Less than 12 hours since my last post and my oh my how much I have learned. Challenges that I imagine will continue to present themselves through this little project already did today. But I’m still cheese-free!
I figured I would start my quest in the most logical way possible: at the beginning. Well, that didn’t happen because the first recipes in the book require a mandoline. The only one I have is a $16 plastic/porcelain job I got at Kitchen Kaboodle — I don’t think it will be able to slice jicama in the way I will need it to for that recipe, which is some kind of cannelloni or something. (PS: Emily, have you made fries yet? I might need to get that thing back from you.)
Once I settled on the second chef’s set of recipes, I made a list and was ready to go. Anne Quatrano, a chef extraordinaire and one of the only females featured in the book, prepares a three course meal (sidenote: I’m skipping some of the desserts in here; I need no cajoling to eat and make vegan desserts.): Bruschetta with Avocado, Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil, Crispy Fried Okra and Chiles with Pepper Vinegar and, lastly, Summer Vegetable Pilaf with Carolina Gold Rice.
I realized right off the bat I’d have problems. Okra. I am a persistent produce sniffer, and I’ve never seen fresh okra in Spokane. I tried to grow some this year, but my sprouts have sprouted no okras. (Okri?) I called around. Huckleberrys said no. Fresh Abundance went to a machine (but I doubt they’d have them). Bay Market went to a fax machine. I texted a friend, Crystal, who said she had seen them at the Saturday farmer’s market. I looked up which markets were today (Joe’s leaving tomorrow, hence my urgency to prep one meal today) and saw that Cheney was open until 3 pm. It’s a nice drive, why not?
The Cheney farmers market was not even worth stopping for. We literally circled it and left. There were two tables, both of which were selling crafts. Maybe we were just late. Who knows. We called Sonnenberg’s, they had frozen. That would have to do.
Other things I couldn’t find: banana peppers, pepper vinegar, pink-eyed peas (though, I’d eat a pea with a black eye over a nasty pink eye anyday).
After I ran to an interview, I came home, threw on shorts and got into it.
I picked up some amazing Shepard’s Grain whole wheat sourdough bread for the bruschetta, which was a great find. The bruschetta was super easy to make and only required my oven to be on for a little bit. Rubbed garlic on it, olive oil, spread the avocado mix on top and some heirloom tomatoes (from my garden!). Tasted amazing, I didn’t even miss the basil that I realize only now that I forgot to add. I ate most of the bruschettas (this is not rare in our house), and did not miss cheese on it. Success! My bruschetta looks far less dainty than Ms. Quatrano’s, but that’s how I do.
The okra was a little harder to make. First, as I looked into the pot of peanut oil, hot enough to melt the skin from my body, I realized that I should probably get a fire extinguisher. Not being much of a deep-fried eater, this was a little scary. But I took the plunge, and it seemed to work OK. My OK I mean no fires. So, yay, for that. The okra that was in the longest and got the crispiest was good, but the peppers were just OK. They were actually too hot for my baby mouth. Joe got heartburn immediately, but that pretty much always happens. I wouldn’t really make this again because my skin feels like it’s oozing peanut oil now. Cheese with this would be gross. This kind of felt like the KFC of vegan food.
The pilaf was a pretty big letdown. It had no flavor or spice or anything to say to my tastebuds. I wasn’t too bummed because the ingredients were pretty cheap, and we saved the leftovers and I plan to just throw in a can of tomatoes tomorrow for a chili. No cheese would have helped this; it seemed like a bland side dish more than anything. The other thing that made it suck is that I am mentally retarded with making rice. Joe makes the rice in this house. It’s just one of those simple things I just don’t do well. So my rice had a little backbone, but even if it was perfect the dish wouldn’t have been good. Boo on this one.
Our house was so freaking hot when we were finally finished. Ugh. What I did like about this meal was how long it took us to eat. We sat and chatted for awhile and enjoyed the things that were tasty. But before it could get to cool, we fired up the oven again to get things ready for the Vegan Bake Sale tomorrow. I had planned my usual Evildoodles, but Joe made those instead. He’s nice like that. I focused on making some Chai Latte Cupcakes. And now I am officially spent.
I have to stay up tonight to get Joe down to Amtrak for his trip to Seattle, and I don’t want to think about food for a day or so. I hereby pledge to remain cheese free until I make my next gourmet meal early next week.
Anyone know where the heck I can find fresh okra? Pepper vinegar? Banana peppers? Pink-eyed (ew) peas?