kosher kitchen

Feeding food allergic guests during Pesach


How many people will be coming to your Seder who have food issues, from gluten sensitivity to outright allergies? Allergy and sensitivity issues are becoming more and more commonplace and require a lot of sensitivity and care on the parts of cooks who will feed not only them, but also others who can eat anything. 

Food allergies are on the increase, as are people’s decisions to eat a restricted diet for many different reasons. A British report from 2008 says that in the UK, where the advice was to avoid peanuts for babies and young children, Jewish children had tenfold increase in peanut allergies compared to Jewish children in Israel, where parents give their children peanut products in infancy. Now, US parents are advised to give their babies peanut products beginning at 6 months old. It was one of my grandson’s very first foods!

Three percent of adults suffer from severe food allergies, and others suffer from conditions that prevent them from eating many foods, including celiac disease, diabetes, and Crohn’s.

This year, we will be hosting two Seders and will have several guests with food issues. So what do we do to satisfy all of the above issues? I learned, after making several separate dishes for those with food issues, the answer is to simplify.

Rather than make separate dishes, make foods that everyone can eat and enjoy. Going gluten-free is really easy on Passover, and other issues can also be dealt with by feeding everyone the same dishes. This may leave out a few foods, but no one will be the wiser. 

One of my guests is allergic to carrots. So I now make “green” chicken soup. I add sliced leeks, lots of celery, parsnips, and sometimes fresh spinach and the green parts of scallions. No one has asked for carrots. I make a huge platter of roasted veggies and let people take what they like. In addition, I make white and sweet potato dishes and avoid farfel, kugels, and other things made from matzah-based products. GF deserts are a snap, from pavlova to flourless chocolate cakes, cookies, almond cakes and more. There are always enough desserts for everyone. 

Making a Seder like this avoids any discomfort for guests who prefer to keep their food issues private. You will be far less stressed, and that is definitely a plus. A zissen Pesach!  

Simple Roasted Vegetables (Pareve)

I use one bunch or head of each of the vegetables to feed 10. If your group is not into veggies, use less. If you have a huge crowd, use more.



Baby carrots (with leaf tops)

Portobello mushroom caps


Sweet potatoes

Small creamer potatoes, red, purple and white

Chives, snipped

Large red onions, peeled and sliced

Red and green peppers, quartered and seeded 

Cherry tomatoes


1 large onion, finely minced 

4 to 10 cloves garlic, finely minced

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Rosemary sprigs

Fresh tarragon leaves

Paprika and other seasonings

Finely minced hot pepper of your choice

Balsamic vinegar


Pure maple syrup

Line three rimmed baking sheets with heavy foil and then with parchment paper. Rinse all vegetables and dry as much as possible. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut the cauliflower and broccoli into same-sized florets. Place in a large bowl and toss with a generous amount of olive oil. Add the snipped chives and other herbs and spices that you like — a bit of hot pepper, some minced onion and garlic. Toss to coat and spread on the prepared baking sheet. 

Cut and seed the bell peppers. Place in the bowl with cherry tomatoes and toss to coat. Place on prepared pan and roast until the peppers are charred in parts and the tomatoes are shriveled and charred in places. 

Wipe out the bowl. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into rounds, then cut the rounds in half. Add to the bowl. Cut the small creamer potatoes in half and add to the bowl. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Add some minced garlic and onions, salt and pepper, tarragon leaves and rosemary sprigs and toss to coat. Place on the prepared sheet, drizzle with a bit of honey or maple syrup and a bit of balsamic vinegar and place in the oven.

Repeat this process with the zucchini, Portobello mushroom caps on one tray and the broccolini and asparagus (I cut the stalks into 3 pieces) on another tray. Season as desired and roast. I usually roast a large tray or red onion slices that are just brushed with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses to bring out the sweetness. I put some on each platter for color and because everyone seems to love them.

When the veggies are done, place on platters. I usually slice up the mushroom caps before serving. You can drizzle with balsamic vinegar or just season with salt and pepper.

NOTE: Place veggies that need about the same amount of time together on the baking sheets.

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies (Pareve)

2-1/2 cups almond flour

1/3 cups finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 cup almond butter

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2/3 to 3/4 cup raspberry preserves, chocolate hazelnut spread, apricot preserves

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix the almond flour with the chopped pecans and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly. Add the salt and baking powder and whisk to blend.

In another bowl, mix the almond butter with the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix completely. 

Roll spoonfuls of the dough into balls. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten gently. Press the back of a 1/4 tsp. measuring spoon into the middle of the cookie. Repeat with all the dough. You should about 36 cookies. 

Bake until the cookies are golden, 6 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and, if needed, repress the centers with the back of the spoon. Let cool completely.

Take 1/2 tsp. or more of jam or filling and fill the indentation of the cookie. If you like, you can add chocolate sprinkles or dust some cocoa powder over the cookie. Let cool completely.  Makes about 36 cookies.

Olive Oil Almond Cake with Amaretto and Brown Sugar (Pareve)

4-1/2 ounces almond flour or finely ground almonds

1/4 cup matzah cake meal or GF cake meal

1/4 cup potato starch

3/4 cup sugar minus 3 tablespoons reserved for the top of the cake, divided

1/4 tsp. salt

5 large egg yolks at room temperature

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (generous)

3 Tbsp. amaretto liqueur

5 large egg whites at room temperature


2 Tbsp. light brown sugar

2 Tbsp. amaretto

1 Tbsp. water

Garnish: toasted sliced almonds and fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Generously grease a 9-inch round cake pan or 9-inch round spring form pan. Line the bottom with a round or parchment. Set aside.

Spread the almond flour on the prepared baking sheet and toast until the flour turns golden, about 4 to 10 minutes. Stir and shake as needed to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Combine the cooled almond flour, the matzah cake meal, 1/4 cup sugar, potato starch, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to blend. Set aside.

In another bowl, blend the egg yolks, extracts, olive oil and amaretto and whisk to blend. Add half the almond mixture and mix well.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until frothy on medium speed. Increase speed and add a pinch of salt. When the egg whites begin to turn all white, add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a slow, steady stream while the mixer is running on high. Beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.

Add 1/3 of the meringue to the yolk mixture and fold to lighten and blend evenly. Add the remaining meringue and fold gently to blend. Sprinkle the remaining almond mixture over the top and fold gently to blend completely.

Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the 3 Tbsp. sugar evenly over the top and place in the center of the oven.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes until the top has formed a crust and the cake is golden. Remove from the oven and run a very thin knife around the edge of the pan. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes. 

While the cake is baking, mix the brown sugar, water and amaretto and heat until the sugar is melted and the syrup is boiling. Let boil about 15 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool.

When the cake is cooled a bit (about 10 minutes) brush some of the syrup over the cake. Do this twice more while the cake is still warm. 

Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving platter. Brush with the glaze once more. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds and fresh raspberries. Serves 8 to 10.

NOTE: To substitute lemon for the amaretto, use 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice in place of the amaretto in the cake. Omit the almond extract. Use three tablespoons lemon juice and 3 tablespoons white sugar for the glaze. Omit the water. Garnish with candied lemon slices.