Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Vegan delights for romantic dinners

All was quiet on the Midwestern front but not in the Northeast.

Magda had gone to visit her Russian man affair in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn only to arrive at his door and have a sour-but-beautiful Albanian woman answer it.

Jenna Bush had united with John Kerry’s daughters, crusading to change America’s political landscape. Jenna was going to stop Republicans from getting scary bad haircuts and the Kerry girls were out to stop Democrats from dressing like lumberjacks, pipe fitters and other working-class archetypes when they were really wealthy professionals.


Calling from Philly, Abel was closer to a shipwreck on dry land than any of Gato’s friends. He was now wooing a vegan woman and worst of all, he lied to her about being able to cook a vegan dinner. Fortunately, Gato had the only vegetarian-vegan Puerto Rican-Guatemalan-Dominican-Columbian family (family, not retroacculturated rockero hipster teenager cousin) in the U.S. — including his 78-year-old abuela.

“I can’t serve rice and beans,” Abel groaned, “That’s the vegan equivalent of a date pulling up in an I-Roc Z28 Firebird with custom plates that say, ‘STALION.'”

Gato wasn’t quite sure he understood the parallel Abel was drawing but assured his friend that rice, couscous or tofu were not a part of the recipes he was offering. Gato’s dinner strategy includes pasta with Italian cream sauces made with soymilk. For desert, Gato offers the Corner Bakery’s (secret?) recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins. Serve them with a side of Edy’s Whole Fruit sorbet.

And no, contrary to Abel’s protests, cooking with soymilk is not the same as “constructing a speedboat out of toothpicks.” Whatever that means.

Different brands of soymilk don’t taste much different on cereal. However, the difference between their consistencies and the way they color matter greatly when cooking. Use, preferably, Silk, and number two, West Soy.

Both sauces taste different fresh than when served the next day; it’s a matter of taste. So if one’s guest runs on Latino time, Persian time, Los Angeles traffic time or whatever ethnic variation on “fashionably late” they use as an excuse, the hosting chef can cook the day before. Just make sure to reheat on the same low heat as you prepared them.

Also, don’t just yank spaghetti noodles out of the cupboard. As Gato’s friend Lenny says, “the noodle is not a stripper, lap-dancing for your power-hungry sauce, it should be a beautiful marriage.”

For the mushroom cream sauce and the spinach créme, farfale (looks like bowties), fettuccini are recommended. Use porcini mushrooms and two tablespoons of red wine with mushroom sauce and make vegan gnocchi bavosa. Gnocchi looks like shell pasta but not hollowed out. Altogether, making both sauces will cost $12 to $20, depending on the pasta you buy.

Starting ingredients are: one-and-a-half square trays of whole mushrooms, one bag of pre-washed spinach, one tomato, one small zucchini, one clove of garlic, soymilk, olive oil and corn starch or flour as thickener. Three to four finely chopped leaves of fresh basil enhance the spinach sauce but will make the meal cost a bit more. And, of course, you’ll need kosher salt.

Some better Italian restaurants serve two small servings of different pasta dishes before the main course. Abel wanted to do that, so Gato told him to chop up four cloves of garlic for mushroom sauce and two to three for the spinach sauce.

In preparation for adding vegetables once the base is warmed, slice mushrooms into about 10 thin pieces. Spinach should be bunched in fist and sliced into about one-eighth inch thick disks. And no, the two can’t be mixed into one sauce because they have different cooking times.

Here’s how you make sauce base using soymilk: Heat pan at medium heat, adding one teaspoon of olive oil and then, finely chopped garlic. Stir occasionally every two to three minutes until garlic begins to lightly brown. Now add one-and-a-half cups of soymilk and turn to low heat, stirring for about three to four minutes so milk gets infused with flavor.

After garlic bits have softened, add thickening agent. Cornstarch is less obtrusive to flavor than flour, but some vegans are unsure about the use of animal byproducts in processing, so if your dinner audience leans that way, use flour. To thicken the sauce, sprinkle in two tablespoons of cornstarch or three tablespoons of flour.

“Sprinkle, dash, throw in — what’s the difference?” Abel asked sarcastically.

When a big lump of flour or cornstarch hits the warm solution, it will coagulate immediately and won’t diffuse throughout, defeating the purpose. Therefore, lightly sprinkle and stir, like romance versus a drunken come-on for an almost stranger to spend the night in Chez My Messy Bedroom.

Once sauce base starts to thicken, add mushrooms or spinach then dash in kosher salt, continuing to stir at a low heat. If you are serving both sauces, then start mushrooms first as this sauce take about 45 minutes to simmer to finish, and the spinach sauce takes about 20 minutes. Both need to be stirred regularly.

At first the spinach cream sauce won’t look appetizing in its static soymilk brown state. After about 10 minutes, the sauce will absorb spinach green and leaves will melt into sauce. After testing flavor, add diced tomato and thinly sliced discs of zucchini, cooking no more than four to five minutes so these other two vegetables maintain a distance from the spinach flavor.

“Now after all that, you expect me to make dessert?” Abel pleaded.

Here’s the surprise — Chef Jean Joho, originator of Corner Bakery muffin recipes, revealed in an off-the-cuff moment that the establishment’s luscious, moist lemon poppy seed muffins are nothing more than lemon cake mix with added fresh lemon juice, grated fresh lemon rind and poppy seeds (optional for desert). Three tablespoons of juice and one-quarter cup of grated rind should be enough to make the pedestrian cake mix flavor taste like a summer breeze catching the scent of lemon trees.

More vegan and vegetarian recipies on — and yes, the site is up this week.

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