Cookies with meat?

Cookies with meat?

Ciao a tutti!

I sometimes get frustrated from people who consistently ask me why I continue to check what is in my food. Not that I am really bothered, because I am happy to explain what it means to eat a plant-based diet; but it’s the faces they sometimes make when I check and inspect my food, that according to them could NEVER contain meat or animal products.

Humph. I beg to differ. EVERYTHING could possibly contain animal products. And even normally innocent items, like cookies, CAN and DO contain meat. Actual pieces of chopped up animals.

In southern Italy, these cookies are quite famous and if you are vegan, definitely ones to stay far, far away from.

The are called ‘Mpanatigghi in Sicilian dialect or sometimes called dolce di carne or impanatigghi and they are breaded cookies in a half-moon shape filled with a mix of almonds, walnuts, chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and….you guessed it…minced cow meat. Wow, what a way to ruin a cookie!

gli impanatigghi di modica

These cookies are a traditional, ancient recipe found in Modica, Sicily in the province of Ragusa; in fact, it is one of the many reasons why Modica is famous. If you find them anywhere else in Italy it is because they have most likely been imported from Modica.

Fortunately someone must have caught on that not everyone wants meat filled cookies, so there are some versions around that are made with eggplant. Of course, you still have to check to see if they used milk, butter, eggs or lard in the cookie dough (and yes, the traditional recipes calls for eggs and lard).

If going into a pasticceria to buy, you can just ask if they have the cookies senza carne. Or just skip those cookies altogether and pick something else.

Sicilia_Mpanatigghi

–VegItalyGuide

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Reading food labels in Italy – Lard

Reading food labels in Italy – Lard

Ciao a tutti!

Many people who travel to Italy and do not know the language can often buy products with ingredients in them that they are not aware of. Even people who are well versed in the language may mistakenly read a food label.

For example, there are many different ways to say sugar or salt, just to name a few. Knowing that sugar can be labeled sweetener or salt is also labeled sodium, can help us find products without those ingredients in them, if that is what we choose.

But there are also many different ways to say lard. Lard is basically animal fat or sometimes more specifically, pork fat. For a vegan it is essential that we understand this word and any derivatives of it.

strutto di maiale che schifo

Lard can be found in many products in Italy including:

  • breads
  • cookies
  • snack cakes
  • crackers
  • pizza crust/frozen pizzas
  • microwave meals
  • ready-made/frozen meals
  • soups

This unappetizing substance can be found under words such as:

  • Lardo – bacon-fat
  • lardo di colonnata – “high quality” fat
  • lardello di maiale – pork fat
  • Sugna – pork fat
  • Strutto – lard

These words are important to know on labels, but you also have to be real careful eating out. Many, many traditional Italian kitchens use lard in their recipes, whether it is for making the pizza dough or making cakes. Below is a video (in Italian) from a traditional pizzeria from Naples. He uses strutto in the pizza dough. For those of you wishing to know when he says it, it’s at 34-35 seconds, listen for olio extra virgine (extra virgin olive oil), then strutto.

This chef also uses strutto and milk in his gluten-free pizza Margherita. In theory, traditional pizzas from Naples should not contain lard, because as in the pizza making world, this is a “trick” to make the dough softer and many chefs should not use it in their pizza dough.

One general tip: the softer the pizza crust, the more chance is that they used lard.

Anyhow, if they pre-make all the pizza dough in the morning (which usually they do), make sure it doesn’t have the strutto. Although the dough shouln’t contain lard, in some of the regions of the Italian countryside, such as Abruzzo, Molise, Campania – where there is still a strong tradition of farming – you may find it in many more recipes in general.

Remember, every chef has a different way of preparing food and unless you are familiar with the traditional kitchens and recipes of Italy, you will never know what is in your food! Regions change, cooks change and ingredients change.

Italy is vegan friendly if you know what to look for.

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Famous Vegans in Italy

Famous Vegans in Italy

Ciao a tutti!

We have a list of some famous Italians that are vegan (or at least vegetarian) in Italy.
They may or may not be known outside of Italy, but if you’re looking for vegan music, wish to choose TV shows from vegan actors/actresses or simply want to know more about famous people in Italy, these would be your people:

* Franco Battiato, singer and director (vegetarian)

* Adriano Celentano, singer and TV personality (stands up for animal rights, labels himself as a vegetarian)

* Giorgio Celli, scientist (animal rights)

* Marco Columbro, TV personality (vegetarian)

* Manuela Di Centa, cross country ski, olympic champion and politician (vegetarian)

* Margherita Hack, astronomer, politician and scientist (had never eaten meat in her life, both parents were vegetarians. She could easily bike 75 miles. She passed away in 2013 at 91 years old.

* Jovanotti, singer (him and his wife are both vegetarians)

* Paola Maugeri, author (vegan, says that revolution starts on the dinner plate)

* Gianni Morandi, singer (vegan)

* Red Canzian, singer (Vegan and promoter of veganism. He can be found around Italy talking about veganism. His choice to be vegan is for ethical reasons.)

* Red Ronnie, TV personality and journalist (Vegan and raising 2 vegan children. Has not taken antibiotics in over 15 years)

* Mario Tozzi, geologist and scientist (vegetarian)

* Professor Umberto Veronesi, oncologist and former Minister of Italian Healthcare (stands up for animal rights and a vegetarian lifestyle)

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Nutritional Yeast in Italy

Nutritional Yeast in Italy

Ciao a tutti!

We have had some of our readers asking about Nutritional Yeast and if it is possible to find it in Italy. The good news is YES!

Nutritional yeast can be found pretty easily, if you have a bit of patience. Very first thing to know: the vocabulary.

Nutritional yeast is lievito in scaglie in Italian; you may also see it written as lievito alimentare or lievito alimentare in scaglie

Brewer’s yeast is lievito di birra or lievito di birra in scaglie

So make sure you are getting the right one. The trick is sometimes the companies will have a bad translation. We saw lievito alimentare in scaglie that was actually translated in English as Brewer’s yeast, so it can be confusing. This is, however, the correct product.

lievito alimentare

If you get a chance, check the label. Check for key words. A label like this will indicate the correct product:

Lievito alimentare maltato in scaglie biologico.

Un prezioso concentrato di nutrienti completamente naturale e biologico, saporito e delicatamente salato per arricchire ogni preparazione e ottimo sostituto ad una grattuggiata di formaggio, permette di arricchire i propri piatti e trarre benefici salutistici allo stesso tempo con una semplice spolverata. Biologico e nel pratico formato in barattolo apri e chiudi per garantire sempre la freschezza e la comodità di utilizzo.
Particolarmente indicato nelle diete che escludono ingredienti di origine animale grazie all’apporto di vitamine del gruppo B, tra cui la B12, e proteine vegetali.

Ingredienti: lievito alimentare in scaglie bio 79%, farina di malto d’orzo bio 20%, sale.

Highlighted words to look for are lievito alimentare (nutritional yeast), ottimo sostituto ad una grattuggiata di formaggio, (a great substitute for grated cheese ), indicato nelle diete che escludono ingredienti di origine animale (indicated for diets that exclude ingredients of animal origin), and vitamine del gruppo B, tra cui la B12, (B-Vitamins, especially B12)

Here are a few things you will have to take into consideration:

#1.) Which city are you in? Depending on where you are in Italy may be the determining factor for finding nutritional yeast. Smaller cities, rural areas, or more traditional villages may not have stores that carry it. It may take a trip to the next town or a city nearby.

#2.) Which grocery store are you shopping in? Some stores are more vegan and health friendly than others. Just like anywhere else, you have your big superchains and then you have smaller stores. Most of the health food stores like NaturaSi should carry the yeast, but again just depends what kind of request for it they have in the supermarket. Most of the big superchains, like Esselunga or Tigros (northern Italy), La Coop (central Italy) or Conad (southern Italy) just to name a few, have started to have health food isles specifically for vegan or gluten-free food.

lievito_alimentare-macrolibrarsi04

#3.) North, South, East or West? Going back to location: where you are in Italy will depend on your nutritional yeast success. Northern Italy is more developed than other parts of Italy and there is a large population of vegans around. It will not be difficult around areas like Milan. Southern Italy can get a bit tricky. Again, this just depends on the chain and location where you are. For example, we visited the Conad in Modica in the province of Ragusa, Sicily, however they did not carry nutritional yeast. They did have rice milk and soy milk, though. And another store we visited, Cash and Carry did not have it either. We did find some delicious vegan cookies, though!

#4.) Erboristeria. The Erboristeria is not a grocery store; literally translated it would be “herbal supplement” store. Although we browsed some of these shops for vegan snacks, we have not had success finding nutritional yeast. However, we have not been to every single Erboristeria in Italy. We know at least one in Italy that carries it: Ghinato Erboristeria in Sassari, Sardegna. Not sure if they have it in-house, but you can get it on their website here. Don’t rule it out; we have found many herbal teas, vegan cookies and jams, seitan and tofu and health alternatives at the local Erboristeria. It is definitely worth a trip!

#5.) Online shops. If you are in Italy, cannot seem to find it, looked everywhere and you’re staying for a couple of weeks or more you can try some online stores. Macrolibrarsi sells it on their website. There are also several companies out of the UK or Germany where you can find nutritional yeast. It is usually free shipping anywhere in the European Union and delivery is about 3-4 days, depending on the company. Of course, you can get it express delivery for an extra charge.

#6.) Bring your own. Yes. You can also travel with your own. Personally for short trips, I would not worry about it. Skipping a few days of N.Y is not going to hurt anyone. If you do bring it, make sure it is packed nicely in the suitcase. Air pressure in the airplane could cause the plastic bottle to pop open and that would not be so nice to have yeast all over the clothing.

Lievito-in-scaglie

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Vegan Sicilian Arancine

Vegan Sicilian Arancine

Vegan Sicilian Arancine

Ciao a tutti! We have a classic Sicilian recipe today, thanks to Betty Alesi at La Vegana Siciliana. Grazie mille, Betty!

There has been a huge request for vegan arancine! These stand no chance against the normally “meat-filled” arancine found at Sicilian bars….actually these are much, much better! And of course, very easy to make!

Arancine Siciliane Veg

Ingredients for 10 arancine:

500 gr of rice for risotto (could be brown rice or arborio)
one package of saffron
salt and pepper, to taste
bread crumbs, to taste
sunflower seed oil, for frying

For the filling:

4 teaspoons of flour
water
Mix these together to form a paste; should not be too liquid.

For the seasoning:

tomato sauce
peas

If you want the reproduction of “arancine alla carne” (meat arancine)
“meatless” sauce or seitan will work

OR

If you want the reproduction of “arancine al burro”
use seitan cut in small cubes
faux mozzarella or *creamy white sauce

*for the white sauce, or besciamella in Italian mix 250 ml of soymilk and a spoonful of riceflour. Melt the flour in the soymilk and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Put it onto the stove on low heat and keep stirring until in starts to become a bit thicker.

Photos:

Arancine with mushrooms and tomato sauce

arancine vegane 1

Arancine with tofu based tomato sauce and peas

arancine vegane 2

Cook the rice in water. A little bit before it is done add the saffron and a pinch of salt. Once cooked, take it off the stove and without rinsing, let it cool to room temperature. Add black pepper and place into the fridge for a couple hours. Usually the rice can be made in the morning and the arancine can be fried in the afternoon.

To make the arancine, take the rice and cup the palm of your hand. Add the seasonings and put the rice into your hand, squeezing the ball of rice with both hands. Put it into the flour mix and then roll it in the breadcrumbs. Put into boiling sunflower seed oil and fry.

Buon appetito!!!!

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All vegan supermarket to open in Italy!

All vegan supermarket to open in Italy!

Ciao a tutti!

We are all familiar with supermarkets and going down isle after isle, checking product labels, looking for our favorite non-dairy milk, or trying to find that sweet treat that is made without eggs, butter, lard or something else weird. But, what if you could just walk into a supermarket and grab anything, I mean anything and not actually have to read labels; not actually ask someone if the product is vegan friendly; not actually have to go home and research to find out what is in the food.

You can already. VEGANZ (website in German) is the original 100% ALL-VEGAN supermarket that opened in Berlin, Germany in 2011. It was founded by Jan Bredack who had previously been working for Mercedes-Benz. It is the first of its kind 100% ALL-VEGAN supermarket in Europe.

veganz deutschland

Here you can find over 6,000 products from 200 different companies from about 30 different countries. In fact, Europe in general is way ahead of the USA when it comes to veganism. Berlin is really the hotspot right now and you will find anything from faux fish, to faux pate’, to sweets, to detergents, to….well, just about anything.

They also have catering, an online shop, workshops and cooking classes! And in the Hamburg location they have vegan film night! There is also talk of a vegan Italian restaurant set to be built atop one of the locations.

But the news is, is very soon one will also be opening in Italy! The founder has started to spread word about a location in Milan, Italy. Although nothing seems to be currently in construction, we can wait and see how it progresses. They have several other locations through Germany, one in Vienna, Austria and one in Prague, Czech Republic and wish to expand into the UK as well.

We heard an anticipated open date of 2015…so we will keep our readers posted! In the meantime, though, you can grab some vegan pesto at your local VEGANZ and enjoy some pasta with pesto! A dopo!

veganz deutschland 2

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Eggplant dishes

Eggplant dishes

Ciao a tutti!

Eggplant, called melanzana pronounced mel-an-zahn-a, is a popular Italian vegetable although not originally from Italy. It is actually native to India. It is one of the night shade vegetables and can be found just about anywhere in Italy, since it grows well in warmer climates.

Melanzana is full of water and to get the recipes to turn out good, it is best to cut the melanzana a day before you want to cook it, put salt on it and let it sit for a day. The salt helps to bring out the water so it isn’t as soggy when cooking.

melanzane21

The most famous dish known to contain melanzane is melanzane alla parmigiana found in the regions of northern Italy and other areas of Italy. It is specifically from Parma in the Emilia Romagna region, hence the name “alla Parmigiana”. It is not traditionally vegan. The parmesan and mozzarella can be substituted for faux parmesan or mozzarella cheese. The recipe does not call for pasta, but some Italian-American restaurants will add pasta to the recipe. This is, in Italian eyes, a no-no.

Another popular way to eat melanzane in Italy is to grill them. Grilled melanzane can be found pre-packaged in supermarkets, severed freshly grilled in restaurants or can easily be made at home. You do not necessarily have to have a grill, however it does work best. Just put into a frying pan with some olive oil. Remember to let sit with some salt for a day before grilling, otherwise it will take forever to cook and may end up soggy.

Melanzane sott’olio “Eggplants in Olive Oil” is delicious when eaten as a side dish or served on top of sandwiches. It can be homemade, although takes a while to wait for them to marinate and jar them. The same versions can be store bought or purchased at local markets where people make them at home. These versions are vegan, as the ingredients are simply eggplant, salt, oil, vinegar and sometimes hot peppers, basil, parsley or garlic is added.

melanzane sott olio

You can also use melanzane to make a tomato/eggplant sauce for the pasta. This is a very easy way, since you do not have to wait for the eggplant to loose any water. You can dice it up and put it into a pan with boiling water and salt, to cook it down first. When it is nice and soft, strain it and add it into another pan that has been prepared with the tomato sauce, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and oil. Let it cook down for about 30 minutes, or until the melanzana is very tender.

There is also caponata, a traditional Sicilian side dish appetizer with melanzane and black olives. It has been known to be used as a main dish as well. The base ingredients are cooked vegetables, eggplant, black olives, celery, capers and tomatoes and is vegan, although there are some areas like Palermo where versions of it have included fish or octopus. It goes great with anything and can also be used on toasted bread, sandwiches, on rice, pasta or eaten just as is! If you don’t want to make it, you can also purchase it in the supermarket.

caponata-vetro-p

Try it breaded, too! Melanzane can be sliced and put into the oven with breadcrumbs. A little bit of olive oil and salt and voila! It can also be deep fried or if you don’t have a deep fryer, you can fry them on the stove top. Adding the bread crumbs helps it to have a nice crunchy taste for a buon sapore!

Mangia Veg!!

VegItalyGuide

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