Passover and Easter Hits

Every year around the time I get to Passover I am overwhelmed by mixed feelings. On the one hand, gratitude and joy that I made it through another harsh German/ Belgian/ Serbian winter and can start to feel the sun on my face again. On the other hand, shock that its time to plan another Passover dinner after what feels like approximately 2 weeks. I guess I like this time of year so much that it always seems close.

At any rate, this year I'm in Belgrade (as I may have mentioned) so I'm probably more likely to attend a Seder than to host one. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't! Here are a few hits from Easters and Passover's past that you might find useful in menu planning for your special holiday.

Stuffed Mushrooms- A great appetizer or side, sprinkled with matzoh meal, nooch, or soy cheese.

Roasted Beets with Walnut Garlic Dressing-A toothy, rich dressing which brings simple roasted beets to life. Perfect side for either holiday.

 Brussels Sprouts Hash- Shredded or loosely chopped Brussels sprouts with apples, nuts, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Make a bunch in a giant wok for a tasty side.

Lemongrass Matzoh Ball Soup- I made this broth last year (minus the chicken, obvs) and it was a HUGE hit. Elegant, delicious, and easily made the day before. Plus the video makes it easy to follow. Add some mushrooms for body, and use the vegan matzoh ball recipe of your choice.

Wild Mushroom and Leek Farfel Kugel (sub silken tofu for eggs)

For some reason I can't get this photo to turn around... oh well
Lemon Asparagus Risotto- Perfect Easter main, using the fresh new asparagus of the season. For apps you could do Morrocan spiced carrot dip from V'Con and onion dip (caramlized onions + soy sour cream), then serve this risotto with a side salad topped with diced plums and caramelized fennel (below) and a big carrot cake for dessert. Boom! Done.

For Easter you could also make pierogies from Vegan Brunch! They certainly make any day special, and you can film them with tons of delicious stuffings and serve them with great salads and dips.

Eggplant Potato Moussaka from V'Con is also an excellent choice for either Passover or Easter. I served this last year to general delight.

Egg Free Macaroons are a nice ending to a Passover Seder, with some chocolate dipped strawberries and coffee.

And a fluffy coconut cake is a great ending to a nice Easter! I made Isa's version from Vegan With a Vengeance a few years ago and it was fabulous. (I know, I know, I rely heavily on PPK cookbooks for holidays, but my friends, the high holidays are no time for improvisation in the kitchen.)

For more ideas, mine Epicurious for veganizable gems and instructional videos, check out the Post Punk Kitchen for many priceless recipes, and see my menu page where I have a few examples of complete menus from Holidays past.

Wow, this whole discussion is making me insanely hungry. Think I'm going to go get a falafel wrap and orange carrot juice from the insanely great Schwarma restaurant down the street. Happy holidays!

Song of the Day: Wolf Gang- The King and all his men


Fruska Gora and daily menu

Fruscka Gora
Greetings from sunny Serbia! Here in Belgrade, the weather has turned to Spring literally overnight, and the streets are filled with beautiful girls in bright dresses and handsome boys in crisp white shirts and new haircuts. I must say, the Serbs I have encountered in Belgrade are terribly good looking in a sporty sort of way, totally unlike the lanky hipster paperdolls in Berlin (who are also, actually, pretty bloody attractive in their own way). I guess what I'm saying is, if you are single and looking for a hot tennis player with a country house, try Belgrade, and try Berlin for all of your hot starving artist needs.

Ahem. Using Europe as a boyfriend buffet ASIDE, I am very much enjoying my stay in Belgrade, but a lack of variety in vegan options has led me to eat more or less the same thing day in and day out. As you can imagine, this does not make for very interesting blog posts, however, feast your eyes on THIS:
So here we have my daily lunch, from a local a la carte restaurant that has slightly different offerings every day. The thing in common is that its always simple, good food, and that its INSANELY cheap- less that 2 euros usually. (That's crazy-town.)

So above we have, from clockwise- red beet salad, Serbian cornbread (Proja) which the owners insisted contain no jaja or mleka (eggs or milk) but I'm a little skeptical. Next to that we have pirinac (rice) with leeks and what may be the national dish of Serbia, Prabanac- beans with paprika and other spices. (Sometimes made with bacon or other meat stuffs so ask!) On the side are some simple grilled veggies. I eat this literally every day and I'm not sick of it yet, which either says something about me or the good food on offer.

Anyways, the weekday lunches might be monotonous, but Belgrade itself is city that really knows how to relax in style. The prices are so low in comparison to the rest of Europe that it seems silly not to enjoy the vibrant club scene, enjoy the view from a water-front restaurant, or stay up all night dancing on the tabletops of a local kafana with live folk music.

And I have been doing some of that. But I was also offered the chance this last weekend to head to the Fruška gora (a country area outside of Belgrade known as the Frankish Hills, as Rebecca West says, for a reason far too dull to interest anyone). Now, this area is sort of a wide green valley filled with small country houses, Orthodox monasteries, and acre upon acre of fruit trees. Its special in Serbian history for offering a retreat from Turkish dominated territory, and to this day houses the tombs of many Kings. But I'm no Serb historian, I'm in it for the fruit! We're talking cherries of all seasons, pears, figs, grapes, plums, and all manner of sunflowers, lavender and corn. Its not the season for these yet, but Oh my G-D, it is still so insanely gorgeous.

Here we were in the tail end of winter and the area was still a sight. In the little, elegantly appointed home I stayed at we stayed outside all day and ate bread and apples, played cards, and watched neighbors walk by on horseback. Its truly hard to believe that such a beautiful and seemingly ancient place exists to close to bustling Belgrade, but it does, and if you ever visit Belgrade you would be extremely remiss not to pay this area a visit.

I'm hoping to go back when the fruit trees are full and lie in the fields gorging on cherries in the sunshine! Ugh, doesn't that just sound almost too divine?

song of the day: The Shoes- Time to Dance