Tag Archives: Mediterranean cuisine

What do I do with hummus?

Going vegan can be bewildering for many people. You’re discovering all these enticing new foods, and you have no idea what to do with them. In particular, you’re seeing hummus everywhere but have no idea what to do with it.

Hummus is a spread or dip made from chickpeas, garlic and tahini that is a mainstay of Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and can be used in many different ways. There are countless varieties of hummus, some that are very lemony, some more garlicy, and some that are very spicy.

While many people just use it as a dip for chips or bread as an appetizer, you can make some delicious, more elaborate meals from it.

Here’s some suggestions.

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A hummus-chickpea-arugula wrap: Just use a tortilla wrap or pita bread and stuff it with hummus, chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, harissa(Tunisian hot pepper sauce), olives, fresh parsley, lemon juice and black pepper. The hummus is there, it just got buried under all the other ingredients. Not only is this very tangy and delicious, it’s also very nutritious.

Screenshot from 2017-11-08 08:15:50

Not in the mood for a wrap? Another suggestion is to make a hummus platter with stuffed grape leaves(dolma), tomatoes, romaine lettuce, tahini sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper. Another delicious, easy to make(unless you make the dolma from scratch) Middle Eastern meal that’s totally vegan.

This barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with hummus, and Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegans. Have fun!

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Say goodbye to olive oil? No way!

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It seems there’s always something you must eliminate from your diet if you really want to be healthy. Or at least, that is something a certain sub-group of the vegan/plant-based community who supposedly have a monopoly on truth and perfect health want you to believe. For many, it’s gluten, for others, it’s soy, but what gets demonized the most nowadays are oils, including and especially olive oil. Oil-free veganism is all the rage these days, with some advocates of this approach getting frustrated whenever they run into skeptical vegans like me who disagree with them. Although they eschew all oil, olive oil is usually the main target of oil-free proponents because of the common, largely accurate idea that it can be healthy in moderation.

Where did this bizarre notion that olive oil is bad for you come from? A group of plant-based doctors have been pushing this idea for years now, based on some flawed studies that don’t always have control groups. To say that there is room for skepticism based on their research is the understatement of the century. Besides the inherent flaws of these studies, another reason I am very skeptical is because I prefer looking at the totality of the evidence, not just what a small group of researchers are saying. Overwhelmingly, the evidence from the wider scientific community doesn’t agree with them. The idea that all fat is bad is something the scientific community repudiated a long time ago.

Beyond just being skeptical, as an animal advocate, I don’t like placing any more restrictions on a vegan diet than is necessary(read Ginny Messina’s articles below for her take on this). Most people think a vegan diet is too restricted as it is. Why recommend eliminating something that science shows is okay or even healthy in moderation? Numerous studies show that people following a Mediterranean diet, which very often includes olive oil, have significantly lower heart disease risk. This isn’t to say that you have to consume olive oil, or that it’s okay to consume it in large amounts, it’s just that it shouldn’t be the big issue it currently is.

I’ll gladly give up olive oil when and if the evidence shows it is harmful in moderation. I tire of hearing “I’m giving up olive oil because I attended a lecture by the brilliant Dr. So and So and he convinced me it’s the most horrible thing ever”. I also don’t care for the often hypocritical whole foodist dogmatism that underpins this anti-olive oil stance and which forbids consuming anything that isn’t considered a “whole food”. For some, overly rigid whole foodism is a stepping stone to the even more extreme and pseudo-scientific world of rawfoodism. Sometimes it seems like there’s a bizarre kind of competition going on to see who can survive on the most restricted diet.

If you care about your health, completely eliminating olive oil from your diet is probably pointless(unless your doctor recommends you do so or if you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to metabolize fat); if you care about helping animals, this is pointless, a big distraction, and potentially a hindrance in vegan outreach efforts. While I follow and recommend a mostly whole food vegan diet, I am not overly rigid about it, though I was more rigid years ago. A little oil or a few sweets are going to harm the health of a healthy distance joggler like me? Really? To me, as a non-expert, it all comes down to what consensus science says, not just a few doctors or scientists with an extreme minority view. For this reason, you won’t see me making dietary recommendations on this blog that have little to no basis in science. I realize that my approach makes me a black sheep to much of the vegan community, but so be it.

Related articles:

  1. Olive oil, Health, And Advocacy
  2. Vegan Health: The Fatty Acids
  3. Mayo Clinic: If olive oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?
  4. Farewell, Low-Fat: Why Scientists Applaud Lifting A Ban On Fat
  5. Help Animals With Healthful and Practical Vegan Diets
  6. Nutrition Professor Says “No Broccoli Health Benefits. Ditch ASAP!”

Lentils with bulgur wheat

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I adore lentils. They are little gems of protein and so versatile, I can eat them every day. They are commonly eaten in the Middle East and adjacent regions, usually with rice, but I decided to use bulgur wheat instead. Bulgur wheat is also a staple of many Middle Eastern countries. I am minimizing my rice consumption(both white and brown) these days due it possibly playing a role in diabetes, and because other grains, like bulgur wheat, have a far superior nutritional value.

Bulgur wheat is often confused with cracked wheat. This may help clear up any confusion – GRAIN BASICS – BULGHUR (BULGAR) AND
CRACKED WHEAT

It took about 30 minutes to cook the entire meal, boiling the green lentils(which require more cooking time) first in half water/half vegetable broth. I then added some red pepper powder, black pepper, and garlic powder. I also added chopped onions, along with chopped garlic, and a dash of olive oil. It tasted great, though I think it would have been better if I had added some cumin.

As a side dish/appetizer, I had some Korean kimchi(or Korean pickle), which helps stimulate digestion due to its spiciness and friendly bacteria. Koreans eat kimchi with almost every meal. The kimchi wasn’t homemade(it was Sunja’s Medium Spicy Kimchi), but it is vegan. Kimchi in Asian restaurants usually has shrimp or fish added to it. I occasionally make my own sauerkraut, but every time I try to make kimchi it doesn’t turn out well. The ingredients in this kimchi are: cabbage, carrots, red peppers, leeks, green onions, garlic, ginger, sea salt.

Lentils with bulgur wheat can also be considered an example of “Mediterranean” cuisine, besides “Middle Eastern”, depending on your definition of “Mediterranean”(many Middle Eastern countries have Mediterranean coasts, so I see no reason why they they can’t be considered both). The Mediterranean diet is back in the news these days due to recent research reaffirming how healthy it is, in part due to legumes like lentils being an important protein source in many Mediterranean countries. So you can’t go wrong by consuming more lentils. The east Asian diet is also similarly healthy, so combining the two has a uniquely healthful synergism to it.

All in all, a delicious vegan power meal that is a fusion of the best of Middle Eastern and Korean cuisine.