If you have not yet read my post about why I am going vegan for a month, you should.
I want to begin by just giving a little shout-out to the Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Last week, through my period of blog silence, I tried a couple of great new vegan-friendly restaurants (new to me at least). One morning I had a great vegan breakfast burrito at the very ‘all natural’ if a little shabby Bliss Café. Even more exciting were pancakes at the very cool Champs Family Bakery, with an entirely vegan menu that you would barely know was vegan. But while vegetarian and vegan restaurants are great for having a wide range of often really great food to choose from, I had been wishing that there were more restaurants that had some good vegan options, but were not exclusively vegetarian. Even for my non-vegan friends, one month of going to vegetarian restaurants may be no big deal. But I am conscious of the fact that everyone who is vegan permanently must face a tension between most restaurants not having any (decent) vegan options and their friends not always wanting to eat at vegetarian restaurants. So, last weekend we went out with non-vegan friends who are perfectly happy to eat at a vegetarian restaurant, and instead and instead I tried to find somewhere that did not serve only vegetarian food. Buttermilk Channel not only had great reviews, but they also have a long vegetarian menu in addition to their meat menu. I e-mailed them to check that they have vegan options and to make a booking, and got a reply from their wonderful manager Jennifer describing the (several) vegan options on the menu and pointing out the others that can be made vegan on request. After having to change the booking late in the game to add more people (not a problem), and even though a couple of our party ended up showing up late (not a problem), when we got our menus Jennifer immediately came over to me (remembering me from my e-mail) so she could point out all the vegan options in person. Amazing service, and (unsurprisingly) great food. If only more restaurants were like this, I really think that it could ease tensions between vegans and those people who feel they are being ‘difficult’.
To the recipe: When I was young there were a few food items sold in America that were often brought up to demonstrate how strange and bad food could get in this country – they included cheese in a can, breakfast cereal with marshmallows, and orange cheese. Well here I am, using orange cheese, or at least orange vegan cheese-substitute. Daiya aren’t half clever serving their cheddar-style cheese in packages where you can’t actually see what the contents look like. Though I had tried their product before when I had grilled cheese sandwiches at Smorgasburg, so I shouldn’t really have been that surprised to see its colour. While this means that this recipe, from vegan blog Peas and Thank You, did not end up looking that sophisticated, it tasted great.
Enchilada Bake with Orange Cheese
(From Peas and Thank You; Serves 4-5)
1 cup of quinoa (I used mostly black quinoa with a little white quinoa added)
1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups of organic tomato sauce (1 cup will be used at the beginning, 1/2 a cup will be added later)
3 teaspoons of chilli powder, (2 teaspoons will be used at the beginning, and one later)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 courgette (zucchini) (you can use two if you like – I probably will next time)
1/3 cup non-dairy cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup of grated non-dairy cheese (I used Daiya cheddar-style cheese) – don’t add extra as it can end up too salty
Two handfuls of kalamata olives, pitted and sliced into rounds
Guacamole (to serve)
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Lightly grease a medium-sized baking dish with olive oil.
Rinse and drain the quinoa and put in a medium pot with the vegetable stock, 1 cup of tomato sauce and 2 teaspoons of chilli powder. Heat on medium-high until boiling, cover, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked (about 15 minutes). You may want to take off the lid for the last few minutes of cooking. While the quinoa is cooking, wash and grate the courgette (zucchini) and give it a squeeze to let out some of its excess moisture. If you haven’t already minced the cloves of garlic, now is the time to do it.
When the quinoa is done, take off the heat and stir in the courgette (zucchini), the remaining 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1/3 cup of vegan cream cheese, 2 cloves of garlic (finely minced) and 1 teaspoon of cumin. Pour into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, and evenly distribute the sliced olives. Place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, until hot and the cheese is bubbling. You can place under the grill for the last few minutes if you want to get a little browning on the top of the cheese.
Serve hot with a large dollop of guacamole.