This article appeared in The Toronto Star on July 9, 2008.
I’m in my local health food store, recipe for tofu cheesecake in hand. It’s one of the items I’m testing for this article on vegan food.
At my request, the helpful young manager is leading the hunt for vegan graham cracker crumbs.
It turns out they don’t sell the crumbs in question but do have graham crackers. “These contain honey,” she says, carefully scouring the ingredient list, then adding with just the hint of a smile, “They aren’t vegan – bees have a face.”
This has me stumped. I can’t recall looking a bee in the face. Nor was I aware that honey is a vegan no-no.
Even though my daughter Esther has been a vegan for several years, she lives across the country in B.C. and my firsthand experience with this type of eating is pretty much academic.
So naturally I consult Sarah Kramer, a fellow West Coaster of whom Esther is a fan.
Kramer is the tattooed, hip and happening Canadian expert on this topic who has penned three books on vegan food and is about to come out with a fourth. The first, How it all Vegan (Arsenal Pulp; $22.95) was co-authored with Tanya Barnard and has sold more than 150,000 copies.
Chatting with me cheerfully by phone, she gives me the clear definition of a vegan. “Someone who doesn’t use or consume animal products.” This nixes meat, poultry, fish, dairy items – and yes, honey.
All these vegan dishes are ideal for summer entertaining and would make great additions to any al fresco buffet.
Portobello Mushroom Bake
This dish from The Garden of Vegan (Arsenal Pulp; $22.95) by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard tastes – dare I say it? – a lot like meat. Bragg is similar to soy sauce and is sold in health food stores.
½ cup almonds
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Bragg or tamari sauce
½ cup water
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp each: dried rosemary and oregano
6 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 medium onion, sliced
Preheat oven to 350F.
In blender or food processor, grind almonds until powdered. Add oil, Bragg sauce, water, balsamic, garlic, rosemary and oregano; blend until combined.
Place mushrooms upside down in baking dish which holds them tightly in a single layer. Arrange onions on top. Pour sauce over. Bake in oven 30 to 35 minutes or until mushrooms are tender but not mushy.
To serve, slice mushrooms thickly on diagonal. Spread onions on top. Pour sauce over.
Makes about 4 side-dish servings.
Sweet, simple and tasty, this is from La Dolce Vegan (Arsenal Pulp; $24.95) by Sarah Kramer.
19-oz/540-mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ small red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, diced
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp olive, flax or hemp oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp each: salt and freshly ground black pepper
In large bowl, stir together all ingredients. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Makes about 4 side-dish servings.
Thai Tofu Salad
A vegetarian friend recommended this excellent salad from Anne Lindsay’s New Light Cooking (Ballantine Canada; $25.95) that qualifies as vegan. She usually doubles the recipe and adds shredded cabbage.
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp tamari sauce
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup cubed firm tofu
¼ cup finely sliced red onion
½ green or red pepper, cut in short strips
2 carrots, coarsely grated
¼ cup each: chopped fresh mint and coriander
2 tbsp chopped peanuts
Whisk together dressing ingredients in small bowl.
In large bowl, combine tofu, onion, green pepper and carrots. Pour dressing over; toss well. Stir in mint and coriander. Sprinkle peanuts on top.
Makes about 4 servings.
Apricot Tofu Cheesecake
This is one of Kramer’s favorite recipes tastes better made a day ahead and also comes from La Dolce Vegan. It’s a cinch to make and ideal for anyone who doesn’t eat dairy. The texture is pure silk. I strongly suggest serving it with something tart, e.g. fresh or frozen unsweetened mixed berries or a coulis made by pureeing a package of thawed unsweetened raspberries, then passing them through a sieve. Vegan cracker crumbs are sold in some health food stores; you can grind up digestive cookies or honey-free cookies you’ve made yourself. I use cane sugar or fine demarara sugar, both brown in colour, rather than white granulated. My favourite is Panela whole cane sugar.
1½ cups vegan graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup vegan margarine, melted
¼ cup sugar
Two 12-oz/300g packages soft or silken tofu
2 cups vegan “cream cheese”
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
½ tsp salt
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup apricot fruit spread (preserves)
1 tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup water
Preheat oven to 300F.
Lightly oil 9-inch/23-cm springform pan.
For crust, combine crumbs, margarine and sugar in small bowl. Press firmly into bottom of prepared pan; place in fridge.
Add filling ingredients to food processor. Process until smooth. Pour over crust in prepared pan; smooth top. Bake in oven about 75 minutes or until middle is set. Cool completely. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
For glaze, combine fruit spread, cornstarch and water in small saucepan; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring. Cool completely. Remove sides from pan; spread glaze evenly over top of cake.
Makes 12 to 16 servings.