Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why can't vegetarian food be elegant?

Easy answer. It can. 

I recently became very interested in incorporating fish-like flavors into vegan and vegetarian dishes. I am in the process of creating a soy-free vegetarian fish stick recipe. What can I say? I miss fish sticks. But in the meantime I wanted to test out whether beans could adopt a fish flavor with the addition of variuos seaweeds, and sure enough, they can.

So, what can beans and seaweed combine to simulate in a tasteful way? Pate of course. 

Salmon pate has been a favorite snacking item of mine for as long as I can remember. It is sweet, salty, savory and creamy in one teaspoon. What's not to love? Even though I still eat fish, I eat it a lot less than I used to. I also rarely eat it at home anymore -- its become more of a meal out option. I do, however, eat and prepare beans at home all the time. So, knowing that beans lend an incredible silkiness to dips and spreads, I set out to discover if beans could transform into a mock-fish pate. 

The pate I made has a subtle fish flavor, a voluptuous creamy texture and a hint of sweetness. It is cheap and easy to assemble and made mostly of items you may already have on hand (the seaweeds may be the exception to this but they are relatively easy to buy). 

This spread would be excellent on crackers or as a dip for vegetables or chips. 

If you want to transform this into a sliceable pate, rather than a smooth paste, you may want to slightly gelatinize it using a bit of agar agar or another vegetarian gelatin replacer. I wasn't so picky as to bother.

The seaweed in this recipe makes it extremely healthy for you as it is an excellent source of iodine (great for thyroid function) and a host of essential vitamins and minerals including potassium, Vitamin B12 and B6.
Seaweed is also known to have anti-cancer properties.

If you don't eat much seaweed, be warned that the smell of DULSE is quite strong when you open the package and take a whiff, but the taste in this dip will be quite subtle. You can always add less than my recipe calls for and add in small amounts until you reach the desired flavor you are after.

Enjoy this recipe within a few days of preparing. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.

Fish-free pate

1 can organic cannellini beans
The juice of 1/2 organic lemon
2 sweet gherkin pickles
3 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon Braggs (or tamari, or soy sauce)
2 teaspoons Kelp seaweed granules (or to your taste, more will enhance fish flavor)
2 tbsp Dulse seaweed granules (or to your taste, more will enhance fish flavor)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon organic ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tbsp mayonaise or veganaise
1 tbsp organic canola oil, or other mildly flavored oil

Blend all ingredients in a mixing bowl with a hand blender until very smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Serve chilled with crackers, vegetables, chips or crostini.

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