‘Come over with Yakir for a barbecue,” emailed my friend, Zel Allen.
“A barbecue?” asked Yakir. “But aren’t the Allens vegans?” Yes, they are. In fact, Zel and Reuben Allen have been vegans for 22 years and have had plenty of practice in vegan barbecuing as well as entertaining for all sorts of occasions from Jewish festivals to American holidays.
The Allens, who are the authors of the Vegetarians in Paradise website (vegparadise.com), a popular resource for recipes, ingredient information and vegetarian restaurants, manage to do what many cooks would find challenging – to prepare vegan food that is not only appealing to non-vegans but is also healthful and low in fat.
Our dinner began with ripe tomato halves filled with a bright green puree. At first we thought the creamy filling was avocado but it turned out to be a nutritious pâté of edamame (green soybeans) enriched with a touch of tehina. The recipe, from Zel Allen’s just-published book, Vegan for the Holidays, appears on the right.
For the main course there was grilled tofu and tempeh (fermented soybean cakes), which Zel had marinated in a savory sauce of rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup and sesame oil. To easily turn the tofu slices and tempeh cubes over on the barbecue, Reuben put them in a metal cage originally designed for grilling fish. Barbecuing tofu was new to me; I usually make entrees from tofu by heating it in stews such as the Mediterranean-style eggplant, pepper and tomato casserole recipe.
To accompany the tofu steaks, the Allens barbecued a colorful assortment of vegetables on skewers – pieces of red and yellow peppers, zucchini and eggplant brushed with olive oil and lemon dressing. There was also a kale salad with peanut sauce, enoki mushrooms and other vegetables. Just before serving a dish of kasha cooked with shiitake mushrooms and walnuts, Zel walked to her herb garden and picked fresh parsley sprigs to add to the garnish of sweet red pepper slices.
Vegan desserts are Parve as well as eggless, but they can be delicious. Zel’s chocolate fondue was sweetened with pureed dates, enriched with soy milk and accompanied by ripe strawberries and sweet cherries for dipping. With our tea, she served fruit-sweetened tehina and peanut confections that reminded us of halva. These tasty treats are easy to make. The recipe is included here.Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home and of 30 Low-fat Vegetarian Meals in 30 Minutes.STUFFED TOMATOES WITH EDAMAME PÂTÉ
This recipe is from Vegan for the Holidays. Author Zel Allen writes: “Count on this recipe to hold up well even prepared a day ahead. Then all you need to do is retrieve it from the fridge and place it on the table where the crowd is gathered. Be sure to provide plenty of cocktail napkins.”
To add a touch of spice, in addition to the fresh grated ginger, Allen adds a pinch of chipotle chile powder; you can substitute semi-hot red pepper powder or Hungarian paprika. Allen also uses the pâté to stuff small mushrooms or Belgian endive leaves and garnishes each one with diced sweet red pepper and Kalamata olive. The pâté can also be served as a party spread with crackers or fresh or toasted whole-wheat pita wedges.Makes 10 to 15 servings; the pâté makes about 11⁄2 cups.
10 to 15 oversize cherry tomatoes or 10 small Roma tomatoes
225 to 250 gr. (8 to 9 ounces) cooked edamame (shelled green soy beans)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. tehina
a 2.5-cm. (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄8 tsp. semi-hot red pepper, Hungarian hot paprika or chipotle chile powder Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional) Paprika for sprinkling
1 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1⁄4 bunch fresh parsley 3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 Tbsp. finely chopped purple cabbage
Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes. Use a grapefruit knife or a serrated paring knife to cut a 2.5-cm. (1-inch) circle in each tomato top and scoop out the tomato pulp and seeds. Save the pulp for a future sauce or soup.
If using Roma tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Set the tomatoes aside and prepare the filling.
Combine the cooked edamame, lemon juice, soy sauce, water, tehina, ginger, garlic, vinegar, salt, chipotle powder and cayenne, if using, in the food processor and process until smooth and well blended.
Using a teaspoon, fill the tomato cavities with the edamame pâté and sprinkle the tops lightly with paprika.
Place a slice of Kalamata olive on top of each stuffed tomato and place the tomatoes on an attractive serving platter.
Garnish the center of the platter with the 1⁄4 -bunch of parsley and the edges of the platter with the minced parsley and chopped purple cabbage.EGGPLANT AND TOFU CASSEROLE WITH TOMATOES AND GARLIC
This recipe is from Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook. Tofu is a good addition to Mediterranean style vegetable dishes and turns this light, easy-to-prepare garlic-scented eggplant, pepper and tomato stew into a satisfying main course. Serve it with brown rice or pasta and with a green salad or Israeli salad.Makes 4 servings.
1 medium eggplant, unpeeled (450 to 500 gr. or 1 to 11⁄4 pounds)
2 or 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
900 gr. (2 pounds) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or an 800-gr. (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained (juice reserved), coarsely chopped
1⁄4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
11⁄2 tsp. dried leaf thyme, crumbled
400 to 454 gr. (14 to 16 ounces) tofu, drained
2 Tbsp. chopped green onion, fresh coriander or parsley
Cut eggplant in 2-cm. (3⁄4-inch) cubes. In a heavy, wide casserole, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in garlic and immediately add eggplant, red pepper, salt and pepper.
Sauté, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, pepper flakes and 1 tsp. thyme and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring often, about 20 minutes or until eggplant is tender and sauce has thickened. If stew is too thick, add 1 Tbsp. reserved tomato juice; if it is too thin, simmer uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thickened.
Cut tofu in 2-cm. (3⁄4-inch) cubes. Add to casserole, spoon a little of sauce over tofu cubes and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and remaining thyme. Cover and heat gently, without stirring, about 3 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve sprinkled with chopped green onion.ZEL ALLEN’S TEHINA PEANUT CONFECTIONS
“With their distinct sesame flavor and date-sweetened goodness,” writes Allen, “these little tidbits make desirable gifts.” She notes that you can keep them on hand in the freezer for whenever you need to serve a sweet.Makes 45 to 50 confections.
2 cups well-packed pitted dates, snipped in half
1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1⁄2 cup tehina
2 Tbsp. water
1⁄4 tsp caramel extract or
1⁄2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup natural or toasted sesame seeds
Fresh mint sprig (optional, for garnish)
Combine the dates, peanuts, tehina, water and caramel extract in the food processor and pulse and process until well-blended. Longer processing will create a smoother confection. If you prefer a chunkier confection, you can control the texture by shorter periods of processing and stopping the machine frequently to check the results.
Form the mixture into balls by using about 1 tsp. for each and rolling, squeezing, and shaping with the fingers.
Place the sesame seeds into a small, deep bowl and roll each ball in the seeds to coat them completely.
If you are making them ahead, place the confections in a covered container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, place the confections on an attractive serving platter and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.