Saturday, April 2, 2011

Byebye Butter...Our Week of Vegan Eating

Going vegetarian for a month was a way of embracing a more environmentally-conscious way of eating that has resulted in long-lasting changes to our diet.  Although I doubt I would ever go to a fully vegetarian diet, I only cook meat about twice a week.  Veganism, however, is a bit more of a culinary challenge, because I love LOVE eggs, cheese, and butter.  It is a rare vegetarian meal in our house that doesn't contain cheese or eggs.  Seriously, if I had to choose between never having any meat again or cooking all the bacon I wanted but no cheese or eggs, I would give up meat in a heartbeat.

Although a dilettante in the world of veganism, I knew I didn't just want to make my standard recipes with soy cheese, soy milk, and vegan margarine.  I wanted to think about how to get flavor, richness, and protein without animal fats.  So here is what we ate this week.

Otsu with Chipotle-Marinated Tofu

This is a delicious and simple meal that comes together very rapidly (note that you need to swap out brown sugar for the honey to make it vegan).  I'm sure that the tofu is lovely prepared just as described in the recipe, but I marinated it in a mix of about three chipotles in adobo, the juice of half a lemon, three cloves of garlic, and enough soy sauce to loosen everything up.  This gave the tofu lots of flavor but when I dropped it on the grill pan, I started coughing like I'd been hit with pepper spray.  So open your windows first!

Jamaican Veggie Pies

After Geoff's first bite, he asked, "Are all of our dinners this week going to be as good as the first two nights? This isn't sacrificing at all."  The filling of these veggie pies have all the warm spices you would expect from jerk chicken and the coconut milk adds a creaminess that adds to the comfort level.  The texture of the crust was the perfect crispy, flaky contrast for the filling.  However, it was a challenge to work with.  The solid coconut oil is meant to have the same effect as butter in the crust.  You keep it cold while working it into the dough and then it melts as the dough cooks.  I over-chilled the coconut oil and it became rock-solid and difficult to work with.  I wasn't patient and ended up with large chunks in my crust which became gaping holes  when baked.  Don't be like me.

Chana Punjabi 

This is actually something I've made before.  It is easy and quick if you use canned chickpeas.  I like to add in okra so that I don't have to serve a vegetable on the side.  Most times of the year I use frozen okra and just slide it into the sauce with about 10 minutes left.  Quick and easy.

Falafel Sandwiches with Homemade Pita

This is another of my go-to vegetarian recipes so it wasn't much of a stretch for us.  However, I usually smother the falafel in tzatziki and feta, not allowed this week!  Instead I made the tahini sauce called for in the recipe.  Honestly, I didn't really miss the dairy.  When I make falafel, I usually use canned chickpeas because they don't require soaking.  It takes a little more flour to bind the batter, enough to make it look like cookie dough.  Crispy-creamy pucks of falafel on chewy homemade pita, these sandwiches are delicious but messy!

I made the dough for the pitas the night before and left it in the refrigerator to let it develop flavor.  I love making pita, mostly just to watch them puff up on the griddle!  Freshly cooked pita is a real step up from store-bought.

Mushroom Ragout with Spinach Polenta

Obviously, this dish is not vegan as written.  I made the polenta with veggie stock and mixed in a full pound of spinach. I thought about cooling the polenta and then pan-frying it.  The extra bit of crispiness would have been a welcome contrast.  But I was too lazy.

Green Curry with Butternut Squash

The recipe is described as Asian comfort food and I am inclined to agree.  Although it takes a a bit of time to chop all of the vegetables, the spice of the curry paste and the creaminess of the coconut milk (don't use light, it isn't the same here) were a great way to finish the week.  I had a butternut squash on hand so I substituted that for the sweet potato and left out the bamboo shoots.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Over the course of the week, I was reminded that I don't really like soy milk (I was drinking Silk, there may be other options that I would like better) because it is too sweet.  In my morning smoothie, unpalatable, but on oatmeal or in this truly decadent mousse, pretty tasty.  Instead of eating it as is, we froze it into vegan fudgesicles!  The texture was great, but the flavor was a little bitter.  I used dark chocolate and didn't sweeten it, Geoff thought it would be better with a little sugar.

I liked them, Geoff wasn't so sure.
We also checked out the Cove which features all local ingredients with a specialty in vegetarian and vegan food. We went on Tuesday and Geoff played at their open mic night!  

I ordered what may be the world's most oxymoronic dish - the vegan bacon cheeseburger. It was surprisingly tasty - the soy bacon was better than turkey bacon, though not as good as real bacon.  But who are we kidding, nothing is.  The faux cheese and faux mayo were quite creamy and the mushroom-seed burger was rich and almost meaty.  This however was the treat of the night:

Watch the Video for Geoff's original "Not a Fool":

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