By Linda Morel
When I was growing up, vegetarians were misunderstood souls who‘d strayed far from American hamburger culture. At holidays, they were consigned to peanut butter sandwiches while everyone else ate brisket. Vegetarians were tolerated, never catered to.
Meat has always been the traditional main course at Rosh Hashanah dinners. A symbol of lavishness and largess, meat is particularly suited to celebrating the Jewish New Year. At Rosh Hashanah meals, vegetarians once cobbled together some side dishes and considered themselves lucky. But all of that changed as attitudes have evolved.
In 1971, 1 percent of Americans were vegetarians. But according to a 2018 Gallup Poll, during the past two decades the number of vegetarian Americans has hovered between 3 and 6 percent. In addition, Meatless Mondays, concern about cholesterol consumption, growing numbers of part-time vegetarians and sensitivity to a range of dietary needs have influenced public opinion.
Now no socially conscious host would leave vegetarian guests to fend for themselves. Instead they often serve a meat-free main course and enough vegetarian side dishes for everyone at the table to enjoy a complete meal.
A friend prepares a curried squash soup every Rosh Hashanah.
“I used to make it with chicken broth,” she said. “But I stopped doing that because so many people are vegetarians.”
While once meat eaters and veggie lovers were at odds, today they co-exist, often sharing some of the same foods. Occasionally, confirmed carnivores put a little tofu on their plates.
This shift makes for a more cohesive experience at Rosh Hashanah celebrations, bringing families together at this all-important holiday.
Curried Squash Soup | Pareve
1 large butternut squash
1 pound carrots
½ pound parsnips
1 medium-sized potato
1½ inches of ginger root
4 medium-sized onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon curry powder
Kosher salt to taste
White pepper to taste
8 cups of water or vegetable broth, or more if needed
1 tablespoon dill, chopped fine
Cut the butternut squash in half. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard them. Place the squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until softened. Remove it from the oven, cool it to room temperature and reserve.
Meanwhile, peel, rinse and dice the carrots, parsnips, potato and ginger. Then chop the ginger fine. Reserve.
Dice the onions. Place the olive oil in a large pot and heat it briefly over a medium flame. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and white pepper and stir to combine for a minute. Add the squash, carrots, parsnips, potato and ginger.
Pour in 8 cups of water or vegetable broth. There should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables. If not, add more until it does. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer it over a medium flame for 45 minutes or until all vegetables are softened.
Remove the soup from the flame and let it cool to warm. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor until fairly smooth. Return it to the pot and warm briefly. Serve immediately garnished with dill, if using.
This soup can be made 2-3 days in advance. However, you will probably need to thin it with a bit more water or broth. This soup does not freeze well.
Tofu Caramelized in Maple Syrup | Pareve
Serves 4-6 as a main course and 6-8 as a side dish
Equipment: 2 large skillets
2 16-ounce containers of extra-firm tofu
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferable Grade A dark amber, or more if needed
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons sesame oil, preferably toasted for deeper flavor
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Kosher salt to taste
1 bunch of scallions
4 tablespoons corn oil, or more if needed
Remove the tofu from the container and place it on paper towels. Pat dry. Cut the tofu in half lengthwise so you have four thin slabs. Move the tofu to a large flat-bottomed platter with sides or two flat-bottomed bowls.
Drizzle the maple syrup over the tofu, coating all sides. Add more maple syrup, if needed.
Drizzle on the lemon juice and sesame oil. Sprinkle on the garlic and onion powders and salt.
Marinate at room temperature for two hours or for 12 hours in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap.
Cut the roots off the scallions and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Dice fine the bottom part of the scallions and discard the coarse part at the top. Reserve.
On a medium flame, heat 2 tablespoons of corn oil in each of two large skillets. Place two slabs of tofu in each of the skillets. In order to fit, you may have to cut each slab in half from top to bottom. Pour the marinade over the top of the tofu.
Sauté the tofu on both sides until caramelized on the outside and cooked through. Move the tofu to a serving platter. Briefly sauté the scallions in the pan juices and sprinkle them on top of the tofu. Serve immediately.
Asian-Style Green Bean Salad | Pareve
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 pounds green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed
2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1½ teaspoons sesame oil, preferably toasted
Kosher salt to taste
Heat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place the sesame seeds on the foil. Bake the sesame seeds for 2 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Watch them constantly to make sure they don’t burn. Reserve.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and lower the flame to medium.
Simmer the beans until tender, about 5 minutes. Carefully drain the water from the pot, leaving the beans inside. Immediately fill the pot with cold water and add a few ice cubes.
Once the beans cool, drain the pot again and move the beans to two layers of paper towels to dry.
Place the beans in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, sesame oil, salt and sesame seeds.
Gently toss to coat the green beans. Recipe can be served immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours. Return to room temperature before serving.
Roasted Vegetables with Oregano | Pareve
Nonstick vegetable spray
3 Japanese, small-sized
2 large zucchini
1 large red pepper
½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
1 pound small fingerling potatoes, cut in half
Kosher salt to taste
¼ teaspoon oregano, or more, if desired
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
Coat a 10-inch-by-15 inch ovenproof pan, such as Pyrex, with nonstick spray. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the eggplants. Cut the eggplants and zucchini into 1-inch disks. Cut the stem off the red pepper. Remove and discard the seeds. Dice the pepper into ¾-inch squares. Arrange the eggplants, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms and potatoes in the prepared baking pan. They can overlap, as they will shrink during roasting. Sprinkle them with salt and oregano. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and gently toss them until coated.
Roast for 40 minutes or until softened and browning at the edges. Turn the vegetables twice while roasting. Add oil to prevent sticking, if needed. Serve immediately.
Linda Morel is a Philadelphia-area food writer.