Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegan Gourmet

Pickled collard greens with pears

Ok, so Gourmet is going gentle into that good night. The rest of us, though, are kicking and screaming.

The worst part of it is that recently Gourmet had been publishing a lot of forward-thinking vegetarian and even vegan recipes. They had a great index at the back of each magazine, listing all the vegetarian recipes, and of those, quite a few were vegan or veganizable. The September 2009 issue was particularly rich in vegetable offerings.

Last night I made two of them: the pickled collard greens and the okra with scallions and ginger. At first when I saw "pickled collard greens" I got very excited because I like to pickle things in jars. But it turned out that the title just meant, "collard greens with a vinegar-y thing on them." Which is fine, and traditional in the South. In Appalachia, it's normal to see a bottle of vinegar hot sauce on the table next to the salt and pepper. Diners flavor their own greens to their individual preference with vinegar in which a hot pepper has been steeped.

The Gourmet recipe involved simmering a small amount of sliced onion in about 4 tablespoons of vinegar, with a little garlic, sugar, salt, and cayenne added. A pound of greens is simmered for 6-8 minutes, and then this vinegar mix is poured over the greens and allowed to marinate with them for an hour before serving. The original recipe also called for about 1/4 cup of pineapple chunks per pound of greens, and this was very good indeed. But last night I didn't have any pineapple, so I substituted minced pears. (The menu was all about the letter P. A little indulgence in conceptual silliness that can be allowed to a dowager magazine at the end of her life, I suppose.) This made the dish a bit more fall-ish, but I thought that the pineapple was better.

As for the okra, Gourmet maintained that "steaming unlocks the succulence of okra." I guess that's a nice way to say that steaming inhibits some of the sliminess of okra from bothering those with an unrefined palate. I had bought some okra at the Houston farmer's market that was a variety called "Velvet." It's like my favorite, Zee Best, in that it doesn't have ridges and it is velvety in texture. The recipe said to steam a pound of it for 7 minutes (unlocking that succulence), while you quickly saute a cup of chopped scallions with a little bit of salt. (The magazine said this was a Vietnamese thing, but I can't believe that's the only country in the world where scallions are sauteed.) Then you pour this over the okra and sprinkle some minced ginger over the whole thing. You are supposed to squeeze lime juice on as well, but I didn't have any.

I thought this was very good last night and it was good cold for lunch. But I think next time I'll grate the ginger so that it coats the okra more uniformly. The matchsticks of ginger just sort of hung around the okra.

The great thing about VeganMoFo is just having lots of vegetable sides for supper. We also had a rice salad made from left-over rice, some olive oil, lemon juice, and a sliced squash. (It was supposed to be a cucumber, but squash was fine.) If you put enough olive oil on everything, you get pretty full!

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