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Vegan Planet: May 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Pan-Seared Seitan with Mushrooms and Port

I’ve gotten into the habit lately of making a seitan pot roast in my slow cooker just about every Sunday (see March 7 post). The benefits are many:

1. it’s easy to put on to cook and walk away until serving time
2. the amazing fragrance fills the house all day
3. it makes a great “comfort-food” dinner, and
4. there are always enough leftovers for other terrific meals later in the week

Which brings me to the point: this week I used my “leftover” seitan to make a scrumptious sauté of seitan and mushrooms with a port wine sauce. The luscious sauce is absorbed by both the seitan and the mushrooms for an out-of-this-world flavor. I served it over brown rice and accompanied it with roasted broccoflower. So good. Here’s the recipe.

Pan-Seared Seitan with Mushrooms and Port
I adapted this from the recipe in Vegan Planet that uses cremini mushrooms, shallots, and red wine.
1 pound seitan, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 scallions, finely minced
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup port wine
3/4 to 1 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Brown the seitan in the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove the seitan from skillet and set aside on a plate.
2. In the same skillet, add the scallions and cook for 2 minutes to soften. Add the mushrooms and wine. Simmer, stirring, to cook off the alcohol and reduce the liquid slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the skillet and set aside with the seitan.
3. Add the stock to the skillet, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. For a thicker sauce, stir in a cornstarch slurry (about 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water).
4. Transfer the seitan and the mushrooms back to the skillet, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer over medium heat until hot. For a more pronounced port flavor, add an extra splash of port while heating the seitan.
Serves 4

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Thursday, May 22, 2008


Oprah’s Vegan Challenge

I’m so happy to see that Oprah is going vegan—for 21 days, at least — in what she’s calling a “21-day cleanse as a way to jump-start an inner makeover.” In this plan, she has eliminated animal products from her diet and has invited her fans to join her. How cool is that?

Helping her to do this (by cooking amazing vegan meals for her) is my good friend, vegan chef extraordinaire, Tal Ronnen (in photo). Way to go, Tal! (See his bio on Oprah’s blog.)

Best of all, it actually seems like Oprah “gets” the reason why many of us are vegan. In her blog, she writes: “How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?”

I also think it’s great that Erik Marcus at is pitching in to help those who are taking Oprah’s vegan challenge and are new to veganism. During the next three weeks, his VegTalk podcast is going to offer daily guidance and support to new vegans. On the May 21st podcast, Erik recommends his three favorite cookbooks for new vegans and I’m honored to report that two of them were my own Quick-Fix Vegetarian and Vegan Planet, along with that other bastion of vegan recipes, Veganomicon.

Here’s hoping that Oprah’s 21-day vegan challenge is a catalyst for getting more and more people to go vegan and the beginning of a new era for veganism and all that it represents. What do you think?

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Saturday, May 17, 2008


Couscous Cake Contest Results: And the Winners Are…

First I want to thank everyone who entered the Creative Couscous Cake Contest. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and creativity of the submissions. Every one of you is a winner — which presented me with the nearly impossible task of picking a grand prize winning cake among all the delicious-looking contenders. To that end, I brought in an independent panel of judges to help with the voting. We all agreed it was like having a pastry cart wheeled in front of you — how can you choose just one? The judging resulted in two-way ties for both first and second place, as well as a very close third place winner. The Honorable Mention winners are other terrific entries that got lots of votes and deserve recognition.

I hope you will join me in a round of blogospheric applause for the wonderful variety and talent of this amazing group of contestants. Since most of the entrants have posted their recipes on their own blogs, you can go to the blogs indicated to check out the actual recipes. The two Grand Prize winners will each receive a copy of either Quick-Fix Vegetarian or Vegan Fire and Spice. I wish I could send prizes to everyone who entered — many thanks to all of you for making this contest a success.

Tied for First Place are Grand Prize Winners:

Paulina of Veggie Delight for her Vegan Tres Leche Couscous Cake


Tami of Vegan Appetite for her Lemon Berry Couscous Cake

Second Place goes to:

Maggie of Magpie707 for her Asian Pear and Date Couscous Cake


Bex of How to Feed a Vegan for her Coconut Vanilla Bean Couscous Cake

Third Place is awarded to:

Sharon at To Live and Eat in LA for her Apple Pie Couscous Cake

Here are the judges other favorites that are awarded an Honorable Mention:

Kim's Chocolate-Almond-Cherry Couscous Cake

Katie's Cherry-Strawberry Layered Couscous Cake

Lea's White Chocolate Cherry Couscous Cake

This last set of photos are additional entries from some of our winners — and the photos were just too pretty not to share.

Maggie's Strawberry Coconut Couscous Cake

Paulina's Pina Colada Couscous Cake

Tami's Cherry-Berry Couscous Cake

So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions about the cakes, the contest, and if you agree with the choices of our esteemed panel of judges. Thanks again to everyone who entered this contest -- I hope you enjoyed this contest as much as I did!

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Monday, May 5, 2008


Happy Cinco de Mayo

Couldn't let Cinco de Mayo pass without posting a recipe in honor of the occasion. This rich creamy soup has a refreshing note of lime and is especially good made with homemade salsa. To save time, you can use a bottled salsa and instead of making your own tortilla strips, simply garnish with some corn chips.

Contest Count-down: If it's May 5 that means there's only 5 days left to send me your lovely Couscous Cake photos. It's your chance to win a cookbook and go down in couscous cake history! (For contest details, check out my April 10th post.) Go to the contact page of my website to e-mail your submission.

Creamy Tortilla Soup
This recipe is from my book, Quick-Fix Vegetarian.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups tomato salsa
3 1/2 to 4 cups vegetable broth
2 ripe Haas avocados
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 corn tortillas

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup of the salsa and 3 cups of the broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Halve and pit one of the avocados and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the soup mixture and process until smooth. Transfer back to the pot, add the lime juice and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper, and remaining broth, if needed. Simmer over low heat while you toast the tortillas.
Lightly brush the tortillas with oil and cut them into thin strips, about 1/4-inch wide by 2-inches long. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the tortilla strips and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes.
Just before serving, halve, pit, and dice the remaining avocado and stir half of it into the soup. To serve, garnish the soup with the remaining diced avocado, remaining 1/2 cup salsa, and the tortilla strips.

Serves 4

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Vegan Planet Guest Blogger

In keeping with the Vegan Planet theme, I thought it would be interesting to occasionally feature posts from vegans around the world. My first guest blogger is Lochlain Lewis, a vegan currently working in Afghanistan. Here is his post:

Eating Vegan in Afghanistan

We walk the short distance to the Afghan Security Guard compound for our weekly dinner invitation. Upon entering the small room most of us remove our footwear. A slender man comes in and rolls out a six foot mat on the floor. He scurries in and out carrying plates until there is no more room on the mat. It is now covered with dishes of rice, raw and cooked vegetables, falafel, meat, and flat bread. To be a good host is the mark of a good Afghan. They love that we sit with them on the floor around the mat, crossed legged or with one leg turned under with the other knee pulled up to one’s chest. In this setting with so many people sitting around the mat, they don't notice that I’m not eating the meat.

I'm beginning to pick up the technique of eating rice by packing it with two fingers and thumb, and lifting it to my mouth without tilting back my head. My favorite rice has a nutty flavor nearly like Indian pilaf. It's cooked with baby grapes that lend a tanginess to the rice. I pull a piece of the flatbread from the round next to me and, cupping it between my finger and thumb, I press it into the falafel patty. Its subtle spiced flavor contrasts well with the sautéed cabbage. Tomato slices as red and ripe as I've ever seen line the edge of a plate of green onions. The Afghan fare is what most of us would consider rustic. But it is in the simplicity that I find its true enjoyment.

At the close of the meal, green tea is served. They pour a small amount of locally grown granular sugar in the bottom of a glass mug and pour the steaming tea over it. The conversation floats like steam rising from our tea. Dinner concludes with handshakes all around and the occasional hand to the heart. Such hospitality is an oasis in an otherwise unforgiving terrain.
—Lochlain Lewis

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