Tag Archives: vegan cuisine

Vegan Pastitsio

Screenshot from 2018-07-23 13-46-53

 

One of the glories of Greece is that its native cuisine is either thoroughly vegan or easily veganized. Dishes that are already vegan include dolmades(stuffed grape leaves), gigantes(lima beans in tomato sauce), as well as many others. Spanakopita and tiropita can be veganized by replacing the feta cheese with vegan cheese. Meatier dishes may be more difficult to veganize but there are myriad ways of doing this.

One of my favorites growing up was pastitisio, which is essentially baked ziti topped with bechamel sauce and ground beef. This dish is typically served during big holidays or large gatherings and I must warn you it isn’t a fast, easy recipe. Reserve this for special occasions.

One of the things that gives pastitsio its distinctive flavor is the allspice or cinnamon in the beef. For most recipes I find that cinnamon and allspice are interchangeable, hence I used cinnamon which I had on hand. This may not be true of everyone but I think most people won’t notice the difference. I also decided to use vegan ground beef from Trader Joe’s instead of using lentils like other Greek vegans like to use.

Screenshot from 2018-07-23 13-47-21

For this use a standard size lasagna baking pan, or something close to 12 inches by 16 inches and is 3.5 inches deep.

Ingredients:

Meat sauce:

  • 1 lb vegan ground beef(I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice(or more)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Bechamel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups cashews(soaked overnight)
  • 2 cups veggie broth(optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Pasta:

  • 24 ounces of penne or ziti
  • drizzle of olive oil(optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Saute all beef ingredients in saucepan until onions are a slightly browned.
  3. Cook pasta until it is almost al dente. Remember you’ll be baking it later so don’t over-boil it. Drizzle with olive oil(optional).
  4. Thoroughly blend cashews in blender. Mix in other bechamel ingredients and cook in sauce pan for a few minutes until everything is thoroughly mixed together.
  5. Thoroughly mix about 1/4 to 1/2 beef sauce mix with pasta and put in lasagna pan(spray bottom of pan with oil first).
  6. Put the rest of the beef sauce mix on top of the pasta/beef sauce mix.
  7. Put bechamel sauce on top of all the other layers.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the oven at 350 F.
  9. Let it sit outside the oven for 10 minutes before serving to cool.

This was a hit when I last made it and I’m sure it will be in your home as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Lentils with bulgur wheat

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I adore lentils. They are little gems of protein and so versatile, I can eat them every day. They are commonly eaten in the Middle East and adjacent regions, usually with rice, but I decided to use bulgur wheat instead. Bulgur wheat is also a staple of many Middle Eastern countries. I am minimizing my rice consumption(both white and brown) these days due it possibly playing a role in diabetes, and because other grains, like bulgur wheat, have a far superior nutritional value.

Bulgur wheat is often confused with cracked wheat. This may help clear up any confusion – GRAIN BASICS – BULGHUR (BULGAR) AND
CRACKED WHEAT

It took about 30 minutes to cook the entire meal, boiling the green lentils(which require more cooking time) first in half water/half vegetable broth. I then added some red pepper powder, black pepper, and garlic powder. I also added chopped onions, along with chopped garlic, and a dash of olive oil. It tasted great, though I think it would have been better if I had added some cumin.

As a side dish/appetizer, I had some Korean kimchi(or Korean pickle), which helps stimulate digestion due to its spiciness and friendly bacteria. Koreans eat kimchi with almost every meal. The kimchi wasn’t homemade(it was Sunja’s Medium Spicy Kimchi), but it is vegan. Kimchi in Asian restaurants usually has shrimp or fish added to it. I occasionally make my own sauerkraut, but every time I try to make kimchi it doesn’t turn out well. The ingredients in this kimchi are: cabbage, carrots, red peppers, leeks, green onions, garlic, ginger, sea salt.

Lentils with bulgur wheat can also be considered an example of “Mediterranean” cuisine, besides “Middle Eastern”, depending on your definition of “Mediterranean”(many Middle Eastern countries have Mediterranean coasts, so I see no reason why they they can’t be considered both). The Mediterranean diet is back in the news these days due to recent research reaffirming how healthy it is, in part due to legumes like lentils being an important protein source in many Mediterranean countries. So you can’t go wrong by consuming more lentils. The east Asian diet is also similarly healthy, so combining the two has a uniquely healthful synergism to it.

All in all, a delicious vegan power meal that is a fusion of the best of Middle Eastern and Korean cuisine.