Vegan MoFo 2: Recipe Experimentation

Personal discretion and creativity toward recipes comes with the territory of veganism: dairy milk becomes soy milk, cheese becomes nutritional yeast, and eggs become flaxseed meal. What would a diet free from animal products be if we shunned all cookbooks and blogs offering inspiration for flavorful, more compassionate culinary ventures? Vegans cannot box themselves into an anti-omnivorian mindset, for some of the most successful vegan recipes originated using dairy and meat products. Tofu scrambles anyone? How about pesto? A comforting bowl of chili, perhaps? Muffins and pancakes, for goodness sake! Yet another means by which vegans expand the widely close-minded meat-centered world is creating animal and health-friendly variations on dishes that do not traditionally fit those requirements. That’s what keeps veganism exciting!

My weekend recipe experimentation included three dishes: two of which required a bit of tweaking (both in their original forms and my own execution of them), and one of which I only mildly adapted with wonderful results.

Recipe One: Braised Brussels Sprout Greens—Adapted from Emeril Lagasse.

Tweaks:

Braised brussels leaves served with a simple pilaf of quinoa, cannellini beans, and nutritional yeast.

Lessons Learned for Next Time:

  • Apparantly, brussels sprout leaves require a longer cooking time than kale because after the suggested 10 minutes of braising, the leaves remained tough, bitter, and difficult to chew. I continued their simmering for about five more minutes, but by then my quinoa pilaf had finished cooking and I didn’t want it to cool too much (plus I was hungry, come on!), so I served the leaves in semi-chewy form. The verdict? Flavor=good! Texture=bad.

Local Ingredients: Brussels sprout leaves from the Dane County Farmers MarketRosso Toscano onions from Jones Valley Farm, and garlic from Brantmeier Family Farm.

Meal Checklist: Protein–cannellini beans. Whole Grain–quinoa. Vegetables–onions and garlic. Leafy Green–brussels sprout leaves.

Recipe Two: Broccoli-Kale Buckwheat Bake—Adapted from Edible Perspective.

Tweaks:

  • Replaced egg with 1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 3 tbsp water.
  • Replaced almond milk with soy milk.
  • Replaced cheese with nutritional yeast.
  • Replaced mushrooms with broccoli.
  • Replaced sliced tomato with sungold tomatoes.
  • Omitted salt.

 

Lessons Learned for Next Time:

  • While delicious and wonderfully healthy, the adorable single-serving ramekin full of buckwheaty vegetableness lacked moisture. Perhaps the dish would benefit from additional soy milk or applesauce or simply needs less time in the oven.
  • Nutritional yeast burns fast under the broiler! I pulled the ramekin out at the first whiff of charring so thankfully, only a smidge of the yeast actually turned to black, but next time I probably won’t even bother with the broiler step (the original recipe uses it to melt cheese, which is unnecessary here).
  • It could have been the buckwheat. Maybe the broccoli. Was kale the culprit? Regardless of whichever ingredient was truly responsible, this dish offered a mysterious savory flavor unplaceable by my palate! Honestly, my face contorted into numerous confused expressions while eating the surprisingly interesting and thought-provoking entree.

Local Ingredients: Basil from my garden, broccoli from the Green Barn Farm Market, garlic from Brantmeier Family Farm, kale from the Plahnt Farm, and sungold tomatoes from Driftless Organics.

Recipe Three: Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Spinach—Adapted from The Urban Vegan cookbook, recipe at bottom of post.

Tweaks:

  • Reduced 4 tbsp olive oil to one tablespoon.
  • Replaced regular tomatoes with sungold tomatoes.
  • Replaced canned crushed tomatoes with frozen Roma tomatoes (my mother bought a huge amount in bulk during the summer and froze them for soups/stews in the winter months. Genius, I tell you!).
  • Omitted agave nectar and salt.

 

Lessons Learned for Next Time:

  • This recipe is freaking perfect.
  • That is all.

Local Ingredients: Garlic from Brantmeier Family Farm, red cipollini onions from Jones Valley Farm, sungold tomatoes from Driftless Organics, Roma tomatoes (frozen) from Happy Valley Farm, and spinach from Harmony Valley Farm.

Meal Checklist (served with Broccoli-Kale Buckwheat Bake): Protein–chickpeas. Whole Grain–buckwheat. (Okay, okay, it’s not actually a grain. Rather, it’s a fruit seed, but I choose to count it as a grain because it has similar health properties as other whole grains. So sue me.) Vegetables–garlic, onions, tomatoes, broccoli. Leafy Greens–kale and spinach.

Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Spinach (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 14-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (go Eden brand!)
  • 2 cups sungold or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium Roma tomatoes, frozen or 1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen is a reliable organic brand.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb spinach, washed and chopped (my spinach leaves were fairly small so I didn’t need to chop them.)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic for about 3-5 minutes or until soft, then add the chickpeas and all the tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Uncover, raise the heat, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the spices.

Turn the heat to low. Add the spinach in smallish batches and cook until it wilts. Simmer for another minute and serve over rice or another grain to sop up all that tomatoey juicy goodness.

Comment Provoking Questions: How often do you experiment with recipes? What sorts of tweaks do you usually make? Do you freeze any summer produce to keep for the winter?

Until next time, Ali.

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4 thoughts on “Vegan MoFo 2: Recipe Experimentation

  1. Rachel (@ieatgrains) says:

    Hi Ali. Nice blog! The chickpeas with tomatoes and spinach look great. Those are three ingredients I always have on hand.

    I rarely leave a recipe alone. I usually increase spices, especially for Indian food.

  2. Isobelle says:

    I love all of this experimenting! My favourite thing about making food is that you can experiment and switch things up and see how different measurements and ingredients create new flavours.

    The broccoli and kale bake looks really good! I will have to try making that one some time.

  3. Ashley says:

    I like you recipe evaluations! 🙂 The nutritional yeast will definitely soak up some of the moisture, and the omitting the mushrooms will cause less moisture in the bake as well, since they are such a watery vegetable. So adding more milk will probably help a lot! I love the combination you came up with!

    • Ali Seiter says:

      Thanks, Ashley! Let me just say that I love your buckwheat bake idea–so versatile. I could have a different one every night if I wanted.

      I also suspected that leaving out the mushrooms may have been a culprit for the lack of moisture. Perhaps next time I’ll include them. I do have a bag of shiitakes taking up space in the fridge right now…

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