Way back in 1992, I published my first recipe for Vegan French Toast in Solace Kitchenzine, an old-fashioned cut & paste, photocopied vegan mini-cookbook fanzine I made as a teenager. I wrote short essays on environmental and social issues, did the artwork, and interviewed bands in the hardcore / punk music scene, mostly in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area, but also from as far away as Boston, California, and Washington D.C. I was an avid pen pal, loved doing mail order in the U.S. and internationally, and took every opportunity to go on road trips with friends to other cities or states to watch bands play, meet new friends, and “distribute” my ‘zine.
It was a really magical time of my youth. In many ways the blog and cookbook project, now almost twenty years later, recall the excitement and interaction of those days. Back then I used to get letters in the mail (you know, the kind with stamps) almost every day. Now, I get enthusiastic emails and Facebook messages from friends and fans. Even years after Solace came out, I’d run into people that told me they knew my ‘zine. It was pretty cool. Though I’ve never been the preachy, dogmatic type, I was always proud when someone told me I helped or encouraged them on the path towards veganism / vegetarianism and daring to eat differently than the mainstream. Nowadays, vegan is a household word. Most restaurants – and relatives! – are way cooler about veggie eating habits. Sure, it still varies from country to country, county to county, and town to town…
Dum Aloo is one of many unsung heroes of Indian vegetarian cooking, with paneer, kofta, and mixed veg dishes usually stealing the spotlight. If you like potatoes and enjoy creamy, tomato-based curries, this delicious wonder will win you over. Soon you’ll be cooking it regularly and looking out for it on menus.
When I lived in Amravati, India, teaching Art and English for a year at a Cambridge International School, I quickly made friends with much of the neighborhood. From the first day, I was invited to family meals and constantly got amazing offers of home-cooked lunches. It was culinary heaven!
I learned so much about traditional Indian cooking (and a lot of Hindi) from the family of one of the local vegetable cart vendors who lived down the street. In the evenings, I’d often hear a knock at the door or get a short text message, and within minutes the kitchen was alive: full of cheery voices, sizzling sounds, amazing smells, and the incredible, vivid colors of spices and fresh vegetables.
In the last few weeks I’ve been so super busy getting the design finished for the printed The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook, I’ve hardly had any time to get new recipes up on the website. The good news is: The cookbook is going to print this week, and I’ve got another time-tested favorite recipe inspired from my travels. This one is also in the cookbook, and it’s just too good not to share!
Along with the pineapple pancakes I recently posted, today’s dish has always been one of my favorite culinary memories of Thailand. I ate Vegetable Pad Thai at the street carts, at nice restaurants, in back alley neighborhood restaurants, and at the simple beach resort on Koh Chang. All over Bangkok you can get street food Pad Thai a dozen different ways. I always got the vegetarian stuff, which usually had tofu and vegetables, but sometimes just vegetables. For about thirty to fifty cents I’d get a steaming bowl of noodles and veg topped with sauce, crushed peanuts, and a lime slice or two. I usually dosed it with some more hot sauce and then sat down on the sidewalk somewhere to chow down.
Here’s a quick and healthy vegan recipe for one of my favorite salads. It’s great for lunch on its own, or as an appetizer before a soup or lighter meal. Instead of quinoa, you can use other grains like couscous or bulgar, or use the dressing, avocado and tomato on fresh greens, like spinach or arugula.
In December 2000, I flew to Bangkok with a backpack and a few changes of clothes, a small stack of books, my first digital camera, a new state-of-the-art mini-disc player with Beatles and Red House Painters albums and some of my other favorite traveling music. I read most of my Lonely Planet – Thailand book on the plane and even slept a little with my head on the window. Soon we landed in Bangkok. It was my second trip to Asia, and I’d read so much and seen so many foreign films about the region and culture, but it still totally blew me away.
From my first day there, I started a tradition of eating pineapple pancakes for breakfast at the guesthouse in a little alley behind Khao San Road. During the day, I rode in auto-rickshaws with unscrupulous and amusing drivers, explored the temples and markets, my favorites being the giant reclining buddha at Wat Pho, and day trips to the incredible floating markets. I was also delighted to find great used bookstores on Khao San road. I actually read the first 70 pages of Alex Garland’s The Beach (which takes place in Thailand) while standing at the shelf in the bookstore before paying a few bucks for the tattered paperback and finding a café to finish the book.
This recipe is inspired by the famous Gibanica cheese pastry pies served throughout the Balkans. It’s a popular breakfast meal and savory snack I saw on menus and in bakeries in Montenegro and Croatia during my visit in October 2012. There are countless variations, including pastry pies with spinach, poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, and other fillings.
My recipe for vegan gibanica is best described as a curious cross between vegan quiche, lasagna, and strudel – all recipes which I just happen to have previously made for The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook and this website. It’s no coincidence that the dish closely resembles Turkish and Greek cheese pastries, börek and tiropita. A glance at a map and we all know why. The Balkan states and their neighbors have their own variations (and names) for burek.
When two of my good friends announced they’d be moving to Herceg Novi, Montenegro for several months this year, I was excited for them and thrilled at the opportunity to visit them in a new part of world. After they settled in, started with the language, and began making local friends, I booked my flight to Dubrovnik. I ordered a Serbo-Croatian phrasebook and I started reading about cultural and culinary traditions, politics, and the history of the region. My friends arranged for me to rent a studio apartment in their building, with a balcony overlooking the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. For our visit to Dubrovnik, they booked a furnished flat with Rock Palace Apartments, and we got a kitschy and fun Jimi Hendrix themed place for a few days on the hillside overlooking the old city.
My biggest supporter of The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Cookbook Kickstarter project made an amazing contribution which made the entire trip possible! For the reward, I’d signed up to visit a new place and bring back recipes based on the food there, plus lots of photography and artwork. So, along with briefly exploring two new countries with my location independent friends Ryan and Angela (of Jets Like Taxis), I got to sample and learn about traditional Balkan food. This included Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Bosnian culinary customs. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the local food is considerably influenced by neighboring cuisines: Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek, Italian, as well as Central and Eastern European cooking.
My first visit to Turkey was in late 2003. I’ve been back a couple of times, usually for brief visits on the way to India via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.
On that first visit, I spent eight days exploring Istanbul, and took a ride out to the Black Sea and stayed in the sleepy seaside town of Amasra. Particularly in Istanbul, I recall afternoons of drinking tea and reading books. The days were beautifully punctuated by the competing calls to worship from mosques with their minarets pointed into the heavens. Continue reading →
In October of 2009, I spent 2 weeks in Senegal and The Gambia. Julia had an internship with GADHOH (Gambian Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) in Serrekunda, The Gambia, and I went to visit. I also helped film and edit a promotional video to support the girl’s school and I proudly watched Julia teach some science lessons in sign language with St. John’s School for the Deaf.
We met some amazing people and had some great times. The trip was a total adventure, including cross-country journeys in shared taxis, plus rides in donkey carts, rickshaws, ferries, and old school vans. I had to brush up my French to get around in Senegal, which was quite a challenge! If you know me, you know I love languages. For this trip, I even learned some Gambian Sign Language and International Sign Language so I could introduce myself and enjoy basic communications with our hosts and the deaf community.
From Dakar to Banjul to Jinack Island, then back to Dakar over to the hauntingly moving Île de Gorée, we had some great food and enjoyed the amazing landscapes and sunshine. Continue reading →
Navratan Vegetable Korma is immensely popular all over the world. It’s another one of those Indian dishes with countless variations and incarnations. Having lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts, and the creamy sauce, however, are standard features. Actually, the name “Navratan” implies (at least) 9 different ingredients. I won’t count yours, if you won’t count mine.
It’s no secret that this website and my cookbook feature an abundance of great Indian recipes. Indian food is one of my (many) favorite cuisines! I’ve loved it my whole life, and I’ve been cooking Indian vegetarian food for over 20 years, ever since that first paperback copy of The Higher Taste back in ’91. I also discovered many great recipes during my extended visits to India. It was tricky to decide which recipes to include.
One of my youngest brother’s best friends (and a generous supporter on Kickstarter, not to mention all around great guy) made it clear to me how happy he’d be to get a recipe for his favorite Indian dish: Vegetable Korma. It’s a pleasure to share this with you, B!
The Americans have their Pot Pies, the British have Steak Pies. There’s also English and Irish Shepard’s Pie and Cottage Pie. And then there are Australian Meat Pies, to which New Zealand also stakes a popularity claim. For the record, South Africans have traditional pies, too, and variations exist throughout other parts of Africa and the Middle-East.
The concept is similar, regardless of the accent of the eater: A pastry (or even potato) crust and a savory filling. The sizes vary greatly, too. From the U.S., I’m familiar with medium-sized pot pies. In England and Ireland, I’ve usually only seen larger pies. And for whatever reason, the traditional steak pies and meat pies of that continent down under are much smaller. They fit in your hand, can be eaten in a few ambitious bites, and are immensely popular for take-out. Or is it take-away? Aye, mate – Let’s not get lost in semantics before the baking even begins!
This last summer, I was at a picnic hosted by a French-German couple we’re friends with here in Berlin. It wasn’t the first time their Tarte au Citron made an appearance and was an instant hit. I’d seen it before and wondered if there was a way to make a vegan version. The original, like many famous French culinary creations, consists largely of butter and eggs.
We got to talking at dinner two weeks ago. I was telling them more about the vegan cookbook, and then the Tarte au Citron came up again. “Sure, we’ll give you the recipe! Maybe you can find a way to put it in the cookbook.”
When I got the recipe a few days later, I unfolded the paper anxiously and scanned the list of ingredients. How am I going to do this? I thought to myself. I’m not really a whiz kid when it comes to baking, but I do know the advanced basics of egg replacement, and I have a few pie and quiche crusts I do well. And I can sometimes force myself to actually follow instructions and not tweak everything like I usually do. This was going to be a major challenge. It would certainly require a lot of tweaking.
You probably know Germany has a long, outstanding tradition of great desserts. Especially on my first visits to Germany in the late 90s, I enjoyed many apple strudels, cherry, plum, and peach cakes, and lots of other fruity and nutty delights. Germany is also famous for Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), Stollen (fruitcakes), and tons of other decadent treats, increasingly available as vegan adaptations. The best, of course, come from home kitchens. In addition to the pastry shops and bakeries, the cafés almost always have great sweets, too.
In these cafés, you’ll see something that looks a lot like a brownie. There might even be a card next to it that says: Brownies. However – I grew up (mostly) in the United States – with awesome brownies at home, friends’ homes, from school bake sales, and just about anywhere else baked goods are found. Sadly, most of these German “Brownies” are imposters. They’re lackluster chocolate cake cut in the shape of a brownie! Fluffy and cake-like, and maybe pretty, but not gooey or chocolatey. I stopped ordering them years ago, probably after the third or fourth time someone told me: “No, no, this one really is a brownie!” Only to be fooled again.
This is a fun salad that I came up with sometime last year. The inspiration comes from salads I’ve had at restaurants and homes across Europe, especially in Germany and France. I’d seen endives (chicory) prior to moving to Europe over ten years ago, but they seem to be much more popular and celebrated on this side of the Atlantic. That said, I have had some great endive salads in Montreal, too.
I grew up with blintzes. I have always loved the funny little things. My grandmother, originally from Chicago, made huge batches of them for our family dinners when we visited. She learned how to make blintzes from my great grandmother. She also passed down family recipes for borscht and all kinds of other Russian/Ukrainian classics.
From them, my mother learned the art of blintzes. She, too, often made them for special occasions. It was a common request for birthday dinners among my brothers and I. Some of my earliest kitchen memories are of my grandmother and mother at the stove cooking up tall stacks of blintz pancakes in a special crepe pan. I remember being just a bit taller than the kitchen counter, looking at eye-level into a big bowl of cottage cheese and mashed crackers. I’d watch the blintzes being filled, rolled, fried in vegetable shortening, piled up on plates, and put on the dining table with bowls of sour cream and jars of cherry preserves.
When kids at school asked me what my favorite food was, I’d usually tell them: BLINTZES! All too often I had to explain what they were. That seemed pretty weird to me. Didn’t everyone’s mother and grandmother know how to make awesome cheese-stuffed crepes?
I’ve experimented and refined this Vegan General Tso’s Chicken recipe for over ten years. I always have fun making it, and the results are always delicious. This month when I made a few changes, I really nailed it, and I’m ready to go public. It finally tastes almost as amazing as the General Tso’s Chicken made by my favorite vegetarian Chinese restaurant in the world: New Harmony in Philadelphia. I’ve been to a lot of vegetarian Chinese places in a lot of cities and countries. This place stands out. And this dish is one you’ll never forget. Mildly spicy, a touch of citrus and sweet. Crunchy batter-fried chewy seitan in a crazy tasty sauce. Such good stuff!
I could talk about Paneer Makhani for hours. I have so many stories about and memories of this dish, mostly from my visits to India, but also from great Indian restaurants around the world and the many variations of it.
This dish actually parades about under many names. This is true with many incredible Indian recipes. Anyone who’s been to more than two Indian restaurants or eaten at home with Indian families understands this. In fact, I’ve found myself in passionate debates and confusing conversations revolving around these naming issues! Every family has their own idea of what a dish is and isn’t, what it’s called, and what it contains. Or doesn’t. Imagine trying to get a concise definition of pizza, with all it’s shapes, colors, toppings, and flavors – You start to get an idea how complicated the naming game is.
On my first two visits to India in the early to mid-2000s, I had idly or dosa for breakfast almost whenever possible. I’m a huge fan of South Indian breakfasts. Unlike most North American and European breakfasts, which tend to be on the sweeter side (think: cereal, toast with jam or even chocolate spread, pastries, muffins, pancakes), Indian breakfasts are typically spicy and savory… and did I mention: delicious?
Amazingly, it wasn’t until my third and fourth trip to India that I got to know the Indian breakfast hit, poha. These kinds of things happen if you’re too focused on your favorite dishes and foods! That’s why it’s so important to try new things. Be open to suggestions, take chances, and enjoy invitations to home cooked meals! I encountered poha so late in the game probably because it’s much more of a family dish – prepared at home kitchens across India. It’s less likely found on restaurant menus. That said, some hotels (code word for restaurant on the sub-continent) and breakfast spots do offer poha.
The best poha I ever had, as with many Indian dishes, was not at a restaurant, but at a home. A very special home in fact, where I was welcomed and treated like family. If you’ve been following my stories on this blog, you know I lived for a year in Amravati, India – deep in the state of Maharashtra. I had amazingly generous and attentive neighbors, and my host family was particularly endearing and kind.
Many years ago, on my first India trip, I stayed for several days in the city of Jaipur – The Pink City of Rajasthan. I recall walking for hours, mesmerized by the people and the loud colors and fantastic, flowing saris and shirts. I was constantly taking photographs. I remember riding with insane auto-rickshaw drivers along the crowded, dusty streets, weaving around pedestrians, bicycles, beggars, and cows. Just like in all the books and movies.
I’d only been in India for a few weeks at that point, and I was still very much in New Arrival Mode: The first two to four weeks of being in India – everything is an overwhelming assault on the senses. You’re in near-constant amazement at how wild and vivid life can be. The circus and overloaded charm fade (somewhat) after a few weeks, but usually one or more things happen every day that remind you: you’re in a very different world.
Next to only perhaps seeing the Hawa Mahal, and trekking around some of the old forts, my favorite experience in Jaipur was at a small café that was famous for their saffron lassi. I remember retreating from the hot sun into the shade with my journal and heavily marked-up guidebook, sliding my tired self into a plastic chair, and sipping this amazing, glowing, pink-orange chilled treat. The flavor was intense, exotic, new to me. That fresh saffron lassi straight from the fridge was the best thing in that moment. I contemplated how many I would need to order and drink before it would be too much. I stayed long enough to need a second one, and then got on my way of exploring the streets further.
For something so simple, it’s hard to believe it took me so many years to figure out how to make a good lassi. The secret is the right combination of soy yogurt, water, and ice cubes. I think I’ve got it down good now, so I’m ready to pass on the recipe for my all-vegan rendition of the Indian classic yogurt shake.
You’ve probably figured out by now that here at The Lotus and the Artichoke, I love world cuisine. The majority of my recipes are inspired by my world travels to far-off countries and enthusiastic experiments with ethnic cooking.
Once in a while, however, I crave some good, old-fashioned comfort food. For me, that means a classic dish from the country where I spent most of my growing up: America. For breakfast and brunch, I’m a pancake kind of guy. But when I’m hungry for a more savory, lunch or dinner bonanza, the totally vegetarian T.L.T. is the way to go. But, but… what about Mac & Cheeze?! Sure… there’s that too, but sometimes it’s just gotta be a sandwich.
This particular dish really takes me back to the old days of diner deliciousness. You’ve probably heard about the classic B.L.T. – Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich, but today I want to share with you a healthier and even tastier, more compassionate spin on that: The vegan T.L.T. – Tempeh Lettuce Tomato sandwich superstar.