Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 6: Recreate a restaurant meal

One of our favorite things to eat out is actually a dish we assemble ourselves: a roll-your-own fresh roll platter with faux fish, rice paper, and fresh herbs and veggies. Versions of it can be found at many Vietnamese and vegetarian Asian fusion-type restaurants, but we get ours at the Vegetarian House, a vegan mainstay in downtown San Jose, where it’s called the Sea Fruits Grill. The whole thing is enough for a very satisfying meal for two, and it’s fantastic in the summer heat.

Here’s their original:

A pretty big chunk of the work is assembling the components. It features mints and basils you’re not likely to find in many places, though luckily the Bay Area is incredibly diverse. The platter typically has: rice vermicelli with chopped scallions, thin slices of cucumber, mint, Vietnamese perilla, and Vietnamese coriander, with a big hunk of something meat-like and a bowl of warm water to soften the rice papers.

Vietnamese parilla has a strong minty flavor with an almost smoky edge

Vietnamese coriander doesn’t look or taste much like cilantro, but has a pleasant fragrance, so give it a try, haters!

Vegetarian House’s fake meat is a really tasty, flaky fish substitute wrapped in seaweed and crusted with ground peanuts and sesame seeds. Seldom satisfied with fake meat available in the grocery store, I wanted to try the recipe in Miyoko’s Homemade Vegan Pantry cookbook, which relies on yuba for substance, seaweed for flavor, and agar to hold it all together.

Yuba is the ‘skin’ that forms on top of soymilk as a byproduct of making tofu, and it’s chewy and a little bit slimy and can cook up crispy and flaky

The result: not precisely like the original at all, but still tasty and fun to eat! We also made a couple adjustments for nutrition (wilted kale instead of lettuce) and, well, negligence (I forgot to pick up a cucumber so I used julienned carrot), but it worked well. I even picked up the parilla and Vietnamese coriander at a local Asian grocery for a little authentic flair.

The just-barely-dampened rice paper is placed on a clean plate, where it continues to soften and become pliable while you pile on the fillings

Tuck in the top and bottom then roll tightly from one side to the other

Enjoy with a sweet/sour/spicy dip, like peanut sauce or mock nuoc cham (like that from Vegan Eats World)

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 5, part II: Best BLT I can make, with homemade marinated tempeh bacon, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, Just Mayo, and Dave’s Killer Bread

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 5: falafel wrap overlooking Silicon Valley before a Neko Case show.

I posted this already, but the panorama shot made the actual falafel pic get lost, so… Apologies for the repost.

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 5: Best? Sandwich Ever! Well, okay, a pretty good sandwich – falafel wrap – with a lovely view, just before the Neko Case concert

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 4: Weird food combo you love

Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I can’t think of a single “weird” food combo I love. I watch so much food TV that any oddball combination I’d try seems based in legit cooking techniques. I even tried asking by boyfriend if he could think of something that fits the brief:

Boyfriend’s been vegan since he was 15, more than half his life. I can only claim five years or so. But it dawned on me: veganism IS the weird food combo, if you ask non-vegans.

I like pizza with NO cheese.

I like tahini sauce on kale.

Beans and wheat gluten make great sausage.

Nutritional yeast and tempeh belong in spaghetti.

Avocado replaces mayo on a sandwich.

And who needs cream when you can puree cashews and water in your Vitamix?

So I’ll keep experimenting and trying new things, because sometimes the weird becomes the favorite. Veganism forces this creativity by taking away a lot of obvious ingredients. It’s why I don’t agree when people say veganism seems too difficult: are you kidding – it’s not hard, it’s a challenge! Who doesn’t like a good challenge, especially when the cause is so important?

If you’re reading this and you haven’t taken the vegan plunge (heh), what’s so weird that you’re afraid to try it?

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

Tonight’s dinner is an everything-in-the-pot spiced stew: onions, garlic, tomato sauce, sweet red peppers, serrano chillies, collard greens, tempeh, black beans, yams, zucchini, cilantro, cumin, and coriander. Not too shabby.

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 3: Quick, easy, and delicious

Often my idea of a “easy” meal still requires multiple steps and several pans dirtied. At the very least, I’ll typically use the rice cooker, glass baking dish in the toaster oven, and a skillet on the stove, plus at least a bowl or two for prep and mixing and a smaller container or blender to make dressing. The beauty of this recipe – which I have to admit is the only one that’s made it into my repertoire from Color Me Vegan – is that it’s a mere two pans, and only a handful of ingredients, and it comes together quickly. It’s my go-to on days I work from home and don’t want to take a long break. Plus, it’s not bad to look at.

I’ve made it my own, to a certain extent – I seldom follow recipes to a “T” unless they’re complex (or baked) – but it’s very simple. For two big portions, you’ll need:

  • Pasta of your choice, as much as you want to serve – something ribbon-y works best, a fettuccine or even a looser short pasta like these Baia Pasta corkscrews
  • One small or medium red onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • One small or half a large head of purple cabbage
  • Pinch of dried thyme and red pepper flakes
  • Handful of nuts or seeds of your liking (original recipe uses pinenuts; I often use hemp or pumpkin seeds)
  • Nutritional yeast and basalmic vinegar, to taste
  • Olive oil to cook

Put on a pot of water to cook the pasta and when it boils, cook it according to package directions.

While it’s boiling, prep the vegetables: quarter the onion and slice it thinly, and add it to a hot, oiled skillet to cook down while you shred the cabbage. (If you aren’t handy with a knife, the slicing blade on a food processor might work too; I get perverse pleasure out of slicing cabbage super-duper thinly with a big knife, though, but YMMV) Getting it perfect isn’t the point; it’s going to cook down a bit anyway, so the texture is not critical. Add the cabbage when ready (the onions should be starting to brown by now), along with the red pepper flakes and thyme. When the cabbage has cooked down some, add a little more oil if the pan is dry and add minced garlic (I often use a microplane; it really preserves that garlic punch while dispersing garlic flavor evenly). Add the nuts or seeds after that. If you like, you can toast them a little first, or clear space in the pan to toast them there, as long as you remember not to let it burn.

By the time the pasta is ready, the vegetables should be too. Drain the pasta and reserve a little bit of cooking liquid. Sprinkle the vegetables with nutritional yeast and add the pasta with some cooking liquid and stir to combine. Add more nutritional yeast or vinegar if you like, and eat it.

The same basic idea could be used with other veggies – I’ve done it with shaved brussels sprouts to great effect – or add tasty braised tempeh to bulk it up.

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 2: Recreate and veganize a childhood favorite

Lasagna is always a popular favorite. We made it as a family for as long as I can remember. My high school best friend and her mom had their own version that they made for holiday gatherings. One family vacation in Victoria, B.C. we dined at an Italian restaurant and were served seafood lasagna by mistake (but I loved it – listen, I wasn’t always vegan).

So I wanted to make a lasagna that more closely resembled the kind I had when I was a kid – ooey gooey cheesy lasagna. Except, confession time: I *hate* Daiya and the other “melting” vegan cheeses. They’re like the uncanny valley of food.

Since going vegan, the lasagna recipe I’ve used again and again is the version in Appetite for Reduction – the roasted cauliflower-tofu ricotta sub is rad, and an unexpected crowdpleaser: I once served it at my grandparents’ wedding anniversary/family reunion (the vegan option next to my mom’s giant trays of the normal stuff) and got compliments from people other than my health-conscious mom. But that’s not what I wanted to make today. Nothing about roasted cauliflower and tofu reminds me of my suburban Northwest upbringing.

Earlier this year, my local Whole Foods started carrying Kite Hill’s almond ricotta, and I couldn’t wait to have a reason to use it in a pasta dish. What better excuse than the MoFo? Along with that I’m layering spinach, tempeh crumbles (seasoned like Italian sausage), and sauteed mushrooms with a simple homemade marinara sauce, whole wheat lasagna noodles, and cashew cream on top to ape the gooeyness of a mozzarella topping.

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo 2015 Day 1: Breakfast

Scrambled chickpeas (Isa Does It-style), roasted potato wedges, wilted spinach, chopped tomatoes, and a little store-bought guac to tie it together.

Admittedly this is a bit of a cheat – I’m writing this the Saturday before MoFo begins and scheduling it to post in time, because typically my weekday breakfast isn’t notable. A little flax cereal, a handful of granola, some fresh berries if they haven’t gone south (or out of season), rice milk. It might look pretty, I guess, but frankly I’m in a rush, so I’d rather start the month off right by telling you about a good weekend breakfast.

Most Saturdays I like to make a good, hearty brunch. It’s the only chance I get. Sundays are market days, so my boyfriend and I often eat something from a market vendor (for those of you in the San Jose area, check out the Oaxacan Kitchen for its killer vegan burritos or the amazing options at Delicious Crepes).

The market is also where I pick up most of the ingredients that make it into, say, next Saturday’s brunch. The beautiful tomatoes and rainbow-colored potatoes, for example, come from the truly fine folks at Lonely Mountain Farm.

Anyway, enjoy some cooking pics, and happy Vegan MoFo ‘15!

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

MoFo2015 Sign-ups, Badges & Banners! | VeganMoFo

Vegan Month of Food is coming up, and I am planning to participate for a second year. The daily list of blogging prompts is already up, so I better start planning ahead… (I love planning.)

Are you up for the challenge?

MoFo2015 Sign-ups, Badges & Banners! | VeganMoFo