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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Viva Las Vegans!

Moving toward a plant-based diet doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing affair

Posted: 11/13/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0


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November is World Vegan Month and it's the perfect opportunity to add some delicious new dishes to your repertoire and maybe even experiment with a whole new approach to your shopping and cooking. You can start with a little vegetarianism, and then work your way toward veganism.

What is veganism? It's simply this: a plant-based diet. And vegetarianism? It's a diet that is mostly plant-based and while it might include dairy and eggs, it does not include animal flesh, although some folks will eat fish (pescatarians).

Here are some pointers:

-- Don't worry about leaving some foods off the table for the time being; treat veganism/vegetarianism like just another cultural culinary adventure.

-- There are health benefits -- if you do it right. Don't overload your food with oil. And don't let yourself go from carnivore to "starchetarian." Living on peanut butter sandwiches or pasta alone is not a healthy alternative. You need variety.

-- Read and learn. Go through lots of recipes and get a feel for how to use some new ingredients.

-- Don't try to do all-or-nothing today. The people behind the book and movie Forks Over Knives suggest going cold turkey on the animal foods. That sounds like a recipe for failure to me and it shouldn't be a win/lose proposition. If you just keep adding really tasty animal-free recipes to your repertoire, you could just discover that you've forgotten about pork chops.

-- Family members rabid about steak? Plan your meals like a small vegan buffet and include one dish with animal protein in it. Everyone can pick and choose. Just be mindful that your vegan sides have to provide a full range of nutrients.

I've done a survey of a few cookbooks to help you along. These will help you build your repertoire. All of these books contain vegan options.

1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson, $35

Titles like this always sound like a culinary bucket list to me: 1,000 things to eat before you die. This one includes a vegan pantry, protein substitutes, ethical concerns, all the nutritional information, all three meals, hot, cold, "fast recipes," beverages, condiments and even travel tips for vegan diners. Good for beginners and those who are looking to radically expand their repertoire.

One Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson, $20.95,

One-dish recipes are the quick start for busy cooks. You can get a full meal on the table in one nutritious shot. These recipes are all supper dishes with 15 different recipes just for chili. There's got be one in there you like!

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger, $20.50

Burgers are pretty universally recognizable and relatable even if they don't have meat in them. Lukas Volger takes years of his own experience and condenses it nicely in this easy-to-follow guide. Once you get the hang of his recipes, you will be able to use them as guidelines for your own. Includes recipes for sides, buns, toppings, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Better Homes and Gardens 365 Vegetarian Meals, $23.95

This one has a nice little primer on definitions, key nutritional know-how and the basics of getting started. The 365 recipes include all three meals of the day as well as methods like slow cooking, grilling and casseroles and soups. It also has a chapter that specifically deals with beans and grains -- the very foods that will help you feel full.

The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen, $45

When Mollie Katzen releases a new cookbook, vegetarians sit up and take notice. She is well known for her other vegetarian cookbooks, especially The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (my go-to vegetarian cookbook for years) and Moosewood Cookbook. She brings what she calls a "stronger sense of esthetic economy" to these recipes, so they are much lighter in fat and calories. Infused with her delightful personality as well as a lifetime of creative culinary experience, this book is for all cooks, no matter what their preferred ingredients are. She includes all the usual categories but also vegetable mashes, burgers and savoury pancakes.

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, $17.95

Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, $20.95, both by Robin Robertson

Both of these are share a similar layout and plan of attack and both contain 200 recipes, plus you can't beat the convenience and satisfaction of coming home to a hot, ready meal. Because one includes things like dairy and eggs, there are going to be differences in techniques, like thickening foods, and adding proteins. That said, it's just a matter of degree after that. Robertson also includes breakfasts, breads, desserts and hot drinks in both books.

Here are three vegan recipes to try:

Asparagus Salad with Roasted Red Peppers and Chickpeas

500 g (1 lb) asparagus, trimmed

5 ml (1 tsp) minced or crushed garlic

10 ml (2 tsp) agave nectar or light-coloured honey

30 ml (2 tbsp) white or red wine vinegar

Up to 5 ml (1 tsp) salt

90 ml (6 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

2 large roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips

2 540-ml (19-oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Up to 30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

Black pepper

Cut the raw, trimmed asparagus into 11/2-inch pieces and steam over simmering water or cook in simmering water for 3 to 5 minutes or until bright green and just tender. Transfer to a colander and refresh under cold running water until it cools to room temperature. Drain thoroughly and dry with a kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, agave or honey, vinegar and 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt in a large bowl and whisk to thoroughly blend. Keep whisking as you drizzle the olive oil, keeping up the action until it is completely incorporated.

Add the asparagus, roasted peppers, and chickpeas to the vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Taste to adjust the salt and add some black pepper. Splash in lemon juice to taste, if desired, shortly before serving.

Source: Heart of the Plate

Baked Falafel Burgers

250 ml (1 cup) dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves

125 ml (1/2 cup) roughly chopped fresh parsley

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

15 ml (1 tbsp) toasted cumin seeds

2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda

3 ml (3/4 tsp) salt

2 ml (1/2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

1 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne pepper

15 ml (1 tbsp) chickpea or all-purpose flour, if needed

Cover the chickpeas by 4 to 5 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, and juice, cumin, baking soda, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined.

If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water but no more than 30 ml (2 tbsp). (The mixture will fall apart when cooking if too wet.) If water is added, stir in the chickpea flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties.

Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway until golden and firm.

Source: Veggie Burgers Every Which Way

Grilled Tofu Curry

1 500-g (1 12-14-oz) package extra-firm tofu, drained

80 ml (1/3 cup) loosely packed fresh mint leaves

80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil

50 ml (1/4 cup) rice vinegar

30 ml (2 tbsp) coarsely chopped fresh ginger

2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic

15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar

10 ml (2 tsp) curry powder

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

5 ml (1 tsp) ground black pepper

1 large onion sliced

500 ml (2 cup) cherry tomatoes

1,000 ml (4 cups) mesclun or mixed salad greens

Slice tofu crosswise into 6 slices, then each diagonally to make 2 triangles. Let drain on paper towels while preparing marinade. For marinade, in a food processor, combine mint leaves, olive oil, vinegar, ginger, jalapenos, garlic, sugar, curry, 3 ml (3/4 tsp) of the salt and 3 ml (3/4 tsp) of the black pepper. Cover and process until just combined. Transfer tofu slices to a shallow dish; sprinkle with the remaining 1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt and 1 ml (1/4 tsp) pepper. Add 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the marinade; spread to cover the tops and bottoms of each tofu triangle. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Drain tofu. In a medium bowl, toss onion slices with 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the mint mixture. Transfer onion slices to a grill wok or tray.

For a charcoal grill, grill onions in grill wok directly over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 to 4 minutes more. Meanwhile, add tofu for the last 8 minutes of grilling, turning once halfway through. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place grill wok on rack over heat. Cover; grill as above. Add tomatoes and tofu; cover and cook as above.

Serve vegetables and tofu slices over mesclun; serve with remaining mint mixture.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens 365 Vegetarian Meals

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2013 D1

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