Summer means a lot of things when it comes to food–berries and cucumbers and tomatoes, to name a few! It’s also a time when herbs are plentiful–almost too plentiful to keep up with. There’s one sure way to tackle this problem: pesto. You can use pesto for so many different wonderful things–pasta (of course), pizza sauce, dip, salad dressing. And you can make vats of pesto and freeze it in usable portions for later (just stop before you add any dairy).
But what if I told you pesto didn’t have to be herb based? While traditional pesto is a combination of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil, the word is derived from an Italian verb meaning to pound or crush and can really involve any kind of vegetation. So here I’m introducing Arugula Hazelnut pesto. It’s full of flavor and bite, but mellowed out with the subtle sweetness of the hazelnut. If you don’t want quite so much arugula taste, throw in some parsley to balance the flavor a little more.
3 cups arugula
1 cup parsley (optional)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts until fragrant. Remove from the heat and cool.
Add the arugula and parsley (if using) to a blender or food processor. Pulse for 5 seconds.
Add the garlic, hazelnuts, salt, and pepper.
Gradually drizzle in the olive oil while the blender or food processor is running. Process until smooth.
Taste to adjust seasoning and consistency. If it's too thick, add more oil.
People become vegans for all sorts of reasons–ethical, environmental, health. But recently, a growing number of Jews have begun adopting a vegan diet as an expression of their Judaism, or at least a piece of it.
Veganism entails abstaining from any product derived from an animal–meat, eggs, dairy, leather, and even, for some, honey. The idea of not consuming these products has been around for a while, but it was only given the term “vegan” in the 1940s to differentiate practitioners from vegetarians. Vegan diets have many of health benefits, especially because vegans tend to eat more whole grains, legumes, and produce, but there are some important health considerations to think about.
Jews and vegans have been sharing headlines for some time now. Rav Kook famously promoted Jewish vegetarianism at the turn of the 20th century. Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer took a break from fiction to write about how he came to his decision to be a vegan in Eating Animals (after that, he changed it up again and edited a haggadah). Now the idea of Kosher veganism has come even more directly into the spotlight with the creation of The Shamayim V’Aaretz Institute, which seeks to educate and create leadership around animal welfare activism, Kosher veganism, and Jewish spirituality. Sporting an all-star cast, the Institute was founded by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz of Uri L’Tzedek and Mayim Bialik. Its board includes noted performer Matisyahu, who recently had a makeover.
Mayim Bialik, everyone’s new favorite Jewish celebrity, has become a vocal advocate of the vegan lifestyle and attachment parenting. Jumping on the s*** people say train, she starred in a video for the Institute called “Stuff Kosher Meat Eaters Say to Kosher Vegans.”
But while the number of supporters for and interest in this lifestyle is growing (check out the 34,000+ views of Mayim’s video), there are still plenty of people who feel Judaism and veganism are irreconcilable belief systems. Sorting through the spam in the comments, there are a few dissident voices. “The fact is that the Halacha DOES require the eating of meat… as with any other Halacha – we have to do things we don’t want to do.” Another commenter wrote, “This is absurd. Torah is inherently incompatible with veganism.” Rav Shmuly has a few answers for these allegations.
If you are a vegan or want to learn more about the concept of Kosher veganism, I recommend checking out the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute’s web site for recipes, resources for vegan clothes and cosmetics, and great videos–like Rav Shmuly and his wife showing off their vegan groceries. The Beet Eating Heeb is also full of resources and commentaries on veganism, Judaism, and the relationship between the two.
This is another recipe from our favorite vegan, Mayim Bialik. Mayim claims she’s not usually an eggplant girl, but that this dish tastes incredible.
1 large onion
3 Tablespoons oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and then cut into cubes
1/4 cup diced green pepper
11 oz tomato-mushroom sauce (or any jarred Kosher for Passover sauce you want)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups matzah farfel (don't cringe, just wait!)
Saute onions in oil until tender. Combine onions, eggplant, green pepper, tomato-mushroom sauce, and seasoning. Cook, covered, for 15 min or until eggplant is tender. Stir in tomatoes. Alternately layer vegetable mixture and farfel, beginning and ending with the vegetable mixture in a 2 quart baking dish (I use the 9 x 13 size).
Bake at 350 uncovered for 25 min.
Mayim calls this recipe “ridiculously rich and decadent” and promises you won’t be able to tell that it’s kosher for Passover and vegan. And if you don’t trust Mayim, who do you trust?
1/4 cup almond meal - or just finely grind almonds in a processor to 1/4 cup worth!
1/4 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb plus 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (do NOT exceed 61% cacao which I know you all want to!?)
6 Tablespoon plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted pareve margarine
3 large eggs where 1 egg = 2 tbsp water + 1 tbsp oil + 2 tsp baking powder (best cheap egg replacer for pesach ever!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon finely grated orange peel
Sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 9" glass pie dish with margarine. Whisk almond meal, matzo cake meal and salt together in a bowl.
Combine 1 lb chocolate and 6 Tablespoon margarine in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-30 sec intervals until smooth, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
Beat "eggs" with sugar and vanilla about 2 min. Beat in orange peel, then chocolate mixture. At low speed, beat in dry ingredients. Transfer to pie dish, place on rimmed baking sheet because it will drip a bit!
Place sheet with pie in oven and bake until cracked on top and tester comes out with most crumbs attached, 45-50 min. Cool to room temp; center will fall, this is NORMAL! Don't freak out.
Combine 1 ounce chopped chocolate and 1 Tablespoon margarine in microwave safe bowl in 15 second increments until glaze is smooth, stirring often. Drizzle over pie! Sprinkle with almonds. CAN BE MADE 1 DAY AHEAD, CHILL UNTIL COLD, TENT WITH FOIL AND CHILL!
I highly recommend with eat this with strawberries tossed with a little sugar (2 Tablespoons per 1 1/4 lbs hulled strawberries works nice). Add 1 teaspoons of orange zest if you're feeling frisky. And you will be after tasting this!!!
Recently I saw a recipe online that looked delicious…but it called for gelatin. One of my all-time favorite Passover dessert recipes calls for several different kinds of dairy, which is problematic when you’ve just finished an enormous meat meal. And then there’s the problem of being a vegetarian, and constantly inundated with beautiful recipes for chicken, Turkey, and even ham.
The number one way to get around the problem is to choose a different recipe, or just leave out the non-kosher ingredient. Google is your friend, and will help you if you need to find, say, a non-dairy turkey recipe, or a recipe for chocolate mousse that you can serve after a meat meal. Alternately, if the non-kosher ingredient is minor, you can just opt to roll the dice and try the recipe without that ingredient. (Ultimately, that’s what I decided to do with the gelatin recipe. Results pending.)
2. Margarine and Butter
When I was growing up, we never kept butter in the house. We only ever had margarine, and that was what we cooked with for all desserts. It wasn’t until I was in grad school that it occurred to me that margarine probably wasn’t any better for me than butter, and that since I was a vegetarian, I should try some butter. What followed was nothing short of a revelation. Butter is amazing. It’s completely fabulous. BUT I had learned growing up that you can make many fabulous desserts using margarine, and while some snobs will adamantly refuse to use a butter substitute under any circumstances, I respectfully disagree. Should you be eating tons of margarine every day? No. But if you’re trying to make a nice dessert (or a Thanksgiving turkey) and you can’t use dairy, it’s okay to get on the margarine train every once in a while. As margarines go, Earth Balance is the best. If you really can’t abide margarine, it’s usually okay to substitute canola or olive oil, about ¼ cup for every ½ cup of butter instructed in the recipe.
3. Milk Substitutes
Many a fine dessert recipe call for milk, buttermilk, or cream. Happily, we live in the days of soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and many many other alternative “milks.” I freely substitute these for milk in recipes where I need to make something pareve. I have friends who say that they won’t ever substitute anything for cream, but I’m not that classy—I will use some vanilla soymilk and call it a day.
4. Meat Substitutes
There are so many delicious meat substitutes out there I don’t even know where to start. I love Morningstar Farms, particularly their chicken substitues, and their ground beef substitutes. Many of my fellow vegetarians swear by tofu, but personally, I find it usually kind of unfulfilling. That said, I still use it in a pinch, and if properly marinated and cooked it can be lovely. My favorite, though, is a new discovery—Field Roast vegan sausages. Not yet certified kosher, these sausages are shockingly fantastic. I love them with eggs in the morning, in veggie pies for dinner, and roasted as a side dish. Seitan is also a fantastic meat substitute with a more substantial texture than tofu. The thing is, even though some meat substitutes are great tasting, they don’t really taste like meat, and I don’t think I’d serve any of them solo as a main course the way one could serve a chicken. I say limit meat substitutes to dishes where the meal is part of something greater. And experiment to see which of these you like the most.
5. Cheese substitutes
So, these exist, but I can’t really recommend them. If you’re looking at a meat recipe that calls for cheese, I would just use another recipe. That said, there are some people who love vegan cheese, so it’s worth it to try and see how you feel.