On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.
I’m not currently a vegetarian, but I was for several years. It started in high school for ethical reasons. My father, who grew up on a 1,000 acre farm in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was an agriculture professor at our local university. From a young age I was exposed to all aspects of animal husbandry—the good, the bad, and the ugly. As an adolescent I believed that vegetarianism was something to aspire to, and I slowly began to cut out red meat. I finally gave up meat completely at 16. I kept at it for many years, but in my early twenties my health began to suffer. I discovered in college that I was sensitive to soy and prone to anemia (a strange genetic quirk in my family). It proved difficult to keep myself healthy and energized without the protein of meat. I slowly introduced meat back into my diet and my health improved. Even so, I ate meat sparingly. Recently I learned the word “flexitarian,” which best describes my current approach to eating. I eat vegetarian most of the time, reserving meat only for when I really crave it. That means I’m eating meat once or twice a week (sometimes less). My husband is the same way. Growing up in Israel, his mom cooked lots of vegetarian dishes like eggplant, hummus, and shakshouka. We’re happiest with a simple dinner of eggplant stew or lentils with rice. Our eating habits change around the holidays and special occasions, but generally speaking, being a flexitarian feels right to my body. I don’t have trouble staying at a healthy weight, I have lots of energy and I feel great.
With Passover just around the corner, my family is looking forward to our yearly tradition of beef brisket and chicken soup. This year, for some reason, I’m not craving those special occasion meat dishes like I usually do. I decided to challenge myself to come up with a few Passover-friendly vegetarian dishes for our Seder. I plan to incorporate all of these dishes into our holiday meal, and I’m excited to share them here with you!
The Jewish holiday of Passover comes with a list of dietary restrictions that must be adhered to in addition to the normal kosher laws. We do not eat chametz, or leavened grain products. Depending on whether you follow Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jewish customs, a food category called kitniyot may also be off the table. Ashkenazi Jews abstain from eating rice, corn, millet, dried beans and lentils, peas, green beans, soybeans, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and mustard during the holiday. Creating a tasty menu of vegetarian Passover recipes without these kitniyot items was difficult, but I always love a challenge. The restrictions helped me to think outside the box and come up with some new and interesting dishes. The majority of these recipes are vegetarian, not vegan— so if you’re looking for egg-free recipes, you won’t find them here (although the Spicy Smoky Ratatouille Casserole makes a terrific vegan entree!). Some of these recipes are also gluten free, a bonus for guests with gluten sensitivity. Offer your vegetarian guests more than just side dishes, or host a meat-free Seder with these unique and delicious ideas.
Vegetarian Passover Recipes
Apple Cinnamon Charoset with Candied Walnuts
Most Ashkenazi charoset recipes are pretty simple, a mix of apples, sweet kosher wine, walnuts and spices. To create my own spin on this concept I developed a basic apple charoset with cinnamon and spice, sweetened with wine and honey. Rather than integrating walnuts into the charoset, I made a topping by candying them and adding cayenne for a crunchy finish with a kick of spice.
Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo ball soup with chicken broth is a popular Passover tradition in America. I worked hard to create this vegetarian version, which has a savory flavor similar to chicken broth without any meat in the mix. I was so happy when I finally discovered the secret ingredient- saffron. It took my vegetable broth from blah amazing. This is a vegetarian matzo ball soup I’d be proud to serve at my Seder!
Mushroom, Harissa and Goat Cheese Frittata
In this frittata, the mellow tang of goat cheese perfectly compliments the spicy harissa and savory mushrooms. This dish is gluten free, low carb, healthy and delish– the perfect light meal for your Passover Seder. Make sure you choose a goat cheese with a vegetarian rennet.
Spicy Smoky Ratatouille Casserole with Cauliflower Couscous
This ratatouille is my take on the classic French dish. I created a spicy, smoky version with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. I added smoked paprika, fresh herbs and lots of garlic to the tomato pepper base and threw in some seared mushrooms to give it a more substantial, meaty texture. Serve it over cauliflower couscous for a hearty, healthy entrée. This dish is vegan and includes no animal products, however if you’re including dairy in your meal feel free to top it with some parmesan cheese (with vegetarian rennet, of course)!
Roasted Carrots with Dill
Roasting carrots has a truly magical effect on their flavor. This simple, healthy and delicious side dish takes barely any time at all. Kosher salt brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots and fresh dill is the perfect springtime flavor pairing.
Passover Apple Pecan Pie
At Passover, when leavening is not an option, making a tasty pie crust becomes much more difficult. For this pie, I did away with the crust entirely and instead relied on matzo cracker crumbs to hold the filling together. The result is something between an apple crumble, a pan dowdy and a pie. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious!
Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
This cake, courtesy of my friend Chef Louise Mellor at Geez Louise, is leavened by carefully folding egg whites into a thick rich batter of melted chocolate and ground hazelnuts. The result is a light but decadent “truffle like” chocolate cake. You won’t need but a sliver to satisfy your sweet tooth. Be sure to top it with ice cream or dairy-free sorbet and tart fresh raspberries.
Persian Pomegranate Mocktail
This sweet and tart Persian-inspired Pomegranate Mocktail get its unique flavor from the addition of orange blossom water. It’s refreshing and delicious. I kept it non-alcoholic and family friendly, but feel free to add vodka to create a tasty Passover cocktail.
You can uncover more fascinating food history on Tori’s website: The History Kitchen.
Meet the Author
Tori Avey is a food writer, recipe developer, and the creator of ToriAvey.com. She explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Tori’s food writing and photography have appeared on the websites of CNN, Bon Appetit, Zabar’s, Williams-Sonoma, Yahoo Shine, LA Weekly and The Huffington Post. Follow Tori on Facebook: Tori Avey, Twitter: @toriavey, or Google+.