Textured Soy Protein (TSP)

Textured soy protein (TSP) is a by-product obtained from extracting soybean oil. The pulp is separated from the oil and is extruded in the form of dehydrated chunks of fiber with a spongy texture that slightly resembles meat texture. TSP is made of soybeans but it may also contain wheat and gluten. It contains 50% protein in its dry form, and 16% protein after rehydrated, and is therefore considered a great substitute for meat.

Textured soy protein can be found in the shape of nuggets, flat strips, or flakes. Its flavor is pretty bland. Given that its texture is dry and spongy, it can absorb a lot of liquid and take on the flavors added to it, so it can imitate beef, chicken, pork, fish, or any other flavor you wish to add to it.IMG_7794

The recipe below is a pretty successful attempt to substitute soy nuggets for beef. My traditional recipe for beef croquettes calls for ground beef, but since we have become vegan in my family, I decided to recreate the recipe with non-animal products. Soy nuggets seemed like the best way to go.  They can be found in Asian and Indian grocery stores, and in health food stores.

To prepare it for use, TSP should be rehydrated. It needs to be soaked in hot liquid (water, soup) for about 30 minutes, then drained, and all liquid should be squeezed out of it. Then it is ready to be used in a dish. For the following recipe, I soaked my soy nuggets in boiling water.IMG_7724


Soy Croquettes

2 cups dry soy nuggets
2 tbs ground flax seeds
8 tbs water
1 cup parsley leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tbs chicken flavored soup powder
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

After soaking, draining and squeezing all liquid out of the soy nuggets, place them in a food processor and pulse to create crumbs resembling ground meat. Move to a large bowl.IMG_7725

In a small bowl mix the ground flax seeds with the water and let rest for a couple of minutes, until it becomes eggy in texture. Or, if you eat eggs, you may lightly beat 2 eggs.

Place the onion, garlic and parsley in the food processor and chop thinly.IMG_7726

Transfer to the bowl and add the flour, the spices, and the flax seeds (or the beaten eggs).

Using your hands, mix all the ingredients to a cohesive mixture.

Form croquettes the size of a ping pong ball and flatten them a little.IMG_7730

Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the croquettes for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.


I tried adding the fried croquettes to a Persian stew that I made (something I used to do with beef croquettes). The stew came out delicious, but the croquettes fell apart. So I think it’s better to just eat them fried with some other things on the side.



Eggplant Rollatini with Mushrooms

My husband and two boys used to be the carnivores in our house, and if a main dish didn’t include meat, they were very dissatisfied. But not anymore. Not after having this dish for dinner. In fact, they enjoyed it so much that now I can introduce more meatless dishes and they are totally fine with that and a new era started in our home – we are all vegan now.

Of course, this dish is not what made us change our eating habits but it was a nice trigger.

The flavor of the mushrooms is very rich and full of umami. Do not skip on the baby bella or the dried mushrooms. They are responsible for the umami flavor.

4 large eggplants
Oil spray
¼ cup oil
1 large onion, diced
20 oz mixed mushrooms (baby Bella, white button)
1 oz mixed dried mushrooms or dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
½ tsp garlic powder

2 tbs oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup water
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and black pepper

Preheat an oven to 400F.

Slice the eggplants lengthwise, into ½ thick slices. Generously pray a baking sheet with oil and arrange the eggplant slices in one layer. Spray the eggplants with the oil. You will probably need 2-3 baking sheets to accommodate all the eggplant.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until eggplants turn golden. Remove from the oven and chill. Turn oven off.

In the meantime, heat ¼ cup oil in a large pot and sauté the onion.

Chop the fresh mushrooms in a food processor until they resemble ground meat in texture.

Place the dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder and grind to a powder.

Once the onion is golden, add the ground mushrooms to the pot and sauté on high heat for 5 minutes stirring it occasionally.

Add the garlic powder, Aleppo pepper and salt and sauté for 1 more minute.

Turn off the heat, add the chopped parsley and mix well. Chill.

Heat 2 tbs oil in a small pot and saute the onions for 3 minutes.

Place the tomatoes in a food processor and puree. Add the tomatoes to the sautéed onion and saute for 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, water, and spices and stir it all in. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Place 1 tbs of the mushroom filling on one end of the eggplant and roll up tightly.

Place the eggplant rolls in a baking dish, seam side down, one next to the other.

When baking dish is full, top the eggplant with half the amount of the tomato sauce, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature with some good bread.



Originally from Turkey, Givech is actually the name of traditional clay pots used in Turkish cuisine, and also the name of the meat and vegetable stews cooked in these pots. However, Givech is not restricted to Turkey. It has spread to many countries in the Balkan area and the Middle East, where people use the name for their variations on vegetable stews similar to Ratatouille.


The recipe brought here is a fusion of my grandmother’s Givech and my mother’s adaptation of her mother’s recipe. Whereas my grandma used to fry the vegetables using a generous amount of oil before stewing them, my mother drastically reduces the amount of oil used in the dish and lightly sautés the veggies before stewing them.

Also, grandma’s recipe consisted of eggplants, red bell peppers, courgettes, potatoes, onion and tomato. Mom added carrots and sometimes hot peppers, and got rid of the potatoes. As you can see, grandma’s idea of the Givech was to make a mouthwatering vegetable stew. Mom, on the other hand, wanted it to suit her low carb, low fat diet.

My recipe uses all the veggies mentioned above. I do not skimp on the oil, but I do not go crazy either. Since I love the eggplants fried but don’t want to use a lot of oil, I bake them in the oven using oil spray, and then add them to the stew. This version really captures the best of both worlds – it is delicious, but suits a more moderate diet.

2 medium eggplants cut into 1 inch cubes (you can use 5 Japanese eggplants instead)
Oil spray
4 tbs oil
1 large onion sliced
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into 1 inch cubes
1-2 hot green pepper seeded and sliced
3 medium carrots peeled and sliced
1 large new or wax potato, cubed
3 medium zucchinis sliced
2 medium tomatoes, diced

Preheat your oven to 400F.

If using Japanese eggplants, you may skip the following step. Japanese eggplants are very delicate and their skin is thin so you do not need to roast or fry them before adding to the pot. Just add them raw with the other veggies. If you really like them fried, though, go ahead and fry or roast them as specified in the next step.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with oil spray. Spread the cubes of eggplant on the baking sheet in one layer and spray on top with the oil. You may need more than one baking sheet to accommodate all the eggplant. Bake in the preheated oven for twenty minutes, until the eggplant turns golden brown. Remove from the oven.

In a large sauté pan heat four tablespoons of oil on medium high heat, and sauté the onion for two minutes. Add the bell peppers, hot pepper, and the carrots, and keep sautéing for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies start to brown.


Add the potato to the pan and sauté for five minutes, stirring to make sure the potato does not stick to the pot. Add the zucchini and the roasted eggplant (or the raw Japanese eggplant) and stir gently for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, salt, and black pepper, give the dish a final stir. Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for about thirty minutes. There may be some veggie juice left on the bottom of the pot, which is fine, as long as you don’t end up with soup. If you have a lot of liquid left, remove the lid and cook the veggies over high heat, until most liquid evaporates.

The Givech can be served hot or cold, as a side dish, or as a vegetarian main dish. I also like to serve it as part of a mezze platter.

* Freshen the flavor – chop some fresh basil leaves and add to the pot after removing from the heat while the Givech is still hot. It really changes the flavor and makes a nice, fresh variation.

Celery and Beet Salad

The heat is on, and apparently, not only in Florida. I do not want to get into climate change discussions, but it really is getting much hotter. Some days I find it almost hard to breathe. So in these hot days I try to cook light, with lots of fresh salads. The following is one of my experiments that turned successful. It is one of the easiest and most refreshing salads to make, especially on a hot summer day.


1 medium celery root, peeled
2 medium beets, peeled
1 cup of celery leaves and young stalks
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Shred the celery root and the beets. If using a food processor, use the shredding disc attachment on the side with the larger holes. Or you can grate the vegetables manually, using the large holes on the grater.


Thinly chop the celery stalks and leaves and place in a large bowl. Add the shredded roots, lemon juice, oil and salt. Mix well and serve.


For more variety, you may replace the above dressing (lemon, oil, salt) with classic vinaigrette dressing for a creamier feel.


Tomato Lentil Soup

When I think about poor’s people foods from the Middle East, one of the first dishes that come to mind is lentil soup.

As I said before, in my Lemony Lentil Soup recipe, lentils, in all their varieties, are abundant across the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions. They are a great source of protein and fiber, and are rich in folate and manganese. Their very low cost and high nutritional value make them a favorite among many poor people around the world, which explains the vast variety of lentil dishes in places like India, and other countries in the Middle East.

I’m not sure about the geographical origin of the recipe below. It could probably be Iraq, Syria, or any of the neighboring countries. Like many other lentil soups, this soup is thick, hearty and so delicious, and is sure to satisfy any soup lover, like me.

2 cups red lentils
8 cups water
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced into small cubes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chicken soup flavor powder (optional)
¼ teaspoon dried chili flakes (optional)
Salt and black pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the lentils, and the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove the lid, skim the foam on top, and cook for 20 minutes on medium-low heat, uncovered.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a sauté pan, and sauté the onion until golden. Add the garlic, and sauté for an extra minute. Carefully, transfer to the saucepan with the cooked lentils.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices and cook for 20 more minutes.

Serve with good country style bread.

lentil soup

Swiss Chard and Chickpea Rice Pilaf

One of the cuisines that I most love and that is not well known in the Western hemisphere is the Kurdish cuisine. I’m partially of Kurdish decent. Both my paternal grandpa and my maternal grandma were Kurdish. I loved spending time with my beloved grandma who, among many things, introduced me to Kurdish dishes and taught me how to prepare them.

Kurdish food is poor peoples’ food. It includes simple and cheap ingredients, but thanks to different cooking techniques, Kurdish people created a somewhat complex and varied cuisine.

Some classic Kurdish dishes call for sour, garlicky flavors, and include rice and green leaves that were probably picked in the mountains of Kurdistan. The dish below is not a classic Kurdish dish (although it could very well be). It is a dish I came up with for my vegetarian cooking class, using Kurdish flavors and ingredients. What I most like about this dish is that it is super easy to make, but the result is very rich and complex in flavor without having to use special techniques.

¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch (4 packed cups) Swiss chard chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups (15oz can) cooked chickpeas without the liquid
1 cup rice
3 cups water
1 tbs. chicken soup flavor powder
1/4 tsp citric acid or lemon juice from ½ lemon
Salt, pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and sauté until onion is golden brown. Add the Swiss chard and garlic, and sauté for two minutes.

Add the chickpeas and the rice and stir well.

Add the water, the chicken soup powder, salt, pepper, and citric acid. Give the mixture another stir and bring to a boil.

Cover and let cook for 20-25 minutes, on low heat, until the water is completely absorbed in the rice.