Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Southern Comfort - Vegan Style

It's been a while, my friends. I hope you have been eating some great food!

I took a little time off. When the metaphorical plate gets too full, its best to rank the items in order of importance and say goodbye to the potatoes. Just came up with that, but I think it makes sense. The past couple months, my plate was overflowing with activity, so I decided, with some sadness, that cooking would have to be put on hold. So, while I taught my classes, planned my wedding, trained for a half marathon, and organized a fundraiser, I subsisted mainly on microwaved sweet potatoes and peanut butter. Not at the same time.

Now that the funds are raised, the race is run, and the ring's on the finger, I'm ready to cook.

One of the things I want to focus on over the next couple of months is tofu. Even after my short stint as an intern at a vegan restaurant, I am still sometimes mystified by the enigma that is tofu. One might think that such an experience would produce a tofu expert, but in reality, an intern isn't high enough up the food chain to even touch the tofu, much less learn its secrets.

So, today we make tofu. Having just gotten back from my honeymoon in Napa, my palette is a little spoiled. Around the time of my race, in my peak nutritional state, I was constantly craving greens and fresh fruit. Currently, I want salty, sweet, rich food smothered in sauce of any kind. And I want it now.

Today's dish is a sort of compromise - a southern, satisfying meal that is still good for you. I found the BBQ Tofu recipe in Veganomicon, and it's pretty delightful. BBQ and coleslaw are a classic combo, but the coleslaw you get in restaurants (and certain fast food joints) is usually drowning in mayo and sugar. Since the BBQ is super sweet, I wanted to pair it with something light and tangy, so I made a vinegar-based slaw, which is something I make at home often. Coleslaw is an incredibly cheap, easy side dish that can be made ahead and adapted to compliment almost any dish. I could launch into a list of easy coleslaw adaptions here (and I really want to), but I will spare you. For this one, I added some fennel seed to compliment the apricot in the sauce.

BBQ & coleslaw would make a delightful little meal in itself, but again, I'm currently a hard lady to please. So, I made some healthified (not a word but it should be) fried okra. 'Cause I love okra. For this, I actually used frozen okra, only because the fresh was about $4/lb at the store. I will gladly pay $4/lb for organic, local okra - but not for okra from El Salvador.

BBQ, coleslaw, and fried okra. Nothin' wrong with that.
I hope you enjoy. :)

Red Cabbage Slaw with Fennel

Dressing ingredients

1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 heaping tablespoons mayo (I use vegan, but regular works as well)
2 tablespoons dijon
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon fennel seed
sea salt & black pepper

Slaw ingredients
1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 small green cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, grated
6-8 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 apple, cut into thin sticks (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Mix in slaw ingredients with your hands, or a set of tongs if you want to keep your hands clean. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Note: This recipe makes a
lot of coleslaw. I love leftover slaw - it's an easy addition to your lunch and a great way to get some veggies in to your day. If you don't want leftovers - halve the recipe.

Fried (ok baked) okra
1/2 bag frozen whole okra
1/4 cup corn meal
fine sea salt
cayenne pepper
olive oil cooking spray

Thaw okra in a colander - about 3 hours. In a shallow bowl, mix together corn meal, a generous amount of salt, and cayenne pepper to taste. Much of the breading will be left in the bowl when you are finished, so don't be afraid to add a good amount of salt. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Once the okra is thawed, dredge in the breading mixture and place on cookie sheet (the okra, once thawed, has a tendency to be a little wet, which actually helps the breading to stick). Make sure the okra is spread out evenly, and spray liberally with olive oil. Broil until brown, turn carefully, and brown the other side.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for some Napa-inspired dishes!!!


  1. I want to eat this RIGHT NOW!!!!!

  2. Well i can't do the whole "right now" part but I will make it for you for sure. I think John would love it too. On chicken, of course. ;)