The dining room table was set elegantly with springtime tulips as the centerpiece. Matzo ball soup filled china bowls, brisket and carrot tzimmes adorned the plates and everyone anticipated the dessert of chocolate-dipped macaroons. This is the table from my idyllic childhood’s traditional Passover dinner.
Today, while we keep many traditions alive, my Passover menu has changed quite a bit. My husband and I are mostly vegetarian, my sister-in-law is gluten-free and allergic to coconut, my dad is a traditional meat-eating guy, and the four children are as picky as you’d expect. Here’s how I sort through the chaos and create a modified Passover dinner to meet everybody’s needs.
Matzo is an unleavened flatbread and Passover staple. Some form of it — matzo flour, matzo meal, matzo balls — can be found in everything from soup to potatoes to dessert. Matzo is wheat-based and contains gluten, so careful menu planning is critical if you have guests avoiding wheat and gluten.
These days, gluten-free Passover foods are widely available. They are tasty, but tend to be nutritionally sparse because they are usually made from refined potato starch and tapioca. And, anything with potato starch does not fare well in matzo ball recipes — trust me, I’ve tried. Gluten-free potato noodles are a globby mess, too.
I solve the side-dish dilemma by relying on quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash. Quinoa flakes can replace matzo flour in some recipes (but not matzo balls), and is more nutritious than the ubiquitous potato starch. Kids love my quinoa macaroni and cheese.
My usual vegetarian protein staple — legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils — traditionally are not permitted at Passover. Some rabbis now say legumes are OK during Passover for those following vegetarian or vegan diets, if it will make their lives easier. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. I don’t serve legumes at Passover dinner, but do eat them during the week. For the Passover dinner, I shift my vegetarian protein sources to eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt and nuts.
Since we serve vegetarian, dairy-based foods at our Passover dinner, we don’t serve meat (mixing meat and dairy is not kosher). However, fish is not considered meat and can be served alongside dairy foods. Luckily salmon is “meaty” enough for the carnivorous traditionalists at our table. Problem solved.
My Passover Menu
So, here’s my semi-traditional, gluten-free, allergen-aware, kid-friendly, vegetarian Passover menu.
- Gluten-Free Matzo
- No-Chicken Soup
Made with vegetable broth and one-ingredient egg noodles
- Hard-Boiled Eggs in Salt Water
- Grilled Salmon
- Roasted Potatoes
Carrots and sweet potatoes with dried fruit
- Green Salad with Goat Cheese
- Quinoa Macaroni and Cheese
- Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries and Figs
We all love the Passover meal, but what matters more than the food is having the family together. That’s the real tradition. Now, if I could just find a recipe for good-tasting gluten-free matzo balls …