Vegan Bolognese: the third generation’s take on a family recipe

Vegan bolognese. Works well with TVP or frozen, packaged crumbles! Recipe in comments.

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My grandma confessed to the family a few years ago that she really doesn’t care for cooking. She fashioned herself a master chef who spends hours in the kitchen. She is an expert at repurposing leftovers, and a purist where it counts. (She and my dad famously argue over tomatoes–she insists he does not simmer them long enough, and he says she uses too much tomato paste)

My grandma has five children and a husband with a larger-than-life personality. She is from Lille; he came from Santa Elisabetta via Tuscany. When this charming Sicilian man met the brilliant but unassuming French school teacher in Paris, he tried to convince her that he was a Frenchman.  I don’t know if she believed him, but she decided to give him a shot and they were married six months later.

She cooked Italian food as if it were her passion. It was apparently not. I didn’t know of her love for celeriac grated with mayonnaise, boiled artichokes, and bouillabaisse until I began cooking and asked her one day about her favorite dishes.

Still, I feel guilty that my favorite thing she ever made me was the bolognese she was known for in our family. Other than mussels with white wine–a non-kosher delight–this was the dish I always asked her to make. Continue reading “Vegan Bolognese: the third generation’s take on a family recipe”

Vegan ‘Moussaka’

While it barely resembles a moussaka at all, this recipe is a crowd pleaser, and “fake meat layered casserole in the style of moussaka” isn’t very catchy. Instead of a thick béchamel layer on top like a traditional moussaka, this recipe is topped with creamy potatoes (like a Shepherd’s pie) but cooks up to a similar texture as béchamel would.

This recipe is written out in pieces so that each layer of the dish can be cooked either simultaneously or separately, ahead of time. Everything except the mashed potatoes can be cooked ahead of time. This is a rather involved recipe, but it makes a very hearty main dish. You could also add a layer of fried or baked eggplant for a more authentic dish.

You can use however many of these layers you want in your final product. I put down a layer of matzah for the “crust” which worked beautifully (as it was served during passover) but store-bought puff pastry, bread crumbs, or even toast would make a nice  bottom layer once covered with the sauce. Enjoy! Let me know if you try it out. Continue reading “Vegan ‘Moussaka’”

Green Onion and Curry Matzo Brei (Easy!)

I have had plates of room-temperature, sweet, soggy matzo brei shoved in my face for ages and yet have somehow managed to never taste its glory. It was always such an unappealing recipe–just French toast without the good bread that makes one a pleasantly sweet breakfast meal and the other a wet saltine that ruins eggs.

Well, I am happy to say that I was mostly wrong. While I am loyal to the savory matzo brei, I do see the merits of the dish. The softened matzah takes perfectly to the egg and its spices to come together in a texture that just doesn’t seem to exist in other foods that I’ve tasted.

Now then, here is my public statement for which I may receive some flak: do not ever come at me with matzo brei without spice. This recipe uses curry powder and sliced green onions and is served with techina mixed with s’chug, a traditional Yeminite spicy condiment. Nothing lacking in flavor here. Continue reading “Green Onion and Curry Matzo Brei (Easy!)”

Coconut Mushroom Soup

I’m always looking for ways to bridge seasons. I generally prefer the root vegetables and mushrooms that show up in fall but always miss the fresh tang of spring and summer that I get from lemon and cilantro (especially because my husband is allergic to cilantro).

This soup successfully complements the waning winter and early days of spring that are still too cold for my liking. It is during this time of year that I am especially attracted to what are otherwise hearty winter soups with a stubborn dash of summer.

The recipe calls for za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice made of dried hyssop, citrus, and sesame seeds which you can find in most Middle Eastern markets in the United States. If you’re in a pinch, dry oregano will work, but does not pack the same crisp, rich spice of za’atar. I use coconut oil here because it tastes especially rich with the mushrooms without feeling as heavy as butter. Continue reading “Coconut Mushroom Soup”

Spicy, lemon-y tofu pasta salad

This recipe is really easy and can be thrown together for a quick dinner or served the next day either warmed up or cold. Either way, it’s a meal that feels light but is secretly packed with protein, and the lemon and spices make it perfect for either the start of spring or a winter that you wish would just end already!

Continue reading “Spicy, lemon-y tofu pasta salad”

Vegetarian Indian Curried Meatballs

I was never a fan of meatballs back when I ate meat, but the other day I remembered trying curried meatballs at an Indian restaurant many years ago and I couldn’t stop craving them. Since I wasn’t willing to eat meat to satisfy my craving (and since the one Indian restaurant in Jerusalem closed last month) I decided it was time to figure out how to approach meatballs in a vegetarian and, more importantly, cost-effective way.

I bought a bunch of “soya chunks” at a health food store in Jerusalem months ago and they have been sitting in a bag on a shelf. I had no idea what to do with them and figured I would just stick with tofu and beans until something came to me. Since then, my husband has learned how to make the most incredible seitan and our budget has become considerably tighter, so we no longer buy tofu more than once a month. After conquering my fear of homemade meat-replacements and deciding that I had to use the dried soy chunks for something, meatballs made sense.

“Soya chunks” (or “soy chunks”) are pieces of dehydrated soy, also known as “textured vegetable protein.” Horrifyingly gross name aside, they are weird, extremely unappetizing-looking pieces of dry, beige nonsense sold in bulk bins at health food stores and higher-end supermarkets. When soaked in boiling water and spices, however, these odd dehydrated pellets can become any number of things. And since they are really cheap (we pay between 5 and 8 shekels per 400 grams, which comes to less than a dollar for the amount used in this recipe) they are a perfect way to change up a typical weekly menu.

This recipe calls for rehydrating the soy chunks and pulsing them in a food processor with spices and onion, and then combining it all with flour (or breadcrumbs) and an egg, and then lightly pan searing each side before baking them in the oven. These meatballs are hearty and delicate at the same time, and the recipe I’ve included leaves the opportunity for you to add whatever additional spices you’d like, from fresh basil and fennel seeds for an Italian meatball to curry powder or chili powder for a south-Asian flavor. Continue reading “Vegetarian Indian Curried Meatballs”

My Second Favorite Chili (and a lesson on beans)

When it’s rainy and cold, all I want to eat is hearty, warm food. Since it pretty much remains rainy and cold all winter in Jerusalem, I find myself working on food like this quite often. Given the high cost of groceries in Jerusalem, I rely heavily on dried beans and grains, which serve as the basis of just about every winter meal I make.

Beans. Buy them dry or fresh. Canned beans are great, but rarely hold up to cooking, and tend to be way more expensive. If you’re in a crunch for time, canned beans make a great addition to any soup or chili, but if you know a day ahead that you’re going to get your bean on, it’s not as scary as it sounds to cook from dry.

For this recipe, pick 2 or 3 types of beans. I stick with black, pinto, and white beans. Kidney beans also work well. Don’t forget to sort your beans and pick out any pebbles or beans that look gross, old, or broken. Rinse them well. Put one cup of each bean in bowls (I don’t mix them) and cover with at least an inch and a half of water. Soak overnight or six hours.

Rinse the beans and combine in a large pot, covered with at least an inch of water. Bring to a rolling boil with a bay leaf and two cloves of peeled garlic. Lower the heat to a constant simmer. You want to see it boiling, but not going wild. Do not add salt. This will make the skin of your beans tough. Depending on how old the beans are and if they were stored properly (grocery stores often don’t care about or pay attention to humidity levels or quality of beans) they can cook for anywhere from an hour to three hours until they are to your liking.

I prefer to boil different types of beans alone since they never seem to finish cooking at the same time. When the beans are done, let them sit and reach room temperature. Don’t run cold water over hot beans. They don’t like it and I don’t know why. Just go do something else and let them cool down (you can drain the water if you want). If your beans were properly washed, you shouldn’t need to rinse them after boiling them. Always taste the beans and see if they’re good to go.

Pareve Chili #2

Continue reading “My Second Favorite Chili (and a lesson on beans)”

Shabbat Mejadra, My Pareve Potluck Go-To

 The most incredible part of living in Jerusalem is watching everyone rush around on Friday morning in a frantic jumble of to-do lists and grocery carts and then seeing it come to an abrupt halt before sunset as everyone returns home to light the candles as shabbat starts. The stores close early and the traffic dies down. The lights start flickering on in houses and you can hear people singing from their synagogues and living rooms.

You can’t miss it. Shabbat sets on you here whether or not your observance means putting your lights on timers or opening wine and enjoying some Netflix. Shabbat is a feeling in Jerusalem of ultimate surrender to your body’s need for rest, and there is nothing better in the world than holding the people you love as you prepare to recharge your batteries for the next 25 hours. Continue reading “Shabbat Mejadra, My Pareve Potluck Go-To”

Deleted

I lost my blog and all of its content and I am devastated. And I’m kind of relieved. I don’t have to try to fit any of that information into who I am today. There is nothing to retrofit into my sense of self, nothing to explain or contextualize.

I will be piecing some of the things I’ve written back together for this blog. In the meantime, this blog officially (re)begins today.

Vegan Curry Shepherd’s Pie

I will be completely upfront about this one: it’s not the simplest recipe. I used a bunch of different spices and it does take a while to cook. However, this is an extremely flexible recipe (when in doubt, just throw in a spice you like and add salt!) and it really feels like you’re spoiling yourself when you first slice into the cooled pie.

Think of this recipe as a basic outline. Use whatever soup, broth, root vegetables, etc. you have on hand to make the lentil filling the consistency you prefer. The second time I made it, I had a bunch of leftover roasted pumpkin and sweet potato soup, so I mixed that in with the lentils and mashed the filling with a fork before baking everything together. You can always add in a cup of pureed pumpkin or a canned soup that has a rich, savory fall flavor to mix with your lentils after they have stewed for a while. It is also a rather flexible recipe. Turnips, beets, and celeriac would all make wonderful additions if they are available to you. If you want a meatier texture, add some soy crumbles in with the mushrooms in the dutch oven and brown them.

The main depth of flavor will come from the red wine and fresh herbs, and when the mashed potatoes mix in the oven with the lentil filling, they will create a really wonderful combination. In this version of the recipe, I roasted thin slices of sweet potato with olive oil and some salt and pepper and pressed them into the bottom of my glass baking dish. The slight sweetness was a wonderful complement to the anise and cinnamon, but a tiny bit of brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey could easily do the trick. If you would like an extra rich flavor, put a thin layer of techina (tahini) on top of the lentils before adding the mashed potatoes.

Vegan Curry Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Continue reading “Vegan Curry Shepherd’s Pie”