Florica Puts a Plant-Based Twist on Passover | Contributing Columnist

Happy Pesach, my darlings! Passover isn’t just for the Jewish people:  Its themes of social-justice and overcoming-oppression resonate with the human struggle to free ourselves and others from suffering. For me, this includes solidarity with current liberation movements in the Middle East, as well as advocacy for animals in factory farms. Passover’s hallmark is a Seder dinner that includes song, ritual drunkenness, and traditional foods. Below, Eating with Abs contributing columnist Florica Vlad puts her own plant-based twist on the holiday.

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Florica Vlad is hell-bent on changing the world with whimsy, brilliance, and joie de vivre. She shares her love for food and unique Bay-Area experiences on SFblotter, a blog Florica co-founded with Ronaldo Barbachano. She has studied permaculture, slept in greenhouses, prepared CSA boxes, and studied behind-the-scenes ethical farms and restaurants. Check-out the video she produced for Hayes Valley Farm.

On the Passover holiday, we are reminded of the sorrows of slavery and, at the same time, celebrate our freedom. The Passover Seder is a culinary celebration ripe with symbolism, and each bit of food illustrates elements of the Israelite’s story—from the maror, the bitter herbs signifying the bitterness of slavery, to the charoset, a sweet paste of fruits and nuts symbolizing the mortar used to build houses. If you are preparing your own Seder, you can be as creative as you want—that’s the fun of it! As an old saying goes:  So many houses, as many customs. If you have an innovative idea, run with it—just be sure you have a clever explanation to accompany your unusual dish!

For my improvised Seder, everything was vegan and vegetarian. What was originally going to be a meal served to four guests ballooned into a fantastic feast for 12! All the cooking was tremendously fun and liberating—while covering some of the tried-and-true standards like matzah ball soup, potato latkes and diced cabbage-slaw, I also allowed my imagination to run wild.

Here are some ideas: In place of z’roah, traditionally a lamb shank, roast beets for their vivid magenta blood and stuff them with hearts of palm ‘bones.’ For a vegan version of the beitzah, traditionally an egg, cook whole tomatoes and stuff them with eggplant salad; the tomatoes are round like eggs but with a surprising charred and smokey center! Finally, you can be very clever about where you hide the afikoman, such as dipping this special matzah in chocolate and serving it with ice cream as dessert!

Besides tasty food, ensure that your guests drink at least four cups of red wine, as it will delay an early mass-exodus from your dinner party.

Oh, snap! Happy Passover! Hag Sameach!

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| Recipe for Smoked-Eggplant Salad |
Smoked-eggplant salad is a family recipe and making it at home is super-easy if you have a gas-burning oven and plenty of ventilation. The way to do it is to take several whole, large eggplants and to place them directly on the burners until their skin starts to crisp and become soft. Then you wash off the skin and place the eggplant meat in a bowl where you can add olive oil, onions, bell-peppers and salt, mixing everything down to a smooth paste. The result is pungently-smokey and absolutely-delicious!

PS: Hey, kids! Check out my tips to make your Passover vegan! xoxo, abs

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