Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Luscious Vegan Meal...With a Side of Meat

I have a friend from college and a former roommate when I was in grad school in Seattle who is a vegetarian, and she introduced me to a great vegan web site with many terrific recipes that would tempt (or fool) the most hardcore carnivore. I usually let my pal Vicki test drive the recipes, and then she recommends which ones I should try. That's how I discovered Oh She Glows' Layered Raw Taco Salad that's just out of this world, and I SWEAR you'd never miss the meat or the dairy!

The next recipe I tried was perfect for winter--hearty and rib-sticking, savory and meaty, without the meat. It's called Cozy Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale. Not only is it delicious, but it has an amazing amount of protein (16g) from the grain, mushrooms, and nutritional yeast. Now millet was a new grain to me (except when it's baked into bread), and nutritional yeast sounds like something a bodybuilder throws into his smoothie to bulk up. But apparently, it's used for its flavor as well as its nutritional value, especially for vegan recipes calling for a cheese substitute, as it has a nutty, almost parmesan-like flavor. You can find it at your local co-op (along with the millet), and the vegetarians have a cute nickname for it: "nooch!" LOL! I will definitely make this dish again, but next time, I might try swapping out different grains, like quinoa or farro. The possibilities are endless.

So I made this lovely vegan meal tonight, then decided it needed a side of meat. HA! At my friend Joanna's party over Thanksgiving weekend, the best appetizer that she served was also the simplest. She roasted cubes of butternut squash and some slices of smoked sausage, and put one piece of each on a toothpick to be served with a garlicky dip. It was SO GOOD! I didn't have butternut squash on hand, but I used about four peeled and cubed sweet potatoes and half of a smoked sausage, sliced up, and then everything tossed with a couple of tablespoons of grainy mustard and a little brown sugar before roasting at 400 degrees until tender and browned. I can't even begin to fathom the nutrient density and superfood power of this delicious meal! So make the millet dish as a bowl unto itself or as a side dish, but make it! 

Cozy Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale
(Source: adapted from Oh She Glows)

1/2 cup uncooked millet (makes 2 cups cooked)
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped sweet onion (1 medium onion)
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups sliced crimini mushrooms (300 grams)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari (soy sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1  1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fresh chopped kale, stems removed
freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, to taste

1. Toast millet: In a pot or skillet with a lid, toast the millet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it starts popping. Be careful you don’t burn it. The goal here is a light toast. Remove from heat. Cook millet: Bring a medium-sized pot of 1 cup water, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup uncooked millet to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and cover with lid. Simmer for 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes covered. Remove lid and fluff with fork. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, grab a large skillet and heat oil over medium heat. Add in chopped onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 12 minutes longer, stirring as necessary. Now stir in the rosemary, nutritional yeast, and tamari. Cook for a few minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the broth and cornstarch until clumps are gone, and then stir into the mushroom mixture. Stir in kale. Cook for another 5-6 minutes or so, until slightly thickened. Portion millet into two bowls and serve the mushroom gravy on top.

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