Passover: Success!

Well, what can I say? You freak out, go to 15 different grocery stores, jabber indecisively about menus for 2 weeks, and cook for 2 days straight, and then you have a success! That's Passover, baby. Its a pain in the ass, but its worth it.

All my Germans (that's also the title of my new soap opera, btw, "All My Germans") showed up on time and ready to be educated about what, exactly, a Seder is. They were rather shocked that it was pretty straight-forward and undemanding- we had the Haggadahs printed out (I'm not fancy enough to have 12 of my own) and my friend Kat and I did most of the reading, saving the "read-along" portion for the all-important Passover story, ie, the tale of the Jews departure from Egypt. As not everyone speaks English that fantastically, we gave the option that anyone who didn't want to read a paragraph could just say "passover"! But actually, everyone did read and even discussed afterward. It was a dream-Seder, actually, and no one complained about the hour of dipping and reading preceding the meal.

And speaking of the meal, everything shockingly came together on time! It helped that I had made about half of the items before, but still I was thrilled that there wasn't a last minute moussaka induced panic-attack, or similar. For the matzoh ball soup, I made a lemongrass-ginger-kaffir lime broth this year, with plenty of mushrooms for depth. It worked wonderfully with the fluffy matzoh balls, and was arguably the hit of the meal. (Below, a couple of my lovely friends enjoying.)

As for the rest, I wasn't fantastic about getting pics with all of the action, but you can kind of glean what was served from my leftover plate, minus the moussaka.

Clockwise, matzoh, cucumber dip from V'Con, Quinoa-Tzimmes Tagine with carrots, sweet potatoes and apricots, and apple-walnut charoset. Not pictured, mushrooms stuffed with shallots and garlic, Eggplant Potato Moussaka from V'Con, and chocolate mousse provided by a friend for dessert.

All in all, I was very pleased with the turnout, both guest-wise and food-wise. It was a great way to say a temporary good-bye to Berlin and give my friends a little demo of both Judaism and veganism. I hope they had as much fun as I did!

Next year in Budapest?


Pre-Passover Freakout!

Here's a photo of our window herb-garden blooming to represent the fact that: it's Spring! That's nice and all, but I am in a total tizzy! In two weeks I'll be heading back to the USA for an extended visit, and then coming back to Berlin only to head directly to Budapest for a summer internship. In the meantime, there's Passover, Easter, a ton of friend's birthdays, and all the normal stresses associated with being a cleaning lady.

But, I am trying to put off the freakouts just a little bit longer and approach the coming madness with the sort of non-chalance that I am known for. (Not.)

In the meantime I've been having some casual meals like the one pictured above: my take on blini w/ caviar. My friends and I made these little pancakes w/ a bit of onion mixed in, then topped them with a sauteed mince of mushroom and peppers laced with balsamic and soy sauce to make it a bit salty. On top, a dollop of soy yogurt (sour cream would also be nice) and spring onions. Perfect fancy little dinner.

And now onto Pesach! Every year I plan a huge Passover Seder and every year I end up freaking out! This year is no different. I'm having 12-15 Berliners over, only one of whom is Jewish, and trying to not only teach them about Passover but also do the whole thing vegan for a bunch of avowed meat-eaters. Yikes. I am trying to avoid major problems this year in 3 ways:
-testing out a few new recipes beforehand
-making about 1/2 the meal the day before
-doing some experimental combos that take some of the labor out of the traditional meal, and make it exotic enough that people don't even think about meat or dairy.

I hope it works! As you can see, I have a sort of Middle Eastern/ Sephardic theme going on, what with the orange and almond salad, tagine-esque quinoa, and various dips. This is also partially because of the unavailability (or expensiveness) of a lot ingredients I would normally use. However, there's still matzoh balls, so I guess its all ok.

At the end of the day, its one night of these people's lives, so if something goes wrong I am not going to freak out. But since I want people to walk away with a better understanding of both Judaism and Veganism, I am definitely feeling the pressure.

With that said, I present this year's potential Passover Seder Menu:

-Traditional Apple-Walnut Charoset
-V'Con Cucumber Dip
-Baba Ghanoush
-Kosher for passover Matzoh ball soup (recipe here or here) (ie, no tofu!)
-Giant Salad w/ Spinach, Arugula, Almonds and Orange slices and some sort of dressing
-Quinoa Tzimmes Tagine (?)
-This is an idea for a recipe that came to me which combines roasted root veggies and quinoa as a heartier, make-ahead side. It will be roasted chunks of sweet potatoes and carrots, added into a quinoa prepared with onions, garlic, ginger, and some morrocan-ish spices, ie, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon. On top will be some diced apricots.
-Eggplant Potato Moussaka w/ Pinenut Cream (from V'Con)
-Herbacious Leek and Mushroom Kugel (from years past)

And for dessert, coconut macaroons, expresso, and chocolate covered strawberries.

Ok, let me know what you think. Am I missing something? Is quinoa AND moussaka weird? Am I freaking out too much?

Anyways, if you are planning your own seder please feel free to peruse my archives:
-2010 "Dip" Seder
-2009 Seder with recipes that work for Easter and Passover

I'll post pictures afterwards to show you how it went!

Happy Spring!

Song of the Day: Get Down Moses- Joe Strummer


Magic Vegan Sandwich to the Rescue!

Not to constantly emphasize a really obvious point, but being poor SUCKS! Today I was so low on funds that I couldn't afford a U-Bahn ticket and spent my entire ride to and from work staring at the train doors, ready to jump off if anyone looked remotely like a ticket inspector. (Here in 'Schland-land they use the honor system to get you to buy tickets, but do random checks every so often, and if caught you face a massive fine.) Luckily, I made it to work without getting caught, but when I complained to my boss about how my late paycheck had brought me to petty crime, she totally didn't sympathize.

Whatever. Anyways, when you are very poor you always have a secret weapon to fall back on: the magic vegan sandwich! I have talked about the magic vegan sandwich before, as it has often been there for me in my times of need. My roomates and I discovered in college that just a few ingredients makes a sort of mixture between a grilled cheese and garlic bread for the vegan crowd. Its very easy to eat 4 or 5 washed down with some chocolate soymilk and be a very happy camper.

You needn't wait until being poor to make it, its just good, cheap comfort food that is open to endless variation (due to its ridiculous simplicity.)

Here's what you will need:
-Bread, especially soft, crusty bread
-Vegan Margarine (Earth balance is perfection)
-herbs and spices
-a tomato, even a deeply sad one

Here's the magic recipe:

1.) Heat a pan brushed with oil over medium-low heat. Take a goodly sized knob of margarine and mix in any of the following: salt, pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, paprika, white pepper, nooch, garlic powder, herbs de provence. Especially classic is ample garlic powder, nooch, oregano and pepper. You can mix these into the butter with a fork, and check if the taste is right (you don't want it too salty.)

2.) Spread said mixture thickly onto sliced crusty bread. Easy but crucial.

3. Place bread face down into hot pan and fry, checking occasionally to make sure not too hot.

4. When inside is crusty and brown, remove from heat and fill with tomatoes. You could also, of course, fry some onions in the leftover margerine in the pan, or slice some avocado thinly and add in, or use as the basis for a blt or similar. But just plain old tomatoes in the crunchy, herby bread is also a classic.

So now that I've explained to death the easiest sandwich in the world, I think I will go make a another one. And scrounge around the apartment for change so I don't have to risk my luck with ticket inspectors again tomorrow!

OOH, also, Urban Vegan has a list of 101 Vegan Picnic Ideas, a la Bittman as well!!! Check it out over at Miss UV herself...

Song of the Day: Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell