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Keeping Vegan and Kosher
by Brenda Goldstein

Keeping kosher and eating a vegan diet is easy in some ways, but hard in others. It's easy in that I only have to keep one set of dishes (for those of you unfamiliar with kosher law, one has to keep different utensils for milk and meat), hard in that a lot of people in the Orthodox community have no idea what to cook for me when I come over for meals. It's easy in that, when going to a kosher meat restaurant, I know that nothing on the menu can contain dairy; hard in that some of those non-dairy dishes contain egg, which is considered neutral (neither meat nor milk) in kosher law. Fish is also considered neutral, though kosher law forbids mixing fish with meat on the same plate or with the same fork, so the staff would tell you if a sauce contained fish. Because the restaurant doesn't know exactly why you want to stay neutral food-wise they're very honest about their ingredients.

Many of the vegan products that I buy in health-food stores and regular markets have kosher certification, which makes my life easier. If I'm not sure about a certain certification or whether something even needs a certification, I ask a competent authority, who gives me the answer. It's amazing how much is available to us kosher vegans!

Though it was never my plan to do so, I've gotten into arguments with people who feel very strongly that eschewing meat goes against G-d's Will. I say that though G-d allowed Mankind to eat meat after the Flood (as in Noah's Ark), He never said that we had to. In fact, we were all vegetarians before the Flood. I've even spoken to rabbis who've told me to eat however I like (as long as it's kosher!), and not to eat meat if it doesn't give me pleasure--because G-d won't get pleasure, either. I've also been told not to make my eating habits a philosophy to preach to others, that it should be a personal decision. When people want to know whether I eat a vegan diet for health or philosophical reasons I usually just give them a quick answer so as not to let the conversation go on any further.

Passover is usually a trying time for vegans because not only can we not have grains, but we Ashkenazi Jews (from Eastern Europe) also can't have rice and legumes (including soy and other beans). That cuts out good protein sources. We can have quinoa, as it technically is not a grain, as a protein source--but how often do you want to have quinoa? Passover just lasts eight days, so kosher vegans won't suffer from malnutrition because of the lack of protein, but it's a trying time in terms of food nonetheless. I've been experimenting with vegan recipes that are kosher-for-Passover, which I'm happy to share with you. Happy holiday, and eat well!

1/3 cup raw almonds
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup oil
3 T. water
4 t. vinegar
4 t. lemon juice

Begin by blanching the almonds. In a small saucepan, place 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Add the almonds and cook for 1 minute to blanch them. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for 3 minutes to cool. Remove the almonds from the water, squeeze each almond between your thumb and forefinger to remove their skins, and set them aside for 5 minutes to dry and cool.

Place the almonds in a blender or food processor and process for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them. Add the onion powder, garlic powder, and salt, and process for 30 seconds to combine. In a small measuring cup, combine the oil and water, and add the mixture to the blender in a slow stream while the machine is running. Scrape down the sides of the container, add the vinegar and lemon juice, and continue to process the mixture an additional 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and chill for 30 minutes or more before using, to allow the flavors to blend. Use as a replacement for soy mayonnaise in recipes, also as a condiment or spread on sandwiches, a dip for raw veggies or chips, or a sauce for vegetables and grains.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

To make the nut butters from almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, etc.

1. Toasting. Spread the shelled nuts out on a baking tin and roast at 350 F. for about 15 minutes. Stir the nuts occasionally to ensure even roasting.

2. Grinding. a) With a hand mill. Adjust the mill to make the nuts come out as a firm paste but do not set it too tight. A hand mill may be used to grind a large quantity at a time. b) With an electric blender. Use the grinder or set at 'grind.' Only a few nuts should be ground at a time. Keep adding a little oil to make a paste.

At the end of the process mix in sea salt to taste and store the 'butter' in clean airtight glass jars. The amount of salt required is generally about half a teaspoonful to one pound of butter. Keep any opened jar refrigerated.

(From "Good Food, Milk Free, Grain Free" by Hilda Cherry Hills)

6 T. nut butter
6 T. potato or matzoh flour (or more as required)
good pinch of turmeric
Other flavorings optional

Melt the nut butter gently in a pan. Stir in the flour gradually to make a thick paste, then stir in the turmeric. Press the mixture into a small round glass dish or cup and chill until the 'cheese' has hardened. Plunge the dish into hot water for a few seconds to unmold. It should be possible to cut the 'cheese' in slices and grate it.

Courtesy of RAW Restaurant, San Francisco

Blend together:
1 Part Almonds
4 Parts water

To activate almonds, soak overnight, pour off water & follow recipe above. For a delicious smoothie add: frozen fruit & pure maple syrup

Brenda Goldstein lives in Los Angeles with her husband, newborn son and cats. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor, as well as a teacher, and loves to read, listen to music and travel.