Vegan holiday meal

It’s easy to prepare a vegan holiday meal

This holiday season, we want to encourage you to respect our animal friends, and the planet, as you prepare your festive holiday meals. Of course, it’s always nice to celebrate tradition, but it can also be really fun and exciting to try something new, especially if it will diminish your carbon footprint! Not only will the animals thank you, but your guests will benefit from healthy alternatives to the traditional holiday dishes. As you most likely know, food and wine are obsessions in Italy, and naturally more so at this time of year. We gather with friends and family every chance we get to share meals and celebrate, and plan the next meal!

Vegan dinner recipes

Vegan appetizers with vegan cheese

Beginning with the antipasti, instead of serving cheese, try cashew cheese, instead! You can buy it pre-made, or make it yourself at home. All you need are 150g of natural cashew nuts,
1 ½ tablespoon of food yeast, ½ lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 1 pinch of salt, 1 pinch of garlic powder, 1 pinch of pepper, 30g of cranberries and 20g of pumpkin seeds.

Put the cashews soaked in hot water for 2 hours, then drain, and pour into the food processor adding the yeast, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Blend everything well until you get a homogeneous mixture, transfer it into a bowl and add 20 g of very coarsely chopped cranberries. To shape the “cheese,” cover a low and wide bowl with a film and pour the cashew mixture over it. Press the edges together with the film and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Once ready, remove it from the bowl and remove the film, then decorate the surface with the remaining cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Serve it on a tray or on a cutting board accompanying it with crackers and breadsticks. This lovely vegan appetizer will be appealing to all!

Vegan home made pasta with broccoli

For the first course, we suggest you stick to pasta. While traditionally in Italy the first course is a lasagna with meat sauce, it is simple to switch it up and make a vegan lasagna. We love this recipe for vegan lasagna with pumpkin and cime di rapa or broccoli. The bechamel sauce can be made with oat milk instead of dairy.

You will need 300g pasta without egg, 500g cime di rapa (or broccoli), 400g pumpkin, 1 garlic clove, 1 rosemary branch, and a pinch of cinnamon. For the bechamel sauce, you’ll need
500 ml unsweetened oat milk, 40g type 2 flour, 20g olive oil, 20g sunflower oil, 1 spoonful of yeast, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Vegan béchamel

First, make the bechamel.

Put the flour and two types of oil into a small pot and mix well with a wooden spoon over a small flame. Once the roux begins to form, add some warm oat milk as you continue to mix to avoid the formation of lumps. Continue to mix and let boil for two minutes. Turn off the heat and add salt, pepper, nutmeg and yeast.

Next, roast the pumpkin. Clean the pumpkin by removing fibers and seeds, remove the skin, and cut it into thin strips. Place it on a baking sheet with oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and rosemary and bake for ten minutes at 200°C. While the pumpkin roasts, cook the broccoli  or cime di rapa. Clean the stalks and cut it into pieces. Please it in lightly salted boiling water for a few minutes to blanch. Drain it, and then pan fry in some olive oil with garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna, boil the pasta in salted water for three minutes, then drain and let rest on a tray. Cover the bottom of a pan with some of the bechamel, then a layer of pasta, more bechamel, and then a layer of pumpkin followed by a layer ofcime di rapa or broccoli. Proceed with another layer of pasta, pumpkin, andcime di rapa or broccoli, until all ingredients are in the pan. Finish with a layer of veggies covered in bechamel. Then, put the whole thing in the oven at 180°C for twenty minutes. Once the time is up, let rest ten minutes before serving.

Vegan secondo: spezzatino with seitan

If your guests are still hungry after the antipasto and primo, you can always prepare a spezzatino with seitan, instead of beef, and leave things traditional! Spezzatino is a traditional Italian beef stew, made with potatoes, peas and carrots, Substitute beef stock with veggie stock, and the beef with seitan to make this classic stew vegan-friendly! For dessert, keep it simple with fresh, seasonal fruit!

Be sure to accompany each course with a vegan wine. We suggest a bottle for every two guests. Look for wine bottles labeled “V OK”, meaning they don’t contain any animal products whatsoever.

We wish you and your loved ones the best this holiday season, and we hope you enjoy a cruelty-free meal with the help of these easy suggestions!

Vegan Wine

Vegan wine, given that wine is made from fermented grapes, it seems obvious that it would be vegan. However, some winemaking techniques are actually not vegan compatible! Normally, wines that are not vegetarian or vegan friendly will have a warning on the label so that consumers known what they are getting themselves into. But let’s look at how wine is made, why it may not be vegan, and some of the best vegetarian and vegan wines available on the market.

Normally, pressed grape juice needs to settle before the fermentation process can begin. Suspended solids sink slowly to the bottom of the tank or barrel that the wine is stored in, and as the wine matures, it clarifies itself as solids continue sinking to the bottom. Wine made this way is considered unfiltered and un refined, and definitely takes longer to produce due to the slow, natural process.

Modern markets and high demand for certain wines have called for winemakers to develop ways to speed up the process though a technique known as “fining”. Fining frequently uses animal products to speed the production process and to bind and remove unwanted substances more quickly. Fining agents are generally removed before the wine is bottled, so there is no need to mention their presence on the wine labels themselves. Fining with animal products may also be done to correct faults in some wines, like cloudiness, or too much tannin presence. This process that speeds up production is what allows for some wines to be produced and sold so cheaply.

The animal products used in the fining process can include egg whites, casein, which is a protein found in milk, gelatin, isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladders of some large fish, and chitosan, derived from the shells of crustaceans. There are, however, vegetarian and vegan alternatives to these products that winemakers can use to ensure their production remains speedy and efficient.

Non-animal based fining agents include PVPP (poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone), which is a man-made plastic that absorbs excess phenols and colors in wines. Bentonite is another fining agent, which is made of negatively charged clay. It is used frequently in white and rose wines to ensure their clarity.

So, if winemakers aren’t obliged to share the fining agents they use in their wines, how can you know if a wine is vegan or vegetarian? We’ll tell you! You may not know this, but Angela, the owner and director of the Wine School Florence, is a vegan herself, and is always working to showcase excellent vegetarian and vegan products to promote the sustainability of the industry.

If you want to learn about how wines are made, or learn more about vegan wines, get in touch with Wine School Florence for a visit to a vegan winery, or a special class on vegan wines. This is definitely a trend that will continue to grow, and we will be keeping an eye on how the winemaking industry reacts to the desire for vegan and vegetarian wines in Tuscany!

Vegan wine and food in Tuscany

Vegan wine and food in Tuscany

Some of the most popular dishes in Tuscany are vegans such as Pappa al pomodoro, Panzanella and Ribollita

Red as … Pappa al pomodoro and Chianti wine.

The pappa al pomodoro, tomato soup, is a special balance between the amount of stale bread, typical Tuscan “sciocco” that is, without salt, ripe tomatoes, some garlic cloves, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and even a hint of sugar, vegetable broth; and requires precise workmanship, made from crusty bread on the grill or in the oven, the preparation of tomato to be seeded and cut into chunks. Tradition has it that the cooking is done in a “coccio”: a terracotta pot which makes cooking slow and nice, and the food tastier. The final basil and abundant extra virgin olive oil provide an explosion of flavors that only a good glass of Vegan Chianti wine can bring out even more!

Panzanella is another traditional tuscan recipe, it  is a cold row dish, but just as tasty, where the presence of vinegar (maybe Chianti vinegar) does not allow to drink wine with. Even panzanella has as protagonist the bread, vinegar and oil, and fresh tomato. And the red onion as absolute queen, along with thinly sliced cucumbers that are the pages.

The pappa al pomodoro tomato soup and panzanella, as well as ribollita,  are simple foods in the choice of ingredients, but due the attention to the doses and cooking times (on the stove and in ‘vinegar) they need trained and experienced chefs: for this reason taste these dishes at their best is not always easy! We have chosen some restaurants  that can make you taste these specialties deeply rooted in Tuscan culinary history. Here, the pleasure of being at the table eating tasty things is naturally and simply vegan and you certainly want to try.

Vegan Tuscany and Tuscan Soups

Vegan Tuscany and Tuscan soups: how to taste a people!

Vegan Tuscany,  you can really learn to love it, but above all you will understand it, tasting its typical dishes, starting from the most simple, best known old traditional tuscan food: and among them the first place belongs, to the “ribollita”, the most famous Tuscan soup, whose traditional preparation is naturally vegan … since always!

The ingredients of this naturally Vegan recipe are simple: stale bread, black cabbage and beans (borlotti and cannellini types), plus a few other cabbage types, maybe found in the garden of the house, and culinary herbs such as garlic, red onion, celery and carrots, that will make all together the base of the taste.

FOOD AND CHARACTERS

If we look at all these ingredients we discover with amazement a true synthesis of Tuscany and the personality of its inhabitants, starting with black cabbage which is the undisputed star of this dish. It is tasty, the most flavorful of all varieties of brassicas, its leaves are humped and its coastline is very hard: just as is the typical Tuscan character: Tasty in humorous joke always ready and leathery in character with whom it is not always easy to get along.

BLACK CABBAGE, BEANS AND STALE BREAD

And what about the succulent beans? Rich in nutrients and soft (after cooking), as the rolling Tuscan hills: soft and covered of vineyards and olive groves and where you can find the best extra virgin olive oil and the famous Chianti wine. Nowadays it is easier to find vegan wine also in the Chianti area.

And what about stale bread? Valuable practice that makes us understand how the rural culture still influences the habits of an entire region, even in the city. In fact, a good Tuscan never throw away the typical saltless and slicing stale bread! And it becomes the third star of this soup that you can eat especially in the winter, when the cabbage, after hearing the first cold, becomes tastier and more nutritious! But you can also enjoy it in the summer, cold, as the peasants did when they brought it in the olive groves and ate it at lunch during the olive harvest.

BROTH OR DRY? THIS IS THE PROBLEM!

But what ultimately expresses the typical Tuscan character, of both people and the territory, in the cabbage soup is the broth. Scattered throughout the region there are various versions of the soup: the base have the same ingredients, but there is one who prepares the most liquid, with more broth, or more dry.

And now the grand finale, as it should be for an evergreen dish although it has thousands of years: a handful of fennel seeds and a little of golden olive oil, and this rustic soup, peasant, born by the harshness of the land suddenly becomes the most refined dish, valuable in its taste which includes dozens of shades as the best of the paintings of the great Tuscan artists such as Michelangelo and Raffaello Sanzio, because art, like the good life, in Tuscany is within everything, and just waiting for you to discover it in its most unthinkable corners.

Vegan Christmas

Vegan panettone and vegan prosecco or spumante

Christmas, New Year and Epiphany are three festivities, one after the other, which mark the culmination of winter and help us with their charm to overcome the most difficult season of the year. In Italy Christmas is dominated by food, the New Year by sparkling wine, Prosecco and champagne and Epiphany is characterized by sweets and candies. Among the desserts displayed on the pastries and bakeries windows stands out the “panettone”, big  cake with raisins and candied fruits, born in Milan but now spread throughout Italy, and recently we easily found also the vegan panettone, without milk, butter and eggs.

Tuscan vegan Christmas cake, natural vegan panforte

But the most cheerful representative tuscan cake, symbol of these festivities since ancient times, and especially in Tuscany, is certainly the “Panforte” a gingerbread born in the Middle Ages and was called since then “Pan Natale” or “Pan Pepatus”: Christmas bread or peppered bread. Looking at its ingredients, we find that it is… naturally and most certainly vegan! In fact Panforte is made of precious ingredients, but also simple and natural: candied orange peel, precious cedar and even melon, toasted and chopped almonds, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and pepper, combined with a bit of flour, sometimes cocoa and sugar syrup or similar, forming a dough which is put in a round plate, leaning on a light wafer made with potato starch and water: all simple ingredients, but making a unique flavor!

Tasting Italian vegan wines

In a vegan wine tasting tour you can sample some of these typical Panforte and find each one different because the details of their recipes, like the exact spices mixture are kept secret by master pastry chefs in competition with one another for the best panforte. Along with a rich slice of Panforte you could enjoy a cup of aromatic sweet wine such as Vin Santo di Toscana produced in Tuscany.

The Christmas tradition is also well represented by the Presepe, Nativity scene: the reconstruction of a poor, rural landscape with a shed where it is said Jesus of Nazareth was born. If we look carefully the many productions we meet on the street, in stores, in shop windows, in churches and in the house of friends, we realize that even the nativity scene, such as gingerbread, has an ancient tradition and is perfectly… vegan!

Ox and ass are the main characters

In Italy, the most important Presepe tradition is held by the city of Naples, where artisans have specialized in all kind of different small statues with thousand of details, but also Tuscany has considerable schools of terracotta, just take a trip in these weeks to find manger scenes, sometimes even moving, made with ancient machinery.

But there is more! If we look at the Presepe we realize that animals are very important: in fact, ox and ass are an essential part of it and we can say they are the main characters and they are as important as humans. History tells us that Jesus was born in a shed, animal’s home, among tame herbivores: men have pretended to forget it, but every year the manger can be a wise reminder!