Cooking for Vegetarians

We humans are Omnivorous, (Omni the Latin prefix for “all” or “every” and vorous from vorare, “to devour”) eaters or more likely devourers of ALL, and ALL is a wide variety of plant and animal products.  It is believed that early hominids evolved into eating meat as a result of climatic changes that caused drying of forests and jungles and the formation of open grasslands. These changes offered various hunting and scavenging opportunities and led to the start of meat consumption.

So we started out maybe as Vegetarians went on to eat all, or whatever was available, and now some of us proclaim themselves Vegetarians. Vegetarianism has its roots in ancient human civilizations from around 8th century BC in ancient India and than in Greece of the “western” ancient world. Vegetarianism is the practice non-consumption of the flesh of any animal by choice, with a large span of dos and don’ts some without even dairy products or eggs. In both instances the diet was closely connected with the idea of nonviolence toward animals (called Ahinsa in India), which was later promoted by religious groups and philosophers. Vegetarianism was reintroduced in Europe during the Renaissance, but Vegetarianism became a widespread practice during the 19th and 20th centuries. (History of vegetarianism From Wikipedia), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_vegetarianism

 Ashoka The Great 304 BC – 232 BC was the grandson of King Chandragupta Maurya of Magadh (Bihar). He was instrumental in bringing whole of Indian subcontinent under one rule one flag. He said: “Wherever there is soil on this earth, I want to see it under Magadhan Flag”. Ashoka was the chief cause for the rise and spread of Buddhism in the World. He embraced Buddhism and took the path of non-violence only after the infamous Kalinga war in which a lot of people were killed. (A bit of a timing problem there, but better late than never!).  Ashoka proclaimed a policy of protecting natural resources with powers to enforce his proclamations. After Ashoka embraced Buddhism in the latter part of his reign, he brought about significant changes in his style of governance, which included providing protection to fauna, and even relinquished the royal hunt. He was perhaps the first ruler in history to advocate conservation measures for wildlife. Reference to these can be seen inscribed on the stone edicts The pillars of Ashoka:

  Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected – parrots, mainas, //aruna//, ruddy geese, wild ducks, //nandimukhas, gelatas//, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, vedareyaka, gangapuputaka, fish, tortoises, porcupines, squirrels, deer, bulls, //okapinda//, wild asses, wild pigeons, domestic pigeons and all four-footed creatures that are neither useful nor edible. Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures. One animal is not to be fed to another.     —Edict on Fifth Pillar Ashoka the great

Ashoka did not completely prohibit the killing of animals. he advocated restraint in the number of animals that had to be killed for consumption, protected some of them, and in general condemned violent acts against animals.

However, the edicts of Ashoka reflect more the desire of rulers than actual events; the mention of a 100 ‘panas’ (coins) fine for poaching deer in royal hunting preserves shows that rule-breakers did exist. The legal restrictions conflicted with the practices then freely exercised by the common people in hunting, felling, fishing and setting fires in forests.

 THE EDICTS OF KING ASHOKA from an English rendering by Ven. S. Dhammika:  http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html

Why am I going round and round the Veggie story? Well, my daughter and her hubby popped in for their yearly visit from London last week, yes some leave the city when the biggest show on earth is in town…(the Olympic games) they are Vegetarians one is “practicing” what is called: Ovo-lacto vegetarianism, it include animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey in their diet the other Pescetarian, They include fish and some other forms of seafood occasionally in the diet,  (at times of their discretion, our guests fro London go Vegan; Veganism excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs, and may also exclude any products tested on animals, or any clothing from animals). But now, during this present visit, they are each on their mildest form of zealous conduct, for I wanna cook for them and it isn’t easy, especially if you wish to cook something out of the ordinary. Ordinary Mediterranean / mid eastern cuisine to which they are accustomed to, is as you know, quite strong on the veggie aspect, from wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits to dishes made from fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables, food sources with significant amounts of essential amino acids like beans, soy, buckwheat, peanut butter, and quinoa, brown rice and beans, hummus with pita, or falafel which is almost the national dish here, with the best of Palestinian Tahina from Nablus …

                                                                

Mid East Mezze, spinch with Tulum cheese, Arabic Salad, Fava bean Paste, M’ssabacha, Cheese Börek, Hummus, Pitta bread

but how would you combine those requirements (for me restrictions) into a meal to savour? A meal with style and somr diversity. A cooked meal well presented and tasty?

Now most Vegetarians reading these lines would protest towards my ao called difficulties and with amazement at my narrow mindedness. But I am a carnivore (I eat MEAT, POULTRY, FISH AND SEAFOOD), these are part of the products I’m used to cook with and vegetable only! Restriction, makes my life at the kitchen difficult. But don’t forget my food reference points are wider, broad enough to get me safely through the “finish line”

Salads of choice:

  • Roasted endive salad, with arugula, fresh figs, Roquefort and walnuts.

The trick here is to cut the endive to quarters down the center lengthwise, separate and spread the outer leaves and core over a bed of thyme olive oil and Malden salt in several layers repeating the layering after 7 min in 180ºC  turn the bundle over (lower layer on top for another 5 min or until the endive edges turn brown spread overa plate sprinkle the juices (olive oil and endive “sweat”) from the ceramic baking tray sprinkle the juice of half a lemon or more (to taste), cut 2 figs to small cubes and sprinkle on top, cut (frozen) Roquefort cheese to same size cubes and spread over, sprinkle broken walnuts on top and garnish with 2 more figs cut to thin medallions and some Arugula leaves, serve warm or cold.

  

  • “Carpaccio” of roasted eggplant with raw Tahini sauce spiced with chilli garlic lemon and Black salt.

Put an unpeeled eggplant (Baladi) type in the oven unpeeled 190º for 15 min turn over for another 10min test to check the eggplant is soft but not soggy! Let it rest for 5-10 min. cut the top off than peel from bottom to top (easier to peel) slice lengthwise less than 1 cm thick slices,, move the whole cut eggplant to a serving dish and spread with your fingers forming a stepped spread, sprinkle with Malden salt (takes the bitterness off), and juice from half a lemon, cut half a clove of garlic into small cubed and tuck into the Carpaccio flesh with your fingers evenly, do the same with half a small fresh red chilly (tip side) spreas good quality Tahini sauce (sesame butter) straight from the jar, garnish with slivers of thinly cut fresh garlic and thin rings of fresh red chilly, decorate with a line of black Hawaiian salt.

                            

  • Eggplant and cheese Moussaka baked in fresh tomato and peppers sauce.

For the sauce

                                                                       

In a saucepan fry square slices of Red Yellow and Orange bell peppers (inner “vein” discarded) and sliced onions in olive oil, when the peppers brown slightly on the outer side add 2 cloves of sliced garlic, half fresh chili pepper a bundle of fresh thyme oregano and Rosemary, salt and pepper let it sweat for another 2 min stirring constantly add 6-10 large ripe tomatoes (cut to quarters) and 200ml white wine and 4 spoons of canned crushed tomatoes, bring to boil and simmer with the lid on until the peppers soften about 10 min (stir occasionally), set aside to cool correct seasoning , “fish” out the herbs stems and “blitz” the rest in a food processor to a unified paste not too thick allow to cool completely and press through a sieve (discard the peal and pits), powder down some good dry Sicilian oregano (most fragrant of all oreganos) keep aside.

Building the moussaka:

            

Cut eggplant to half cm thick slices salt with coarse salt evenly and lay down on aa oval earth ware dish 7-10 cm high one layer covering the whole base, sprinkle with olive oil, and put in an oven 220ºC higher than the center of the oven, take out from the oven ladle the sauce over, lay down buffalo mozzarella and other goat cheeses, cover the first layer with another layer of eggplant, salt and olive oil return to the oven for another 5 min and repeat until you reach half a centimeter below the dish rim, cover eith the rest of the sauce, sprinkle with  Parmigiano-Reggiano reduce heat to 180ºC and bake in the center of your oven foe up to 40 min make sure there’s enough sauce but not too watery, 5 min before serving spread mozzarella medallions on top and some Parmigiano bake for another 5 min or until the mozzarella melts, let it rest for 5-10 min cut and serve.

Etc. re: recipes, and so on re cooking instructions…, after all I’m not writing a Vegetarian cookbook!

 I guess vegetarian cookbooks written by long time vegetarians are limited in the sense that they are too focused on the “allowed” ingredients and their contribution to health needs, and less into the depth of taste, flavor and harmony. I feel that Carnivore’s points of reference are broader, (no offence), you know what to aspire to and reach it by other, multilayered means to “win” on some else’s home ground.

For the rest I guess photos and captions will do, easily filled with some imagination. (in the near future)

The wines on these hot summer days must surely be a good Rose like the magnificent Rose du Castel 2011 I had about a month ago with a wondefull scent of Red berry fruits and ripe Santa Rosa plums with 13% alcohol it was so well balanced and light refreshing and alluring for more Great success!

The Niepoort 2009 or 2011 REDOMA ROSE a mixture of many grapes in a blend of 30% Tinta Amarela, 20% Touriga Franca, fermented in French oak and aged in stainless steel, long skin contact (a few hours) to provide complexity. The color is pleasant pink, Dry but fruity and refreshing sort of a red wine to be drunk cold, for the hot summer days. The Intense and nose of red berry fruits, spiced plums, elegant touch and great freshness and intensity, precise balanced of acidity and fruit add to the complexity of this Portuguese wine.

Of course any dry Blanc de Blancs champagne will do nicely , But on the day,  we had the meal with ice cold Corona Extra Beer and lime (which was also the base of the Beer Saffron & chili sauce for the blue crabs).

4 comments

  1. Pingback: KitaVeg.com ~ News on Vegetarianism » Cooking for Vegetarians « WINE FOR SOUL
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