Amongst my closer friends and family, I am the only vegan. Quite a few of my friends are vegetarian, but my closest vegan buddy is in Vancouver. That’s across one big country. One of my co-workers is a former vegan, choosing to eat fish as an omega supplement mostly. I have yet to know anyone who has tried raw cuisine without my influence. Most of my friends are adventurist eaters, so I can share my kitchen successes and failures. While I eat vegan mainly for health and environmental reasons, sometimes I wonder about connecting with other like-minded souls.
A few months ago, I travelled with Rob to meet some of his friends from Burning Man. While mostly everyone was vegetarian, it was exciting to meet someone else who also dabbled in raw cuisine. She encouraged me to try banana chips in the dehydrator and told me about one of her raw successes: King Oyster Calamari from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. Sarma’s restaurant, Pure Food and Wine in NYC, is my favourite raw resto to date, so I was eager to try the dish when I got home. King oyster mushrooms were on sale, too, to boot. I didn’t have the cookbook, but a quick google search led me to Emily’s site which had the recipe.
The recipe was simple: marinate king oyster mushrooms, bread them with spiced ground flaxseeds (works as both the breading and egg-substitute!) and then dehydrate. My new-found friend also gave me a few other tips.
While the recipe says to dehydrate for 2-3 hours, she suggested dehydrating up to 5 hours for them to become really crispy. She also warned me that the whole recipe made a ton of food, so I halved it. (I also quartered the cocktail sauce below, since I ended up thinning it and had an overabundance of sauce leftover). I tinkered with the recipe since I don’t have an Italian spice blend, and instead added whatever looked like an Italian spice from my spice drawer: basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sage, parsley. I threw in some dried onion and garlic granules as well as lemon pepper seasoning instead of the black pepper. Even though I used chili powder, too, I dipped my finger in and thought something was missing. I added black salt. Now we were set. (Note to self: next time I may try this with nutritional yeast and smoked paprika, since I liked that with my Asiago-crusted baked zucchini sticks). I had a bit of leftover crumbs, so you could probably increase the number of mushrooms with this mixture – or pack it in more than I did.
Now, if you don’t have a dehydrator, do not fear. You can still make vegan calamari! I made these both ways: raw in the dehydrator for 3 hours and a separate batch for 10 minutes in the oven. I don’t care too much about the raw philosophy of not cooking over 115F, but I love the inventive recipes… so to hurry things up, I stuck some in the oven, too. Both were
good great. They honestly tasted like calamari. No hidden mushrooms here (Rob thinks he could taste mushrooms but only because he knew they were in there). Between the two versions, though, I preferred the raw dehydrated ones. They were more crispy and the breading stayed on (some of it stuck to my silpat in my oven version). The oven-baked version had more of a slippery calamari feel to it, though. In any case (or in both cases), Rob said he liked them better than regular calamari since it has a cleaner taste. I also preferred this version instead of the typical deep-fried options you find at restos. Bright and fresh, healthy food, what’s not to like?
Speaking of connecting with other like-minded souls, I was wondering if I have any readers in the GTA that would like get connected? I was really sad I missed Sarah’s potluck in the park, especially since it looked like it was a lot of fun!
I am a victim of my own success.
Nearly a year ago, I started my whole foods vegan diet, or vegan on steroids as Rob likes to put it. I did it primarily for health and environmental concerns and haven’t looked back.
No, really, there is no turning back. I know some people wonder why I can’t just eat something if it has meat broth, or snack on whole wheat bread, or just eat the darn white rice. There is a reason for my choices and I don’t want to compromise. Not all vegan food is healthy.
On the rare occasion, I have made small compromises. Last summer, I went to a potluck where a friend didn’t know about my food choices and quickly whipped up some deep-fried tofu-and-lotus root croquettes for me. I should have stuck to my lentil salad, but I also nibbled on a rice dish and the croquettes. I left that night with a belly beyond bloated. At the time, we thought maybe I had mistakenly eaten something with shrimp (of which I do have allergies) because I reacted so badly.
I have travelled a lot this year, some for vacation, other times for interviews and this time for a conference. I have become really good at planning for success: finding a grocery store and appropriate restaurants, if need be. This time, I returned to my favourite Vancouver hotel not only because it is affordable, but because I have a mini-fridge in my room and access to a communal kitchen. I also know that T&T is close for me to pick up affordable groceries. Because I didn’t have to cross borders, I brought some veggies, hummus (this Ginger-Lime-Wasabi Edamame Hummus!) and some leftovers with me to tie me over until I was able to shop at T&T. I even brought a dressing in anticipation of buying frozen edamame, a quick and easy way for me to get my bean fix.
I was pretty diligent about picking up some produce to bring me back to my normal routine: tea and grapefruit to start the day. I planned for a simple oatmeal+flax+fruit breakfast, but instead was wooed by Ruth’s Chia Goodness at T&T. Basically it is a souped up chia pudding and I am adamant to recreate it for my next travel destination. It is easier than my portable overnight oats since I have been using water as the liquid instead of nondairy milk. I picked up a bunch of veggies to make some collard wraps with my hummus (pea shoots, carrots and cucumber), and edamame for my bean salad.
However, I left Toronto’s balmy summer weather and was greeted by Vancouver’s cold and wet conditions. In the span of an hour, I can see it pouring torrential rain, followed by some snow/sleet and then the sun will come out and dry it all away. With this chilling weather, by the time a few days rolled around, the last thing I wanted to eat was another cold salad or wrap.
While I had earlier success at some nearby raw restaurants (Gorilla Food‘s Main St Monkey sandwich is so good!), I scoped out some hot vegan eats at nearby Nuba, a Lebanese resto with many vegan options. I had enjoyed my meal there last year, so I was eager to have a large glass of carrot-beet-ginger-lime juice, as well as mujaddara. I also opted for a small side of Najib’s special: crispy cauliflower with lemon and sea salt, with a tahini sauce. Unfortunately, a few hours later, I had a bloated belly… However, a few days later, I thought maybe their red lentil soup and falafels could sooth my cold soul. Not so. Within minutes of finishing my plate, my belly was bloated again. I thought I had picked hearty bean dishes, but my plan had been foiled. Even when I don’t know what the offending food is, my belly cannnot be fooled.
In retrospect, I have blamed it on the deep-frying.The mujaddara had deep-fried crispy onions, that crispy cauliflower – yeah, it was deep-fried, too, and those falafels were also deep-fried. Suffice it to say, I don’t deep-fry anything at home and this was probably what caused my troubles.
You see, I cannot go back to my old ways.
Many bloggers have recently adopted a vegetarian, vegan or whole foods way of eating. I would love to know if you’ve experienced the same since changing. Before I went whole foods, I never really had any digestive issues. Now, a small deviation into junk can easily trigger something nasty. Annie recently said she notices changes immediately when she deviates from her vegan, gluten-free diet.
Anyways, back to the hummus. Hummus is the perfect travel food in my opinion, because all you need are some veggies to dip and you are good to go! It can also go a bit more fancy with a collard wrap or a hummus dressing for a raw kale salad. While I prefer the traditional recipe, you can easily mix things up with different flavours – any takers for pomegranate red pepper or Indian-spiced? This time, I opted for a spin off of Gena’s Ginger Lime Edamame Hummus which I had immediately bookmarked last summer.
I’ve made some fabulously creamy edamame dips (edamame miso dip and edamame guacamole), so I knew this wouldn’t disappoint. I liked Gena’s suggestion for ginger and lime. Instead of tobasco sauce, though, I added wasabi powder to continue with the Asian theme. It contrasted nicely with the sharp bite from the ginger and the acidity from the lime, all the while creamy from the edamame and tahini.
Yet another successful variation on hummus. I think I will warm it up to counteract my shunning of all cold foods.
Pan-Seared King Oyster Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy in a Coconut Tamarind Sauce with a Caramelized Leek and Wasabi Millet Mash
Sorry about the lack of diversity in my month of cruciferous vegetables. I know what it must look like to you: lots of broccoli, some kale with a bit of daikon and baby bok choy. Actually it looked like this: kale, daikon, broccoli, kale, broccoli, broccoli, kale, broccoli, baby bok choy and broccoli, and broccoli with a side of Napa cabbage. I’ll be honest: broccoli was on sale. A few weeks in a row. I’ll try to make my next few posts with different cruciferous veggies.
Which cruciferous vegetables are in this meal? Check all that apply.
b. baby bok choy
d. king oyster mushroom
Have a headache yet? Flashback to an undergrad midterm? SORRY!
I just want you to know your cruciferous veggies..
Don’t be fooled. The answers are baby bok choy, cauliflower and WASABI! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable but not in this recipe (sad, I know). King oyster mushrooms, leeks and tamarind are not cruciferous vegetables, but still good! While there is a mash here, there are no potatoes in this recipe!
Did you know that wasabi is a cruciferous vegetable? Thought it only came in powder form? Well, wasabi is actually a root vegetable. When I visited Japan, I visited the Daiõ Wasabi Farm outside Hotaka, which is the largest wasabi farm in the world. Not only were there fields upon fields of growing wasabi (pic above), they also had the roots for sale along with other wasabi treats like wasabi soup, wasabi soba noodles, wasabi wine, wasabi lollipops and my favourite: wasabi ice cream! I was a spice novice at that time, and still loved it: the spicy wasabi was off-set by lots of sweetness. The ice cream had a mild background of wasabi and vanilla perhaps, but lovely at the same time.
Sadly, wasabi is difficult to grow and thus expensive. Outside Japan, wasabi is commonly substituted with (cheaper) horseradish, mustard and green food colouring. Have no fear, Eden sells genuine wasabi powder. And yes, Sunny’s sells it for half the price of The Big Carrot.
This meal, which is actually 2 recipes, must have the longest name of anything on this blog so far. These long descriptive names are what have me drooling at restaurants, so I love to point of all the nuances of my dishes, too. The longer the name, the longer the ingredient list, and thus probably the longer it took me to make this. Denis Cotter loves to make multi-component meals, and this is no exception. Adapted from his recipe in For the Love of Food, I increased the vegetables, especially the baby bok choy and decreased the coconut milk. Meaty king oyster mushrooms were pan-fried in coconut oil then stir-fried with ginger and the baby bok choy. A light tangy broth with tamarind and coconut milk rounded out the sauce and offered a nice contrast in flavours.
As an Irishman, Cotter adores potatoes and served this with mashed potatoes spiced with caramelized leeks and wasabi.
I opted to try a different a kind of mash: the monster mash.
I mean, the millet mash. With cauliflower. And caramelized leeks and wasabi, as per Cotter.
The cauliflower millet mash is courtesy of Sarah, and while it doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes, it has a creaminess akin to mashed potatoes. As a blank slate, it can take any flavours you throw at it, including the subtly sweet caramelized leeks and the spicy wasabi. Juxtaposed next to the tangy coconut broth with the vegetables, you have a crazy concoction of cruciferous vegetables.