Passover has a lot of inherent food restrictions. The no bread thing is a given. But oats, barley, spelt, and rye are also off limits, as is anything made from wheat flour (which is basically everything). For many Jews, particularly those of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) descent who tend to be more stringent, corn, rice, legumes, soybeans, lentils and all sorts of other unexpected staples are also off the table. Phew. Throw a macrobiotic guest or a severe allergy into the mix, and planning a meal for the seder can feel intimidating.
But believe me — someone who has hosted a Passover meal for vegans (after all, I used to be one), a gluten-free cousin, and a nut avoidant friend — it can be done.
Here are five tips to craft a delicious and inclusive meal.
1. Invest in a box of gluten-free matzo.
It almost goes without saying, but Passover is not Passover without matzo. In recent years, a few companies have started producing oat flour matzo, which is a boon for the gluten free community. The only catch is, it's pricy stuff. Still, if I have a gluten-eschewing guest coming for a Passover meal, I suck it up and spring for a box to have at the table along with regular matzo. After all, the greatest part about hosting a seder — or any meal — is having guests that feel welcome and well fed.
2. Make two soups.
I know, I know, you are not a short order cook, and you should not be. But everyone deserves a good chicken soup — even folks who do not eat chicken. Do your veggie guests a solid and simmer a pot of meat-free matzo ball soup just for them.
3. Embrace quinoa.
Quinoa, which is technically a seed and not a grain, is widely considered fit to eat during Passover. Take advantage of this protein-rich, vegan, nut and gluten-free powerhouse by serving it as the base of a warm salad, packing it into stuffed peppers in place of rice, or tossing it with caramelized onions and toasted almonds for a satisfying side dish.
4. Serve a mezze-inspired meal.
Instead of stressing out over making every dish suit every diet, offer a bunch of small plates and let guests mix and match according to their dietary needs. Start with lots of dips like baba ghanoush and matbucha to eat with matzo or crudite, then move on to more substantial (but still sharable) plates of roasted veggies, fish, salads, and sweets.
5. Keep dessert simple.
My mother made lots of desserts for Passover, but the one I loved best was her citrus platter — a mix of oranges and grapefruits dressed up with honey, dates, pomegranate seeds, and chopped pistachios. It was as simple to make as slicing, arranging, and drizzling, but delivered in both flavor and color. Serve it with a few bars of bittersweet chocolate and cups of mint tea and you have a universally delicious way to end the seder on a sweet note.
Do you have other tips or advice for accommodating a diverse and joyful blend of guests for the Passover feasts?