Vegan Thanksgiving

Are you hosting vegetarians or vegans this Thanksgiving? Or maybe just want to contribute a vegan main dish to a celebration that you are attending? Never fear! When I couldn’t find the Tofurky I promised to bring to my work Thanksgiving, I decided to make my own roast “turkey” using the seitan recipe from Veganomican (widely available on the web) but adding some of my own special ingredients. I always add extra garlic, chili, and spices depending on what “meat” I’m making.*

For “turkey,” I added sage and thyme. When you make your seitan boiling broth, really put some effort into it! I added white wine, garlic, thyme, sage, Earth Balance, shitake stems and vegetable broth to mine. The resulting broth was so delicious, I used to to whip up a quick vegan gravy to serve alongside the “meat”! I used an EarthBalance, onion and flour blend for the roux, whipped in the strained broth, and then thickened with a 50/50 mixture of nutritional yeast and corn startch!

After boiling the seitan, I sliced in and roasted it at 400 for about 30 mintues with some more dollops of Earth Balance (for crispy edges) whole garlic cloves, and white wine.

Of course, no roast would be complete without stuffing. I used this recipe as my base for a wild rice stuffing, but added extra cranberries, currents, and toasted pecans. Oh, and extra Earth Balance, too 😉 As I told my friend Adrien today, you can also make this stuffing gluten-free by using panko instead of regular breadcrumbs, or skipping them altogether!

There are so many wonderful, nontraditional vegetarian main courses, you shouldn’t feel held by tradition. But if you’re craving that big bird, try roasted seitan, or get really ambitious and make your own homemade Tofurky!

*wonder of wonders, I discovered that KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook makes great seitan! Why had I never thought of this before!

Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai

I love Vietnamese food, but often struggle at authentic restaurants to find vegetarian options. Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai, under the glowing neon train sign in Chinatown, has a HUGE menu, and I was not only able to find a couple of options, but they happily substituted out the shrimp for tofu and the soup above. The good news? Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai is very very cheap, has an extensive cheap drink list, and a huge menu (if that’s your thing). There are 10 fully vegetarian dishes on the menu, and many can be easily tweaked. True to many Asian hole-in-the-wall restaurants, it’s brightly lit and food arrives very quickly – not the best place for a romantic date, but fun, serviceable, and let me say it again – cheap. The bad news? I maybe didn’t make the best choice. I was craving a giant bowl of soup,and ordered the Canh Thap Cam house special soup. While the soup was packed with vegetables, it was a little bland.I watched the vegetarian hot pot pass my table with envy. No matter – chili oil to the rescue! If you’re in the neighborhood, and craving Thai/Vietnamese, give them a try.

Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai on Urbanspoon

Portland: Whiskey Soda Lounge

Whiskey Soda Lounge! My original intention was to make it into this Andy Ricker joint for happy hour, which didn’t quite happen. But while I was waiting for a coveted table at Pok Pok, I was able to relax and get my drink on in the heated outdoor picnic room of Whiskey Soda Lounge, conveniently located just across the street. Feeling a little partied out from the last few days of hanging out with my sister, I first ordered a Som Drinking Vinegar (tamarind) mixed with soda water. If this sounds crazy to you, open your mind. Drinking vinegar tastes a bit like kombucha or other fermented beverages, but sweeter and fruity! Hungry, we decided to order our appetizer course from WSL while we waited on Pok Pok – they have the same small plates menu. Above, house roasted red peanuts with lime leaf, chili, garlic and sea salt.

The dish I LOVED and could have eaten all day was Chef Chew’s Khai Luuk Khoei – deep fried boiled egg with tamarind sauce and shallots. Regrettably, I had to share, but could have easily eaten the entire plate.

The Som Tam Thowt – deep fried strips of green papaya, carrot and long bean with a peanut-studdent sweet dipping sauce, was a little disappointing. It was pretty look at, and fun to eat, but I would have preferred the sauce to have more kick, and perhaps even a little thicker so that it’s didn’t so drench the thin, fried strips.

I did have another drink, un-photographable in the low light. Whiskey Soda Lounge has an interesting cocktail list – more savory and herbal than sweet, with southeast asian flavors and liberal use of drinking vinegars. It was hard to choose, but I eventually went with an evening special involving muddled cucumber, chili, and lime. Certainly fun and tasty enough for a casual date, WSL is also the perfect “overflow” space for your pre- (or post) dinner time at Pok Pok.

Whiskey Soda Lounge on Urbanspoon

Pickled Green Tomatoes

If your garden looked anything like mine this year, you were left with buckets of undersized, hard green tomatoes and not many rosy reds. No matter – there are all kinds of things to do with green tomatoes! Make a green salsa verde, or a green tomato pie, or drench them in cornmeal and fry them southern style! I’m pickling most of my green tomatoes for extra-special bloody marys and future picnics.

I based my recipe on Marisa’s from Food in Jars, but added some hot dried Thai peppers from my garden and the last of the CSA fresh dill! Remember, you can alter spices in pickling, but not the acid.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
makes 4 12-ounce jars or three pints

2 pounds green tomatoes, stemmed and cut into wedges
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
3 teaspoons pickling salt or 5 teaspoons kosher salt
large springs of fresh dill
8 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon peppercorn
4 bay leaves
6 dried hot thai chilis

Combine vinegar, water and salt and bring to a boil. Keep the saucepan tightly covered and don’t overboil, or you won’t have enough brine!

Place the following into the bottom of each hot, ready-for-canning jar:
-1 large sprig fresh dill
-2 garlic cloves
-1/4 teaspoon peppercorn
-1 bay leaf
-2 dried hot Thai chilies

Pack green tomato wedges into the jars. Pour brine slowly into the jars. Use a wooden chopstick to remove the air bubbles and add a bit of additional brine if necessary. Wipe rims, apply simmered lids and screw on bands.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Let the jars sit in the canner for 5 minutes, and then carefully remove them and let them cool on a towel-lined countertop. When jars are completely cool, remove rings and test seals by grasping the edges of the lid and lifting the jar. If the lids hold fast, the seal is good.

Portland: Pok Pok

One of the first things I do when I know I’m going to visit a new city, is explore their restaurant options. What do they do best? What are they known for? What’s new and interesting? When I was planning my trip to Portland, Pok Pok immediately popped up on my radar. Andy Ricker, chef/owner of Pok Pok won a James Beard Award in 2011, and this casual dining spot is very popular. Also, it specializes in South East Asian food with a strong street food flair. My. Absolute. Favorite. I was going to Pok Pok hell or high water.


Sister and her game roommate in tow, we headed out one Friday evening. After a long wait (more about that in the future) we finally found ourselves nestled in Pok Pok’s tiny indoor space after 9pm. Sleepy, but excited, we dove into the menu. I ordered the Khoa Soi Kai, a northern Thailand coconut curry dish with noodles, fried tofu (also available with chicken), house-pickled mustard greens. The dish traditionally comes mild, though I asked them to spice it up a bit. Though the yellow noodles used in this dish are usually not my favorite, they do add a depth of flavor and reminded me of the many wonderful noodle dished I ate while traveling in Malaysia.

My sister ordered the Yam Mekheua Yao, a cold grilled eggplant salad with chilis, lime, shallots, and boiled eggs. We both fell in love with cold grilled eggplant in Marrakesh, and this salad, a restaurant favorite, lived up to expectations.

Pok Pok on Urbanspoon