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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ranting about Recipes and Some...Recipes

I should probably mention that most of the recipes I post are just modifications of things I've always made or from cookbooks or websites that may or may not even be vegan to start with. Some recipes lend themselves easily to modification, like the soup below where all I really had to do was omit the 1/4 cup olive oil and salt, or a pasta recipe for which more vegetables can be swapped out with the excess of pasta.

There's really no way, though, without the fat and salt in most vegan recipes out there, to make things taste like the rich and salty dishes that are the staple of the American diet. It's been a good 7 year process for me, letting that go. It's all too easy to mimic things like real ground beef or even fettucine alfredo - there's super fatty vegan cream and margarine and imitation parmesan out there that I'd dare someone to distinguish from the real thing in a blind taste test. I've made empanadas - deep-fried Argentinean savory pastries stuffed with ground beef, olives, and egg - by cooking the fake ground beef in a ton of oil and salt, brought them to company potlucks and no one could tell they weren't the "real" thing. I didn't tell them, they didn't ask, and the whole pile was always gone by evening's end. So when people wrinkle their noses at the thought of "vegan food" (which is really just food...) ever being able to pleasure their overstimulated taste buds the way "real food" can, it's generally a lack of realization that they're addicted to the taste of fat and salt. Put enough of that on anything and it'll taste just great. It makes me cringe when I'm searching through recipes on sites like Allrecipes.com and see vegetable dishes with descriptions such as "My kids hate broccoli and carrots, but they always ask for this healthy dish!" and go on to read the recipe which inevitably involves drenching them in 2 cups of cheddar cheese or something.

I think the reason why so many vegan recipe sites and books out there devote most if not all of their space to mimicking the unhealthy foods we all know and love is to prove to the world that we're not making any monk-like sacrifices here, we can eat just like everyone else. And so we end up boxing ourselves in to the same narrow selection of foods, when in reality the "vegan diet" includes the lion's share of options - an incredible variety of grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits...how many kinds of meats and cheeses are there?

Anyway, this recipe, posted at Allrecipes, for Greek Lentil Soup required very little tampering. Instead of 1/4 cup of olive oil I used 1 tsp, used a packet of low sodium vegetable broth (bouillion would work as well) in the water, and omitted the salt. Still delicious.
We enjoyed it with 1 lb steamed green beans and some whole-wheat pita - half each - with greens and hummus from the recipe section of Eat to Live:

Tasty Hummus Spread or Dip
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, or 1 cup cooked
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup bean liquid or water
  • 1 tsp horseradish (optional)
Blend all in a blender or food processor. Great for dipping raw baby carrots and broccoli in.

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