Eatin’ With Vegans

Posted: December 2, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: pasta, pumpkin, quick, Rita | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A few times now I’ve referenced a vegan friend of mine who needs to be accommodated at times when it comes to cooking or going out to eat. As someone who’s lived her whole life with dietary restrictions, I’m completely cool with this, even if it’s really not for me! Said friend, despite being a pretty strict vegan and strictly kosher, doesn’t do much cooking for herself and is a little bit clueless when it comes to the kitchen. So, like any good foodie-ish friend, I offered to make her dinner some Sunday and guide her a bit on how to cook.

For her birthday last year, I got my friend Veganomicon, a friendly vegan cookbook with simple but tasty recipes, what I thought would be the perfect gift. But as it turns out, despite being very encouraging to novices and offering lots of tips (“Here’s how you core an apple,” say) my friend, ok I’ll just call her B., barely used it, partially because she was still a little afraid to! That just isn’t right!! Cooking is one of the greatest things one can do for oneself. To be able to feed yourself is to be self-reliant, and making a meal or dish is a great blend of creativity, science, health and timing. You can’t beat that! I resolved to help create a delicious, healthy, vegan meal for B, show her a couple of pointers and just have a good time hanging out with her.

B. picked the main, which was Pumpkin Ricotta Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Breadcrumbs, except since she has a sensitive stomach, the onions were nixed just in case they’d upset her. But hey, anything pumpkin is totally awesome by me. Even the recipe called for it to be paired with a light salad or veggie, so I also made sauteed swiss chard to go with it. Dessert was medjool dates — mmmm. I freaking love medjool dates, they’re like chewy natural candy.

So, you may be asking, how the heck can ricotta be vegan? I certainly was thinking that there’d be no way to mimic anything to even remotely resemble cheese. But it’s actually super easy and I wouldn’t have known the difference. In a food processor, blend raw cashews (cup and a half?); then one pound firm tofu (= one package), crumbled. Add two cloves garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, two tablespoons olive oil and half a teaspoon of dried basil. Blend in food processor. Done! You’ve got yourself some vegan ricotta. It even looks like it, too. For the pumpkin part, spice up a 15 oz can of it (cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, whatever else you want), mix, then mix it in with the ricotta in a bowl. Done!

While the ziti boils in a pot, make the sage breadcrumb topping. Now, this is key to the whole dish, because the breadcrumbs are pretty effing delicious. In a food processor (Clean it out after the ricotta! Or not, since it’s all going to the same place anyway.) chop up stale bread to make into the crumbs. B. didn’t have any stale bread on hand, so we toasted some for a few minutes then just pulled it apart with our hands into crouton-sized pieces. In a pan that we buttered up with margarine, coat the crumbs, then toss with fresh sage and let it pan-fry for a few minutes longer. No fresh sage was on hand so we just used dried. It worked well regardless.

When the ziti was drained, we mixed it with the pumpkin ricotta, poured into a lasagna pan, covered in breadcrumbs, then baked at 350 for about 35 minutes. Done! How easy is that? And since this dish is especially heavy it was definitely a good idea to accompany this with something light and leafy.

Another vegan friend of ours joined us for dinner, and between the three of us we ate half the pan. This is a damn delicious meal, vegan or not.

I’m glad I got to spend some time with a good friend doing something that I really enjoy, and getting to share that joy with her and showing her the ropes. We plan on doing dinner night another time soon!


Dinner party dilemma?

Posted: July 9, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Every few weeks or so or every time I hear of a fantastic new recipe there is a burning within me, a burning desire. Yes, I must throw a dinner party! What stops this from happening is mainly time, cost and coordinating guests’ tastes and dietary restrictions. Putting aside the first two — cause, yeah — the most important requirement is that everyone can eat everything I make. If you’re kosher, this doesn’t only mean no bacon in the fettuccine alfredo (or whatever), but if there is a meat dish there cannot be any dairy served in anything else at the same meal. In addition to deciding which “type” of dinner to make (meat or milk), one of my best friends is vegan AND kosher, so it’s always a toughie deciding what to make if she’s coming!

Well, it’s high time for another dinner party and to prepare first I have to plan a menu. Ok. Should I go with something light and refreshing but probably more expensive? Or a meal in a pot that can feed a bunch of people but will be heavy, non-summer-y? More specifically, for the two options:

Light and refreshing
- Something dairy for sure
- Spinach or summer squash quiche sans crust (I never use crust)
- Agristada, a delicious fish dish poached in a thick lemon sauce
- Some sort of salad
- Watermelon popsicles?

Pros:
- I’m dying to make agristada
- More appropriate now that nature finally decides it’s summer
- Healthy?

Cons:
- Expensive
- Not sure if people go for the healthy thing
- Can vegans eat most of this? No.

Meal in a Pot – Cuban food night!
- Arroz con pollo
- Tostones (fried plantains)
- Sangria?
- Side salad
- Watermelon popsicles?

Pros:
- I’m dying to make arroz con pollo and Cuban food
- Feeds a lot of people at once
- Less expensive, possibly

Cons:
- Hot, heavy, not suited for the season necessarily
- Kosher chicken is expensive (but might be cheaper in total than the first option)
- If my vegan friend attends, need to think of something she can eat!

So, what to do? There’s more leeway with Option 1 but may cost more, but Option 1 sounds more fun to make. I enjoy making lots of different foods! I’m thinking this will probably be for about 6 – 10 people. My heart says Option 1 but my wallet says Option 2. Any suggestions, guys? I’m thinking this will go down in about 2 weeks.



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.