Thursday, November 24, 2011

30-minute Thursday: A great big plate of deliciousness

Heavens, is this not stupendous?  And it contains so many treasures!  The main idea was suggested to me by my friend Jeanne, who came up with the salad as a creative use for red rice.  Check out her website, which is gorgeous, though it's about her writing, not food.  She wrote to me:
So I had it for lunch today. It's a little dry and requires some effort to chew, so I added juicy things--celery and pineapple--and also green onions (still have them in the garden), some toasted cashews, and a few slices of avocado. I mixed up some mayonnaise and lime juice for dressing (I have a ton of limes and lemons right now), and sprinkled everything with salt and pepper. It was good--might have been even better with some curry powder and some currants. 
 Jeanne, as you might imagine, does not live in Edmonton, Canada, but in California, and has a large and productive garden (we actually met online on a gardening mailing list).  While my garden is producing nothing but snow these days, I do have access to excellent grocery stores, and had all this stuff (and more) in my pantry and refrigerator.  How could I resist?

There is only 1/2 cup cooked red rice in here, the dressing is about 1 1/2 teaspoons of Vegenaise along with about twice that amount of lime juice, so it was very tart and hardly sweet at all.  I mixed in celery and green onions and cilantro, and I did adopt Jeanne's suggestions and added some Sri Lankan curry powder (from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, a great all-purpose non-sweet curry powder) and a few currants, and roasted a few cashews for sprinkling.

So that took about 10 minutes to put together, since I had cooked my red rice yesterday and just warmed it up a little in the microwave today.  With 20 minutes to go I decided to try frying the pineapple chunks, which I did in just a few drops of oil and some of their own juice.  Yum!  And then there was some good caramelized stuff left at the bottom of the pan, so I tossed in some lightly steamed cauliflower and the juice of half an orange and some finely chopped hot red chilis and stir fried it on high heat for about 5 minutes.  Check the closeup:

Tantalizing, isn't it?  And no extra oil!

And finally, an experiment from yesterday that went right--vegan tomato aspic:

I'd never eaten aspic before, though my mom makes it every holiday.  Before I turned vegetarian I was a child and thought it was gross, and then afterwards, well, it isn't vegetarian, so...but yes, you can make an absolutely perfect vegan aspic with agar.  Bryanna shows you how.  I find agar tricky because there are so many different kinds.  I'd say, don't trust recipe authors for agar amounts, since they may not be using the same type you have; just use the recipe as a guideline and follow the ratios on the packet your agar comes in, and you'll be fine.  Oh, and this was made in a silicone muffin cup that I found at Safeway.  Genius for jellies!  I made four of them and they all came out beautifully.  Bless you, Ricardo!  I feel I ought to know who you are but I don't, but these little cups are a lot of fun.  I've tried the aspic right out of the fridge and today took some for lunch where it warmed to room temperature in my desk drawer before lunchtime, and it was brilliant both ways.

Altogether, this was such a nice meal, very quick, it used up lots of stuff I had in the fridge, pretty, light, healthy, and plentiful.  I feel like I've just ingested a sunny day.  And in chilly November, that's worth quite a bit.


  1. Oh! I miss California so much, especially now that it's snowy and bleak around these parts! And also - dude. You made a veganized aspic. I didn't even know what that was until last weekend, but I'll go out on a limb and say the vegan version is superior in a multitude of ways. :)

  2. I wish I had a garden that produced snow! I would harvest it all the time.
    The salad sounds fabulous, though the aspic...Do you just eat it plain?

  3. Allysia, it must be *morally* superior, certainly ;-), but taste-wise I believe must be exactly the same, as agar, like gelatin, has no taste, and as for texture, it spoons up just like my mom's. So, now my brain is busy with other jelly ideas--because of course you can jell any kind of liquid--beet juice? Um, orange juice?, a mixture? One thing, the agar version jells up very quickly, even without refrigeration, so I'm betting it's more versatile...

    Foodfeud, the aspic eaters in our family do eat it plain, but it always appears in a meal like Thanksgiving with a lot of other, heavier, richer dishes, so it's sort of a light cooling break from the mashed potatoes and gravy and whatnot. I understand that it can be eaten with, for instance, mayonnaise, but I've never actually seen that done.

  4. Ha! I was mesmerized by the round red thing in the first pic and hoped you'd explain it, and you did! I need to get some more agar for nut cheese so maybe I can dedicate some leftovers to this. All looks great!

    BTW, even up here in Canada, we still have lettuce, kale, spinach, chard. Bet you could too if you had a little cold frame, or there are some who claim you can rut around in the snow and continue to harvest kale. I've done this with hardy herbs.

  5. Actually, Stacy, I think you are right about the winter gardening, even in the snow. Kale does seem to survive through almost everything. And I guess as long as the ground is soft enough to dig, and you had them planted, you could be uprooting beets, carrots, parsnips, etc. But my own personal garden right now is just a barren wasteland of muddy snow, alas.

    And how about pouring some nut cheese into one of those molds, which hold about 1/4 cup, for individual servings, hey!!

  6. Oh my goodness, the cauliflower is mesmerizing. Like you, I never could deal with aspic while growing up — something about gelatin and veggies. I don't know how I'd react now, but I'd sure give anything you made a try!

  7. Very creative - I love the cauliflower and pineapple. I've never had aspic, but it LOOKS very pretty!