By Diana Edelman
Israel-born Estee Raviv is one of those inspirational women with passion, doing something they love. For the mother of three, it just so happens one of her many passions is vegan cooking. In November 2016, the self-taught chef released her first cookbook, a gorgeous ode to her Mediterranean-Israeli heritage. Packed with plant-based recipes, Raviv’s “Oy Vey Vegan” delivers easy-to-make recipes that aim to improve health and wellness.
Wanting to know more about her journey, we recently chatted with the Portland, Ore. resident to talk all things vegan and cooking.
When did you go vegan? Why?
I went vegan about five years ago. It was a process. I was never a meat-eater, but I did eat dairy. Gradually, I started going vegan for health purposes mainly.
How has your life changed since going vegan?
Since I went vegan, it has changed tremendously. I feel so much better. I feel very energetic and very productive. I even lost some weight. I feel like my whole system is working so much better — my digestive system, my mood, everything.
I am a self-taught chef. I am more of an artist so for me, cooking was always an artistic outlet, a therapy. I am very passionate about cooking and I enjoy it very much. I taught myself to a professional level.
What was your inspiration for “Oy Vey Vegan”?
I would say my journey is the inspiration. With Oy Vey, I decided because I felt so good after going vegan, I wanted to share my journey with the world. So, I basically shared the recipes I was making for my family, my kids. Inspiration was everywhere. I was influenced by my background – I grew up in Israel on the Mediterranean and come from a Jewish family, so I recreated a lot of traditional Jewish dishes into the vegan world.
What do you hope your readers get from the book?
The first thing I want to do is prove to [readers] that being vegan is not compromising on food, on real, good food. Most people think that if you are vegan, all you eat is leaves, that there isn’t really anything else to eat. I want to prove vegan food can be very versatile, filling and good. I also want people to see that it is very easy to make. I am not a professional chef and I did it. I think everyone who wants to change their life, identity and health can do that in a very easy way. Most of my recipes are being built from just a few ingredients. They can go a long way in many of my recipes. I want them not to be afraid to go into the kitchen, even if they are not professional chefs, and to prove to them vegan food is a whole new world that is so much better than eating meat and dairy.
How long did it take you to assemble these recipes?
It took me three years to write the book.
What makes Israel a place to visit?
I think the culture, the atmosphere, the people, the food of course. The fact that Israel is a melting pot for so many cultures and Jews came to Israel from all around the world, so you can find food from around the world. The climate in Israel is amazing, year-round. The people are warm and welcoming and happy.
What’s your favorite recipe?
That’s a hard question! I love stuffed peppers. It is a good I grew up on and I love making my stuffed pepper each time a little bit differently. That is very much one of my childhood dishes that I recreated into the vegan world. It is stuffed with pearl barley, lentils and herbs and all kinds of vegetables. I cook it with a special red sauce I make.
What’s one dish every reader must make?
I would probably say the tahini oatmeal cookies are out of this world. They are to die for. It is Mediterranean and a good one because it’s easy and it’s delicious.
What’s next for you?
I am working on my next book that is going to be “Oy Vey Vegan” number two, and I am currently doing TV segments on a regular basis. What I want is to have my own vegan cooking show on the Food Network. I want to be the Israeli Giada de Laurentiis. She is the Italian one, I want to be the Israeli, healthy plant-based guru on the Food Network. There is a big need for it, especially in America with people getting sick, being obese and having so many health problems here. I believe it all comes from food. I believe food is medicine, so that’s what I want.