I hosted a St. Patrick’s Day dinner party last week. We drank a lot of beer, but I still have plenty left that I’d like to use up before Passover (Michelle, I accept your cupboard cleaning challenge). There are many wonderful uses for beer (like Guinness Braised London Broil), but my current favorite is beer bread. Not only is it the easiest bread you will ever make, it’s so delicious no one will believe you didn’t spend more than 2 minutes dumping the ingredients together and throwing it in the oven.
Thanks to Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure (Ramah Outdoors) for sharing these thoughts related to Passover, his community in Colorado and the work of the Jewish Food Movement. Read on for his Ten Plagues Facing Our Modern Way of Eating and Relating to Food and the complimentary Dayenu that you can adapt for your own seders…
It is the month of Nissan and spring is in the air. If I was living on a farm here in Colorado, I would be plowing the fields, spreading manure, and getting ready to plant our first spring vegetables. Sadly I do not live in such close proximity with the land. Instead, I live in a house in Metro Denver and would not be able to fit a tractor through the door that leads to my back yard.
No, this time of year is a time when many of us living urban lives do not even stop and appreciate the effort that farmers throughout the country and throughout the northern hemisphere are making to ensure that we in America have delicious food to eat. (In a future post, I will write about the farmer with whom we are contracting to bring fresh local food to camp. She did spend last week preparing her fields. But more on that in a week or two. . . .)
Passover is not the most glorious time to be vegetarian or vegan. This guide provides helpful tips for making Passover as painless as possible. The bulk of it focuses on following Sephardic guidelines, which allow some foods that Ashkenazi Jews don’t eat on Passover. If you’re an Ashkenazi Jew who refuses to adhere to Sephardic guidelines, skip to the last section for tips that everyone can enjoy.
Deciding Whether to Eat Kitniyot on Passover
I am an Ashkenazi Jew, and until my first Passover as a vegetarian at age 16, I followed the Ashkenazi tradition of avoiding kitniyot (including rice, corn, beans, lentils, peas, string beans, and seeds) on Passover. When I went vegetarian, I reasoned that kitniyot were a key source of protein and I’d be better off following Sephardic guidelines, which permit kitniyot. I wasn’t particularly observant, and frankly, I didn’t care about the Ashkenazi-Sephardic divide.
As the years went by, I realized that my willingness to eat kitniyot despite being Ashkenazi wasn’t so far-fetched. In 1989, a ruling by the Israeli Conservative movement said that all Israelis could eat kitniyot on Passover “without fear of transgressing any prohibition.” In 1997, Rabbi David Golinkin (representing the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel) issued a ruling supporting the elimination of the Ashkenazi custom of avoiding kitniyot on Passover. Several years ago, Rabbi David Bar-Hayim of Jerusalem formally lifted a ban on kitniyot in Israel. While there isn’t unanimity in Israel, the Forward reported a year ago, “According to some experts on changes in religious law, we are witnessing the beginning of the end for the ban on kitniyot in Israel.”
As Passover rapidly approaches, cleaning and preparing for the holiday is a topic that comes up more and more. It seems like a huge undertaking and most people dread Passover cleaning– me included. But this year, I’m a little excited. I’ve divided my cleaning into two parts, my kitchen and the rest of my apartment.
I’ve decided to make my Passover cleaning into a more traditional spring cleaning. And what better way to welcome springtime than with a fresh and clean apartment?
As for the kitchen, it’s always quite a project. I started last night with a play from my college roommate’s playbook. I took a box and placed it on the center of my kitchen floor and started throwing all of my chametz into it. I filled the box pretty quickly, now I know why she put the box out about a month before Passover. There were a lot of staples (beans, pasta and rice) in the box, but there were also some hidden treasures in the back of my cabinets that I had completely forgotten about.
Here in Portland we’re fortunate to have a year-round farmer’s market, and I’m always on the lookout for interesting, tasty, off-the-beaten-path things to make for Pesach. I love serving fresh asparagus at my seder, but it’s not in season yet, so I was looking for an alternative. Our local mushroom purveyor, Springwater Farm, offers a great variety of mushrooms, but they also sell other wild/foragable foods, including fiddlehead ferns and bags of stinging nettles. Here’s a link to some fiddlehead fern recipes.
The fiddleheads can be served in lieu of asparagus; just blanch them in boiling water and saute in garlic with a little salt.
Thank you to Uri Laio for sharing this story and recipe (cross-posted on his blog Old Growth Yiddishkeit). Uri is an ADAMAH alumnus and is currently finishing his first year at UC Hastings Law School in San Francisco.
When my Grandfather, alav hashalom, was nearing the end of his long and fruitful life, I had the opportunity to make dinner for him once (which was uncommon because during that time my mother used to cook dinner for all of us mostly every night). He requested borscht, a dish that I was altogether unfamiliar with, but which was an essential part of the Eastern European Jewish food tradition my Grandfather had grown up with. In my good intention to fulfill his request, I opened a jar of canned borscht (Ingredients: Water, Beets, Sugar, Salt, Citric Acid.) and served it with sour cream, and love.
Flash forward to 2010.
It is apropos that the Whole Grains Council has declared quinoa as the March Grain of the Month, as we begin Passover on the night of March 29th. Quinoa, a rockstar of a grain in its own right with tons of nutritional value, made its debut as a Passover friendly grain just a few years ago, forever changing the way many people cook for the holiday.
According to the laws of Passover, chometz (barley, rye, oats, wheat, and spelt [BROWS to many who attended Jewish day school]) and their derivatives are forbidden. An Ashekanazic rabbinic tradition developed where kitniyot, legumes, rice and other similar products that are processed similar to chometz, look like chometz when ground into flour, or may have even just a bit of chometz in them, were also outlawed for Passover (many Sephardic Jews eat kitniyot).
As luck would have it, the law of kitniyot applies only to items that the rabbis were aware of at the time this tradition developed. This means that, you guessed it, quinoa is allowed on Passover! No longer were the Jewish people restricted to endless variations of potato dishes.
Cross-posted to heebnvegan
In December, Sarah Gross attended a workshop called “Bringing a Great Idea to Scale” at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn. When prompted to write down a few things she cared about most, Gross wrote “chocolate” and “helping animals.” She recalls, “The next morning as I walked my own rescued pitbull, Mocha, after a breakfast of chocolate (of course), my inspiration hit. ‘Rescue Chocolate,’ I muttered to myself over and over; the ideas were flying in and my fingers began to freeze as I wrote away on my iPhone. Mocha wondered why I wasn’t throwing the ball so well this morning. Anyway, the company took off from there!”
Rescue Chocolate donates 100 percent of its net profits to animal rescue groups, and all its packaging educates chocolate lovers about various issues related to the companion animal overpopulation crisis. All of its products are vegan and kosher/pareve. The company sells (or will sell) chocolate under such catchy names as Bow Wow Bon Bons, Peanut Butter Pit Bull, Pick Me! Pepper, The Fix, Foster-riffic Peppermint, Forever Mocha, and even “Don’t Passover Me” Bark.
The month Nisan begins tonight and with it, so many associations. Last year, I wrote about the practice of refraining from eating Matzah from Rosh Hodesh Nisan (i.e. tonight) until Passover. Most people make, if any, the association of dreaded Pesach cleaning and preparation. I’ll be writing some about that in a few days or next week, God willing, but for now, let’s stick to things connected specifically to Rosh Hodesh Nisan.
One association fewer people make is that Birkat haIlanot, the blessing over blooming trees, is typically said in the month of Nisan:
Many people are using Passover as a chance to think about hunger and food security.
Just this week activists gathered in Jerusalem to protest the government’s failure to provide thousands of children who live below the poverty line with hot school lunches or ensuring ‘food security’ for all its citizens. Click here to read the whole story.
In Los Angeles, many of Hazon’s friends are involved with a Hunger Seder on March 24th. The community seder will take place at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.
(Cross-posted at Mixed Multitudes)
When Passover approaches, it seems like everyone in the Jewish community goes a little bit (or more than a little bit) crazy. You start hearing about people going through every page of every book in their house, trying to eliminate miniscule crumbs. Kosher stores are clogged with families inspecting the new Passover friendly products, and elaborate Passover recipes are getting passed around, each of which seems to call for potato starch, and 7 egg yolks.
If you don’t have an endless supply of time and money to buy and cook for Passover, then let me give you my foolproof Passover food tip:
Chill out, and go as simple as possible.
Many thanks to Julie Wolk for this guest post. Julie is co-founder of Wilderness Torah, a Bay Area organization using earth-based Jewish spirituality to help individuals deepen their connection to Community, Earth, Spirit and Self through celebratory land-based festivals (like Sukkot on the Farm, Pesach in the Desert and Shavuot on the Mountain), rituals, rites of passage, and experiential Judaism in the wilderness and agricultural contexts that are at the roots of our tradition.
I’ve just returned transformed after five days in the California desert with sixty fellow Pesach journeyers. The whole experience was so totally outrageous that it felt completely natural. Who would have thought that getting back to the land, connecting in community, praying and creating ritual, and taking time for ourselves could be such a transformative experience? Well, we did have an idea I guess…
The results are in! Over the last several weeks, the Jew and the Carrot has been running its first ever Matzah Diorama Contest and a Solar Cooker Recipe Raffle. We appreciate everyone who participated in both contests, but the results are in.
Congratulations to Jaki Levy who, with his “Pluralistic Obama Seder” (pictured above) is the winner of the JDub Records Afikomen Prize Pack! According to Mr. Levy:
The scene is a family portrait of an American Seder. It was inspired by Obama’s first seder at the White House. With such a pluralistic seder, I thought it only appropriate to recreate. Guests at this re-imagined seder include the Obama children, the Bidens, Roger Kamenetz (author of Jew and The Lotus), and many other guests.
The materials used in my art: Matzah. Figurines collected over time, including a mini ballerina I collected when I lived in Wiliamsburg. The silver item used to support the matzah table is a question mark emblem given at my friend’s Bat-Mitzvah in 1991. The opposite side of the metallic item says “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
Also congratulations to Diane Vautier the winner of the Solar Cooker Raffle. See her recipe for Solar Chicken Stir-Fry after the jump.
Everything comes together at this time of year. We meaningfully commemorate the Exodus, dutifully begin to count the Omer and then the darkness of Yom HaShaoh slaps us in the face. And after that, this year, the next day is Earth Day. Given the state of the economy and the recent warning by the EPA that carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health, my family and I were tired of abstraction. I wanted to look these holidays in the eye, here and now. This is the story of how a Pesach in the desert inspired us to plant an indoor organic vegetable garden in our NYC apartment.