Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Vegan Greek Feast!

A few months ago, we were visiting my parents in Missouri and I decided to really make a great dinner. I love cooking while I'm there, because my parents are the people who were around when I first started cooking. They endured my first "homemade" meal, which was a hamburger/green bean/tomato soup casserole that I shudder to think of now. They laughed at me as I tried fancy French dishes as a teenager and they were amazed when I was the head cook for a popular restaurant by the time I was 21. Cooking for them now, as a vegan/whole-food eating adult, is fun and a challenge. They are always open to new things and rarely seem to miss the animal products. I decided to go Greek for the dinner a few months ago, and it was a giant hit. My mom talked about that dinner for weeks afterward. This week, she begged me to replicate the meal. I couldn't help but be flattered--she had so enjoyed that Greek feast, she wanted to go back to the Monica restaurant and order it again! The menu?
A Mediterranean dish called "Mujadara," which is a lovely rice and lentils pairing with lots of onion and spiced with cinnamon and cumin.
Gyro-style seitan on the side, seasoned with plenty of garlic and fresh lemon juice. Hummus and pita.
A plate of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. A vegan tzaziki sauce made with soy yogurt and Tofutti sour cream and lots of cucumbers, garlic, dill, and lemon juice. And for dessert, soy vanilla yogurt with dried fruit that was stewed with spices and agave nectar and topped with slivered alonds.

Omigoodness this meal is just such a winner. It's high in sensory impact and very hands-on, with everyone making little pita wedges and piling them high with just the right toppings for their own personal taste. I'm not even sure they would've known it was vegan if they didn't already know it beforehand. And the kids love this meal! They get to arrange everything just to their liking and it's just FUN. Definitely a crowd-pleaser. Here's how I make the mujadara:

Stuff You Need:

Olive oil

Lentils for the amount of people you have.

About a 1/4 cup dried lentils per person.

Basmati rice for the amount of people you have.

1 cup uncooked rice feeds 4 people.

Vegetable broth to cook the rice and lentils in

1 large onion for every 6 people

4 oz. thin vermicelli, preferably whole wheat 2 or more cloves garlic Cumin,

1 teaspoon (for 6 people)

Cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon (for 6 people)

Greek seasoning to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

What You Do: Very basically, you start by cooking the lentils in broth until they are soft and the broth is absorbed. Takes about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a BIG pan and cook the chopped onions. Add the vermicelli, broken into tiny 1 inch pieces. Cook until the vermicelli starts to brown. Add the garlic and more oil, if needed. Add the rice and the amount of broth needed to cook the rice. (Read the rice package--different brands recommend differing methods and amounts.) Add in the seasonings and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to low and cover. Cook until the rice is done and the broth is absorbed. Mix with the lentils and serve with plenty of lemon wedges. This is especially magical with tzaziki sauce as a condiment.

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