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
* 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:
stuff you probably already have
extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
all purpose flour
1 quart oil for deep frying (e.g., peanut, canola, olive oil, but not extra virgin)
8 to 10 medium pitas
2 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas
fine egg noodles
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)
Sunday night dinner
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)
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.
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)
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!