Vegan Dishes: Work as Dinners or Sides

The selection here offers a quartet of tasty vegan dishes that do double duty.

Veganism seems to be sweeping the nation — or at least my family of origin.
My sister and both of my parents have become vegans for health reasons, so when they visit I strive to accommodate them.  However, my immediate family is less enthusiastic about these dishes, so I generally try to balance the desires of all the diners by offering some hearty vegan dishes accompanied by a meat, fish or egg dish for the omnivores.
The selection here offers a quartet of tasty vegan dishes that do double duty.
Green Pesto
This is different from traditional pesto because it uses green garlic chives in place of cloves, and pistachios as opposed to pine nuts.  In addition, it omits the Parmesan cheese in order to be vegan — and for kosher-keeping omnivores it opens up uses that allow it to be served with meat.
1 bunch garlic chives, rinsed and drained (or
4 cloves garlic)
1 bunch basil, rinsed and drained
¼ cup raw pistachios
½ cup olive oil
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  This keeps in the refrigerator for about a week and can be frozen for several months.
I use it tossed on pasta — be sure to save a little of the cooking water to loosen and distribute the pesto when tossing.  You also can drop a spoonful of this in tomato or vegetable soup, spread it on bread or drizzle it in risotto. If you are an omnivore, spread it on grilled or roasted meat or fish.
Tomato and Vegetable Mélange
This was a “necessity is the mother of invention” creation.  I had what appeared to be a gorgeous heirloom tomato which, when sliced, revealed itself to be a mealy, flavorless bust.
The only thing to do in such circumstances is to cook said fraudulent tomato and make the best of it. I also had some green beans that were past their prime — borderline wilted, but still salvageable if I acted fast. Finally, we had some leftover roasted potatoes, which my husband had made to accompany a Sunday evening grilled steak. I put these three near-castoffs together and made something quite delicious — far greater than the sum of its parts.
1 Tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. dried oregano
1 large tomato, cut into chunks
2 cups green beans, stems removed, and broken in half
2 cups cooked potatoes cut in chunks
In a large skillet over medium heat, pour the oil and sauté the garlic with salt and pepper until fragrant, about one minute.
Add the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon.  Lower the heat and simmer until they are mostly dissolved into a thick sauce.
Add the green beans and potatoes and cover.  Simmer for about five minutes, until the beans are cooked and the potatoes are heated through.
Thai Peanut Noodles
These have some serious kick — thanks to the eight garlic cloves and the tablespoon of chili oil.  Adjust accordingly if your crew is timid of palate.  These can be served hot, at room temperature or chilled. They are wonderful solo, but also complement just about any fish, chicken or meat dish, particularly if there is an Asian flavor.
1 Tbsp. sesame oil, plus more for tossing noodles
½ cup smooth or creamy natural peanut butter
½ cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp. hot chili oil
8 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
½ lb. fresh Chinese noodles (note: read the label to ensure they do not contain egg if you are serving vegans)
4 carrots, shredded
Mix all ingredients except the noodles and carrots in a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
Cook the noodles and carrots in boiling water until just tender; reserve ½ cup of the cooking water; drain and toss with just enough sesame oil to keep the noodles from sticking.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and carrots and toss.  If the sauce is clumping and not distributing, add ¼ cup of the cooking water. Continue tossing until the noodles are completely coated; add more water if needed.
Serves 2 to 4
Barley Couscous with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
I managed to find barley couscous at an Indian grocery store in West Philadelphia, but I am confident it could be procured in any health food store or high-end supermarket. If not, feel free to use whole wheat; my goal was to provide a different type of grain from the typical wheat or rice. And I have always viewed sun-dried tomatoes as an excellent substitute for meat — their rich, flavor and chewy mouthfeel trick you into forgetting about steak.
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 cup water
1 cup barley couscous
Salt to taste
In a medium saucepan, mix sun-dried tomatoes and water.  Bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the barley couscous, remove from the heat, stir, cover tightly and set aside.
 Let the couscous sit for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and taste it.  If it is the right texture (not crunchy), adjust the seasoning with salt and serve.  If it is still crunchy and all the liquid has been absorbed, replace the cover while you bring another ¼ cup of water to boil.  Add the water to the couscous, stir, cover and wait another five minutes.
Serves 2 to 4 



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