Friday, February 15, 2013

The Big 'Ole Valentine's Day Post of 2013...

Blueberry Blintzes

There is nothing I would have loved more then to post about Valentine’s Day on actual Valentine’s Day. Alas it was not to be, because right in the middle of photographing our dessert my camera battery died. I do have a backup battery of course, but because they hold such a long charge - months! When all I’m using it for is everyday food photography anyway - I rarely keep the backup charged. Of course by the time the battery was finally charged it was a little past midnight, and I was half a sleep. I couldn’t bother to get back out of bed. Though I truly hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day, however you celebrated it.

I personally think Valentine’s Day is a silly holiday - really it’s not a holiday at all, - and before I met my husband I never celebrated it. I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly romantic, and when I was younger I was certainly more practical then romantic. My husband on the other hand is a very romantic man, and the only romantic man I’ve ever been with - former boyfriends of mine were like me, more practical then romantic. - After six years of marriage and nine years together I think a little - or maybe a lot - of that romanticism has worn off on me too. I’ve celebrated every one of the past nine Valentine’s Days, and each year they become a little more meaningful.

In our early years together we would celebrate with gifts, cards, flowers and a nice dinner out. These days however I don’t like the hustle and bustle of busy restaurants on Valentine’s Day, and so we typically go out for dinner another day of the week, while Valentine’s Day we stay home and I make something delicious and romantic. Any excuse for me to make something fantastic right?

Well, this year was no exception to the rule. As is my custom I like to start holiday celebrations off with a special breakfast, so I began our day with Blueberry Blintzes. I used Mark Reinfeld’s recipe from his book "30 Minute Vegan Taste of Europe" - a book I was very excited to buy and then never got around to actually using! - According to Reinfeld Blintzes are of Slavic origin and are a popular feature in the traditional cuisine’s of Eastern Europe. I was really interested to try this recipe because though I know what a blintz is I’ve never actually ate one - not that I recall anyway, - and the picture looked divine. I didn’t grow up in an area of the world that hosts a lot of Eastern European immigrants, and aside from one or two Russian restaurant Vancouver doesn’t have many Eastern European eateries. Chicago by contrast is overflowing with people of Eastern European decent, and has many restaurants devoted toe the cuisine. However it isn’t very vegan or vegetarian friendly cuisine and since I became vegetarian so soon after moving here I didn’t really have adequate time to explore it.

As it happens Taste of Europe is not the only vegan cook book I own to contain a recipe for blintzes. I’ve seen them in several other cook books of mine, and while I always felt intrigued by them I also always felt intimidated. I am not a crepe master, as much as I love crepes they are really not my forte, but besides the crepes other books made blintzes seem so complicated, while Reinfeld makes them look easy. In fact these were far easier to prepare then I expected them to be. It took me longer then 30 minutes but hey, I’m a newb at this.  This was my third or fourth time making crepes and I found them a lot easier this time around then I have in the past so that was a confidence booster. Making the filling was easy as well, as it’s a combination of vegan cream cheese, steamed tofu, tahini, lemon juice, sugar, nutritional yeast and salt. Then the blueberry sauce is super easy. Blueberries, arrowroot, water, cardamom and sugar although I replaced the sugar with maple syrup for the sauce. Once everything is prepared you stuff the blintz, saute it in a pan on both sides, then top if with the blueberry sauce and a little dollop of extra filling.

Romaine Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing

Man were these delicious! They taste so decadent. I really couldn’t get over how rich and wonderful they were, and now I’m super excited to make more blintzes in the future. With both sweet and savory fillings!

Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

For dinner I wanted to make something equally delicious, that was special, and romantic yet cost effective. I didn’t want to go overboard since it was just the two of us. After some careful thought I decided to make the Seitan Scallopini from Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg’s book “Spork-Fed” I really love this book, but I haven’t used it to make anything since Canadian Thanksgiving last year. It’s one of those books that I always forget I have. Initially I wasn’t sure if this would be the right dish to make, but the picture looked so gorgeous and inviting that I thought ‘what the hell? Why not?’ I had plenty of seitan in the freezer, and all the other ingredients called for in the recipe I had as well, which made things easy.

Seitan Scallopini with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Now, I’ve never eaten actual scallopini because most scallopini I’ve seen on restauant menus was made using veal and even when I ate meat I never, ever, ever ate veal. - Gross! And Sad! - and the thought of chicken scallopini didn’t much interest me either, so I have no idea what a ‘traditional’ scallopini is suppose to taste like, but I don’t care because this dish was freaking amazing! Seriously! The Seitan is sliced into thin cutlets, then briefly coated in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and lemon juice, then breaded in flour, garlic powder, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Once breaded it’s fried in olive oil till crispy brown on both sides.

Strangely enough the combined smell of this process along with the garlic I was roasting in the oven reminded me exactly of walking into my grandma’s house for a Sunday night roast dinner. Sunday night roast dinners at my grandma’s were a prominent feature of my childhood, and one of my very favorite things. Since my dad’s parents didn’t live as close to us as my mom’s parents did, we didn’t see them as often, so dinner at grandmas was always a big deal for me, and her roast dinners were seriously the best! I can’t say I exactly miss them now since I have no desire to eat meat, but I do miss that sense of family unity, and the warmth of her house at the holidays, and making this dinner really brought me back there, if only for a few moments.

Anyway, the next step in the scallopini recipe is the sauce. Which is made using red wine, vegan butter, mushrooms, flour, maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and pepper. To me this didn’t sound like enough ingredients to make a rich delicious wine sauce but boy was I wrong. This sauce was simply amazing! And it was super amazing poured over the scallopini and garnished with fresh minced parsley. Seriously, we were in heaven eating this!

To accompany the meal I decided to make a light salad. Since I was going to be eating so much gluten - and as I mentioned before I’ve been keeping pretty much gluten-free since my juice fast - I figured it would be best if I ate something light on the side, and preferably raw. So I deiced to make the Romaine Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing from Donna Klein’s book “The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.” I chose this recipe because it was simple, and because I wanted an ‘Italian’ style salad to go with our ‘Italian’ style main course. The salad is literally very simple, it’s just romaine lettuce - although I threw in some diced tomato and red onion for good measure - but the dressing is fantastico!  You roast 8 cloves of garlic in the oven and mash them into a puree when they’re cool. Then combine it with another clove of minced garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice, Dijon Mustard and vegetable broth. I didn’t have any Veg broth though so I subbed water, then I added a touch of agave to sweeten the deal, and man it was phenomenal! Not all of my garlic cloves mashed completely so there were still chunky bits of roast garlic in the salad that were absolutely amazing!

Finally for dessert I made the Cinnamon Scented Tiramisu also from Jenny and Heather’s book “Spork-Fed.” I know so many people who go ape-shit for Tiramisu, and while I do enjoy it I never really saw what all the fuss was about. For some reason Tiramisu is something I never order when I go out, I never buy it, I never make it and I never think about it. Sure if it’s around I’ll eat it, and I enjoy it, but it’s just one of those things I never think to make myself. Of course their version sounded delicious and I wanted to keep with the Italian theme so I thought I’d give it a go. Plus I had two more containers of Vegan Cream Cheese leftover from Christmas that I needed to use before March.

Cinnamon Scented Tiramisu 

An Inside Shot of the Tiramisu

There Tiramisu was surprisingly easy to make. The cake is flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar, soy milk, apple cider vinegar, and oil. I actually used Date sugar for this, and coconut oil instead of a ‘nuteral oil’ and think it worked out fantastic. I’ve been using date sugar a lot instead of actual sugar and I’m really enjoying it. Then the cream layer is made with vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, sugar, soy milk, lemon juice, orange juice, and salt. I didn’t have orange juice though so instead I used 1 tsp orange extract and 1 tsp almond extract. Worked great. I also added in cinnamon to the cream layer. After all this was called cinnamon scented tiramisu and I wanted there to be a lot of cinnamon! So I added in double the amount of cinnamon into the cake, and 1 tsp into the cream layer. Then you brew some strong coffee or espresso, mix it with sugar and amaretto, and bam! Everything’s finished except the assembly.

Of course the assembly is easy. Cut the cake, pour the coffee mixture over top of it to let it soak in. Then layer cake, cream, cake, cream until you run out of both. Garnish as desired with chocolate. I used chocolate chips and formed them into cutesy little hearts!

And that was Valentine’s Day, I hope you all had just as much fun as we did!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, your Teramsu looks sooo GOOD! One dessert I really LOVE!! Your other meals look good too! We also are not big Valentine's celebrators! My husband and me think it's a stupid day, for those who can't tell each other everyday that they love each other everyday! Early on we did celebrate it, but that's only because we thought each other expected something! Nice to hear your husband is such a romanic though.....LUCKY GIRL!!!! S.T.