The Jew And The Carrot

Holding a Vegan 'Candle' to Jewish Holiday Menu

By Alix Wall

Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco

This is a sporadic column by personal chef Alix Wall, in which she evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.

When “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café: Celebratory Menus and Recipes from New York’s Premier Plant-Based Restaurants,” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda, showed up on my doorstep, I flipped through it to see if there were any Jewish holidays represented.

I’m a fan of the trio of New York vegan eateries Candle Café, Candle 79 and Candle Café West, so I was glad to find that among the 10 menus for occasions such as the Superbowl, Lunar New Year, Easter Brunch and 4th of July, is one for Passover. And on that Passover menu are 11 recipes for Jewish favorites that wouldn’t be out of place on other Jewish holiday tables as well.

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Gefilte Tofu With Horseradish and Beet Relish

By Joy Pierson and Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda

Gefilte Tofu With Fresh Horseradish and Beet Relish from “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café. Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco

Gefilte fish is a traditional seder appetizer that is made with ground whitefish and matzo meal. We created a very tasty vegan version that is made with firm and silken tofu, carrots and celery. The taste and the texture are spot on! Note that if you don’t have a juicer to make the beet juice, you can substitute an extra half cup of finely shredded beets.

Serves 8 to 10

1 (14-ounce) block extra-firm tofu
8 ounces silken tofu
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ cup finely chopped celery
½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon agar powder

For the horseradish & beet relish:

1 ½ cups finely shredded fresh horseradish
½ cup finely shredded fresh raw beets
¼ cup beet juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Minced fresh chives, to garnish

1) To make the gefilte tofu, cut the firm tofu in half and finely chop one-half of it.

2) Put the silken tofu in a large bowl. Take the whole piece of extra-firm tofu and crumble it into the bowl. Add the chopped extra-firm tofu to the bowl, toss the different tofus together, and set aside.

3) Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, shallots and salt and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved tofu and agar to the pan and cook, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

3) Using a tablespoon or a small ice cream scoop, form the tofu into balls, put them on a baking sheet, and let sit for 30 minutes. The tofu will keep in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

4) To make the relish, combine the horseradish, beets, beet juice, vinegar and salt in a bowl.

5) To serve, put a scoop of the gefilte tofu on a salad plate, spoon the relish on the side and garnish with fresh chives.

Reprinted with permission from “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café,” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press. Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco.

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Chopped “Liver”

By Joy Pierson and Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda

Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco

Although this recipe is fairly labor-intensive, it is well worth the work. You may want to double the recipe since it disappears quickly from the table, and you may want to keep some for delicious leftovers. It is also best to make it the day before you’re planning to serve it to let the flavors blend and intensify. Serve this fantastic spread with matzo or crudités.

Serves 8 to 10

¼ cup walnuts
1 cup dried chickpeas, covered with water and soaked overnight in the refrigerator
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 portobello mushrooms, stemmed, peeled, and finely diced
1 white onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed

1) Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2) Spread out the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel the walnuts and set aside.

3) Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Drain the chickpeas and add to the pot with the bay leaf. Cook uncovered over high heat until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, remove the bay leaf and let cool.

4) Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

5) In another sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, decrease the heat and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

6) Transfer the walnuts, chickpeas, mushrooms, onion, the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. The chopped liver will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving. Serve in a bowl at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café,” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press.

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Taste Testing Isa's Vegan Harira

By Alix Wall

Vanessa Rees

My dinner guests thought this would be an excellent stew to have on hand for weeknight dinners at home. It’s savory, hearty and filling and has a “stick-to-the-ribs” kind of quality. Check out my full review of “Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week” here. Cooking Note: I didn’t detect the saffron here, the paprika and cinnamon overpowered it, so I’d save it for another time. And I recommend a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.

Harira with Eggplant & Chickpeas

serves 8 to 10
total time: about 45 mins, active time: 20 mins

Harira is a Moroccan noodle soup, served during Ramadan to break the fast. It’s aromatic and slightly spicy, and this version is made thick with eggplant and lentils and studded with a few chickpeas swimming about. Now, if I just invented this soup out of the blue, and someone told me to put noodles in it, I would think we were on a cooking reality show and that someone was trying to sabotage me. But the noodles make it. This soup is a meal on its own. As you can imagine, you might not have the energy to cook a million dishes after fasting. This gets the deed done in one pot. The eggplant really just disintegrates into the soup, to give it a meaty thickness. In traditional harira, lamb is used for that purpose, but, you know.

I had an existential crisis trying to figure out if this recipe should go in the soup or the stew section, and so I went on a spiritual journey and decided, soup. My spiritual journey basically involved looking at fifty other cookbooks to see how they classified it. The soup thickens a lot as it’s left to sit, what with the noodles, so thin it out with water when reheating. The saffron is expensive and thus optional.

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Edible Gifts: Healthy Recipes in a Jar

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

The best kind of Hanukkah gifts are those you can make and your friends eat. In this series, we’ll present four sweet and savory ideas to spice up your holiday gift giving for everyone on your list.

Holiday food gifts are often sweet, rich, and calorie-laden. While the colder weather calls for comfort food, why not deliver it in the form of a steaming hot, one pot meal? Recipes in a jar — where the dry ingredients are attractively layered in a clear jar — are a fun and creative gift for a food lover. But instead of the usual cookie in a jar, this Hanukkah hit up your pantry and give the gift of homemade three-bean chili or Middle Eastern mujadara.

The premise is simple: Take your favorite grain recipe, separate out the dry ingredients, and layer them in a nice jar, then include a recipe for the recipient. Unlike baked goods or candies, these presents are shelf stable so there’s no pressure to eat them immediately and the recipient will have a hot meal at their fingertips whenever they like.

Bean chili is a perfect contestant for a recipe in a jar — you can use the recipe below, or adapt your favorite. Use any beans you like (though a mix of red kidney beans, white beans, and black beans has a nice effect) and add in a spice mix. This recipe produces a hearty and richly flavored vegan chili that would satisfy vegetarians and meat lovers alike.

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