Grumpy Confused Vegan: What's for dinner contest?

Let's just say that sometimes a plate of broccoli is less than exciting.

Desperately seeking your go-to, week-night, plant-world recipes. A reward and contest is forthcoming. But any recipes contributed from now until Aug. 2 will be entered in a random drawing (and for consideration in the Nake-id Cucina).

Your suggestions, por favor?

Grumpy Cheap Vegan: Weeds!

A couple of years ago, Sundari from Heirloom Gardens sold me some purslane along with other greens. It's an au currant vegetable, full of omega 3's and vitamin C. And, like she said, it's also probably growing in the cracks of your sidewalk.

I chopped it up and put it in a salad, and as we ate, I had that queasy feeling you get when eating something with questionable provenance--like chicken beak or eel roe. Or anything Andrew Zimmer ingests. So with a bumper crop of purslane invading inhabiting our garden, I thought, what if we could obviate its identity? Out came the food processor.

Take your favorite pesto recipe--for basil, sage or parsely--and substitute the leaves from these ubiquitious plants. I used two large weeds, a healthy handful of walnuts, one garlic clove, one lemon, sea salt and enough extra virgin olive oil to get the mixture to "pesto."

We spread it on homemade flatbreads and topped it with grilled vegetables. Lovely. Organic. And free!

N.B. After separating hundreds of purslane leaves from their stems, I've realized that no matter how satisfying it is to eat the enemy, there are more efficient weed mitigation strategies.

Grumpy Vegan: Yes, we have some bananas!

In thinking about the foods ingested over the last months, many have been less than spectacular. (You could have played a mean game of four-square with my homemade seitan. Or dodge ball, if the goal was to maim or kill.)

But let's turn to the humble, not-so-local banana. Who knew that the banana would play such a key role in keeping the Nake-id Household sane, happy and sated during this summer of plant-based ?

Without the banana, green smoothies would be greener and grassier. Chia puddings would be tasteless, gelatinous swamps. Cereal would be lonely.

And we never would have discovered this:

Peel three bananas. Place them in a plastic bag and freeze for two-to-three hours. (You don't want your bananas to be rock hard.) Then toss them into a food processor with a tablespoon of your favorite cocoa/cacao, coconut flakes, dried fruit of your choice or solo. Whip into a soft-serve-like froth.

Share with a friend. Then marvel at this simple, delicious almost-better-than-ice-cream treat.

Thank me, later.*

This dessert has been written about in many vegan and raw food cookbooks and blogs. It is in no way original to Chez Nake-id, though we are most grateful and happy to spread the 'nanner love!

 

 

Raw dinner at Root Down

It started with a saffron-colored watermelon gazpacho spiked with cucumber habanero granita, pickled fennel and maple vinegar syrup. Each dip of the spoon revealed different layers of flavor, sweet first, then sour, then spicy; diaphanous beet slices surfed this tangy sea, adding a toothsome element.

Thus began our culinary adventure at Root Down's Raw Food Night. Last summer the restaurant did raw food specials every Tuesday, but with the opening of their sister eatery, Linger, last month in the old Olinger Mortuary just blocks away, the staff couldn't manage the sourcing and prep required of these labor-intensive all-organic, all-raw, vegan, gluten-free high-wire acts.

Fascinated by the raw food movement and how through wizardry, dehydration and a really good blender, "cooks" manage to conjure faux breads, pseudo noodles and mock meatballs, I was dying to try one of Chef Daniel Asher's raw food dinners.

I knew better than to try Nake-id ITs patience with a raw meal ("I'm paying $37 for this and it's not even cooked?"), so I asked friend Caitlin, a curious and slightly gluten-sensitive soul, who's always game for new taste treats.

Since I had dithered over making reservations, we could only get a 9 p.m. spot but arrived an hour early on the off-chance of no-shows. Though the night had been spitting rain, Root Down opened their patios and we were seated immediately.

Our table on the perimeter of the porch offered a southeastern view of the Denver skyline and the evening air was cool and still from the rain. Our server suggested three wines, a pinot noir, a white and a sparkling something, but since I was feeling chilled, I urged the red at the same time hoping we hadn't just bought a $75 bottle. (For Nake-id IT: We didn't.)

The pinot was a light but sturdy Oregonian, not a perfect match for watermelon gazpacho but better with the the English pea and almond samosas, which looked like nutty sushi rolls, tasted fruity and exotic and confounded our ability to identify what we were eating. The main course, spiralized summer squash served with a raw "puttanesca" sauce, caused us to reimagine semonlina pasta and plan a similar fate for the curcubits about to emerge from the garden.

Eventually the rain blew in again and the staff at Root Down swooped its damp al fresco diners indoors without ruffling a napkin.

The only disappointing course was the final. The cacao mousse was divine, as dark and velvety as a fleece. An extra dollop of the mousse would have sufficed. Instead, this very trendy plate featured half a raw fig--succulent and beautiful--a sweet lychee and a shot glass filled with a bitter, medicinal liquid--ginger-infused Thai coconut water, as it turns out.

But that's quibbling. If you're raw curious, make a reservation now for August's dinner, offered on the first Tuesday. We were told these rawsome meals always sell out.

La vie en burrito

Romance is the subject of Woody Allen's latest Midnight in Paris. This is not uncharted territory for the auteur, who has been dining out on the bursting and blowing of romantic bubbles his entire career. Whether it's the love of a city, a woman or a zeitgeist, Allen has put his characters on a see-saw between illusion and disillusionment for four decades.

The movie opens on the misbegotten lovers Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams on holiday in Paris. He's enraptured with the city, besotted with the American-in-Paris expatriot literary heritage. She's bored and dismissive. We've seen this pair before, as early as Annie and Alvy in the frames of Annie Hall, and more recently in Melinda and Melinda and even Vicky Christina Barcelona. When the see-saw reaches its tipping point, the rose-colored glasses fall off and we see the other cast in the harshest of lights.

But here we are in a lovingly, sepia-tinted Paris, where our hero is transported back to Paris in the '20s and stumbles on a who's who of the avant garde--the Fizgeralds, Hemingway (in a hilarious comic turn by Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Djuna Barnes, Salvador Dali, a vertitable Vanity Fair Oscar Party circa 1927.

Allen's conceit here is exceptionally clever; old liberal arts majors and Paris-philes can sit in the theater feeling mighty smug when recognizing Alice B. Toklas, Cole Porter and Josephine Baker. Allen is as playful as a freshman; when Owen Wilson notices Gertrude Stein purchasing a Matisse for 500 francs, he says (aware of his life and position in the 21st century), "I'll take six."

There is a lot to be said for romance. Paris in the '20s was the icing on my cake for years. And years. Hell, it still is. But, as funny and pretty and full of wit as Midnight in Paris is, I wish the older Allen would push through his frosh year and show us something deeper. What happens when the see-saw rights itself and finds equilibrium, bouncing occasionally as it does from limerance to exasperation to wonder to getting the dishes washed?

Which brings me to the wash up after the Burrito Bonanza contest.

The giant All-American Hog Dogirrito was sunk by a sleek apple-dolce-de-leche wrap, a confection so pretty and luscious-sounding it makes me want to flush my green smoothies.

Vegan dolce de leche, which brings to mind Buenos Aires, and alfajores and sipping mate in the late morning, and tango. Romance is everywhere people. Even inside a burrito.

 

Above: Marion Cotilliard and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris

Vida Vegan Con Burrito Contest Entry: The All-American Hot Dogirito

Get a load--a big load--of this puppy!

Inspired by BBQ season and the impending celebration of the birth of our great nation, I give you the All-American Hot Dogirito, my official entry in Vegan Epicurious' Burrito-thon competition for a coveted admission ticket to the first ever Vida Vegan Con, vegan bloggers conference.

This is not just a veggie hot dog. It's a meal in your fist.

Combining Tofu Pups, spicy grilled organic sweet potato fries and organic cole slaw in a coarse-grain mustard vinaigrette, you've got a modern twist on all-American summer picnic classic...all cozied up and tucked into one whole wheat tortilla.

The best part? You'll probably have leftover fries and slaw for a veggie burger 'cue the next day.

Sweet and tangy with a nice, cool crunch from the cole slaw and a subtle smokyness from the weenies, this dog can bark.

Enjoy with a vegan beverage of your choice. And about six digestive enzyme capsules.

All-American Hot Dogirrito

Ingredients:

The fries

2 large organic sweet potatoes cut into 1/3- inch wedges

3 Tbs olive oil

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

½-1 tsp hot Chimayo chile powder (or other hot chile powder), depending on your tolerance

The slaw

1 small head organic green cabbage

½ bunch scallions

½ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley

The dressing

4 Tbs red wine vinegar

4 heaping tsp coarse-grain mustard

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 liberal shakes of the Tabasco bottle

kosher salt to taste

The dogs, etc.

2 Tofu Pups (or preferred brand soy hot dog)

1 whole wheat tortilla

Condiments (Dijon mustard and dill pickles featured above.)

Instructions:

Toss all the ingriedient for the fries together in a bowl. And then grill on top of a low flame for 30 to 40 minutes.

While your fries are grilling, shred the cabbage and green onions in a food processor (or chop by hand) and add parsley.

In a separate bowl, mix coarse-grain mustard and red wine vinegar, then slowly add olive oil while whisking furiously. Season with Tobasco and salt. And add to cabbage mixture.

When your fries are done, grill your Tofu Pups on low for about five to seven minutes. Then slice your pups in half and lay on a warmed tortilla that you've slathered in your favorite hot dog sauce. Dijon mustard is divine, but a vegan BBQ sauce could be fun, too. Lay in your pickles, onions, relish, what-have-you, then top with a healthy helping of fries and cole slaw.

Wrap. Eat. Waddle away from the table. Woof!

Why Vida Vegan Con?

To give a much-needed jolt to this gas-bag of an old blog. To learn some vegan cooking secrets. To serve as a cross-disciplinary envoy between the (ahem) knitsch world of knit blogging/magazine writing and vegan blogging/magazine writing. To share what little I know. To see the beautiful city of Portland for the first time. To meet an extraordinarily progressive and entrepreneurial group of bloggers and writers. To hit a few Portland yarn shops, natch.

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Pomegranate Ganache

The other night a friend brought an amazing vegan chocolate cake to our house that everyone went mad for. Since Father's Day was approaching--and there's nothing Dad loves more than chocolate cake--I had to oblige.

Sally had infused hers with orange extract or liquor, topped it with sprigs of fresh mint then served it with lemon sorbet. A lovely twist for summer. Since I had an enormous jar of E.D. Smith Raspberry Cherry Pomegranate Acai More Fruit (us plebes call it, "jam") from Costco, I made a plain cake using this recipe, which is so easy you'll be scrambling those free-range eggs instead of deploying them in baked goods, and then sandwiched the RCPA jam between the layers.

The cake was gorgeous just like that. But I envisioned, a graceful dripping of ganache, running down the sides of the cake, pooling decoratively on the serving plate. Back to the Internet for a vegan ganache recipe, which I adjusted thusly,

    7 to 8 ounces vegan dark chocolate
    2 tablespoons vegan butter
    1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
    1 tablespoon pomegranate liquor
    2 Tbs powdered sugar

As you can see above, there was no graceful dripping of ganache rather unholy glopping. No one seemed to mind the homely frosting or the vegan baking. We each had two pieces.

 

N.B. Use a good cocoa powder. This cake was made with liberal doses of Dutch cocoa and Black Onyx cocoa from Savory Spice Shop.

Too many sprouts

Here's the thing: One day you have no sprouts, the next day you have so many that you're going, "Here, kitty, kitty...nom, nom!"

Having gone all vegan, I've read that living foods--sprouts--are particularly beneficial. (Though once they hit the hydrochloric acid swirling around in your tummy, no doubt, all bets are off as far as health benefits.) So I ran off to my favorite source for all things herbaceous (Mountain Rose Herbs) and loaded up on sprouting seeds and a hemp sprouting bag, developed by a guy who calls himself, Sproutman. I'll just leave it there. Sproutman.

It's all very easy. You water them. Drain them. Keep them in the dark for a time. Give 'em a dose of sunlight, pumping them up with chlorophyll and before you know it you have...food.

The germinating seeds pictured above in the little bag are radish sprouts, the ones in the jar are red clover. What in the world are we going to do with them?

Kale Avocado Salad, anyone?

If you have any kind of affinity for kale, watch Karen Knowler's video above and do likewise. You can add anything to it that appeal, red peppers, artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds, whatever's floating around in your crisper drawer. We crave this salad like we crave a bacon cheeseburgers stuffed with gorgonzola. It's that good.

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

It's come to this. Not only am I annoying family with my vegan pretentions, I'm spreading it to friends and neighbors.

Last night I brought a veganized Caesar Salad that was slurpped up with nary a quibble. (We have polite friends.)

I'm mad for this, no doubt because it has none of the low-fat virtues of some vegan recipes. It has the creamy texture of a great Caesar without incorporating anything creepy like fake cheese or cream. And, for those of you with anchovy aversions--this is a no fish dish. (This recipe was inspired by this flavor-packed version here.) Bon apetit!

Veganized Caesar Salad

Ingredients

1 head Romaine lettuce

4-5 slices dark rye bread, toasted or stale

1-2 cloves garlic

olive oil

Dressing

1/2 cup good quality olive oil

1/2 fresh lemon

1/2 avocado

1 heaping TBS capers

1 TBS red wine vinegar

1 small raw clove garlic

1 scant TBS Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and Tobasco to taste

Instructions

Wash, dry and tear lettuce.

Cut toasted/stale bread into 1-inch cubes. Heat olive oil and garlic in skillet and toss in bread cubes, stirring for several minutes over medium heat.

For the dressing, toss all ingredients into the blender and combine on a low speed.

Toss together with lettuce until lettuce is well covered with dressing. Add croutons. And chow down!

Notes: I've wondered about adding two or three TBS of nutritional yeast as a grated parmesan cheese substitute, but have yet to try. Also if you want a fishier dressing, you might add a pinch or two of dulce flakes to the dressing ingridients, but haven't given this the taste test either!