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Recipe Sun Oct 28 2007
My roomie Liz, our friend Andy and I used to alternate cooking dinner for each other a few times a week. Those nights, I felt like I was eating with family until the dinners faded months ago. A few days after Andy suggested a revival, Liz was searing slices of leftover neatloaf in a small cast iron pan.
I'm vegan, which pretty much makes our dinners vegan. Our dining room table was full of analogues to traditional American comfort food in sturdy baking dishes. A square glass dish held baked mac (rotini instead of macaroni this time) and not-cheese. Pan seared neatloaf lined a deep white oval baking dish. A small wavy white pitcher was full of gravy Liz had just made from scratch. A slender white candle completed a metaphor of comfort food purity. A clear glass bowl held pureed cauliflower. It looked like mashed potato, but tasted clearly not - much lighter.
After dinner, I asked Liz to explain what she made. Below are my notes with Liz's quotes mixed in. Amounts weren't measured, but in many cases I asked Liz to tell how she knew when she had added the correct amount of an ingredient. Improvising based on what's going on is key. Any stated quantities have been guessed after the fact.
Pureed Cauliflower Recipe
Head of cauliflower
1-2 garlic cloves
Non-hydrogenated margarine (like Earth Balance)
Salt and pepper
Steam cauliflower with a clove or two of garlic (to infuse the flavor) until soft. Smash with a potato masher. Then whiz using a hand blender with a dab of Earth Balance to "round of the flavor" and "give it a fuller flavor." Blend in a little soy milk - not too much or "you might as well make soup from it." Salt and pepper.
Mac and Cheeze Recipe
1 pound of rotini, Macaroni, or any tubular pasta
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 to 4 tablespoons flour
~2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Red pepper flakes
Mustard, stone ground (or yellow)
Salt and pepper
~3 cups Soymilk
You can use any tubular or spiral pasta - anything that will take in the sauce. Liz used rotini this time. Cook pasta. Meanwhile, saute garlic and onions in oil. Then, add flour to make a roux. Use more oil than flour. You know you have the right amount when the mix is more like wet mud and "doesn't ball-up like play dough." Stir in a dab of mustard, salt, pepper and the nutritional yeast. Next, add soymilk. The key to avoiding a lumpy cheeze is to warm up the soymilk before adding it. Don't boil it or even have the heat too high or the soy will curdle. Use medium low heat. You need a lot of sauce to fill the pasta - 3 to 4 cups of sauce for a pound of pasta. It might seem like a lot, but it'll thicken in the oven. You want enough to just about come up to the top of the pasta without overflowing. When the pasta has finished cooking according to its package instructions, drain well and add to a baking dish. Pour over the cheeze sauce. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Some use tahini in their cheeze, but Liz doesn't recommend it. It's great for texture but has a really strong flavor. "If you're trying to achieve a cheeziness, you don't want it to taste like tahini."
Seitan juice or veggie broth
Onions, very finely minced
Mushrooms, very finely minced
~1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Saute veggies in olive oil. "You can be a little heavy on the olive oil because you're going to sprinkle some flour." Make a roux again same way as with the cheeze - muddy. Add soy sauce, then the broth or seitan juice (liquid from a package of seitan - if you're lucky enough to have it). Add a little salt and pepper. Heat on medium heat until it thickens, stirring.
Onion, finely diced
Garlic, finely diced
Celery, finely diced
Carrot, finely diced
Stale finely chopped bread or bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Preheat an oven to 350 F. Saute all veggies in olive oil. Meanwhile, cook 1/4 cup of oatmeal with water in a pot. When done, mix veggies, bread and cooked oats together in a bowl with a touch of ketchup, plus salt and pepper. Let cool just enough to touch, then squish it all with your hands. Stale bread gives a "biting texture, a chewiness, a fuller texture." It helps give it some structure - like how bread performs in bread pudding - and guards against the loaf having the mushy texture of the soysausage. The proportions you use should make the mixture wet enough to bind, but not sticky, pasty or gooey. Spread the neatloaf into a greased loaf pan, but don't smash it. "You want it light and fluffy." Mix barbecue sauce with a spoonful each of ketchup and brown sugar, and then spread that on top of neatloaf. Bake in the oven for one half-hour until the loaf looks toasty on the outside. Slice and sear in a hot oiled cast iron pan until each side is seared.
Sliced apple halves for desert
Eat before they turn brown.