Friday, September 4, 2009

For the Love of Vegan Cooking

This week reminded us that everyone has their good days and their bad days when it comes to cooking, especially vegan cooking.

On Wednesday, as Greg posted earlier that day, we had our friends Cristina and Dave over for dinner. We had planned a vegan meal consisting of asparagus crepes, mushroom and tofu ricotta crepes, a tomato and peach salad, and an appetizer of homemade french bread and olive tapenade. It all sounded so good and easy to make, especially since the only things that needed to go on the burner were the veggies and the crepes for a few minutes each. By 7:20 - 10 minutes before C & D were set to arrive - our kitchen turned into a food network show, with Tamar scrambling around the kitchen trying to figure out what to make, and Greg silently focusing on quickly chopping vegetables before heading out to the grocery store to buy a frozen pizza or pierogies that we could serve instead of what was turning out to be a disastrous meal.

Somehow, by the time Greg returned from the grocery store, I had 4 plates on the table, each showcasing a crepe stuffed with mushrooms and vegan ricotta, alongside sauteed asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Turns out, like those 20 page papers in college that I used to write the night (or morning) before, I do much better under pressure.

We pulled it off, just barely, but not without a slight nervous breakdown, a few muttered swears, and a deep hatred for vegan cooking. Needless to say, it was comforting to hear that Cristina, who so wonderfully took her first shot at vegan baking and made delicious cupcakes as a result, had a similar experience only a few hours earlier.

Recipe for the tapenade to come later on, perhaps once the white sox vs red sox game is over. Below, I am posting the recipes for things that came out, so the awful crepe recipe that we used is most definitely excluded. I have lost my faith in vegan crepes, but maybe one day when we own proper equipment, we'll give it another go.

Tomato and Peach Salad (vegan)
(Mark Bittman's recipes for 101 simple salads:

2 medium-size tomatoes
2 peaches
1 very small red onion (probably between 1/4-1/2 reg size onion)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 TBS olive oil
1-1.5 TBS lemon juice (we usually used fresh, but had concentrated LJ in the fridge)
a dash or two of red chili pepper flakes

Cut the tomatoes and peaches into similar size wedges. Sliver the red onion, and toss everything in a bowl. Pretty darn simple.

Sauteed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce (vegan)

We sauteed about a lb of asparagus, stems chopped, in olive oil for 4-5 minutes and then slathered it with a tablespoon of Earth Balance and some salt and pepper. For the sauce, I found a great blog -; one of the better vegan sauces I have had.

1/2 cup silvered almonds
1/2 cup hot water
2 TBS Earth Balance
2 tsp lemon juice
2 TBS nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp mustard
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

Mix ingredients in food processor or blender and season to taste.

Sauteed Mushrooms and Tofu Ricotta (vegan)

We used about a 1/2 lb mini portabella mushrooms, sliced into quarters. Sautee the mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil for a few minutes until pan is fairly dried out. Grab a swig or two of white wine and use it to deglaze the pan and give some mushrooms a meaty flavor. Season with salt, pepper, dried herbs, and various powders to your liking!

The tofu ricotta pretty much follows a recipe from Veganomicon, our vegan bible by Isa Moskowitz.

1 lb extra firm tofu
2 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt, pepper, tumeric, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs, and we like to add a little bit of heat - whether it be red chili pepper flakes, cayenne, or hot sauce.

Crumble tofu (roll up those sleeves and just dig in there with your recently washed hands), add lemon juice and garlic and continue to smush. Once it's seemingly close to ricotta appearance, add olive oil, nutritional yeast, and spices and mix and mash with a fork.

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