Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vegans in Love

Valentine's Day is traditionally a go-out-for-dinner holiday. This gives everyone a break from the (sometimes daunting) experience of home cooking: forgotten ingredients, food that doesn't turn out the way you planned, piles of dirty dishes, companion animals that whine incessantly at your feet, and the haunting feeling that something is about to burn, melt, explode, or bleed. Cooking is not for the faint of heart! And it may not be something you want to do on a holiday.

On the flip side, it can also be fun to skip the crowded restaurants and experiment with fancy-pants vegan cooking. In the rural Midwest, it can be challenging to find a nice restaurant that serves vegan grub (unless you want to pay $20 for a plate of pasta that you could have made at home for $1.50). So this year I broke out the good china and whipped up our own romantic Valentine's Day feast: Gardein Piccata, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts in garlic butter, and, for dessert, baked lemon cheesecake with raspberry sauce.

The piccata recipe came from Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook (he's that guy from Oprah). I never had piccata in my pregan days, and it had a stronger flavor than I was expecting, but it grew on me. Try to use a nice, dry wine with a flavor you know you like.

The Brussels sprouts with garlic butter and the roasted garlic mashed potatoes were delish, but maybe not the best choices for a romantic evening, unless you want your partner to taste like garlic (and, let's be honest, I do). I usually roast my sprouts, but this recipe directs you to sauté smashed garlic in (vegan) butter before adding the halved sprouts cut side down to cook until they brown. Pretty great cooking method, if you ask me.

Dessert trumped everything. Initially, I worried that this baked lemon cheesecake would taste like sweetened soy because it's made with silken tofu and Tofutti cream cheese. But even though this cheesecake is almost pure soy, it doesn't taste like it. I baked ours in a graham cracker pie crust and served it with a raspberry sauce. It's the best vegan cheesecake I've had anywhere other than Sublime.

Happy Valentine's Day!