A Healthy Vegetarian Feast

Pomegranate Tabouleh

Flavourful Recipes for the Holiday Season

How many times have you looked forward to a holiday feast, only to find yourself bloated and tired after overindulging in meat, cheese, and bread? It’s a common occurrence. But with the spices and herbs available from around the world, the vegetarian cook can create festive and energizing meals more easily than ever before.

Cereals and legumes make great substitutions for meat dishes. Consumed by the masses since the dawn of civilization, when cooked with the right amount of herbs and spices, these fibre-rich foods make tasty, mouth-watering, and hearty main dishes and sides. Combining grains and vegetables with a good number of condiments gives vegetarian dishes a savoury taste reminiscent of classical meat recipes. For centuries, these dishes have been made even more pungent with the addition of ingredients such as almonds, dried fruits, lemon juice, olives, onions, sesame seeds, and more.

During my trips through the countries of the world, I have enjoyed a broad range of culinary offerings – from meat dishes in the homes of the affluent, to simple and tasty vegetarian dishes in village homes. Throughout my years-long exploration of folklore recipes, I brought the simple peasant recipes from my travels into my own kitchen. This involved blending herbs such as chervil, coriander leaves (cilantro), garlic, mint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme – with spices such as aniseed, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, saffron,  turmeric, and hot peppers. The capsicums included in some of the recipes that follow are as old as time, and render the dish both  succulent and mouth-watering.

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This recipe is a tasty and festive version of taboula.
(Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine burghul (or bulghur wheat), soaked for 10 minutes in cold water, then drained by pressing water out through a fine sieve
  • 2 medium tomatoes, very finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp

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This tasty well-known Aleppo dish, usually served as an appetizer, adds colour to any meal.  (Serves 8)

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups ground walnuts
  • 4 large sweet red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp pomegranate syrup, dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 4 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

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The recipe for this appetizer differs somewhat from the hummus dish recipes found in the Greater Syria area (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan). The addition of spices and yoghurt makes this version much tastier. (Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Green olives
Recipe: Bean and Almond Soup (Asseeda)

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This North African soup is both exotic and delicious. (Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup navy beans, soaked overnight in 8 cups of water, and mixed with 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds, pulverized
  • 2 medium sized onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup white grape juice
  • 4 Tbsp slivered almonds, toasted
Recipe: Chickpea Stew with Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers

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If a thicker stew is desired, most of the water in which the chickpeas are cooked can be drained before stirring into the remaining ingredients. (Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chickpeas (preferably split), soaked for 24 hours, then drained
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 small hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin

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Swiss chard, kohlrabi leaves, or other vegetable leaves may be substituted for the grape leaves. Also, the same stuffing used in cabbage rolls may be substituted. (Serves 8)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound jar preserved grape leaves
  • 1 cup lentils, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste, mixed with 2 cups water and 1 tsp oregano

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Horchata is an exact replica of a Moroccan almond drink served to honoured guests. First prepared in Andalusia by the Moors, it was taken to North Africa by the expelled Muslims, and to the Americas by the Conquistadors. (Serves 10)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blanched pulverized almonds
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

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