Meet the new monthly blog from Kathryn Hostettler, “The Best Vegan Thing I Ever Ate.” Get your napkin on and start chowing!
This blog is inspired by a show on the Food Network, The Best Thing I Ever Ate where Famous chefs are interviewed about their favorite foods, including where to get it and in some cases, how to make it. Unfortunately, I have to watch the Food Network like I am watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre – hands over my eyes, peeking through my fingers – because you never know when something meaty is going to show up on the screen. Food should be fun and enticing and sexy and adventurous, not disgusting and cruel. Sick of screaming Hey, that bacon had a mom! at the television, I thought, fork this! I am going to do it my way!
So each month I will be asking a famous vegan about his or her most favorite vegan food of the moment. They will wax poetic about everything from handmade ravioli to artisan soy-based ice cream. I will let you know where to go and get these goodies and I will even shamelessly beg the establishments for recipes and more info for my deserved readers.
For the inaugural blog, I introduce one of the most gifted vegan chefs I know, Jenn Shagrin, whose specialty is veganizing old favorites. As a recovering omni-chef who is constantly veganizing something, Jenn is my idol! This Los Angeles-based vegan chef is most well known for her blog “Veganize It…Don’t Criticize It!” and for baking the vegan Twinkies that used to be available at various restaurants around town. She has a cookbook due out late this year being published by the wonderful Da Capo Press called “Veganize This! As the owner of more than 50 vegan cookbooks, I am beyond excited for this one! Da Capo is also the publisher of two of my favorites, the wildly popular Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan with a Vengeance by Post Punk Kitchen chefs Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
When I discovered “Veganize It…Don’t Criticize It!” last year, I sat and read every word in one sitting. As a former omnivore, I am not lucky enough to have been a lifetime vegan but I wouldn’t dare hurt an animal to satisfy some silly craving from my past. Jenn has made it so that I don’t have to and neither do you once you get your hands on some of these incredible recipes! She somehow finds a way to mimic texture and taste of foods so many of us remember from our pre-vegan days. Some of the highlights include Oregano and Basil-Rubbed Marsala “Flank Steak” stuffed with Saffron Wild Mushrooms and get this, Lemon-Thyme Agave Braised Vegan Short Ribs and Seared Tofu Scallops with Mineola Tangelo Saffron Sauce. About her cooking, Jenn says, My approach to cooking has always been veganizing the unvegan recipes of the world, no matter how difficult or intimidating they may seem. I love cooking more than life itself. It’s not only what pays my bills, but my creative release as well.
And did I forget to mention she is hilarious? Jenn just happens to be an actress and comedienne. She is most well known for playing the Drivers Ed Girl on season 5 of Reno 911! but has appeared on numerous other TV shows and in films.
When asked what the best vegan thing she ever ate is, Jenn told me that it was something she had actually created herself. Says Jenn, I had been craving one of my favorite omnivore dishes, chicken marsala. I’d had a vegan variation at a restaurant, and it left me feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. It was also morel mushroom season, and if you’ve ever read my blog, you know I’m a total mushroom whore. After three days of what felt like a drug hunt searching for fresh morels, I was finally able to con the nice produce manager at Whole Foods to order me a pound all for myself. I then set to work creating the best vegan dish I’ve ever eaten, “Vegan Chicken Marsala Masala with Fresh Morels”. It’s a fusion of Italian and Indian cuisine, and utterly delicious. I even fed it to my omnivore homies and received rave reviews. I usually have leftovers from my test recipes, but this one vanished in under an hour.
Lucky for us, Jenn’s graciously agreed to share this original recipe with Girlie Girl Army readers! So while we patiently await her cookbook release in late 2010, try out the following recipe and those on her blog. Bon Veganizing!
Vegan Chicken Marsala Masala with Fresh Morels
In a small saucepan, heat chicken broth, garam masala powder, turmeric powder and saffron until just warm and all spices are infused. Remove from heat and set aside. Sprinkle the “Chicken Breast slices with salt and pepper, and then lightly dredge (coat) each slice of in unbleached flour. In a large heavy skillet, melt the first 2 TBSP of vegan margarine over medium heat. Brown the “Chicken” Slices in batches on both sides, adding a 1/2 TBSP more vegan margarine in between each batch, then remove from pan and set aside. In the same “Chicken” skillet, add and melt the final TBSP of vegan margarine. Add the shallots, garlic, morels, and olive oil. Saute until the shallots are translucent and morels are softened. Pour Marsala wine and Lemon Juice into the skillet, and cook until Marsala is reduced by half. Whisk in the No Chicken Broth with spices. Cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat until slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in MimicCreme and fresh parsley, and combine well, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Taste for salt and pepper. Arrange a few slices of “Chicken” on each plate, and pour sauce and morels over top and serve. This dish tastes great served over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.
Vegan “Chicken” Style Seitan
Chicken Seitan Dough:
First, take all of the Seitan Broth ingredients, and mix them together in a very large pot. Bring to a boil. While the broth’s starting to heat up, make your Seitan Dough by mixing and kneading the vital wheat gluten, water/bouillon blend, and MimicCreme until it’s completely mixed. It will be a little more wet than most seitan doughs. Squeeze out the excess liquid, and form the mixture into a ball. On a cutting board, flatten out the ball, and use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut into six pie wedge Chicken Breast shaped pieces. Before putting in boiling broth, flatten each part down by pressing it firmly between your hands, and then drop each part into the pot. Cover the pot, reduce heat to simmer, and let the seitan cook for about an hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Don’t throw out the broth! Use a slotted spoon to remove each Chicken Breast, and place into a colander to drain. Let both the Chicken Breasts and the broth cool. Allow the Chicken Breasts to marinate in the broth until ready to use, if time allows you. Drain again before using.
Kathryn Hostettler is a full time social work graduate student, part time pet nanny, volunteer with Rogers Rescues, and vegan home cook. She won an honorable mention in the November2009 Vegetarian Times for her Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Candied Cranberries recipe.
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