#VeganMoFo Day 26, part deux: breakfast potato … Nachos? Kinda? With kale, purple potato slices, black beans, and cashew sauce. Using up stuff in my fridge. Still in the spirit of the challenge, though tomatoes will be hard to find in the apocalypse.
If it’s snowing that much in San Jose, the end times have arrived. So I’m making dessert.
Ever since I wrote about Vegan With a Vengeance being my sentimental favorite cookbook, I’ve had a craving for the boozy chocolate pudding cake, which of late I’ve made with bourbon, but I am fresh out. What I do have is Grand Marnier. Orange and chocolate is a valid combo, and I’m not going out in this apocalypse–what the hell, right?
It’s hot, it’s gooey, it might get you a little buzzed. What better way to spend a snowed-in evening?
Although in some ways similar to yesterday’s seasonal produce theme, I tried to take a somewhat different approach with the menu. I wanted to use nuts, pomegranate, and apples – all symbolic in various ways, although not especially to me, and delicious, fun challenges to base a meal around.
frisee salad in citrus vinaigrette with pomegranate seeds and hazelnut parmesan
Bread first, right? Yummmm.
Here in California, the early fall weather is near 100 degrees, so I made both the soup and the pate a day ahead and served them chilled.
Soup was very simple, and maybe not for all palates, but a worthy starting point. First I halved and cored two whole gravenstein apples, cut a small red onion into big chunks, and grabbed a few sprigs of thyme and sage, then brushed them with olive oil before giving them a 20-minute bake in the toaster oven. The cooked ingredients went into the blender with two cans of cannellini, water, and salt and pepper. Finally, the resulting puree got a gentle simmer (maybe half an hour?) before it went into the fridge. To serve, I garnished with some fried whole sage leaves and a sprinkling of the hazelnut parmesan I made for the salad.
The salad was a bit more colorful. My dressing consisted of juice of one orange, olive oil, a little bit of mustard, a dash of sweetener (I used coconut nectar), a splash of apple cider vinegar to cut the sweetness, and a little salt and pepper. At the market I picked up a huge head of frisee, which is bitter and pretty and ought to stand up well to a strong, sweet dressing like that, so I pulled out the more tender greens in the middle, washed them, and gave them a quick spin to dry before tossing. Hazelnut parmesan was quick and easy–handful or two of nuts with a generous shake of nooch and let it ride (in the spice grinder, food processor, or blender, you pick your poison)–and ultimately tossed with the salad and extra sprinkled on to serve, along with those beautiful pomegranate jewels.
Fall cooking is possibly the most fun. So many great vegetables are still available, and between MoFo and Thanksgiving prep, I’ve got menus on my mind. This was a quiet weeknight dinner on a hot “what seasons?” kind of night, but maybe for a minute those nuts and seeds meant a little something, even to me.
This is basically how I cook every day – I shop at the farmers’ market like it’s a religion – but living in Northern California means so much great stuff is in season for a long time, even during this drought. Still, things do come and go. The end of summer tends to have beautiful tomatoes and squash, along with lovely greens, onions, and root vegetables, and all of these are among my favorite things.
To shake things up a little, I wanted to try some new things:
Wild fried rice with roasted delicata squash and beets (+ onion, shallot, cilantro, red pepper flakes)
Cherry tomato chutney (with shallots and apple cider vinegar) over baked tofu
Steamed kale, because greens are a requirement
I’ll have to make the chutney again–it was easy and delicious.
“What three endless food supplies would you take if you were going to be stranded on an island? (Imagine your nutritional needs have been met, these are a bonus!)”
Chocolate, pineapple, and nutritional yeast.
Not because I think they GO together – far from it. But they each scratch a proverbial itch.
Chocolate is obvious. I’m sure it’s on 95% of these responses. There are some problems only chocolate can solve, at least temporarily (like the nagging need for chocolate). Bonus points if it has nuts. Extra magic points if it fails to melt in the tropical heat.
Pineapple may well be present on the island, if I’m lucky and this isn’t some horrible Naked & Afraid scenario where the best you can hope for are young coconuts and a machete. At any rate, it’s my favorite fruit, and it’s tasty and refreshing. If I’m stranded with my rabbit friends, they can enjoy it too. Plus if you’re bored you can make a game of hacking it up as pretty as you can, or as violently (i.e. cutting off the eyes). I have and would eat again fresh pineapple from a street vendor in countries where Americans are told never to eat uncooked street food, that’s how much I like it. I brought home two white pineapples from Hawaii once and wished I’d known they would let us bring more. It’s the only non-locally-grown fruit I eat on a semi-regular basis. God, I love pineapple.
Nutritional yeast is just to make the “nutritional needs” a little more interesting. Better than salt? It’s the thing I’m most likely to buy from a local grocery store while traveling. Maybe that is unlikely to apply on a deserted island, but I have only my experience and taste buds to guide me. Nooch goes with everything, therefore, nooch goes with me.
My mom is an awesome cook. She can feed armies and menu plan with the best of them. Of course she taught me to cook, too–I’ve been in the kitchen as long as I can remember. (I made up my own, admittedly terrible, cookie recipe in the 1st grade.) Perhaps my mom’s most requested dessert is boccone dolce, a layer cake of sorts with meringue, chocolate, fresh whipped cream, and strawberries. After I went vegan, I thought I’d never get to enjoy it again, but then I heard about the vegan meringue group on Facebook and how people were using canned bean liquid to replace egg whites, calling it aquafaba. Armed with a stand mixer, I had to give it a try.
However, the first time I attempted this didn’t go so well. So I took more precautions this time. And I didn’t use my silpat – if I gotta clean disintegrated sugary goop off of something, it might as well be parchment.
I used The Homemade Vegan Pantry’s recipe this time, which relies on flax egg whites that are frozen, then defrosted and whipped. Xanthan gum is added, presumably for stability. And, miraculously, it WORKED. Not as beautiful and crispy and perfect as my mom’s, but it should do the job.
The whipped cream comes from the same book – almond milk pureed with cashews, then whipped fluffy. Except…not so fucking much. The mixture was chilled overnight (as instructed), but when I put it in the mixer, it broke – the fat separated from the liquid. I tried re-melting and re-freezing, to no avail. So I just re-blended it and let it chill for a bit. A rich, scoopable cream isn’t too terrible, if you don’t know what you meant for it to be, right?
The chocolate is simple melted dark chocolate, which I smoothed out with a little almond milk to ensure it would spread well without crushing the delicate meringues. Of course…things deflated and softened overnight. Not exactly the texture I was going for, but maybe still good. I mean, meringue isn’t supposed to be bendy.
And strawberries? Luckily we have a long summer here in California, and my market is on Sunday (today!), so it’s the final piece of the puzzle. At least that’s hard to fuck up, but I wouldn’t put it past me today.
Oh, strawberries, you still get me, right?
Anyway…after all that disappointment, I decided the best thing I could do was to make it into a taco.
That makes it look tastier than it actually was. The cream had a good flavor, as did the chocolate. The “meringue” was a big nothing. The strawberries failed to stand out (thx, strawberries, next time I’ll just use raspberries, maybe they will appreciate it more) but it was fine.
Oh well. Onwards and upwards. Next few days’ themes are a lot more up my alley, or at least I planned them better, I hope.
Whenever we’ve joined my boyfriend’s mom on a day trip that involved picnic lunch, she’s prepared a lovely tofu pasta salad. So with that inspiration, I put together my own version, along with a bonus lettuce cup salad using leftovers, just ‘cause.
Pasta salad included:
Frozen, then defrosted, firm tofu: sliced into four pieces and marinated in olive oil, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and oregano, then baked for about 20 minutes at 400°F; let it cool, then dice into 1” cubes
A cup and a half of dry pasta, any shape you like that’s short (something twisty works well – I used whole spelt twists today), cooked according to package directions
One bunch of kale (I used lacinato), cut into small ribbons and cooked with the pasta for no more than 5 minutes
Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
About a third of a cup of thinly sliced red onion
Dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and nooch
The bonus dish used up some leftovers hiding out in my fridge (which, after the shaaaame of showing it in its messy glory to you all, I tried to clean out just a little bit):
Finely diced cucumber, tomato, and red onion
Whole baby red romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and spun dry
Now…I know the theme is LUNCH on the go. But we ended up having this for dinner on the go. We took it to San Jose’s Alum Rock Park about an hour before sunset. While we were there, we got to observe several deer foraging for their dinner, watch a tarantula cross the road, catch a woodpecker in action, and follow the sun as it turned deep red and lit up the edges of the puffy white clouds in its way. No regrets.
OK, look, I was going to post something suitably animal-friendly and tell you about my herbivore friends named Lilly and Ollie. Don’t get me wrong, they are fucking cute as hell, but their diet does little to inspire mine. It just seems appropriate for a vegetarian to keep vegetarian pets (also, they are ADORABLE, just to reiterate).
They also have secret talents*, but let’s not get into that now.
After some thought, I realized I have to write about my boyfriend. He’s pretty private, so I’ll keep his name and face off the blog. He’s been vegan since he was 15. We’ve been together for coming up on 13 years now. I finally went vegan about 5 years ago. We eat dinner together nearly every day, and I cook over half of those meals. So really, who else could it be?
Although we don’t really cook together – I’m a control freak in the kitchen, and he doesn’t appreciate all my, uh, constructive criticism – I’ve developed my cooking skills largely out of an ongoing dialogue over these dinners. And all that cooking made it so easy for me when I finally made my own decision to stop eating animals.
Plus we can get very nearly equally excited about trying new vegan restaurants, even if our opinions about the experience differ. It’s convenient and fun to share a diet – well, normal, I guess – so it never feels entirely like a compromise: “I guess I’ll have a salad at your favorite steakhouse this week, darling, if we can eat at the vegan sushi place next time.” No! Vegan sushi always! Biggest arguments are about whether we aren’t too bored to eat at Vegetarian House again or which Ethiopian restaurant is better!
He doesn’t like sweets, though. And I am a damn good baker. So we have a bit of a Jack Sprat and his wife kinda thing. Whatever.
* one of the rabbits can play piano. Seriously. But I never manage to record it.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region well-known for food, but not of the traditional sort – or rather, the tradition is creating and integrating new traditions. So this theme is a bit difficult to grasp.
At first I thought about what the Ohlone people ate–but Wikipedia states that their “staple diet consisted of crushed acorns,nuts, grass seeds, and berries, although other vegetation, hunted and trapped game, fish and seafood (including mussels and abalone from the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean), were also important to their diet.” I was unable to find any other references to Ohlone cuisine or popular dishes to inspire me. (Troubling, but moving on…)
So I considered the idea of “California cuisine,” which broadly represents a number of cooking styles made popular by restaurateurs in the Bay Area. Among their many contributions to modern cooking you’ll find San Francisco sourdough bread and Green Goddess salad dressing… both things that sounded like a pretty good lunch to me. So I picked up a sour loaf from popular local bakery Acme and picked up the ingredients to make a veganized goddess dressing.
I used the recipe from Appetite for Reduction, although it’s doesn’t seem to adhere closely to the original. So what? Herbs, garlic, creaminess (from tahini in this case)…
…blend, blend, blend…
…enjoy with fresh, local salad greens, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and baked tofu. Plus, oh yeah–that bread! Toasted with some Kite Hill cheese and more tomatoes. Yum.
I’ll make almost anything with tomatoes this time of year. They’re delicious. Tonight I decided to make a tofu frittata with cremini mushrooms and tomato slices right on top.
It’s based on the recipe from Vegan Brunch, which I have made so often that it’s committed to memory… and tweaked a bit.
A shallot, four minced cloves of garlic, and several cremini mushrooms, sliced, were sauteed in my trusty cast iron skillet with olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes. When the mushrooms were cooked, I added it to a bowl with mashed tofu, a splash of soy sauce, drizzle of white wine vinegar, about a quarter cup of nooch, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley, mixed, and pressed back into the skillet. Then I arranged slices of a beautiful heirloom tomato, brushed it with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, and threw it in the oven (400 F) for 20 minutes. I may have switched it over to the broiler for the last two.
To make a dinner out of it, I sauteed a bunch of rainbow chard and served it with leftover dressing and bread from… ah, spoilers…
I did my research: our president digs healthy food, or at least knows enough to say so for the press (you can’t be all, mmm, McDonald’s! when you’re married to Michelle). He digs green vegetables, healthy fats, and spice. Other than the salmon, I think Barack and I could get along fine at a dinner table… but I’d really need to hire people to clean my house before he arrived. We are messy, lazy people. Bike gear on the Ikea dining table and errant piles of rabbit hay and fuzz doesn’t exactly scream “Hail to the Chief.”
Regardless, here’s my State Dinner menu, featuring local California purveyors:
Peanut sauce and pea shoots are intended to evoke Southeast Asian cuisine – not quite Indonesia, sure, but making it my own. Plus I don’t want to over-complicate the cooking if the president’s at my house. Surely I’d have something to say to him, too, and not just about the veggies. Presidents don’t really go eat random citizens’ cooking without some ulterior motive, do they? What’s the big idea, here?!
But does it matter? It’s all a fun hypothetical, anyway. Really I’m just cooking this for myself and for my boyfriend; these are foods we already enjoy, and we wouldn’t turn away someone we generally like without good reason. Now, if the prompt suggested hosting Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, this would be another story…
And for me, this is a pretty damn good weeknight dinner. I mean. Those grill lines on the tofu! Damn, that is a lot more attention to detail than your average meal in my house.
The peanut sauce could be spicier/tangier–and that would be easy enough to adjust, even now–but the veggies and tofu turned out well. The tofu marinated in dish of red curry paste before hitting the grill. I stir-fried a fresno chile, minced ginger, yellow onion, broccoli, purple cauliflower, green cabbage, zucchini, sweet red peppers, and a handful of fresh oyster mushrooms in coconut oil with a splash of soy sauce; the pea shoots were *just* wilted in a separate pan with six cloves of garlic and toasted sesame oil.