Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comfort Food; Hot Dish version 2.0

Becoming a vegetarian can mean different things to different people. For some, it may carry the meaning of standing up and saying our food industry needs to change. For others, it means that if I eat this way now, I may not face the same risks other members of my family risked especially that of heart disease. And to many, it may be a scary thought to change your way of life; especially if you've been raised and accustomed to eating meat with every meal; that if you don't, something is wrong or something will be “unbalanced” or that it is a sign of poverty.
Each of these meanings carries weight. The two former seem positive, and the latter a more antiquated negative view. The first two, I believe we can agree, need little introspect as they inherently make for good logic. The third is more an emotional issue; how we feel about what we eat. And this can be a very powerful motivator for someone to campaign against changing their eating habits. A common subject for the dishes I prepare is “comfort food.” Food that reminds me of childhood, or of good times at the dinner table. Food that fills me up. Looks yummy. Yum'ens. And of course it's got to fill the house with awesome aromas while it is cooking! Being of Swedish/Norwegian/Lutheran heritage, meat, including pork, has been a familiar mainstay at our traditional dinner tables. So I find it a particular challenge to flip through the Lutheran Church Cookbook and tell fellow Scandinavians to be vegetarian, when almost everything in the book could be considered “comfort food.” A challenge indeed. The dish I prepared for this week's column is called simply Hot Dish. It is a somewhat secret meal; few “outsiders” have had the pleasure of ever tasting it. It is good, hot, filling, and finally vegan!

This is my first attempt at making a vegan hot dish, and I was certainly taken back to snowy evenings after a long drive home from college.


1 Onion, diced
2 large carrots, cut into thin medallions
3 large celery stalks, cut somewhat diagonally into “horseshoes”
1-2 small red potatoes, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 teaspoon vegan spread (ie earth balance)
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon thyme
½ cup red wine

In a large pot, bring the oil to medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Sauté, stirring constantly. Add the vegan spread, chili powder, thyme, a bit of salt, and a bit of cracked pepper while it cooks. After about 5 minutes or when the onions get brown on the sides, slowly add 2 cups of water, then add the red wine. Cover, and let this slowly simmer for no more than 20 minutes.

3 cloves garlic, crushed & lightly minced
2 tablespoons Braggs apple cider vinegar
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 yellow squash, cut into ½ inch slices
1 zucchini squash, cut into ½ inch slices
1 additional teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon grated ginger root
1 can (12oz) organic tomato sauce
1 can (12oz) whole tomatoes
more S&P
1 cup gluten free elbow macaroni (ie brown rice)
½ cup quinoa
2 more cups of water
½ package of flavored tofu, cubed (I used a shittake flavored style)

One may simply add the ingredients to the pot in order; once the macaroni plumps up and the texture is favorable, it is time to serve. It may be a little soupy the first night. However, something special happens by the time it is re-heated as leftovers; it becomes very thick.

The beauty of Hot Dish, in a modern-traditional sense, is that it is an all-in-one crock pot expedition. I see no reason why the same couldn't be done with the above ingredients. I performed in the above way due to the fact that I like to have a lot of control of the seasoning, timing, and temperature of the dish, and to put it bluntly, I didn't have a crock pot.

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