Tag Archive for easy vegan recipes

Polenta Fries {Vegan Gluten-Free}

There is a photograph of me, somewhere, in a dusty old album, probably at my dad’s place, a grinning 2-year-old, happily splashing in the surf at Long Beach near Tofino.

We were there for a family vacation, and showed my true colours early—any time I was in the water, I was happy.

It was a long time until I came back to this happy, wild place, on the coast of Vancouver Island as an adult.

Polenta Fries

I ate breakfast in the glowing early sunlight of the dining room at The Wickanninsh Inn, jutting out over the waves, watching the surfers make their first chilly forays into the Pacific.

I wandered the beach in my wellies, turning over stones and snapping photos of green anemones. I inhaled deeply the air, tinged with salt, and marveled at the patterns that the retreating ocean made on the wet sand.

Tofino is so much of what I love about living here in BC.

Getting there is a challenge; from Vancouver, you have to take a ferry to Nanaimo, then drive a barren rollercoaster of a road, that is not for the faint of stomach. And then you get to the end of the road. Literally. It stops, and there’s a “T.” Left takes you to Uclulet, and right, Tofino. This little town is famous for its hippies, its wild nature, its beaches, and its food.

As you might expect with any town perched on the edge of the ocean, seafood is plentiful and fresh here. The food in general is thoughtful and made with lots of love. Tofino is also home to one of Canada’s top restraints, The Wolf in the Fog.

But my favourite spot is SoBo. The first time I was there, a few years ago, Chef Lisa Ahier took care of us as her special guests. We were to arrive at happy hour for some of her famous hand-squeezed lime margaritas and some snacks. What followed was dish after dish after dish from the kitchen, some great stories, and gastronomical delight.

In my cookbook, I describe Chef Ahier as “one of my personal heroes.” Female-owned and run restaurants are not the norm in the industry, and she’s been doing it for a while. She started out as a food truck owner, and, in fact, her purple food truck still runs today in Vancouver (she sold it to the folks to now run it as Il Centro).

Her bricks-and-mortar location just behind the bakery in Tofino is a must-try. It’s very vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, and everything is made from scratch.

This was the first place I ever had polenta fries.

Polenta is a kind of cornmeal mush or porridge, popular in Italy. There you’d have it in the place of pasta, served in a pool, with a tomato sauce over, or, my favourite, sautéed mushrooms (a la Ottolenghi).

But if you have leftovers, you simply spread the hot polenta in thinnish layer overnight in a cake pan and refrigerate.

The next day, it will have coagulated into a solid mass that you can now cut and shape. I’ve had vegan “egg” sandwiches made this way—they do them this way at a Vancouver eatery called “The Wallflower”—but mostly, I just like to make them into fries.

When rolled in a little additional cornmeal and shallow-fried in hot oil, the “fries” come out perfectly crispy on the outside, but warm and gooey on the inside. They are creamy and crispy all in one bite. It’s kind of amazing how creamy the polenta is, without the addition of either butter or cream. This is partly due to the aquafaba, but also due to the fact that I use part cornflour (which is a finer grind of cornmeal) and cornmeal, which gives it its signature texture.

You can serve whatever dipping sauce you like with these, a marinara would be nice, though I’d recommend something creamy. At SoBo, it’s a Caesar Salad dressing. I mostly serve mine with a chipotle mayo.

Big thanks to my dear friend, Farzana, whose idea it was to make these for you.

Polenta Fries {Vegan, Gluten-Free}

(recipe from my cookbook, Aquafabulous! 100+ Egg Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup non dairy milk (unsweetened, and unflavoured)
  • 1/4 cup aquafaba
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (divided)
  • 2 1/2 tsp vegan butter
  • oil for frying
  • dipping sauce of your choice

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock and the salt to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and slowly add the corn flour, a little at a time, whisking continuously. It’s important to do this so you don’t get lumps. You could also sift the cornflour into the vegetable stock if you like.
  3. Now add 1/4 cup of cornmeal, using the same method. The polenta will quickly thicken and get very “bloopy.”
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vegan butter. Set aside for a moment while you prepare the pan.
  5. Lightly oil an 8” x 8” cake pan. Spread the polenta into the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Place in the fridge to set overnight.
  6. The next day, remove from the fridge and carefully flip upside down onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice into “fries.”
  7. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and wait for the old to begin o shimmer to know it’s hot enough.
  8. While the oil is heating add the remaining 1/4 cup of cornmeal to a shadow dish, and toss the polenta fries in it to coat.
  9. Cook the fries in the hot oil, being sure to flip them until the are crispy and browned on the edges. Drain on paper towel, hit them with a little extra sea salt, and serve hot with your favourite dip.

Vegan Scallops

I am Top Chef obsessed. Always have been. I’ve watched them all. My favorite, of course, were Top Chef Canada, because I loved seeing my local chefs (whose work I was a big fan of) shine on a national level.

The Top Chef Canada franchise only lasted 4 seasons, sadly, but just recently, they brought it back, with Top Chef Canada All Stars.

vegan scallops

A couple years back, I got to attend a Top Chef event that featured the food of the ladies who had competed. One of my faves on the show was Lauren Marshall, who has been the only vegan, as far as I know, to compete. There was this one episode where she made a vegan scallop dish, and we got to try it that night. It was amazing.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when I got invited to a lunch at Diva at the Met. Now, we have some great restaurants here in Vancouver, but weirdly, Diva was a place I had never eaten at, and upon reflection, I’m not sure why. The food was wonderful, and they represent all the things I love: they cook locally, in season, and they strive to make as much as possible in-house (including these incredible chocolates made by their pastry chef!).

scallops diva at the met

One dish that was served at the lunch was a scallop atop a kind of salsa made from avocado, hearts of palm and cucumber. I was determined to veganize it.

The key to vegan scallops are King Mushrooms. I had to go to a few places before I found them, but I eventually found them at a little Korean produce store in my ‘hood. When you slice the stems into rounds, they look exactly like scallops. They even have that slightly rubbery bite that you get with scallops. They are dead ringers.

Given that rhubarb is so in season right now, I wanted to incorporate it into the recipe as well.

You could serve this on a platter (like the Diva version) or as I did, in individual portions on spoons. Either way, it’s an elegant starter for your next party. In fact, I think I’ll serve this at my book launch!

Shameless plug: my cookbook, Aquafabulous!: 100+ Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba is now in bookstores! You can also order it from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com and Chapters-Indigo.

Vegan Scallops with avocado salsa

Vegan Scallops

Ingredients

  • 4 king mushrooms
  • 1-2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (preferably apple cider)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 1/4 cup edamame beans or fresh corn
  • fresh chives or green onion

Method:

  1. Quick pickle the rhubarb. In a small saucepan on the stove, heat together the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until they are all melted together. Bring just to the boil. Place the rhubarb in a heat-proof bowl and pour the pickling liquid over it and allow it to stand while you do the rest of your prep.
  2. Chop the avocado and cucumber, and place in another bowl. Add the edamame and stir well.
  3. Top and tail the king mushrooms. Set aside the caps and ends for another use. Cut the mushroom in half and then each half into halves, giving you 4 circles of mushroom stem.
  4. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, and add oil to the pan. It’ important that the pan and oil are hot to get a good sear. Place the mushrooms into the pan, and allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and a little garlic powder. Once they are caramelized on one side, flip, and allow to cook to a similar doneness on the other side.
  5. Drain the rhubarb, reserving some of the pickling liquid. Add the rhubarb, a little of the pickling liquid and some olive oil to your salsa, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Place the salsa on a plate in a pile, and then top with “scallops.” Garnish with sliced green onions or chives.

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