(One of the most important aspects of this blog is engaging my community in the discussion of sustainability, pragmatism, and healthy lifestyle on a budget. In order to hear different voices and perspectives I have asked some peers to contribute their thoughts and experiences. Every few weeks I will feature a guest post discussing issues, sharing experiences, and raising questions on the subject. Message me if you're interested in contributing to the discussion. - Tatyana)
I keep a vegan kitchen, in a practice that is less about not eating animals and more about eating as many plants as possible. When I first began cooking vegan five years ago, I would plan and shop for specific recipes -- a particular curry, stew, or casserole. While I think adhering to recipes was a great way to learn the methodology and staples of vegan cuisine, my cooking has since evolved. I now plan less and just keep fresh, seasonal vegetables around, to be cooked simply and combined with grains and proteins and, most importantly, smothered in sauces.
Here is a secret of vegan cooking -- everyone finds a pile of unadorned quinoa depressing. Without a sauce to punch up the flavor and add the fat that vegan foods often naturally lack, vegan cooking can be as bad as its detractors claim. I keep a pantry full of ingredients to make a variety of sauces on a whim, and I've shared below my all-time favorite.
Tahini is the base for a number of wonderful vegan sauces. There are two secrets to tahini-based sauces: first, make sure you add something acidic to cut tahini's naturally heavy sesame flavor. I use vinegar below, but lemon juice or mild hot sauce would work as well. Second, tahinis vary widely in texture and thickness. Find a brand that is, for lack of better descriptor, runny. My favorite brand is Ziyad.
If you are looking to incorporate more plant-based meals in the new year, this easy recipe is a great complement to any vegetable. It can be made thick to spread on sandwiches, or thin to drizzle over, well, quinoa. It's creamy and tangy and makes things taste vaguely like pizza.
Tahini Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- 3/4 cup tahini
- 1 roasted red pepper (jarred is great)
- 2 Tb white balsamic vinegar -- white balsamic is a particularly wonderful addition to the vegan sauce repertoire, but if you don't have it, any light vinegar will do -- just not regular balsamic.
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4-1/2 cup water (depending on how thick your tahini is)
- 2 Tb nutritional yeast (optional)
Combine all ingredients, starting with 1/4 cup water, in the blender of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add more water as desired for texture. Drizzle over your favorite dish!