Meal Four: Ann

My cooking adventure last week took me to the home of Ann, my idol and longtime friend. Ann was one of my heroes back when I was a junior in high school. She and a friend had previously fought our high school’s administration in order to start a Diversity Club and proceeded to coach me in effective tactics that proved vital to my own formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance at our high school. It was wonderful to be able to cook for Ann who really helped me back when I was just a baby activist fighting for change in our homogenous town. Thanks, Ann!

The Menu:

– Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup (from Vegan on the Cheap, p.202 )

– Samosa Pie (from Vegan on the Cheap, p.174)

– Strawberry Truffle Brownies (from the Post Punk Kitchen, adapted from Raspberry Truffle Brownies)

Soup Notes and An Ode to the Slow-cooker:

The Curried Yellow Split Pea soup is one of my favorite recipes from Vegan on the Cheap. The curry spices are absorbed beautifully by the peas and carrots, and depending on the amount of broth you use, you can achieve a more soup or dal-like consistency. I like to make a thicker “soup”, serve it over brown rice, and garnish with cilantro. Vegan on the Cheap has great notes and suggestions for generating variation to recipes!

If only pictures could talk; in this moment, Ann is receiving instructions from her twelve-year-old sister via speakerphone on how to use her own rice cooker. I could have helped, but was enjoying the chain of communication too much.

The "soup" over rice could be a meal all on its own!

Let me just say this: I love slow-cookers. I find that many don’t give the slowccooker adequate credit as a kitchen appliance. Sure, slow cookers aren’t as flashy as food processors, as coveted as stand mixers, or as fun and power-tool-esque as immersion blenders, but they serve an undeniably easy means of creating delicious meals. Many slow cooker recipes like the Split Pea Soup one I followed require under ten minutes of prep-work with the rest of the cooking time remains entirely idle on the human side of things. I merely diced an onion and a couple of carrots, measured spices, gathered water and dried yellow split peas, and tossed the items in the cooker. I let the soup simmer softly for eight hours overnight, while I dreamt of the meal to come.

The best part: the slow-cooker itself is an affordable appliance. My current slow-cooker companion was a $10 purchase from the local Salvation didn’t dent my bank account (no offense, VitaMix–I love you), all while promoting reuse!

I made the soup in advance (obviously--see slow-cooker rant above), transported it via tupperware to Ann's, and then rewarmed it in a large pot. What a journey!

Here’s the ingredient list for the soup:

-1 tbsp canola oil

-1 medium carrot (I used 2+)

-1 lb yellow split peas

-1 tbsp curry powder

-1 tsp ground coriander

-1/2 tsp cumin

-1/4 cayenne

– 6 cups vegetable stock

– salt and pepper

-cilantro for garnish

Vegan on the Cheap, p.202

Kitchen/Life Lessons via Samosa Pie:

I was really excited for this Samosa Pie to be in my life in a big way. It was one of those recipes I had bookmarked back when I first bought Vegan on the Cheap to try, but never got around to actually trying it. So here I thought: today is the day your dreams will come true–not all of your dreams, of course, but specifically the ones surrounding this single recipe. Follow your dreams, MelRob. 

Unfortunately, sometimes dreams don’t always work out the way the voice in my head tells me they will. I made a couple of amateur mistakes regarding Samosa Pie. I did not read through the instructions carefully before attempting to make the dish in a foreign kitchen. It turned out that ,in addition to the bake time associated with the pie, I had to cook many of the items in the pie before I could add them and start the actual baking process. The recipe took much longer than anticipated, leaving me flustered.

The most tragic part of the Samosa Pie was that the end product was not very impressive, despite the labor intensity of the recipe. The crust was flavorful and the curry powder well-received by the potatoes and veggies, but the pie as a whole was very dry. This is the risk of trying a recipe for the first time with guest. Feel free to transpose this lesson to other facets of life. As far as the kitchen is concerned, it is difficult to anticipate what you would do differently and what needs to be tweaked without the previous trial of a recipe. Food blogs are great in this sense, though; often you can read comments and learn from the mistakes and discoveries of others. Next time I think I would make a chutney or sauce to moisten the pie and create a sweet dichotomy to contrast the spice the curry powder brings to the table (I would also use a hotter curry powder). In a pinch, Ann hilariously dug a can of surprisingly vegan Cambell’s mushroom gravy out of her cupboard to remedy the desert-like pie, creating a dish reminiscent of pot pie.

The Samosa Pie was stuffed with chickpeas, potatoes, green beans, peas, and carrots.

Gravy, anyone? The point in a meal when you start adding things desperately to fix what you have broken. This also does not work in the context of relationships, whether you are using gravy or not.

The Real Hero: Strawberry Truffle Brownies

I highly recommend the recipe for these brownies (and any other recipes) from the Post Punk Kitchen. I used strawberries in place of raspberries because I had local strawberries on hand as part of my winter farm share. Normally, I don’t like the combination of fruit and chocolate, but I was glad to have tried this recipe. The strawberries only brought a subtle aftertaste that coupled well with the rich taste of the fudge-like brownies.

The brownies saved the day after the lackluster pie.

Ann and Ann: two peas in a pod and a pleasure to dine.

Mowgli, Ann's precious feline, was the cutest creature and a consistent source of entertainment. He investigated the leftovers and clearly wanted to come home with me.

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