Want to try vegan eating Mediterranean-style? But does the thought of ordering and eating something without beef leave you clammy and confused? Fear not! Read on, and you’ll be ordering vegan-style in no time – and getting your beans to boot!
Mediterranean. Greek. Lebanese. Middle Eastern. You might encounter food or restaurants that go by any of these labels. Confused? Let’s simplify – if hummus is on the menu, it’s in this category. Now, show me the beans! This is the second in a series about choosing beans not beef when eating out. You look hungry, so let’s dive in.
Cruising the Mediterranean … Menu
To make things specific and concrete, take a look at a fairly typical menu from Aladdin’s Eatery, a restaurant near our home. It’s pretty vegetarian/vegan-friendly (maybe more so than most), so very useful for our purposes. Scan through the board of fare. Is it easy for you to locate any beans on the menu? They are there, but they’re less conspicuous than they are, say, at a Mexican restaurant. The beans of the Mediterranean cuisine are typically chickpeas (a.k.a., garbanzo beans – yes, they are one and the same), lentils, kidney beans, and fava beans. Let’s find them on the menu – one course at a time.
For an appetizer, locate the hummus first to get your bearings. (See below – and click any of the images to enlarge them). Hummus is a simple, ground-up mixture of chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini (ground sesame seeds). It’s served with pita bread on the side. Think of it as the chips and salsa of a Mediterranean restaurant. For me, it’s the bellwether. If you like the hummus, you’ll probably like everything else on the menu.
Next up, how about some soup. You’ll get a hearty serving of beans if you choose the lentil soup or the vegetarian chili (which is vegan – note the vgn symbol next to the item name). Or opt for both and order the Len-Chili that – surprise -comes with some of each. If you’re not familiar with lentils, soup is a good place to get to know them. If you don’t like them, you’re only out a cup of soup – and you learned something. But chances are, they’ll become a new comfort food for you like they are for millions worldwide.
For a light and vegan-right lunch, choose from among the various Vegetarian Rolled Pitas (often called wraps elsewhere). If you choose the Hummus Garden Rolled or the Hummus Tabouli Garden Rolled, you’ll get your beans via the hummus, and you’ll get a good dose of greens and veggies too. Not too shabs!
Finally, for a big, non-beefy entree, seek out the beans once again in the Specialties portion of the menu. Did you find Jasmine’s Favorite which has both chickpeas and kidney beans atop a bed of rice? You can add some Lebanese Salata (salad) to pump up the flavor, the color, and the veggie count. Or, if you feel like trying more lentils, choose the Mujadara Plate (but hold the fried onions). It’s a mild dish that packs a nutritional wallop.
Watch Out For Rocky Shores
Like anywhere you eat outside the home, there are some challenges to eating at a Mediterranean restaurant. Here are a few tips for navigating through them:
- Olive oil is a pervasive part of the cuisine, it seems. Ask your server to hold it off your order – especially the drizzle that is often poured atop the hummus.
- Skip the falafel. Though comprised of ground up chickpeas, they are deep-fried. I can feel Dr. McDougall frowning at me when I even think about ordering them.
- Choose the Blueberry Bar (vegan) for dessert, but pass on the baklava. Though it’s tasty and syrupy sweet, it’s also an incredibly fat- and calorie-dense dessert.
Vegan Eating – Mediterranean Sans Meat
That’s our tour of the Mediterranean … sans meat. Try it yourself soon. You just might like it – a lot!! And leave a comment to share some of your Mediterranean favorites or any other great tips you can pass along.