Vegan Greek Snacks
July 3, 2004 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow we'll be cheering for the Greeks over the Portuguese. As such, we want to serve great Greek snacks and/or desserts (things we can put out and then forget about the kitchen for the rest of the game). Problem: two guests are vegans. Googling hasn't returned anything interesting or trustworthy. What I'd love is a recipe someone has made before and trusts. I don't want to get burned, since our budget is tight, and then we'd have no snacks. In a pinch, we're willing to make generically Mediterranean food instead, and I'll probably have hummus, at least. Any tips?
posted by livii to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Stuffed grape leaves! Easily vegan, great snacks, very yummy. There are tons of different recipes for the filling. I like them with tomato, onion, mint, and lemon juice (in addition to the rice), myself. The first result in that Google search is pretty close. That may be the more Turkish version, not sure. I'm sorry I can't give you a concrete recipe myself.

Give yourself some time to roll all of them, though. And be prepared to curse often at the grape leaves if you've never dealt with them before. They tear easily.
posted by whatnotever at 8:37 PM on July 3, 2004

posted by johnny7 at 8:37 PM on July 3, 2004

posted by johnny7 at 8:40 PM on July 3, 2004


Your google-fu is out of order . . .
posted by ashbury at 9:35 PM on July 3, 2004

Tzatziki!!! It's a great snack and an excellent party food. I've made this recipe several times and know it works.

Tzatziki (Yogurt-Cucumber Dip)
4 medium cucumbers or 1 large seedless cucumber
1 pint plain low-fat yogurt
2 T. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 t. lemon juice
¼ c. snipped fresh dill
¼ c. or less chopped fresh chives
½ t. salt and freshly ground pepper
Kalamata olives (optional garnish)

Peel and seed the cucumbers (a spoon scraped down the center of a split cuke makes seeding easy). Slice and allow to stand for 20 minutes, then rinse, drain and chop finely. Drain yogurt 1 hour in cheesecloth bag to remove water. Combine all ingredients, except olives, and chill at least one hour to blend flavors. (Serve with pita toasts)

Pita Toasts
12 pita breads
¾ c. unsalted butter, softened
3 small garlic cloves, minced
2 t. Dijon mustard
2-3 T. lemon juice
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. mixed fresh herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, chives, tarragon, thyme, etc.)
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 325°. Split each pita, then cut into quarters. In a bowl, mix butter with garlic, mustard and lemon juice. Add cheese, herbs and salt and mix again. Spread one side of each pita quarter very lightly with mixture and place buttered side up in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. Toasts keep several days in a plastic bag.
posted by boomchicka at 9:46 PM on July 3, 2004 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the grape leaves idea, I think we might try that. Glad for the insider tip about the leaves tearing easily, that would have driven me nuts and made me think I was doing it wrong. I'm not a very confident cook.

And thanks for the other tips, but spanakopita and tzatiki are out due to the dairy. Although I'll be making myself some tzatiki anyway since I like it so much. :) And the pita recipe looks scrumptious, and I'll be saving that for a night these particular friends aren't over. :)

I did do that google search, though, and also one for vegan since the veggie options all seemed to have dairy, eggs, honey, etc., but the vegan one was sparse and nothing looked good (there was a spanakopita made with mashed potatoes and tofu instead of cheese - yuck!) So I was hoping for a little more insider knowledge than google gives.
posted by livii at 9:59 PM on July 3, 2004

Oops, just noticed the vegan thing. Sorry! I don't see why the tzatziki recipe wouldn't work just as well with soy yogurt; I've never tried it though. My next recommendation would be tabouli, for which I do not have a recipe. Again, not Greek specifically but so tasty!
posted by boomchicka at 9:59 PM on July 3, 2004

Uh, do you guys know what vegan means? Doesn't eat meat, doesn't consume dairy or eggs? That dolmades recipe has beef, the first dozen or so spanikopita recipes have eggs or dairy, and your Tzatziki recipe calls for cheese, butter and yoghurt.

Here's what I suggest:
hummous--buy it or make it; it's almost always vegan
< ahref="">falafel--make it from scratch or buy a mix
vegan pita bread
cut carrots and cucumbers and lettuce or cabbage

Your vegan guests can make pita sandwiches with the veggies, falafel and hummous. You can have additional non-vegan options for your other guests.

You could also have olives for the eating.

Add some yummy greek wine or ouzo. Enjoy.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:07 PM on July 3, 2004

Oops. falafel.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:09 PM on July 3, 2004

If you do go with stuffed grape leaves, here are some more tips.

The leaves come stuffed in a jar full of water. For some reason I don't recall, my girlfriend (she's from Cyprus) takes the leaves she is going to use out of the jar and soaks them in warm water. I think it helps them separate, perhaps. Or maybe the water they are packed in is really salty? I forget. But it can't hurt to soak them.

They will be most prone to ripping when you separate the individual leaves out. They're often stuck together and rolled up and such, so be patient and careful here. But don't feel bad if you throw away a few leaves, because there should be plenty there. Some of the leaves will come out of the jar too ripped to use, anyway.

It works really well to have one person separating leaves and passing them to another person who stuffs and rolls them. You can use two saucers or plates to swap back and forth and setup a little assembly line. The person separating leaves should pinch off the stem (thumbnail works well) and lay the leaf flat on their plate. The smooth side should be down, with the bumpy veins facing up towards you so that they end up on the inside. Then the flattener can hand the plate to the stuffer and get the other plate back, clean, to flatten another leaf.

The leaves I've used are shaped like the one on this page. With the base of the leaf towards you, put a spoonful of stuffing in the middle of the leaf, and, like this recipe (from a vegan cookbook) says, "Fold the bottom up, the sides toward the middle, then roll toward the top." The outside should then be smooth and continuous, because the top lobe of the leaf wraps around the entire thing.

My girlfriend puts them all in a large pot, adds some water (and maybe olive oil?), and steams them all together. Other recipes say bake. Not sure which is better.

If the leaves are too much of a pain, then you can just snack on spoonfuls of the filling. It's really tasty by itself, and if there's any leftover it won't last long.
posted by whatnotever at 11:20 PM on July 3, 2004

Woah. I make stuffed grape vine leaves all the time -- but for a first-timer, I wouldn't recommend making them before the big soccer game. Just takes too much time, plus it makes a big mess in the kitchen. Remember, you gotta roll each one of them. Takes time and practice.

I'd whip up a good Greek salad. Not a typical "snack" but very quick. very easy. very vegan-friendly. You can go "village style" and just use cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Or, if you want, you can make a typical salad w/ lettuce et. all. Don't forget the kalamata olives, peppers, and feta cheese -- on the side, of course, so vegans don't need to pick apart their salad.

Make (or buy) your dressing. I don't have a recipe, I do it to taste. Start with a mixture of 2/3 olive oil 1/3 vinegar, plus: salt, pepper, garlic (powder or the real deal, minced), oregano, onion powder (or onion salt). Shake it all up, see how it tastes. Make corrections from there.

If you're gonna go the grapevine route, a few tips:
1) as stated above, soak the raw leaves in warm water for about 10 minutes before you use them. It makes them easier to work with.
2) when you boil your dolmades, you'll want you use a broth (veggie, I suppose, for the vegans) to give them some flavor.
3) when boiling them, put a few plates on top the stack of dolmades (in the pot) while they cook, this keeps them from opening up when you cook them.
4) It's really worth your while to whip up some avgolemeno sauce to serve w/ the dolmades. Not vegan friendly, but can be made on the side. Beat two/three eggs. Stir in the broth you used to boil the grapeleaves. Squeeze in a few lemons. Stir quickly and throughly. Add some cornstarch if you'd prefer a thicker sauce...
posted by herc at 1:03 AM on July 4, 2004

Sacrilege! Hummus is not Greek; it's extremely hard to find anywhere in Greece, but here in the US it gets lumped together with the other Greek dips as most Greek restaurants here are owned by Arabs who love hummus...

At any rate, for a truly vegan dip, melitzanosalata kicks butt and for not-quite vegan, try taramosalata (caution: contains fish roe which is not the best, party-breath-wise :-)
posted by costas at 9:10 AM on July 4, 2004

And speaking of bad breah, another great Greek vegan dip is skordalia...
posted by costas at 9:12 AM on July 4, 2004

Thanks, everyone! The salad (onion, cucumber, tomato and olives with dressing) is marinating in the fridge, we have hummus (sorry...) and tzatiki, pitas and chips, and ouzo and red wine. Also veggies and fruit, since it's all so nice and fresh right now. Should be great!

(I didn't see the skordalia recipe until after we got back from the store, but I'll be keeping that one for the future, it looks yummy.)
posted by livii at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2004

Mmmm.. Skordalia. My papou made the best skordalia. Its taste lingered for days.... Gonna have to make some myself, thanks for the link, costas.
posted by herc at 2:39 PM on July 4, 2004

Well, just in case, after I posted the skordalia link, I saw that they're using bread, which may not work quite as nice with the fluffier american breads, so here's a potato-based one (really most of my family uses potatoes as well, the texture is nicer).
posted by costas at 4:29 PM on July 4, 2004

Oh, and before I forget, falafel isn't Greek either (FYI, I do like falafel). Really, rule of thumb, anything with chick peas is North African, not Greek or Italian...
posted by costas at 4:31 PM on July 4, 2004

I was out of town when this was posted - sorry. But for future reference, Greek cuisine is actually very easy for vegetarians and (if you sidestep the dairy) vegans. The classic Greek diet really doesn't include so very much meat (the stuffed grape leaves, for example, are quite commonly made without meat), and generally this Mediterannean style of eating is very, very healthy. Briami is one of my all-time favorite Greek dishes, totally vegan - though maybe a little too heavy for summer. Also, there's almost no such thing as a Greek meal without lots of little salads: just steam or grill any kind of vegetable, let it cool, drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over top, and perhaps sprinkle with good oregano or maybe fresh basil. Some common vegetables to do this way are potatoes, beets, greens, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, red peppers, squash. Even vegetables that I normally can't stand (like cauliflower) are good this way.

Also, Gemista, or stuffed vegetables, are wonderful (meateaters can add ground beef if they wish), and Melitzana Imam (baked eggplant) is a little bit of heaven. I also love these giant baked beans, and Spanakorizo (spinach rice) is a classic, and shouldn't be overlooked (you can use fresh mint instead of dill in this - very nice). And, oooh-oooh! - one of my big favorites, Fava (split pea puree)... So many great possibilities! Here's a good site for Greek recipes, and here's another.
posted by taz at 5:35 AM on July 5, 2004 [3 favorites]

Taz is dead on with the gigantes recommendation—those things can be great.

A google search for poikilia (among other things, the snacks you can get when you're drinking) turns up a lot of unrelated stuff, which is too bad because it would be just the thing.
posted by kenko at 9:32 AM on July 5, 2004

Inspired by this thread I made taz's recommendation of baked aubergine last night. Delicious, a definite addition to my veggie recipe book. Cheers, taz.
posted by biffa at 2:01 AM on July 6, 2004

biffa, this is also called "Imam Bayildi", and a great story/folk tale about that dish (and how it got its name) is that it is so delicious that when the Imam (Turkish religious leader) tasted it, he fainted from the pleasure.

Now, here's a tip not to be missed if you are grilling: instead of baking the eggplant for the Melitizanosalata mentioned above, put the eggplant straight into the hot coals (you can also do this with red peppers) until the skin is black and charred, then put it/them in a plastic lidded container or paper bag for a while to ease peeling before preparing the salad. Tiny pieces of charred skin that get into the dish will only increase the delicious "smoky" flavor. Or just slice it into long strips after peeling and drizzle olive oil on top with your choice of seasoning - incredibly good. And while you are at it (not for the vegans) take a slice of feta cheese, top it with a big, round, thin slice of tomato and place it on a little aluminum foil "plate" (double foil) with the edges turned up, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle oregano or fresh basil on top and put this on the grill for a little while. Feta is wonderful, but preparing it this way turns it into something else - slightly creamy and somewhat muted, more nuanced, and really, really delicious.

Also regarding melitzanosalata, each and every one you try will be different - so you can definitely experiment and customize. Everybody has his own recipe, and I've had great ones that were almost white and very, very creamy, and others that were little more than the mashed, cooked eggplant with garlic, olive oil and vinegar. My favorite tends to be the ones that are less white and creamy, and I like mine with bits of crushed walnut mixed in.

And kenko, its probably easier to find information for the little Greek appetizer dishes as "mezes" or "mezedes", which are offered when alcohol is served. Mezedes are always plates with an assortment of small salads and tidbits; grilled octopus, taramasalata, fava, and olives might make a mezedes platter, for example, or tiny meatballs, sliced hard boiled eggs, tomato, melitzanosalata, and cheese. The most basic mezes would be olives, feta and tomato. Always with bread on the side.

Mezes are most often served in the afternoon or early evening along with wine, beer, ouzo, raki, etc., and since the point of mezes is to keep you from drinking on an empty stomach, some slightly fatty includes are a good idea. Here is one that is just wonderful: kolokithakia (simple deep-fried zucchini slices), or - even better - deep fried zucchini flowers, served with tzatziki (mentioned above). Dip the zucchini in the tzatziki, chew, swallow, and smile. A lot.
posted by taz at 11:40 PM on July 6, 2004

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