Vegan Luau 521.
(photo credit: Yakir Levy)
When my mother and I visited Hawaii, we didn’t go to a luau, the traditional
local feast, because classic luaus feature a whole roasted pig. But if my mother
had still been with us, she would have loved the luau at the home of our friends
Zel and Reuben Allen.
At the Allens’ luau there was not a pig in sight,
nor any other meat for that matter. In fact, the menu was vegan.
your grass skirt,” the invitation read. The only other requirement for this
potluck party was that the dishes that the guests bring should contain no animal
products, including no dairy and no eggs.
My husband and I decided we
wanted to bring a Hawaiian-inspired dish. We modeled it after one of our
favorite vegan dishes – majadra, or Middle-Eastern lentils with rice and browned
Since Hawaiian cooking is influenced by Japanese and Chinese
cuisines, we decided to Hawaiianize our majadra by flavoring our rice with fresh
ginger and enriching it with Asian sesame oil instead of olive oil. Instead of
lentils, we used shelled edamame, the fresh green soybeans you often find in the
pod as a sushi bar appetizer. We added carrots and zucchini to the sauteed
onions to make our dish lighter. To give it a Hawaiian signature, we topped it with buttery-tasting macadamia nuts, which contributed a delicate crunch. We
served our “Hawaiian majadra” as a salad at room temperature.
seed-coated appetizer balls made of walnuts and green olives blended with
tomatoes, onions and garlic were one of the starters made by hostess Zel Reuben,
author of Vegan for the Holidays. Another was Medjool dates stuffed with caper
berries – a surprisingly tasty hors d’oeuvre that made me eager to eat a second
Of course there was plenty of fresh pineapple, Hawaii’s best-known
food. Some pineapples were halved, hollowed and filled with a colorful fruit
salad. One guest skewered pineapple pieces with cubes of melon, watermelon and
strawberries to make fruit “kebabs.” Another used pineapple slices to garnish
her vegan coconut cake.
The buffet table featured a delicious display of
summertime salads. There was a beautiful baby lettuce salad with blackberries,
blueberries and raspberries, a savory quinoa salad with chickpeas and shredded
carrots, a colorful corn salad with black olives and halved red and orange
cherry tomatoes, a salad of mixed greens with pomegranate seeds and toasted
sliced almonds and a baby spinach salad with shredded vegetables and a
creamy-textured basil dressing.
A standout of the sweet table was the
luscious cashew dessert sauce. It was hard to believe there was no cream in it.
Guests were dipping crackers, fruit and even raw vegetables in it – whatever we
dipped tasted wonderful.
The sauce was made by Marilyn Peterson, author
of Vegan Bite By Bite. She told me she made it by blending cashews with water,
agave syrup and plenty of vanilla. What gave it such a smooth texture was her
use of a high-powered blender to process the ingredients. (The recipe is below.)
Zel Allen gave me a tip for making such a sauce in an ordinary blender: “The
trick is to put the nuts into the blender and add about 1⁄2 to 1 cup of liquid.
Blend until the mixture is smooth, and then add the remaining liquid and
My mother was in her early 80s when we visited Hawaii and
was eager to see as many hula dancing performances as possible. She imitated the
dancers’ moves as we walked back to our hotel. If she had come to the luau, she
would have loved the hula dancing.
And she would have given the hulahoop
contest winner a run for his money.
Faye Levy is the author of Faye
Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook and Feast from the
HAWAIIAN-INSPIRED RICE WITH EDAMAME AND MACADAMIA NUTS
prepare this dish up to three days in advance. Serve it hot, warm or at room
Makes 6 to 8 servings
6 to 9 Tbsp. canola oil or other
2 large onions, chopped
350 gr. (12 ounces) shelled frozen edamame
4 tsp minced gingerroot
2 carrots, finely diced
2 cups long-grain rice
salt, or more to taste
2 white squash (kishuim) or zucchini, finely diced
freshly ground pepper to taste
1.5 tsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil
finely chopped green onion (green part only)
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped toasted
Heat 1 or 2 Tbsp. canola oil in a shallow stew pan. Add 1⁄2
chopped large onion (about 1⁄4 of the total) and cook about 10 minutes, stirring
occasionally, or until soft but not brown.
Meanwhile combine edamame and
1 cup hot water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 4 minutes or
until edamame is completely thawed.
(You can instead cook the edamame in
hot water in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes.) Boil 3 cups
Add 1 Tbsp. oil to pan of onions and heat slightly. Add ginger and
carrots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add rice and cook briefly until
Add the edamame’s cooking liquid, 3 cups boiling water and 1
tsp. salt. Stir once and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 18
minutes or until rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Let rice mixture
stand, covered, for about 10 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 or 2
oil in a large skillet. Add the squash and saute over medium heat
about 2 minutes or until just tender. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add
3 or 4 Tbsp. oil to the skillet, heat it and add remaining chopped onions. Cook
over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until onions are
tender and golden brown.
Fluff rice with a fork and add freshly ground
pepper to taste, sesame oil, cooked edamame, sauteed squash, browned onions and
chopped green onion. Taste and add more salt if desired.
serving, garnish with macadamia nuts.
SESAME APPETIZER BALLS
is from Vegan for the Holidays. Author Zel Allen writes, “Easy to assemble,
these sesame crusted starters can be served warm, chilled, or at room
temperature. The convenience factor puts this recipe on the Alist of dishes that
can be prepared a day or two ahead and still taste great taken right from the
fridge or briefly warmed in the oven.”
Makes 6 to 8 servings
whole wheat bread
1 tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup coarsely ground
1⁄3 cup diced sweet onion
1⁄4 cup minced Spanish (green) olives
Tbsp red wine vinegar 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup
sesame seeds, preferably unhulled
1⁄4 bunch parsley, for garnish (optional)
cherry tomatoes, halved, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 190ºC
(375ºF). Line a 44.5 x 32-cm. (17.5 x 12.5-inch) rimmed baking sheet with
Tear the bread into pieces and put them in a medium
Pour water over the bread to cover. Drain thoroughly, squeeze the
bread until dry and put it in a food processor.
Add the tomato, walnuts,
onion, olives, vinegar, garlic and salt. Process until ingredients are
incorporated and form a coarse mixture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the
Put the sesame seeds in a small, deep bowl. Roll tablespoonfuls of
the bread mixture into 2.5-cm. (1-inch) balls. Roll each ball in the sesame
seeds to coat completely.
Place the balls on the prepared pan. Bake for
25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Arrange the parsley around the
perimeter of a serving platter and place cherry tomato halves on parsley, if
desired. Transfer the balls to the serving platter.
CASHEW VANILLA CREAM
This recipe is from Vegan Bite By Bite. Author Marilyn Peterson recommends using
it as a topping for desserts, as an addition to fruit smoothies or as an
accompaniment to a bowl of mixed fruit for breakfast.
Makes 2 cups
1 cup water
4 Tbsp. agave nectar
2 Tbsp. vanilla flavoring
Place all the
ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend mixture until it is a creamy and
Serve, or store in an airtight container for several