I love the confluence of Pesach and spring. Warmer weather, longer days and lots of spring vegetable in the markets just in time for the sedorim and beyond.
The food for Passover can be heavily caloric and I am not about to give up flourless chocolate cake if I can decrease calories elsewhere. So I look for vegetables to accompany the main dish and I try to avoid (to the best of my abilities and the requests of my guests) the higher calorie kugels and other matzah-based side dishes.
Over the years, the number of side dishes I prepared for the seders increased exponentially. The trend started when we had some vegetarian guests for the seder. I wanted to provide enough food for them given that they were not eating chicken soup or brisket. They — and everyone else — loved the choices and soon the one-time effort became a yearly event
I now had a lot of Passover side dish recipes to choose from that could meet anyone’s special dietary needs from Weight Watchers to gluten-free. But I was putting a dozen different dishes on the table and collapsing as I sat down; it was too much shopping, planning, prepping, cooking and cleaning up!
The years went on and the number of guests decreased as the college friends moved on and my own kids were sometimes with in-laws. So, about five years ago, I sat down with the previous year’s menu (I keep all menus on my computer) and decided to put a line through the menu items I didn’t particularly like.
I was surprised to see that I had put a bright purple (my favorite color) line through all the recipes made with matzah! What was left were delicious, healthful vegetable-based side dishes. I also noted that most of these dishes were very well received. (I note on my menus which dishes succeed and which are epic failures!)
That discovery led me to a much healthier seder menu, many fewer dishes and far fewer matzah based kugels and other sides. The following year I served one simple potato dish and three veggie sides. There were 19 guests and everyone was very happy with the choices. Most importantly, I had enough energy left to actually enjoy the seder and discussion that lasted for several hours into the night. I also believe that the decrease in calories was a benefit to everyone.
Eating more vegetables is good for us all. Of course, we are directed to eat matzah during the seder, but we do not have to eat it as part of the meal. With a few tweaks, you can decrease the calories and carbs of that meal by substituting a few vegetable dishes for other menu items. You may find you even have room for irresistible desserts!
Melange of Roasted Squashes with Apricot, Ginger and Pecan Topping (Pareve)
I make this all through the year and it is delicious.
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks, or 2 packages precut
2 Delicata squash, cut in half, seeds removed, sliced
4 to 5 large garnet yams peeled and cut into rounds about 3/4 of an inch thick
1 to 2 acorn squash, cut in half, seeded and cut into about 4 to 6 wedges per half.
1 cup apricot nectar or all natural or freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger mixed with 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup apricot jam
3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil
Optional: Cinnamon, cloves, and allspice to taste, if you like a spicy tang.
You can spice this up with a bit more ginger or a pinch of cayenne pepper. If you can find candied ginger that is kosher l’Pesach, it is a delicious addition.
1-1/2 cups pecans, chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 to 3 Tbsp. pareve margarine, melted
Generously grease a large (steam table size) pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut all the squashed and yams and place in a large bowl. Set aside.
Place the juice, grated ginger, sugar and jam in a food processor and process with just a few pulses until almost smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and set aside.
Add the olive oil to the bowl of vegetables and toss to coat. Place the squashes and sweet potatoes in a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Place into a large Pyrex or ceramic baking dish so that the squash pieces are in a semi-single layer. Nestle the acorn Squash wedges among the other squash pieces.
Cover and roast the squash in for about 25 to 35 minutes. Turn the pieces and drizzle half the apricot sauce over the squash. Uncover and roast for another 25 to 35 minutes or until squash is golden and soft. Drizzle with the remaining sauce and stir to coat evenly. Roast for another 5 to 10 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.
NOTE: If the sauce begins to burn, cover the pan again
Baby Eggplant with Car-amelized Onions and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (Pareve)
This is especially delicious with a roast capon or turkey main dish.
5 to 6 baby eggplants (each about 6 inches)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 to 3 large Vidalia or sweet red onions, thinly sliced
1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped, liquid and seeds discarded
1/4 to 1/2 cup, chopped, oil-packed or any KLP sun-dried tomatoes
1 to 2 tsp. sugar, divided
3 to 6 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup water
OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
Fresh or dried oregano to taste
Matzah cracker crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a large roasting pan. Set aside. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Place each eggplant half, cut side up, in the roasting pan. Brush the cut side generously with olive oil and cover. Roast for 25 minutes or until the eggplants are softened, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Heat a large skillet and add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 20 to 40 minutes or until deep golden brown and caramelized. If the onions stick, add a tablespoon of water and scrape with a wooden spoon.
Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes and/or sun-dried tomatoes and heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add half the sugar and 1-1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Add the parsley and, if you like, add the basil and/or oregano. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings and lemon juice. Heat a few minutes to thicken and reduce some of the liquid. Set aside.
NOTE: You can make this part the day before to save time.
Mix 4 tablespoons olive oil with the rest of the sugar and the lemon juice. Set aside. Scoop out some of the eggplant from each half so that you leave a shell about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Mix the scooped eggplant into the onion mixture, chopping the pieces if needed. Mix well.
Add a scoop of filling to each eggplant shell and then drizzle with the olive oil/lemon juice mixture. If you like, you can process some matzah crackers in a food processor and sprinkle a few cracker crumbs over the top. Pour the water around the edge of the pan, not over the eggplants. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven.
Let roast for 30 minutes. Uncover and baste with the liquid. Add more water if needed. Uncover and roast an additional 20 to 30 minutes, checking to avoid burning. If tops begin to burn, lower the heat to 375 and cover lightly with foil.
Serve 1/2 eggplant per person.
Asparagus with Citrus and Pine Nuts (Pareve)
Asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable. This simple sauce adds some refreshing sweetness to the stalks. Can easily be doubled and you can roast the asparagus for added flavor.
2 lb. asparagus, bottoms trimmed and discarded
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 scallions, minced, green and white parts
2 shallots finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2-1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
OPTIONAL: 1-1/2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
Steam or roast the asparagus spears until they are bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 to 7 minutes depending on thickness of stalks. When the stalks are crisp tender, place them in a serving dish that allows the stalks to lay flat. Absorb any liquid with a paper towel.
While the asparagus is cooking, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, shallots, garlic and ginger. Sauté, stirring continuously, for about 6 to 7 minutes, or until the shallots are lightly golden. Add the fruit juices, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by a bit more than a third, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over the asparagus. Sprinkle the pine nuts over all.
NOTE: I prefer roasting the asparagus which heightens the sweetness of the stalks. Lay in a single layer on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet, and spray or lightly brush the stalks with olive oil. Roast at 425 until there is a slight bit of char on the edges of a few stalks.
Serves 8 to 10.
Roasted Cauliflower Bouquet (Pareve)
This is my favorite anytime veggie. The colors are gorgeous and it is “neutral” in flavor but still naturally delicious.
1 head each white, green, purple and orange cauliflower.
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Fresh parsley, finely minced
Fresh chives, snipped
NOTE: You can use any herbs or spices you like.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Cut the florets of each head of cauliflower in half or into large bite-sized pieces.
Place in a large bowl and add enough olive oil to generously coat the florets. Add the minced herbs and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and any other spices you like. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Stir, uncover, and roast until the edges have some color and the flat sides are browned a bit. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and place in a serving bowl. Simple and delicious.
Serves a crowd.
Roasted Mushrooms with Shallots and Rosemary Vinaigrette (Pareve)
I love roasted mushrooms, and these are delicious.
4 to 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, finely minced, divided
8 to 10 shallots, peeled and chopped, set aside 2 tbsp.
6 to 8 Portobello mushrooms caps, gills removed
1 lb. white mushrooms, stems removed
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste
Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with foil. Place a sheet of parchment on each. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Heat a large skillet. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and add the chopped shallots. Sauté until lightly golden. Add two cloves minced garlic and mix until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Cut the Portobello mushrooms into evenly sized slices or pieces. Place in a large bowl. Trim the stems of the button mushrooms and add to the bowl. Toss to mix.
Mix the 2 tablespoons garlic, the remaining minced shallot, the rosemary, lemon juice, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Pour a little more than half over the mushrooms and toss to coat evenly. (Reserve the rest.) Add the golden shallots and mix well. Scrape evenly onto the two prepared pans and season evenly with salt and pepper.
Roast until the mushrooms exude their liquid, mix the mushrooms and continue to roast until the liquid is absorbed and the mushrooms are golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle the remaining marinade over the hot vegetables.
Serves a small crowd.
Lemon Garlic Potatoes (Pareve)
These are delicious with any chicken or meat or fish dinner. I make them on Passover and the year round — because they are simple and delicious.
3 lb. (same size) Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and each potato cut into 4 wedges
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp. dried oregano or 1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
OPTIONAL: 1 to 2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh parsley for garnish
OPTIONAL: 1 to 2 Tbsp. finely snipped fresh chives for garnish
Generously grease a large roasting pan or 1 full steam or two half steam disposable aluminum pans. (I give in to these disposable pans on Pesach for this recipe to avoid a lot of scrubbing!) Set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix the olive oil, chicken stock and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the zest and oregano, if using.
Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Pour the potatoes into the prepared roasting pan and spread in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, flip the potatoes and add a bit more stock if the pan is dry.
Roast for another 30 minutes or until the second side is deep golden brown. Sprinkle with chives and/or parsley and serve.
Serves a small crowd.