Archive | June, 2010

Spring Rolls & Burritos

4 Jun

When I think about meals I prepare for myself regularly, most of them happen to be vegetarian. I do eat meat, however, the meat I feel comfortable eating–organic, grass-fed, free-range, local–is expensive (rightfully so) and therefore I buy it infrequently. I certainly don’t think that’s a bad thing. And, as I mentioned, those high prices mean that a lot of my meals end up being vegetarian. Of those, I’d say that about a third happen to be vegan. Until C came along, all of my vegan meals had been accidental, but I don’t think that undermines them in any way. In fact, a few of my favorite dishes are vegan–again, not intentionally so, but still. The thing is, when I’ve made these meals, I don’t think I’ve ever actually noticed their vegan-ness. It’s made me wonder: as a bacon-loving dairy queen, how have I let these vegan meals slip by unnoticed? I obviously don’t have anything against vegan food, but there are few things I wouldn’t grate some good Parmigiano Reggiano over, and I consider good homemade chicken stock a staple.

Something that my accidental vegan meals have in common is that they are all sort of basic dishes. Recipes that act as themes upon which to create variations: Pasta with garlic, olive oil, and sautéed greens; stir-fried vegetables with rice; roasted heirloom tomato soup. When I first started thinking about meals to cook with C, I searched for specifically vegan recipes. I found a lot of seitan. I got frustrated because I ran into a lot of “veganized” recipes–Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese, for example, that didn’t appeal to me because they were trying so hard to act as a replacement for something. I discovered a lot of recipes containing vegan versions of non-vegan ingredients that had their own lists of ingredients, and that made me uncomfortable. I realized that for me, cooking vegan food isn’t usually going to be something that I do using a vegan cookbook or looking at online forums. I understand how helpful those things can be in certain situations, especially in the context of baking, but in terms of cooking, I’m not incredibly interested in finding out which egg replacer is best or what to use as a heavy cream substitute–I can think of plenty of recipes that don’t use those ingredients to begin with and are perfectly delicious.

Two things that C and I have made recently are spring rolls and burritos. I guess we just really like rolling up our food! We’ve made spring rolls twice. The first time, we filled them with shredded carrots, red cabbage, steamed asparagus, and tofu. The second time, we used shredded carrots, red cabbage, tofu, cucumbers, and kale. I liked the second ones were better, but they were both really delicious! I made a dipping sauce both times, but the second batch involved Sriracha, making it far superior to the first.

The burritos were, I think, awesome. We cooked up some black beans (locally grown and dried!) with freshly ground cumin and white pepper, had a small pot of rice, fried up some potatoes (I was skeptical, but potatoes+burritos=two thumbs up), cut up an avocado, and I whipped up some roasted tomato salsa. Everything came together really nicely, and guess what? I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE THAT THERE WASN’T ANY CHEESE! I couldn’t believe it. A cheeseless burrito, and I didn’t even think twice.

What I’ve learned from these experiences is that you don’t have to veganize things in order to make them vegan. It sounds obvious. Maybe I shouldn’t be so excited…but my point is, there are plenty of recipes out there that are vegan without meaning to be. A recipe doesn’t have to be Vegan (capital V) to be vegan-friendly. I don’t think I would ever say, “Hey, have I ever made you my vegan tomato soup?” even though the soup happens to be vegan. If someone asked whether or not it was vegan, I would be able to say yes, but pre-C, I wouldn’t think of advertising it that way. Speaking of tomatoes, here is a basic recipe for roasted tomato salsa:

Roasted Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

2 cups cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 large yellow onion, cut into large chunks
4 serrano peppers, stems cut off
1 T olive oil
1-3 T water
1 small lime
Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º. Place the tomatoes, garlic cloves, onion, and peppers in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, toss to coat, then place in the oven.
  2. Roast the vegetables until the tomatoes are bursting, onions are beginning to caramelize, garlic is softened, and peppers are blistered. It’s okay if some parts are slightly charred (20-25 minutes).
  3. Blend the roasted vegetables in a food processor until smooth; the mixture will be thick. Squeeze half of the lime’s juice into the mixture and blend. Add 1 T of water and blend again. If the mixture is still too thick, add the rest of the juice from the second half of the lime and a little bit more water. As the salsa reaches your desired consistency, begin tasting and adjusting. If you’d like it to be more garlicky, add one raw clove of garlic to the purée and blend again. For more spice, add some white pepper. Add salt to taste.
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