On the Jewish food scene: Jewish and vegan by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

This time I promised myself it would be different. This time I would actually make some of the recipes. Well, I may have had the best of intentions, but they went nowhere. The main problem is that I don’t have most of the ingredients on hand and really don’t want to buy things I might only use once. (Please note that my cupboard does not even contain flour, and my spices are generally limited to garlic power, onion powder and cinnamon.) That doesn’t mean I didn’t love “Beyond Chopped Liver: 59 Jewish Recipes Get a Vegan Health Makeover” by Kenden Alfond (Turner Publishing Company). Alfond, known for her Jewish Food Hero website (https://jewishfoodhero.com/) and newsletter, is interested in healthy, meat-free, dairy-free, plant-based recipes, and the recipes in this book look really interesting. 

If we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic, I would have invited a friend to a vegan “Matzo Ball Soup” soup-off. She swears by hers (and her kids love it), but it would be fun to see if Alfond’s is better. However, “Beyond Chopped Liver” is more than rethinking and remaking Ashkenazi food. She also includes many foods of Sephardi/Mizrahi origin. For example, “Red Lentil and Chickpea Harira Soup” and “Spiced Yellow Lentil Soup” also look really good. 

Before sitting down to write this, I was out in the cold, so the soups caught my interest first, but Alfond offers everything from bread and dips to salads, main courses and desserts. The “Pomegranate Sorbet” sounds perfect for a hot, summer day and I was tempted to make it because it has the fewest ingredients, but she recommends using vodka or flavored alcohol and they don’t carry those at my grocery store. (I have not been in a liquor store since the pandemic started, so what little alcohol supply I had ran out a long time ago.) However, I am going to keep that in mind for when summer returns. 

If I were going to ask someone (after the pandemic, of course) to make a great meal for me, I would want the following menu: 

  • Bread (for what is a Jewish meal without bread): Challah (if a Shabbat meal) or “Yael’s Stovetop Pita.”
  • Dips (as an appetizer): Hmm, we would need a choice of dips to go with that pita, so I’d like the “Roasted Eggplant and Yellow Pepper Spread” and “Roasted Pumpkin and Apple Spread.”
  • Soup: The ones I already wrote about above – “Red Lentil and Chickpea Harira Soup” and “Spiced Yellow Lentil Soup” – still sound good.
  • Salad: No lettuce in any of these, so I’d choose either the “Beet and Walnut Salad with Spiced Non-Dairy Yogurt” or “Carrot Salad Plus.” However, a few others also look interesting.
  • Main dishes: Oy, there are so many choices it’s hard to narrow it down. But I’m going to go with either “Stuffed Cabbage Rolls” (which I like, but never made) or “Sweet and Sour Meatballs.” But since no side dishes are listed, these would work since we need something else to eat with the main course: “Sweet Three Starches and Fruit Kugel” and “Twice Baked Sweet Potato Tzimmes.” 
  • Dessert: Since someone else would be baking for me, I’m willing to be ambitious (on their behalf). “Creamy Berry Cheesecake Parfaits” or “Fudgy Flourless Chocolate Cake” sound like the perfect ending to any meal.

Now, sigh, I have to convince a friend to cook for me. Hmm, maybe that will work if I also offer them a copy of “Beyond Chopped Liver.”