Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adventures in Vegan Cooking

In the week before school is to start up again, I have noticed that over a month and a half of lounging around on vacation has caused certain items in my wardrobe to suddenly grow tighter than is comfortable. Therefore I decided to cook up a number of recipes from my favorite cookbook, the Veganomicon, since I always lose weight more easily when I'm chomping on a greater percentage of produce than meat products. Also, considering how intimate I am about to get with what the innards of the human look like in my upcoming anatomy and physiology class, I don't think I'll be able to stomach much in the way of meat anyway.

One of the dishes I've prepared for myself eat during the week is a tempeh shepherd's pie. The great thing about casserole dishes is their capacity for using up leftovers, especially vegetables. They are highly customizable. For instance, I chose to use frozen asparagus and some leftover bell pepper rather than frozen corn. Also, I didn't use the full quantity of mashed potatoes, not wanting to having too much starch as part of the meal. I remembered that I have a nice camera before starting, so there will be photos! The first of them being my older brother's reaction when I tried to explain what tempeh was.

I am going to write out the recipe the same way I was taught in culinary school, with the ingredients followed by the directions of what is supposed to be done with them. Usually I do this in a spreadsheet for alignment purposes. So if the process is hard to read, it may be easier to rewrite it out that way.

Tempeh Shepherd's Pie

2 (8 oz.) packages tempeh
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 cups water
1 tsp olive oil

Cover and boil in a large pot 10 minutes, then uncover and boil about 5 minutes longer until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Drain.

Also a good time to boil the potatoes for the topping:
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks (peeling is optional)

It should take about 20 minutes, or until they cut easily with a fork.

Mash with:

1/3 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
3/4 tsp salt, or to taste
fresh ground pepper

For the vegetables in the filling:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup onion, medium dice
1/4 cup orange bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, medium dice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried coriander
freshly ground black pepper

Saute the onions and pepper for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic.

Add in the mushrooms, cooked tempeh, and the spices.

Cook over medium heat for about 10 more minutes until the mushrooms are juicy and the tempeh has slightly browned.

That looks really nice.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Make sure a casserole pan is greased and ready to go for the pie. The potatoes should be done and ready to mash.
Throw in the following:
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen asparagus
optional: 1 cup frozen corn

Whisk together:
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Slowly add to the pan, stirring carefully until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Pour filling into prepared casserole pan, smoothing to even top.

Dollop on the mashed potatoes, covering pie as well as possible.

Bake 20 minutes. If topping needs more browning, place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.

Garnish with chopped parsley and chives.

I am very satisfied with the flavor, it tastes "meaty" without feeling heavy. I don't know if I'll use the tempeh again, soy crumbles are easier to acquire, so I might experiment with those for the next time. Mashed sweet potatoes would also work well, I'm thinking. As for the future, I'm considering some of the soup recipes in the book for quick dinners during the coming months.