Vegan Pâté

Hurrah, my parents are visiting us! It’s always a pleasure to have them with us. And it’s even more of a pleasure that they have graciously accepted my polite request not to bring meat into the house.

Since my dad is a great meat lover, I bought some vegan bologne and pastrami slices from Tofurkey, which he likes a lot. And I also made him vegan pâté, which he has declared super tasty. The preparation is very very simple, but you’ll need a lot of patience, because the more you brown and caramelize the ingredients, the tastier the final result will be. Here goes:

Vegan Pâté

1 cup walnuts
2 large or 3 small zucchini
2 onions
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp pink salt (or other salt; this one gives the dish a richer, eggy taste.)

Heat up olive oil in pan. As it heats, thinly slice up onions, and add the slices to the pan. On medium heat, toss the onions about with a wooden spoon until they are very brown and very done (translucent or beige doesn’t cut it in this recipe.) This may require quite a bit of patience, but it’s worth it! As the onions are cooking (and in between tossing them), chop up the zucchini into small cubes or slices. When the onions are ready, add the zucchini and continue tossing both ingredients together, until zucchini becomes very soft and a bit brown. Remove the mix from the pan, place in a bowl, and let cool.

Meanwhile, place walnuts in pan (you can add a bit of olive oil if you wish, but the pan will be rather oily from the caramelizing. Toss the onions on high heat for a couple of minutes, then decrease the heat and continue tossing them until they roast well and are dark brown.

Place the walnuts in the food processor and process until you have thin nut crumbs. Then, add the onion-zucchini mixture, tomato sauce, cumin seeds, and pink salt, and continue processing (pulsing helps) until completely smooth.

This is absolutely delicious as sandwich filling, especially if you add fresh tomato and cucumber slices.

Mini Burgers

I’ve already posted a few versions of mini burgers, such as here and here, but this one might be my best yet, and I discovered it entirely by mistake. On Christmas Eve, we made Chloe Coscarelli’s stuffed portobellos and were left with four of them (ten shrooms; six guests). You can, of course, make this from scratch, but I’d recommend this as the next-day meal after you make the mushrooms.

The only additional ingredient you need is about a half-cup of seitan. Place the stuffed mushrooms–stuffing, tomato, and all–in the food processor with some seitan and process until smooth. Make two-inch burgers and grill them with some vegetables. I can totally see taking the mix to a picnic, in a tupperware, and forming and grilling the burgers in situ.

Step-By-Step Seitan

I’ve been wanting to make homemade seitan for a while, ever since I took Psalm Lewis’ wonderful cooking class. At that workshop, we made vegan pot pie with seitan made from scratch–it’s not difficult, and with all the ingredients on hand you can have a nice and reliable protein source for cheap. This morning I bought some vital wheat gluten and other essentials and followed Psalm’s recipe:


Step 1:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
 2 tsp baharat (I did that in lieu of poultry seasoning, but I imagine anything meatlike would do)
1 tsp mashed garlic (the original recipe calls for garlic powder)
1 tsp paprika
3/4 cup cooked and mashed beans (I used black-eyed peas, which is what I had around the house)
1 tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos

Step 2:
broth or bouillion or dried vegetables

I measured and mixed the dry ingredients, then added the wet ingredients, and kneaded them into a ball–actually, more of a loaf shape–which I then left to rest for 15 minutes.

I then made some broth, placed the loaf in it wrapped in cheesecloth, and let that simmer for 30 minutes.

Then, I let the content of the pot cool somewhat before taking the seitan out of it.

I let the seitan cool completely before slicing it into 1/4-inch cubes, some of which I froze and some placed in the fridge for immediate use. Yum!

Update: Here are some of the seitan chunks in a nice tomato-based ragu. It came out absolutely delicious.

Mini Pita Sliders

We had lovely guests over the weekend, and yesterday I made a Mexican brunch for them that included short-grain brown rice and Rancho Gordo pinto beans. This morning, as an airport sendoff, I used some of the leftover grains and beans to make them travel sandwiches, and there was enough to make a tasty breakfast for us, too. 

Serves four:

1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 cup pinto beans, cooked
1/2 white onion
1 tsp olive oil
4-5 drops liquid smoke
1 tsp coconut aminos
1 tsp nutritional yeast
2 whole-wheat pitas
2 tbsp tahini or vegenaise
vegetables and herbs according to taste (I used some of yesterday’s pico de gallo and cilantro)

Chop onion finely and brown in olive oil. As the onion is browning, in a mixing bowl, mash together brown rice and beans. Add onions to rice and bean mixture. Add liquid smoke, aminos, and nutritional yeast.

Make eight small balls out of the mixture and place in hot pan. Flatten the balls with wooden spoon. Brown 5 minutes, then flip and brown other side for 5 minutes.

Cut each pita into quarters. Coat insides with tahini. Place a burger in each quarter, then garnish with vegetables and herbs.

Bon Appetit!


I’ve just put on the stove a version of one of my favorite pasta sauces. made with a tomato base and some vegan sausage. This particular version has the distinction of containing everything we have left over at home, because our fresh CSA box arrives tomorrow. Making the most of it, I’m using Pomi chopped tomatoes for a delicious and hearty meal.

6 green onion stalks
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp olive oil
10 large button mushrooms
2 Field Roast sausages
1/2 container (or 1 cup) Pomi
1 cup water
big handful containing all or any of the following: parsley, rosemary, oregano, sage
1/2 tsp paprika

Chop onions and garlic thinly and give ’em a minute in the wok with olive oil. Proceed to slice mushrooms and vegan sausages and add to the wok. Follow up with paprika. Give it a spin until the mushrooms and sausage begin to brown. Add pomi, water, and herbs, lower heat somewhat, and simmer until sauce thickens. Serve atop pasta, rice, quinoa, or anything, really.

Vegan Bolognese Sauce with TVP

Despite the heat and moisture floating around the Tel Aviv area, we felt like having spaghetti bolognese today. The recipe is rather easy, and if you make a large quantity, you can freeze it for future use. It uses soy flakes, or TVP, which is a lovely (and cheap!) substance. It’s important to use the smaller TVP pieces that have a similar texture to ground meat. While the taste may not be exactly the same (honestly, I wouldn’t remember; I’ve been vegetarian for fifteen years), great things can be achieved using organic canned tomatoes and herbs.

1 1/2 cups soy flakes/TVP
2 tbsps olive oil
4 large, chopped garlic cloves
1 tbsp schug or hot sauce
3 large, ripe tomatoes
1 can organic canned tomato cubes
2 tbsps fresh oregano
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp rosemary
a bit of salt (optional)

Place soy flakes in a large pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat somewhat and cook for a few minutes, until flakes are soft and the whole thing looks like a (rather unappetizing) porridge. Strain out the water in a collander.

Heat up olive oil in a large pan or wok and add chopped garlic and schug or hot sauce. Sautee a bit, until fragrance is released. Then, add the cooked and drained soy flakes. Mix them up with the other ingredients and keep cooking, stirring occasionally. The less water in the flakes, the faster this will happen. Do not expect the flakes to brown like meat; just dry’em up a bit and mix well with the aromatics.

Then, add the chopped fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes and the herbs (and salt, if desired). Continue cooking for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until most liquids evaporate and you’re left with a lovely vegan sauce. You can cook your pasta at the same time, then mix’em together in the wok, or layer pasta in the place and place sauce on top. Enjoy!

Independence Day Grill: The Alternative Burger

The Israel-dwellers among my gentle readers are probably still contemplating their bellies in pain and reflecting on the gorging fest they may have taken part in lately, otherwise known as “the Yom Ha’atzmaut Mangal“. We discussed this interesting anthropological phenomenon last year. And, without fail, the woods were thick with meaty smoke this year, too.

We were invited to a barbecue (=mangal) at the home of dear friends, and in lieu of vegetable skewers I decided to bring something else. A short search on google for vegan patties yielded all sorts of things, but none of the versions really captured the spirit of the holiday. Since this is Israel, I wanted the patties to have a bit of falafel aroma, which you can obtain using cumin and turmeric and paprika; also, the patties have a mix of lentils and chickpeas. I use oat bran to bond them together. They held nicely on the grill and were all eaten immediately (by us and by the meat eaters!). Not a morsel was left. Fortunately, my friend Ilan was around with his new camera and managed to take a picture before they disappeared.

Vegan Patties with a Hint of Falafel

3 cups green lentils
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2-3/4 cup oat bran
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsps cumin
3 tbsps turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
big handful of parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Soak lentils and chickpeas in water; chickpeas take longer – a few hours – but lentils are happy after they’re soaked for twenty minutes or so. Then, strain and cook in a big pot of water until tender. Strain again, saving about 1/2 cup of the liquid.
Place lentils and chickpeas in food processor bowl. Add 1/4 cup oat bran and process. Add water if the thing refuses to puree, and oat bran gradually until the lentil paste can be shaped into small burgers that hold their shape. Add spices and parsley and garlic and keep processing. Taste to correct – since ingredients are cooked, it’ll give you a pretty good idea of what it’ll taste like eventually.

Place gently on grill (preferably on a tray, though these things don’t fall apart so easy), and eat with pita, tchina and vegetables.

Kentucky Fried Tofu

And here’s something else that’s pretty cool; these easy strips are excellent in a sandwich with mustard.

Block of firm tofu
Soy sauce
Grated ginger
Brown rice / whole wheat flour
Olive or canola oil

Slice up a block of firm tofu into thin (2 mm) slices. Place them on a tray, pour soy sauce, add ginger slices and leave the whole thing alone for a few hours.
Then, come back; wash and dry the tray, and spread some flour on it. Heat up some oil in a pan. When the pan is hot, you have to work fast; dip each slice in the flour, coating it from all sides, and fry it in the pan. Flip after about 30 seconds, get out of pan after an additional 30 seconds. Yum!

Missing Meat?

My recent post about TVP yielded several emails and conversations about the place of meat substitutes in a vegetarian diet. The comments that most piqued my curiosity were tose of my old-timer vegetarian pals, who questioned the need to eat anything “resembling meat” at all, merely for the sake of how it looks.

They do have a point, there. We all understand the importance of eating enough protein, iron and B12; every responsible vegetarian (well, every responsible person, for that matter) has to take precautions against deficiencies and consume enough protein-rich grains, beans and seeds. As long as this is quality protein, it’s not important what it looks like. Or, as my grandma says sometimes, “it doesn’t stay pretty in your stomach”.

It is, therefore, quite entertaining to see how food industries insist on producing highly-processed, meticulously-designed products which are supposed to be meat substitutes. Tofurkey can be quite funny; it’s made to look like a real turkey. Lightlife produces a series of soy-made salamis and bolognes and turkey slices that look very much like the original (and, if memory serves me right, taste quite like it, too). A short google of “fake meat” or “mock meat” will take you to quite a bunch of links, including restaurant links, which sport realistic-looking “meat” recipes for vegetarians, such as this picture.

This stuff was most likely made from TVP or from seitan, which is textured wheat gluten. Both of these products happen to contain a good amount of good quality protein, but that’s not why they’re there – they’re there to remind vegetarians of meat. The absurd thing is that not all these substitutes have protein, or even are good for you. For example, Tivall, a wildly successful Israeli food manufacturer, produces “wiener schnitzels” made of corn and broccoli. Yes, it has hydrolized vegetable protein (?!?!) and bread crumbs and “flavoring”, but how much actual good protein is in there? Is it just that we need a patty of something on one corner of our plate to feel as if we’ve eaten?

It’s quite obvious – particularly from the Tofurkey example – that the vegetarian search for fake meat is cultural, not nutritional. We miss meat-based dishes of our omnivorous childhood, and want to recreate them in their cruelty-free form. An important corollary follows: it’s not important whether the protein is actually in the fake meat, as long as we get the protein from somewhere. We can therefore have as much Tivall corn schnitzels as we like, we’ll still need beans, and nuts, and perhaps cheese and eggs. This disconnect between how the food looks and what it actually is, is quite disturbing to anyone who wants to eat as close to nature as possible.

But, but but but, let’s not dis our pals who eat these things too soon. For many people who come to vegetarianism, be it for health or conscience reasons, the move is very difficult. This is particularly true for societies in which meat is considered the centerpiece of the meal. Someone who was raised to think of meat as “the meal”, and of rice, and beans, and vegetables, as “those things that come with the meal”, it is very difficult to get used to meals that seem incomplete. Naturally, thinking beyond the traditional plate is to be encouraged; but there is nothing wrong with a little bit of nostalgia, particularly if you can indulge yourself in a healthy, fun way, and not feel deprived.

I don’t miss meat. Really, I don’t. I have no need to eat meat. Haven’t had it for twelve years. There’s one thing in particular I miss, though: my grandma’s chopped liver. It was rich and creamy and nice, and full of fried onions. As I don’t eat chicken innards anymore, I occasionally look for fun vegetarian pates and spreads, and yesterday I made my own in our kitchen. So, here it is, for your eating pleasure.

Vegetarian Chopped Liver

I don’t know exactly what it is, in mock chopped liver recipes, that recreates the alchemy of actual liver. Is it the eggs and the nuts? Is it the aroma of the fried onions? Surely it can’t be the zuccini, because I’ve looked everywhere for recipes, and found recipes that use mushrooms, green beans, and – an Israeli favorite – eggplants. Alas, I had a surplus of zuccini from Chubeza and absolutely had to use it up. I vaguely remembered having eaten something like this in Passover, but could not find the recipe, and my invented one turned out fine. The only problem was that I didn’t add enough salt. We don’t usually add salt, but this recipe is somewhat of an exception, so be generous with the salt shaker.

4-5 large zuccinis or summer squashes
2 large, white onions
1/3 cup good quality olive or canola oil
4 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 cup walnuts
salt and pepper

In a large pan or a wok, heat up the oil. Chop up the onions and fry them until brown. This requires patience: they absolutely must be dark brown for the flavor alchemy to work properly. Once they are nearly there, add up the chopped-up zuccinis. Keep frying, until the zuccini is golden and soft as well, and the onions emit their lovely fried aroma.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we need to take care of the eggs and nuts. Simply stick’em in your food processor bowl and grind them to dust.

Add the fried stuff to the food processor bowl, and keep grinding, until you get a brown, uniform paste. Keep tasting it (“oh, no, do we have to?”) and add salt and pepper until your grandmother’s presence is strongly felt in the kitchen. If you come from a different ethnic background and your grandma never makes chopped liver, you can channel mine – hers is fantastic. Anyway: remove from bowl and refrigerate. Enjoy with crackers, vegetables, and – for those of you who eat wheat – fresh bread.

Working Class Soy Products

The other day I stumbled upon a health food store I hadn’t seen before; which is quite surprising, because it’s right in the city center, on Dizengoff and Frischmann. The folks who work there are extremely nice and knowledgeable about the lovely stuff the city has to offer, including spices, teas, grains, baking and cooking products from cast iron and silicone, and various mystery items in bins.

It was one of these mystery items that I stumbled upon as I was looking for something nice to eat for dinner; it had strange, dry brown/beige pellets of varying sizes, and was very, very cheap. “What is this?” I asked. “You’ve never seen these before?” said the salesperson. “They are really, really cool; these are soy slices. You cook them like meat, only you have to soak them first”.

Several hours later, I started searching the internet for interesting things to do with the funny pellets, which I now realized were called TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). Apparenly, TVP has been around for a while, but has not enjoyed the yuppie publicity of tofu and soymilk. Probably because it is much, much cheaper. It’s been served in workplace cafeterias and canteens way before vegetarianism became a lifestyle, rather than a financial necessity. And, yeah, it’s very tasty.

As opposed to tofu and miso, TVP is not fermented. It is made from defatted, ground soy, and textured to look and feel – when wet – like a little sponge, with a texture not dissimilar from that of chewy Chinese beef or chicken bits (haven’t had those for nearly fourteen years, but still got the memories). It is bought dry, then soaked in boiling water for several hours before it can be used. In fact, it’s not dissimilar from seitan (wheat gluten puffs).

TVP seems to be a good alternative for folks transferring to vegetarianism after years of eating typical Western fare. For example, this website provides some ideas on how TVP can be “meat in disguise” in some common North American dishes. Here are some options, too.

These recipes all indicate that TVP serves mostly as “fake meat”. While I find no particular reason to constantly imitate meat in my kitchen, it’s fun, occasionally, to eat something one used to eat as a meat eater and use TVP. I used it, therefore, to prepare a stir-fry “beef” with green beans and mushrooms (this week’s delivery of green beans from the farm was particularly impressive). When Chad came home, he came up with the idea of eating the leftovers in pita, with tchina, as one would in a shewarma stand (see other picture). It was very good both ways.

Stir-Fry TVP “Beef” with Green Beans and Mushrooms

30 pellets of dark TVP
1 cup fresh green beans
1 cup fresh forest mushrooms, or soaked shiitake mushrooms
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup good quality soy sauce
1/2 inch fresh ginger
1 tsp chili flakes, or hot sauce
(optional) 1/2 tsp honey

STEP I: prepare the TVP. Soak it in lots and lots of boiling water for a good eight hours (leave it soaking when you go to work, it’ll be ready for dinner). It will nearly quadruple its size. Then, discard the water, and gently squeeze the puffed sponges to remove a bit more water (this will leave room for them to soak the sauce).

STEP II: Cut off (scissors are really fun for this) the green bean tips. Slice the mushrooms and garlic cloves. We start off with some oil in the wok, then add the garlic, ginger and chili/hot sauce a nice aroma fills the room. Then, we put the TVP in the wok and just let it absorb and get used to its new situation. Not much stirring (yeah, you, leave it be!). After the TVP begins to warm up and get slightly darker (five minutes is enough), add up the soy sauce, honey (if desired) and any more aromatics, if you so prefer. Then add the vegetables, and stir fry for another five minutes. Voila, “beef”.

My serving suggestion: eat as is, or on brown rice.
Chad’s serving suggestion: stuff into a pita with tchina and raw vegetables.

So, there’s another way to eat some vegetable protein and not go broke. Enjoy!