Sunday, February 24, 2008

Look! There's Food in That There Blog!

Finally--food. Real food. I actually did do a little cooking (and I do mean a little) last weekend. I was craving the vegetables from pot roast. Not the pot roast, just the carrots and potatoes with that rich, roasted flavor. I decided to play around a bit, and came up with a version we consider a winner. I call it No Pot Roast Carrots and Potatoes. The vegetables are cut into large chunks, then bathed in a mixture of water, olive oil, and soy sauce. They're tucked in tight under a blanket of aluminum foil, and baked for about 45 minutes--long enough to soften them. Then, the foil is removed, the heat is raised, and about 20 minutes later, the vegetables are caramelized and brown on the outsize, with a sticky, almost sweet glaze. And on the inside? Potato and carrot nirvana. Granny would be proud. (Although she would wonder why in the heck I didn't just cook the pot roast and be done with it. I don't think Granny would have spoken vegan.) Speaking of vegetables, don't forget to visit Sweetnick's ARF/5 a Day Roundup every Tuesday for lots of ways to get the healthy phytonutrients into your diet.

Yesterday, we took our oldest granddaughter to see a local theater company's production of Goodnight Moon. I wondered how on earth they would turn that simple book into a play, but they did--and filled it with humor, wit, and wisdom. They incorporated another of my favorite children's books, The Runaway Bunny. We all had many good laughs; it was a sweet time. I am so grateful that she still values times with us. At 9 1/2, we realize that the years are flying by, and that someday, much too soon, a weekend with Poppa and Grandma might be just as appealing as purple gravy (which I'll get to later). For now, though, the times are precious and we wouldn't trade a second.

After a busy Saturday, though, I spent the first 8 hours of Sunday working. There is no feeling quite as good as finally walking out of my office and taking a shower. Yeah, I'm one of those who just sits down at the computer in pajamas and works 'til I'm finished. Otherwise, I tend to get distracted. But, finished I finally was, and headed into the kitchen to do some real cooking. I had my eye on a couple of recipes from Veganomicon. In fact, my eye was on them so firmly that I had stopped on the way home from work early in the week to get the ingredients to prepare them. Of course, the week went to Hell after that, and I didn't get to them until today. Anyway, this is where the purple gravy comes in. See?

This meal started with Chickpea Cutlets, a nice, meaty center of the plate recipe. Simple to prepare, chickpeas are mashed with oil in a bowl until all the beans are broken up. Additions to this mixture include bread crumbs, vital wheat gluten, soy sauce, and a variety of spices. A bit of kneading develops the wheat gluten as evidenced by the strands that begin to form. The mixture is formed into four rectangles (or any other shape, I suppose--the chickpea police probably won't come and arrest you if yours vary) and panfried or baked. I baked them, as I already had the oven on to roast sliced zucchini. I see great potential for these. They would make a great "no-chicken fried steak," or take a breading to become a base for marinara and vegan cheese. They would make a great sandwich with sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms. In fact, they might just take over the world, as the author of Veganomicon suspects.

While these were baking, I made the purple gravy, aka Red Wine Roux. The directions for this seemed strange to me, but I followed them to the letter. The margarine and flour roux is cooked for almost 8 minutes, then minced shallots, garlic, and celery are added and cooked for several minutes more. The mixture forms such a thick paste that I began to wonder if it would ever allow me to incorporate the vegetable broth warming on another burner. When the time was right, I poured in faith, and lo and behold, the water incorporated. I then added 3/4 cup of red wine and whisked my heart out. With my first taste, my heart sank. This was bitter brew; in fact, it tasted more like it should be ladled from a cauldron than a saucepan. However, I just left it on a simmer per the recipe. Within 10 minutes, it had turned to perfection--a rich, winey sauce which paired nicely with mashed potatoes and the very toothsome chickpea cutlets.

The Husband loved this. Although I do have to say that the meal looked weird (just like you are afraid vegan food will look), it made up for it in flavor. Sort of like the blind date with a "great personality." In this case, another date will definitely be in the works.


Elisabeth said...

I love, love, love Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny - I'm very jealous that you went to see that play! What fun!

Michelle said...

Yes, absolute fun, Elisabeth. The best thing about having grandchildren is that you get to enjoy all the stuff you were too busy and too broke to enjoy when their parents were children!

Ricki said...

Roasted root veggies are one of my favborites, though I've never done them with soy sauce before. . . must try it out. And I'm with you on the working-in-pajamas thing. If I get to my computer first thing in the morning, I can spend hours working that way. Why not be comfortable when working, I say?

Michelle said...

Ricki, the soy sauce helps give it that more "pot roasted" flavor and texture--creating the syrupy thick "burned" looking outer coating where the vegetables touch the pan.

Helene said...

When I crave the veggies in pot roast, I make it and I eat the veggies and my family will eat the meat and veggies. Now I'll have to try your recipes. So I can make my own veggies that could taste similar to the one in pot roast. Thanks for sharing.