Rabbi Cherina's Vegan Passover Seder Recipes
One of my highest levels of "trust" I ever experienced from my extended family was when they allowed me to be head chef for their 30+ people seders. I had just graduated from culinary school and, although I was technically a professional chef, I had never attempted this type of extravagant feat in my aunt's kitchen. After that success, I've loved the process of refining my recipes. What you read below are my favorites that elicit "may I please have some more?" and "could I have the recipe?". They are vegan (except 2, which have egg but substitutes are offered), seasonal, symbolic and satisfying without you feeling over-stuffed at the end of the meal.
Note: My family does use eggs for the seder, but substitutions are easily available.
For the seder plate, instead of "beitzah" or egg, you can use an avocado pit as it is round and a seed, or a spring flower, representing fertility, renewal and the cycle of life.
Kneidlach can be made vegan with egg substitute and many recipes are available online according to your preferences.
Maror - Horseradish
Chazeret - Romain Lettuce
Karpas - Parsley
Zroah - Roasted Beet (The Talmud mentions that one of the sages, Rav Huna, used a beet to symbolize the Passover lamb, Pesachim 114b)
Beitzah - Egg, avocado pit/seed or a spring flower
Muchmara (a Turkish roasted red pepper and walnut dip)
Carrot Soup with Kneidlach
Magenta Beet and Quinoa Salad over Portobello Mushrooms
Fresh strawberries and/or
Dried Fruit Compote
Hazelnut Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
My heritage is Ashkenasic, but my heart and culinary fantasies are Sephardic. So, for Pesach, I combine these two parts of me by using apples and dates as the main ingredients. One of the best snacks is matzah topped with charoset. I don't peel the apples because so much nutrition is in the skin. Plus, it's easier and I've never had a single complaint!
6 apples, unpeeled, shredded
8 dates, pitted and soaked overnight with a few tablespoons grape juice
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
A swig of grape juice, as needed to moisten
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Using your hands, mash and incorporate the dates evenly in the mixture. Add a bit of grape juice as needed to create your ideal consistency. Allow the rest in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before serving, or if you can't help yourself, eat right away.
Carrot Soup (serves 20 with kneidlach) This soup utilizes carrot tops to make an herbaceous stock that epitomizes springtime. Freezing ginger keeps it fresh for several months and is easily grated on a microplane.
2 bay leaves
A few celery stalks (the innermost stems with leaves are ideal)
Stems of 1 parsley bunch
3 bunches of carrot tops (use carrots for soup)
1 2-inch strip kombu seaweed, optional
Basil stems or a pinch of dried basil
1” knob ginger
14-16 cups water
Add all vegetable and herb ingredients into a large stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer, cover ajar, until reduced, for 1 hour. Strain, discarding solids.
3 bunches carrots
1 spring onion, or yellow onion
1 3-inch hunk ginger, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sea salt, to taste
12 cups stock (see above)
1/2-1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 cup minced dill and/or parsley
Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, cover ajar, for 30-40 minutes. Puree with a hand blender.
Add extra ginger just before serving, if desired. Soup will thicken as it stands, so stir well and add extra stock if needed. Garnish bowls with fresh herbs.
Kneidlach (14 small balls) You can add a small, finely grated carrot for color and sweetness. 3 ground matzohs will make about 1 cup of matzoh meal - enough for the kneidlach and other cooking projects. Double the recipe as needed. Use an egg substitute, if you desire.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, inspected or equivalent egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
Good pinch of nutmeg
1/4 powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
A few grinds of black pepper
3 whole organic spelt matzohs (crumble matzohs into blender and finely grind into a matzah-meal consistency)
A large pot filled with boiling water
In a medium bowl, cream together with a fork until mixed well. Add enough matzoh meal until thick, but not dry (between 1/4-1/2 cup). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Using cold water or a bit of oil for your hands, take a walnut-sized heaping tablespoon of mixture and gently shape into a ball. Drop into rapidly boiling water and repeat with remaining mixture. Cover, reduce heat to simmer and leave for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool without lifting the cover.
If making ahead, remove matzah balls from liquid and store in the refrigerator or freezer for future use.
Tip: Make these ahead of time and use the cooking water as the base of your stock for the Carrot Soup. It adds extra flavor and you don't waste water.
Roasted Potatoes with Cilantro Pesto
Karpas is typically parsley dipped in salt water. Potatoes are also considered kappas. To stave off hunger and keep us energized throughout the reading of the Haggadah, my family serves potatoes with two dips to maintain the themes of Pesach and make sure we can focus on the story of freedom instead of our growling stomachs.
This is a basic recipe. Adjust the proportions depending on how many people you are serving. As a rule of thumb, 3 lbs of potatoes serves 6-8 as an appetizer.
3 lb potatoes, purple, fingerling or any suitable for roasting
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Give potatoes a good scrub and remove eyes and blemishes, peeling only if truly necessary. No two potatoes are alike, so cut into bite-sized pieces, larger or smaller, thinner or thicker depending on your preference. Place potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and season to taste with salt, pepper and oil. Toss well to combine. Roast in the oven until cooked and golden-crispy on the edges. Timing will depend on the cut of the potatoes, so plan on about 30-45 minutes in the oven, checking periodically on their progress.
Cilantro Pesto (makes approx. 1/2 cup)
This vibrant green dip is best made the day of the Seder and served at room temperature.
1 bunch cilantro, washed, thick stems removed, roughly chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1 medium-sized garlic clove, minced
Extra virgin olive oil (1-2 tablespoons, as desired)
A good pinch of sea salt, or to taste
Puree ingredients together until smooth. I use a hand-blender for ease.
Muchmara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)
This Turkish-inspired dip makes wonderful leftovers spread on Matzah. Makes about 2 cups. ~
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 12oz jar roasted red peppers, drained or 4 red peppers, roasted
1 small clove garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons harissa paste or 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds (I use a spice-grinder)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
garnish with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (optional)
Grind toasted nuts in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until needed in a glass container for up to a week.
Magenta Beet and Quinoa Salad (Serves 6)
This vibrant and hearty salad makes a stunning main dish for the Seders. You can roast the beets a few days ahead of time. The entire salad can also be made a day in advance. I recommend vinaigrette the quinoa while warm so it soaks up all the flavor. You may also want to make a bit of extra dressing to add to the quinoa to perk it up the next day. Quinoa is a complete protein and takes only 15 minutes to prepare.
1 bunch beets
2 cups water or unsalted vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup yellow quinoa, rinsed vigorously in a fine-mesh strainer, drained
1/3 cup fresh dill or mint, chopped
4 tablespoons lemon juice, or more as desired
1/3 cup scallions, finely chopped
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
To Roast Beets:
Preheat oven to 375. Scrub beets to remove any dirt and cut off lengthy tails. Cover cleaned beets with aluminum foil paper. Roast in the oven until beets are tender when pierced with a knife (about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on size). Set aside to cool.
This can be done a few days in advance.
To Cook Quinoa:
Bring 2 cups of water or stock to a boil in a medium pot. Add salt, then add drained quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. If a bit of water remains or if some grains are undercooked, recover and allow to steam with the heat off. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
To Assemble Salad:
With a plastic bag on your hand, rub the beets to remove the outer skin. Dice the beets.
***Save beet skins to use as zroah on seder plate.***
Make the vinaigrette by whisking together lemon juice, scallions, garlic and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine beets, quinoa and dill in a serving bowl. Toss with dressing. Adjust seasoning and top with walnuts. Sprinkle the serving plate with radicchio leaves and mound the salad on top, garnishing with fresh herbs. Serve at room temperature.
Variation: Substitute fresh parsley, chives, or basil for one or both of the herbs.
Advance Preparation: This salad tastes best if made at least a few hours ahead, so the flavors can meld. The finished salad keeps well up to a week in the refrigerator.
A simple side dish that can be adjusted depending on how many people you are cooking for, or if you desire leftovers.
4 asparagus spears per person (or more), with bottoms snapped off
a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of garlic granules
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss asparagus with a drizzle of oil, a light sprinkling of sea salt, white pepper, nutmeg and garlic. Cook in the oven until spears are crisp-tender. Thin stalks will take 5-7 minutes while thicker spears can need up to 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Compote - A Recipe Without A Recipe
Always use organic, unsulphured dried fruit. Choose your favorite varieties, or use whatever you have on hand, such as: prunes, Turkish apricots, apples, flame raisins, white raisins, figs, and diced pineapple. A few spoonfuls of dried fruit is all you need per person, so guesstimate the amounts, remembering that leftovers will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator and make a delicious breakfast, snack or topping for other desserts.
I prefer mostly prunes and Turkish apricots, then several handfuls of raisins, figs and pineapple. Place fruit in a pot and add a cinnamon stick and a few strips of lemon peel to enhance the flavors.
Pour in water until just covering the fruit. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover, simmer for 1 hour. Turn off heat. Leave the covered pot overnight on the stove. Refrigerate the fruit in the morning.
Variations: Use sweet red wine instead of all or part of the water. Or, add a dash of liquor to enhance the water.
Hazelnut Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
You can chop the hazelnuts by hand or grind them in a blender, but start slowly to avoid accidentally creating hazelnut butter.
1 cup hazelnuts, ground in a blender
1 cup quinoa flakes
1 cup quinoa flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup extra virgin oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
Dark chocolate drops, baking squares, or chocolate chips, as desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix together wet ingredients and pour into the dry mixture, working with a fork to make a nice dough. Add extra liquid or flour as necessary to hold together. You can chill the dough at this point or directly form into cookies. Have a little dish of water on hand to wet your hands if the dough gets sticky. Make little balls of dough (about a walnut-in-the-shell sized) and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Press your thumb into each to make a well for the chocolate topping. Top with a piece of chocolate or several chips. Bake about 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown on the bottom. Cool on a rack. They harden more as they cool. Store in an air-tight tin lined with parchment. Keep for at least a week. Refrigerate and lightly reheat after a few days if you live in a warm or humid climate.
Variation: Top with jam instead of chocolate. You can use any jam you prefer, such as raspberry, strawberry, apricot, wild berry, orange marmalade, cassis, blueberry, etc.