Sunday, November 15, 2009

Is Vegan Food Good?

The question that nobody dares to ask.  IMHO, the answer is a qualified yes.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Last month was VeganMoFo for food bloggers.  I made a lot of vegan recipes and blogged about some of them.  Some of them were horrible. I won't name any names, but one prominent vegan food expert has a quiche recipe that I wouldn't feed to the raccoons and possums that eat out of my compost pile.

Gourmet magazine was never big on vegan food, but in its last issue there was a vegan cheesecake recipe. Maybe, if Gourmet had lived, there would have been more vegan recipes, another reason to be sad about Gourmet's demise.  Especially because this vegan chocolate cheesecake was actually very good.  Gourmet's recipes were always well-tested, it seems. I never made anything from that magazine that was actually bad and inedible. The same cannot be said of other recipe sources.  Once I made a recipe from Recipes for a Small Planet, back in the 70s, that smelled just like dog food.  I didn't taste it because the smell made it impossible to taste it. I can't remember if any dogs ate it.

Of course, Gourmet had some inadvertently vegan recipes, mostly recipes for, well, vegetables, the word from which the word vegan derives (I think.  Who came up with that ugly word, "vegan," anyway?)  But to be a really impressive vegan recipe, a recipe has to try to emulate something you can only make with meat or dairy products or eggs.

Cheesecake would be an example.  Back in the seventies, there were tofu cheesecakes.  (That awful word "vegan" had not yet been invented.)  These tofu cheesecakes were famous for causing flatulence, due to the confluence of soy protein and sugar.  Some people called this early vegan dessert "rocket fuel" for this reason.  I am happy to report that the Gourmet vegan chocolate cheesecake is not noticeably rocket fuel.  You make it with tofu cream cheese (I used the Tofutti brand) and silken tofu, along with some homemade fudge sauce.  The tofu cream cheese was very good on its own and would be good on bread or crackers.  Silken tofu is just really soft tofu that hasn't been pressed. You blend it with cocoa powder in the blender.

The only hard part of this recipe was making the fudge sauce. You have to make caramel first with sugar, a process that I always dread. It seems that I always get at least one utensil (this time it was a fork) encased in a carapace of concrete-like hardened sugar, and nothing gets that hard sugar off.  The weird thing was, first you made a caramel sauce, then you poured water on it to dilute it!  The water hardens, and then theoretically gradually softens the caramel, until you have a sort of syrup, to which you add the chocolate pieces.  Then you melt them together. I was thinking it might be easier to skip the caramel step and just use honey instead. Maybe I'll try that next time.

I didn't make the graham cracker crust from scratch because it was actually cheaper to buy one already made in a little tin pan than to buy a whole box of graham crackers.  But next time I will probably make the crust myself, because the store-bought crust was sort of stale.  Also, I halved the recipe, just so I wouldn't eat the whole thing.

  Chocolate is a breakfast food for me.  It was nice to have a piece for breakfast. I took the rest of it to work. I didn't tell anybody it was vegan, and they ate it!

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