Look, I hate to be one to further stereotypes, but the Jews are a people completely and utterly obsessed with food. Whether this fixation stems from religious restricions on certain foods and food-combinations, from the lean, war years, or from what appears to be a genetic predisposition to weakened stomach conditions, I really have no idea. The irony of this is that a lot of the well-known (Eastern European) Jewish food in the US leaves a lot of be desired, and no holiday exemplifies this lack of gastronomical appeal quite like Passover.
It’s silly really. The restrictions on this holiday, depending on how you interpret the law, are relatively few. In fact, many folks out there who are gluten intolerant, or have a wheat or yeast allergy, eat according to Passover laws all year round. And yet for some reason many of the traditional foods for this spring-time celebration of the Jewish Exodus are heavy, egg-laden, fiber-deprived, lumpy, oily, uninspired catastrophes.
A few years ago, after one piece of gefilte fish pie too many, I decided to start collecting recipes for Passover that celebrated what we can eat on this holiday (such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds), instead of recipes that tried to simulate the things we cannot (uh, passover popovers…). Of the recipes I have compiled thus far some are intended for the holiday — but with a fresh, new take on cooking without grains or leavening — and some are accidentally kosher-for-passover dishes that suit the festive, spring-like nature of the meal.
I would actually feel excited about eating the following two recipes any time of year. They are truly stars of my new Passover recipe collection and I can take no credit for either of them whatsoever. Perfect just as they were written, from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet, respectively, they are examples of how you can reinvigorate your Passover seder, and perhaps help cut back on some of the constipation-talk during the meal. Good luck.
Curried Carrot Almond Soup, from Gourmet, February 2009
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras)
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups water
2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
4 cilantro sprigs, leaves and stems reserved separately
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Cook onion in oil with 1/2 tsp salt in a 4-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add curry powder, red-pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add carrots, water, almond milk, cilantro stems, and 1/2 tsp salt and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
Blend soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Season with salt.
Serve sprinkled with cilantro leaves and toasted almonds.
Coconut Fruit Tart, from Martha Stewart Living, April 2008
For the crust
Note: You can make the crust up to a day ahead, pressed into the tart pan. Store in the fridge on a flat sheet pan, to avoid having the pan bottom separate from the top when lifted.
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup soy cream cheese, preferably Tofutti
5 tablespoons apricot jam
4 cups assorted berries
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients. Press into bottom and up sides of pan.
Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in soy milk and 2 tablespoons sugar, and bring to a boil. Whisk yolks, arrowroot or cornstarch, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Add hot soy milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard vanilla pod.
Beat milk mixture and almond paste with a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Beat in almond flour and cream cheese. Spread into tart crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover edges with parchment, then foil. Bake until set, 15 to 25 minutes more. Let cool completely in pan on a rack. Unmold. Spread jam evenly over the tart. Arrange berries on top.