Brazil: Empadão Sem Frango (Chicken-free Pie, Brazilian Style)

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Recipes | 0 comments

Brazil: Empadão Sem Frango (Chicken-free Pie, Brazilian Style)

Good morning! Today on VeganMoFo we head to Latin America, the Caribbean and maybe North America. We start in the largest and most populous country of the region: Brazil.

I’ve only been to Brazil once, but it was enough to whet my appetite. I spent some time in Sao Paulo, where they have an amazing vegan scene, and then I headed north to the quieter coastal city of Recife and stunning Olinda, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The crowds at Sao Paulo Pride

The crowds at Sao Paulo Pride

Brazil Sao Paulo Pride

One of the many floats at Sao Paulo Pride

Sao Paulo is a thriving city with an incredible energy and creativity.  I was lucky to be there for Sao Paulo Pride, reputed to be among the world’s largest pride parade.  Despite the fact that it was rainy and a little cool, thousands of people thronged the streets, celebrating diversity and love.  That day I was invited to a private party on a balcony overlooking the parade, which was organized by a local group working to address HIV.  The price of entry was a bag of rice. It felt like we were on a secret mission of sorts. I remember searching for a grocery store in the middle of downtown Sao Paulo with a friend, buying my bag of rice, and lugging it with me through the streets of the city to the party.  It took us a while to find the right door to the closed mall above which the party was taking place, and then we had to show our wares to get in. The party was fun, but it felt a bit removed from the energy below, and so we lingered a while and then went downstairs to explore.

There are a good number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Sao Paulo, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was to me.  There was one place I ate at twice that served a completely vegan buffet packed with Brazilian cuisine, like feijoada. Oh my! It was pretty amazing. It also had a neat store attached, which sold cans of vegan dulce de leche, among other goods. But some of its vegetarian restaurants weren’t so vegan friendly. One night I went to a restaurant called Banana Verde, which had only a few vegan options at the time. When I asked for recommendations, the waitress suggested pupunha. So I ordered it.  It was actually a complete piece of a palm: I had to cut through the tough outer edge to get to the soft heart! I love hearts of palm, but this was the strangest, albeit most natural presentation I could imagine.  

A lovely lion on the beach of Recife

A lovely lion on the beach of Recife

On the beach on a rainy day in Recife

On the beach on a rainy day in Recife

Flowers on the dunes

Flowers on the dunes

Amazing colors

Amazing colors

Recife is a much quieter city, and although I was there for almost as long as I was in Sao Paulo, I can’t really say I got much of a feel for it.  The beaches were gorgeous, pristine. But it was rainy and cold much of my visit there and everything is pretty spread out.

A kitty in Olinda

A kitty in Olinda

Olinda Carnivale Puppets

Olinda Carnival Puppets

A windy, colorful street in Olinda

A windy, colorful street in Olinda

Old and New

Old and New

Fowers

Flowers

Olinda, on the other hand, was gorgeously stunning. I spent a day there walking through its curvy, narrow, hilly streets. 

Carnivale Mural, Olinda

Carnival Mural, Olinda

Birds

Birds

Art is everywhere

Art is everywhere

Wall in Olinda

Wall in Olinda

Carnival Cow!

Carnival Cow!

I adored its colorful buildings, old churches and the art that is absolutely everywhere you turn.  It’s definitely a wonderful place to spend a day, or two, or more.

Window

Window

Street art

Street art

A decaying church...

A decaying church…

A door in Olinda

A door in Olinda

The beach at Olinda

The beach at Olinda

I wasn’t sure what to make for Brazil, but when I started researching the cuisine, this Brazilian style “chicken” pie kept popping out at me again and again. 

Potpie Brazilian Style!

Potpie Brazilian Style!

 It’s like a potpie, but with just a little gravy. Some make it with a crumb topping (I have); others top it with additional pastry. 

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I knew that with the fabulous Beyond Meat, which shreds nicely when warm, I could get a texture and taste that would be scarily close to the original, and so I had to try my hand at making one. 

Shredded Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips

Shredded Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips

From start to finish, this is the quickest savory pie I have ever made.  And it is delicious! 

Yum!

Yum!

Empadão Sem Frango
Yields 4
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Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Dough
  1. 2 cups gluten-free flour mix
  2. ½ cup cornmeal, divided
  3. 2 tsps coconut palm sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. ½ tsp baking powder
  6. ½ cup cold earth balance buttery sticks or vegetable shortening
  7. ½ - ¾ cups ice cold water
  8. 2 tsps apple cider vinegar
Filling
  1. 1 package of Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips
  2. ½ medium onion, diced
  3. 1 tsp dried rosemary
  4. 2 cups vegetable broth
  5. 1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  6. ¼ cup fresh or frozen peas
  7. ¼ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  8. ½ cup hearts of palm, sliced
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. Grapeseed oil for sautéing
Dough
  1. Mix together flour, a ¼ cup of cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  2. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer or a pastry cutter, mix in earth balance a little at a time until the dough becomes crumbly.
  3. Mix together vinegar and ½ cup of the ice cold water.
  4. Add to the dough a little at a time until it holds together well between your fingers. You may need to add up to ¼ cup of additional water, especially since gluten-free flours tend to be drier, but be careful not to add too much.
  5. Press into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and let the dough rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Filling
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put a little grapeseed oil in a pan, and when hot add the beyond meat strips.
  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until they soften and begin to brown.
  4. Turn off the heat and using your fingers (or a fork, though that didn't work so well for me), shred the strips. You should have a bit over two cups of shredded “chicken” by the end of it.
  5. Turn your pan on again and add a little more grapeseed oil, if needed.
  6. Add the onion to the pan along with the rosemary and sauté until the onion is soft and rosemary fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add the shredded strips back to the pan.
  8. Mix the vegetable broth with the arrowroot powder and pour into the pan.
  9. Add corn, peas and hearts of palm.
  10. Once the sauce thickens, turn off the heat.
Finishing it off
  1. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into 4 if using 4-inch spring-form pans, or leave whole if using a 10-inch spring form pan. Regardless of what you use, you want a deep dish for this pie.
  2. Take ¾ of each piece of dough and press it into the bottom and sides of the pan until it covers the pan evenly, about 1/8 to ¼ inch thick.
  3. Take the remaining dough and add a couple of tablespoons and up to a ¼ cup of the remaining cornmeal to make a crumble.
  4. Ladle the pie filling into the pan until it is almost full.
  5. Top with the crumble.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes until the crust is a nice, golden brown.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
I can see myself making this pie again and again because it is so quick and easy (compared to a potpie) and tastes so good.  What a treat! I served it with a delicious, but simple salad, with avocado and lemon-massaged kale, cherry tomatoes, and hearts of palm, topped with a little salt and pepper. 

The crumb got everywhere on this one, but still! Yum!

The crumb got everywhere on this one, but still! Yum!

This is pretty much the definition of comfort food! 

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Azerbaijan: Rose Ice Cream

Posted by on Sep 20, 2014 in Recipes | 9 comments

Azerbaijan: Rose Ice Cream

Today on our VeganMoFo world tour we head further west to Azerbaijan, one of the entry points to Central Asia and our last stop in the region.  There are no two ways about it: Central Asia is tough for vegans.  With the exception of a few side dishes, very few traditional Azeri foods are vegan and when you say you don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy, it’s hard for Azeris to understand. I remember one particular moment when I ordered a vegan pizza without cheese at a local restaurant. They understood the no dairy thing, but when my pizza came it was laden in ham.  I sent it back and asked them to make me a new one. They brought it back with some of the ham picked off, but didn’t get everything. I sent it back again.  I had similar experiences in other Central Asian countries I visited.   It’s probably lucky I ate bread at that time, because otherwise I may have just starved. 

Maiden Tower

Maiden Tower

Azerbaijan is at once a fascinating and depressing part of the world.  Azerbaijan has oil, and so its economy is growing by leaps and bounds. New construction was going on everywhere when I was there.  But the benefits of the oil wealth accrue to just a few, make the country incredibly expensive for all people, and exacerbate the inequalities that have existed in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union.

An alley way with typical buildings in the old town

An typical alley the old town

Lovely buildings in Baku's old town

Lovely buildings in Baku’s old town

The government in Azerbaijan is one of the most repressive in the world. It’s so-called democracy is a sham. It’s an autocracy, pure and simple. Human rights abuses are rife. Corruption is a way of life. 

Gates

Gates

Palace of the Shirvanshahs

Palace of the Shirvanshahs

But the country has a rich history and a poetic air about it.  Baku’s old town is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed my strolls around it.

Relics inside the palace

Relics inside the palace

Azerbaijan's carpets are listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage

Azerbaijan’s carpets are listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage

One afternoon I heard music from a fenced-off courtyard next to me; I stuck my head through an opening and saw traditional Azeri dancers being filmed for a TV show. I lingered for a while, enjoying the scene. 

Azeri Dancers

Azeri Dancers

It was also one afternoon in a little traditional tea house in the old town that I tried for rose jam for the first time.  And what a revelation that was! Rose-flavored foods taste exactly as they smell. Some people like it, some people don’t, but I love it. 

Rose Ice Cream

Rose Ice Cream

And so I’m bringing you today a simple recipe for rose ice cream.  I used rehydrated organic dried rose buds for this dish; you can usually find these in tea stores (rose tea: yum!) and maybe well-stocked health food stores. Although all roses are edible, unless you can find organic ones or have them growing in your garden and are pesticide free, you really don’t want to eat them.  The amount of pesticides used on those perfect-looking roses you find at the store is insane and definitely not something you want to put in your body. Plus most of them don’t smell and the flavor of roses really comes from their aroma. 

Rose Ice Cream
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup dried rose petals or buds (make sure stems are removed)
  2. 1 cup hot water
  3. 1 cup brazil nuts, soaked for at least 12 hours
  4. ¼ cup maple syrup
  5. 2 packets of stevia (or more maple syrup to taste)
Instructions
  1. Soak rose buds in water for 20 to thirty minutes.
  2. Add roses, their soaking water, brazil nuts, maple syrup and stevia to your blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
  3. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. Place in freezer and give it a stir every hour or so to break up ice crystals, until frozen.
  5. This gets pretty hard, so before eating, take out off the freezer for half an hour or so first.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
I use brazil nuts as the base, because they are rich and very creamy. However, you could substitute them for cashews if you like too. 

A unique treat!

A unique treat!

I served them with a few chopped up pistachios, because for some reason I think roses and pistachios complement each other perfectly. Yum!

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Georgia: Ajarian Lobiani, Boiled & Fried Khachapuri & Georgian Salad

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Recipes | 2 comments

Georgia: Ajarian Lobiani, Boiled & Fried Khachapuri & Georgian Salad

Today I have a real treat for you on our VeganMoFo world tour as we head south and east to Georgia! Now before I start gushing about how awesome this country is for vegans, let me first say that I don’t fall in love with *every* country I visit. Oh no. On the contrary. There are are some that I’d be happy to never set foot in again. But Georgia is definitely not one of them. Tblisi is a city I’d happily spend more time in and the Georgian countryside is distinct and beautiful. 

Tblisi

Tblisi

Kitty on the streets of Tblisi

Kitty on the streets of Tblisi

Houses literally built over the edges of cliffs

Houses literally built over the edges of cliffs

City Hall

City Hall

Jewish Synagogue in Tblisi

Jewish Synagogue in Tblisi

Now there are a few things that Georgia is famous for in the region. The first is their wine (not a fan). The second is Borjomi, a natural sparkling mineral water that comes from a volcanic spring in the Borjomi Valley (an acquired taste, a little bit salty, but I love it)! And the third, Georgian toasts! Toasting is a time-honored tradition in Georgia and the toasts you will hear are elaborate. They often reflect on the deeper meaning of life, the universe and all that and can be incredibly poetic or funny or a little bit crude.  Toasting is a real skill and let me tell you, Georgians have mastered it. Any Georgian meal would not be considered complete without at least one round of toasting by all guests at the table.

Tiles

Tiled walls of the synagogue

Abanotubani Mineral Baths, Tblisi

Abanotubani Mineral Baths, Tblisi

Street performer in the old town...

Street performer in the old town…

Some random vessels...

Some random vessels…

If you haven’t gathered by now, central to the tradition of toasting is food.  Georgians don’t dine. They feast.  They feast on gorgeously fresh and succulent vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, squash and peppers are all key and oh so good.  They feast on an array of nuts: they have devised 101 ways to use walnuts in everything sweet or savory.  They feast on hearty stews made with beans and packed with veggies.  They feast on delicious salads, amazing herbs. They feast on mushrooms cooked any which way you like. They feast on fabulous vegan foods by the boat load! (And of course they feast on meat too, but let’s not dwell on that).  Every time I ate with Georgian friends I’d wonder when the food would stop coming (answer: not until there is more than anyone sitting around that table could possibly eat). 

On a wall in Tblisi...

On a wall in Tblisi…

Jvari Church

Jvari Church

A tree for wishes...

A tree for wishes…

Furry Georgian Cow

Sweet, furry Georgian cow

Overlooking Mtskheta

Overlooking Mtskheta

While you do need to be careful about hidden dairy and eggs and therefore steer clear of pretty much anything baked, there is no reason why any vegan couldn’t travel to Georgia and not experience pure veganic bliss. 

Entrance to Jvari Church

Entrance to Jvari Church

Svetishoveli Cathedral. Mtskheta

Svetishoveli Cathedral. Mtskheta

Inside Svetishoveli Cathedral

Inside Svetishoveli Cathedral

Inside Svetishoveli Cathedral

Inside Svetishoveli Cathedral

Jvari Church Svetishoveli Cathedral

Jvari Church Svetishoveli Cathedral

So today, I’m not going to dwell on politics, or history, or human rights in Georgia (and I could talk about all of that for quite some time). I’m not going to tell you about that time I traveled by land from Yerevan, Armenia, to Tblisi and my hairy moments at border control. I’m not going to tell you about the brilliant Shakespeare play (in Georgian) we saw at the gorgeous opera house. Instead, I’m going to let you enjoy the photos of this dynamic and truly unique country (it even has it’s own fascinating & distinct script!) and focus on the food. 

A Georgian feast!

A Georgian feast!

Today I’m bringing you three Georgian recipes I promise you will love so you can have the makings of your own Georgian feast.  

Boiled and Fried Khachapuri

Boiled and Fried Khachapuri

One decidedly non-vegan food that Georgians are famous for is called khachapuri. I don’t know how to describe it other than as a covered cheese pizza (without the tomato sauce).  It always looked amazing and I pined for a vegan version.  The recipe I’m bringing you is not that, but it’s close: it’s a boiled and fried khachapuri that has all of the *vegan* cheesiness, but is super quick and easy to make.  Served with a bit of sour cream, they are truly a delight. Let me say that again: DELIGHT! They are best served piping hot. 

Cheesy deliciousness!

Cheesy deliciousness!

 You’ll need cashew sour cream, or another vegan sour cream, to make this recipe and serve with the Khachapuri.  My recipe is here

Boiled and Fried Khachapuri
Yields 4
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Total Time
20 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. ½ cup vegan ricotta (I used tofutti ricotta)
  2. Equivalent of 1 egg (I used 1 tsp of the vegg with 2 tbsps of water, or ener-g egg replacer would work well)
  3. ½ cup gluten-free flour mix*
  4. salt, to taste
  5. 1 scant tbsp. cashew sour cream and additional for
  6. 1/3 cup vegan mozarrella shreds
  7. 3-4 tbsps additional gluten-free flour
Instructions
  1. Mix together vegan ricotta and “egg”
  2. Add flour and salt and mix again until everything is well combined.
  3. Stir in cashew sour cream and mozzarella shreds.
  4. Add more flour a little at a time, as necessary, to get a soft dough. It should not be sticky, but only flour until it gets to the point that it is just past stickiness.
  5. Divide into four even portions, roll into balls with lightly floured hands, and flatten a little.
  6. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.
  7. Add the balls to the water and boil for 5-6 minutes. Try to be careful to make sure they don’t stick to each other, or the pan.
  8. Transfer the khachapuri to a paper towel and blot off moisture. You can eat them at this point or fry them.
  9. If frying, add a little earth balance to a pan and fry on each side until golden brown.
  10. Top with a little extra cashew sour cream and serve hot.
Notes
  1. * I use a gluten-free flour mix that is made up of 2 cups of Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour, 1/2 cup of arrowroot starch and 11/2 tsps of xanthan gum and I find that works nicely for just about everything! Alternatively you could use any gluten-free all purpose flour mix you like, just make sure to add a tsp of xanthan gum too if it is not already included!
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
The second is Lobiani, which is like Khachapuri, only with a red bean filling.  

Ajarian Lobiani!

Ajarian Lobiani!

Oh my! Beans with Georgian spices in a yummy gluten-free crusty bread. Yes please!  The most common type has dough top and bottom, but I’m bringing you an version from a region of Georgia called Adjara that is easier to make, but is as every bit as good. It may not look too pretty, but let me tell you, you will be craving more once you’ve finished with it. 

Ajarian Lobiani
Yields 2
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Total Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
Dough
  1. 1 ½ cups gluten free flour mix*
  2. 1 ½ tsp yeast
  3. ½ tsp sugar
  4. ½ cup warm water
  5. ¼ tsp salt
  6. 1 tbsp vegan butter, melted or olive oil
Bean filling
  1. 1 can red kidney beans
  2. ½ cup water
  3. ½ tsp dried marjoram
  4. ½ tsp dried dill
  5. ½ tsp dried savory
  6. ½ tsp dried parsley
  7. ½ tsp coriander seeds
  8. ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  9. ½ bay leaf, crushed
  10. ¼ tsp dried mint
  11. 1 tbsp vegan butter
  12. Salt and pepper to taste
Vegg wash
  1. ½ tsp the vegg
  2. 1 tbsp water
  3. 1 tbsp vegan milk
  4. ½ tsp olive oil
Dough
  1. Mix together water, yeast and sugar in a cup or bowl and set aside until yeast becomes activated and fluffy.
  2. Mix together flour mix and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add yeast mixture and melted butter and stir to combine.
  4. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. If needed add additional flour a little at a time until it feels right.
  5. Knead into a ball, cover and set aside for an hour or so, for the dough to rise to about double.
Beans
  1. Place all spices in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) and grind until the seeds and bay leaf are crushed. Alternatively, you can grind them using a pestle and mortar.
  2. Drain and rinse the kidney beans.
  3. Add the kidney beans, spices and water to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until the water has largely evaporated.
  4. Remove from stove, add butter, salt and pepper and mash together.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
“Vegg” wash
  1. Mix together all ingredients until well-combined.
Putting it together
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Halve the dough and using your hands shape each piece into an oval.
  3. On a flour-dusted surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is about a quarter inch thick and shape into a batard.
  4. Place half of the bean mixture in the center, and spread to about 1 1/2 - 2 inches from the edge of the dough.
  5. Roll the edges of the dough up to surround the bean mixture and pinch the tips of the dough together at each end.
  6. Paint the dough with the vegg wash.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and lightly browned.
Notes
  1. *I use a gluten-free flour mix that combines 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose gluten free flour, ½ cup arrowroot, 1 ½ tsps xanthan gum. Or you could use any all-purpose gluten-free flour mix and add a tsp of xanthan gum.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
And because that seemed like an awful lot of carbs, to round out your feast, I bring you a very simple and traditional Georgian salad. 

Georgian Salad

Georgian Salad

Georgian Salad
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cucumber, chopped
  2. 4 small tomatoes, chopped
  3. ½ medium onion, diced
  4. 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  5. A small handful of fresh herbs (I used dill, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro)
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl mix all ingredients together.
  2. Season to taste.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
Georgia Complete meal 1

Yum!

Yes, this is a feast we heartily enjoyed from start to finish! 

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Ukraine: Raw “Cheese” Varenyky and Vinegret

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Recipes | 2 comments

Ukraine: Raw “Cheese” Varenyky and Vinegret

Today we’re visiting Ukraine, the country of half of my people, on our VeganMoFo world tour.

Oh Ukrainia! I really loved this country. And not just because it was the homeland of my grandparents or because I look like I fit in when I travel there. I loved it because of my friends and colleagues there and the sense that bigger and better things were in store for it. I loved it because it was stunningly beautiful. Kyiv maintained a sense of character and its beauty despite its Russian occupation for so long and only a few imposing Soviet structures lined its streets. I loved it because of its peoples’ fierce commitment to independence and because their struggles for justice continued in the face of daunting challenges. I still love it, but now I’m heartbroken.

A traditional mural on the wall of a building in Kyiv

A traditional mural on the wall of a building in Kyiv

Maidan

Independence Square, Kyiv

Riding the funicular

Riding the funicular

Street art!

Street art!

St Nicholas Roman Catholic Church

St Nicholas Roman Catholic Church

Selling war memorabilia

Selling war memorabilia

National Opera House

National Opera House

In truth, Ukraine has always been some tension between the Russian-leaning east, where Russian is mostly spoken, and the country’s west, where Ukrainian is mostly spoken. But I never thought that it would be so ruthlessly divided or that Russia would be so aggressive in trying to take it back. In the aftermath of the cold war when it gained its independence, Ukraine agreed to surrender its nuclear weapons with the written agreement that Russia would not try to retake it and if it did it would have the support of the UK and US. So much for that…

On the streets of Kyiv

On the streets of Kyiv

St. Andrew's Church

St. Andrew’s Church

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral

St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral

Inside St. Michael's

Inside St. Michael’s

St. Michael's

St. Michael’s

Mary

Mary at St. Michael’s

Another view St. Michael's

Another view St. Michael’s

Wooden Steeple

Wooden Steeple

The causes of the current conflict, and the historic protests that preceded them, were many and complex. The media narrative largely is that they started because in the face of economic stress, instead of looking to the European Union and the West, the country’s Russian-supporting President at the time looked east to Russia. The reality is, it was about much more than that. It was about holding the government accountable to the people; it was about addressing the blatant corruption that undermined the country’s economy and peoples’ livelihoods; and it was about justice. Many of my friends and colleagues were on Maidan Square; luckily, none of them died there.

St. Sophia's Cathdedral

St. Sophia’s Cathdedral

Playing the lute on the grounds of St. Sophia's

Playing the lute on the grounds of St. Sophia’s

So beautiful!

So beautiful!

Many buildings are elaborately adorned

Many buildings in Kyiv are elaborately adorned

Love this pink building!

Love this pink building in Kyiv!

Golden Gate

Golden Gate

Golden Gate

Golden Gate

The consequences of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and advance in the western part of the country are pretty devastating. The best way I know how to illustrate it is by sharing stories of how it has impacted one community I know well and worked with closely in the country: people who use drugs. Ukraine, like many countries of the region, has pretty high rates of substance use and with it high rates of HIV infection driven by injecting drug use. To address both, non-governmental organizations, with the support of the government and international donors, were implementing some of the most innovative harm reduction programs in the region, the most important of which was opiate substitution therapy programs. Methadone and buprenorphine can have a transformative impact on the lives of people addicted to heroin, help them regain control of their lives, find jobs and care for their family. In Simferopol, Crimea, at one center I visited, people on methadone and their parents and friends told us of the life-changing impact it had. Mothers told us of how it gave them back their children. They were so genuinely grateful for this program.

Livadia Palace, Crimea

Livadia Palace, Yalta, Crimea

Where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin divided the world after WWII

The fateful room where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin divided Europe after WWII

Chandelier at Livadia

Chandelier at Livadia

A view of the ocean at dusk from a room at Livadia Palace

A view of the ocean at dusk from a room at Livadia Palace

Serene

Serene

Instead of addressing HIV and injecting drug use with programs that actually work, Russia has adopted an approach that can be described as ignoring them at best, and exacerbating them through harmful policies at worst. When Russia annexed Crimea all of the harm reduction programs stopped, immediately. At least fifty people have died as a result. The organization I used to work for helped get thirty people on substitution therapy out of Crimea, but in the long run that’s not a sustainable solution.

Fun and games in Yalta

Fun and games in Yalta

Lenin looming over Yalta

Lenin looming over downtown Yalta

A turquoise wall somewhere in Crimea

A turquoise wall somewhere in Crimea

My grandparents are from western Ukraine, near Lviv, and an area that changed hands quite a bit with its neighbors, Poland and Austria. The Germans were pretty ruthless when they invaded western Ukraine during the second world war, not only targeting Jews, but ethnic Ukrainians as well. My grandparents were rounded up and shipped to a German work camp, where they met.

Memorial of a famine politically induced by Russia in the early 30s in Lviv

Memorial of a famine politically induced by Russia in the early 30s in Lviv

Stairway to heaven?

Stairway to heaven? Lviv

Cathedral in Lviv

Cathedral in Lviv

Church, Lviv

Church, Lviv

Another Cathedral in Lviv

Another Cathedral in Lviv

A random wall in Lviv

A random wall in Lviv

There is so much more I could say about Ukraine. It is a genuinely beautiful country with a difficult past and present. But I hope, fervently hope, that its future is much brighter.

Opera House, Lviv

Opera House, Lviv

Paper Aeroplane

Paper Aeroplane

Lviv

Lviv

But on to the food. Surprisingly, I found it pretty easy to eat in Ukraine, especially around Lent when orthodox Ukrainians fast and abstain from meat and dairy (although they still eat fish). I would eat hearty meals during that period: cabbage varenyky, great salads, amazing potato dishes, delicious soups, because there were pretty extensive and largely vegan Lenten menus at pretty much every restaurant. Yum! And even when it wasn’t Lent, I still usually had plenty of options. For some reason Ukrainians love sushi and so just about everywhere, I could usually find an avocado roll, miso soup and some sort of tofu dish! And the pickles and sauerkraut… oh my! It was there that I realized why my dad could eat sauerkraut as an evening snack (and why now I make my own and do the same!)

Sweets and Treats in Ukraine

Sweets and Treats in Ukraine

My dear friend Marina shopping for pickles on the streets of Yalta

My dear friend Marina shopping for pickles on the streets of Yalta

Today I’m sharing raw and vegan versions of two dishes that are much, much loved in Ukraine (and of which there are variations throughout the region): cheese varenyky and vinegret.

Raw Varenyky and Vinegret

Raw Varenyky and Vinegret

Varenyky are dumplings. They can be sweet or savory. They can contain just cheese, cheese and potatoes, sauerkraut on the savory side, or berries, cherries and other fruits on the sweet side. This raw version is really yummy and uses a really easy to make cashew cheese and mild-tasting marinated celeriac, with of course, the definitive herb of the region: dill.

Cheese Varenyky!

Cheese Varenyky!

Raw Cheese Varenyky
Serves 2
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Total Time
16 hr 30 min
Total Time
16 hr 30 min
Cashew Cheese
  1. 1 cup cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours
  2. 1 tbsp miso
  3. ¼ tsp garlic powder
  4. 2 tbsps lemon juice
  5. Water, as needed to blend
Varenyky
  1. ½ shallot, finely diced
  2. 1 tsp dill, chopped
  3. Pepper to taste
  4. 1 small celeriac bulb
  5. ¼ tsp salt
  6. 2 tsps apple cider vinegar
Cashew Cheese
  1. In a blender, combine soaked cashews, miso, garlic powder and lemon juice and blend until the cashew cream is of a cottage cheese consistency.
  2. You may need to add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get the right consistency.
  3. Pour into a jar, cover with cheesecloth, and set in a warm place to ferment for 6-12 hours.
  4. When fermented, there should be some big air bubbles in the cheese and some separation between the curds and the whey.
  5. When the cheese is ready, putting your cheese in a nut bag or in cheesecloth and then squeezing it firmly to remove whey.
Varenyky
  1. In a small bowl, place cheese, dill and shallot and mix to combine.
  2. The cheese should already be quite salty because of the miso, but taste the seasonings and adjust to your liking.
  3. Peel the celeriac bulb and using a knife shape it until it is nice and round.
  4. Using a mandolin, or a knife, thinly slice the celeriac into thin sheets about an eighth of an inch thick.
  5. Place in a medium bowl with the salt and apple cider vinegar and let marinate for at least 20 minutes, but preferably an hour, until celeriac is soft and folds easily.
  6. Place a teaspoon or so of cheese in the center of a slice of the celeriac and fold over.
  7. Repeat until all of the cheese has been used.
  8. Sprinkle with a little additional dill and serve with cashew sour cream.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
Do not confuse vinegret with vinaigrette; in Eastern Europe it refers to a much-loved beet salad. It’s usually cooked and contains potatoes. But in my humble opinion, this tasty raw version is much, much better. In different parts of the region, different ingredients are used. In Central Asia, for example, they often add beans. But here I’m providing a version that is close to what you’d find in the typical home in Ukraine.

Raw Vinegret

Raw Vinegret

Vinegret
Serves 2
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 medium beets, cut into small cubes
  2. 1 small carrot, cut into small cubes
  3. ¼ cup freshly shelled peas
  4. 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  5. ½ shallot, diced
  6. 1-2 dill pickles, chopped (in brine)
  7. ½ tsp salt
  8. 2 tsps apple cider vinegar
  9. 1½ tsps. coconut palm sugar
  10. ½ tsp umeboshi plum vinegar
  11. 1 tsp olive oil
  12. Dill, chopped, to taste (I used 1 tsp)
  13. Parsley, chopped, to taste (I used about 10 parsley leaves)
  14. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Place beets, carrots, peas, ½ tsp of salt, sugar and apple cider vinegar in a bowl and stir to make sure the vegetables are well-coated.
  2. Place another bowl with something heavy inside on top, to press the vegetables. This will help them soften and release some fluid and bitterness.
  3. Set them aside for at least 20 minutes.
  4. When soft, add green onion, shallot, dill pickle, olive oil and umeboshi plum vinegar, along with dill and parsley.
  5. Taste and add additional salt and pepper to your liking.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
You’ll want to serve these with a vegan sour cream! My recipe for cashew sour cream is here.

My partner is not hugely into cheese and so he was a bit wary of this dinner. But when he tasted them he loved them and ate them with abandon! The varenyky really are incredibly flavorful.

Yum!

Yum!

I hope you like them just as much!

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Lithuania: Sweet and White Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Recipes | 4 comments

Lithuania: Sweet and White Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce

From Poland we move north today to Lithuania as our VeganMoFo world tour continues. 

Lithuania is one of those places where you really get to experience the difference between dark and light.  I first travelled to the country one June many years ago and the light at night to me was striking.  I remember walking back to my hotel with friends some time after midnight and while the sun had dipped down, it was still twilight. The sky was a gorgeous shade of blue, I could see clearly and it was beautiful.

The city, in the middle of the night

The city, in the middle of the night

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

The last time I went to Lithuania it was in the middle of winter, frigidly cold with packed snow on the ground and icebergs floating down the river.  This time I barely saw the sun and even when it was up it felt dark. When we walked to a traditional Lithuanian restaurant one evening, by the time we got there I could not feel my hands or my feet. It was pitch black outside. 

Ladies gracing the Lithuanian National Drama Theater

Ladies gracing the Lithuanian National Drama Theater

The Egg

The Egg

Street Art

Street Art

Lithuania is also one of the first countries I traveled to where I felt perpetually hungry (and was woefully unprepared). Finding vegan food the first time was incredibly difficult. I subsisted mostly on potatoes, salads (but even finding a salad not laden in mayo was hard), and bread.  One evening when we stumbled across a vegetarian café in the city’s old town, I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy at finding a real meal. I think I scoffed down that curry like I hadn’t eaten in weeks.  It was divine! Last time, I went prepared, but also things had changed dramatically.  I had no trouble eating and eating well. Even if there was nothing vegan on the menu, wait staff knew what I meant when I said vegan and kitchens were more than prepared to make me something I could eat.

A typical street in the Old Town

A typical street in the Old Town

A church

A church

Vilnius is a lovely city that has the feel of a small town, although it had changed a lot between my visits.  Its old town is one of the most stunning I have had the joy of rambling through. Churches are literally everywhere. I felt like I couldn’t turn a corner without seeing crosses. 

Another church

Another church

And yet another...

And yet another…

The colorful buildings, replete with deep basements, and sweet courtyards, are just lovely. And in the old town there are really wonderful little boutiques and shops, many of them selling Lithuania’s two prized commodities: linen and amber.

The gate to a church...

The gate to a church…

Sweet!

Sweet!

So today, in memory of my first visit to that country, I am sharing a somewhat non-traditional recipe for potato pancakes, a staple, but not vegan, Lithuanian dish.  I used half sweet potatoes and half white potatoes and the result is delicious.

Sweet & White Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce

Sweet & White Potato Pancakes with Mushroom Sauce

I have been roaring through my supply of the Vegg egg replacer this week and it’s perfect for this dish. You can buy it on Amazon or at any number of vegan online stores.  However, if you can’t get that, I suggest you substitute a light binding egg replacer, like ener-g or arrowroot powder, and add a teaspoon of nutritional yeast and a ¼ tsp of black salt. You really don’t want anything too heavy here. 

Mmmm...

Mmmm…

Sweet and White Potato Pancakes
Yields 7
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup grated sweet potatoes
  2. 1 cup grated potatoes
  3. ½ medium onion, diced
  4. 2 tsp the vegg powder + 6 tbsps of water (or other light, binding egg replacer, equivalent to 2 eggs)
  5. 2 tbsps all purpose gluten free flour
  6. ½ tsp salt, or more or less to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl
  2. Heat a pan on medium-high with some grapeseed oil, or earth balance.
  3. When hot, scoop some of the batter onto the pan and flatten with a spatula and turn down the heat to medium-low.
  4. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Carefully flip and cook the other side.
  6. Repeat until all batter has been used.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
Of course, I couldn’t make potato pancakes without mushroom sauce. I use a combination of oyster mushrooms, which are commonly used throughout the region, and crimini mushrooms to give it a bit of complexity. 

Mushroom Sauce

Mushroom Sauce

Mushroom Sauce
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tbsp earth balance or oil
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. 4 oz container of oyster mushrooms, sliced
  4. 4-5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  5. ½ cup vegetable broth
  6. ½ tsp arrowroot powder
  7. Salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Add earth balance to a saucepan and heat on medium until melted.
  2. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until soft and just starting to caramelize.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juices and are beginning to brown.
  4. Mix together the vegetable broth and arrowroot powder and pour into the pan.
  5. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to deglaze.
  6. Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn off the heat.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
You’ll want to serve this with some vegan sour cream; my recipe is here.   

Wishing I had a serving of these right now...

Wishing I had a serving of these right now…

My partner is not a big fan of mushrooms (I just don’t get it!). So I served them to him the way many do in Lithuania: with sour cream and apple sauce. 

With apple sauce

With apple sauce

This is a really great weekend brunch. Or any day breakfast or lunch for that matter! 

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Poland: Sweet Rolls

Posted by on Sep 16, 2014 in Recipes | 9 comments

Poland: Sweet Rolls

Today on our VeganMofo world tour we visit Poland!

I travelled to Warsaw for the first time in November last year and absolutely fell in love with the city.  It’s dynamic and has an exciting energy (perhaps that’s because I spent time with some really awesome young feminists). But I would never want to live in Poland: the country is deeply Catholic and the church has way too much sway on politics. One of my dear friends is the deputy speaker in Parliament and she’s been struggling for women’s rights in this country for decades, but there is still a long way to go. For example, abortion is highly restricted and even when women are in desperate need of it because of threats to their health or life, it’s almost impossible to access. 

One of the things I love to do when I get to any city is just walk around and explore.

On the streets of Warsaw

On the streets of Warsaw

In the small windows of time I had to do that, I think I must have traversed half of the city! 

Old City Square

Old Town Square

Love!

Love!

The old town is gorgeous.

Berries & colorful houses in the old city

Berries & colorful houses in the old town

A bear with a shield with Tutenkhamun on it? Okay...

A bear with a shield with Tutenkhamun on it? Okay…

Art and sculptures adorn the city streets. 

Madame Curie Museum

Madame Curie Museum

Gorgeous, colorful old buildings stand with grace along its winding, maze-like streets.

Pretty!

Pretty!

Old Town

Old Town

Church

One of the many old churches in the old town

And on weekends markets abound selling homemade foods, crafts, preserves and gorgeous polish pottery (I only wish I bought more!). 

Believe it or not, Warsaw is home to an amazing vegan movement. I ate like a queen at the catered lunches at my meetings there. And the number of vegan restaurants is astounding, with some of the best gluten-free vegan food I’ve eaten anywhere!  I made it my mission to hit as many as I could, but there were quite a few that I still didn’t make it to. 

Outside my favorite restaurant in Warsaw, Veg Deli

Outside my favorite restaurant in Warsaw, Veg Deli

Afternoon treat!

Afternoon treat!

Veg Deli, all vegan and gluten free, was my absolute favorite. They served mostly Polish classics and it was all really great. 

A meze platter at Marrakesh

A mezze platter at Marrakesh

Marrakesh Café and its sister restaurant Tel Aviv serve delicious Israeli and Mediterranean-inspired food, most of it gluten free. As you can see, I seriously indulged there.  The gluten-free bread alone at Marrakesh was worth heading there, but the spreads and shwarma were just stunning. 

Best vegan burgers ever!

Best vegan burgers ever!

And for the best vegan burgers ever, including with good gluten-free options, you can’t miss Krowarzywa!

Today, I’m bringing you a vegan, gluten-free version of a traditional Polish treat: sweet rolls.

Polish sweet bread!

Polish sweet rolls!

I saw these at the breakfast buffet at my restaurant and they looked spectacular, but of course were not vegan or gluten free.  They are similar to a danish, but with bread instead of puff pastry.  And to make them just a little more decadent they are usually topped with a crumble and powdered sugar or a water glaze. They could be eaten for breakfast or dessert, or a snack anytime really. 

Sweet bread with raspberry jam and water glaze

Sweet roll with raspberry jam and water glaze

I made half of them with a sweet cheese filling and half with raspberry jam. I made the cheese from scratch; it’s incredibly easy to do, it just needs to be prepared a day ahead. I provide the recipe below. But you could substitute it with a vegan store-bought ricotta instead if you like! Either way, they are really, really yummy!

Yum! Cheese sweet bread with powdered sugar

Yum! Cheese sweet roll with powdered sugar

The recipe does take a bit of time to pull it all together, but don’t let that put you off. It is really worth it! 

Polish Sweet Rolls
Yields 8
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Total Time
24 hr
Total Time
24 hr
Dough
  1. 1½ tsps yeast
  2. ¼ cup warm water
  3. ½ tsp coconut palm sugar
  4. 2 tbsps coconut palm sugar
  5. ½ cup warm vegan milk of your choice
  6. 1 tbsp earth balance buttery sticks, aroma-free coconut oil, or other vegan butter substitute
  7. Egg replacer for one egg (I used ener-g egg replacer)
  8. 1½ cups gluten-free flour mix*
  9. 1/4 tsp salt
Cheese filling
  1. 1 cup cashews, soaked 4-6 hours
  2. 2 tbsps lemon juice
  3. Contents of two vegan probiotic capsules
  4. Pinch of salt
  5. Up to 1/2 cup of water, as needed
  6. 3 tbsps of vegan powdered sugar
  7. 1/4 tsp of vanilla powder or 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  8. Equivalent of 1 egg yolk (I used 1 tsp of the Vegg powder mixed with 2 tbsps of water) (optional)
Jam Filling
  1. 1/2 cup any good quality jam
Crumble (optional)
  1. 1/4 cup of all-purpose gluten-free flour
  2. 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  3. 2 tsps earth balance, other vegan margarine or aroma free coconut oil
Egg glaze for pastry (optional)
  1. 1 tsp vegg powder
  2. 2 tbsps water
  3. 2 tbsps coconut milk
  4. OR
  5. Soy milk
Water glaze (optional)
  1. 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  2. 2-4 tsps boiling water
Cashew cheese
  1. In a blender, add soaked cashews, lemon juice, probiotics, pinch of salt and a 1/4 cup of water to start and blend until you achieve a cottage-cheese like consistency.
  2. Add more water as necessary to get the right texture.
  3. Place cheese in a ball jar, cover with cheesecloth, and allow to sit in a warm place for up to 12 hours.
  4. The cheese should be ready when it has bubbles, that show signs of fermentation, and when the curds and whey have begun to separate. You could leave it for a couple of hours longer, if needs be.
  5. When the cheese is ready, place the curds in a nut-milk bag or cheesecloth, and strain to remove excess whey. You want the cheese to be fairly dry.
  6. Take half a cup of the cheese, add powdered sugar, vanilla powder and egg yolk equivalent, if using, and stir to combine.
Dough
  1. Place yeast in warm water, along with coconut palm sugar and set aside to allow it to activate and become nice and fluffy.
  2. Mix together the coconut palm sugar, vegan milk and earth balance until sugar has dissolved and vegan butter has melted.
  3. Combine gluten-free flour mix and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Add yeast mixture, milk mixture and egg replacer and stir to combine. The dough should be nice and sticky.
  5. Set aside in a warm place for an hour or two to allow the dough to double in size.
Crumble
  1. Add flour, sugar and earth balance to a small bowl and mix together using your hands until it begins to stick together and form a crumb.
Egg glaze
  1. Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth.
Water glaze
  1. Combine icing sugar and boiling water, a teaspoon at a time, until the sugar completely dissolves and it forms a nice paste. You can add more or less water to make the glaze thinner or thicker, but be careful not to add too much!
Putting it together
  1. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a heavily floured surface and with floured hands shape into eight round buns.
  2. Place the buns on a parchment lined baking sheet with plenty of space between them and set aside for 30 minutes or so to allow them to rise and again about double in size.
  3. Using the bottom of a floured soup ladle, make a depression in each of the buns.
  4. Add a generous amount of the sweet cheese to half and jam to the other other half.
  5. Top with crumble, if using.
  6. Allow to rise for another 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Brush "egg" glaze on to the edges of the bread.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the bread has lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into one of the edges comes out clean or with just a few large crumbs.
  9. Allow to cool completely.
  10. Drizzle on water glaze using a spoon or icing bag or sprinkle on powdered sugar.
  11. Eat right away!
Notes
  1. * I use a gluten-free flour mix that is made up of 2 cups of Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour, 1/2 cup of arrowroot starch and 11/2 tsps of xanthan gum and I find that works nicely for just about everything! Alternatively you could use any gluten-free all purpose flour mix you like, just make sure to add a tsp of xanthan gum too if it is not already included!
  2. You'll have a bit more cashew cheese than you need for this recipe, but that's okay. It's a very mellow tasting cheese that is great on or in any number of things!
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
Like most gluten-free treats, they are best when eaten right away.  They will be a bit harder the next day, but you could just put them in the toaster oven for a few minutes to warm them up and they’ll be super yummy (although the glaze will melt!). 

Yum!

Yum!

What a treat! 

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Turkey: Mediterranean Vegetable Stew

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Recipes | 1 comment

Turkey: Mediterranean Vegetable Stew

Good morning! Today as our VeganMoFo around the world culinary tour continues, we travel to Turkey.

There is some debate about whether Turkey is part of Asia or part of Europe, and as Turks would note, it straddles both. In Istanbul there is actually an Asian side and a European side. Today it is our entry point into Europe, where we’ll explore the cuisine of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Turkish Flag

Turkish Flag

What can I say about Turkey? I think it was the first country I visited where I felt the weight of history.

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

On my first trip to there I went Antalya. One evening went to see a symphony orchestra perform in at the Aspendos Amphitheatre, just outside of the city, which is thousands of years old and the best-preserve amphitheatre of antiquity. It was stunningly beautiful, sounded amazing, and it hit me that people had been enjoying music and theater in that space for an astoundingly long time.

Symphony orchestra at the Aspendos Ampitheatre

Symphony orchestra at the Aspendos Ampitheatre

It was also in Antalya that I discovered I had developed an allergy to peaches. My first couple of days there I ate a delightfully fuzzy and beautifully sweet peach every morning, followed about half an hour later by really annoying itchiness. It took me a while to piece together the fact that the itchiness was in fact hives and the cause was those damned, gorgeous peaches. It breaks my heart to this day that I can’t eat them, or other the other fruit and nuts I subsequently developed allergies to.

At the port in Antalya

At the port in Antalya

Antalya is a lovely little city: gorgeous coastlines, rugged cliffs overlooking, amazingly deep, blue seas.

Cliffs of Antalya

Cliffs of Antalya

Water falling into the Mediterranean

Water falling into the Mediterranean

I enjoyed every minute of it and found it incredibly relaxing and affirming. But I was lucky to be there off-season, and so I imagine it’s not quite so peaceful when it is over run by tourists.

On the coast of Antalya

Old fort on the coast of Antalya

On the streets of Antalya's Medina

On the streets of Antalya’s Medina

I adore Istanbul. It feels magical to fly into the city and see the silhouettes of mosques dotting the skyline, particularly at dawn or dusk.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

When I’m there I feel like I am walking around in a museum.

On the streets of Istanbul

On the streets of Istanbul

The blue mosque, which dominates the skyline in the Asian part of the city, is absolutely stunning. 

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Both the architecture and wall-to-ceiling decorations are gorgeous. It feels like a treasure, and it is.

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

The Hagia Sofia, which sits across from the Blue Mosque, is an amazing mix of Moorish architecture with Catholic art.

The Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

It is really beautiful.

Inside the Hagia Sofia

Inside Hagia Sofia

Inside Hagia Sofia

Inside Hagia Sofia

Another must-see is the Basilica Cistern, part of a beautiful, almost haunting, underground water system. Some of the columns have been decorated, a couple with the head of Medusa.

Medusa in the Basilica Cistern

Medusa in the Basilica Cistern

Medusa

Medusa

I love to just walk and walk and walk in that city. It feels like around every corner there is something new to marvel at.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Oh, and the food! Hummus, stuffed grape leaves, the endless array of salads with fresh and cooked vegetables! What joy! I can never get enough of the eggplant or the beans or the nuts. And do I need to opine about the joys of Turkish delight (most of which is vegan)? I think not.

Turkish Coffee (this almost makes me miss drinking it...)

Turkish Coffee (this almost makes me miss drinking it…)

Today I’m bringing you a recipe for a Turkish stew that I enjoyed again and again in Istanbul. It was always served in a sizzling cast-iron pot overloaded with vegetables and white beans, with a rich tomato-based sauce.

Mediterranean vegetable stew

Mediterranean vegetable stew

I have tried again and again to recreate it from memory and I’m not quite sure that my version is quite as good, but it’s pretty close. The best thing about it is that you can use pretty much any vegetables you have on hand. 

Mediterranean Vegetable Stew
Serves 4
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Total Time
40 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 small or 1 medium eggplant, chopped into bite-size pieces
  2. 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  3. 2 large tomatoes
  4. 1 sunburst squash, chopped into bite-size pieces
  5. ½ - 1 zucchini
  6. ½ onion, diced
  7. 1 carrot, roughly sliced
  8. 1 small head of broccoli or romanesco cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
  9. 10-12 brussel sprouts, halved
  10. 1 bell pepper (I used yellow)
  11. 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed
  12. 2 cups kale, chopped (I used Tuscan kale)
  13. 2 bay leaves
  14. 1 tbsp thyme, chopped
  15. ½ tbsp sage leaves, chopped
  16. 3 tbsps tomato paste
  17. Grapeseed oil
  18. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place your eggplant in a medium bowl with ¼ teaspoon of salt and mix to make sure the salt evenly covers the eggplant. Set aside for at least 20 minutes while you prepare your other vegetables to draw out some of the bitterness.
  2. Set your oven to broil.
  3. In a cast-iron pan, dutch oven, or other oven-proof pan, place a little grapeseed oil and heat on medium-high.
  4. When hot add the eggplant and sauté until it just starts to brown. Add onion, garlic, tomato, bay leaves, thyme and sage and continue to cook until the tomato begins to breakdown to form a sauce.
  5. Add brussel sprouts, carrots and broccoli, and cook for another couple of minutes.
  6. Finally, add the squash and bell pepper and cook for another minute.
  7. Stir in beans and tomato paste.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Carefully place in the oven, uncovered, and let broil for about ten minutes until it is sizzling.
  10. Remove from oven and fish out bay leaves.
  11. Stir in kale and serve.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
 When you take it out of the oven the vegetables should be nice and cooked, but firm, with a bite too them. You really don’t want to overcook this!

Yum!

Yum!

Beautiful no?

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