Thursday, September 29, 2011

Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce

In my house, if I put peanut sauce on just about anything, my family will eat it. One of our daughters was staying with us for a while, and recently moved to her own place in town. Her parting words were, Let me know when you make that peanut sauce. I'll be over for dinner!

I struggled with peanut sauce for years, partially because I was under the impression that the sauce I had on Phad Thai in restaurants was peanut sauce, when in fact it's something quite different. Once I stopped trying to make the poor peanut sauce something it wasn't, it became its own wonderful self. There might be a life lesson in there somewhere.

So let's start with the sauce for this dish. It's easy to put together, and can be kept warm while you wrangle the vegetables. My basic peanut sauce ingredients are as follows, and the measurements are really approximate. Adjust everything to taste.

Peanut Sauce
1 cup peanut butter
1 can coconut milk, or veggie broth, or equivalent water
juice of 1 lime
1T tamari
2 tsp miso paste
1 tsp Cholula and/or 1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp maple syrup
1-2 T freshly grated ginger root

Gently warm everything together in a saucepan, adjust seasonings, keep warm on low heat, stirring now and then, and adding water if it gets too thick.

I like to make noodles out of raw zucchini. You can use a Spiralizer tool, which is a lot of fun, or a mandoline or vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into a noodly form. I use these noodles for just about all my noodle dishes now, and everyone who has tried them has loved them. For some reason they don't have that "squish" that puts so many people off zucchini. Part of it's the shape, I think, and also the fact that they're only gently steamed here. I also got these beautiful purple-ish carrots at the farmers market. They look especially pretty with the zucchini, but lots of other vegetables would be good in this dish too. Use what you have. Use what you like. This is a good fridge-cleaning dish.

I'm not a fan of those dinky, flimsy, folding steamer baskets that always collapse on me when I try to take them out of the pan. I use a wire colander over a pot of water.

I like to place the harder vegetable in the bottom of the basket, in this case, the carrots, so they get the most direct hit of steam. 

Bring the water to a boil first, then place the steamer basket in the pot, cover with the lid, and steam for only 2-3 minutes. The idea is to heat and soften the vegetables, not to turn them to mush. These will be crisp, so if you prefer super-cooked veggies, leave them in the steam longer... but please don't.

Once the vegetables are steamed, arrange them on plates with a little pool of peanut sauce on the bottom, and more (lots more) spooned over the top. You might garnish with some tamari-toasted sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts or cashews, or even a little sprinkle of unsweetened coconut. Make a lot. It's great for lunch the next day too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eat Dessert First

Here's another bumper sticker that probably won't get me into trouble - Life is short - eat dessert first. I think an easy, wonderful dessert is a great place for us to start here, so here we go!

People often send me links to great vegan recipes, and I always save them, but don't always get around to making them right away. (I intend to try them all, so do keep 'em coming!) My daughter sent this one a couple of weeks ago, and I've already made it twice, with a couple of modifications. The original recipe for Figs and Cashew Cream is here, at The Kitchn.  What follows is my take on it. I hope it's OK to post a recipe that isn't completely my own, as long as I give credit and a link back to the inspiring recipe. I think it is. If not, I'm sure somebody will let me know.

My version of Figs and Cashew Cream is meant for a party. I turned it into an easy finger food that's so delectable it makes people come in search of me at parties to tell me how much they love it. The best part is, it's super easy, plus vegan, raw (mostly) and healthy.

As with many "raw" recipes, you have to plan ahead a little bit. For the cashew cream you'll need to soak 1 1/2 cups of raw, unsalted cashews in water for 2-6 hours. They can go overnight if you get a late start in the evening. I've even heard that 20 minutes is long enough to soak cashews, so if you're in a pinch, give it a try. You really can't mess this up. The longer the soak, the creamier the cream. Either way, it will taste wonderful.

Start with some fresh figs, washed, but not peeled, and cut in half lengthwise. They're so beautiful! Eat a couple plain while you make the rest of this.

Next, lightly toast a bit of unsweetened coconut in a small skillet, for garnish. Pour it into a bowl to stop the cooking, and set it aside. Then grate, chop, or shave some good dark chocolate, also to be used as garnish. I like a "generous garnish" on these, so don't be stingy.

For the cashew cream, place the soaked, drained, rinsed cashews in the food processor with 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/3 cup agave or maple syrup, and 2 T Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur. Pulse to blend, gradually adding water until you have a smooth, creamy paste, similar to cake frosting. (In fact, this would make a great cake frosting, which I plan to use the next time I make cupcakes!)

Place the halved figs artfully on a plate, and put a little dollop of cashew cream on top of each. Sprinkle the coconut and chocolate over the top of everything, and you're done. Try your own variations with flavorings and fruits. I can see a lot of good possibilities for this simple, amazing recipe!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Welcome to Positively Vegan

A week or so ago, I caused a royal ruckus on Facebook when I quoted what I found to be a very amusing and thought provoking bumper sticker. It said, "People who truly love animals don't eat them." I was one of the few who understood that I was referring to the factory farming cruelty that is so often overlooked by otherwise kind and gentle animal lovers who still enjoy a good steak or chicken wing. Oh man, what a mess I made, and then stepped in, with both feet.

Clearly there are many people who dearly love the animals in their immediate lives, and also feel fine about eating others they haven't met personally. I get it, sort of, or at least I used to. I guess I don't anymore because I really can't separate the "pet" animals from the "food" animals at this point in my life, and I'd just be pleased as punch if everyone else in the whole wide world would see it my way.

But I was reminded, ever so gently by some, and rather roughly by others, that the old saying about catching flies with honey is true. One cannot bully or badger anyone else into seeing their own small and particular way of thinking. And as my daughter reminded me, we can't make other people think like we think. Everyone gets to decide for themselves.

I think I explained myself as well as I could, on Facebook, and in my other blog, and I hope there's not a lot of residual resentment floating around out there. Now, after all the hoo-ha has subsided, I think maybe the "real reason" for the whole mess was to get me to come up with the idea for this new blog. I've been writing Taking The Long Way Home for a couple of years now, and I sometimes post thoughts on food, along with recipes. But my interest in vegan cooking and lifestyle has increased to the point where it makes sense to give the Food a room of its own, and this is that room.

Welcome to Positively Vegan, a place where I promise to make every effort to present the happy, delicious, worthwhile aspects of going vegan, one meal at a time, and to avoid snarky, negative yip-yap, even when I may find it personally amusing. It can be hurtful, and hurtful is not something I want to be. My goal is to share information, stories, and recipes, and yes, I do hope to seduce you over to the Vegan Side. But I know I'll have better luck with honey (or probably agave nectar, since it's vegan and honey isn't) than vinegar, so I'll save the balsamic for salad dressing.

I hope you'll subscribe, explore, and visit often, whether you're vegan or not. Good food is for everyone, and vegan cooking can be easy, creative, and delicious.
Learn, cook, eat, share, enjoy, thrive.
And thanks for being here.