September 18, 2018

A Vegetarian Rosh Hashanah

I remember when I was a child my mother spending several days in the kitchen preparing our special Rosh Hashanah dinner. But it wasn’t until the appearance of the open-air farmers markets that I was inspired to create less time-consuming, vegetable-based meals for my family.

With the variety of fresh produce available, you can prepare a hearty soup that will be the main course of the holiday meal and not spend all day in the kitchen. Use many of the symbolic vegetables that are served during Rosh Hashanah — they include leeks, said to bring good luck, and squash, which represents a year of blessing.

Vegetable soups are healthy, fast and simple to make, and they can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Most are even better the next day, and the longer they cook, the more concentrated they become. Puree the leftover soup into a thick broth that can be used as a sauce for pasta on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

I always have potatoes and onions on hand, but before going to the market, I check to see what is in my refrigerator. Using carrots, celery and parsley as a base, plus the enormous variety of vegetables available, I can create a hearty, nourishing soup that can become a meal by itself.

Choose fresh vegetables according to the season and don’t be overly concerned with the exact measurements.

Serve soup as the main dish for lunch or on your dinner buffet and let the guests be creative. Set out bowls of chopped vegetables, sauteed mushrooms and grilled onions, so everyone can garnish the soup according to their own taste. For additional flavor, spoon on extra-virgin olive oil and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

If you are searching for an appetizer or first course, I am sharing my favorite recipe for a Vegetarian Terrine. Serve with thick slices of your favorite Rosh Hashanah challah. It is one of our favorite holiday dishes.

HEARTY VEGETABLE SOUP
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium leeks, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, finely diced
4 stalks celery, finely diced
2 small new potatoes, unpeeled, finely diced
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
6 to 8 cups water
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, zucchini and parsley. Sauté 5 to 10 minutes, stirring until tender. Add the water, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add basil and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes more. Ladle 1 cup of soup into blender and puree; return to soup and mix well.

Ladle the soup into warm, shallow soup bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 6 to 8.

VEGETARIAN TERRINE
1 pound green beans
½ cup unsalted margarine
1 cup chopped onion
1 green apple, peeled and diced
6 mushrooms, minced
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-size pot, cook the green beans in boiling salted water until barely tender. Drain the beans and reserve liquid for soup, if desired. Coarsely chop the beans. Melt the margarine and sauté the onions, apple pieces and mushrooms until soft. Add sherry and heat. Chop together the onion mixture, beans, eggs and peanut butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold on a lettuce leaf, garnish with cherry tomatoes and thick slices of challah. 

Serves 6 to 8.

Judy Zeidler is a cooking teacher and cookbook author.