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Vegan/Vegetarian Wedding Recipe: Spanikopita (Parve) – Serves 8

Prince Philip Buckingham Palace Reception

"I say, have you tried the spanikopita?"

This dish is from the Buckingham Palace reception menu posted on December 13. I’ll be posting recipes from the menu all week, kosher-fied and with additional special touches, so that you can recreate the menu for your wedding.

This entree is for your vegan/vegetarian guests. The Buckingham Palace reception menu calls for spinach-filled crepes, but crepes require milk, which wouldn’t fit into our kosher meat menu. We turn, then, to spanikopita, spinach pie, which uses parve phyllo dough. The tofu, walnuts, and nutritional yeast in the filling provide hunger-satisfying protein. Since The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, was born The Prince of Greece and Denmark, I’m sure he’d appreciate the dish’s Greek roots.

The recipe comes from Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock. The author is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a Jewish vegan tsunami. I picked up my copy of the cookbook several years ago in order to get protein into my meat-averse daughters. (One of my daughters was only five years old when she first yelled, “I’m a vegetarian and you don’t understand me!”)

The instructions are a bit fiddly, so if you’re catering your own wedding, making servings for all of your guests is going to take a lot of time — time that’s especially precious in the hours leading up to your wedding. Instead, prepare one of these pies, which provides 8 servings, and reserve the servings to the side for your vegan/vegetarian guests. (If all of your guests are vegetarian, then enlist extra hands to prepare enough servings for everyone.)

Prince Charles in synagogue

"Do you think they'll let me hold one of the huppah poles?"

Recipe: Spanikopita – Spinach Pie (Parve)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • ¼ plus 2 Tbls. olive oil, plus extra oil for brushing the phyllo
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach, rinsed very well, long stems removed
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped dill
  • 2 lbs. firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Dash of ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup finely ground walnuts
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Several dashes fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 box frozen phyllo dough, thawed overnight

Instructions for Making the Spinach Filling

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, warm 2 Tbls olive oil over medium heat for a minute, then add the scallions, spinach, scallions, garlic, and dill. Add the spinach in small batches if pot it too full.
  2. Satuè until completely wilted and soft and a good amount of liquid has sweated out of the greens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. In a large bowl, mash the drained tofu (use your hands for more control) to a smooth but slightly grainy consistency.
  4. Take the cooled spinach mixture by small handfuls and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Discard the liquid.
  5. Add the squeezed spinach to the tofu. Add the lemon juice, oregano, nutmeg, ground walnuts, ¼ cup of the olive oil, and the nutritional yeast. Mix well with your hands, season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture; it should be pleasantly salty and tangy.

Instructions for Making the Pie

  1. Preheat oven to 325º.
  2. Oil a 9”x12- to 13” baking dish.
  3. Prepare eight sheets of dough with olive oil in the following manner: Lay one sheet of dough in the pan, brush it generously with olive oil. Lay the second sheet on top and brush it generously with olive oil. Continue until you have eight layers of dough. If the sheets of dough go up the sides of the pan, that’s OK.

    Helpful Hint: Phyllo dough dries out very quickly. Keep the layers you’re not working with covered with a damp cloth or piece of plastic wrap. The first time you work with the dough it can seem like you don’t have enough hands to work and keep the layers covered, but once you get into a pattern it’s quite easy.

  4. Gently spread the spinach mixture on top of the dough.
  5. Prepare another eight layers of phyllo (or add a few more layers if you have leftover dough), put on top of spinach layer, and tuck into the sides of the pan any overhanging dough.
  6. Lightly score the top layer of dough into 8 rectangles of equal size (this will prevent the dough from crumbling too much when slicing after it’s baked.)
  7. Brush with lots of olive oil.
  8. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown, being careful not to let the phyllo burn.

See the full Wedding Menu Fit for Royalty (You!)
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Recipe: Salade Niçoise for a Crowd (Parve/Vegetarian)

There’s a special place in my heart for couples who cater their own weddings and communities whose members join together to make a wedding meal. I’ve thrown plenty of dinner parties of various sizes in my life, and I’m a serious student of the buffet. I’ve read books, I study photos, and I’m always on the lookout for delicious, practical, and beautiful foods worthy of a celebration table. Today at a Bat Mitzvah lunch I came across a buffet dish worth sharing with those of you out there who find themselves responsible for feeding a celebratory crowd. The dish: a salade nicoise platter. It’s delicious and easy to make, and sitting on a buffet it’s alive with color.

Salade Niçoise is a great dish, because it’s a hardy main-dish salad with a variety of nutritious foods: fresh salad greens, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes, and black olives. Traditional salade Niçoise also has anchovies, capers, and shallots, but this version leaves them out in order to appeal to a wide crowd (and eliminate the most expensive ingredients).

When you’re making enough food to feed a crowd, a platter is a great way to present the salad because guests can build their salad as they like, and unlike salads served in large bowls, the tastiest ingredients won’t get lost in all the greens.

The platter also looks beautiful on a buffet with all the colorful ingredients set out in different sections of the platter. If it hadn’t been Shabbat, I would have taken a photo for you, but let me describe it for you: the bright greens of the lettuce and green beans, the red of the tomatoes, the white and yellow of the eggs, and the black olives, along with the flaked tuna.

I’ll also admit that I like salade Niçoise because it’s fun to say: Having spent a year in former-French-colony Tunisia, I can pass on the pronunciation with some confidence: salad nee-SWAHS. For the times when a written menu is called for, it’s also fun to write (or to take the time to track down the required website design HTML tag for) the letter “c” with the cedilla mark in the middle of niçoise. There it is. Did you see it there in the middle of the word? Lovely. Too much fun for a Saturday night.

Enough about my love affair with salade niçoise; it’s time to begin yours. The instructions are for a platter of 24 servings. To feed more people than that, prepare more platters.

I need to give credit to the folks who put together today’s lunch, which was at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Washington, DC. It’s an exceptionally friendly community, and their special occasion kiddush lunches are always wonderful.

Recipe: Salade Niçoise for a Crowd (Parve)

Serves 24

Ingredients
4 heads Boston-lettuce leaves; washed, dried, and shredded into small pieces
4 pounds green beans, steamed
12 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
16 small boiling potatoes, cooked and cut in half
12 ounces canned chunk tuna, oil packed, flaked with a fork
18 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 cup good-quality small pitted black olives

Vinaigrette Ingredients
2 Tbsp Dijon-type mustard
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp kosher red wine vinegar
3 cups good quality olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Instructions for Salade Niçoise

  1. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together. Adjust the seasonings as necessary.
  2. Toss the green beens with a quarter cup of the the vinaigrette.
  3. Arrange the shredded lettuce in a heap running down the middle of a large platter. Arrange the other ingredients around the lettuce, keeping all of each component together.
  4. Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side of the platter.

Make Ahead Option

You can prepare the components a day before. Cover and refridgerate each component separately. Combine them on the platter just before serving so that the salad looks fresh when you serve it.

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