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Food
Vegetarian dishes find a place at the Seder table

Thursday, April 10, 2003

By Sharon Eberson, Post-Gazette Sunday Magazine Editor

Preparing a meal for 20 can be a daunting task under any circumstances, and dietary concerns of individual guests can add to the difficulty. Add to that a meal of many courses and customs, such as the Passover Seder, and it would seem like a cook's nightmare.

Two weeks before the first night of Passover, at sundown April 16, Amy Pardo of Mt. Lebanon seems unfazed by it all. Pardo, who grew up as a Reform Jew, is accustomed to meeting the needs of a relative who has gone from vegan to vegetarian and preparing dishes that adhere to Sephardic traditions, which include the use of grains such as rice.

"You accommodate the people you invite; that's part of being a host," she said. "Every host goes through that. For instance, my brother-in-law doesn't eat onions, so he gets everything before the onions go in."

This year, there will be three types of soup heating up on the stove in Pardo's kitchen: one with vegetarian broth, one with kosher chicken and one for everyone else.

Besides the recipes below, if you're cooking for a vegetarian at the Seder table, Pardo says almost any vegetarian stew or ratatouille will do, as long as the recipe doesn't include beans or flour.

Although there might be a lot of different tastes to satisfy, this is not a holiday about differences.

"People all over the world will be sitting down to Seder and doing essentially the same thing. It's a linkage of tradition," Pardo said.

"Even the Seders that are modified still have certain elements that everybody's have."

Northwoods Pilaf

Ashkenazi Jews do not use legumes or grains on Passover. This recipe works if you preparing a Sephardic Seder and eat rice

  • 1 cup wild rice

  • 1 3/4 cups vegetarian chicken-flavored broth
  • 1/3 cup vermouth (optional, or substitute a kosher-for-Passover wine)
  • 3 tablespoons margarine, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cups sliced celery
  • 3/4 cups julienned carrots
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1/3 cup green onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 7 ounces roasted red peppers
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 jumbo ripe olives, sliced

Rinse wild rice under running water for 1 minute; drain. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2-quart casserole

In a medium saucepan, combine broth, vermouth (wine) and wild rice. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside (do not drain)

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of margarine. Add mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook and stir for no more than 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1 tablespoon of margarine.

Stir the rice mixture into the vegetable mixture. Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish. Bake covered in 325-degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the rice is done, stirring once. Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from "Better Homes and Gardens: America's Best-Loved Community Recipes"

Sephardic Matzo Pie

Amy Pardo of Mt. Lebanon is always looking for recipes that work for the vegetarian at her Seder table. She's trying this one for the first time this year.

  • Pie:

  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 4 whole matzo
  • 1 large egg
  • Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • Dill

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread oil on an 8- or 9-inch baking pan and place pan in oven to heat

Soak the unbroken matzo in warm water until semisoft but not mushy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove matzo and place on paper towels to drain

Carefully cover the bottom and sides of pan with 2 matzos, breaking apart to fill spaces. Spread with filling, then cover with remaining 2 matzos. Spread the egg on top.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Can be reheated to serve. Serve warm.

For the filling: Melt margarine in a large skillet. Add onions, salt, and pepper. Add mushrooms and lemon juice, then add zucchini. Cook until much of liquid evaporates, or to your preference. Add remaining ingredients. Fill the pie.

"The World of Jewish Cooking" by Gil Marks (Simon & Schuster, $30) with modified mushroom filling from "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" by Mollie Katzen (Ten Speed Press, paperback $18.95)

Jean Berenson's Apple-Carrot Passover Pudding

  • 1/4 cup egg whites

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 1 large tart apple, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried figs steeped in 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup diced dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 1/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 extra-large egg whites

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 8-inch-square baking dish.

Combine egg whites, oil, 1/2 cup almonds, apple, carrots, figs and wine, apricots, matzo meal, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend well.

Beat egg whites till foamy and gradually add the remaining sugar, continuing to beat until the whites are stiff.

Fold the egg whites into the pudding mixture. Turn into prepared dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the 1/3 cup slivered almonds and bake for 40 minutes.

"Deliciously Healthy Jewish Cooking" by Harriet Roth (EP Dutton, $26.95)

Pear-Pineapple Matzo Kugel

  • 2 eggs

  • 5 extra-large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple in natural juice
  • 2 apples, peeled and shredded
  • 1 firm pear, peeled, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup dark raisins soaked in 1/2 cup Passover wine
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 sheets matzo, crumbled, soaked in warm water and drained, or 12 ounces soaked Passover noodles
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish.

Beat eggs and egg whites with fork in a large bowl.

Add sugar, pineapple and juice, apples, pear, raisin mixture, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir to blend.

Add drained matzo or noodles and mix thoroughly. Put in dish.

Bake for 45 minutes. If desired, dot kugel with apricot jam during last 10 minutes of baking.

Slightly modified from "Deliciously Healthy Jewish Cooking" by Harriet Roth

Spinach-Tomato Matzo Strata

This recipe is good for a lunch during the Passover holidays. For those who keep kosher, the dish cannot be served with meat because it includes cheese.

  • 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage or farmer)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 3 to 4 matzos
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Vegetable oil spray

Squeeze spinach dry and mix with ricotta, 1 egg, dill and 1/4 teaspoon each of pepper and salt.

Spread half of spinach mixture over the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish Cover with a layer of matzo, breaking them to fit if necessary.

In skillet, cook mushrooms in oil over high heat, 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Spread half of cooked mushrooms over matzos in dish. Cover with a second layer of matzo. Spread remaining spinach mixture and then mushrooms over matzos. Arrange all of the tomatoes over mushrooms. Cover with remaining matzos.

Whisk together milk, remaining 1 egg and remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt and pepper until blended. Pour over ingredients in baking dish. Refrigerate overnight so matzos can absorb liquid. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until puffy, golden and firm in center.

Serve warm or at room temperature. You might want to remove the top matzo layer if it is stiff.


Sharon Eberson can be reached at seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.

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