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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vegan Quinoa Stirfry

Yes, this was wholly devoid of any animal products.

And, yes, it was really, really good!

The trick is using a tonne of really fresh veggies.

So, what have we got in there?  Clockwise from the centre-top: carrots (heirloom), green beans (chopped), italian parsley (minced), peas (frozen), brown mushrooms, scallion tips (green tops), shallots (minced), ginger (minced), scallion bottoms (whites), spice blend (lemongrass, white pepper, salt).

And some garlic which I forgot about.


And a healthy bit of my vegan vegetable stock, which I "re-constituted" (diluted with filtered water) into a 'broth', and then separated into two portions.  One large portion for cooking the quinoa, and another, smaller portion to be saved for the veggies.

The quinoa was easy.  One cup of dry quinoa, to two cups liquid.  In this case, two cups of my veggie broth.  Don't forget a pinch or two of salt as well.

Yum!  Sure it makes the quinoa a little yellow-y but the flavour is unbeatable!

The veggies were a little involved.

Now... I know a lot of people who consider veggie stir fry an easy and not very time-consuming ordeal.  But anyone who knows me, knows that I am picky, and part of what makes my cooking better than average is my attention to detail and painstaking effort.

So, I'm sure it would be fine for 90% of the world to just throw all the above veggies into a pan or wok, add some oil, sauté for a few minutes, and then put it all together with the quinoa.

Well... to me that would be gross.  For one, it would mean that some (the larger pieces) veggies would be less cooked than others (the smaller pieces).  For another, it wouldn't allow some of the denser flavour mediums the time to mellow, and the flavours would not be balanced.  

Essentially the most important thing in this technique is the separation of, and dedicated attention to, the hearty veggies and the delicate veggies, respectively.

Anyway... so, here's what I did.  It may seem a little involved (perhaps over-involved to some), but I think it really, really makes a difference.  As you follow along I urge you to consider the reasons why I choose to do it this way.

Veggie broth in a pan.

First cook the 'hard' vegetables to soften them and release their compacted flavours.

The green beans and the carrots are essentially poached or boiled for several minutes.  Like ten minutes, until they get bright in colour, and softer to the touch.  The carrots don't have to be super soft... like not mushy or anything... softened, but still totally crisp.

When that is ready, empty this, liquid and all, into a clean bowl, and set aside for now.

Take your pan and get a fair bit of oil in there.  Any vegetable oil will work here, but I chose a vegan margarine, which is essentially just a blend of vegetable oils.

I'm not one to extol anything positive about processed foods.  At all.  Like not even a little bit.  But, I will say that from what I can tell, Becel's latest iteration of margarines, the vegan margarine, actually looks like it isn't half bad.

It's basically just a bunch of vegetable oils.  There is, however, "modified palm or palm kernal oils" in there, which isn't super great... but the product is still non-hydrogenated, and it is still overwhelmingly just vegetable oils. 

So, I'm using it.

If I was going to fry something up using high heat, I'd likely throw in something else like canola or avocado oil to balance the smoke point, but today we're cooking on low heat, so the margarine is fine.

Next step is to sauté the onion, shallots, and garlic.

Before this gets too along, add the mushrooms.

I like my mushrooms to be a little crispy, and not dry and wooden like many people do.

Anyway, making sure to stir this about constantly, it's done after about five minutes, or when the garlic and onion are golden but not browned.

The above picture is the perfect level of sautéing for these little, delicate veggies.

Now just dump the broth and the hearty veggies back into the pan, and give it (the pan) a good scraping with a metal utensil (like a whisk) -- unless you've used a non-stick pan, in which case you should never use metal utensils.

Now we add the even more delicate flavours, and those flavours we wanted relatively uncooked; the herbs, the spices, and the scallion greens.  These guys are best saved for last, because we don't want to boil them like we did the first veggies, nor sauté them crisply like we did the second batch.  The peas, even though they were frozen, we don't want to cook for very long either.  Nobody likes an over-cooked pea!

So, maybe you're starting to see, and perhaps even appreciate, the effort involved so far?!

Stir this about until everything is coated and wet, and then cover it up tightly and turn the heat down to simmer.

After about five minutes, everything should be very uniform in both flavour and texture and consistency, which I argue is the most important thing in any dish with so many ingredients.

Mix in the quinoa (which is cold by now, but it doesn't matter, the stirfry is hot, hot, hot!)

It doesn't look delicious, but damn this was really tasty.  And not just 'vegan' tasty, but actually, honest-to-goodness, really yummy!

And very healthy, so feel free to fill up on this stuff!