Tonight I started what you might think is the most librul activity possible in this fair country…a vegan cooking class right in the People’s Republic of Cambridge! Of course Harvard Sq., PRC isn’t what it used to be, what with chain stores and hyper-expensive cupcakes despoiling the once-grungy landscape, but in the spirit of ideology-neutral healthy choices, there I was.
The instructor, Holly, actually ‘fessed up to being a former “veg” who couldn’t resist the midnight oink and came back to pigivorism. But she had some great recipes to jolt us out of the tofu doldrums, pronounced seitan like the Great Satan just like skeptical Ms. A at home, and after a bit of expostulating on RDAs and whatnot we got down to business (in the same kitchen at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education where I took a Thai class in 2001 and became (faux-modest shrug) perhaps the best Pad Thai cook my family has ever met).
The recipe that I worked on with a partner was a whole wheat pasta with sautéed cauliflower and a kind of tapenade-like sauce with green olive, parsley, red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Some of the key takeaways were: use a mammoth anti-personnel cast-iron pan if you have one; get the cauliflower good and caramelized before adding the salt because (chemistry alert) the salt’s effect on the water in the cauliflower will prevent browning; use plenty of the pasta water to steam the c’flower some more after browning; use a ton of green olives to fight through/brighten up the mass of pasta.
This dish was probably a B or B+, but a couple of the other dishes we made were really good, especially a quinoa with grilled tofu, braised greens, roasted cherry tomatoes and a little pesto.
Next up, vegan burgers in the shape of Ralph Nader that you can prepare in advance and keep in the freezer.