Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eating Omily: Veg Out This Summer!

Ok, guys, I promised you a vegan post, and I am going to deliver!  As you have almost certainly realized by now, I am not a vegan, or a vegetarian, but I am really picky about the animal products that I eat: they come from the Farmer's Market.  I buy them directly from the farmers who work with the animals throughout the animal's lives.  The animals live outside, and forage for grass, bugs, and other things that they like, have natural hierarchys, and, as is often the case in the wild, are killed by a predator, but as is never the case in the wild, they are killed in the most stress, fear, and pain-free way possible.  In other words, they have it pretty damn good, and I feel not the slightest twinge over enjoying the incredible nutrition present in their tissues...BUT,

most of the meat people are eating and buying in this country is living in atrocious, miserable, unnatural, and diseased conditions you can imagine, and they die in a state of pain and terror, and they are then proccessed into meat by ill-trained illegal immigrants who aren't being paid a fair wage and are being forced to work too quickly to do a good job, causing the meat to be contaminated with bacteria that's antibiotic resistant since the animal was force-fed massive doses of antibiotics its entire life to make it grow bigger, faster.

Who in their right mind would want to eat that stuff??  I 100% support your choice to not eat that stuff, and, in my mind at least, to sponsor the poor souls who are eating that stuff by eating none of it, instead of treating yourself to the humane, healthy meat-treats at your Farmer's Market.

SO, if you're vegan, what do you eat?  Everything except animal products.  Here are some tasty ideas that I'm a fan of:

Refried beans (homemade, or read the ingredients if you buy them canned: they're often made with pork fat for flavor), guacemole, and salsa with chips.  Simple, light, and delicious...AND gluten free!

A hearty vegetable soup or ratatoulli served with crusty whole-grain bread drizzled with fruity olive oil.  This is the time to make this one!  The summer veggies filling the market are just begging to be cooked all together in one great big pot of love...

Baked tofu with veggies.  Now, this is one I just discovered.  I like to keep sprouted firm tofu around, because it's so easy to add to stir-fries and soups as a quick source of protien.  Farmer's Market meat is expensive; we only eat it around twice a week: dinner one night, and breakfast Saturday morning.  Word on the street is that sprouted is always better for you, and doubly so for tofu, which has been getting its stellar rep questioned as of late.  If you can find it, go for it!  And always always always choose organic tofu!  The vast majority of the tofu in this country is GMO, and you do not want that.  If it's labeled organic, it cannot be GMO.

Here's the simple recipe for baked tofu I threw together via a couple internet searches: drain your blocks of tofu, wrap them in several layers of paper towels, set them on a plate, put another plate on top, and weigh down that top plate with a few canned goods or something.  Let it sit for fifteen minutes.  The liquid absorbed into the tofu will have soaked the papertowels.

This step is important, because just like meat and fish won't brown and crisp if they're damp, tofu won't either, and since tofu comes to you floating in a bath, it takes more than a gently pat-down to get that moisture back out.

Now that your tofu has been pressed, cut it into bite-sized cube.  In a bowl big enough to hold all your tofu chunks, stir together some maple syrup (or honey if you can see your way clear to borrow some from happy bees who have not been drugged, or artificially inseminated and have a Farmers' Market to get honey from), some olive or coconut oil, salt, chili powder, pepper, maybe sesame get the idea: yummy stuff.  Add the tofu to the bowl, and toss to coat.  Preheat the oven to 375 or 400, place the tofu onto the sheet with a little space between each one.  I don't recomend pouring the tofu onto the sheet; you don't want the extra marinade burning onto your pan.  Pop the tofu into the oven for about twenty minutes, turn all the tofu cubes over, vary carefully, so that the crispy yummy layer stays attached to the tofu and not the pan, bake another twenty minutes, and you get this:
Which, comeon, seriously? So pretty, and so delicious! You can serve the left-over marinade as a dipping sauce, or you can make a separate dipping sauce with flavors to compliment what you're serving your tofu with.  Veggies and rice is an easy accompaniment, of course.  These guys are just so tasty, the only problem I've found is that we never leave enough left over!   I have to make twice as much tofu as I do when I'm not baking it just so the husband can take some to lunch the next day!

I'm going to cheat a little bit to remind you that now is the best time of year for making a delicious, hearty dish that is vegetarian, but takes some tinkering to make vegan.
 And, personally, I could never be vegan in the face of brown, bubbling cheese.

If you're lucky enough to have a cast iron skillet, you can make this whole dish in one pan!  Which is pretty awesome.  Peel and slice one big eggplant, bread it, or don't bread it, or do I what I do and spread a little oil on it then rub some cornmeal into the surface for like, a little lazy breading.  Then saute the slices in more oil in the your cast iron skillet till they start to get tender, and brown.  Flip them over and do the same to the other side.  Get really really frustrated at the fact that eggplant sucks oil up like a sponge.  Seriously.  What the hell is up with eggplant?
Transfer the eggplant to a plate, and drizzle some tomato sauce into your cast iron skillet, or into a baking dish.  Add a layer of eggplant, top the eggplant with sauce and mozerella cheese, then repeat with the rest of the eggplant, more sauce, and more cheese.  Pop it into a 400 or 425 degree oven for twenty minutes to half an hour: basically till it looks delicious.  Be patient!  Let it sit and cool for a bit before you eat it!  Then enjoy.  Saucy, cheesy, and gluten free!   And if you have a reliable vegan cheese substitute, it can still be vegan!

Until next time, nom nom nom...enjoy Summer at the Farmers' Market!  The summer treats are rolling in, and amazing peaches, tomatoes, peppers, beans, blueberries, and eggplants await!