Blog - Playing with Food

Vegetarians and Vegans, Oh My!

I'm married to a vegetarian. While he was raised on a farm in rural England and ate the traditional (and appallingly boring) English foods, most of which were animal-based, Edmund opted to become a vegetarian many years ago because he so loves animals and can't bear to harm them. He puts up with me being an omnivore.  

From him, I've learned two important things about vegetarianism and veganism: 1) Vegetarians and vegans are very passionate about their beliefs 2) most vegetarian and vegan food isn't creative or tasty. Seriously, how many veggie lasagnas can you tolerate? 

I take pride in making all my food beautiful, delicious and, yes, exuberant. The Vs included. It's now annoying to me to go to the finest restaurants in Portland, a super foodie town, and find only "wedge of iceberg with bleu cheese" for a vegetarian option and "field greens with vinaigrette" for a vegan option. Really? 

When I try new recipes I experiment on Edmund. He is subjected to four to seven versions of a vegetarian dish before I deem it Exuberant and it find its way onto a menu. When he wanders throughout the house in the evenings I have a flock of spoons (do spoons actually flock or just nestle?) at the ready and shove spoonfuls of sauce, side dish and entree at him. "Taste this". "What is it?" "Dinner and maybe a menu item". "What am I tasting for?" "Texture, seasoning and the sauce". And so it goes for a half dozen passes through the house - there's a reason my kitchen is smack dab in the middle of everything, I can snag a taster quite easily.

A couple of years ago I did several large vegan functions. When I asked what they wanted for dessert I got a bunch of blank stares. "Fruit I guess. Maybe sorbet". I couldn't stop myself. My response was something like "You're kidding, right? You don't want something your guests will remember and talk about for months to come?" More stares. Apparently vegan desserts in quantity are quite boring. I came up with a stunning dark chocolate "basket" carefully shaped in an intricate weave and filled with tofu chocolate mousse, then topped with fresh berries. Since I hate tofu, it means a lot when I say that was a really great mousse. It took seven tries and about 22 spoons shoved at my (very happily willing) spouse to make ti Exuberant. The next year I made a vegan lemon coconut mini bundt cakes. They were so pretty, tasty and moist that I made a bunch to keep back for my own parties and each time my guests were shocked that they were vegan pastries.

This week's creation is a Jasmine Rice Salad with fresh ginger dressing. Give it a try, it's a wonderful cold salad that is perfect for the warmer weather.. Here's the secret ingredient: jasmine tea. Recipe below is for eight side servings or four dinner servings.

Boil four cups water for tea, add jasmine blossom tea, steep until strong. 

Cook two cups jasmine rice (no other rice will do here) in the tea, add 2 tsp of salt. Let cool.

Add your favorite chopped veggies. I use very thinly sliced carrots and peas because they're bright, beautiful and tasty. I use about two cups each for lots of veggie power but you can do just one cup each.

The ginger dressing took five spoon tests but it's GOOD. 

2.3 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup sesame oil, 1/4 to 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar. Add three tablespoons very finely diced fresh ginger, salt and pepper to taste. Let the flavors marinade before dressing the salad. Toss to coat the rice, chill or serve at room temperature.

One of the great things about this salad is that it has very little salt compared to most dressings. It's gluten free and vegan. Did you know soy sauce had gluten in it? Yeah. With this dressing you won't miss the salty brine of soy sauce. With this salad you won't feel deprived if  you're a carnivore.