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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Vegetarian Cooking with Zel

Turning to the spirit of Halloween fun, we simply couldn't forget to put Frankenstein's Favorite Cauldron Meal on the menu. It's addition of delicious blood-red pomegranate syrup lifts not only the delightful flavor, but also makes the spirits dance with joy, especially after midnight when all the witches, ghouls, and ghosts party wildly until dawn. Heed the call of the screeching black cats--unless, of course, you've not caught the joyful spirit of the festival and have fallen fast asleep.

Here's a little-known tidbit--Frankenstein loves Fesenjen! My vegan version of this flavor-drenched Persian dish is traditionally made with chicken or duck, but I take the more compassionate approach that's equally as tasty made with tofu. Its stand-out feature is the lively sweet-tart sauce that results when combining walnuts and pomegranate syrup. The tofu adds a pleasant tooth to the dish and pairs well with steamed brown rice or bulgur wheat.

Frankenstein's Favorite Cauldron Meal (Fesenjen)


Yield: 4 to 5 servings

    1 pound (453g) extra firm tofu
    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

    2 cups (420ml) coarsely chopped walnuts
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) plus 2 tablespoons water
    2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup
    2 tablespoons organic sugar
    3/4 teaspoon salt

    2 tablespoons cornstarch

    1/2 cup (120 ml) diced red bell pepper
    1 to 2 tablespoons minced parsley

  1. Drain and rinse the tofu and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes. Combine tofu and soy sauce in a large, deep skillet, and cook over high heat, stirring frequently to brown the cubes on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the onions, olive oil, and turmeric to the same skillet, and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened and lightly browned. Transfer to the bowl with tofu.
  3. Put the walnuts into the food processor and pulverize them until almost the consistency of nut butter. Transfer to the same skillet, and add the 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of water, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, sugar, and salt. Cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Combine the cornstarch and the remaining 2 tablespoons water in a cup or bowl and stir well to create a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling walnut sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the reserved tofu and onions and heat to warm through. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl, and garnish with diced red bell pepper and parsley. Serve over brown rice or bulgur wheat.

NOTE: Pomegranate syrup is sometimes called pomegranate molasses or pomegranate paste. Look for it at Whole Foods Market or in Middle Eastern, Armenian, or Persian groceries.

Click here for past cookingwithzel@home.comeonin recipes

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