April 28, 2014

Meatless Mondays Tip: Converting a Non-Vegan Recipe to Vegan

J and I both have our signature meals that we prepare for each other. I rock the salad dressings and sauces. He makes a mean risotto. We know our strengths and use them to our advantage. When we work on a meal together, something magical happens. I love having a partner that loves to cook as much as I do.

Over the weekend, I had a bunch of asparagus in the fridge, and I wanted to do something special with it. I've been seeing a lot of risotto dishes online lately and I thought a lemony risotto would hit the spot. The only problem (not really so much of a problem, really) was that J was swamped with finals in addition to packing for a trip to see some of his best friends.

That meant that I was on risotto duty. Those who know me know that I love to take my time in the kitchen, that my disinterest for detail that is obvious in other parts of my life somehow disappears when I'm in the kitchen. So, one may wonder how it is that I've never made risotto, a dish that takes attention, care, and constant stirring, before. Hey, why would I when J makes it so well?

When I try something for the first time, I look at multiple recipes, somewhere between 5-10, to see how the ingredients and methods differ in those recipes. Then, I often combine the bits I like most from the best looking recipes and create a recipe of my own. This time though, I found this recipe from Martha Stewart Living, and everything looked too perfect to mess with. It was completely vegan except for the cheese (and consult Barnivore to make sure you use vegan wine). So, what do you do when you find a recipe that calls for so much cheese and you have no vegan cheese on hand?

Ok again, this is a problem that is not really a problem. Risotto is already ultra-creamy without adding cheese. It's an unneeded ingredient. So, just leave it out! I would have done that, but I have this desire to always do more. I want to elevate a dish, make it a little bit more special. The pull towards this is not as great when I cook for myself, but I love to see people's faces light up when they taste my cooking. In between stirs, I decided to whiz up a quick vegan parmesan. I don't have a recipe for what I did, but I can give you some guidelines.

Grind nuts into a powder - toast them first for extra flavor if you want/have time - and mix with nutritional yeast and a touch of salt. Cashews are the most common nut that I've seen used for vegan parmesan, but any nut will work. I used the creamiest, dreamiest walnuts because that's what I had on hand, and I was planning on this being the creamiest, dreamiest risotto ever. Hyperbolic much?

I think I used about a 1/4 cup of nuts and a 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast and then stirred it in at the end. It was good enough for being made on the fly, but I think the ratios could be tweaked a bit to make it really evoke a parmesan flavor. Of course, I should add that there are several packaged vegan parmesans out there if that's your thing, too. Or like I said, just leave it out and it will be just as brilliantly delicious.

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