How To Host an Elegant Vegetarian Seder
Whether it’s eating a fish head on Rosh Hashanah or mom’s turkey on Thanksgiving, traditional holiday foods are often not vegetarian friendly. Meat consumption on holidays is deeply embedded in Jewish tradition, where Maimonides and others propagate the idea that one cannot properly observe a holiday or celebration without consuming meat. Even the seder plate calls for a lamb shank (though there are sources that do permit replacing it with a roasted beet). And while the meat issue complicates all holidays for vegetarians, Passover adds a level complexity by taking so many staples off the table, especially if you don’t eat kitnyot. But, contrary to Maimonides’ position, vegetarians will tell you it is possible to enjoy a feast without serving meat, even on Passover.
To make the meal feel decadent, make sure to start with an appetizer. While many mock chopped liver recipes involve peas, which are kitnyot, there are a number of fantastic recipes for mushroom-based mock chopped liver, which provides a lot of flavor and “meatiness” to your appetizer course (if you want to be even fancier, you can call it a pâté). If you have vegans at the table, this can easily be adapted for them by taking out the eggs. The next crucial element of a fancy meal is, of course, soup. This recipe from Whole Foods suggests adding assorted root vegetables to your vegetarian matza ball soup. If you want to depart from the matza ball tradition or give your guests options, try a pureed vegetable soup (substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock) or roasted garlic and artichoke soup.
Once the little plates have been cleared, it’s time to move to the entrée, which is always a point of stress for meat-eaters serving vegetarians. Many fear not having a centerpiece on their plates and eating a dinner of side dishes. Well, fear no more: meet the cauliflower steak. This is a fairly simple dish with flavor, contrasting textures, and substance. If you go this route, serve the steaks with a vibrantly green side dish, like roasted Brussels sprouts or broccoli, and a crisp Meditteranean salad (you can leave out the cheese). You can also add some zest to the main course with these harissa-spiced carrots carrots or braised artichokes. If you’re feeling antsy about lack of proteins, there’s always quinoa (although quinoa is a bit controversial). These quinoa patties would add heftiness to the plate, but make sure to switch out the breadcrumbs for matza meal and leave out the feta if you’re looking for something pareve. Also keep in mind that cumin is considered kitnyot, so if you don’t eat kitnyot during Passover you could omit it or consider using turmeric or paprika.
As for dessert, you really can’t go wrong with lemon meringues and fresh berries. Just ditch the lemon curd out of the recipe if you want it dairy free. If you are looking to please vegan guests there is always a lot of fun to be had with truffles.
The truth is, I wouldn’t even wait for Passover to eat this meal!