Vegan recipe APB

Everyone who knows my husband, and almost everyone who knows of him, knows that he is hopelessly, irredeemably, unapologetically carnivorous. He eats meat or fish every day, often more than once, and he supplements it with plenty of butter and cheese.  He is fond of saying, when a salad is put in front of him, “this is the food that my food eats.”

So you can imagine my surprise when, a couple months back, he said, apropos of nothing: “I think I want to try going vegan for a month.”

I stopped what I was doing (chopping onions, it was), and looked at him, trying to process this. Generally, I’m pretty adept at the back-and-forth of conversation, but this had me drawing a blank. Kevin? Vegan?

“Who are you and what have you done with me husband?”

But it was Kevin, and he wanted to try going vegan for a month. He harbored a suspicion that his rampant carnivorousness wasn’t doing his health any good, and he wanted to see if he felt better eating less meat and more plants.

Now, if I wanted to see if I felt better eating less meat and more plants, I would eat less meat and more plants. But Kevin has an all-or-nothing approach to the world that I don’t share, and it’s easier for him to kick off this experiment by cutting out all animal products than it is for him to just rejigger the balance.

Vegan it would be. For the month of March. I was in.

I wasn’t all in. I like having cream in my coffee, and yogurt in my smoothies, and I wasn’t inclined to give those things up. Besides, Kevin and I rarely eat breakfast and lunch together, as I tend to get up earlier than he does, and we’re generally on different schedules. But we eat dinner together every night, and we both thought this would be a great opportunity to expand our veg-based culinary repertoire, and maybe even lose a few pounds. I could muster some enthusiasm for that plan.

But then the other shoe dropped. “And I think I’ll cut out alcohol, too,” Kevin said.

Seems to me that, if ever a month needed alcohol, it’s the month you’re going vegan. This was beyond the pale.

“But alcohol’s vegan!” I protested. In fact, on the list of vegan things that are wonderful, wine has to be Number One. Beer is probably fighting it out with chocolate for Number Two, although mangoes could be in the running. I pointed this out to Kevin, but he was immovable. Vegan and alcohol-free it was.

Today is Day 6. I was at a conference for two of those days, and I don’t adhere to the regimen when I’m not home. So far, I’ve been almost-vegan for all of three days. I made a nice mushroom-barley soup the first day, and a big bowl of stir-fried tofu and vegetables with peanut sauce last night. In between, Kevin made a curry with potatoes, cauliflower, and coconut milk.

It’s been fine, so far, although a little humbling. Yesterday afternoon, I wandered the aisles of my local Stop & Shop, where I have shopped almost daily for the best part of a decade, and tried to find the tofu. In all those years, I had never once bought it. Not only did I not know where it was, I was too embarrassed to ask the nice people who work at the market, because I couldn’t even narrow the search down to department. Was it in with the refrigerated salsas in the produce department? With the eggs? With the cheese? In with the pickles and specialty deli items? No clue. Eventually, I discovered it in the “Nature’s Promise” section of the store, where they house the organic and gluten-free and grass-fed things.

So I found it, but then I had to cook it. I pressed out some of the water, cubed it and coated it in corn starch, and put it in a hot oily wok. It was OK, combined with the vegetables and peanut sauce (I do make a mean peanut sauce), but it wasn’t nice and crispy, the way I wanted it to be.

The bottom line here, Starving readers, is that I need your help. I can cruise the interwebs endlessly, looking for vegan recipes, but I think I’d do better to ask you: What is your favorite vegan dish?

Thanks in advance for helping. If I don’t get better at this, it’s going to be a long March.

27 people are having a conversation about “Vegan recipe APB

    • Russ Caplan says:

      I just want you to know the thought of all this is making me very happy.
      I can’t wait to hear how your “green project” goes. I do think almost all
      Things Asian work without meat. Do oysters count as a plant? How about
      Artificial plant meat?

  1. For tofu, oven baked is the way to go for crispy—this method is what I use: (so much less fuss, too)

    I have a hard time finding vegan recipes online that isn’t annoying, calling for things like chia seeds and protein powder and god knows what else (we’re not vegan but eat a lot of plant-based meals). But Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen has lots of vegan or near-vegan recipes that are really good:

  2. My chili recipe from the vegetarian version of the South Beach Diet follows. It is devoured by all my family members, veggies and carnivores alike (who usually stop at Burger King on their way to visit me because they think they can’t survive one dang meal without meat, lol.)

    Saute 2 cups chopped bell peppers (I like a mix of red, yellow & green ones) with some onion and garlic in olive oil; add a drained can each of red beans and black beans, a small can of diced chilies, a can of diced tomatoes (not drained) and a small can of tomato sauce (obviously real cooks can do all these items from scratch – for me, I can throw this all together in about 5 minutes using the cans). Add a tsp of cumin and chili powder to taste, then throw in 12 oz of soy burger and let it all simmer for a half hour or so. It’s yummy. Serve it with cornbread (here’s a vegan recipe:

  3. Dear Tamar, Fear not. Look to your Washington Post where I have posted both Caramelized Tofu in a Blood Orange Sauce and Everybody’s Chili Verde. Both are beautifully, embracingly vegan. Yr friend in cream and butter, Cathy

  4. Amanda Blum says:

    Meanwhile, in PDX….. it should surprise no one I have a lot of vegan friends and have become uncharacteristically good about accomodating them at dinner parties. Its led to a few interesting conclusions. Rather than become perplexed about starting recipes from “vegan” I just reengineer regular recipes that I already enjoy. For instance, there is literally use of butter that coconut oil can’t replace without loss of taste. Coconut oil is one of my favorite finds, ever, and I’m a particular fan of the trader joe’s version, which I know you have access to. I am also a big fan of the better than boullion seasoned vegetable base. It produces really flavorful, dark vegetable stock without a lot of sodium. It is vegan, FYI. And nutritional yeast is the food hero we didn’t know we all needed. throw it on all the things, but on popcorn or potatoes it is phenomenal and packed w protein.
    The key to the tofu thing is that you just don’t have access to the right tofu. Asian markets carry a different kind of it that is better for grilling and frying.. it has a skin on it. On any of your jaunts into Boston it would be worth it to pop over and look… it comes in a different package without water. As for what to do with tofu, I’m still a fan of hiyyayako, so I get silken tofu, bonito flakes, and shred some radish on top, sliced green onions, bonito and soy sauce and eat it room temp.
    But I try to be diligent about finding different protein sources, because I am firmly in the “no fake meat” camp. No tofurkey. If you want meat, eat meat. No frankenmeat.
    Amaranth turned out to be something I never knew I loved, but has a great bite and is good for encrusting veggies (and meat, for April), but also makes a great burger. I love serving fresh peas in the pod, maybe tossed with sea salt, but often nothing, as an app. Artichokes are a perfect lunch. Spinach, edamame, and almonds in all forms, in al the things. Almond flour. slivered almonds. Ground almonds. Nut butters generally, actually, which includes tahini. Chickpeas, quinoa (which i find is easier in a rice cooker). Throw seeds on everything.
    So what to do with it all? Vegetable soups, given the time of year, and instead of potatoes as a thickener, use beans- like white beans. Nuts can be used to make a crust… I make a kick ass vegan vegetable tart on an almond crust, but I’ve done it w pecans as well. Infact, my favorite is a mushroom croustade on a walnut and and almond crust with mushrooms and vegan yogurt.
    Otherwise, I just cook the way I normally do, which is pretty simply: vegetable, starch, protein, and when I get to protein, I think of what I’d usually make (a pork chop, for instance) and then figure out how to change it for my vegan friends. Sliced, encrusted roasted eggplant. Chickpea fritters. Cauliflower steaks. Bean burgers.

    I can’t help you w the no alcohol. That’s just fucking nuts. Although I did recently learn that high hop beers are now as off limits as wine for me. Soon it’ll just be me clutching a bottle of gin in my bathtub.

    • Great, great list. I’m definitely looking to Asia and the Middle East for ideas here, and I’m with you on the fake meat (although I really want to try an Impossible Burger).

      And don’t get me started on the booze …

  5. Can’t help you on the vegan front. In fact, Steve and I have a saying between us that we’ll accommodate vegetarian houseguests, but vegans are on their own (I have three out of four sisters who have been full on vegans for years, and maybe that’s why they haven’t visited). However, when you and Kevin get off the month of madness, I would urge you to try going paleo for a month. Most people assume paleo is all about the meat, because that’s all they’ve heard the emphasis is on, as in, “oh my God! you get to eat BACON!”. But it’s not; it’s actually all about the vegetables. When I went paleo a little over two years ago, it was in response to figuring out that my ‘related symptoms’ was actually an autoimmune disorder and I was desperate to start feeling better, which I did- not a hundred percent, but better. The incredible thing was though, that I lost forty pounds in like six months, which, if you’re over fifty and you’ve tried to do the normal way, is really saying something, because before, no matter what I cut out – sugar, alcohol- I’d lose five pounds and then gain it back, without changing anything. Still depriving myself and the damn weight came back. But eating paleo, it was easy, because except for having to adhere to no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, you could eat as much and whatever you wanted. I had occasion to see the doctor in January right when I started and then again in April that first year, and she asked me what I was doing because of the rapid weight loss, and when I told her, she said, “Huh. So doing what we’re supposed to be doing.” Which was it. If you want to read a really fascinating book that explains why it works for everybody, not just sick people like me, read The Paleo Approach, by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. And before I bore you to tears with this, most people who go paleo don’t do it 100%- they just mostly do it with the occasional cheat. But try a whole month of it and you should feel really good after. Maybe even lose five pounds. Steve looks pretty good with the possible exception of his somewhat teddybear stomach, but there’s no way I’m separating that boy from his beer. That would just be insane.

  6. Make salsa verde: roast onion, garlic, tomatillos and poblano chiles. Peel the chiles and throw everything in the blender with fresh cilantro, salt and a shot of lime juice or cider vinegar, and a teaspoon of cumin. Simmer for about 20 minutes on top of the stove. Make an enchilada filling with cooked, cubed potatoes, green chiles, cumin, oregano, cilantro and salt. Fill corn tortillas with potato fillling, cover with salsa verde and bake briefly in the oven until heated through. Serve with refried beans and yellow rice, and pico de gallo. Use the green chile sauce and pico de gallo on vegan tostadas, too–beans, tofu, and dressed lettuce. Or any vegetable. Don’t forget that guacamole is vegan. Speaking of avocados, check on Food52 for my recipe for avocado chocolate mousse to feed your sweet tooth. No alcohol doesn’t apply to chocoholics.

    • I have the best friends ever. The enchiladas sound delicious.

      And I’m even considering the avocado chocolate mousse … which I might not have, but I didn’t know until just now that it was your recipe.

  7. Hard tofu. Proper hard tofu that takes a keen knife.

    Singapore-style spicy (and a little sweet) peanut satay tofu:
    Marinate the tofu (if you like – maybe soy, ginger and garlic), stir-fry it with chillies and a bunch of other, unimportant vegetables.
    Apply your satay peanut sauce before serving.

    Indian subcontinent style chickpea curry. But don’t use canned chickpeas. Just don’t. Ever.

    I have always wanted to make this avocado-chocolate “cheesecake” thing (I once saw on TV), but never have:
    (I cite it here as reference material, it’s probably much the same as what Zora mentions above.)

    • I sis this one a few times- it’s super chocolatey, creamy and just plain wonderful. I refrain from calling it amazing because that one’s so overused, but considering the ingredients….

  8. Brooke Snow says:

    Our family manages to hunt, fish, and grow/raise some of our food. My husband is a typical Firefighter and eats way more meat than is needed. My girls and I are 90% vegetarian. My go to veggie based meals are lentil salad (green lentils cooked until just done, tossed warm into red wine vinegar, olive oil, with chives, carrots and celery), spaghetti squash halved and loaded with a variety of things and baked (burrito contents, marinara and white beans, pesto and artichokes are all good fillings). I also like an eggplant steak, grilled, and topped with bruschetta (and feta cheese). Zucchini halved, cored and filled with any of the previously mentioned stuff and either grilled or roasted. Kale salad is our probably the favorite. I chop it, toss it with lemon juice and salt. Let sit for about 5 minutes then massage it. Yes. Massage that kale. Top with a nut of some kind, and whatever veggies you like, and some olive oil. Its a meal. This buddha bowl trend is blowing my mind. I admire the gusto you and Kevin have with this. To go from meat, dairy, and alcohol, to balls to the wall vegan is a move. Even if its only for a month. Look up the Engine 2 diet. I managed for one month and then cleaned house on my food and reintegrated as I saw fit. Its terribly boring to read but its a great starting point to clean up. I like bacon. And coffee. Also beer and wine. I will never be ashamed to take a clean shot at an animal or make sure its raised right before it hits out table. But I feel better physically with less land based animal products. I think we’re doing ok when the 9 and 4 year old ask for more kale salad. For the sweet tooth, try date balls, or peanut butter balls. I can send you the recipe for them. Myself and my little ladies love them.

    • Brooke, you are a woman after my own heart. Sounds like you feed yourself and your family incredibly well, and you clearly have an enthusiasm for food (which I obviously share). I think, when our vegan month is done, we will be operating much as you do — veg heavy, with some meat thrown in. We have two deer in the freezer, and we will most certainly eat them! But maybe we won’t need much more. Very glad to have your ideas! And if you have a good date ball recipe, definitely send it my way (tamarhaspel @ gmail . com). And thanks for weighing in.

  9. Sauté 2 bunches of Tuscano Kale washed and chopped, in olive oil, crushed red pepper and garlic when almost cooked add a half a can of drained white beans. Makes a great side dish. Whatever you have leftover add the other half of the beans and olive oil and pulse in a food processor for a yummy bean spread. You can try different greens, escarole is nice.

    Stuff squash goes well with this. Acorn in the cool months or summer squash in the warmer month. Bread stuffing with mushrooms or dried fruit, or whatever strikes your fancy.

    Shortening Pie crust rustic tarts, with mashed sweet potatoes topped with sautéed mushrooms and roasted red peppers. All sorts combinations lend themselves to tarts, pie, etc.

    Best of luck!

  10. My Filipino in-laws have been known to have boiled rice and soy sauce for dinner, but you’re probably looking for something more sophisticated.

  11. You just have to look outside typical american foods. Uc davis integrative medicine has an awesome pasta e fagioli recipe which is vegan and filling, don’t miss the meat.
    Any Indian recipes made with lentils. If you have the patience make this recipe double Indian Saag with tofu is also good.
    It would be interesting to check Kevin’s and your cholesterol numbers before and after.

  12. Mylene Caplan says:

    Personally, I’m just hoping the experiment is done by the next time we visit you. Although then I might not have to go out in the boat……..:)

  13. Tonight we’re having a curry of aubergine (eggplant) potato and peas. Chef google will oblige with a myriad Indian recipes. Just don’t ever use curry powder.It’s no trouble to use individual spices.

  14. I will echo another comment and recommend Serious Eats for vegan recipes. Kenji also lays down a technique for getting seriously crispy tofu bu just shallow frying. Absorbs a tasty sauce so very well. Also good for some vegan junk food ideas, like nacho cheese and macaroni and cheese and the like.

  15. PlantFood.Vegan says:

    My favorite cold weather meal is a hearty vegan chili made without measuring anything and adding grilled vegetables and a little liquid smoke after the initial chili seasoned beans have sat in a crockpot for 8 hours. No need for oil to make it delicious. The grilled veggies add loads of flavor.
    As for vegan wine, not all wine is vegan. Check on Barnivore for those that pass.

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