Canadian-Egyptian actor Mena Massoud is best known for playing the titular role in Disney's live-action Aladdin, but most recently he’s turned his love of plant-based eating into a road trip across North America to discover the cream of the crop in plant-based eating. And many of Vancouver’s plant based restaurants have graced its pages with recipe contributions.

In 2018, Mena Massoud founded his company Evolving Vegan, which aims to introduce people to the benefits of plant-based living with a no-judgement attitude. These days, Evolving Vegan is a lifestyle that now includes a part cookbook/part travel guide that features 80 drool-worthy, globally inspired recipes we can all (try) to put together. 

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Credit: Alexi Lubomirski

Actor and cookbook author, Mena Massoud

Massoud began cutting meat out of his diet in 2015 after he and his friends began researching the impacts of animal consumption on the body and in the environment. They slowly started cutting animal products out of their diets and Massoud says of the early days, "I started feeling a lot better," adding, "I had more energy, I felt lighter and I was making progress in the gym I had never made before so that definitely encouraged me to keep going." 

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“I’m a big believer in doing it slowly and I am also a big supporter of people not wanting to go completely vegan but are doing their best to evolve in the direction of plant-based eating." Massoud adds, "even if people cut meat out of their diet just one day a week, they're evolving in the right direction."

"There was no shortage of great plant based options in Vancouver - thats for sure" says Massoud. So he obviously asked many of our local plant based favourites if they wanted to include recipes from the pages of their own menus, including; Virtuous Pie, Heirloom, Chickpea, Indigo Age Café, and MeeT and also includes conversations with these revolutionary restaurateurs.

Ready to dig in? He's shared one of his favourites from Virtuous Pie, below.

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"Meatball" Skillet from Virtuous Pie

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We've come to love our local favourite Virtuous Pie for their plant-based handcrafted pizza, but they also serve up some tasty appetizers. Massoud got his hands on their "meatball" skillet recipe and we can't wait to try it. 

Ingredients:

For the Ricotta:

1 cup blanched almonds

1 lemon (zest)

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons of neutral oil

Sea salt and black pepper

For the “meatballs”:

8oz extra-firm tofu, drained

2oz white button mushrooms

½ small yellow onion

1 garlic clove

1 can lentils, drained, rinsed

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp cornstarch

½ cup bread crumbs

1 tsp Italian seasoning

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp red pepper flakes

Sea salt and black pepper

 For the sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 can crushed tomatoes

¼ tsp crushed paprika

¼ ground cumin

Sea salt and black pepper

To serve:

Grated parmesan cheese

Fresh basil 

Instructions:

  1. Make the ricotta: put almonds into a medium bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Let it soak overnight (or at least 6 hours), then drain.
  2. Transfer into a food processor and add lemon zest, lemon juice, oil and water. Pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy (not too soft!) Season with salt and pepper, set aside
  3. Making the meatballs: squeeze any excess water from the tofu, crumble it and set aside.
  4. (Clean food processor) then place mushrooms, onion and garlic in the processor until finely chopped. Add tofu, lentils, yeast, parsley, cornstarch, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture forms a chunky shape. Put mixture in a bowl and refrigerate. 
  5. Preheat oven to 450°F
  6. In medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and cook until soft. Add the crushed tomatoes, paprika, cumin, water, season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened (about 15 minutes.)
  7. Shape chilled mixture into balls and place on an oiled baking sheet (about 20 balls.) Brush with oil and bake on top rack until golden brown (about 15 minutes.)
  8. Add cooked meatballs to sauce. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  9. Top meatballs with sauce, a dollop of vegan ricotta, parmesan and basil.
  10. Bon Appetit!

Excerpted from Evolving Vegan by Mena Massoud, published by Tiller Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2020 by Evolving Vegan, Inc. All rights reserved. Photo credit: Andrew Rowley

 

 

Evolving Vegan is available now on amazon.ca and on chapters.indigo.ca