Sunday, November 14, 2010

Operation Vegan Tapas: Mission Failed!

Oh, man, did I not achieve balance today. You'd think cooking vegan would just automatically make everything so healthy, but that is not so.

For some reason, I decided to make tapas for dinner. The common veggie tapas are mostly fried - croquettes, fried goat cheese, patatas bravas, etc. I think I got the idea from the brussels sprouts I had planned to make based on a dish at Poco in the East Village. They have these deep fried brussels sprouts that are crispy, spicy, lemony and minty. So I found a few more tapas-worthy ideas in the crazytown inside my head and ended up creating one heck of a mess in the kitchen and a seriously greasy meal.

The plan was this:
Roasted Chili-Lemon Brussels Sprouts
Butter Bean Croquettes
Roasted Patatas Bravas with Vegan Sauce
Fried Eggplant with Chili-Maple-Orange Sauce

The brussels sprouts were actually pretty good. I roasted them in a cast-iron pan so they were only crispy at the cut side, but delicious and not at all bitter. I tossed the halved sprouts with red onions, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon juice. Then I preheated the pan in the 450F oven and added the mix. I probably roasted it about 30 minutes, moving it around a few times to get even crispness.

For the blended bean croquette experiment,  I made a paste from butter beans, tomato paste, crackers, cumin, oregano, lemon and onion. I should have just left out the crackers and used the paste as a dip - because the flavor was pretty good. As a croquette rolled in breadcrumbs and dropped in hot oil, it kind of lost shape and disintegrated into the oil causing a crapload of crumbs to just turn black and smoke in the oil. My husband tried rolling the rest into balls, but they still seemed to just absorb oil.



3 sauces
For some reason the patatas took about an hour to crisp up. I used a chicken-wing trick and coated them with canola and corn starch. They kept sticking to the baking sheet, yet were surrounded by excess oil. I think the potatoes were too aged and had too high of a water content. I tried two different sauces - one using ketchup, vegan mayo and paprika. Gross. I tried one heavier on the mayo with a little ketchup, paprika, cumin and vinegar. Better but still gross. It was my first use of egg-less mayo and it just tasted like italian dressing to me. I'm a Hellmann's-only girl, so this was just too far from the real mayo I am used to.

I actually followed a recipe for the eggplant, soaking it in soy milk before dredging. I used chickpea flour instead of regular - although I'm not sure that's what killed it. With the croquette failure, I tried melting Earth Balance with Canola first, yet it turned brown as soon as I started cooking the eggplant. So the next batch I just used a little canola, but it still became full of fine chickpea powder which turned black and smoked. The slices just drank up the oil and became soggy. The chili-maple-orange sauce with tomato paste and cider vinegar was actually my favorite thing I made tonight. My husband thought it too sweet, but I kind of liked it since it helped with the heat from the little indian chilis I used.

My poor husband was a good sport, and tried everything but was right to eat only a little bit. He said he couldn't eat any more, and was feeling so mentally wrong about eating all the oily and fried stuff that he'd make sure to get to that Bikram class tomorrow to make up for it. Too bad I skipped mine today to play in the kitchen! I'm prescribing myself a good 2 hours of cardio plus a pilates and bikram class as my punishment for this meal.

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