Cooking for Vegans and Beyond

victoria —  January 31, 2007 — Leave a comment

We are not vegans, Keifel and I. In fact, I think Keifel would live on meat if I allowed such a thing. I am a lapsed vegetarian mostly due to living with a dedicated carnivore. I still avoid the cow. But I cooked primarily vegetarian food for a number of years and we still eat many veg-centered meals. My dear friend, the Divine Miss M, recently turned the big 40 and I had the opportunity to make a completely vegan spread for about 30 people.

I came up with three menu ideas for Miss M and let her choose. One was kind of a Central American themed buffet with tamales and devilled squashes. The second was a Spanish tapas menu with an emphasis on winter warmer veg. The third was a pan-Asian nibbles spread with lots of rolled and stuffed things and some delicious sauces. Miss M chose the Asian menu. Yay!

I loved the idea of the challenge of making an entirely vegan menu. For me it was important, having just spent two years in culinary school and a lifetime of being a food geek girl, that everything taste amazing and that those who were there who weren’t vegan or even necessarily vegetarian would love the food and feel fed. I hate when vegetarians get stuck with carrot sticks and the reverse of when people who are used to having an animal protein as a main feel like the need to stop and eat on the way home.

The menu for the shindig was:
Edamame with sea salt
Napa cabbage and morel mushroom pot stickers
Tofu and ginger garlic veg steamed dumplings
Mushroom and bamboo shoot steamed buns
Steamed zucchini in a walnut sauce
Sesame soba noodles
California rolls with avocado, carrot and cucumber
Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut and soy-mirin sauces
Thai-style fried rice
2 kinds of nut-based vegan cookies, a pecan sandie and an apricot jam poppy seed cookie

I made and froze the pot stickers, the dumplings and buns early in the week to avoid having a lot of hands-on stuff at the party locale because the California rolls and the spring rolls had to be done on site at the last minute.

Things went very smoothly and all the food went out at the right time except the California rolls and I did those as people were beginning to eat. It was a little more hectic for me not having my usual partner in crime there to manage the non-food aspect of things but I did have a lot of help from Miss M (despite a nagging cough) and from our hostess. They got everything arranged on the table which would have put me over the edge stress wise.

It was a great evening though I did spend a lot of it in the kitchen. I think people were feeling a little guilty that I was rallied ’round the stove most of the evening, but I am finding (and maybe this is a catering thing) that I like being a little removed from the meat of the party when I am doing the food. I feel a little panicky if I sit for too long afraid that a tray is empty or a bowl of goodies needs refilled. It may also be my weirdnesses around crowds and my preferences for partying with a small, tight-knit group over lots of peeps.

Everyone seemed to love the food and I think a few people were surprised that it was entirely vegan. Making an Asian inspired menu vegan isn’t too tough. The biggest thing I had to avoid with the Thai and Vietnamese dishes was a fish sauce, which is admittedly a pretty important part of the flavor profiles of those cuisines. The saltiness of soy definitely worked in its place.

Our hostess with the mostess said that she was watching people fill their plates and pointing out which sauces to eat with what and lots of “did you try these?” That always makes a girl feel good and, if you know me you know that I always tend to over cook a bit (as Nigella says “Never knowingly undercatered”). There was very little food left. A few California rolls and some of the veg for fillings. Oh, and some cookies. Either I am hitting the mark better or those were some happily hungry folks. Yay!.

All in all, I felt really good about it and happy that Miss M could eat everything at her party with no worries. We did have a few other peeps with various intolerances but they were able to eat many things despite some pretty difficult things to avoid with Asian dishes, namely sesame, soy, wheat and corn. Okay, corn wasn’t too difficult because I don’t generally buy corn-syrup sweetened anything. There are pictures that Miss M took with a film camera. (Hint, hint, Miss M, I’d love one when you get them developed).

Zucchini with Walnut Sauce

cup konbu dashi (made by boiling a small piece of konbu in water for 10 minutes)
2 Tablespoons tamari
2 Tablespoons sake or Mirin
1 teaspoon honey or golden syrup or sugar
teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
teaspoon white miso
1 cup walnuts toasted
3 medium zucchini, cut into 2×1/2 matchsticks
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

In a saucepan, combine the dashi, soy sauce, Mirin, sugar, and ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the miso and turn the heat very low (dont allow miso to boil), keeping the sauce warm with no bubbles. In a food processor, grind the walnuts to a meal and stir in to the sauce. Lightly steam the zucchini until tender crisp. Drain and toss with sauce. Serve hot or cold. Garnish with sesame seeds.



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