I make a “special” breakfast most Saturdays. Sometimes it’s waffles or pancakes, which only I like, but sometimes it’s savory, which K will usually eat too. There’s often toast, or roasted potatoes, but recently I made brunch with polenta.
Or, okay, maybe it counts as grits? This is not my culture; I don’t know. Anyway, it’s polenta cooked with some fresh corn kernels for extra yum (also, using stuff up). Over that we’ve got tempeh cooked with spices, soy sauce, and liquid smoke, then smashed and browned a little with olive oil; collard greens, onion, garlic, and bell pepper got cooked down in the same pan. On the side, sliced tomato. Keeping it simple.
AKA basically every dinner I make is a TV dinner because I sit on my couch and watch TV while eating. Here’s tonight’s:
Technically, the hummus and tabbouli are leftovers, except I won’t post about them until tomorrow–isn’t time fun? To go with them (and use up some other stuff), I baked tofu with sliced red onion and red bell pepper, lemon zest and juice, oregano, olive oil, and soy sauce. Then I pan-fried some eggplant, zucchini, and broccoli florets. I also cut up some lavash bread to scoop things up with as needed.
I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner almost every year since moving to California in 2004. I love it–I seldom host anyone, much less a big group, and
my mom and I (and sometimes other folks!)
love cooking together. Over the years, we made it tradition to use the opportunity to explore different cuisines, cooking methods, ingredients, styles…we take inspiration from all over. Last year we tried some Mexican recipes that weren’t entirely Americanized. We’ve done Italian with fresh pasta and gnocchi. There’s been Indian, Mediterranean, Japanese, “small plates around the world”…
This year I wanted to try to make some Spanish food. I’ve got research to do (especially on paella; I have ideas but…), but even some cursory reading up on tapas showed me there is a surprising number of simple vegetable-based things that won’t require much or any veganizing, which is awesome.
So for dinner tonight I picked out a couple things that are simple, but come together for a really nice weeknight dinner: espinacas con garbanzos (spinach chickpeas, which seems like a real “duh” in terms of things I’d like) and a Spanish tortilla (potatoes and onion with an omelet-like batter made of chickpea flour), plus just some avocado on the side because I was too goddamn tired to make a whole salad thing or chilled soup or whatever.
We’d just elected fucking Donald Trump. Everyone’s skin was crawling. I’d lost my longtime job early in the year and hadn’t found any prospects for a new one. My partner went through a stressful health crisis over the summer and I was really present for that. Then I broke my foot stepping out the front door and spent 6 weeks sleeping downstairs and giving myself sponge baths because I couldn’t get to the shower.
So when I tell you I celebrated turning 35 by asking my partner to bake me a cake which I wanted to I’ve and decorate so it said “FUCK 2016,” I feel like to bed to have that full context.
Anyway, this year, I don’t know. K’s gonna be out of town. I don’t really care. I got him to get us tickets to see Neko Case the week before because I fucking love Neko Case and it’s in Oakland so maybe we can actually eat at one of those fancy all-vegan joints y’all have up there that I only get to enjoy via Instagram. It’s my 37th this year, smack in the middle of my “late 30s,” which is weird as hell. Maybe I’ll just make myself a mug cake and indulge in some TV. Wait…that’s something I do all the time…fuck it.
Who wants to take me out for dinner? Mid December. I just like vegan food.
When I was a kid, sometimes we’d have roast in a bag for dinner: a big slab o’ meat baked in a weird, oven-safe nylon bag (it’s a thing! albeit not a thing I would use now), surrounded by vegetables–potatoes, carrots, green beans. Yer basic meat and potatoes, all in one easy go.
To revisit this meal, I made a mushroom-y seitan roast–which does bake wrapped in foil, so it’s kinda-sorta like the oven bag?–and a porcini jus to help flavor and moisten a whole roast pan of seitan and veggies.
Since the protein itself was already cooked and wouldn’t need a long time in the oven, I par-cooked the potatoes and carrots. The seitan roast sat atop some of the potato wedges, then a medley was nestled on each side. On top of that, I poured some of the jus.
I didn’t have a recipe to go off of for the overall assembly, so I just guessed: 20 minutes covered, 15 uncovered at 375 F. Seemed to work all right.
I mean, look how fucking normal that shit is.
Plated with some salad and a little more jus over the seitan, it’s, like, the most normal American shit I’ve made in ages. And it was pretty good!
I made this on a weeknight, after work, and without much planning ahead. So it cost… whatever we had on hand, which seems reasonably frugal.
And what did we have on hand? The rest of the “discolored” trumpet mushrooms. Some plum tomatoes. And flour. So… Fresh pasta, anyone?
It’s indulgent. It’s special. And if you bought it in the store, it’d cost you. But a couple cups of flour and an excuse to dig into the Cupboard of Neglected and Forgotten Kitchen Gadgets? NBD.
Working off some Crossroads Cookbook recipe inspo (but like, not actually following it, because it is too much), I tossed my trumpet mushrooms with shallots, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted it. Later I added some whole cherry tomatoes, just because.
I made a quick sauce with more shallot and the rest of my saucing tomatoes and some fresh thyme. And nooch. Always nooch. The pasta came out really nice and tender – probably won’t impress any Italian grandmothers, but I’m the descendant of various northern Europeans and I’m perfectly happy with it – and the roasted veggies had texture and punch.
It was cozy but special, you know? And what fancy food could beat that?
Okay, I wish I managed to plate it better, so it really read “fancy,” but fuck it.
At the market this week, a mushroom vendor was selling bags of “discolored” (but actually terribly perfect and photogenic, tbh) trumpet mushrooms, 2 lbs for $12.
Okay, great, but what the hell am I gonna do with two fucking pounds of mushrooms?!
Well, one idea was to make them into faux bacon strips with olive oil, soy sauce, and liquid smoke, then roasted for like 40 minutes until dark brown and a bit crispy.
That was PRETTY GREAT, if I do say so. But something that salty and smoky needs to be contrasted with equally string flavors.
So. Pizza. Pizza with… Umm… Peaches! And to round that out, fresh thyme, almond ricotta, and a quick sauce of plum tomato and minced shallot.
That’s bright and sharp looking, yeah?
Bakes for just 10 minutes at 500°F on a stone.
The crust and ricotta browned a bit, and the peaches just started to caramelize. The crust was crisp without being cracker-like (I would make a bad Italian) so I could fold a slice and get salty, sweet, creamy, smoky, and crunchy all in one bite. Mmmmm.
I have to confess here that I am a grocery addict. K is the kind of person who always prefers to buy organic, and we drop a lot of dough at the farmers’ market and Whole Foods every week. (I’d love to shop more local than WF, but our options are limited nearby.) So this… This is a challenge, okay?
But I figured it out. I did math and everything. I labeled what I actually paid in the photo below–which obviously worked out to a bit over $4–but I am *certain* you can get the key items for less than I paid. Just wanted to be transparent about reality, here, and not be a disingenuous jerk about how to eat for super cheap when I don’t know shit.
This is all the fixings for a pretty basic brown rice mujadara with a side of sauteed kale. There are some pantry items in here I couldn’t easily calculate, but if you’re coming at home, you probably have enough of the necessary stuff to make it work (a cooking oil, some basic spices, salt & pepper, bouillon). The recipe I use calls for the rice and lentils to bake in a Dutch oven for an hour at a low-ish temp, but I threw it in my rice cooker instead, and it worked perfectly well. It’s adaptable and simple.
Choosing a large onion when I only needed a medium one meant I could use onion in both dishes, so I did. The extra third got sliced into quarter moons and sauteed until golden, then I added the kale leaves and chopped stems with a little water and let it wilt. I also splashed a little vinegar in there at the end, which isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you’ve got it…
This is really simple, healthy, and easy to make it work with pretty inexpensive ingredients (like, for example, I am sure there is less expensive kale out there, but I wanted to be honest). But if you have more, you could just as easily add more good stuff.
Keeping this very simple: broccoli & tofu cast iron stir fry (based on Isa Does It recipe) with brown rice and adding peanuts and avocado on the side. That’s plenty to work with for a lunch remix tomorrow…
What’s a more classic nice dessert than cheesecake? (Don’t answer that; I can think of plenty, though it’s up there.) And what’s cheaper than using up stuff I had wasting counter and fridge space?
The cheesecake base used is made with shelf-stable silken tofu, a little
bit of soaked cashews, banana, coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice
– all pantry staples for me. A no-brainer.
BEHOLD! The jam swirl banana cheesecake with almond crust! Based on the chocolate galaxy banana cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky, I used the press-in almond crust and dollops of a mixed berry jam I got in my produce box a few weeks ago. The overripe bananas came from K’s work snack leftovers (I told him he couldn’t put any more fucking bananas in my freezer…).
This turned out really nice. I mean, it doesn’t look like much, being totally candid – I used some filters to try to boost the colors in the picture so it looked more appealing – but the crust is crumbly and nutty, the cheesecake base is sweet and creamy without being too much (or being heavy on the banana taste, which I like because I hate bananas), the jam is pretty well distributed and adds a nice fruity punch in every bite.
Saturdays are when I try to use up last week’s perishables before heading to my usual Sunday market. Today I had half a can of chickpeas loafing around my fridge, half a bunch of dill, and a lovely bunch of rainbow chard starting to wilt, so I went looking for something different to try. I landed in the basmati rice with chickpeas, chard, and dill from Veganomicon, which I’m pretty sure I never got around to baking until now. Maybe because I don’t usually have white rice? but I had exactly as much as I needed for this recipe, for some reason. It also makes good use of spices, lemons, onion, and shallots, which I have on hand as a rule.
Enjoyed with the last heirloom tomato from last week’s haul and a dollop of Kite Hill yogurt, it made for a satisfying dinner.
Today we’re adhering to the dietary restriction of our choosing, so I’m going with something I’ve encountered a few times: no onions! This is a simple pile of roasted veggies – Brussels sprouts, red potatoes, corn on the cob, chickpeas – with quickie tzatziki (Kite Hill Greek yogurt + shredded cucumber + lemon juice) and a sauce that’s new to me: zhoug. We saw it at trader Joe’s, but this is homemade. It’s pretty simple! Cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, cardamom, olive oil. Delish.
Some folks I’ve met who eschew onions also don’t go for *any* alliums, including garlic, which would make the zhoug a no-go, but surely an alternative could be found…