Ah kale. With your rise in popularity, you’ve often become the butt of many vegan jokes. But no matter what others may say about you, you’re still one of my favorite greens to add to a salad. Hearty, but not too bitter, and with an outstanding ability to hold up under the weight of dressing, choosing a kale salad is often a great way to go when you’re entertaining.
I originally developed this particular gem for a Rosh Hashanah menu. Around the world, Jewish communities have added a ritual revolving around symbolic foods to help usher in a happy and prosperous New Year. The chosen ingredients might seem a little random at first glance. Carrots, leeks, black-eyed peas, cabbage, what do all of these have in common?
I recently had the pleasure of creating a recipe for blintzes for a guest post on my friend Jonathan’s blog, Flavors of Diaspora. Blintzes may be upstaged by their better-known cousin, crepes. However, you’ll find that they’re an equally delicious option. After all, whoever said they wanted less pancake when they could have more?
In addition to veganizing a recipe that is typically based on both dairy and eggs, I decided to add a few updates of my own. Below, you can find an excerpt of the introduction I wrote for the recipe on Jonathan’s site:
I had the immense pleasure of being invited to share several of my reimagined Hanukkah recipes on Trending with Emily Frances over at i24 News.
I’ve devoted a lot of space on this blog to celebrating Hanukkah, a holiday the celebrates yet another averted disaster for the Jewish people. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, especially given all of the fun involved in the celebration itself.
However, it’s no surprise that the “Festival of Lights” is celebrated at the darkest time of the year. Rather than zeroing in on tragedy behind the holiday, we instead choose to spread light, both physically and spiritually. After all, the more you share a flame, the more you can illuminate.
Even if you don’t connect to the ritual candle lighting, it’s hard to deny the joy that comes from a bounty of fried foods. Fried potatoes, filled doughnuts (or sufganiyot in Hebrew), Moroccan sfenj, what more could you ask for from a holiday, except that the menu be free of animal products. In case you were worried it isn’t possible, here are a few of my go-to, vegan Hanukkah dishes.
Since deciding to go vegan 7 1/2 years ago, I’ve been in search of a vegan challah recipe that can compete with my favorite eggy versions from my childhood. The kind I liked best was extra eggy, soft and cake-like challah with an extremely rich flavor and delicate crumb. I could eat slice after slice, coated with the unsalted, pareve margarine my mom kept on hand for meat meals.
Although water challah exists in the US, it’s not nearly as popular, and can be quite difficult to find. In fact despite reassurances from several friends, there was only one store in all of Manhattan that I knew would reliably have an accidentally vegan challah. Given the scarcity of options, I spent many a Friday night dinner unable to participate in the cornerstone ritual of blessing and breaking bread at the start of a meal. This is less of an issue in Israel, as it is much easier to find egg-free challah here, and at most meals there’s also a pile of soft pitas sitting next to the braided loaves.
Let me tell you something, it is HOT in Tel Aviv right now. Not that I ever had any doubts that summers in Israel were anything less than scorching, but after a year in the climate-controlled comfort of suburban New Jersey, weeks of 90+ degree weather (Fahrenheit, or about 32C for the rest of the world) with more than 70% humidity can shock the system. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love the summer – days spent on the beach, cool drinks, warm nights, and everything that comes along with it –but it also means trying to find ways to beat the heat without 24/7 air conditioning. This mostly involves well-placed fans, icy cold drinks, and meals that taste good cold. Enter vichyssoise.
My arrival in the heart of Provence was accompanied by ravenous hunger. Though the memory of my earlier socca lingered, vegan goodies proved to be scarce during the long journey to the farm. As luck would have it, there was a railroad strike in progress – of which I was thankfully informed by the front desk staff at the hostel in Nice – and with each leg of my journey, I found myself scrambling to find the information assistants, show them my tickets while explaining (tout en français, I might add), where I was going.
After two trains and a bus, I arrived in the small Provençal town of Tarascon, where the farmer waited for me with his truck. We drove through a picturesque countryside that was straight out of a Disney movie, before turning off of the fast-moving main road directly into the driveway of the farm. The house was a stone cottage, renovated on the inside, with an exceptionally large garage.
When I first went to Europe at age 17, just after my high school graduation, I brought along a print out list of words in several different languages regarding the food I did and didn’t eat. Being that I had studied French for three years, and that I was on the trip with my French teacher, I wasn’t worried about describing my dietary needs while I was in France (every other country was a different story, especially Italy).
That handy list has been lost to time, but for those of you who are worried about traveling and eating in France, I’ve put together a short list of phrases that might be helpful when dining out. Please let me know if any of you have any specific phrases you would like to know, and for those of you who are native French speakers, feel free to correct any grammar mistakes I may have missed.
A note on pronunciation: I tried my best to represent the phonetics of this in a way that’s accessible to everyone. If anyone would prefer me to add IPA, I will be more than happy to do so (because IPA is the best). Don’t worry too much about having perfect pronunciation, most people you encounter will appreciate your making an effort. Most importantly, enjoy your journeys!
As I glimpsed a sparkle from the brilliantly blue Mediterranean from the airplane window, my excitement began to bubble over. This was it! I was really going to France! While I hesitate to call myself a full-blown Francophile, given that my interests are mostly linguistic, I’ve always had a soft spot for “l’Hexagone”.
My decision to learn French was made nearly twenty years ago when I became friends with a girl in my kindergarten class whose family was Quebeçois. During playdates at her house, they never hesitated to speak French to one another, though they would always pardon themselves due to my monolingualism, and translated for me if necessary. Naturally, I decided that when I got older, I too would learn French, so I could share in the foreign language fun. If I’d only known how much easier it would have been to begin a second language at five than at fourteen, I would have insisted my parents find me French lessons immediately (and I would have had many more built in opportunities to practice, unlike with my music lessons).
As planned, however, I began studying French when I began high school, and I was fairly determined to become a proficient speaker, though this goal was still very much a dream by the time I graduated–even as a member of the French Honor Society. I continued my French studies in university, where my first French professor increased my proficiency by leaps and bounds, and inspired me to pursue French as my minor. All told, when I graduated, I had taken as many French classes, as I had linguistics classes, but I still felt uncomfortable with everyday speaking and understanding–hence the desire to spend an extended period of time in France.
“Rhymes with bacon, which we don’t eat. Because we’re vegan…” sang Rose, as we stood on the train platform, eager to begin our evening. We bristled with anticipation, and the warmth of a shared bottle of Prosecco–a welcome sensation in the brisk Berlin air that was chilling the train platform. Tonight was to be my formal introduction into the world of the famed Berlin nightclubs that Rose adores. Though it’s still not really my scene (despite my love of dancing), I was eager to traverse the dark corners of the nightclubs, as well as participate ever so slightly in the local drinking culture.
As my penultimate day in Israel transitioned into my ultimate Israeli night, I realized that despite wanting to enjoy the many delicious vegan meals on offer in Tel Aviv (before setting off on my European adventure), I had a lot of food left in my kitchen that needed to be used up. I also had the good fortune to already be spending my time with friends who needed feeding. After a quick stop at the corner store for some supplemental fruits and veggies, I devised a plan to use up the abundance of herbed polenta chilling in my fridge, as well as the garlic and lentils that had been generously given to me by a friend several months ago (I preferred to save personal food items such as these for when I had guests, so that I didn’t incur the wrath of my ever temperamental roommates should I share anything hailing from the communal pantry). Earlier that morning, I had begun my polenta experiments, attempting to both pan-fry and bake the starchy squares. Baking was the clear winner, from the ease of execution , to the crispy exterior. The pan-fry used too much oil, inducing a veritable volcano of grease, while failing to achieve a crisp and golden outer crust. That morning, I served the polenta with a sauce of succulent caramelized onions and creamy techina (because I didn’t have quite enough onions to serve them alone). This style of polenta preparation had the potential to be not just an upscale snack or brunch, but also a deceptively fancy dinner.
Crispy polenta cakes, topped with brilliant broccoli and two scoops of delectable lentils Photo by Steven Winston