No meat? No dairy? No animal byproducts? Some would say this life isn’t worth living, but chef Mayra Trabulse believes adhering to a vegan lifestyle is, in fact, living life to the fullest.
“I don’t miss anything,” Trabulse responds when asked if there is anything—ice cream, cheese, ranch dressing—that she misses now that she is 100 percent vegan. “When I think of the reasons—social, emotional, political reasons—why I don’t eat that stuff anymore, it makes it easy to not miss those foods.”
Although Trabulse is very passionate about the foods and products she eats and uses in her new 100-percent vegan downtown restaurant, Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro, she is not trying to convert anyone. Instead, Trabulse is on a mission to educate her customers about veganism and the fact that you can have flavorful, satisfying and filling meals without animal ingredients.
“The flavor is still the flavor people [know]. It’s just that I have vegan-ized the ingredients,” says Trabulse, who is half Lebanese and half Cuban, and was born and raised in Mexico City. As a teenager, she moved to Las Vegas, where she attended the Community College of Southern Nevada and UNLV for teaching and psychology. But “I wasn’t doing my ‘mojo.’ I wasn’t ‘doing me,’” she says. So she moved to Florida, and it was there that she started questioning food production, food politics and her own relationship with food. She started a healthful catering business, became a private chef and built her brand as a vegan chef, which, thankfully, has followed her back to Vegas.
Stir-frys are a good start for any novice vegan cook, she advises. They are usually packed with fresh vegetables and flavor, and any protein can be used. The traditional Asian dish can be served on its own or over rice, pasta or grain. Stir-frys are also great for busy families, couples or singles that don’t have a lot of time for dinner, and the portions can be divided or multiplied.
“Eating fresh, seasonal produce is very important,” Trabulse says, so spring onions or sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla onions should be used when making this dish in the summer, whereas more hearty onions like shallots, should be substituted when making this dish in the winter. Although it might take a bit of experimentation and practice, Trabulse believes anyone can master a few vegan dishes that can easily be made a couple of nights a week.
Chef Mayra’s Broccoli-Tofu Stir Fry With Almonds(Serves 4)
- 3 crowns of fresh broccoli, peeled and cut into small florets
- 1 package extra firm tofu, cubed small
- ½ pound chopped almonds
- 4-5 spring onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
- Ground black or cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon vegan sugar (cane sugar)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
In a mixing bowl, mix soy sauce with sake/sherry and vegan sugar and set aside. Heat a wok or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and sesame oil. Stir-fry the broccoli first, then add tofu, then garlic, almonds and onions. Stir until broccoli is tender, tofu is hot and browned and other ingredients are to your liking. Add the soy sauce mixture and season with pepper/cayenne pepper to taste.
For a gluten-free vegan meal, serve your broccoli-tofu stir-fry over quinoa. However, if gluten is not an issue, Trabulse’s dish can be served over brown rice, couscous, or she suggests whole-wheat organic pasta or spinach pasta (all of these can be found at Trader Joe’s). If serving with brown rice, Trabulse suggests adding slivered almonds, sage and a little avocado oil to the pot to steam with the rice.
Because Trabulse’s dish is very flavorful, she recommends pairing her broccoli-tofu stir-fry with a light, fresh beverage such as cucumber water. To make two quarts, wash, peel and slice two large cucumbers. Rinse and finely cut a handful of organic mint. Combine the two ingredients in a pitcher. Immerse the cucumber slices and mint in alkaline water (can be found at Trader Joe’s). Add a couple drops of orange essential oil or any citrus essential oil. Let the mixture soak for 10 minutes, then fill the pitcher with more alkaline water until the pitcher is full. From here either strain out the mint or leave it in.