"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Cooking a Vegan Shabbat Dinner

Last Friday, I hosted a homemade vegan Shabbat dinner for friends. A lot of time and effort went into preparing the food, but all the dishes (with the possible exception of the challah) came out terrific. I've been shul-hopping quite a bit since I moved to New York City and I've enjoyed many Shabbat stops along the way, but there's a special feeling when you have friends over for a healthy, vegan meal in a relaxed setting. The menu featured challah, carrot-parsley salad, cucumber-chickpea salad, charoset, tempeh-potato salad, polenta with bruschetta, curried lentils with wild rice, and roasted cauliflower and carrots. Two guests brought homemade cupcakes and cookies.

I've cooked Shabbat dinners for my parents and grandma a few times in the last year, but until fairly recently, I didn't feel up to the task. Not too long ago, my idea of adventurous vegan cooking was rolling GimmeLean Ground Beef into "meatballs" and mixing them with white-flour spaghetti and a jar of tomato sauce. As recently as early 2008, I was a lazy cook who relied too heavily on mock meats and other processed foods. At that point, I'd never hosted a non-potluck meal for more than two guests. I assumed the identity of a bad cook, and I never tried to get past it.

Thanks largely to the influences of The Jew & The Carrot, Michael Pollan, my boss, and a couple of lead-by-example friends, I saw the need to cook healthier food and stop being a mockmeatatarian. All it takes to become a better cook is a can-do attitude, the willingness to follow some more exciting recipes, and some practice. As one friend who gave me a cooking lesson said, being a decent cook is as simple as following a recipe. Even if you make a few mistakes along the way, you'll get the feel of how different spices impact a dish and what ingredients go well together. Usually the experiments gone wrong are still edible. Almost always, the feeling you get from making a tasty dish yourself is very satisfying.

I don't claim to be a great cook. But I've gotten to the point where I truly enjoy many of the foods I make, and I'm confident enough in them that I want friends and family members to enjoy them too.

On my birthday last November, I spent the whole day in the kitchen and was proud to cook a Shabbat dinner for the very first time. As my birthday approaches this year, I feel as though I can conquer the world, or at least a vegan cooking competition. All joking aside, I actually will be spending the day in the kitchen and then competing as a chef in Veggie Conquest 3. If you're a processed-foods kind of vegan, put forth a little effort and you, too, can make this transformation.

Photos of my tempeh-potato salad and curried lentils by Val Zimmer. Click the images for a better view.


  • At 11/06/2009 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 11/06/2009 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    lol @ mockmeatatarian. and don't sell yourself short, the challah was fantastic.

    sorry for the possible double post, login issues...

    Thanks again!

  • At 11/06/2009 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The food was really delicious, thank you again so much for having me :-D


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