The (dis)connection between the foods on our Passover table, and the Spring season did not occur to me until early adulthood, when I began cooking myself in earnest, and focused our meals on vegetables of all kinds, the whole year round. One year, I looked around the Seder table and realized that apart from the parsley laid out for saltwater-dipping, the meal — which included classics like matzo ball soup and brisket — was woefully lacking in greens, particularly for those of us who are vegetarians.
Considering that the Passover is not only celebrated in Spring, but also contains both symbolic and literal references to the season, it seems a shame to waste an opportunity to allow our Seder meal to embody the bright, fresh tenderness of early Spring. When I began designing the meal for my own family, I decided to use Passover as an opportunity to rediscover fruits and vegetables that may have fallen out of rotation during the winter months and to cleanse our palates a bit from the cold-weather stews, casseroles, and other heavily-cooked foods. The following recipes are ones we eat both at the Seder and during the week, they enliven our table and are a nice compliment (or antidote!) to the traditional matzo balls and kugels.
Zesty Carrot-Onion Soup
This soup is for onion lovers and contains three different members of the allium family. If spring onions are available in your area, they would work very well here in place of the scallions. For those who do not like the taste of coconut, you can use almond milk or another non-dairy milk of your choice.
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1.5-2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1.5 cups coconut or almond milk
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tsp cane sugar or date honey (silan)
pinch of salt
In a large soup pot sauté the onions and scallion whites in the vegetable oil on medium heat. When onions have softened and begun to turn translucent, add the cayenne, salt, pepper carrots, scallion greens, and ginger and sauté until carrots are al dente. Pour in coconut milk and an additional 2-3 cups of vegetable stock or water and cover the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer until carrots are very soft, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the garnish: Sauté the sliced shallots in olive oil until beginning to brown. Add sugar or silan, plus a pinch of salt and stir to coat evenly, remove from heat. Finely chop the chives, and set aside.
When the carrots are tender, puree the soup with an immersion blender (you can transfer the soup to a regular blender in batches, but cool slightly, first). Add additional stock or water if necessary and serve hot, topped with sweetened shallots and a sprinkling of chives.
Mixed Greens Salad with Figs, Roasted Pepper and Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms
You can substitute asparagus for the green beans in this salad, if you do not eat beans on Passover.
1 container of mixed baby greens, about 4 cups
6-7 dried figs, chopped
1 cup lightly steamed green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 sweet red bell pepper, roasted (as demonstrated here), peeled, seeded and cut into strips
small box of baby bella or white button mushrooms, quartered
⅓ cup mild soft white cheese, crumbled/cut into small pieces (ricotta salata or goat cheese work well here)
½ cup balsamic vinegar, divided
½-¾ cup olive oil
1-2 teaspoons honey
salt & pepper
Put baby greens in a large mixing bowl. Add green beans, roasted pepper and figs, set aside. Pour enough balsamic into a medium sauté pan to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly reduced, then add the quartered mushrooms. Toss mushrooms in the balsamic until evenly coated. Drain excess liquid from mushrooms and when cool, add to salad. Crumble cheese over the salad.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup balsamic vinegar with the honey, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil while whisking well until emulsified. Toss salad with the dressing and serve immediately.
If you are making the salad ahead, wait until just before serving to add the cheese and dressing.
Mixed Herbs and Walnut Pesto (dairy-free)
Makes about 2 cups
This recipe is somewhat free-form, and you can make adjustments to suit your taste; less mint, more basil, etc. Below I provide a link to a Passover noodle recipe that was featured in Gourmet Magazine in 2007. If you have never made pasta before, fear not, their recipe is forgiving, easy and tastes delicious.
3-4 large handfuls of loosely packed basil
¼ cup fresh mint
⅓ cup fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
1 cup walnuts (untoasted)
salt to taste
Combine the herbs and garlic in a food processor, with blade attachment, until completely minced. Add the walnuts and salt and process until a thick paste has formed. With the processor running pour in the olive oil slowly until you reach the desired consistency — I like my pesto to be slightly on the oil side and very spreadable. Taste and decide if you need to adjust the salt. If the pesto is too “herby” tasting, try adding a few more walnuts and or oil. Keep refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for one month, or serve immediately, with the following recipe:
For the Passover pasta recipe: click here. The recipe is for pasta primavera, but I just make the noodles to serve with my pesto. Remember to reserve ½ cup of cooking water from the pasta to help distribute the pesto evenly over the noodles if necessary.