Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo Day 30: Coming of Age

I never know what to consider my “favorite city.” I have places I’ve been, places I’ve lived, that I love for a variety of reasons, personal, historical, experiential, or even aspirational. So asking me cook something inspired by a favorite city, after a week full of travel-related cooking, is tricky. That’s why I kept it simple, drawing from memories of living in Seattle for undergrad. Four short years, sure, but influential ones.

And, unfortunately, not well-documented ones, for me, at least as far as easy digital photography. iPods were still new, you know? My Nokia’s fanciest feature was the game Snake. I might’ve had a digital point & shoot, but where were those ever backed up? It’s gone forever, I guess.

The food scene in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Washington at the time heavily favored two things: Thai food, and teriyaki joints. If you didn’t have a favorite Thai place or opinion about the side salads on teriyaki chicken plates at numerous places along the Ave, did you even go here? And I surely did, but I also worked part-time at the university’s Health Sciences complex down on the water. It was just a little too far to grab Thai or teriyaki for lunch, and who hates themselves enough to eat at a hospital cafeteria when they don’t have to? Because there was Agua Verde about two blocks away, serving perfectly prepared fish tacos for a price that felt indulgently expensive and yet worth every penny.

Above: Cauliflower tacos.

Well, my tribute isn’t really there, but I started from a good place: instead of beer-battered catfish with avocado crema and cabbage, I did beer-marinated baked cauliflower with cashew crema and lime-marinated cabbage. (Ripe avocados were not to be found in my kitchen the day I made these, sadly.)

Above: Bonus chips and salsa.

I don’t remember chips and salsa being part of the deal, at least not at the lunchtime to-go window, but it’s tomato season here and I wanted a nice batch of salsa cruda to go with my tacos.

Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo Day 14: Bon appetit, ding dongs

Today’s prompt had me the most flummoxed: “Cook something to bring a villain back from the dark side.” What does that even meeeeeannn? It had to be a sympathetic villain, or one worthy of redemption, or simply one who might be fun to fuck with–which is how I landed on Shawn the demon from The Good Place. Or, really, any of the demons who have very stupid, smarmy ideas about how to torture humans.

I thought Shawn–or, okay, probably more realistically Vicki–might think it’s funny to feed the humans “gross” vegan food. Just terrible stuff no one would ever want to eat. The trick would be: it’s not actually gross, right? Ha, ha ha ha, I got you.

Above: Wings ‘n’ dip, motherforkers.

So I made BBQ baked cauliflower wings with ranch dip (Salad Samurai recipe). My BBQ sauce was also homemade. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% happy with how it all turned out–I really wanted it to be CRISPY, and it wasn’t–so maybe the joke’s on me. Wonder how many points this exercise is worth.

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#VeganMoFo Day 30: This Might Not Look Like YOUR Thanksgiving Prep…

…but my traditions are a little different. Look, Thanksgiving is one of the more problematic holidays, but it’s also become one of my favorites. As a kid, I wasn’t a huge fan of the menu: turkey is bland, mashed potatoes and gravy are fine, and I would’ve eaten my weight in pumpkin pie and whipped cream, but everything else? No, thanks. So as an adult, and adult who decided she wanted to HOST Thanksgiving after moving away from family, I moved away from all that autumnal Americana and treated it as an excuse to cook my ass off and make stuff I wouldn’t otherwise bother making. The menu became a creative exercise; the cooking, bonding and fun with my mom and others.

A key part of our tradition has become figuring out where we want to cook every year. We’ve dabbled in Mediterranean-inspired fare, done a full day of cooking and eating Japanese food, one thing after another; there’s been Indian food, soul food-inspired, and Italian. We don’t claim any deep knowledge of these cuisines, but we enjoy learning about the flavors, ingredients, and techniques–especially if they’re already vegan (or vegan-friendly). We try new things but make use of local, seasonal produce. We have an overflowing list of things to incorporate into our cooking for the next year, and recipes we shortlisted that didn’t make the final cut to try later on. But mostly, we enjoy the process–then we enjoy the food. It’s a good time.

This year, my mom and I both thought we’d like to try making tamales, which has always seemed like an intimidating project. Tamales on their own don’t make a complete meal, however, so we’d like to create a Mexican-inspired menu that isn’t comprised of the usual suspects (tacos, enchiladas, etc.). To that end, I picked up a new cookbook: Decolonize Your Diet, which takes a health-focused, culture-honoring approach to the traditional cuisine of the authors’ families.

While I’m still contemplating the menu – I think we’ll be a small group this year (though if you’re reading this and you’re in or near the Bay Area and in want of a plate of food this holiday, drop me a line) – I figured I’d take this opportunity to try at least one recipe from this super interesting cookbook. I might not make it for Thanksgiving, but it’s still trying something new, in the spirit of how I celebrate that day.

What I made was their cauliflower ceviche with homemade blue corn mini-baked tostadas. It was kind of like a cross between a salsa and a tabbouleh, served almost like a personal nacho chip with avocado (this is a terrible description, but it was tasty).

I’ve made corn tortillas many times in my handy tortilla press, and I have a stash of blue corn masa harina with which to make many more. I imagine, whatever my menu includes, I’ll have that opportunity. And I’m grateful for it.

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#VeganMoFo Day 20: Deconstructing the Stuffed Pepper

The cauliflower puree is roasted cauliflower blended with a little porcini broth, garlic, olive oil, nooch, and salt and pepper. I think roasting it made it come out more brown than white, which is less visually appealing, but oh well! Roasted cauliflower tastes good!

To meet today’s “deconstruction” challenge, I needed to think of a dish that was “constructed” enough in the first place to recognize… and, ideally, not merely “deconstruct” into a bowl. And also not copying a restaurant dish I like with “deconstructed” in its actual name.

So I thought on it and landed on the stuffed pepper. Now, I don’t have any particular affinity for a stuffed pepper – they seem difficult to eat and look very ‘70s kitsch – but it’s a format that would be easy to play with. I needed the bell pepper, a filling, and maybe a sauce. (Hello, the name of the blog is Vegans Need Sauce, after all.) I decided to simply grill slabs of bell pepper and use it as the serving medium for some kind of vegan ball.


Enter: the beet ball.

It’s got beets, nuts, chickpeas, porcini mushrooms, and plenty of herbs and spices. It’s baked. It’s easy. Perfect.

Then the cooking liquid from the dried mushrooms became the base of both the sauce and an element of the roasted cauliflower puree I made to go on the side. (It’s the swoosh. I got fancy.)

I tried to make the sauce green – to balance out the red balls and yellow pepper, natch – by pureeing porcini broth with parsley, fresh thyme, garlic, and the leftover chickpeas, but it cooked out more beige. Oh well. Fresh chopped parsley to the photographic rescue! The sauce was simmer with sherry, red wine vinegar, a little cornstarch, and nooch to thicken and season it.

The cauliflower puree is roasted cauliflower blended with a little porcini broth, garlic, olive oil, nooch, and salt and pepper. I think roasting it made it come out more brown than white, which is less visually appealing, but oh well! Roasted cauliflower tastes good!

Food Blog Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 7: No Fake Anything

For my money, no international cuisine embodies today’s theme of “original vegan” like Indian food. Sure, they’re more likely to cook with dairy, but vegetable oils are common and inexpensive and lentils, beans, rice, and other grains are critical components to dishes throughout the region.

At the farmers’ market this week, I picked up a few veggies that really lend themselves to Indian-inspired preparations: cauliflower and mustard greens. I’ve also had my eye on a recipe for fancy-looking roasted cauliflower and spiced rice dish with pomegranate seeds (also seasonal!) from Vegan for Everybody – and it was easy enough to find a simple palak recipe (pureed greens sauce) that would pair well with chickpeas, thanks to Vegan Richa’s website.

I have GOT to improve my plating skills, ‘cause this is a unicorn rainbow of deliciousness and I made it look a little meh. OH WELL.

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Roasted cauliflower coconut curry soup with chickpea-kale dry fry

This was pretty tasty, and I didn’t use any particular recipes. First, I tossed a bunch of cauliflower florets and rough-chopped onion with olive oil, pinch of salt, mustard seeds, and curry powder and roasted it at 400 F until everything looked browned and cooked well through (maybe 30 minutes?). Then I took out a few smaller florets and set them aside (for garnish/texture later) before dumping everything into the Vitamix with a can of lite coconut milk, some leftover vegetable broth (maybe ½ cup), a little tomato puree (again, not measured, but maybe 1/3 cup), and a healthy chunk of chopped fresh ginger. I put this back on the stove to simmer (with a little extra water, a little lump of coconut oil, and another pinch of salt), and seasoned with lemon juice just after turning off the heat later.

For the chickpea fry, I pan-fried the bulbous part of a small red spring onion, sliced thinly, with some mustard seeds and red pepper flakes, then added a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) with about a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and let it cook in the pan for a few minutes before adding a dash of tomato puree to coat. I let this cook down for a while before adding a handful of baby kale to the pan and covering to let the tender leaves wilt. After they did, I mixed them with tongs and added a splash of lemon juice.

I ladled the soup into the bowl first, then some of the chickpeas and kale, then a couple cauliflower florets and fresh spring onion greens. Yum.

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

Fabulous roasted purple cauliflower seasoned with oregano, red pepper, and nooch. Dino kale salad with shredded carrots, cabbage, and cherry tomatoes in an almond butter-garlic-lemon dressing. Pan-fried tempeh triangles with soy sauce. Yum.