Inspired by my recent adventures at the Naperville Veggie Fest I decided to spend the week ‘Cookin’ Crunk’ and making Artisan Vegan Cheese. The cheese I’ll talk about another day because today’s post is all about the Crunk!
The first thing I was dying to make from Bianca Phillips book “Cookin’ Crunk’ was the BBQ Pulled Tempeh and Carrot Sandwiches. I’ve heard her talk about them on her blog in the past, and was immediately intrigued, even more so after watching her demo them on a Memphis morning show a while back. It didn’t hurt that I was also craving BBQ and that it’s the middle of summer. No better time for BBQ in my opinion.
So first you start by making the Memphis-Style BBQ Sauce. I think this is a really important step and other ‘Cue sauce afficionados will agree with me that a store bought sauce just won’t cut it. I mean the trick to really good BBQ is really all in the sauce, and man do I love me some BBQ. I don’t typically eat it much these days but in my pre-vegan days wooh-boy watch out. BBQ, was one of my very favorite things and I’m the type of gal who’ll put BBQ sauce on literally everything, it’s right up there with a good strong Mayo as my favorite condiment. Now, even though I was born almost as far from the South as you can get I still know a good BBQ when I taste it, and Bianca’s got the chops for sure. Her Memphis style sauce is everything good BBQ is suppose to be. Sweet, tangy, rich, smokey and garlicky. Mm-mm! This stuff is so good I could lick it off the back of a spoon and not feel any shame.
So once you got your sauce made it’s time to get the rest of the sandwich together, and it’s actually super easy. Onions and garlic are sauteed until soft and then crumbled tempeh is added and cooked till brown. Next in is the carrots and then the Memphis style sauce, and everything’s cooked together for a few minutes until it’s thick and bubbly.
The last component is the Slaw. Now I know a lot of people who think putting coleslaw on a BBQ sandwich is akin to sacrilege but they’ve obviously never been down south. Well, I have been to the south and this is a combination of brilliance that can’t be denied. I remember eating meaty versions of this type of sandwich right in Memphis - in my pre-vegan days - not to mention other parts of the South. There’s also a great Memphis style BBQ joint in Vancouver on Commercial Drive which I used to frequent in my pre-vegan days. They had the best BBQ pulled sandwiches, and ribs this side of Tennessee, and Bianca’s Pulled Tempeh Sandwiches brought back so many wonderful taste memories, but I’m getting a little off topic. The slaw used on this sandwich is a simple green cabbage slaw with carrots, onion, poppy seeds, vegan mayo, agave and salt. Though I added in a little bit of apple cider vinegar just for some tang. Considering the simplicity this slaw really hit the spot. Cool and crunchy the perfect accompaniment to sweet, and tangy BBQ. This sandwich is literally to die for, and to make it even better I served it on homemade Sweet Potato Buns the recipe for which came from Joni Marie Newman’s wonderful book “The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet”
So that was Monday night’s dinner. Tuesday was a bit cool out, not cold, but cool and I was feeling a bit off with a headache and a scratch throat so I thought something down-home and comforting for dinner would be best. When it’s cool out and I don’t feel 100% soup or stew Is always my meal of choice and so I chose to make Bianca’s Tempeh Gumbo.
Now, as much as I love a good BBQ I also love a good Gumbo, and I’ve made, and eaten many a Gumbo in my time. New Orleans is seriously one of my favorite cities in the whole of the United States it’s full of amazing history, interesting characters, and loads of fun. My husband and I spent endless days walking around the French Quarter poking around in crazy shops, sitting in French Cafes eating sugar covered donuts and at night we’d stumble into cozy dimly lit restaurant style bars and feast on creole, gumbo, jambalaya, and dirty rice. New Orleans made an impression on me that I’ve never been able to shake, and every time I make a pot of gumbo or a jambalaya it brings me back.
Bianca’s Gumbo is made first by making a classic roux - a mixture of fat and flour and in her case she uses canola oil and whole wheat pastry flour. However I can’t justify using Canola so I opted to use Olive oil instead. - Then a hot pan of sauteed onions, garlic, celery, and bell pepper are added. Along with the tempeh, tomatoes, Vegetable Broth, Okra, parsley, thyme, Cajun seasoning, Bay leaves, cayenne and salt and pepper. Aside from the change I made with the olive oil the only thing I did different here was to add less broth - she called for 6 cups which I thought was too much and so I only used 4 - and I added extra Cajun seasoning.
Overall while this was not the best Gumbo I’ve ever eaten it was pretty darn good, and certainly the perfect meal on a cool summer evening. I guess for me I just felt it was a bit under seasoned and perhaps more Cajun seasoning would have fixed that for me. It might have something to do with the olive oil roux too though, and perhaps an Earth Balance Roux would have been better, but that’s me. My husband loved it as was, and I have to say I LOVED the okra. A lot of people don’t like Okra because they think it’s slimy, but I’m not one of those people, and I can honestly say I’ve never had okra in a gumbo before. Not even the gumbo’s I ate in the South had okra in them. Supposedly okra in gumbo is traditional but I’d I guess everyone has their own feelings about that, so I’d never experienced it until now. Definitely a great addition.
Tonight I’m not much for cooking so we’re having leftover gumbo, but I am making Bianca’s Jalapeno Corn Buttermilk Cornbread to go with it. So stay tuned for more Crunk Cooking, and that Cheese post I mentioned.