a vegan feast

easy vegan dinner

I decided to call this menu a vegan feast, but I could have just as easily called it a "vegan fast." While we rarely fast by abstaining from food (as with Ramadan or Yom Kippur, for example), Assyrians traditionally spend a large chunk of the year fasting from meat and dairy, and these fasts are called soma. Right now, we're in the middle of the Advent fast, which will be followed by the Jonah fast in February, and then Lent in March or April. During these fasting weeks, Assyrians eat a lot of traditionally vegan Middle Eastern food, along with some veganized versions of foods more typically made with meat.

But while there's so much good vegan Middle Eastern food out there, it can be tricky to figure out how to plan an entire meal if you're used to making meat the centerpiece. That's why I put together this meal plan; you get a lot of protein from the falafel and hummus, lots of fresh, healthy veggies with the two salads, and some delicious carbs with the rice and pita (because it just wouldn't be a proper Assyrian meal without some bread). The whole thing comes together with just a little effort every day, and the grocery list and schedule below do all the planning for you.

the menu: a vegan feast

Kale fattoush
Jerusalem salad
Falafel
Pita *
Hummus
Riza sh'ariyeh
Lemon wedges & tahini sauce on the side

* For this easy menu, the pita is store-bought, but feel free to make your own if you're feeling ambitious (just don't forget to add the extra ingredients and factor in the extra steps).

Also be sure to check out some of my favorite vegan resources if you're looking for more inspiration:

One Arab Vegan
Vegan Iraqi Food
Black Vegans Rock
Plant Nasty
(also, my vegan archives)

grocery list

stuff you probably already have

baking soda
salt
extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
all purpose flour

pantry

tahini
1 quart oil for deep frying (e.g., peanut, canola, olive oil, but not extra virgin)
8 to 10 medium pitas
dried chickpeas
2 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas
basmati rice
fine egg noodles
slivered almonds
golden raisins
pine nuts

spices, etc.

sumac
pomegranate molasses
baharat
sesame seeds

produce

1 small red onion
1 large or 2 small bunches of kale
8 small Persian cucumbers (or 2 long English ones)
8 roma tomatoes (add some radishes if you like them in fattoush, as pictured here)
1 green pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper (or another green one)
1 large bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 small bunch basil
2 bunches green onions
8 lemons (or more if they look dry)

the schedule

Sunday night dinner

thursday

active time: 20 minutes + shopping time

  • Go grocery shopping

  • Prep the riza sh'ariyeh ingredients (fry the nuts and raisins, and the noodles on the side, and refrigerate)

friday

active time: 35 minutes

  • Make the hummus and plate it, but don't dress it (refrigerate).

  • Fry the pita chips for fattoush (room temperature).

  • Cut the pita bread into wedges and put it in a ovenproof serving dish. Cover it to keep it from drying out.

  • Soak the chickpeas to make falafel the next day.

saturday

active time: 45 minutes

  • Massage the kale with olive oil (refrigerate).

  • Make the falafel mix and shape into balls (refrigerate).

  • Set the table (either for a sit-down meal or hors d'oeuvres around a coffee table)

  • optional: stir together some tahini and lemon juice (refrigerate)

sunday afternoon

active time: 70 minutes

  • Prep the fattoush ingredients, and plate the kale and veggies in a salad bowl. Keep everything else on the side.

  • Prep and salt the Jerusalem salad ingredients.

  • Fry the falafel.

  • Cut extra lemons into wedges.

sunday evening, the hour before serving

active time: 15 minutes

  • Microwave the riza sh'ariyeh topping for a minute, just to warm them up.

  • Cook the rice and noodles component of the riza sh'ariyeh (it needs to rest for at least 15 minutes, but it can rest for up to 40, as long as it stays covered the whole time).

  • Strain and dress the Jerusalem salad.

  • Warm the pita bread and falafel in the oven at 200° F for about 15 minutes until you're ready to serve.

  • Dress the hummus with olive oil and sumac (or the spice/herb of your choice).

  • Dress the fattoush with the remaining ingredients, and toss the pita chips in right before serving.

  • Fluff the rice after it's rested, and then top with the nuts and raisins.

  • Check the photo below to make sure you didn't leave something in the fridge, and enjoy!

easy vegan dinner

zero-waste zucchini bread

Zero-Waste Zucchini Bread

A few days ago, I posted a recipe for dolm'it koosa, or zucchini dolma. This old family recipe is perfect in every way, except that it leaves you with an unreasonable pile of zucchini guts. In fact, I think you end up carving away more zucchini than you actually end up using for the dolma. Most people usually find a way to put this precious zucchini pulp to use—my grandmother always sautées it with onions and serves it as a side veggie, and I recently learned about zucchini butter, which is now at the top of my to do list. But zucchini bread has always been my tried and true way of using up leftover zucchini guts.

Zero-Waste Zucchini Bread
Zero-Waste Zucchini Bread

In fact, zucchini bread is such a leftover-zucchini magnet, I don't think I've ever actually intentionally baked a loaf. In late summer, generous gardening friends will usually post on facebook about how they're just drowning in zucchini, begging for people to stop by and take some off their hands (while all of us lacking green thumbs and back yards roll our eyes in jealousy, while commenting "yes please!"), and many recipes besides dolma call for scraping out the insides before sautéeing, grilling, or spiralizing. There just always seems to be extra zucchini around.

So this recipe keeps with the spirit of not letting perfectly good zucchini go to waste. I've calibrated it to use up all the zucchini scraps from one batch of my zucchini dolma. But this recipe is so good, it actually wouldn't be totally crazy to go to the store just to pick up ingredients to bake a couple loaves. Or maybe it's more about reversing the causation... go to the store, buy eight Lebanese zucchini, core them, use the guts to make zucchini bread, and then make dolma with all those leftover zucchini shells you've got just lying around. Someone's trash is another's treasure!

Zero-Waste Zucchini Bread

zero-waste zucchini bread

yield: 2 medium loaves
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 2 hours
download a PDF to print

prepping the zucchini guts

  • 2 pounds of zucchini guts (from 1 batch of dolm'it koosa) *

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Grate the zucchini using a food processor's grater attachment. If you don't have a food processor, very thinly slice the zucchini guts and then coarsely chop the thin slices (it's very hard to grate these by hand with a box grater).

  2. Combine the zucchini with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and let it sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, let the water drain away and then wring the zucchini out using your hands or a clean kitchen towel. Once all is said and done, you should have about 2 cups of wrung-out, grated zucchini (a little more or less is just fine).

baking the zucchini bread

  • 2 cups wrung-out grated zucchini

  • 1 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 4 cups sifted flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

  2. Butter 2 8x4 inch loaf pans. **

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the wrung-out zucchini, olive oil, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and salt, and whisk together until the whole thing is completely incorporated.

  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, walnuts, and raisins.

  5. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Do not over-mix (stop mixing as soon as there are no large lumps of flour).

  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the loaf pans.

  7. Bake for about 1 hour. Start checking for doneness after about 50 minutes, by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of the loaf. If it comes out with batter, it needs more time, but if it comes out with just some crumbs, it's ready to take out.

  8. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack or clean, unscented kitchen towel for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

* The idea with this recipe is to use the guts of the zucchini left over from making dolma, but you can of course just use 2 pounds of whole zucchini. The amount of guts left over from one batch of my dolm'it koosa should be exactly enough for this recipe (assuming you core them thinly enough).
** If your pan isn't nonstick (or is very scratched-up nonstick), make parchment slings for easy removal (butter the pan, place the sling, and add more butter to the parchment). Simply trace a butter knife around the bare sides and lift it out with the parchment flaps.

zero-waste zucchini bread