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Archive for the ‘lunch’ Category

Dear Leftovers,

We’ve had a rough relationship. You provide good eats on some days, but too often you smack me in the face with some nasty smell you’ve kept tucked under your lid. Unless I consume you within a day of your creation, I don’t trust you to behave well towards my nose or my stomach. You’ve wronged me so many times that it’s not easy picking between you and one of those freezer-burned burritos from Trader Joe’s…although you have been winning by a small margin.

Unfortunately, you and I have been forced to become closer this past month ever since the hubby and I started tracking our expenses. Like counting my calories on the LoseIt App makes me not want to eat, tracking our expense calories in a spread sheet takes all the fun out of spending. That means you and I need to learn to get along. Normally I can bury you in the dark space of the fridge behind a suspect batch of refried beans and a bagful of veggies and try to forget about you. But ever since I instituted a ban on impulsive lunches, I’ve had to turn to you for lunchtime support.

Then yesterday, you helped me produce this:

A crunchy salad with fresh cilantro and mint, tossed with a peanut sauce.

 

Fresh lettuce, carrots, cilantro, mint, and rice noodles leftover from our vegan spring rolls the other night tossed together with a peanut sauce dressing and some cut up squares of marinated Wildwood Tofu made a fabulous salad. 24 hours later, I sit here in my cube eating leftover homemade panang curry (tasty but a losing second compared to that salad) and I am still thinking about you. In fact, I want to elevate your salad concoction to main course status so I can eat you again for dinner and then dream about you as my lunch the next day.

So thank you for the memorable meal and bless you for not rotting the noodles. Keep up the good behavior and you may start spending more time in the brighter side of the fridge.

Sincerely,

Your Reluctant Eater

Peanut Sauce Salad Dressing
This recipe is an adaptation to the peanut sauce we make for spring rolls, and can serve as a fresh break from the heavy holiday meals. In your blender or Vitamix, combine the following ingredients:

2 heaping spoonfuls of smooth peanut butter (not the sweetened kind)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
1 medium garlic clove (remember it is blending up raw, so be careful about the quantity . . . unless you want to be tasting repeats the rest of the day)
1/4 cup tamari
A splash or two of  mirin
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup orange juice

Blend together and adjust for salty and tangy. It is really hard to mess up a peanut sauce so don’t worry too much about the measurements. Serve with your favorite leftover Asian-style salad fixin’s.

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Sandwich Cravings

I have a weakness for vegan sandwiches, especially hot ones, and much like a good vegan chocolate chip cookie, they tend to be hard to come by. Very few cafes make an effort to create an edible vegetarian sandwich, let alone a vegan one, and most assume that lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, pickles, onions, avocado (if you are willing to throw down the extra $$) and sometimes if your lucky, hummus, is enough to satisfy one’s gnawing lunch needs. It’s not.

Two years ago, Scott and I spent a week in New York where we discovered the Candle Cafe, a chic vegan restaurant in the Upper East Side. It was there they served us a fried seitan chicken sandwich with a spicy chili aoli. The sandwich, smothered in sauce with bits of fried breading scattered around the plate and towering with red onion, lettuce and avocado, just begged to be eaten. We had always stayed away from seitan (pronounced like Satan), a chewy, nasty sounding, wheat-gluten substance with a propensity for causing unwanted bodily smells. But after that sandwich, seitan—all dressed up like a saucy hussy—seduced its way back into our lives.

Since our trip to the Big Apple, we’ve chanced upon other fabulously tasty hot sandwiches through our trusty advisor, Yelp. Armed with an iPhone and the Yelp App, you can strand us in a foreign meat-friendly state like Georgia, and most times, we vegans can hunt out a meal that doesn’t consist of salad with oil and vinegar, some kind of pasta with a marinara sauce, or portabella mushrooms.

In fact, Yelp helped us find the original “g” spicy po-boy at Green’s vegan oasis which happens to be hiding in a strip mall in Tempe, AZ—a location we would have NEVER found on our own. It also clued us in on the dirty sauce which belongs in bed with cranberry sauce on a hot vegan “turkey” sandwich at Ike’s Place in San Francisco—the only place I know of where you need to order your sandwich three hours in advance if you actually want to eat it at lunch time.

No thanks to Yelp, I’ve had a two month craving to try the BBQ/Southern Fried Tofu Burger at Souley Vegan in Oakland, CA. Until my schedule routes me back to the Bay Area, I will continue to pester Scott to make attempts at recreating the sandwiches already imprinted in my taste bud memories.

But back to standout veg sandwiches. I know I opened this piece by dissing the sub-standard “vegetarian” sandwich, but there is one place that not only gets those ingredients right, but makes a sandwich I want to continuing eating beyond comfortable fullness and into the realm of, “I’ve eaten so much I hate myself.” The Molinari Delicatessen, located in SF’s North Beach neighborhood, focuses primarily on Italian meats and cheeses but can dish up a vegan sandwich worthy of mentioning among the greats.

Molinari’s at lunchtime requires skills similar to wading through the Muni crowd on Kearny Street to secure a seat on the 30 Stockton, minus the dripping bags of fishy stuff and grandma bullies. It’s that crowded on a weekday. Once you’ve managed to make it through the door, take a number, pick your sandwich roll from the bread bin, and expect to wait at least 30 minutes for your turn. When your up, make sure the guy behind the counter slathers on their signature basil garlic olive oil spread. Ask nicely and they will add whatever veggies are marinating in the deli case—usually roasted peppers and onions, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms. They will garnish it with the usual lettuce, tomato, onion and pepperoncini which, on this sandwich, adds to the overall flavor. Take the greasy goodness to go with extra napkins and head over to Washington Square Park for a picnic. And while you wipe the olive oil off your face, think of me sitting in a gray office cube hours away from a decent vegan sandwich, and send up a little thought of thanks.

Right now, I don’t have a fabulous vegan sandwich recipe. After two years, Scott and I are still fussing and experimenting with flavors and textures. What I can say is, Tofurkey’s smoked turkey lunch “meat”, and served up with fresh basil, marinated sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, and heated up with vegan mozzarella and an aioli made from veganaise on a fresh ciabatta roll can go along way to curb a craving. Serve with a heaping side of my grandfather’s potato salad. Or check out Yelp and find your own strip mall oasis.

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