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!
Baked giant beans are one of the most common, traditional Greek recipes, made with white giant beans, tomato sauce, onions, celery, parsley and sometimes garlic and carrots. The method is simple and always works, as soon as you use fresh, good quality ingredients, especially beans. The beans are soaked overnight, the next day they are boiled until tender and they are drained and then mixed with the rest of the ingredients in a baking dish. The vegetables and aromatics should be sautéed first, to make a thick vegetable-tomato sauce. Then the beans are baked for 45-60 minutes until the sauce thickens and all the tastes and aromas are developed. This tasty dish is served as a starter or as “meze” in the taverns but in the Greek household it is usually serves as a main.
However, when I prepare giant beans, I like to add some taste and color by using vegetables such as butternut squash, red peppers, leaks and spinach. The subtle sweet taste of the squash and the leaks balances the sourness of the tomatoes and all the aromas and textures are combined perfectly creating a mouthwatering, hearty dish.
- 400 g giant beans dried, soaked in plenty of water for at least 12 hours
- 2 leeks, washed and sliced
- 500 g fresh spinach washed and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup celery chopped
- ½ cup parsley chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 400 g butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes of 1 cm thick
- 750 g ripe tomatoes chopped
- 1 big red pepper diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Drain the beans and boil them in pure water until tender for 45-60 minutes. This time I cooked them in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes to save time. Season with salt just before cooking is complete.
- Wash, clean and dice the vegetables. In a big saucepan pour the olive oil and sauté the leeks and the garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add all the remaining ingredients together with 2 cups of broth (from beans), salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
- In a baking pan add the giant beans drained together with the cooked vegetables and the sauce and mix.
- Bake in the oven at 200 οC for one hour until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
One of the most amazing things one will discover following a plant-rich diet is that it surely doesn’t limit the range of recipes and dining experiences one may have, as soon as there is a great variety of plant-based dishes that are as tasty and memorable as the animal-based. Besides the creation of composite recipes, the use of spices and the art of cooking are not privileges of those who consume animal products, but have their roots back in the human history and the desire to turn a vital need –food- into a delight.
So trying to find a gourmet stuffing for our sandwiches, a topping for our pizzas or our pasta, I occasionally experiment with several recipes for vegan cold cuts. Here I wanted to make something easy, delicious and nutritious without gluten or hard-to-find ingredients and so I ended on this vegan pepperoni. Usually I make it with dry fava-beans –a pulse that is very common in Greece, as I believe that their taste is engaged nicely with the spices, giving a delicious result. But if one cannot eat fava-beans or do not like them, he/she can simply use the same amount of other kinds of beans. Giant beans, especially black giant-beans, or any kind of red beans are good choices.
I prefer soaking and cooking the beans by myself, but if you like you can use canned beans as well.
- 1 ½ cups fava beans or other kind of beans, cooked and drained
- 3 tbsp chickpea flour
- 3 tbsp rice flour or corn flour
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6-7 sun-dried tomatoes in olive-oil, chopped
- 4-5 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small chili pepper chopped
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground dry chili
- 8-10 green Kalamata olives pitted, cut into large pieces
- Place the beans in the food processor and process for a few minutes until mashed. Alternatively mash with a fork or the puree machine.
- Add the remaining ingredients except olives, and process for 1-2 more minutes until they incorporate.
- Finally add the olives and process lightly.
- Put the mixture on a large shit of baking paper and form into log, twisting the ends of the paper to seal into a tight sausage shape.
- Steam for 1 hour. If you don’t have a steamer, you can place it in a metal sieve that sits atop a large stockpot of boiling water, and cover it with the pot lid.
- Allow to cool before serve.