This year was my first vegan Seder. The seder wasn’t all that difficult since I had offered vegetarian sedarim to my protesting non-vegetarian family for years. This was just another step.
My son’s comment was, “Vegetarian seders have been . . . challenging. Vegan? Really?” So my biggest job was a sales job. The cooking? Piece of cake, so to speak. Eggless, dairy-free cake.
The remaining days of the eight day holiday were more challenging for me. Here’s why:
- Vegetarian: no meat, chicken or fish
- Vegan: no eggs or dairy products
- Kosher: no products that aren’t marked with a “kosher for Passover” emblem
- Passover: no wheat or grains other than kosher for Passover matzah and matzah meal – and no products, including vinegar, that are made from them or with them
- Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews: no kitniyot — this includes rice, buckwheat/kasha, millet, beans, lentils, peas, sesame seeds and mustard as well as corn, green beans, snow peas, sugar-snap peas, chickpeas, soybeans, sunflower and poppy seeds 🙁
- Personal: big appetite and difficult to digest buckets of tree nuts and many pounds of matzah
Like I said, challenging. I confess, I just wasn’t ready for it this year. I am determined to be ready for it next year, though. These are things I’m going to work on until then:
- Building a larger repertoire of dishes that contain tree nuts and chia seed. Chia is wonderful for digestion!
- Finding a local source for kosher l’Pesach whole wheat matzah (I waited too long to order from the city or online and couldn’t find any nearby)
- Continuing to work on our favorite foods associated with Passover to develop vegan versions. How, oh how, can I create a matzah brei equivalent?
- Continuing to build my tolerance for bucket loads of fruits and veggies
- Continuing to find and develop easy (crowd-pleasing) vegan meals generally
So here’s a recipe that did work: Vegan Matzah Ball Soup with a Sephardic (Spanish, North African and Israeli) twist. The soup is a variation of one I found on the Food Network, and the matzah balls were from Julie Wiener’s recipe in The Jewish Week.
I made the matzah balls a day ahead in case they didn’t work so I could quickly substitute a vegan Potato & Leek Soup. Looking at the matzah ball mix the evening before I cooked them, I sure didn’t think they were going to happen. But they did. Chewier than my beautiful matzah balls of years past, but they held together and absorbed the wonderful flavor of the soup.
- Matzah meal, 1-1/4 cups
- Salt, 1/2 tsp.
- Pepper, 1/2 tsp. ground black
- Extra virgin olive oil, 3 TB
- Vegetable stock or water, 1/2 cup
- Flax seeds, 2 TB ground
- Potato starch, 2 tsp.
- Carrot, 1 washed
- Parsley or cilantro, 2 TB minced (this was not in the original recipe, and I didn’t use it – I will next time)
- Combine the matzah meal with salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the stock/water, flax seeds and potato starch until the potato starch is dissolved.
- Mix the flax mixture with the matzah mixture and olive oil. Combine well, making sure that everything is moist.
- Grate half the carrot and the minced parsley and blend into the mixture.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- When you’re ready to form the balls, fill a stock pot with enough water to accommodate all the matzah balls with minimal touching. Salt the water generously. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.
- Cover a cutting board with parchment or oil a plate to hold formed matzah balls. Have a bowl of water handy or a damp cloth to clean your hands as you work. It’s easier to shape the balls with clean, moist or oiled hands.
- Form the mixture into tight, walnut-sized balls. I made my non-vegan balls about four times this size, but I’m not sure this denser mixture will do well in larger balls.
- When the balls are all prepared, drop them carefully into the boiling water one at a time, using a spoon.
- Simmer for at least 40 minutes with the pot covered. Longer simmering or letting them remain in the water in a covered pot longer after turning off the heat may make the balls a little lighter.
- Remove the matzah balls from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a storage container if you’re making them ahead. Pour just enough cooking water over the balls to cover them, cover the container and store in the refrigerator until 30 minutes to an hour before they are needed.
- 30 minutes to an hour before enjoying your soup, add the drained matzah balls to the soup broth as it heats. This will give the matzah balls time to absorb the flavor of the soup.
- Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
- Spanish onion, 1 large
- Celery, 5 stalks
- Carrots, 4-5
- Garlic, 2 cloves
- Salt, 2 TB or to taste
- Add oil to a one gallon stock pot.
- Rough chop the garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Add them to the pot with the oil and saute for 20-30 minutes to develop the flavor.
- Add four quarts of water to the sauteed veggies. Simmer covered for at least one hour.
- Remove as much of the veggie remains as can be done easily, and strain the broth into a clean receptacle through cheesecloth.
- Clean the stock pot and pour the veggie broth back into it. You can strain it back into the stock pot if you’d like to double-filter.
- Salt to taste and set aside.
- Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
- Spanish onion, 1
- Cherry tomatoes, 1 pint container
- Green pepper, 1 cup diced
- Red bell pepper, 1 cup diced
- Cilantro, 4 TB minced
- Garlic, 8 cloves, minced
- Harif, 2 tsp. (I love this authentic flavor, but you can substitute 2 tsp. hot paprika if you aren’t able to make the harif)
- Mince the onion, quarter the cherry tomatoes, dice the peppers, mince the cilantro and garlic.
- Saute all except the cilantro and tomatoes in the olive oil.
- Just before turning off the heat, add the quartered tomatoes and cilantro.
- Turn off the heat and set aside until ready to serve.
SERVING YOUR VEGAN SEPHARDIC MATZAH BALL SOUP
Dip matzah balls out of the broth with a spoon and add them to a bowl. Ladle broth over the matzah ball. Add sofrito – this part is wonderfully spicy and gives the soup great flavor and color, but if you have folks who are spice-sensitive, go easy on it. Enjoy!
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