Vegan Menu Ideas at Material Culture Everyone Can Love
By Aliza Green,
Chef, Baba Olga’s Kitchen/Catering
Even your picky aunt and your “meat and potatoes” brother will love these deliciously vegan dishes!
While I am not a vegan, I love vegetables, fruits, herbs, and especially legumes so that’s a great start. Because I thrive on culinary challenge, I welcome vegan clients. We’ve had the opportunity to cook vegan-friendly and all-vegan wedding dinners for quite a few bridal couples including one that works for an elephant rescue organization.
Last year, I ran a series of cooking classes at Baba Olga’s based on recipes in my book, The Magic of Spice Blends. My vegan class sold out quickly to a very eager group of students. You can see the delicious Greek Tahini Cake in the Turkish coffee carrier tray. The series of bowls are filled with the ingredients to make Sri Lankan Coconut Cashew Vegetable Curry with homemade Sambar Podi spice mix. When you’re cooking vegan, the freshness of the spices, toasted and ground in small batches, makes all the difference. We use imported Sri Lankan true cinnamon with its delicately spicy, floral aroma for all our cooking and baking.
Ancient Grains Salad
One of our perennial favorites, whether for vegan diners or omnivores, is our Ancient Grains Salad made with barley, Tuscan farro wheat berries, and nutty-tasting French green lentils plus Tuscan kale, toasted pumpkin seeds, carrots, and scallions in a lemony extra-virgin olive oil dressing.
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Basmati Rice, Currants, Lemon, and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
You’ve probably eaten your share of stuffed grape leaves and weren’t overwhelmed. Most places buy canned stuffed grape leaves, which are inevitable mushy and blah. I got the recipe for our Basmati rice, currant, dill, and mint filled leaves braised in lemon and extra-virgin olive oil from an Iraqi woman. It takes a lot of work to make the stuffing, roll each leaf individually and cook them until perfectly done but we think it’s worth it! Some years back, I took a cooking course on the Greek Island of Kea with Greek cooking authority Aglaia Kremezi. Later, I took an informal course cooking with a group of Turkish women: sisters, aunts, and mothers. The women (and stuffed vegetables are generally made by women who have smaller hands for more delicate rolls). Each community proudly made their own grape leaves but I was told in one place to only roll the leaves with the stalk side in and in the other, I was told to only roll the leaves with the side out, so it seems like they both work equally well.
Senegalese Peanut & Yam Soup
You may wish to serve a shooter of warming soup during your cocktail hour. Here’s our fabulous Senegalese Peanut & Yam Soup seasoned with lots of fresh ginger, true cinnamon, earthy cumin and coriander seed, a touch of cloves, and red chiles. With a smooth, creamy, though dairy-free, texture, this soup is high in protein and full of the nutritious goodness of yams with an appealing orangey-red color. A garnish of diced tomato, chopped cilantro, and roasted peanuts completes the dish. Another great choice for fall, winter, and early spring is our Carrot-Ginger Bisque.
Colorful Chilled Soups
We have quite a few choices for cooling chilled soups for warm weather including classic tomato-pepper Gazpacho Andaluz with Rosemary-Garlic Croutons and an equally delicious grass-green Grape, Cucumber & Almond Gazpacho.
Turkish Shepherd’s Salad
We served this classic Turkish shepherd’s salad year-round on our buffets, changing the individual components according to the season but we always include crunchy cucumber, vari-colored sweet and hot peppers, wild arugula, fragrant dill, cooling mint, and ripe cherry tomatoes in a sweet-tart pomegranate dressing. Add cooked chickpeas for a more substantial salad.
Vegan Entrées and Sides from Baba Olga’s
- Mini Spiced Red Lentil Cakes with Green Coconut-Cilantro Chutney Vegan
- Pan-Fried “Crabcakes”: hearts of palm, aromatic vegetables, and herbs;
- Roasted Corn-Chipotle Salsa
- Imam Bayildi: “the imam fainted,” Turkish roasted stuffed eggplant halves,
tomato, sweet onion, dill, mint
- Cauliflower, Okra & Yam Curry with Cashews and Coconut Cream
- Roasted Vegetable Pie: roasted vegetables, white beans, sun-dried tomato, herb pesto,
fillo dough with extra-virgin olive oil
- Turkish Chickpea & Eggplant Moussaka with Urfa Pepper
- Spiced Farro-Lentil Mejadra with Caramelized Shallots Coconut Rice
- Creole Red Beans & Rice
- Greek Lemon-Oregano Potatoes
- Spiced Farro-Lentil Mejadra with Caramelized Shallots
- Braised Mixed Seasonal Cooking Greens: extra-virgin olive oil, California garlic
- Briami: Greek braised mixed seasonal vegetables in lemon, dill & olive oil
- Broccoli Rabe with Sun-Dried Tomato, Roasted Garlic, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Creole Ratatouille: eggplant, baby okra, mirliton squash, tomato, thyme, olive oil
- Green Chickpeas & Green Onions: ginger, garlic & toasted coconut
- Honey & Olive Oil Roasted Butternut Squash & Honeycrisp Apples
- Roast Heirloom Carrots with Tomato Kasundi Chutney
- Roast Local Asparagus with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Orange Zest & Toasted Hazelnuts
- Steamed Broccolini with Preserved Lemon & Beldi Olives
- Tomato Provençal: stuffed with crumbs, black olives, garlic, thyme & olive oil
Our Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with dried Turkish apricots, Craisins, sun-dried tart cherries, skin-on almonds, pistachios, and a drizzle of white chocolate is both vegan and gluten-free.
Each piece makes a unique pattern as it is broken apart into shards. A lovely homemade favor for your guests or an accompaniment to dessert and coffee. This is a good choice for cold weather weddings when chocolate behaves best with that satisfying snap characteristic of well-tempered chocolate.
Here are some of our other vegan desserts made in house:
- Tahini Cake with Warm Berry Compote
- Poached Bosc Pear in Honey-Star Anise Syrup; Raspberry Coulis with Spanish Anise-Sesame Cookies
- Seasonal Fruit Macedonia with Spearmint