Vegan January AKA Veganuary here I come!
As many of my facebook friends know, my oldest daughter is vegan. She has been vegan for a little over 6 months and it has caused a flurry of posts between myself and her debating the ideology of veganism. I believe in honoring the life the animal gave to feed us by using tail to snout cooking. She also kept talking about all these fake meat products that are no better than processed regular food. I was peeved that she was leaning on processed foods instead of cooking healthy vegan dishes that didn’t include anything processed. Neither of us was willing to bend so things sometimes got heated enough that some people suggested I unfollow her. I recently helped her move back to the states. We drove from Texas to Atlanta and then 6 more hours to her new home. We talked and I did my best to find good vegan restaurants for us to eat at along the way. We found some incredibly good vegan restaurants and I was inspired. I have no intention of permanently going vegan but I decided I would be a good influence and participate in the veganuary campaign. I am cooking nothing but vegan dishes for the rest of January.
As someone who used to develop recipes I know that more often than not they are not going to turn out well if followed completely. So I chose to use recipes from sources I trusted like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats. This is one of only a handful of sites that I know I can use their recipes exactly as written and they will always be fabulous. Kenji is a vegetarian/vegan chef and a big influence at Serious Eats so there is a significant number of vegan recipes but you don’t realize it because they are so simple and delicious that you don’t notice it is missing meat. They have a selection of 16 Vegan Soup and Stew Recipes, 14 Vegan Snack Recipes to Satisfy Every Craving, and best of all “The Vegan Experience: 85 Great Vegan Recipes.” All you have to do is go to the site and search for the term vegan and it feels like a never ending list of drool worthy recipes that you can feel good about.
I do menu planning with Cozi.com which lets me import recipes and then create a menu. From that menu I can create a shopping list which I use religiously when shopping. I imported all the vegan recipes that caught my eye and started building my menu and shopping list for the week. When building your menu watch carefully your choices because it is easy to get caught in the carbohydrate trap. Many vegan recipes are heavily carb based and don’t include enough protein and vegetables so be careful in your selections.
Vegan Cooking from Scratch
One of my goals in #Veganuary is to not use any processed vegan products. I want to make from scratch everything I can. After going through the recipes I had chosen I decided the very first thing I needed to make was a hardy umami packed vegetable stock because it is an often used ingredient. In culinary school I made hundreds of gallons of stock because my class got stuck making stock for the entire school. I was always in charge of making sure it was done properly so I had a hand in almost every batch. So making stock at home for me is almost cathartic. I was curious to see how the Bon Appetit recipe I found would stand up in comparison to a standard bone stock in flavor.
This recipe for Vegan Umami Broth seemed to tick all the boxes for ways to pack umami into the stock. You ask what the difference is between stock and broth? Simply broth has been seasoned with salt and stock has not and since this recipe contains salt in the form of miso, I guess you could call it a broth but I would consider it a stock. This recipe caramelized the vegetables and breaks them down into smaller bits so more flavor can be extracted. The recipe also includes shiitake mushrooms and miso which are both packed with umami. I added bay leaves and thyme to both batches and I added a parsnip and a quarter of a head of cabbage I had sitting around to my second batch to see if I could up the umami flavor even more. After tasting both batches I decided to compile my changes into my own recipe for Umami Packed Vegetable Stock.
Important Steps for Stock
There are two steps to making stock that are very important one is to not add your aromatics (bay, parsley, thyme, pepper) until the last hour of cooking time and chilling your strained stock before refrigerating. For this stock I chose to not roast the parsley and instead add it to the pot when we start the simmer. Another good tip is to crack your peppercorns with the bottom edge a heavy frying pan before adding them. Chilling your stock is an important health safety issue. If you just take that hot stock and throw it in the refrigerator it will remain in the temperature danger zone for to long and will spoil quickly. You want to put the stock in a metal container such as a stock pot and then sit that in an ice bath until the stock reaches 70 degrees F. Then it can be safely stored in your fridge. A vegetable stock like this that was properly chilled and stored can last two weeks in your fridge. Meat based stocks will only last 7 days unless frozen.
The first night I made a Triple Garlic Pasta from Serious Eats which I was not entirely happy with. The flavor just fell flat and even the addition of a can of tomatoes and additional wine couldn’t bring it to life. I served it with freshly baked bread and immediately realized I was falling into the carbohydrate trap. It had sounded good when I was planning the menu because I wanted comfort food and starch is always a go to. I immediately sat down and looked at my menu for the rest of the week to make sure I didn’t repeat the error. I was happy to find I only gave myself this one night of carb comma.
Last night I made a more vegetable and protein based Crispy Stir-Fried Tofu with Broccoli from Serious Eats. Even though the tofu is fried the batter in this recipe is much like tempura batter because it made an extremely light and crunchy texture. I had a good amount of batter left after the tofu so I might have also fried some broccoli and mushrooms in it and they were both excellent so I will be keeping this recipe if nothing else but for that perfect batter. The sauce for this dish had just enough spicy bite and acide to cut through any fat in the dish and served with a starchy short grained rice it was a huge hit. I will definitely make this dish again.
I am going to be doing daily posts on social media and frequent blog posts to update you with my recipe selections. I will also be commenting on what I would do differently the next time I make the dish or if I would make it again. Hopefully you will join me on this journey if nothing else but in spirit!
Enjoy your culinary life!