Sunday, August 19, 2012

Going Greek

Accidental Vegan Taramasalata Dip

For the past few months I have been living in a very Greek part of town. Migrating to this side of the city was a wildcard move centered mostly around a great deal on a little house for me and my partner. I would stop through this neck of the woods for an annual festival but that's about all and honestly could have avoided that altogether as well as it tended to be overcrowded and somewhat disappointing food-wise. All that being said, I now love it here. This is one of the only neighborhoods I have inhabited that I race to return to at the end of the daily grind. The neighborhood is bustling in a great way. People are friendly, the shops are nice and there are hidden green spaces around every corner. It may be many years before I move away, if I move away at all.

In honor of my hood I am going to pay vegan homage to a classic Greek appetizer -- taramasalata. Before becoming vegetarian, fish was one of my favorite things to eat, particularly fish mousse and taramasalata -- a cold Greek dip made from potatoes, lemon, garlic and cod roe. The creamy pale pink masterpiece may sound a bit scary to fish-o-phobes, but trust me -- it is a salty, garlicky, smooth whipped scoop of heaven. Traditionally it is served with toasted pitta bread and a drizzle of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. 

My parents have always enjoyed Greek dishes and would frequent the Greek restaurant in their neighborhood for lunch weekly. My mother always ordered taramasalata and was the first person to introduce me to it. It was love at first nibble.

I have been in a bit of a food rut for the past few months. I attribute this lack of inspiration to exhaustion. I am planning my wedding in a very short span of time and also have a full time job that spills over into my off-work hours often. When I get home, making something new is the last thing on my mind. When I want something healthy, inexpensive and fast, I turn on my food processor and make a dip -- usually a bean dip. I have been trying to include more lentils in my diet because they are incredibly good for you, dirt cheap and easy to digest if you soak them in advance. It has taken me years to convince myself that soaking beans in advance is not too much trouble. Now that I'm sure of this, I cannot stop myself from soaking up a steady supply for dips and salads. For the past two weeks I have been hooked on black lentils because of their amazing texture and versatility. They are far more pebbly than the average lentil and absolutely beautiful in my opinion. I have been using them in a mayonaise based salad that I have become addicted to. Today I bought three colors to shake things up -- Red lentils, Golden lentils and Black lentils. I soaked a large serving mixed together and decided to use half of them in a dip. Little did I know I was on the way to a taramasalata reinvention. Combined with the ingredients below, the lentils gave the dip great body and texture. The dip is very healthy and fairly low in fat. Though not quite the color of taramasalata, the vibrant pink color of the lentil dip is quite lovely. I hope you give it a try.

Vegan Taramasalata

1 1/4 cup cooked lentils ( I used a mix of organic golden, red and black lentils)
1 tsp liquid from a jar of capers
2 capers
Juice of 1/2 small organic lemon
1 tbsp kelp flakes
dash of course sea salt
1-2 tbsp vegan mayonaise (I like to use soy-free Veganaise)
1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 dash of Cinnamon
2 basil leaves
1 ice cube of fresh beet juice (I freeze beet juice in an ice cube tray for adding great color to vegan ice cream and other things like smoothies)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 small red or white onion ( I used white because I had no red)
2 tbsp water
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Blend all ingredients on high in a food processor or high speed blender. Ensure all ingredients are evenly blended. Spoon out into a serving dish. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of cayenne or paprika. Serve immediately or chill and serve later with toasted and oiled pitta or vegetable crudites.

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