Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Although a Great Meal, Neither Emril, nor Bobby, nor Gordon Need Worry
I cook by feeling, not measurements. Therefore, I can never have my own show on the Food Network! Though these actual pictures of the meal (rice, edamame, and stir fry) look pretty good, no?
I cooked my first vegan dinner for a friend - a non-vegan. Actually, for you faithful readers, it was the skeptical doctor. I still had something to prove!
My kitchen is of the sort usually found in a 100 year-old New York City fourth floor walk-up apartment -- minuscule.
The kitchen counter space from end to end is 57 inches. Well, you say, you can work with that, right? Well, in those 57" please find a stove, a counter, AND a sink! So, in actuality I am working with 19" of space to prepare my vegan masterpiece...my cutting board is 18".
The menu last night was chicken stir fry, and VBites Spicy Soya Sausage and Chorizo over organic rice. The rice - easy. The Spicy Chorizo - easier. The plastic bag was slit, the bag placed in the microwave, two and a half minutes later the piping hot meal was spread over the rice. Bingo. It was spicy, and very good! On to the stir fry.
The key - vegetables. Fresh. Many colors.
With my trusty knife, and 18" of cutting board (plus 1" of counter top space) I went to work. First, a giant red onion...I tend to tear-up when cutting onions, so I saved it for last (a guy should never tear-up on a date, unless you're watching "Brian's Song.")...I mean, I really made sure it was the last thing I sliced and added to the mix...the very, very last thing...but then, while cleaning the dishes after dinner I realized that giant, unmolested red onion was still sitting on the dish rack. Now, I am sure onions would do a world of good in my stir fry, but it was excellent without it, too!
Alright, so ignore the onion. In rapid succession I sliced up red peppers, yellow peppers, and orange peppers. I grabbed my giant, multi-purpose, bachelor, silver bowl often used for cereal, or salad, or popcorn, or, in a pinch, a dog water dish. To my dinner guest: I'm joking! And put all the vegetables in the bowl. In addition to the peppers, I sliced up shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, and brussel sprouts. Also threw in some soy beans. I had a bag of shelled edamame beans and boiled those, then added to this magical bowl of multicolor vegetables.
My guest was eager to help, but being the all-in-charge chef in my Altoids tin sized kitchen I told her to back away. She told me later that the words, "Don't forget about the onion" were on her lips, but she kept mum.
Since I am documenting this 6 month vegan experiment I employed her as the video cameraman. Time to document the Third Avenue Iron Chef! Aaaand, "Action!"
First, I grab two packets of VBites "chicken" pieces. I've had this soy-based "chicken" before, and it does taste quite like chicken after I fry it up. I browned (what is the past tense of "brown?") the fake chicken, and put it on a dish to the side -- by this time I was using the kitchen sink in my personal plate placement puzzle.
Now, I can only assume that different vegetables fry (or grill) at different rates. However, did I mention that I do NOT have a cooking show on the Food Network regardless of the fact that Sophia Coppola with a PHD was standing in my kitchen?
I placed this patch work of vegetables into the frying pan, stirring in a little ginger stir fry sauce, and sprinkled in some garlic powder. Using a wooden spoon I stirred the stir fry for, for...have no idea. Until it looked ready. Rather, until it felt ready -- about the time it took me to tell my story on camera about my one and only day as a waiter at a famous French restaurant on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, back in 1992.
I then stirred in the VBites "chicken" for as long as it took me to tell the epilogue of my one and only day working as a waiter, and serve.
My brave dinner guest, with one eye on the forgotten onion, and the other eye cocked sideways as she just witnessed the wingingist of all winging it recipes, dug in.
The meal was great, really great. The rainbow collage of vegetables complimented each other, and by cooking all at once, and for some undefinable length of time, the carrots were perfect in tenderness, while the brussel sprouts a perfect crunch. (OK, between 5-10 minutes).
Both cook, and guest were thrilled with the result - the key being the variety, and freshness of vegetables!
You know, I do remember the taste of a great meat dish, but after the taste is gone I was left with a full stomach of animal flesh. With a belly full of vegetables, and soy-based "meat," there is no guilt, and no regrets! Though I doubt a nutrient-dense diet is what Edith Piaf was singing about.
OK, so I passed the date test. Next up, inviting my buddies over for some vegan home cooking! As mentioned, ladies are too mature, and too nice to complain (although the good doctor did seem genuinely pleased with my efforts). The true test of my vegan culinary skills will be when I try to trick my buddies with a vegan chili, or vegan lasagna!