ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN LIP SERVICE WEB MAGAZINE’S ‘MEATLESS MONDAYS’ COLUMN
What better way to kick off Meatless Mondays here on the ‘zine than with a dinner I just made for one of my fellow Blacklisters!
There are few things I love more than having friends over for dinner. When those friends are vegetarian or vegan, instead of seeing it as a limitation, I welcome having an excuse to eat lighter and trim a bit more meat and dairy from our diet. The other night, The Boss and I were hosts to one of our favorite people, Forest Nui Cobalt, who writes the superb Lippy horoscopes you read here every month.
Like many of you, we keep a pretty hectic schedule, especially during the week. Even though our studio is just a matter of yards from the kitchen, when the work is stacked up, it might as well be across town. Regardless, a great meal is still possible with just a little planning and creativity with handy ingredients.
Really, I swear.
Recently, the weather has been … shall we say … a bit unpredictable. The last thing I wanted was to plan a nice, hot meal and have it suddenly turn blast-furnace hot. Hot stew + summer heat = bleh. So, instead of something hot, I aimed for fresh and cool with lots of vibrant flavors.
We love gazpacho. What’s not to love about fresh veg and wonderfully bold flavors? Being a bit of fusion freak, I tilt the Spanish soup a bit toward Mexico and California, but keep the soul of the dish intact. If you’re a beginner, this recipe will be a good one to get some good knife practice, too. A bit of chop-chop and whirr-whirr and you have a delicious vegan dish!
Of course, as healthy as gazpacho might be, you need some protein. So, I added some juiced-up black beans with saffron rice to the party, which also gave a hearty, satisfying base to the meal. Rounding it out, I also threw in some roasted corn because … well … who doesn’t love fresh corn, right?
Menu done! And 100% vegan!
a little side-note: You might note I often use the phrase “to taste” alongside the quantities of ingredients. The amounts listed are the general average. As in anything based in taste, your mileage may vary. Often, what I’ve used in our actual dinner will have more spice, since we like that sort of thing, and will always have more garlic, since it is the wellspring of all things beautiful. When in doubt, start with the qty listed or a bit less and add slowly while tasting to get it the way you want it. Bear in mind, some spices (especially hot peppers) will develop further when cooked, so you don’t want to go too heavy from the get-go or add too much in one shot.
• Use no-salt-added tomatoes whenever possible. Many canned veg and beans have way more salt than you would ever expect.
• When adding strong flavors, such as lemon, chilis, salt, etc, always start with a small amount and add to taste to avoid over-seasoning.
• If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a fine mesh strainer to break down the tomatoes, peppers, and jalapeños. Just add them one at a time and push/scrape with a spoon into a bowl underneath.
• Try using fresh peeled/seeded tomatoes or fresh, roasted tomatoes for a heartier flavor.
• You can use your grill or gas range to fire-roast red peppers (1 – 2 peppers). Just keep on flame just until the skin is charred black, then let rest in a covered bowl to cool. Once cool, the skin will rub off easily with your fingers. The liquid can also be added to the soup for more fresh pepper taste.
• To quickly and easily dice an avocado, cut it in half and remove the pit. Then use a paring knife to carefully make cuts into the flesh along the length and width. Now that you have the dice, just use a tablespoon to scoop out the pieces.
• To peel jicama, cut off the top and root ends. Then you can more easily cut downward on the curve to remove the skin.
• A small coffee grinder is great for making your own chili powder without all the damned added salt. Just drop in a torn up dried chili and let it rip!
• Roasted garlic can be made ahead to save time.
• Use no-salt beans whenever possible. Canned beans are LOADED with salt and you can always add yourself as you like instead.
• Corn can be made ahead and either quickly reheated on the stovetop or served cool.
• Leftover roasted corn makes a badass addition to salsas or salads.
Well, that’s it for this Meatless Monday.
See you next week with another vegetarian or vegan meal!