Robin Robertson has spent many years exploring the world’s cuisines, which led her to discover that virtually every culture enjoys a variety of traditional vegan dishes.
A longtime vegan and a former restaurant chef, Robertson (robinrobertson.com) has written more than 20 cookbooks, including the best-sellers “Quick-Fix Vegan,” “Vegan Planet,” “Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker” and “One-Dish Vegan.” She has also written for VegNews Magazine, Vegetarian Times, Cooking Light and other magazines.
Her most recent cookbook, “Vegan Without Borders” ($40), is a collection of her go-to recipes and most cherished cuisines, including the slow-simmered vegetable stews of France, lightning-quick Asian stir fries, the simple roasted vegetables and pasta dishes of Italy, and flavorful dals of India.
The book features plant-based recipes but also recipes that, though not traditionally vegan, are easily made so simply by swapping in the right plant-based ingredients. The recipes include family-style comfort foods, global ethnic favorites and even some creative new dishes inspired by the classics.
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Whether for economic or religious reasons (or both), many cultures have predominantly plant-based diets, where meat is either not eaten at all or eaten more as a condiment or flavoring rather than the main event.
Injera is a spongy crepe-like flatbread with a distinctive sour flavor that is an important part of Ethiopian meals, because it doubles as an eating utensil. It is served on a large platter, almost as an edible tablecloth, with portions of various stews and other dishes mounded on it. The injera is then torn off in pieces and used to scoop up the food to eat it. To make injera, you should begin a few days in advance, since the batter, made with teff flour, must ferment for at least one to three days.
Makes 4 injera
1 cup teff flour (see Note)
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water (105 degrees)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
Put the teff flour in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Add the yeast, then slowly stir in 1 cup of the water until smooth. Cover the bowl loosely and set aside at room temperature (around 70 degrees) for one to three days to allow it to ferment (longer is better).
By the third day the batter will have a “fermented” smell, and there should be small bubbles on the surface. Stir in the salt. The batter should be similar to thin pancake batter. If it’s too thick, stir in as much of the remaining 1/3 cup of water as needed. Set aside.
Lightly oil a nonstick pan or cast-iron 10-inch skillet with grapeseed oil and heat over medium heat. Pour about 1/2 cup of batter in the center of the skillet, then tilt the skillet to coat evenly and spread the batter. Let the injera cook for about 1 minute, or until holes begin to form on the surface. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges pull away from the sides and the top surface is dry. Remove the injera from the pan and set aside for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Injera is best eaten on the same day it is made, but if you must store it, allow it to cool completely before stacking and then wrap tightly to keep soft until needed. It can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Note: Teff is a tiny, nutritious grain that contains no gluten. It is available both whole and ground into flour through various online sources.
Per injera: 175 calories (21 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 133 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Fragrant spices and dried fruits are key to this Moroccan stew traditionally made in a pot by the same name. Tagine pots are typically made of clay, often painted or glazed. It has a flat circular base and a large cone-shaped cover that is designed to circulate the condensation. A Dutch oven or other large covered pot may be used instead. Serve the tagine over couscous or rice accompanied by a small bowl of Harissa Sauce for those who like it spicy hot.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil or cup water
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
6 cups chopped kale (thick stems removed and discarded)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup dried apricots, halved or quartered
3 pitted dates, halved
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup pitted green olives, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley
Heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, sweet potato, bell pepper and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, salt and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to bring out the flavors. Add the kale, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juice, and broth. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
While the tagine is cooking, soak the apricots for 30 minutes in hot water. Drain, cut in half and add to the pot, along with the dates, peas, olives and lemon zest. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, then taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Per serving, based on 4: 446 calories (20 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 80 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 1,490 milligrams sodium, 15 grams dietary fiber.