Monday, May 20, 2013

Holy vegan Mother's Day lunch menu, Batman!

Before our apartment filled with the overwhelming aroma of slow-braising pork, most notably in the form of cumin’s warmth, I spent my morning hours with the lingering scent of bacon from a pretty alright breakfast sandwich—as telling evidence as the plate of scattered crumbs by the sink.  I’m telling you this to remind you of my firm position as a meat eater, and so that when I tell you this next part, you’ll know you can believe me: I hosted Mother’s Day lunch, and served an entirely vegan meal—and it was good.  
My mother, who, as far as I can tell, lives off of buttery baked goods, cheese, and apples, is not vegan. But my sister is. And though my mother spent many years washing BBQ sauce/mustard/any form of seasoning off of baked chicken breast for me, it was my sister who braved the wilds of craigslist for us and found someone to take over our old lease so we could afford our new home.  Memories fade, but not having to pay rent on top of a mortgage lasts forever.
Lest you think I’m unappreciative of a mother’s unending service to her children, I did keep my own in mind while menu planning—so much so that she accused me of an early attempt at campaigning for my birthday. As if I would! (June 13th—please contact with any questions.) She was very taken with a shaved asparagus salad a made for her last spring, is a known lover of mushrooms—and wine—and has been talking about making a coconut cake since 2010.  And so a menu was formed:
  • Shaved asparagus salad, avocado, almonds, mustard/balsamic vinaigrette
  • Roasted mushrooms in shallots and wine 
  • Sliced carrot, cucumber, and radish on baguette with pesto (sans parm)and hummus
  • Vegan cake with coconut oil frosting (and a splash of bourbon—for luck?) and toasted coconut
The one item with a distinct “vegan” aspect was the cake. I found a recipe that used flax meal as an egg substitute, which was extremely painless, and shockingly turned out a real cake.  
From my vast experience of hosting this one vegan event, I can say that it’s not hard to make a meal vegan—tips include: oil for butter, lots of seasonal vegetables, and a little research.  

I’m sure you’re glad I shared. Keep in mind that you’re reading a food blog written by a person who spent most of her life eating microwaved cheddar quesadillas, hard-boiled eggs (no yolk), and peanut-buttered toast in the desperate avoidance of anything that could be considered “sauce.”

This is learning. This is progress. This is lunch. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Big bowl of salad night: Buffalo chicken salad edition

Maybe my incredible dance-bilities have already given this away, but I'm a very rhythm-oriented person. I like routine and am glad that we seem to have settled into one. Sure Alex's schedule is kind of a mess, but mine has become quite regular and follows a fine pattern. Fish Fry-day. Farmers' market Saturday. And roast chicken on Sunday to kick off our weeknight dinners.
However, in following this pattern, I also routinely display a few less than scrupulous chicken roasting habits. Occasionally I can be found standing over the stove, pulling the still too hot, crispy-skinned wing tops off a cooling browned bird. A crime of passion, you can be sure. But what's worse is my premeditated disappearing of one of the chicken's prized breasts. Not for my own immediate consumption, mind, but for the sake of the next day's salad. Because I have discovered joy, and it's name is buffalo chicken salad.
The key here is the dressing, which starts by creaming blue cheese into a spoonful or two of tangy plain yogurt.  Introduced next are a squeeze of lemon, pinch of salt, grind of pepper, splash of olive oil, and one too many shakes of Tobasco. I like it just hot enough to make me uncomfortable, so it is still edible for my pale palette, and yet tingles Alex's inherent tastes. It's about four shakes, for us.
Next to the bowl are minced shallots. Nichols has been providing these little shallots for a few months, and the flavor is exceptional, which makes it worth peeling each one. Additional vegetable required to complete the profile include radishes, pretty pink, thinly sliced, and still only delicately spicy at this time of year, and buffalo classic: crunchy celery.
Mix in lettuce, chopped chicken, and a few croutons to finish.
Things I like best about this salad include:
  1. Deliciousness. This salad is crisp, creamy, and filling for your soul.
  2. Ease of cleanup. One bowl to rule them all if you make the dressing at the bottom of whatever you are serving this salad in. Another routine occurrence: on "Big Bowl of Salad Nights" we eat out of the serving bowl, so no extra plates are harmed in the consumption of this salad.
  3. Ease of preparation.  Is there a better feeling than being able to cook without shopping? To just come home and prepare a meal out of what is in your home? I don't think so.  (The flip side, of course, is that there is nothing worse than having to buy ALL of the ingredients in a recipe. No. Just no. I can't do it.) This is a very "staple friendly" recipe, the kind that says: You got this!
And so, as our forks clash in a battle for the biggest cube of chicken, I forgive myself the trickery, the questionably moral hiding of food. And make a plan to do it again. And again.