Vegan challenge: Day 7
By the final day of my Manhattan vegan challenge, I had only tapped a small portion of great meatless, dairy-free recipes. There are many more vegan possibilities that I can't wait to incorporate into my meals in the Bronx.
Sunday, August 15, 2010 - 16:30
VEGAN TREATS: My raw cupcakes without eggs or dairy were surprisingly just as tasty as traditional ones. (Photo: Gaetan Lee/Flickr)
I decided to get ambitious on the last day of my vegan challenge. I fixed homemade Italian pasta for dinner and cupcakes for dessert, both without the use of eggs or dairy. Although several of my dinner guests could care less about sustainable eating, the meal turned out to be a hit.
Cream of wheat with honey and strawberries
Plain cream of wheat tastes great with berries and a little honey for extra sweetness. It's a filling, cheap and healthy breakfast.
As Green as it Gets Coffee from Antigua, Guatemala
As I mentioned before, this is some of my favorite specialty coffee produced by sustainable methods. It's grown and roasted by producer communities founded on tradition and artful delicacy.
Cafe Saint Honore on 68th and Columbus
This is a miniscule but delicious coffee shop and cafe. It has worldly brews and decor, tasty sandwiches, and a discrete loft seating area with comfy chairs and pillows.
Hummus, eggplant and spinach wrap ($6.50)
My whole wheat wrap had large slices of grilled and seasoned eggplant, tangy hummus and spinach leaves. While it was very rich and filling, it was still on the nutritious side.
I hosted a dinner party with a few friends on my last night in Manhattan, so we all pitched in to cook a large Italian meal. A few of my dinner guests were particularly passionate about their meat eating, and I worried my veggie dishes would seem boring or dainty to them. Oddly enough, they kept raving about the freshness of all the vegetables I included. I've noticed this reaction before with people who don't cook from scratch very often. A lot of people who are used to eating frozen vegetables, processed vegetables or ready-made meals are surprised when they taste produce that's so crisp and flavorful.
Bruschetta with garlic cloves, oil, vinegar, basil, parsley and pepper
I picked up some tomatoes at the Saturday afternoon farmers market that sets up in the 50s range on Columbus Ave. I diced the tomatoes and sauteed garlic cloves, and these were spread on whole wheat bread along with oil, vinegar, basil, pepper and parsley. Usually I'll include mozzarella in this recipe, but I didn't miss it too much once the spices were added. I broiled the bruschetta in the oven for about five minutes.
Shells in marinara with eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushroom and garlic
We used whole wheat shells and a Mario Batali marinara sauce for the main course. We then added sauteed eggplant, zucchini, portobello mushroom and garlic cloves. The fresh vegetable mix really emphasized this particular sauce's vibrancy.
Chateau Ste. Michelle merlot (my favorite narcissistic wine choice)
I enjoy drinking merlot with light marinara dishes. The wine's dryness doesn't overpower the flavor of the dinner like a bolder, more earthy wine might.
Chocolate cupcakes from "Raw for Dessert"
I am a die-hard fan of Magnolia's devil's food cupcakes, so tackling a new chocolate cupcake recipe (and a vegan one at that) is a serious matter to me. I was initially skeptical of Jennifer Cornbleet's recipe book, "Raw for Dessert," because many of the recipes call for strange homemade ingredients like date paste, brazil nut ice cream, and dairy-free pastry cream. After trying a few of these concoctions, though, I realized many of them are surprisingly simple to make. If you're willing to put a little thought into your dessert and learn about low-carbon recipes, this book is a very delicious and creative tool.
I used cocoa powder, raw walnuts, pitted dates, vanilla extract and chocolate ganache (an additional recipe using mere maple syrup, cocoa powder and coconut oil) for the cupcakes. I pressed this mixture in cupcake pans and chilled it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. I served these with a little chocolate sauce and assorted berries on top. The resulting cupcakes were rich and moist bites of chocolate that tasted wonderful.