Monday, May 10, 2010

The Vegan Experiment. Part 2- Friends, Family and (vegan) Food

Yes, there has been a considerable gap in the Very Vegan posts. To be quite honest, I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to go. I’m happy to report, the experiment is going quite well.

Much has changed, including...
1. My tastebuds (always highly functional, now 10x better!)
2. My digestive system (of which I will spare the details...but good, for the most part)
3. My cooking creativity (inspiration provided by SDP, my new library, and hours of standing over the Whole Foods salad bar)
I have spent the past month enjoying fabulous food, stocking my vegan pantry and adding to my new collection of veggie cookbooks. SDP and I have been having so much fun scouting the best places in DC to find vegan fare. I have replaced guilt-laden beef burgers (and a distant memory of my “last supper” two colleagues insisted on taking me to at Ray’s Hell Burger prior to the initiation of Very Vegan) with eco-friendly, fresh, satisfying lentil veggie burgers (as enjoyed with SDP yesterday).

The highlights of my month …
Two days into starting my vegan experiment my mother was in town. I had avoided telling her over the phone. What was she going to say? Would she roll her eyes? Another diet?! This, of course, was my own paranoia. She not only accepted my decision, but together we caught up over coffee and an amazing, Saturday morning brunch at one very vegan friendly eating establishment in DC, Le Pain Quotidien.

One and a half weeks into my diet I was invited to my Aunt Kitty and Uncle Tom’s home in Baltimore for Easter. Put simply, I was nervous. My family is known for preparing wonderful food (but neither Kitty or Tom is vegetarian). I was fearful I would either have to sacrifice my experiment or be a rude guest. A phone call the day before Easter calmed my fears.

My Uncle Tom would be preparing a vegan meal (for me?!?). The day was filled with conversation, laughter, and cooking and what resulted was one of the best menus I’ve ever had (vegan or non-vegan). I must share…

Very Vegan Easter Menu:

~Mesclun Greens with a Citrus-Garlic Vinaigrette
~Bean Curd with Tomatoes and Cilantro*
~Punjabi-Style Cauliflower and Potatoes with Ginger*
~Paired with an Essay Reisling

~Dessert of Vegan Cupcakes from
Hello Cupcake

*Bean Curd (Tofu) with Tomatoes and CilantroPut 3 Tbsp of the oil in a nonstick frying pan and set over medium heat. Put in the bean curd cubes. Saute, turning the cubes around for 6-7 minutes, or until they are golden on most sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the remaining tablespoon of the oil to the frying pan. When hot, put in the white slices of scallion, ginger, and garlic. Stir for 40 seconds. Put in the muschrooms. Stirfor 30 seconds. Put in the cilantro. Stir and fry for a minute. Now put in the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and peas. Stir a few times and bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the green portion of the scallions and the sesame oil. Toss and turn off the heat.

1 lb medium been curd (tofu), cut into 1-inch cubes
4 Tbsp peanut oil
2 scallions, cut crosswise into fine rounds (keep white and green parts separate)
1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
5-6 medium mushroom, sliced
1 well-packed cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 medium tomatoes
2 Tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp salt
1-2 tsp chili paste with soybean
1 tsp rice vinegar
½ tsp sugar
1 c fresh or frozen defrosted peas
1 tsp oriental sesame oil

Spread a double layer of paper towels out on a board and lay the bean curd cubes on it in a single layer. Put another double layer of paper towels on top and then invert a large plate over the bean curd cubes to press out some of the water. Leave for 30 minutes.

Punjabi-Style Cauliflower and Potatoes with Ginger
Peanut or canola oil for shallow frying
1 lb boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 head of cauliflower, cut into delicate florets
1 Tbsp peeled finely chopped fresh ginger
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2-3 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over medium heat. When it is hot, put in the potatoes and fry until they are golden and almost tender, about 10 minutes. Lift the potatoes out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Turn the heat to mediu-high, put in the cauliflower florets, and fry for 3-4 minutes, until they are golden brown. Lift the cauliflower out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Turn the heat off. Remove all the oil from the frying pan except for 3 tablespoons (the extra oil can be strained and resused). Turn the heat to medium-high and put in the ginger. Stir for 10 seconds. Now return the potatoes and cauliflower to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium. Put in the turmeric, salt, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. Stir gently to coat the vegetables with the spices. Add 3 tablespoons of water. Stir once and cover the pan. Turn the heat down to low and cook very gently for 4 minutes. Add the cilantro and toss gently. Serve hot.

Both recipes come from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. This is a fantastic vegetarian cookbook (most recipes are vegan) and became part of my collection the week after Easter.

Next up… Travel and Staying on the Very Vegan Wagon

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