Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oy vey mir, I've missed blogging! (massive food post)

what have i been up to you ask? kids, food, and work--repeat. kids, food, and work. i thought i'd show off my little ones for your enjoyment. the girl is almost 5 months old now, and the boy-(yes, i know the long hair) will be 3 in september. he will get his ceremonial haircut and i'll be super sad because he'll look like any other boy. i digress.
so about that food. this post is showing off how i spent pesach-(passover) the jewish feast of unleavened bread. it's a festival where we reenact the exodus from egypt during a seder-(means order) and abstain from grains for 8 days. jews of northern african and middle eastern descent (sephardic) refrain from wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. jews of eastern european descent (ashkanazi) refrain from the 5 aforementioned grains plus kitniyot-(means little things) which include all legumes, beans-(yep all beans, even soy), peanuts, rice, and corn. what does this mean for the jewish vegan? well it's a huge pain in the ass. i ate a lot of nuts, quinoa, fruits, and veggies. i was up for the challenge this year. the photo above is of some awesome chocolate spread-(think nutella without the nuts or nasty milk) that i put on matzah all week long.
...and it's vegan! what's matzah, you ask? for my goyim readers, it is a giant flavorless cracker. the bread of the afflicted. i know this isn't a religious blog, PITAV is a food blog. it is important for you to know that as a jew--my ties to specific foods are strong. in fact, most jewish holidays revolve around a particular dish: chanukkah is about fried foods-(latkes and sufignot), purim is all about the booze, sukkot is about harvest foods, shavuot is about dairy foods-(the torah is like milk from a mother's breast) and passover is all about matzah. there are a few reasons for the consumption of matzah 1) the israelites didn't have time to have their bread rise during the exodus, so matzah was the supposed result. 2) it is an instruction in the book of exodus and 3) pharoh served matzah meal as gruel to the slaves because it was cheap and it filled the israelites so he didn't have to feed them as much--the ultimate diet food. speaking of which, i recently saw a box of matzah in the kosher food aisle at kroger advertised as "italian flat toast" for dieting. what?1?!?
not all matzoh is the same. i prefer manischewitz matzah because it stays crisper longer. matzah is pretty awful by itself, but nothing is worse than stale matzah. i've topped it here with the israeli cocoa spread and walnuts.
here's a tasty dish of quinoa with raisins, pine nuts, and seasoned with cumin/cardamon/cinnamon. i took grape leaves and stuffed them with the mixture too.
roasted potatoes with a mock cheese sauce and a creation i like to call "matzanga". it's lasagna using matzah instead of the traditional lasagna noodles. this technically violates some sort of rule that prohibits matzah from getting wet, but i don't care. observing kitniyot was hard enough.
here's another shot of it with some steamed kale.
another matzah treat with charoset. this is an apple condiment that is supposed to represent the mortar that the jews used between the bricks when they were workin' for that mean ol' pharoh in egypt land. traditional charoset uses apples, wine, and walnuts--but since i don't consume alcohol i made what i like to call "charoset for one"
1 grated apple, grated
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 c walnuts
1 T apple butter-(make sure it doesn't have corn syrup in it or it isn't kosher for passover)
a squirt of agave nectar

mix it all together and spread it on matzah. yum!
after the holiday was over my spouse brought me some afghani food from samira. i also made these magic cookie bar pancakes, my own recipe. i learned that it is a challenge enough being vegan, and i don't think i will observe kitniyot again. to me the most important thing is remembering the exodus and reflecting on slavery--what am i a slave to? well, if i'm getting caught up in the tons of rules of my faith and not focusing on the freedom from slavery, then i'm still a slave to rules. to me that's not the purpose of the holiday. it's about being closer to the divine. when i'm in the kitchen cooking, it is like meditation for me: the smelling of the spices, the mixing of ingredients, looking at the finished product, sharing it with loved ones, and of course--eating it!