Being vegan does not mean being deprived of one’s favorite meals. The transition to a vegan diet can lead us towards an amazing world of new flavors and healthy recipes that not only relish our life, without involving animal-exploitation, but also nourish us, especially when we prepare our meals from scratch, without relying on store-bought, ready-to-eat products.
One of the dishes that I enjoyed as a vegetarian was the classical spaghetti with cream and mushrooms and for this reason I wanted to create its vegan version. Thus, vegan spaghetti with mushrooms is now one of the dishes we prepare often, not only for its wonderful taste –it is much better than the original- but also because it can be prepared easily.
The cream can be made either with sunflower seeds or with cashews -depending on what we have in hand. However we prefer the sunflower seed cream, since sunflower seeds have a great nutritional value and their cost is very low compared to cashew nuts -sunflower seeds cost three times less than cashews.
For extra flavor we can simply rely on our precious kitchen’s “little helpers” : some herbs and spices, a little bit of white wine, few pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, along with the mushrooms create a satisfying, unique complex of flavors and fragrances.
1 packet of spaghetti, 500 g (choose gluten-free if you like)
For the white sauce
- 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds, soaked for 2 hours and drained
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 500 g white Agaricus mushrooms sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup sun-dried tomato cut into thin strips
- ½ cup white wine
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 handful chopped parsley
- 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- ½ tsp Cayenne pepper
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a large skillet sauté the mushrooms with the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add crushed garlic, cayenne and wine, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Put in the blender the drained sunflower seeds with the two cups of water, the nutritional yeast, the vinegar and lemon juice and blend on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until is formed a smooth cream.
- Add the sunflower cream in the skillet, along with the sun-dried tomatoes and the chopped parsley, stir and cook for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Taste and if necessary add salt or lemon juice.
- Boil the pasta according to manufacturer’s instruction and drain. Mix with the creamy sauce and serve while hot.
Note: If you do not have time to soak sunflower seeds, pour over them plenty of boiling water, let for 15 minutes to soften and drain. The rest of the process remains the same
Few days ago I bought lots of fresh and tasty walnuts from a farmers market and I was trying to think what to do with them. Since I love nut cheeses, walnut cheese seemed to be a good idea to experiment with. And actually it was! The nutty taste of walnuts together with the sun-dried tomatoes create a unique, special taste and makes this cheese delicious!
- 2 cups peeled walnuts
- ¼ cup filtered water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- 5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- Soak the walnuts 12 hours in cold water. It’s better to change the water 1-2 times in order to reduce their bitterness.
- Drain and add the nuts with the water, lemon-juice, apple cider vinegar, yeast and salt in a blender and blend for 3-4 minutes until creamy. Stop blending every few seconds and clean the walls with your spatula until all the solid parts are blended.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes and mix with the spatula.
- Place a strainer over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth.
- Spoon nut mixture into the center of cheesecloth and sprinkle some salt and 1-2 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes or spices of your choice over the cheese.
- Fold the sides of the cloth over the cheese and form into a spherical loaf. Twist the ends of the cloth and secure with rubber bands or a strip of cloth or a thread. Set in the strainer over a bowl and let it stand in a warm place for 12 hours (e.g. in a dehydrator or your oven at 50oC or even a sunny, airy room or balcony in a hot, summer day).
- Put uncovered in the fridge for at least 48 hours so that the drying process continues.
- Now it will be easy to unwrap the cheese. Serve it over crackers, bread or with a salad. You can keep it in the fridge for over 2 weeks.
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.