Vegetarian Passover 2011

April 25, 2011 at 10:35 am (Jewish, Menus, Spring recipes, unrated)


Derek and I hosted our second ever Saarbruecken seder this year.  Including ourselves and Derek’s parents, we had a total of 12 people at our seder.  Derek’s father planned the seder itself, Derek was responsible for all the singing, and I was in charge of the food.  I tried a number of different recipes in the weeks leading up to Passover and debated a lot with Derek.   In the end I decided on this menu:

  • Appetizers (before the start of the seder):  kalamata olives, hummus, and crudite
  • Appetizers (during the seder): Hillel sandwiches with 2 kinds of harosetz and beet horseradish
  • Soup:  matzoh ball soup in vegetable broth, with diced carrots, diced parsnips, peas, and parsley and chives to garnish
  • Main course:  spinach matzoh pie  and a layered potato and chard terrine
  • Side dish:  beets, fennel, celery, and apples in a mustard vinaigrette
  • Dessert: orange, nut, honey cake; lemon bars with a matzoh-nut crust;  toffikomen

Except for the hummus this menu would be appropriate for an Ashkenazi seder (where beans and rice are avoided).

I made the vegetable broth two days before and frozen it.  The day before the seder I made the honey nut cake, toffikomen, and the hummus.  The day of the seder I started cooking around 9am and except for a few short breaks didn’t stop until about 6pm.  My friend Alex cooked with me almost the entire time, and Ahra showed up around 3:30pm and helped as well.  Constance and Benard took care of setting the table and getting the seder plate and everything else ready for the seder.

I think I liked this year’s hummus and veggies better than last year’s cheese and matzoh.  It was less filling and less messy.  I made about 1 quart of hummus but we only served about 1.5 cups.  I was happy to have the leftovers though.  We served  one red bell pepper, one bunch of radishes, florets from 1/2 cauliflower, carrots, one long cucumber, and celery. All the raw veggies got eaten except for some of the celery.  It was pretty tough and fibrous — I guess I should have peeled it.

I made two kinds of apple charoset, doubling the one with cranberries.  Both were tasty but I think the amount of cinnamon in the cranberry pistachio charoset was a tad too high.  And the zest from one whole orange in the regular charoset was perhaps a tad too much.  We ended up eating all of the traditional charoset and a little more than half of the cranberry pistachio charoset, but I was happy to have some leftovers.

For the matzoh balls this year I used the vegetarian matzoh ball recipe on Epicurious.   I had tried it the week before and it resulted in matzoh balls that were neither light and fluffy nor hard as a rock, but somewhere in between.  They weren’t exactly what I wanted but I didn’t have time to try any other recipes.  Ahra made the batter for me, although she complained that my electric beaters didn’t work properly to beat the egg whites.   I think she gave up before reaching stiff peaks, which I had done the previous time.  We let the batter sit in the fridge for an hour.  Right before the seder started Constance shaped the matzoh balls (getting about 31 smallish balls from two recipes worth) and we cooked them for 30 minutes.  I had doubled the recipe so there were more of them in the pot than the previous attempt, and Constance stirred them a few times since she was worried they wouldn’t cook evenly.  In the end they ended up in the “hard as a rock” category, just like last year.  I’m not sure why they turned out differently than the batch I had made earlier in the week.  It’s possible Ahra’s technique for making the batter was a little different, or it’s possible that they were just more crowded, or maybe the stirring did it.  I don’t think it was the time spent sitting in the hot vegetable broth, as I had done that with my previous batch as well.  In any case, both Derek and I liked the sinkers a lot, but I’m not sure anyone else did.    For the soup veggies I had cooked the diced carrots and parsnips in the vegetable broth earlier in the day, then strained them out so I didn’t have to worry about them overcooking.  The carrots took about 15-20 minutes and the parsips about 5-10 minutes I think.  I added the veggies back to the broth after the matzoh balls were done and we were ready to eat the soup, then heated the soup back up.

I doubled the spinach matzoh pie recipe, but baked it in a 3-quart rectangular pyrex pan instead of a two 2-quart pans.  Again I skipped the soaking step.  I didn’t cook the pie until we were almost ready to eat, and I think I didn’t cook it enough because it was still rather soupy.  I think that since the pan was larger I should have cooked it longer.  Also, since I used a larger pan we probably should have added another layer of matzoh to compensate for the decreased surface area.  Finally, we had the matzoh as the top layer rather than the spinach mixture, so I think less of the liquid evaporated.  But the pie tasted really good in any case.  Not too much of it got eaten, but mostly because everyone was pretty full at that point, after the chummus, hillel sandwiches, and matzoh ball soup.

The potato and chard tureen was a pain too make, as always, because the numbers in the recipe are so imprecise.  I prepped ingredients for 2.5 recipes:  the leaves from 4 bunches of chard and about 5 pounds of potatoes (sliced in the food processor).  I cut the amount of butter and salt substantially.  I made one recipe in my pyrex loaf pan and the other 1.5 recipes in a springform pan.  I couldn’t fit all the chard and potatoes in the pans though.  The chard is just so bulky.  I wonder if it would make sense to pre-cook the chard just a tad, just so that it’s easier to fit everything in the pan.   It turned out that the springform pan doesn’t seal so well–when I poured in the cream a bunch of liquid came out the bottom of the pan.  Whoops!  I wrapped tin foil around the bottom and hoped for the best.  I cooked both dishes in the oven for 75 minutes and then let them sit out wrapped in tin foil til they were cool.  They stayed warm for many hours.  I think perhaps I should have unwrapped them, as Derek thought they ended up a bit overcooked.  He likes the potatoes a little more crunchy.  They also ended up kind of greasy and (IMO) a little too salty.  I think 1/2 tsp. salt per layer of potatoes is just a tad too much.

The beets in the salad turned everything fuschia, which made it a little unattractive I thought.  Also, after sitting in the fridge for a few hours it seemed that the vegetables lost a lot of liquid and really watered down the dressing.  People still seemed to enjoy it, but I didn’t think it was nearly good as a similar salad I had made a few days before.  It was almost all eaten — 1 kilo of cooked beets, one fennel bulb, about half a small stalk of celery, and maybe three apples?

Derek chose the recipe for the honey nut cake from Epicurious.com.  I tried it out the week before and Derek just adored it.  I thought it didn’t hold together too well and was very, very sweet.  But Derek just loved it.  So I doubled the recipe for the seder and made it in a 9×13 inch pan, as the headnotes suggest.  I accidentally doubled the salt though, and Constance suggested adding extra orange zest (from four oranges rather than two).  Perhaps I reduced the syrup too much, but it seemed that there was less syrup than the lass time.  I also halved the sugar in the syrup (as suggested by many reviews), whereas last time I reduced it by only maybe one third.  Constance very carefully poked holes in the entire cake with a toothpick, and then poured the syrup on top.  It soaked in immediately, and didn’t stand in a layer above the cake like it had the last time I made it.  The cake turned out very, very moist, and held together a tad better than the last time (perhaps because I used an electric mixer to beat the eggs rather than a hand whisk).

We also made lemon bars using this passover crust recipe from Epicurious.  Actually, Ahra made the lemon bars after Alex squeezed all the lemons.  We don’t know exactly what happened, but everyone at the Seder (except me) claimed that the lemon bars tasted exactly like fried chicken.  Perhaps either the mixing bowl or the cooking pot wasn’t perfectly clean, and there was a little old oil in it that had gone rancid?  Or perhaps it picked up some fridge flavors when I put it in (uncovered) in the fridge to cool. Certainly the lemon curd didn’t have the texture it normally has.  I don’t know if I overcooked it or what, but something was quite different.   The passover crust worked fine, but didn’t add much flavor.  I missed the normal salty, buttery shortbread base.

Like in 2009, I think I made too much food.  I could have just made one main dish, or 1.5x – 2x of two recipes rather than 2x – 2.5x of each.  Although I have to say that by the end of the second day almost all the leftovers were gone.

Other recipes I tried before Passover

cauliflower steaks:   I didn’t care for this recipe.  I found the cauliflower to be extremely bland.  The recipe didn’t really let the cauliflower flavor shine.  And the egg batter was weird.  I didn’t care for the sauce at all.  Derek liked them a little more than me, but said he wouldn’t serve them for company.

baked tofu with matzoh meal and nuts instead of flour:  This turned out quite well, and I thought about making it for the seder, but I wasn’t sure how good it would be if I baked it ahead of time.

passover apple cake by Arthur Schwartz:  We didn’t care for this cake at all.  Like the last passover apple cake I tried, it seemed too sweet.  It also quickly became kind of soggy.  Wouldn’t make it again.

I also thought about making this lemon mint lentil stew, but it seemed a bit too homey for a seder.

I wanted to try to make my own horseradish puree, but didn’t get to it.  The beet horseradish I got from France was way too bland.

Other ideas for next year

Previous Passover Posts:

1 Comment

  1. Passover 2013 | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] We hosted our third Passover seder this year in Saarbruecken.   Including ourselves and Derek’s parents, we had a total of 13 people at our seder, which was a nice number (and also the maximum that we could fit at our tables).  The main problem was that we didn’t have enough chairs, and three people had to sit in some pretty uncomfortable folding chairs.  Our menu was pretty similar to the menu from our 2011 seder. […]

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