This year, it won’t be Passover as usual. Few people will host large gatherings for Seders, instead creating smaller, more intimate celebrations with just immediate family or maybe a handful of close relatives and friends. Out-of-town family, even our children, won’t fly in, and there will be no need to borrow an extra table and folding chairs from the neighbors.
So, how should we create a Seder and a week of meals to mark this important, joyous Jewish holiday about liberation when so many of us feel trapped in our own houses?
For many of us, our homes are a place of refuge and solace, and the heart of that home is the kitchen, whether it’s large enough for a crowd or a tiny corner in a studio apartment. We go to the kitchen not just to feed ourselves but also to find comfort, unwind and release stress after a long day. It’s also where we prepare to welcome guests.
While we might be tempted to think of covid-19 as an 11th plague of Passover, we can instead make this a deliciously distinctive holiday.
Scale and get a printer-friendly version of Vegan Matzoh Ball Soup recipe here.
Blending tradition with new tastes
Passover is a food holiday, from the many symbolic elements of the Seder to the commitment of eating differently from any other week of the year. At a time like this, we want the comfort of our traditional holiday dishes, yet our kitchens are also the perfect place to embrace this unique Passover in different ways.
Take, for example, chicken soup, often called “Jewish penicillin.” The soup does do a body good, and while you might have your own long-standing family recipe, maybe this is the year to incorporate plant-based eating with a vegetarian version. We’re also suggesting two options for matzoh balls — one of them vegan — both pumped full of flavor with lots of green onions and dill.
Another vegetable-forward dish is a Kuku, a Persian dish little known in this country. It is packed with immune-boosting herbs and vegetables — in this case, cauliflower. The result is a satisfying vegetarian main or side dish. This recipe makes enough to almost guarantee leftovers. It freezes well, too. Although we might not be cooking for the masses this year, making extra for ourselves is a timesaving way to ensure we have plenty of tasty, healthy prepared food on hand.
Haroset is an easy pathway to new Passover flavors. At the Seder, haroset symbolizes the mortar used by the enslaved Hebrews forced to build the pharaoh’s structures. For most American Jews, the apples-and-walnut version is traditional, but there is an endless variety of haroset originating in all the many countries Jews have called home. This Turkish version is a tart, jammy and nut-free standout.
This year, try making several versions of haroset and have a taste-off as part of your Seder. The leftovers spread on matzoh during the ensuing eight days of the holiday remind us of how eating differently during Passover can be quite tasty.
A family that cooks together …
Whomever you are home with, the holiday is the perfect time to involve everyone in the cooking. With kids, the kitchen is a place to have easy conversation, develop life skills and pass along family traditions. It’s also an excellent place to painlessly work on math and science skills. With age-appropriate supervision, kids can help with stirring and measuring ingredients, chopping vegetables and herbs, and more.
Teens can oversee whole dishes, and everyone can have fun with a matzoh ball roll-in — hands well-washed, of course. It really doesn’t matter if the balls are all perfectly shaped. Being together is what matters most.
If you’re stuck in the house alone (as I am), cook with a friend or two virtually using FaceTime or Skype. When it’s time for the Seders, use that technology to connect as you read the Haggada and sing around your separate tables as one, coming together to create a new definition of the Seder table.
Other related recipes
Vegan Matzoh Ball Soup
The only thing missing from this beloved soup is the chicken, but with all the rich flavor and golden color (thanks to turmeric and onion skins) few will miss it. Make it with the vegan matzoh balls included below or try a vegetarian matzoh ball in the dish.
For the soup
4 quarts boxed vegetable broth or homemade vegetable broth, such as Imagine brand’s “no-chicken” version
1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
6 medium carrots, trimmed (peeled, if desired)
6 stalks celery with leaves, trimmed
2 small turnips, peeled and quartered
2 medium leeks (about 1 pound) split lengthwise and rinsed thoroughly
1/2 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley (8 to 10 stems)
1/2 bunch fresh dill (10 to 12 stems), plus 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 to 5 bay leaves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the matzoh balls
2 cups finely chopped scallions (from about 10 to 16 scallions)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground flaxseeds
2 tablespoons tepid water
1 cup matzoh meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried dill
1 cup cool vegetable broth or water
Oil (optional) or water, for shaping the matzoh balls
For the soup: In a large stockpot, combine the broth, onion, 3 of the carrots, 3 stalks of the celery, the turnips, the dark green tops and tough outer layers of the leeks (reserve the white and light green parts), parsley, the dill stems, garlic and bay leaves. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let the soup simmer until fragrant and flavorful, about 45 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, to taste, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove from the heat, remove the lid and let cool.
Calories: 137; Total Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 921 mg; Carbohydrates: 23 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 3 g.