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Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

When I made my third, and last, attempt to go vegetarian, I was living in one of the most difficult places in the world to try this–Armenia.  Things have changed a bit since I lived there, but at that time it was very difficult to keep to a vegetarian diet, especially when the local cuisine is based on meat, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and more meat.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, fruits and other produce in the summertime did help, but the winter was brutal for anyone even thinking of foregoing meat.

In fact, I did such a poor job that I had to occasionally allow myself some fish just to keep myself from keeling over.  My skin turned gray, my hair went brittle, I gained weight from all of the carbs I was eating to feel full.  I clearly did not know what I was doing.  I literally dreamt of meat-filled banquet tables.  I remember waking up one morning, salivating, thinking I had bitten into a chicken leg.  It’s true.  Suffice it to say, this did not work out for me.  After seven months of trying, I gave up.

While I still don’t cook very much with meat at home, I definitely don’t turn it down as a guest in others’ homes, and I do order meat at restaurants.  Of course, even if everything I buy at home is ecologically and ethically acceptable, all bets are off when I am eating elsewhere.  Who knows what’s in that burger?  Do we know if those eggs are from open range chickens fed 100% grains?  I’m still trying to reconcile this for myself, but the truth of the matter is I know that I cannot live completely without meat.  I just minimize where I can.  It’s difficult, because as you may be able to tell, I’ll eat almost anything.  Maybe someday I’ll give it another go, and see how far I get.  It will have to be in a country with ample alternatives to meat.

In the meantime, I do enjoy increasing my knowledge of the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.  There are plenty of meatless, fishless, eggless, dairyless dishes that I enjoy, and having more recipes under my belt is never a bad thing.  Even if we take small steps at a time, we can make an impact on our health, on the environment, and on the state of animal welfare.  I will expand this discussion of why people go vegetarian and vegan in a later post, and I invite my friends who follow these diets to chime in.  For now, I want to share the Google Books preview of Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, which contains tons of great-looking recipes without any animal products whatsoever, ranging from easy to a bit more sophisticated cooking and preparation methods.  I will eventually attempt some of these recipes myself, but if anyone reading this beats me to it, by all means please write in and share the results!  Click here to see the preview of the book.

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Before summer gets here for those of us above the equator, I wanted to get out one recipe I picked up while living in Armenia.

Armenia is situated high atop the Armenian Plateau in the South Caucasus, with less than 15% arable land throughout the entire tiny country.  What few forests remain are quickly disappearing due mainly to illegal logging.  So the available produce is not nearly as plentiful as that in, say, the Mediterranean.  But in this case, less is more.  With only a handful of ingredients, they make some kickass foods.

The stew is wildly popular there, although the name remains in Turkish, and literally means “[It was so good] the Imam fainted.”  Well, I have to agree, this is some seriously delicious vegetable stew.  The easiest thing ever to make.  Completely vegan.

Armenian/Turkish Imam Bayildi (Stewed vegetables, usually served with bread)

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 20-25 minutes.

Cooking time:  About 20 minutes.

Servings: 8 as a side dish or appetizer; 4 as a meal.

8 medium tomatoes, chopped into quarters

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped into thin strings

2-3 Japanese eggplants (alternative: 1 American eggplant), chopped into small squares for more even cooking

1 pale green bell pepper (alternative: 1 mild-flavored orange, yellow or red bell pepper–NOT American dark green bell pepper), chopped into thick strings

Olive oil

Salt

In a 2 qt. pot or pan, heat up a thick layer of olive oil with a few teaspoons of salt.  Once heated, add the onions, stirring frequently so as not to singe them.  Once the onions begin to soften when stirred, add the garlic.  After 5-10 minutes, after the onions and garlic have caramelized (or turned clear and soft), add the tomatoes.  The water from the tomatoes should begin to make a broth of sorts for the rest of the vegetables to cook in.  Add the eggplants and the bell pepper.  Cover and stir occasionally.  Add oil as needed to achieve a stew-like consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Let cook for about 10 minutes or until all the vegetables have “melted” into the tomato juice and become soft.  Serve hot.  In Armenia the dish is served with a large piece of bread to sop up the juices; when in the U.S. I usually use a baguette from the supermarket.

Even if you don’t have 3 other people to feed, this dish makes a fantastic leftover snack.  I usually live alone and I have found that one pot usually goes pretty fast, even when it’s just me.  (Perhaps especially because it’s just me.)

Imam bayildi is extremely satisfying, especially on a cold day.  It can be served as a side dish or appetizer, or as a full meal.  When I’ve brought this dish over neighbors’ houses and forgot the bread, we found it was quite tasty with spiral pasta as well.  Experiment and have fun with it!

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