The Parable of the Steak*

October 22, 2008

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*Or, Raising the Steaks. Or, A Steak in My History. 

[No, that is NOT a real steak in the photo! Seriously, it’s a mushroom.  No, really.]

Before the days of the Great War, and yet after the infestation of the Rats (Pack), and the invasion of the Insects; when the great pioneers left this land and sought out Greene-er pastures, there was a young girl-child, and she went by the name of Ricki. And she and her sisters were raised to obey and respect their elders; and they were raised to eat with their family; and so they did.

And during that time, The Father, a Butcher, commanded his brood: “You must eat meat, for it is good.”  And so they ate meat, and they ate it every night.  And on weekends, they ate “mixed grill,” for which they sacrificed the lamb chops, and the beef liver, and the hamburger, and the pig of cloven hoof, and the steak.  And they were thankful for the bounty.  And it was good. 

But then came one day, the child called Ricki was tempted by the graven image of the Golden Arches.  And she yearned to enjoy the pleasures of this calf (meat); and she asked, “Father, may I taste a McDonald’s burger?”

And the answer came, “NO!”  And the Father said, “All restaurants are crap.  You must eat only the meat prepared by your Mother, and only that of the Home Kitchen.” 

But the girl-child was rebellious, and so when she visited the wilderness country with her friends Gemini I and Gemini II, she did eat from the Golden Arches.  And yes, she thought it was good.  And suddenly, with the flash of a thunderbolt, she was stricken down; she felt pain in the abdomen, and pain in the gut, and the burger sought revenge on her. And then, she barfed.

“It was not meant to be,” The Father admonished. “You must listen to me, my child, and never again partake of the tainted meats of the Golden Arches.”

And so the years passed. And yet once again, Ricki rebelled.  When she was three and twenty, she determined to partake once more of the fobidden meat.  And so she went, of her own volition, and sought out the great king, Harvey.  And there she found the freedom of choice, and the selection of the multitude of burgers. And she took pleasure in the ability to have it her own way.  And once again, she thought it was good. 

And lo, once again, the burger sought retribution.  And once again, she barfed.

And so the decades wore on, and grasses grew up in the wilderness, and the world saw the twinkling of stars and the rolling of stones, and the descent of fortunes, and the ascent of virgins

And then, without warning, Ricki was again struck down. And the shaman proclaimed, “We will draw your blood.” And so they drew her blood; and then they examined it.  And the shaman pronounced, “Your albumen levels are too low.” And the trusted healer commanded, “You must eat meat.”  And yea, once again, Ricki was swayed. And she and her HH sought out the vast storehouse of the cattle, and they heartily accepted the steak.  And so she ate. 

And no, this time, she did not barf; but lo, nevertheless the steak tumbled and growled and gurgled in her belly for days, like heavy sand under the turbulent waves.

No more!” she cried.  “I shall eat the meat no more!”  And she pounded her fist, and she gazed up to the sky, and she shed a heavy tear. 

And Ricki then began her quest in earnest. 

She fought mightily, and she sought out a new source of strength and inspiration.  She befriended the warrior, Kale, and she was blessed with the tint of the beet juice and the flower flour of the spelt.  And she found her salvation in the NAG, and the young bean, and the heavenly nectar of the cactus.  And she learned her lesson: while The Father’s intentions were good, Ricki could not trust the meat.  And then, she found her peace (and piece–of mushroom).  And she and her HH continued to live thus.

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And so (if you haven’t taken off in a huff yet), what is all this talk of steak and burgers doing on a self-proclaimed vegan blog??  

Well, I’ve mentioned before that the HH and I tend to visit our favorite restaurant once or twice a year for very special occasions.  One of my favorite dishes is the portobello “steak.”  The first time I tasted it, I fairly swooned, but was quickly overtaken by anxiety. I waved madly, summoning the waiter, to ask (in what I’m sure must have been an accusatory tone): “Are you absolutely sure this has no meat in it?” Because, really, it so closely brought to mind my recollection of the taste of steak (not to mention the Parable of the Steak). 

“No,” he assured me, “this is our vegan entrée.  It’s made without any animal products at all.” Hmm!

“Definitely no animal products?” I persisted.  At that, I think he got a bit worried.  (It’s like when the HH and I are leaving to do errands on the weekend, and just as I slide my leg into the car, he asks, “Did you lock the front door?”  Well, it might be two seconds since I withdrew the key from the lock, but the very question itself has me doubting my own memory, so I get up, go back to the doorknob, and test it again.)  “Let me go check,” he said, and trotted off to the kitchen. 

A few moments later, he returned to assure me that no, there were no animal products in the dish. Obviously, the chef had spent some time and skill perfecting this recipe, because the flavor and texture were glorious.  Intensely juicy, not in the least unyielding as some mushrooms tend to be; it was toothsome and savory, a mushroom to drool over, to rip apart with gusto, to smack your lips about. And yes, it was good.

Well, I knew I had to reproduce that mushroom.

So yesterday, I decided to cook up my own portobello steaks for my birthday dinner (I know, I shouldn’t have been cooking at all on my own birthday.  But I’d met my friend Gemini I for breakfast, and then met the HH for lunch, and I basically OD’d on restaurant food. Besides, we’ve got the “real” celebration planned for Saturday evening, and I won’t cook for that).  I recalled an inspiring portobello dish on Happy Herbivore’s blog, and thought I could begin with that recipe, then tweak it according to my memory of the “steak.” 

I added some oil to the mix (sorry, Lindsay!), more wine and some steak spice to evoke a really robust, hearty and meaty taste.  I also marinated the mushrooms for most of the day in the refrigerator before cooking, to infuse them fully with the various flavors.

We both fell in love with this dish.  We had the steaks with spanish rice and garlicky kale, and it was a perfect meal.  “Keep this one on the repeat list,” the HH directed as mushroom juice trickled down his chin.

The moral of the story?  Do not mess with the animal kingdom; but the vegetable kingdom is bountiful, and welcoming, and will bring you much happiness. 

And it will be good!

[Thanks, everyone, for all your amazingly supportive comments about my recent weight loss! Slight as it was, it does help to see the little line on the scale move in the “right” direction (that’s correct, I have a spring-loaded, not a digital, scale–call me a luddite).  Anyway, it was also my birthday yesterday, so it felt like a pretty good day all around (and wow, that Facebook is quite amazing when it comes to letting people know about significant dates–thanks for all the good wishes!) 🙂 ]

Portobello Steaks (adapted from Happy Herbivore)

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

 A perfect main dish for a cold winter day when you need something robust and filling.  As long as you remember to marinate them ahead of time, these come together very quickly.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Nut Roast Extraordinaire

April 14, 2008

nutroastwhole.jpg 

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

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The first nut roast I ever made–or ever tasted–was for the romantic Valentine’s Day dinner I cooked up for the HH and me this year. Well, let me tell you, the specific holiday notwithstanding, it was definitely love at first bite (of the nut roast, that is–shame on you for thinking otherwise!  Besides, after eleven years, love for the HH had already been firmly established; no biting there for some time, now). 

And now, Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe has decided to host a blogging event, A Neb at Nut Roast, to honor that venerable dish of nuts, veggies, and spices; that meal-in-a-brick; that loaf to beat all loaves: the Nut Roast!  As soon as I read about it, I knew I had to come up with something extra special.

When I first baked up the Valentine’s Day roast, I dutifully followed Johanna’s original recipe; and while it was delicious, that wouldn’t do on this occasion. As I concocted my recipe for a main course consisting primarily of nuts, I felt quite vindicated by the process.  You see, in recent years, I’ve been told countless times by friends and family alike that my atypical dietary habits are, in their opinion, a little nutty. Finally, I can confirm that they are, indeed, correct in their assessment. 

It seems some of my friends and family just can’t get past the fact that I don’t want to eat anything from fast-food restaurants any more, or that I don’t want to use little packets of “seasoning mix” for my salad dressings, or that I don’t want to pig out on May Wests and Twinkies these days (Oooh.  Scratch that last one.  I really, really DO want to pig out on May Wests and Twinkies, but just can’t because (a) they spark a sugar-high gorgefest, in which I consume more in one sitting than any human should eat of them in a lifetime; (b) they cause me to me feel woozy (as opposed to tipsy, which can be pretty nice, come to think of it) and unwell; and (c) they are able to stay “fresh” for unnaturally long periods of time–say, 17 years–making me wonder whether they are animal, vegetable, or miracle-gro.)

I’m sure most vegans have shared this experience:  you’re invited to a big bash–some kind of holiday dinner, rite of passage affair (such as a wedding or bar mitzvah), or any other festive event.  The host(ess) acknowledges your “bizarre” dietary preferences and even makes a genuine attempt to accommodate.  When the rest of the gang sits down to a four-course dinner of pâte en croûte, oxtail soup, bacon, shrimp and scallops Bordelaise, and Wasabi Beef Wellington, you are the lucky recipient of a plate heaped with steamed broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and green beans. Oh, and if you’re lucky, a white dinner roll. (Well, at least it wasn’t a paper plate).

Okay, rewind and play that scene again, only this time omit wheat from the picture.  Not even the skimpy little roll, this time!  So despite my friends’ best efforts, I rarely get to socialize with them over dinner these days. (I do have to commend them for effort, though. )

This nut roast just may upset the status quo, however.  It’s a toothsome, meaty and hearty dish that can be enjoyed by virtually anyone.  For omnivores, it offers an appetizing flavor in a package resembling meat loaf.  For vegetarians and vegans, it offers a mouth-watering serving of protein that will leave you satiated. In fact, it was so tasty, so hefty and satisfying, that the HH, a tried-and-true carnivore, enjoyed it immensely and asked for seconds. I found it even more appealing the second day, after the flavors had melded and developed a bit.

Before cooking up the loaf, I began by leafing through my various cookbooks from the UK and Australia (since nut roasts seem to be much more prevalent there–we tend to favor patties and burgers over here in North America), just to see what the generic ingredients tend to be. As Johanna noted, most nut roasts contain a combination of nuts (duh), breadcrumbs or flour, and, most often, eggs and/or cheese. 

nutroastmeal.jpg Since eggs and dairy are out for me, I realized I was setting myself a tougher challenge than first anticipated.  What the heck, I decided, why not go whole hog (“whole tofu”?) and make it even harder–why not attempt to create a delectable, enticing, egg-free, dairy-free and GLUTEN-FREE nut roast?  Why not, indeed?!

Okay, so I was feeling a little nutty myself by that point (which, truth be told, is not that rare an occurrence). My head still reeling, I set to chopping (carefully) and processing (attentively).

If I thought I liked nut roast before, I have now developed eternal, till-death-do-us-part, adoration. This oblong object of my undying affection was robust, with a perfect combination of savory, herbed, and “meaty” tastes in a dense, slightly grainy and moist loaf with a crisped exterior.  Solid without being stiff, it easily maintained its shape when sliced; and the flavors were much enhanced by an evening in the fridge. 

I imagine you could also shape this into patties and use it for burgers if you were so inclined. We ate it with a simple kale salad, but you could, of course, serve it with the more conventional mashed potatoes and gravy for a divine meal–one you’d be comfortable sharing with just about anyone, no matter what their dietary preferences.

Nut Roast Extraordinaire

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

nutroastslice.jpg

This nut roast provides a filling, satisfying main dish to a special meal (or any meal).  The Brazil nuts and added wine contribute to the robust flavor, but if you prefer, feel free to substitute other nuts, or vegetable broth for the wine.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.