Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vegg Salad

One thing I've figured out quickly on a plant-based diet is that minimizing processed food is not only good for you, it is actually cheaper. I had my month or so with buying up fake cheese and fake frozen meats, only to realize that these manufactured substitutes are more expensive than the product they purport to be, and that they represent the processed food that I've tried so hard to stay away from. The idea behind "vibrant health" (as Morris Hicks calls it in his audio book that I'm currently enjoying, "Healthy Eating, Healthy Planet") isn't simply to eliminate meat - though many people make this choice for ethical reasons alone and subsist on Diet Coke and Fritos - but to eat whole foods (plants). The third point about manufactured vegan products (behind cost and less than optimal health benefit) is that a lot of it tastes like cow puckey.

For example, one of my first attempts was aimed at "fooling" Chris. In my mind, I would present the husband with a vegan lasagna roll, made with lots of gooey, store-bought vegan cheese. He would be amazed at the finished result, exclaiming, "I defy anyone to tell me that this isn't cheese!" He would be whole-heartedly won over to the vegan lifestyle! And then it came out of the oven! And look at it! Doesn't it look delicious?

What I got from Chris, instead, was the statement, "It tastes funky." Well, he was right. It wasn't all-out disgusting, just... Strange. The texture was close. The taste was even close. But it wasn't cheese. I decided to stop trying so hard to make things taste like meat or dairy. Because they aren't. Therefore, they are destined to fail. (And, Chris is no longer allowed to say things, like, "Well, it's good, but it doesn't taste like beef." No, it tastes like seitan. Which is tasty in its own right, if you give it a chance...)

So now, when I make lasagna rolls or pizza, I use some home-made "parmezano sprinkles," (though I like to use raw cashews in my mix) which have a delicious salty, nutty flavor and actually thicken pasta or sauce the way parmesan does - but I don't use a lot. I use tiny amounts of the fake cheese, but only a small amount, in combination with other ingredients. Then they are a reasonable stand-in, adding a little necessary creaminess or binding. But in place of an inch-deep layer of cheese like I used to have on my Lou Malnati's, I've learned to add more plants (such as spinach and garlic), to change the preparation method (roasting makes everything tastier), or to season things differently. I find that the food I'm eating now is more hearty and complex in flavor (no, seriously) instead of simply rich and decadent. Instead of the versions of some things that I used to love, I have different versions of most items now, which I also sincerely love (and love me back a bit more). And I love and even crave them in their own right.

There are a handful of products that I've been impressed with in this moderate to light use, even some that I like better than the original. One of these is Vegenaise, by "Follow Your Heart," which is a company that has my full respect. I've tried their vegan cheddar, and it's my favorite of the fakes. Vegenaise has and incredible, rich, full mayo flavor without eggs. I like it better than regular mayonnaise. I use it in what my brother named my "v-egg" salad. It's a great stand-in for egg or chicken salad. I like it on my favorite new bread, "Ezekiel 4:9" by Food for Life.

Vegg Salad Base

1 block tofu, pressed and crumbled *
2-6 Tblesp. Vegenaise
3-4 Tblesp. nutritional yeast flakes
2 stalks celery, diced small
2-3 Tblesp. fresh parsley, chopped fine
2-3 Tblesp. sliced almonds or chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tsp. ground mustard
1-2 tsp. celery salt
salt and pepper to taste

You really have to add the mayo slowly, and add more just until it holds together. Then just keep tasting. To this, you can create variations by adding things such as halved grapes, dried blueberries and rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pignoli in place of the nuts, fresh dill, or just about anything you can think up that you like in chicken salad or egg salad.

I like it with a good amount of greens on the sandwich, but you can also have it in a pita, or a scoop atop a salad.

*Tofu has to have the water pressed out of it before using. I like to wrap mine in a clean tea towel and use one of these, but you can also wrap it and press it under something heavy for 20 minutes, like a cast iron dutch oven. Then crumble it with your fingers into a mixing bowl.

No comments:

Post a Comment