Even more than chametz, the leavened bread and wheat products that are avoided during passover, I lament the other category of forbidden foods, kitniyot, even more. What is categorized as kitniyot varies from community to community, but generally corn, rice, lentils, dried beans and legumes are included. Avoiding kitniyot during passover is an Ashkenazic tradition dating back to a time when beans and seeds were stored in such close proximity to wheat that olden-days Rabbis added this extra precaution, banning the eating of these innocent legumes and seeds during the 8 days of passover, just in case an itty bitty morsel of forbidden chametz was somehow mixed into a bag of, say, lentils. So no hummus, no white bean spread, no peanut butter. So what does a girl do when she wants a schmear of something other than charoset on her matzoh?! Make nut spread!
Nuts have a high good-for-you-oil composition which lends themselves well to blending up into a nice, smooth paté-like spread. Today’s version used dried mushrooms for extra earthiness, as well as thyme, garlic and lemon zest, but use whatever you have around. One of my favorite variations is cashews, garlic and basil for a vegan take on pesto.
The process is simple – cover the nuts (and in this case, mushrooms, garlic and lemon zest) with some boiling water and cover with a plate. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes so the mushrooms and nuts soften, and the garlic mellows a bit. Pour some water off and reserve in a small bowl in case you need it to thin down the spread. Transfer the remaining nuts, etc into a food processor and blend. The spread will seem thin at first, but as the nuts break down, it will thicken up. Add a good pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper, thyme, and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Serve with matzoh or crudité during passover, but it’s just as good with regular bread during the other 51 weeks of the year.