Sigh. So today’s post is a fail…
Sigh. So today’s post is a fail…
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:
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):
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.
You say tomato, I say tomato…
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.
Homer Simpson may have said it best when he chanted: “You don’t win friends with salad.” That’s why the Deities invented vegan cookies. Specifically, these chocolate chip cookies.
Naturally, I can’t help but add my own stanza to this prayer of sweet and fat… a little kick of coffee. Just a tablespoon of instant coffee granules, mixed in with the wet ingredients (say, along with the vanilla).
I’ve made these before and repeatedly hear requests to bring them again and share the recipe. Typically summer isn’t an ideal time to bake sheet after sheet of hot, delicious cookies, but for the sake of the MoFo, I muddled through. It’s not earth-shattering or anything, but they’re goddamn delicious, and sure to elicit at least three “You made these? They’re vegan? But they’re so good!” responses. So I asked for these responses. With selfies.
I sent out the email announcing their location and the request for pics with the opening line: Do you hear “vegan” and think “yuck”? Pfft.
They quickly disappeared, and my inbox filled up:
Pfft is right!!! These cookies are SO GOOD!!
you are a vegan goddess divine. me love emily coooookies 🙂
Wow, I am not vegan but the blog and the food looks great 🙂
You are my HERO! Those are Pawsome! Hi Paw! I didn’t take a selfie, does that mean that I can eat another one for the selfie sake?
ITS VERY VERY GOOD. ALMOST LIKE IT HAD ALL THE GOOD NON-VEGAN STUFF IN IT! AHAHAHHAH SUPER GOOD THANK YOU!
Someone else responded in meme form:
Probably BECAUSE they are Evil! Yummy, yummy, Evil… 😀
Finally, an actual selfie was offered:
I am not a vegan nor a vegetarian and I eat animals and animal things but I LOVE VEGANS and vegan cooking.
Cheers. These are bad ass.
CONVERSION IN PROCESS.
NEXT STOP: THE MOON. Which is made of cashew cheese, probably.
(Thank you to my lovely coworkers for your responses, and especially to Enrica for the awesome selfie. Next time I bake I will share without asking for proof you enjoyed it. You can just glare at me in the hallway and make kale jokes, or something.)
Confession: I am a messy, messy person. My kitchen is seldom fully clean. So please, no judgment? I clean deeply before any guest situation (i.e. Thanksgiving), thanks to my clean-freak mom. Here’s a picture of the heart of the space from one of these better times…
That said, I’m really happy with my kitchen. It has a lot of storage, a great layout between the stove, sink, and cutting board.
Since we bought this house, I was able to pick out a stove I love (convection oven, five gas burners), get a large, solid maple cutting board that enjoys a permanent home of the corner of the kitchen island, and collect some fancy tools: clay pot rice cooker, high-speed blender, decent food processor, stand mixer (which I do not use daily, so it lives in the pantry)…
The pantry is a large closet with deep shelves, but moths tend to like it, so we try to store grains, pastas, beans, etc. in water-tight containers. The large pantry also lets us store extra-large amounts of things like expensive olive oil (in a box with a spigot, so we keep refilling a bottle) and super-good pasta.
Finally, the fridge. Ah, it’s always a disaster. Leftovers that overstay their welcome; condiments that expired but we didn’t get around to tossing; fresh herbs just past their prime. But I always find room for each week’s market haul and keep on top of it with a magnetic whiteboard.
Anyway, there you have it: my kitchen, sins and all. It’s where I feel my most creative and in control. It’s where I come to do what needs to be done and where I go to clear my mind at the end of a long workday. If I could change anything, it would be my own messiness–or at least to hire someone to help keep it all in check. And maybe a better faucet. Yeah…
Just a little something for brunch… Roasted sweet and purple potato with cashew cream, marinated tempeh strips, wilted spinach
It’s safe to say I’m an Isa/Terry fangirl. Who isn’t? They both make veganism delicious, accessible, and empowering, not to mention a little bit punk rock. It isn’t just the recipes–it’s the ideas, the methods, components that I always return to. The books are well-organized with useful serving suggestions, menus, and solid indices. I use them all regularly, buy them for friends and family, and share recipes posted on theppk.com anytime someone asks me about vegan cooking.
So… I have to pick one?
Vegan With a Vengeance was the first vegan cookbook I bought for myself. I used it before I even went vegan (but was cooking for my longtime-vegan boyfriend). It came highly recommended by no less than John Darnielle on his old site Last Plane to Jakarta (maybe on the forums?) – specifically for the tofu ricotta recipe. Somehow, I needed that in my life.
Immediately I loved her approach to cooking. No apologies; endless room to make it your own. It resonated like whoa. My first copy got unbelievably filthy and filled with notes. The black eyed pea-quinoa croquettes with mushroom gravy were divine. I make the rum chocolate pudding cake all the time, though never with rum (amaretto or bourbon, depending on what I’ve had on hand). The maple-walnut cookies were my first-ever success with vegan baking; I made that thing my own and baked several dozen batches of what turned out to be chocolate chip trail mix cookies over the years for friends and for myself. (OK, a lot for myself.) The tofu ricotta was some kind of miracle at the time.
I know the books have become more refined and, in many ways, more interesting since that first one, and I’ll admit I use Appetite for Reduction or Vegan Brunch (shout-out to that book for basically being a bunch of mini-recipes that can be used for ANY meal, honestly) or Vegan Eats World (my mom made the BEST SPANAKOPITA EVER from there) or Isa Does It (signed copy from an event in Santa Cruz! so dorked out!) probably more often now, but you can’t forget your first. It’s not why I went vegan – Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals is what finally pushed me over the edge – but it sure as hell made me feel like I COULD do vegan, easily, creatively, joyfully. Thank you, Isa.
Note about the pictures: uhh… some of my books are hiding. So this is only part of my Moskowitz/Romero collection. They are all well-loved.
Listen, I don’t want to misrepresent: my knowledge of nutrition is very, very surface. So trying to be all, “Here’s all about this one specific thing!” feels disingenuous. My usual philosophy is just “eat the rainbow,” and it’ll all work out. But I can make something I’d normally make and tell you how it’s high in…something-or-other.
I cook tofu, quinoa, and kale a lot. Tofu and kale are both known to have decent amounts of calcium; quinoa is high in magnesium, which is important for calcium absorption. So, hey: let’s have a calcium dinner!
The tahini sauce (my usual recipe–tahini, lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, nutritional yeast) and beets are just there to round things out. Plain steamed kale and quinoa plus simple baked tofu isn’t terribly delicious. Tahini sauce makes ANYTHING super-yum.
Anyway, here’s to strong bones, etc. etc.!
Technically, food isn’t blue. But you can get pretty close: blue corn, blue potatoes, purple kale, red cabbage, black krim heirloom tomatoes… so why not combine them all in one dish?
Organic blue masa becomes blue corn tortillas – yum.
Purple potatoes and kale are sauteed with onions and garlic, then deglazed with water and lime juice for tanginess and stuffed into said tortillas, then smothered in mole negro sauce (from Oaxacan Kitchen) and baked.
Served with black beans (seasoned with onion, garlic, and oregano), lime juice-marinated cabbage, and diced heirloom tomato.
Or…OK, the most retro recipe I can make that doesn’t completely repulse me and/or my boyfriend.
I went with meatloaf because everything about it feels very vintage Home Ec class. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of thing that I have fond memories of eating, but it’s simple enough to put together, and the Oh She Glows recipe pics made it look damn near enticing. Plus, boyfriend’s having a moment over black lentils, so I’d just cooked a huge batch. Seemed like fate.
The loaf I made and cooked about ¾ of the way two days ago–figured I could whip up the glaze and pop it back in the oven to finish while I prepped the sides. What meatloaf-based retro dinner doesn’t have sides? But again, I gotta balance the theme with our actual life/dietary needs and preferences, and I didn’t want to just make mashed potatoes. I went for some things that look beautiful at the market lately: winter squash and green beans.
As a kid, my mom always cooked acorn squash as a side by cutting it in half, scooping out the guts, and baking it with a pat of butter and spoonful of brown sugar. It made me learn to love squash, and while I don’t need to add sugar now, the preparation sounded like a good one to fit the “vintage” theme. I went with a delicata squash, which has flat sides and thinner flesh that lends itself to cooking that way. And, it turns out, this method pops up repeatedly in cookbooks from the early 20th century and beyond! Soooo retro.
Finally, green beans. Not green bean casserole; too processed and gross. But some simple preparation. One of these recipes that calls for half a stick of butter plus some kind of spice or herb. It seems there are a lot of these. Butter is easy enough to sub; I have a lot of herbs just taking up space in my fridge. No-brainer.
How was it?
I hate celery; boyfriend hates raisins. The lentil loaf featured both. But you know what? Pretty good. I also added some big fat slices of tomato with salt – it was in the high 90s today, temperature-wise, and I really needed something cool. The colors are good, and the textural and flavor contrasts work for me. Overall, the plate felt like some kind of weeknight dinner at a home with a decent garden (am I overreaching to say a Victory garden? probably)–homegrown veggies to fill in with a meaty main. And ketchup.
#VeganMoFo Day 8 … Failure on a theme-level, success on a dinner-level. Pasta, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, black lentils, herb dressing with almond puree and lemon. Just needed to get dinner together with a minimum of heat, and this was all sitting around, just waiting to be used.
Sauce was the following, thrown into a Vitamix: handful of almonds, water to cover, juice of one lemon, two cloves of garlic, one scallion, some fresh dill, a little more fresh parsley, several rough-chopped basil leaves, generous shake of nutritional yeast, squirt of Just Mayo, black pepper. Turned out creamy and green but a bit thin, though not too thin for this application.
P.S. I’d still gladly make a new vegan friend, I just didn’t manage it today. I’m not that outgoing.
Tampopo is a Japanese cult favorite 1985 movie about food obsessions. It features several humorous vignettes about dining and eating and manners, but the main plot revolves around a struggling ramen shop owner/cook who seeks help from a cowboy-styled stranger to make the perfect ramen. This involves a lot of stealth competitive research to steal the secrets of great broth, noodles, and toppings, until she finds her restaurant is the busiest spot in town.
The trouble with Tampopo is that – aside from one sketch involving an egg yolk – it makes me crave delicious noodle soup, but there aren’t many places around that serve a veg-friendly ramen. And if the movie is to be believed, making great ramen is complex and time-consuming.
I like cooking, but I am not terribly patient, so to attempt great (or at least tasty, passable) ramen, I turned to the recipe developed by J. Kenji López-Alt at the Serious Eats Food Lab. He uses science and everything! (You may also have followed his now-annual adventures in veganism.) Sure, it’s a lot of steps, but I’m not afraid of a project.
This required a hell of a lot of ingredients…
First we start the broth (not pictured: broiling the garlic, onion, and ginger ‘til they’re a tiny bit charred)
Then roast some diced sweet potato and beech and maitake mushrooms with Japanese chili-sesame spice
Then simmer fresh shiitakes with more ginger, scallions, and a crapload of soy sauce and mirin for a tangy sauce
Also make a ‘shroomy infused oil with dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms
AND THEN! Strain the broth, make it creamy by pureeing some of the sweet potatoes and bring it up to almost a simmer WHILE AT THE SAME TIME cooking the ramen noodles (oh right, those)…
Finally, mix it all together in the bowl with a mixture of miso paste, tahini, garlic, and some of that soy-mirin sauce, add the noodles, add the toppings, and…
Holy shit, this took like almost 3 hours to make and I basically had it for breakfast. But WORTH IT.