I've seen one too many nude models in lettuce leaves to be a huge PETA fan.)

...And naturally you are free to peruse the recipes I posted last year, including Coconut Macaroons, Cauliflower Leek Kugel, and Roasted Beets in Walnut Dressing.

I'll be sure to post what I eventually went with. Wish me luck!

BONUS: Jewschool always has thought-provoking posts this time of year, and here's a touching old Times article about Passover in Berlin.


Finally Spring?

Pommes Frites in Grand Platz: So freakin' Belgian (haha, kinda...)

My little brother came to Brussels last week, can you believe it!? Not only that, but he basically brought Spring with him... No Rooz, Passover, Easter are all here or coming, and the weather is adjusting accordingly. At least for me, the added sunshine as well as my little brother's brief presence has led to a complete mood shift, and I'm so excited for everything coming up, even the stressful parts. (Meh, what's stressful anyways, after the bar exam.)

In order to make my bro feel at home in sometimes-bewildering Europe, I decided to cook for him a large Mexican plate, which, although we are not Mexican, is one of my whole family's favorite comfort foods. (Either that or Thai food are the two things perpetually on the table at my house in VA.) So, in my tiny kitchen I whipped up the following: Urban Vegan's Havana Beans and Rice, Cashew Sour Cream from Vegan Brunch, Avocado and Mango salsa (from me) and some simple fried plantains. If we had been at home it probably would have also had some sweet potatoes, but those things are bloody expensive here! To top it off, I had some vinegar and a bit of tabasco. My friends and family member gobbled everything up happily, and the culture shock was drastically reduced. My bro also brought a lot of amazing things with him from my parents, including some vital wheat gluten, dried cranberries, maple syrup, and the new VegNews and Vegetarian Times. I was in American seventh heaven, let me tell you.
A splash of vinegar on top is now mandatory, thanks to Urban Vegan.

After a few days of Brussels, with attendant lemon pea risotto (no pics, sorry!), frites and vegan Pho at Indochine, one of my favorite veg-friendly restaurants on Rue Lebroussart, we headed to Berlin to meet up with S. There we really introduced my brother to some European decadence with lots of late nights out at loud and smoky clubs, long walks through Kreutzberg, and an absolute overload of falafel, hummus, and Berliner Kindl. In other words, a perfect introduction to that grand town. We also visited the "Modern Times" exhibit at the Neue Nationalgalerie which was full of gorgeous, weird, and moving works by German and non-German artists, as well as a few of the pieces that had been sold or lost during the National Socialist era because of their denunciation as "degenerate art." I highly recommend it if you happen to be in Berlin anytime soon.

When I got back I had the honor of attending a No Rooz celebration hosted by the wife of the ambassador to Afghanistan in Brussels. I am taking some food photographs for an upcoming (non-vegetarian) Afghan cookbook that will benefit a woman's school in Afghanistan. No Rooz is a Zoroastrian New Years holiday celebrated throughout the world, but particularly in Iran and Afghanistan. The food was absolutely gorgeous and that which was vegetarian was delicious. (That which wasn't I think could be quite easily, and I'm looking into it for next year...)
For more on No Rooz, go check out Amey's blog, she has some gorgeous pictures and great recipes from her family's celebration this year.

Hope you all are enjoying the first pangs of Spring as much as I am...

Song of the Day: Nick Cave- Breathless


Two Pizza Options

Roasted Garlic Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

Oh, how else can I put it: I had a stroke of genius today and made these two awesome pizzas. The roasted garlic one I've made before (but dare I say, have perfected now.) The roasted pepper one grew out of the leftover half of the roasted pepper, and it was so damn good. I think either of these topping combos would also be nice as a bruschetta or an appetizer pizza (with the crust sliced into much smaller pieces.) But for today they were just perfect to appease my dissertation-frazzled friends and use up the ingredients leftover from the weekend. Ah, sometimes genius comes so easily.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
-1 packet yeast
-1 and 1/3 cup warm water
-1 tsp. salt
-1 T. agave (or honey or sugar, if you swing that way)
-Approx. 3.5 cups whole wheat flour
-2 T. olive oil, plus extra for the bowl

1.) In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast into the water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
2.) Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend together, kneading for 10 minutes, or until relatively smooth. At this point you can add in a bit more flour if its too sticky. (Nice to have an assistant on hand for that, since your hands will be covered in dough.)
3.) Form dough into a ball and place into a bowl that has been coated in oil. Set in a warm corner, covered by a damp cloth and leave it alone for an hour or so.
4.) After time has passed, punch down the dough and divide into two balls. Leave one in the bowl and take the other one out, rolling out on a floured surface to your desired thinness and leaving some width on the sides for the crust. Transfer to pizza pan/ stone/ cookie sheet or just a rack.
5.) Top with toppings and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
6.) Repeat with the other ball, or freeze for later use as pizza, breadsticks, or calzones.

Roasted Garlic Pizza
-One head garlic
-1.5 tsp. oil, plus extra for drizzling
-1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
-red pepper flakes
-one tomato, (or several small ones) sliced
-1/2 a roasted red pepper, but into slices

1.) First roast the garlic. This is accomplished (as if you don't know, you vegans) by rubbing a bit of olive oil on a whole head of garlic, wrapping the thing in foil, and tossing it in the oven on 375-400 degrees for 45 minutes or so. When the garlic is gone, it should fall out of the individual cloves at a little squeeze.
2.) Place roasted garlic in a small bowl and smash with a fork. Add in a pinch of salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1.5 tsp. olive oil, and apple cider vinegar and mash together until you have a nice paste. Set aside (and try not to eat.)
3.) Now roast the red pepper. This can be achieved in an oven broiler on high: place cleaned red pepper under broiler, watching until side is charred, then rolling over until entire thing is charred. (How long this takes depends on your oven.) Remove and place in paper bag, to steam. When warm enough to handle, remove charred skin, then de-seed and cut in half- half of this can be sliced into strips for this pizza, the other half can make tapenade later (or for another pizza... or just to eat with bread, who cares.)
4.)When pizza dough is prepared and rolled out, spread roasted garlic paste evenly across. Top with tomatoes and roasted peppers. Cook to desired crispiness, and enjoy with friends since you're all going to smell like garlic all day. :)

Didn't have nearly enough walnuts for this but it was still awesome.

Red Pepper Tapenade Pizza with Walnuts

-1/2 a roasted red pepper, chopped
-1 T. lemon zest
-pinch salt
-2 tsp. olive oil
-handful of walnuts
-balsamic vinegar/ reduction

1.) Combine red pepper, lemon zest, salt and olive oil and either blend in a food processor or with an immersion blender until evenly processed. Taste, and adjust salt or oil if necessary. (Note: depending on how big your initial roasted pepper was, you may want a little more or less oil to smooth out the mixture.)
2.) Spread red pepper tapenade onto pizza crust. Sprinkle with walnuts, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction, if you happen to have some handy. (I always do because I'm obsessed.)
3.) Bake for 10-15 minutes on 400 and enjoy!

My darling S. was here this weekend and in preparation I froze a million more sweet potato gnocchi (which he pronounces "ga-nocky") and made some incredible oatmeal cinnamon raisin bagels. I actually documented all of this with the intent of giving step-by-step instructions for both recipes, but unfortunately there was a computer mishap and all I have left as evidence of my culinary industriousness is yet another picture of... you guessed it! Pancakes!

All the same, they never get old when you're making them for people you love. :)

Song of the Day: Joanna Newsom- Have One on Me