kosher kitchen

As veganism rises in Israel, why not try it at home?


Each new year brings with it lots of food trends. Some of the hottest trends of 2017 were surprising — like charcoal-based foods, including ice cream, and, one of the hottest trends, avocado toast, which seemed to find its way, at a hefty price, into many trendy restaurants.

Brussels sprouts were big in 2017. This often maligned vegetable (my family has always loved them) showed up in caterers’ menus, 4-star restaurants and more. I finally gave in to the “no steamed sprouts” cries and created a recipe with maple-roasted pastrami, red onions and sliced sprouts that was a surprising hit.

It seems kale has gone the way of the dinosaur and will no longer show up on every lunch menu in New York and Boston, Boca Raton and beyond. So good riddance to that tough and bitter green. I admit to never really liking it, though I tried it in everything from smoothies to salads and more.

Goodbye to the old and hello to the new. While we will have to see how long the new trends stay with us, there is one that has me very excited. This most exciting news comes from Israel which has, for years, been a food trendsetter with renowned chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi and more. The headline in the Jerusalem Post on Dec. 26 was not so much of a surprise as it was a moment to kvell —

“Veganism Set to Top Culinary Trends of 2018 With Israel at The Helm!”

In Israel, 40 percent of the population claims that they have drastically reduced the amount of animal products they use. Eight to ten percent claim that they are vegetarians (meaning that they eat dairy, eggs and cheese) and five percent claims to be vegan, suggesting that Israel has the highest per capita population of vegans. (In America, 31 percent of the people include no-meat days in their diets, but only six percent claim to follow a strictly vegetarian diet and less than three percent are vegan.)

The popularity of this lifestyle in Israel prompted the British newspaper, The Independent, to recently dub Tel Aviv the “vegan capital of the world.” Tel Aviv boasts over 400 vegan-friendly restaurants!

This shift towards vegan eating has strong adherents in generations  X and Z who, for many reasons, including ethical and humane ones, are moving towards vegan eating at a rapid pace.

According to the New York-based international restaurant consulting company, Baum and Whitman, restaurants are finally catching up and making huge menu changes.

As a more plant-based eating style overtakes the planet, why not investigate and try it out at home? A non-meat meal here and there is a fine way to experiment and get to know the vegetarian or vegan landscape. 

Kudos to Israel and to Tel Aviv for, once again, being a world leader, this time in the world of healthful, delicious and nutritious eating.

Many Mushroom Skewers and More with Lemon-Garlic Marinade (Pareve) 

This is a wonderful recipe to serve with a wild rice pilaf, for a great main or side dish. 

Lemon Garlic Marinade

8 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

6 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp. (scant) kosher salt 

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely minced

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a glass jar and refrigerate.

Vegetable Kabobs

4 Portabella mushroom caps

16 large button mushrooms

16 oyster mushrooms

16 shitake mushrooms

24 cherry or grape tomatoes

1 zucchini, sliced, slices quartered 

1 small red onion, quartered and separated

8 skewers

Lemon Garlic Marinade

NOTE: You can use as many different kinds of mushrooms as you like, allowing about 6-8 mushrooms per skewer.

Peel the Portobello mushrooms and remove the gills with a spoon. Wash and then cut the caps into quarters. Place in a large, shallow, glass baking dish. Clean the rest of the mushrooms and place in the baking dish. Add the tomatoes. Cut the zucchini and add to the dish. 

Pour the marinade over the vegetables and marinate for about 30 minutes. 

Carefully skewer the vegetables and place on a broiler pan. Place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes per side, turning at least once, or until some char marks show and the tomatoes shrivel a bit. Serves 4 to 8.

Seitan ‘Meat’ Sauce (Pareve)

3 to 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 to 5 cloves garlic 

1 pound seitan

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1 can (3 ounces) tomato paste

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

OPTIONAL: 1 small chili pepper, seeded and chopped (for heat)

4 to 8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Basil leaves cut in a chiffonade*

Whole wheat pasta or zucchini spiral noodles

OPTIONAL:  Grated Parmesan Cheese for a dairy vegetarian meal

Heat a large skillet. Add the olive oil and the onions and sauté until lightly golden. Add the minced garlic and heat through. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they give off their juices and reabsorb them, stirring frequently. Add the green pepper and sauté for another minute. Cut the seitan into small crumbles or break up with your fingers and add to the skillet. Stir to heat through, cooking until lightly browned. You may need to add more oil. Some may stick to the pan a bit, but just scrape it with a spatula. Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir. Add the crushed red pepper, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently as the liquid reduces. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over pasta, zoodles (zucchini noodles), or even with whole grain rolls for sloppy Joes. Serves 4 to 6.

*To cut a chiffonade, roll a few basil leaves into a tight cylinder and then cut across the cylinder in thin slices. Add to the pan and mix well.

NOTE: Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. It is chewy like meat and takes on the flavors you give it. This is a great low-fat, kid-friendly substitute for hamburger. You can buy seitan in most health food stores either as a mix or ready to use.

Spicy Oven-Baked Carrot and Yam Fries (Pareve)

You can make these with any spices you like. Omit the heat for kids, or adjust as you like.

2 large yams, peeled and cut into French fry shapes

6 large carrots, peeled and cut into French fry shapes.

4 to 5 Tbsp. extra0virgin olive oil or canola oil

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. chili powder or cayenne pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

Line 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with foil and then parchment and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the vegetables and set aside. Pat dry with paper towels. Keep the carrots and the yams separate.

Pour half of the oil in a bowl and toss the carrots in it. Remove to the prepared baking sheet. Add the rest of the oil to the bowl and repeat with the yam fries. Place them on the second baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk the spices, salt and sugar together. Sprinkle 1/3 on the carrots and 1/3 on the yams. Reserve the rest. Place the sheets in the oven. Roast for 25 to 35 minutes, until barely fork tender. Remove from the oven, increase the heat to 400 degrees and flip the fries. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on each tray and return to the oven. Bake until deep golden brown. 8-15 minutes. Serves 6 to 10.

NOTE: The yams will most likely be cooked before the carrots. Watch carefully.