Faith Kramer's Vegan Moussaka (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Faith Kramer's Vegan Moussaka (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Satisfy all at your seder: egg-free, gluten-free matzah balls and vegan moussaka

My seder table is always full. Friends, family, visitors from afar, and strays and strangers from many backgrounds all cram into the dining room to hear the story of the Exodus and share the experience of the ritual meal.

I like the food I serve to be diverse, as well, so all feel welcome no matter what food restrictions or preferences they may have.

Over the years, I have found that the alternative choices appeal to all guests, not just to those on special diets, so it’s smart to make these recipes in their full quantities to serve alongside traditional chopped liver, brisket and baked chicken. These recipes also can be used as part of an all-vegetarian seder.

Because of Passover food restrictions that many follow, these recipes do not contain legumes or other kitniyot (such as rice, dried beans or millet). Moreover, these recipes are parve (basically, anything that doesn’t include meat or dairy) so they can be served with meat and chicken, and they all can be made in advance.

Ground spices are limited because they must be certified kosher for Passover. (Whole spices that you grate yourself, such as nutmeg, are exempt.) Disposable foil bakeware is a fine alternative for most recipes if your Passover kitchen is short on baking trays or pans. Line pans with foil or parchment paper (and, yes, the Orthodox Union states that “parchment paper requires Passover certification unless the brand appears in the OU’s Passover Guide”) before greasing to reduce clean up if working in batches. To reduce the amount of oil in some of the recipes, look for a Passover-certified oil spray.

For questions on foods available or appropriate to use at Passover, please consult one of the kosher certification agencies’ websites or your rabbi.

The Vegan Moussaka plays on flavors reminiscent to Jews in Turkey and Greece and features a white sauce made from almond milk. This recipe has four components and each can be done in advance. I recommend assembling and baking the moussaka the day before serving and reheating. To add oomph, I baked mine in a round springform pan. I’ve given alternative directions for an equally tasty if less dramatic version baked in a traditional pan, and do-it-yourself almond milk directions if you can’t locate a Passover-certified product.

The two sauces, garlic and pomegranate, are kitchen staples with Middle Eastern backgrounds that are Passover workhorses. I use both to complement the moussaka

Most gluten-free matzah contains eggs, so if you need one that is egg-free seek out oat-based matzah. Gluten-free matzah meal works well in traditional matzah balls if eggs are not a concern. For a vegan (egg-free) version, try the Alternative Matzah Balls recipe using regular matzah meal or egg-free and gluten-free matzah. I make these special just for folks who are not indulging in my regular kneidlach (matzah balls).


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A slice of Faith Kramer’s Vegan Moussaka (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Vegan Moussaka

Serves 8-10

Potato layer:

¼ cup olive oil or oil spray
1½ lbs. medium russet potatoes
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground oregano (or 1 tsp. minced fresh oregano)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets. Peel potatoes if desired. Slice lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Place in single layers on greased sheets. Brush or spray top of potatoes with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and oregano. Bake until very soft, about 25 minutes.

Eggplant layer:

⅓ cup olive oil or oil spray
2 lbs. eggplant
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground oregano (or 1 tsp. minced fresh oregano)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three baking sheets. Peel eggplants. Slice into ¼-inch thick rounds. Place in single layers on prepared pans. Brush or spray top of eggplants with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and oregano. Bake until very soft, about 25 minutes.

Filling:

2 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups chopped red onion
1 to 2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground oregano (or 1 Tbs. minced fresh oregano)
¾ tsp. salt, or to taste
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 lb. portobello mushrooms, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 cup water
3 cups of canned tomato puree, strained tomatoes, crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce

In a wide, deep pot, heat oil and sauté onions until softened. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Stir in paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add mushroom pieces. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add water, sauté, stirring often, until mushrooms are cooked and almost all liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomato puree. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

White sauce:

2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. potato starch
2 cups plain, unsweetened purchased or homemade almond milk (see below), warmed
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Heat oil in pot on medium-low heat. Slowly whisk in potato starch until smooth. Add almond milk in ¼-cup increments, whisking continually. Bring to simmer, continuing to whisk. Keep at simmer, still whisking, until thickened and sauce coats the back of a spoon.

Homemade almond milk: Cover 1 cup shelled, raw almonds (with skins) with water. Soak 8 to 10 hours. Drain. Discard water. Rinse almonds several times. Put in blender jar with 2½ cups water. Blend on high until almonds are in very tiny bits. Pour liquid and scrape solids into strainer lined with two thicknesses of cheesecloth (leave a 4- to 5-inch overhang) set on top a large bowl. Press on solids with back of spoon. Bring up ends of cheesecloth and twist to wring out as much liquid as possible, squeezing with hands until dry. Makes about 2 cups. Store for up to 2 days in refrigerator. Shake before using.

Assembly:

Potato layer
Eggplant layer
Filling
White sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil or oil spray
1 cup chopped walnuts, divided
½ tsp. paprika
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
About 3 Tbs. Garlic Sauce (see recipe), optional
About 3 Tbs. Pomegranate Sauce (see recipe), optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap bottom and sides of 10-by-2½-inch round springform pan (see alternative baking pan directions below) with single sheet of foil to prevent leaks. Grease inside bottom and sides of pan. Cover bottom with half the potatoes. Top with half the eggplant. Top with half of the filling. Cover with half of the white sauce. Sprinkle with half the nuts. Repeat. Sprinkle top with paprika. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake about 50 to 60 minutes until heated through. Let rest 20 minutes. Place on large platter and, using oven mitts, release clasp and remove sides. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with sauce(s).

Alternative pan: To bake in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan, increase white sauce recipe by a third. Follow other directions as above. Moussaka will not be as deep, so baking time may vary. Serve from pan.

Making ahead: All steps can be done ahead of time. Ingredients should be at room temperature when assembling. If refrigerating unbaked moussaka, bring to room temperature before baking. If reheating baked moussaka, cover with foil and heat in 350-degree oven.


Garlic Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

¼ cup peeled garlic cloves
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. salt

Blend garlic, juice, oil and salt together on high speed until smooth. Let rest sealed airtight in refrigerator overnight before using. Use at room temperature. Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Pomegranate Sauce

Makes ½ cup

2 cups fresh pomegranate juice (purchased or homemade, see note)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
¼ cup sugar

Have a heat-proof measuring cup with a spout handy. Combine juices and sugar in pot over medium heat. Stir well. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Keep at a simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, until reduced to ½ cup, periodically pouring mixture into measuring cup to check volume. Return to pot as needed and continue to simmer. Store in sealed jar at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Note: To make juice, remove seeds from 4 large pomegranates. Puree seeds in blender and strain.


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Faith Kramer’s Alternative Matzah Balls are egg-free and gluten-free. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Alternative Matzah Balls

Makes about 12

2 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled
½ cup matzah meal (see notes)
¼ cup potato starch
2 Tbs. minced fresh dill
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
Water or stock

Boil potatoes. Drain and mash. Use 2 cups for recipe. Combine with matzah meal, starch, dill, parsley, salt, pepper and oil. Mix well. Press firmly into ball. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into 1-inch balls, compacting dough as you shape the balls. Poach in simmering water or stock for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Drain and serve in soup as desired.

If making in advance, drain and let cool before refrigerating. The matzah balls will firm up as they cool. Bring to room temperature. Gently reheat in hot soup.

Notes: These can be made with regular or gluten-free matzah meal. Be aware that some gluten-free brands contain egg, so if this is a concern, shop or look online for oat-based matzah, which does not contain egg. To make this dish with gluten-free matzah, place 2 to 3 sheets in a sealed plastic bag and crumble and smash until it resembles coarse flour.

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Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.