Thursday, February 04, 2010

Don't Call It Vegan

There's something about the term "vegan" that really rubs people the wrong way. It has a certain holier-than-thou tone to it, as if all other foods, the ones most of us eat, have been declared unclean.

Even worse, the foods deemed worthy of consumption have a reputation for being dull and flavorless. Think tofu, brown rice or rutabagas. Then there are the foods that try to mimic cheese or bacon or turkey and fall pathetically short. Which makes the vegetarian diets of yore look positively lush by comparison.

But you don't have to take a lemons-into-lemonade, turn-that-frown-upside-down attitude to switch your thinking around to what you can have instead of what you can't. Think of the intense flavors we love: heat, spice, sweet. All perfectly fit a vegan diet. Then there are the fats: olive oil, sesame oil and nuts spring to mind. And the great flavors of legumes, fresh greens, squash, garlic, mushrooms. Makes you think, right?

So when I saw the following recipe in John Ash's book From the Earth to the Table,it looked like a tasty new pasta recipe using pesto, cauliflower, pasta and beans. Not some wacky vegan food-like substance. Try it sometime when you're craving a flavor-packed, hearty dinner. You'll be surprised when you don't feel like you've done without.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto
Adapted from John Ash's From the Earth to the Table

For the pesto:
4 c. packed fresh parsley leaves
4-5 cloves garlic, fresh or roasted
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, fresh or toasted
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt to taste

For the pasta:
1 med. cauliflower
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. rigatoni, penne or other pasta
3/4 c. kalamata olives
1 c. cannellini, borlotti or other beans, cooked
Mint sprigs for garnish

Put parsley, garlic and pine nuts in bowl of food processor. While processing, drizzle in olive oil until smooth. Empty processor into medium-sized bowl and add rest of ingredients. Combine.

Preheat oven to 350°. Break cauliflower into 1" pieces and place in large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Empty into 9" by 12" roasting pan and place in oven for 30-40 minutes until nicely browned.

While cauliflower is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When cauliflower is almost done, put pasta on to cook until just al dente. Drain and put in large serving bowl, adding pesto, roasted cauliflower, olives and beans. Mix. Serve garnished with chopped mint leaves.

* You can also add 1/4 c. parmesan to the pesto, and served grated parmesan at the table for sprinkling.


koprime said...

I completely agree with you! The term vegan makes people (me, included) think "I'm better than you" so when someone says, "I'm vegan" I judge them. This dish, though? Looks amazing.

Unknown said...

lovely! I have some leftover basil pesto and need something to fix it with. I have never tried parsley pesto, will have to give that a shot soon. Roasted cauliflower is so delish too! I have never been vegetarian, but I do enjoy focusing on cooking with vegetables. Its funny, when I cook a hearty, vegan/vegetarian meal people tend to ask if I am vegetarian. So many labels these days :)

Kathleen Bauer said...

I love the idea that you can make a terrific meal, have everybody rave about it and then say, "And it's vegan," and have the room fall silent because they didn't know vegan could be good (or even recognizable).

EcoGrrl said...

it's funny because vegan just means food with no meat products in it. but people have to put a title on everything. it's annoying.

what i really hate? people who say 'pesca-vegetarian' or 'i'm vegetarian but i eat sushi'. dude, you are or you aren't. it's ok to admit you aren't a vegetarian.

the more we feed people vegan entrees and don't make a big deal out of it, the more it can become mainstream. i was at higgins and they had a great entree my friend ordered and it was just another item on the menu, not covered with labels like 'vegan'. i'd much rather know my food is organic, locally raised, etc.

christianna said...

Anything with roasted cauliflower is bound to be delicious! I look forward to trying this recipe. Thank you for sharing.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Re: Grrl's comment: My mother used to ask me how I made tomato sauce without meat and I'd say, "I leave the meat out." Nice daughter, huh?

And Christianna, let me know how it comes out and what you think!

Anonymous said...

SO TRUE. As if vegan food is only a substitute for "real food." I offered my neighbors some chickpea broccoli casserole (one of my favorite comfort foods - and I'm not even vegan) and it was clear that they were thinking of polite ways to say no.

This looks fantastic. Thanks!

Kathleen Bauer said...

It's good to have preconceptions shaken up at times. I love it!