One of the newest restaurants in New York City is a pearl of a temple to plant-based cooking, with exposed brick walls, vibrant red walls and a cozy atrium seating four or more people. At the temple’s entrance, there’s a bronze plaque: Seder Shalom, aka Blessed Saffron, is a tradition of the Jewish community, first recognized during the 11th century. Saffron is the sacred herb used to make charoset, the traditional Thanksgiving token of thanksgiving, as well as add flavor to other foods, such as rice, dates, figs and nutmegs.
Within a moment of opening, the restaurant quickly sold out its charoset, complete with heavy basmati rice, dates, raisins, chopped dates, plus pistachios and almonds and a few apples. (The dates are imported, of course.) My tasters were munching on charoset’s cutting-edge cousin, the chickpea charoset, which is prepared, and sold, at the temple.
For this, chef/co-owner Camille Boswell whips up a savory chickpea patty – as thick and coarsely textured as a hamburger patty – and spreads it on wholesome, multigrain crumb brown rice. Next, she adds a scoop of sage, lemon juice and a few mint leaves.
The chickpea mixture gets a flavorful hit from the dressing, which is made with olive oil, dry currants, sesame seeds, a cumin and coriander seed mixture, plus low-fat yogurt.
The chickpea patty, which is chopped into shreds and fried until golden brown, is eaten with a light and tangy sweet potato salad, which is flavored with agave nectar and mustard seeds, and garnished with pecans and pine nuts. The sweet potato salad uses both freshly dug baby sweet potatoes and cooked ones to give it a sweeter taste. (Boswell also used frozen sweet potatoes as she also uses theirs in his vegan mashed potatoes. But the cooked sweet potatoes make it easier for her to use them in all sorts of dishes.)
From there, the doused salad is a perfect change for another dinner course. Its light dressing contains toasted sesame seeds, which have another sweet and savory flavor that adds a rich aromatic note to the salad.
Then, Boswell gives a taste of the temple’s next dessert: Raw, vegan “sauerkraut,” a drink by kewpie ketchup that adds crispness and fun flavor to the substance, plus a nice kick of hot sauce. The dish is made from soy milk, no more liquid addition here. The fermented soft kraut adds a pleasing, umami-like flavor to the creamy drink, but the drink’s strength has to be tempered slightly. Without artificial flavors and coloring, the kraut still tastes just like ketchup.
“You have to lighten it up a little bit,” says Boswell.