There's always a moment when Vegfest looms, when I wonder why I go. I don't buy very many packaged, convenience foods, and most of the stuff I taste at events like this is quickly forgotten. Why spend a whole day tasting a ton of food I'll probably never eat again? Why, indeed. Probably because it's fun, and who can resist free samples by the zillion? Since Vegfest was March 29-30, and I really have forgotten about most of the sampled food, instead of giving you a blow-by-blow of what I ate, I'll tell you about a couple of things that stood out, and about what I took away from the cooking demos — including how to make preserved lemons!
|Remnants of some of our haul. (I really like the Raw Revolution and the coconut water.)|
This was the first year since moving to Seattle that we attended Seattle Vegfest without volunteering for a four-hour shift. The first surprising thing we noticed about being ordinary attendees, was the ridiculously long line to get in when the doors opened at 10 a.m. on Sunday — volunteers just walk right in, no waiting necessary. At first I was miffed by the hoards, but then I realized that it's a good thing when a vegetarian festival draws big crowds.
Because we had the whole day free, we were able to attend all the cooking demos we wanted to see, as well as leisurely check out the samples — all 500 of them. We ate a LOT of samples, and I actually remember at least two of them. The Harbor Creek Farms cranberry horseradish was a surprise hit, and next time I'm at Vegan Haven, our all-vegan store, I'm going to buy a jar. I also tried Neat, and much to my surprise, I liked it a lot. I don't know if I'll buy it, but I recommend it as a plant-based meat that has decent ingredients and tastes really good. It's true I ate way too many So Delicious ice cream products, but you all know how irresistible they are.
While we were roaming around stuffing ourselves, we ran into Jill, the delightful co-owner of Someday Farm Vegan B&B on Whidbey Island. My husband and I spent an idyllic weekend at Jill's establishment (You can read about it here and here) back in August, 2013. She was a very unobtrusive host, and we barely saw her except when she was delivering unbelievable breakfasts to our door, so I was surprised that she recognized us instantly. I was also taken aback when I realized she was wearing one of my what do vegan's eat t-shirt designs! I really hope to visit the B&B again, soon.
We attended three cooking demos, the first of which was Indian cooking by Sunita Shastri, author of Indian Vegetarian Delights, and founder of Meghana Foods. Sunita specializes in South Indian cuisine, so I was especially interested in what she was going to cook. She made an spicy bean dish, Dal Makhani, and Quinoa Upma, both of which looked really good until she added a wad of butter to one, and a glob of ghee to the other. Everyone who sampled the dishes seemed to enjoy them. I have a copy of the recipes to try at home, so at some point I'll get to taste them.
|My version of Miyoko's dish, with Beyond Meat and bok choy.|
Next we attended a presentation by Miyoko Schinner, author of Artisan Vegan Cheese, with whom you are probably all familiar. Miyoko's cheese demo was on Saturday, so we missed it, but I really wanted to see her Japanese cooking demo on Sunday. Miyoko has two other, earlier cookbooks, The Now and Zen Epicure: Gourmet Recipes for the Enlightened Palate, and Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, and I am a big fan, especially of the latter book. (I've reviewed it here.) Miyoko entered the stage dressed in a kimono, speaking in animated Japanese, complete with singing. She spoke in Japanese for several minutes, as we all watched, rapt, before flinging off the kimono with a laugh, and continuing in English. She told a story about her favorite childhood comfort food, which she had veganized for Japanese Cooking, and said she was going to show us how to make it. It's called Oyako Donburi, or Rice Bowl With Chicken and Egg. The literal translation is pretty unpleasant, so we'll stick with the chicken and egg. For the chicken, Miyoko used seitan, which made the dish too gluteny for me, but I was psyched to make a GF version when I got home. I finally got up the courage to try Beyond Meat chicken strips (had a coupon for a free box), and added some bok choy for a little green. I have to say, it really was comfort food — I've made it again since then, and will probably continue to make it. I found a link to the recipe for you.
Our last chef presentation was by Alan Roettinger, who cooked a dish from one of his cookbooks, Extraordinary Vegan. He made Quick Spicy Slaw, and Avocado Relish With Preserved Lemon, both of which were indeed, extraordinary. The second dish contained preserved lemon, which he taught us how to make. It's so easy, that even I am willing to do it. In fact, I made a jar for myself, and just made a second jar as a housewarming gift for a friend. The preserved lemons may sound exotic, but easy to do, and not too expensive. For the gift I bought a 26-ounce Weck canning jar, a cool kitchen towel to use as a wrapping, and a bag of organic lemons. The jar and towel are from Crate and Barrel and cost $3.95, and $4.95, and the organic lemons were $3.99/bag at Whole Foods. (I used organic lemons because the peel is used in cooking.) The most expensive thing was probably the coarse gray Celtic sea salt I used because I had a bag in the cupboard, but any kosher-style coarse salt will do. My cleverness and time are priceless, of course. There was a larger, slightly cooler jar I was considering, but I chose the Weck because of the wide mouth, and the fact that unlike the other jar, I could grab it with one hand. The Weck canning jars are pretty great- looking, and make nice containers for a food-based gifts.
Now, as your reward for reading this far (or for skipping to the bottom, as the case may be), here's a video of Alan Roettinger teaching how to make preserved lemons. He neglects to mention that you should totally clean the jar, lid, utensils, cutting board, etc., before beginning. I washed the jar for my lemons in hot, soapy water, but I boiled everything for the gift jar. (Not the lemons, of course.) There are lots of Internet instructions to be found on the topic, and I read quite a few. Basically you wash the lemons, trim the ends and any ugly spots, slice them lengthwise into quarters stopping within an inch of the bottom, stuff each one with a tablespoon of coarse salt, and add them to a jar, pressing them down as you go. Some say to leave the jar in a cool spot, some say to refrigerate it, and one actually said to keep the jar in a warm spot. Although I left my jars on the counter for the first two days, they are spending the month required to complete the project in the fridge. I can't wait to try my exotic lemons. When you make yours, be sure to push the lemons down — even the first one in the bottom of the jar. They need to be squashed a bit so they fit closely together, and so they release their juices.
Have you made preserved lemons? Where did you keep the jar while the lemons fermented?