Inspired Vegan Dining

Meyerly Sipping Gingerly Cocktail, garnished with Thai kefir lime leaves and fresh lemon peel.

It takes a lot for a cookbook to truly hold my attention, and the stories and recipes, in addition to the soundtrack, of Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen did just that. This past January, his latest, The Inspired Vegan was released, and I’ve been captivated.  The words, the quotes, the instructions and meal components, were just that, inspired. I immediately placed a hold at my library upon its release, and after two weeks and multiple recipes on my table, I purchased my own copy.

Bryant Terry is simultaneously an activist for food justice within the culinary world – and beyond, as he is an author, chef, and parent, taking a lot of inspiration for his books from his daughter’s birth.

The human connection and understanding of what we put into our mouths, and how, and with whom, is fascinating. I may not have a space to garden of my own, but I’m anxiously awaiting my first Portland farmers market visit of the season this weekend, and returning home with a notion of that evening’s dinner unfolding in my head.

Sunday night’s dinner from The Inspired Vegan brought the following to the table:

*I subbed fresh pinto beans

Tofu in Roasted Chili Oil with Peanuts

Roasted chili oil, cooling.

Plates being set for Sunday night's dinner: tofu in roasted chili sauce with peanuts, garlic braised gai lan, pinto beans in a thick gravy with roasted garlic, short grain brown rice and tagerine & orange mimosas.

I was stoked to find so many fresh greens at the Eugene farmers market, including gai lan, which was specifically called for in a recipe.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my first leap into the book for a dinner party. My guests, some dear friends, have a variety of dining habits, and every dish included was eaten by all.

The Inspired Vegan spread with accompaniments.

On the table for this dinner:

  • Wet jollof rice with garlic parsley paste – a vibrant, perfect accompaniment
  • Funmilayo fritters [baked with coconut oil spray] with harissa – I find myself starting to praise another accompaniment, so, you get my drift. It wouldn’t stop.
  • Bright-black fingerling* potatoes
  • Chipotle & blood orange ketchup [adapted from the plum ketchup]
  • Gingered sesame brittle [I couldn't find my candy thermometer and over-caramelized, but the final product remained intriguing]
  • fresh thyme
  • Moskarella #1  & rice crackers, a bonus from Isa’s test kitchen
  • in addition: cherry vanilla sodas with fresh blood orange and local Burnside Bourbon

*I subbed Yukon Gold potatoes

Funmilayo white bean & peanut fritters and the Wet jollof rice stew.

Bright black potatoes, etc.

In short, if you’re appreciate of creative, plant-based cuisine, pick this up.

Lemony Ricotta & Summer Squash Pizza; Pea Coconut Puree

Squash, squash y'all

When one is faced with this lengthy summer bounty, they start with the classics. They grate. They bake. They stuff. They roast. When it is warm, they carefully peel raw noodles. When there’s a breeze, they contemplate how this could extend their summer chili. They shred some more. From there, they google. With that, they stumble in love with Smitten Kitchen’s kemony zucchini goat cheese pizza.

From the moment I saw the result pop up with its enchanting image of thinly layered summer squash, I felt that much better about this weird summer. Inspired by Smitten’s design, my version changes the layout a bit, colorwise, adding a ring of black cherry cherry tomatoes, with plenty of fresh lemon juice whisked into the herbed tofu ricotta, on top of Hot Lips pizza dough ($2). It was all topped off with extra virgin olive oil and a bunch of freshly ground black pepper. As it should be.

Lemony herbed ricotta spread

Finale: Lemony Summer Squash Pizza with Tofu Ricotta, Fresh Basil & Cherry Tomatoes

This same weekend, I found myself shelling fresh peas. It was instantly therapeutic and I started thinking fresh pasta! risotto! creamy soups! puree! getting fishy!?! Blame on all the Gordon Ramsey I’ve been watching (I don’t have cable, so I make do with whatever cooking shows I can), but I took inspiration for this dish from all his bleeping scallops. My sister was quickly horrified when I told her I was making pea puree for dinner, but turned it around and approved once I assured her that was “fancy”. Er, thanks, sis! You enjoy that fettucine alfredo, I’ll break out the peas, coconut milk and fresh basil, thank you very much.

Grilled Tofu, marinated in a Citra Summer Blonde Ale & Yellow Curry sauce, fresh Pea & Coconut puree with Basil, Sesame Green Beans & Wild rice

Grilled tofu & peas: because when in doubt, play with textures and marinate in beer.

dinner dates

Truth be told, I spent a decent portion of my free time being a hermit and talking to my cats. Every now and then, I break out the Mrs. Meyer’s basil, put on a dress, warp into hostess mode with a big party, or more recently, smaller dinner parties, or frankly, pie circles (hello, test kitchen) and tell my friends to simply show up hungry. The belated Hidden Gems wrap-up is truly coming next; things like life and my jobs and commitments and pie making, simply, and pleasantly, have gotten in the way. That’s all I can handle of this ‘me, myself & my blog’ discussion, so with a deep breath, let’s move on to the photos.

Here’s what I’ve been up to, culinary wise, recently:

Berry Balsamic Pie with Olive Oil Lattice Crust. From the PPK Test Kitchen. With each crust, I get a little more confident.

Coconut Lime Cream Pie with Rad Whip (test 2). From the PPK Test Kitchen.

Grasshopper Pie and the Berry Balsamic, for a recent impromptu dinner party with friends, including my dear Vegan Moxie.

Santander salad, a test run for this weekends Spanish-themed Heartichoke dinner. Im in awe of my BFFs plating and design here.

More of this past weekends Heartichoke-orientated spread, including smoked balsamic shiitakes, vibrant saffron pickled cauliflower and carrots, grapefruit marinated olives and the third and final test batch of the smoked potato cheese in the rear- we have a winner!

Rewind a couple weeks ago - I put together a soy & gluten free vegan spread for a dinner date with a friend.

Caribbean kidney bean curry, smoked balsamic mushrooms (love.these.), my first fried plantains with coarse salt, cheesy shallot rice fritters.

For dessert: dark chocolate, agave & crushed macadamia nut pudding.

Lastly - bring on the seasonal produce! Heres my haul from this past weekends farmers market: microgreens, cornmeal, spinach, collard raab, chives, rangpur limes, tulips & purple carrots. Cause little known fact: theres a purple carrot on my foot.

And hey, if you see me around town lately, there’s probably a piece of pie in my bag, just waiting for you to inquire.

lately

I’m just going to come out and say it. Hi. My name is Jess. I have a camera and a blog and here’s the flow of what I’ve been up to lately:

Smoked Potato Cheese: Take 2, Creamy Edition. I'll post the recipe after one more test run before Heartichoke.

Have I mentioned that I'm digging my stovetop smoker? Well, I am. Smoked Cherry Tomato & Kale Raab Pesto Bruschetta

Kale Raab Bistro Chowder; Bruschetta. Bistro Chowder Recipe from Appetite for Reduction. Farewell, Soup Season.

Tofu Cube Toss with Smoked Tomatoes, Roasted Red Pepper, Maitake Mushrooms, Kalamata Olives, Collard Raab; Mac & Cheddar Teese Sauce with Miso & Collard Raab. This ain't no wimpy scramble.

Baked Saffron Rice with Roasted Peppers. The recipe will be in the Spring issue of T.O.F.U. Magazine. Zomg.

From a small dinner party: Baked Saffron Rice with Roasted Peppers, Serrano Seitan Ham over Kale, Roasted Potato Bread and Blood Orange & Grapefruit Marinated Olives, etc.

Galician Empanada Pie with Smoked Soy Curls & Serrrano Ham, Take 1. Will be working on the conrmeal crust and spice factor.

TGI Return of the FarMar & Multi-Color Carrots. There are white carrots in the empanada pie, yo.

From the PPK Test Kitchen: Cappuccino Mousse Pie with Rad Whip. I'll get the fluffin' up next time.

From the PPK Test Kitchen: Manhattan Mud Pie. Photo by Lucas DeShazer. Truly, one of the few times you'll ever see me in the backround of a photo here.

Portland Hidden Gems are up next. Really.

Pesto-stuffed Chickpea Cutlet Balls & Television

So, I’m a television fanatic. It hails back to my days of sharing a bedroom with my younger siblings and quietly watching The X-Files while sitting a foot away from the  television screen (seeing both films on opening day), and evolved into obsession via the same small television set with the first episode of Buffy during my freshman year of high school. I may have just as many memories of Xander and Willow as I do my real life friends, woops. There aren’t many shows I watch on a dedicated, weekly basis now (or that I’d admit so quickly). I still resist Hulu for the most part and can instantaneously open my out-dated rant about how the real LOST fans are those who were watching during Season 1 and went insane the rest of the week for six onwards years – and even worse, during summer hiatus – and then, the writer’s block. The suspense! The attempt at patience! The gift of a new episode!

This is pretty normal Jess-in-person ranting and it would be out-of-place on this here post if it wasn’t for the following connection – my new found-love for Bob’s Burgers. I adore Home Movies – it’s one of the few dvd sets I actually own, so I gave it this new series a chance, and I’ve been hooked since week one. It’s pretty damn nostalgic to find myself looking forward to Sunday evenings again! I’m a sucker for the parents’ sweet antics and accents, and these may be the most entertaining kids I’ve seen on television since Brendon, Melissa and Jason, of course. Back to the point – on the latest episode, a spaghetti and meatball dinner was featured, and 24 hours later, I was sitting down to this vegan version.

Bob's Burgers inspired dinner: baked pesto-stuffed chickpea cutlet balls, homemade marinara, multi-grain spaghetti, steamed kale

The chickpea cutlet recipe is from Veganomicon, no surprise. I’ve baked the dough as balls many times in the past, and I usually add marjoram and basil into the mix. This time, I flattened circles of the dough and added a small dollop of homemade raab pesto, carefully formed it back into a ball, and baked them at 400F for 20 minutes, flipped the balls, and baked an additional 15 minutes at 425F. I would declare “Bon Appetit!”, but Gene’s not here to usher us out with a dramatic keyboard solo.

P.S. Admittedly, I have gone and blogged many LOST-obsessed meals. Speaking of, Jorge Garcia making almond milk = be still, my freaking heart.

I’ll likely find myself making some Bob’s inspired veggie burgers soon!

Orecchiette con broccolini

Orecchiette con broccolini; smoked and seared tofu

I picked up a bag of Italian orecchiette last week at Barbur World Foods as part of my dramatic & ongoing hidden gem investigation with one intention – making this traditional recipe once again from The Urban Vegan. It’s a classy weeknight meal with plenty of thinly sliced garlic sauteed in olive oil (you better go high quality!), a hint of salty miso, a sprinkle of nooch, and in this case, broccolini subbing for the signature vegetable…but I don’t think my distant family in Sicily would mine that one. The nooch on the other hand, maybe.

And to channel the wonderful, birthday gal Dynise: Pair this with a tall glass of lemon water or red wine, and pretend it costs $12 at your local trattoria (even if you have a vegan trattoria down the block, like this spoiled lady).

Sunday Supper: Patak’s Madras Chickpea Curry

Patak's Madras Curry Paste

I came to the soul-tingling realization yesterday in New Seasons, that if I allow myself to buy quality curry pastes for Thai cooking, I could try the same, just once, for Indian cuisine.  Perhaps it would prove handy and delicious over lazy and under-spiced, right?

Ridiculously, I had stocked up on various curry-related spices earlier in the day, but knowing my curries never quite taste how I want them to and that I didn’t have quick access to a few unique ingredients I had yet, and intended to incorporate, I rationalized the whim and picked up a jar of Patak’s Madras Curry paste. My dedication to making nearly everything from scratch be damned, I made a satisfying and spicy Madras curry for dinner and the teaspoons stayed hidden. Plus, the sweet and golden diced potatoes helped counter the heat of the curry. I loosely followed the recipe on the back of the jar (which was a hoot to do), substituted cooked chickpeas, red pepper and carrots for beef [using extra vegetables], and pureed Muir Glen tomatoes for diced.

Madras Chickpea Curry over basmati rice

Roasted Yukon & Sweet Potatoes with sea salt, pepper & fresh parsley

So, there ya go. Sometimes I’m a little bit lazy. Or normal.

feeling fancy and feeling girly

In regards to Blog Post Title Part I

Well, I still don’t have many photos to show, but my weekend included a lot of feeling fancy – at least some contributions to it. I hid and cooked in the kitchen during the first Heartichoke, my friend’s new vegan supper club, and we pulled off five French-inspired courses & seemed to have content guests on our hands. It was a great experience; the smoke alarms didn’t go off and there’s talk of a Tapas and Basque inspired dinner this Spring.

The photos I do have, thanks to my camera’s 5 second life span, were not from the dinner, but are pretty fancy and productive for the end of a weekend:

Tuscan Braised Beans, The Urban Vegan. With the addition of gigantes beans and fresh basil. Dynise’s dishes always class it up.

First theme, continued:

Herb Crusted Tofu with Mushrooms Marsala ala The Farm Cafe in Portland, via Everyday Dish TV.  As for changes, I baked the tofu, used a mixture of maiittake and shiitake mushrooms in the sauce, and served it over braised beans and steamed baby spinach.

In regards to Blog Post Title Part II

Hey! If you’re in the Portland area tomorrow night and you’re a vegan or veg-curious female or you’ve ever met one or even if you plan on spending the rest of your life surrounded by the XY chromosome and no other, you should come show your support for Melisser Elliott, the talented author of the The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life, at everyone’s local vegan owned and operated clothing store, Herbivore. The signing party starts at 5pm.

Later this week: Thoughts on the revolutionary documentary, Forks Over Knives. Have you seen it yet?

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Take 1

I’ve had a few minutes of free time on my hands lately, and I’ve found myself dedicating that time to reading cookbooks. It’s a sure sign of cookbook love when you find yourself browsing through one for hours on the couch, mug of warmed peppermint chocolate soymilk in hand, and cat on lap [or insert animal companion or blanket of choice here]. The latest ‘new’ book to come into my life is Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry. I’ve made one meal so far, as pictured below, and here are a few quick things I’m digging about this book already: the spices, the recipe format, the recommended pairings and musical selections, and southern drink concoctions. Frozen Memphis Mint Julep? I don’t care that it’s December; that sounds perfect, year round.

Next up, I’m looking forward to trying the Whole Grain Mustard & Cornmeal Seitan Medallions (now, what seitan recipe to use? hmmm) and the Cajun-Creole Coated Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits soon! Who’s coming over for dinner?

Take 1: Cajun Tofu, Greens with Tahini (I used purple kale) and Coconut Brown Rice

Thank You, Vegan Soul Kitchen

sweet & savoury & colorful

The Sweet: White Chocolate Chip & Orange Biscotti

Recipe modified from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. White Chocolate Chips from Pangea’s VeganSweets line, via Sidecar in Seattle.

 

The Savoury:

Roasted Chickpeas with tamari, nutritional yeast, olive oil, cayenne, lemon juice, cumin and smoked paprika.

The Savoury & Colorful:

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu with maple roasted red beets, burdock and purple carrots and black-eyed peas & greens (from AFR).

This is Trader Joe’s extra firm tofu marinated in red wine, tamari, vegetable broth, garlic and herbs, and coated catfish-style with cornmeal, flour, sea salt, nutritional yeast and black pepper. Easily baked or pan-fried.

The Colorful:

Pre-roasted purple carrots, long red beets and burdock with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil, vegetable broth & maple syrup.

Also Colorful:

Ready to go: Savoy cabbage, purple carrots & sesame seeds. Both vegetables from one of the last Saturday farmers markets. Sniff.