Vegetables

Μπάμιες φούρνου με τόφου - Baked okra with marinated tofu - Vegan in Athens

Mediterranean baked okra with marinated tofu and spices

Stewed okra in tomato sauce or okra casserole is one of my favorite traditional Greek foods, eaten mostly during spring and summer, when local okra production reaches a pick. To make okra casserole, okra are cooked in tomato sauce until tender and then they are baked, to get a thicker sauce and develop an extra delicious, umami taste (thanks to the tomatoes).

In this recipe I use okra together with fresh, local tomatoes as well as marinated tofu, in order to create an authentic vegan Mediterranean taste. The addition of some Indian spices such as spicy curry powder, make this simple vegetable dish unbeatable! We usually enjoy it together with fresh homemade or store-bought, whole wheat bread, but it can be served with rice as well.

Μπάμιες φούρνου με τόφου - Baked okra with marinated tofu - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram of fresh or frozen okra
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, grated
  • 1 package (400 g) tomato passata
  • ½ cup fresh parsley chopped + 1 handful to sprinkle
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp spice curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the marinated tofu

  • 300 g of hard tofu cut into about 5 slices of 2 cm thick
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • freshly ground pepper

 

Μπάμιες φούρνου με τόφου - Baked okra with marinated tofu - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Marinate the tofu: In a bowl put the tofu. Mix the marinade ingredients and pour the tofu slices. Cover and let sit for at least 1-2 hours.
2.Prepare the okra: If you have fresh okra, wash them, remove the stalk and cut off the “hat”. Put them on a dish and let them sunbathe for 3-4 hours to wither. If you don’t live in a sunny area, put them in the dehydrator or in the oven at 50 oC for 5-6 hours. If you use frozen okra, use them as they are.
3. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil and saute the onion 1-2 minutes until it becomes translucent. Add the okra and stir for a few more minutes. Add the wine, the vinegar and the remaining ingredients and mix. Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes or until the okra is tender.
4. Transfer the okra with the tomato sauce into a baking pan and lay the tofu slices on top (without the marinade). Garnish with a handful of parsley and bake for half an hour at 225 oC or until the sauce gets a nice deep red color and thickens. Serve hot with a piece of marinated tofu and a few drops of lemon juice.

Μπάμιες φούρνου με τόφου - Baked okra with marinated tofu - Vegan in Athens

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Vegetables, mushrooms and chickpeas in homemade sweet and sour sauce - Λαχανικά, μανιτάρια και ρεβύθια με σπιτική γλυκόξινη σάλτσα - Vegan in Athens

Vegan sweet and sour vegetables and mushrooms

When I started my blog “Vegan in Athens”, as a small contribution to animal rights and veganism, I had decided that I would share Greek and Mediterranean vegan recipes and indeed that’s what I try to do. On the other hand, I could not abstain from writing about recipes that, although not created under the Mediterranean sun, are an important part of our modern (vegan) eating culture. One such example is the vegan Russian salad, for which I wrote about in the previous post, and now the well-known sweet and sour sauce from China for which I am going to write today. In fact I will tell you about my Greek and vegan approach of the sauce, which can be used either as a dipping or pouring-over for a meal or as a sauce which is cooked together with various ingredients such as vegetables and tofu.

Vegetables, mushrooms and chickpeas in homemade sweet and sour sauce - Λαχανικά, μανιτάρια και ρεβύθια με σπιτική γλυκόξινη σάλτσα - Vegan in Athens

Since the ingredients traditionally found in Chinese cuisine are quite different from those found in Greece, I adjusted my recipe in order to create an easy, budget, vegan sweet and sour sauce, mainly made with ingredients that grow locally. So when we are in the mood for something more “exotic” I often stir-fry some fresh vegetables and mushrooms, adding a source of plant protein, such as chickpeas and afterwards I mix with my Greek-Chinese sweet and sour sauce. For this purpose I use local, fresh products that are easy to find and affordable to purchase. Thus instead of using pineapple, I use freshly squeezed orange juice, instead of sesame oil, olive oil and instead of rice vinegar, apple-cider or white vinegar. When I want to keep the recipe sugar-free I like to use agave nectar instead of sugar.

Vegetables, mushrooms and chickpeas in homemade sweet and sour sauce - Λαχανικά, μανιτάρια και ρεβύθια με σπιτική γλυκόξινη σάλτσα - Vegan in Athens

Sweet and sour vegetables and mushrooms are delicious, easy and quick to prepare. Basically you only have to saute the vegetables together with the mushrooms and then add the mixture of the sauce. The addition of corn starch is a trick that is used in order to thicken the sauce without adding large amounts of fat. Another useful little secret to maintain your vegetables crunchy and tasty, is to saute them in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, for a few minutes (if you have a large wok that’s fantastic, but mine was ruined long time ago and till then it serves as a flower pot). After sauteing, you simply add the sauce and simmer for a while before serving. This delicious dish can be served with rice or noodles.

Vegetables, mushrooms and chickpeas in homemade sweet and sour sauce - Λαχανικά, μανιτάρια και ρεβύθια με σπιτική γλυκόξινη σάλτσα - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients

  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into strips
  • 1 large orange bell pepper cut into strips
  • 2 medium carrots cut into strips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cabbage (we can use regular white or Chinese cabbage or bok choy)
  • 2 cups (250 g) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 spring onions or 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 piece of ginger about 4 cm peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chickpeas, cooked and drained
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegetables, mushrooms and chickpeas in homemade sweet and sour sauce - Λαχανικά, μανιτάρια και ρεβύθια με σπιτική γλυκόξινη σάλτσα - Vegan in Athens

for the sauce

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (preferably apple-cider)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or other sweetener
  • 1/2 cup slightly concentrated tomato juice
  • 2 level tablespoons cornflour
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegetables, mushrooms and chickpeas in homemade sweet and sour sauce - Λαχανικά, μανιτάρια και ρεβύθια με σπιτική γλυκόξινη σάλτσα - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Add the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the vegetables and ginger over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about fifteen minutes or until slightly tender but crunchy. Add the chickpeas, salt and pepper and stir.
2. In a bowl, mix the orange juice, tomato, vinegar and lemon. Add the corn starch and mix well until completely dissolved.
3. Pour sauce mixture to the pan, stir and as soon as it comes to boil reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes, until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately with cooked rice or noodles.

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Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

Vegan spanakopita (spinach-pie) with a crispy, homemade crust

Often I think of food as an anchor that holds my memories at the port of consciousness, protected from the ocean of oblivion, as there are several times that a specific food reminds me of moments and stories from the past. So strong is the connection of food and memory to me, that foods or ingredients associated with an unpleasant moment are not welcome in my kitchen and I do not eat them until a very tempting recipe or a chance to see them under a new, brighter angle – such as a cozy table with people I love or a journey – give me the incentive to retry them. These correlations between emotions – sensations – food is the reason why, when I share a recipe with you, I start by sharing a remembrance, a short story, filed concurrently with the specific food or dessert in my mnemonic library.

Although I could keep writing about memory and oblivion for the next few paragraphs, for the moment I will just share a memory concerning my relation to spinach-pie or spanakopita, a well-known traditional Greek food that everyone seems to like, during my childhood. Well as a child, my first reaction in front of a freshly baked, hot spinach-pie was to pinch my face, so much that several small creases were formed on my nose and around my eyes, to grit my teeth, to turn my head on the other side and with clear and loud voice to say “yuck” to anyone – usually an uncle or a grandma – who seemed to have a hard time comprehending my reaction. What if spanakopita today is one of my favorite dishes – especially this one I could eat it every day, for lunch and dinner for the next month; or that spinach was what made Popeye so strong. No matter how hungry I may was, I would not change my mind. I would never eat it simply because spanakopita was in the list of “yuck” foods. If this is not a reason not to eat spinach-pie one then what is?

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

However today, although I find washing spinach boring, I prepare spinach pies frequently and I always smile with this funny irony, since now in the view of spinach-pie, my eyes open widely and my salivary glands become overactive – clear evidences that spanakopita has officially entered the “yum” foods list. What I enjoy most is its crust that, especially when homemade, is by itself a reason for a second and third portion. The recipe I am sharing today is an easy and delicious spanakopita (or spinach-pie if you prefer) recipe with a crispy, bread-like crust -maybe something between a tart crust and a scone- and a juicy spinach stuffing which is tender as cream and packed with the aromas of a green garden during winter (snow-free and relatively hot Greek winter of course!). Ideally, if you can find someone willing enough to wash the spinach, this pie takes minimal effort to prepare and it remains crispy and delicious even the next day.

Ingredients
(for a baking pan of 30 cm diameter)

for the dough

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat plus a little more for rolling out the dough

for the filling

  • 750 g fresh and tender spinach, chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 5-6 spring onions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pepper

black-caraway and sesame seeds for sprinkling

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Crust: Mix the olive oil, water and wine together with the baking powder and salt, and add the flour gradually, kneading for a few minutes until a soft, non-sticky dough forms. Cover with a towel and let it rest for at least half an hour.
2. For the filling: Mix all the ingredients with your hands so as to reduce their volume a little bit and let them stand for fifteen minutes while you are rolling out the dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 ° C and grease a 30 cm diameter baking pan. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger. Take the larger piece and on a floured surface roll out with a rolling pin a round sheet of 1 / 2-1 cm thickness. If the dough is sticky sprinkle with a little flour and continue rolling out. Line the pan with the dough sheet making sure it covers its sides. Sprinkle evenly the filling. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to the same thickness and cover the pie. Trim excess pastry and with wet fingers gently press the edges to seal.
4. Sprinkle some water on the pie and with a fork make several small holes on its surface. Sprinkle with caraway and sesame seeds and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until golden. Let it cool slightly and serve.

Easy spinach pie with a homemade crust - Εύκολη, αφράτη σπανακόπιτα με σπιτικό φύλλο - Vegan in Athens

Note: The dough should not be kneaded too much so as to become crispy and fluffy. If you prefer you can substitute wine with equal amount of orange juice.

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