Meal Three: Mita and Shelby

Last week I packed up my suitcase with kitchen supplies and ingredients for purpose of cooking for my friends, Mita and Shelby, at their apartment in Ann Arbor. I consider both of them some of my more kitchen-savvy friends who regularly work cooking for themselves and others into their routine. Despite this, Mita and I have a history of kitchen catastrophes. Our culinary relationship has been defined in particular by a series of baking failures, two of the most recent include pumpkin muffins (all mush, no fluff) and roasted chestnuts (a mess involving minor explosions in the oven and resulting in nothing edible). Needless to say, I was determined that this eating experience would be nothing but blissful. So, what was my game plan?

The Menu:

Bulgur, Arugula, and Cannellini Salad via (and viva la) Veganomicon, p. 85

Autumn Latkes with Horseradish-Dill Sour Cream and applesauce, curtesy of Veganomicon, p. 53, 208

Leftover Pumpkin “Tiramisu” (frozen from last week’s Meal with MelRob)

Getting serious. This was before my scarf had an unfortunate run-in with the sour cream.

Do-it-yourself Dressing, Salad Sass:

First we got down to business on the salad dressing and salad so it could chill a bit and marinate (or ‘fumigate’ according to my grandma) before we ate. Making salad dressing is one of the easiest (and most cost-effective) things to create in the kitchen. Most are a basic combination of oil, vinegar, and herbs. They aren’t laden with preservatives and taste all the better for it. Take a look at the ingredient list on commercial salad dressing next time you get a chance. My guess is the you will find a long list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce let alone discern.

This dressing called for 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic (I whipped out my Microplane grater), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried), 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of black pepper. Pour into a bowl and whisk together in minutes. Easy, fast, fun, and all with a fresh and complex flavor. Pour into a bowl and whisk together in minutes. Dijon mustard is another lovely add-on in salad dressings.

We couldn't resist playing with the oil and vinegar before adding the other ingredients. I *heart* Shelby and Mita!

The salad itself was simply sliced red onions, sliced mushrooms, cannellini beans, arugula, and bulgur. We barely took note of the proportions and adjusted at our personal discretion. Bulgur (i.e. cracked wheat) makes for a particularly filling salad — this could have been a meal of its own. The key was letting the dressing permeate the salad. Bulgur is one of the best flavor sponges and I guarantee that the salad would have proved even better if it had the chance to soak up the dressing overnight.

Some say the salad stole the show.

Lovely Latkes:

I made these latkes for the first time last year; they contain beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes in contrast to the traditional plain potato latkes. Chock full of vitamins evident in their vibrant color!

Vegetables are beautiful without a filter. We simply threw beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes through the grater on my food processor to create this warm-toned rainbow reminiscent of autumn (I suspect this color is row origin of the recipe name--Autumn Latkes).

Having a food processor is life-changing. Or, it was for me. It facilitates the fast creation of complex dishes that may be otherwise inaccessible. The latkes were a little time-consuming and messy, but definitely worth it. Beware: beets stain! Vegan latkes are held together by a little flour, cornstarch, and water. Then they are formed into balls and pan-fried in olive oil.

I kept trying to pretend my hand was bleeding, though it was only the beet juice. It was never funny.

We also whipped out the food processor to make [vegan] Horseradish-Dill Sour Cream, made using tofu, apple cider vinegar, agave, grapeseed oil, garlic, dill, and horseradish. This may sound gross to any omnivores, but it is actually delicious and made the latkes the amazing entree that they were. Don’t knock it until you try it. Plus, it’s a much healthier option with a richer taste than traditional dairy sour cream.

Apple sauce, sour cream, and latkes composed the perfect main course.

 Leftovers:

As mentioned, I froze a portion of the tiramisu from the week prior to be reserved at this meal. It proved untouched by the freezer and was just as delicious as it was the week before! I bring this up because sometimes leftovers get a bad reputation. Freezing food is a great way to save time, but some foods don’t freeze well; particularly food with high water-content should not be frozen– items like leafy greens. I’ve had great luck with many baked goods, tomato sauces, doughs, berries, and soups! Freezing also allows you to make large batches and preserve your creations without growing tired of the same dish after a week of eating it.

Additionally, some food is actually better tasting leftover because it has had time to marinate further. Soups, chills, and salads are often more delicious the next day.

Thanks for having me, Mita and Shelby!

Danielle joined Shelby, Mita, and me near the end of our meal.

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