Food-For-All: a Guide for a Vegetarian Seder

April 07, 2019

Each Passover Seder is a unique experience, weaving together generations of ancient and family traditions with new concepts and rituals. We curate the food we eat, the stories we tell, and the items on our Seder plate into an experience that reflects our present day selves. For this Passover season, Kolbo is excited to present a series of four themed Seder Guides to help you create a Seder with perhaps new, meaningful and interesting twists. We encourage you to use these guides to help make your own Seder reflective of that which is important to you and those around your table. This week, we are proud to present a Guide for a Vegetarian Seder.

Planning and preparing the food for a gathering can be one of the sweetest joys—and one of the greatest stressors. As hosts, we want to make sure our guests delight in the foods we prepare for them, while also being sensitive to any dietary restrictions.

For vegetarians, navigating holidays is often tricky. From planning (or just eating) the meal itself, to figuring out how to please meat-eating guests, to trying to decide whether or not to put a shank bone on the Seder plate—there are many things to think about. Your Seder is a time to bring together family and friends, both new and old, to share time, stories, food, and tradition; it shouldn’t have to be bogged down by the unneeded stress of planning a plant-based menu.

Preparing for your Vegetarian Seder can be fun, enjoyable, and full of flavor. Here are some helpful planning tips:

  1. Understand specific dietary restrictions! Start by inquiring of your guests about their dietary needs. While pescetarians will happily chow down on gefilte fish (which actually can be delicious!), most vegetarians will be passing the plate. Similarly, most kugels are vegetarian, but almost all contain eggs, which makes them a no-go for vegans. Keeping kosher? Important tip: many types of cheeses (particularly parmesan and romano) contain rennet for flavoring, which is traditionally taken from the stomach of calves or lambs but can be made from vegetables or microbials. Make sure the label specifies whether the rennet is animal, vegetable, and microbial, or look for kosher labeling!
  2. Figure out your protein. Many vegetarians are accustomed to getting protein from beans, soy, and the like. If you or your guests are abstaining from eating kitniyot (lit. “legumes,” encompassing rice, beans, lentils, etc.) during the holiday, finding a protein becomes all the more important. Quinoa, nuts, eggs, and avocados are all great sources of protein. Swap out bulgur wheat for quinoa for a K4P (that’s Kosher for Passover) tabbouleh chock full of protein and flavor. Quiches without crusts, or with potato crusts, are also a tasty addition to a vegetarian dinner. And don’t forget soups! Soups are a great way to start a meal and are often veg-friendly and filling; just be sure to start with a vegetarian base.
  3. Seasoning is everything. So much of the way our food tastes comes down to the seasoning, and this is especially true for a vegetable-based dish. Salt is the foundation of seasoning, but you can also experiment with spice blends to boost flavor, especially if you or your participants need a salt-reduced diet. A dash of cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg to savory dishes can deepen natural flavors while expanding your taste buds. Try adding Za’atar to roasted veggies for an Israeli flair, garam masala for an Indian zing, or a gremolata, which tastes like spring. For Middle Eastern flavors, try the Persian Cucumber-Yogurt Salad or Turkish Baked Eggplant with Cheese from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook. 
  4. Try something new. If there’s a recipe you’ve been itching to try, there’s no better time than a gathering of friends. Venture out of your comfort zone and into a realm of possibilities. Adding more color to the plate gives any meal a boost of vibrance and freshness. Swap out your traditional charoset for a Yemenite or Egyptian one, incorporating dates, pistachios, almonds, and fresh spices. Experiment with different elements—like the unique recipes offered in Ottolenghi’s Plenty More—to bring to the table as appetizers and side dishes. 
  5. Put a Pesach spin on old favorites. Take one of your go-to favorite recipes, such as lasagna, and swap out the noodles for matzah. The same can be done with spanakopita, by subbing matzah for the phyllo layers. For the kids at the Seder (or any picky eaters), make a matzah pizza bar, full of yummy veggie toppings that guests can choose from. Whoever said Passover can’t also be delicious is wrong! 

Planning and preparing the food for a gathering can be one of the sweetest joys—and one of the greatest stressors. As hosts, we want to make sure our guests delight in the foods we prepare for them, while also being sensitive to any dietary restrictions.

Alana Berman-Gnivecki is Kolbo’s Gallery Manager. She spends every chance she gets traveling with her husband. When she is home in Boston she enjoys cooking, painting with watercolors, and snuggling her dog Nina, who can be found working at Kolbo most days of the week.

Alec Reitz is Kolbo’s Book Buyer, Blog Coordinator, and resident crafting enthusiast. They spend most of their time investigating bouts of everyday magic and and studying Jewish mysticism. Their writing can be found on My Jewish Learning, and in Berkeley Fiction Review, The Grief Diaries, and Pithead Chapel.

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