Rocket or arugula is one of my favorite green leafy vegetables and luckily it is abundant in all the Mediterranean regions as it grows in different soils and areas provided that it gets enough water. What I love in rocket is its spicy taste and its peppery aroma but on top of that this is one of the most nutritious greens -it belongs to the crucifers together with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.
All through the year I like to grow my own arugula on pots but my plants seem to love autumn and spring as they grow faster and bigger. This is when we usually make vegan arugula pesto in place of basil pesto. Pesto sauce takes only two minutes to make it and with minimal effort we have a delicious, colorful sauce for our pasta. Making your own pesto is impressively easy: just put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Nutritional yeast is totally optional in this recipe, but I like to use it whenever I have some in hand, as it adds a discrete “cheesy” touch.
500 gr whole wheat spaghetti or your favorite pasta
for the pesto sauce
- 1 big bunch of arugula
- ½ cup good quality olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup cashews or sunflower seeds or pine nuts
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- Wash thoroughly the rocket and drain. In a food processor add the rocket along with the garlic and liquid ingredients and process for 1 minute at high speed. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process for another minute or until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
- In the meantime, cook your favorite pasta in salted water (we prefer whole wheat spaghetti for this recipe) for 8 minutes or until they become al dente. Strain and rinse with cold running water to keep them from sticking. Put them back in the saucepan, pour over the sauce and mix with two forks. Served immediately!
Note: This sauce comes out less greasy and at the same time much more tasty and aromatic than store-bought. Nutritional yeast, although not necessary, replaces the cheese which is used in the non-vegan version.
When we have a tone of rocket we like to prepare a large amount of pesto and keep it in glass jars in the freezer for quite some time. Just remember to put it out of the freezer a couple of hours before using it.
Few meals are as easy and tasty as this simple scrambled tofu, a kind of vegan omelet that you don’t even need to turn upside down! What I could not imagine though, is that this vegan scrambled tofu would be just as good -or even better- than the traditional Greek dish with eggs which is called “strapatsada”. What’s more, this amazing vegan dish does not have the heavy smell of eggs, allowing the mature tomatoes of the season to reveal their flavors and taste. Actually the secret lies in the tomatoes!
In fact, unlike the usual instructions we read in most recipes, if we want to fully enjoy a tomato, we should never remove the seeds and the peels, not only because we may lose some of the nutrients that are hidden there, but also because that’s where the plant decided to hide much of its tastefulness qualities, its fifth flavor, its umami!
Umami is one of the tastes that we do not learn at school and may not be as readily recognizable as the others, but it is the one that gives the deliciousness, the depth to our favorite dishes; it is the flavor that is hidden in some ingredients and can make our cooking unbeatable. One of the natural, vegan sources of umami, are the very mature tomatoes that, at the beginning of fall, having absorbed all the sun and warmth of the summer, are at their best. Coming near the end of their season, tomatoes can surprise us with this delicious “swan song”, as they surprised us last night and made me want to share with you our simple recipe!
(for 2-4 persons, depending on how hungry they are!)
- 400 g firm tofu
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into cubes
- 2 large, very ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes
- 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 3/4 tsp ground sweet paprika
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- a pinch of dried oregano (after cooking)
1. Pour the olive oil together with the onion and garlic in a non-stick pan and sauté over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pepper and spices, stir and continue cooking for about 15 minutes until the vegetables soften and most of their liquids are evaporated.
2. While cooking the vegetables, crumble the tofu with a fork or with our hands (don’ t have to overdo it though, just break into small pieces!).
3. Add the crumbled tofu to the pan and mix thoroughly. Cook for 5 more minutes over medium heat. Serve warm, sprinkled with dried oregano and enjoy!
Briam recipe is a famous and delicious vegan Mediterranean recipe, the success of which is based almost entirely on the quality of the ingredients we use. Briam is an example of how freshly picked summer vegetables mixed with herbs, spices, salt and olive oil can be transformed into a mouthwatering summertime dish that everyone will love.
When I have the time, I like to arrange the sliced vegetables in a beautiful, colorful, rainbow-like spiral and then add a generous amount of olive oil, garlic, thyme and parsley. Of course when my time is limited, I just mix all the vegetables, herbs and spices in the pan! It’s just as tasty! My secret to make this vegetable bake mouthwatering, melting in the mouth is to bake it in a baking pan or a casserole with a lid. In that way, all the vegetables are baked evenly in their natural juices without the need to add extra water and they become soft, tender and delicious. Usually we like to eat this dish with a slightly fermented, homemade vegan white cheese or with our favorite vegan tyrokafteri (spicy vegan cheese salad).
- 3 aubergines of medium size
- 3 large zucchini
- 3 bell peppers (choose different colors, eg green, red, yellow)
- 3 large onions
- 3 large potatoes, peeled
- 3 large carrots, peeled
- 3 large tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- ½ – 1 cup olive oil (according to our tastes and habits)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tsp heaped salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp heaped curry powder (alternatively use cumin)
- 1 tbsp. prepared mustard
1. Slice all vegetables with a knife or a vegetable slicer in round slices about one centimeter thick. Lightly salt the eggplants and leave them in a colander for about thirty minutes (to drain the bitter compounds).
2. Arrange the vegetables alternately starting from the edge of the pan and going to the center, if using a round or oval baking pan. If you want you can also use a square baking tray, creating rainbow strips from one end of the tray to the other! The arrangement I like to do is: 2 slices of eggplant – 2 slices of zucchini – 2 slices of potato – 1 slice of tomato – 2 peppers rings – 1 slice of onion. The carrots slices are too small so I just add them in several places in between and above the layers to fill the gaps and add colour!
3. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, mustard, garlic and spices well and pour over the vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley and thyme (if available), cover with the lid and bake at 220 oC for 1 1/2 hour or until the vegetables soften and get a nice color.
Note: In case your pan has no lid, cover with a foil and bake for 1 ½ hour. Then remove the foil and bake for 30 more minutes until they get a nice, appetizing color.