Lots to celebrate at daughters bat mitzvah, including the food

Truly the proudest moment of our lives as parents came a few weeks ago when our daughter Violet became a bat mitzvah.

We had so many things to celebrate in addition to our firstborn child being called to the Torah. We celebrated having four generations on the bimah to pass the Torah dor l’dor (generation to generation) — Violet’s great-grandmother, her three grandparents and her parents. We celebrated Violet’s mitzvah of cutting off 14 inches of her hair and donating it to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children with cancer. We celebrated having my husband’s family all together for the first time in 30 years. We celebrated Violet’s birthday, April 16. And we celebrated the mitzvah of caring and respecting animals by having a completely vegetarian luncheon, as well as the mitzvah of observing the laws of kashrut.

My friend Alta Ridley prepared delicious dishes, all meat free. We began our lunch with a tapas platter that had roasted garlic, marinated olives, roasted zucchini and bell peppers. We also had blanched broccoli and cauliflower with aioli, potato fennel gratin, paella, asparagus with Romesco sauce, spinach salad, and for the fussy eaters, pasta with a cheese sauce.

A cautionary note: These recipes are kosher, but not for Passover.

Wild Rice and Tortellini Salad | Serves 8-10

2 cloves garlic, through the press
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup toasted walnut oil
1 Tbs. fine sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
8 oz. pesto tortellini, cooked and drained
3 cups vegetable stock
2 cups wild rice blend
4 celery ribs, peeled and thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
4 green onions, cleaned and sliced
6 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Add the warm tortellini to the bowl and mix gently.

Cook the rice in the stock until tender. Add the warm rice to the tortellini and mix well. Add the celery, peppers, green onions and parsley. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Asparagus with Romesco Sauce | Makes about 4 cups

4 cloves garlic
4 Roma tomatoes, cut in half
1 thick slice of bread, toasted (about 2 oz.)
1/2 cup toasted almonds
2 red bell peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
6 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. paprika
2-3 lbs. asparagus

Roast the garlic (unpeeled) and the tomatoes for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven. When cool enough to handle, peel the garlic, and remove the seeds from the tomatoes.

Chop the nuts and bread in a food processor. With the machine running, add the garlic until finely chopped. Add the bell peppers and the tomatoes, and process just enough to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and the vinegar, and process until you have a smooth sauce. Stir in the salt, pepper flakes and paprika. Serve with grilled asparagus.

To grill asparagus, brush the asparagus with a little oil. Grill over medium heat, turning frequently, about 5 minutes.

To blanch asparagus, heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Place asparagus in the hot pan. Pour boiling water over the asparagus. When water returns to a boil, drain and cool.

To roast asparagus, toss the asparagus in a little oil and salt. Place in an oven-safe dish, and roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for 7-10 minutes.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected] .