Monday, January 14, 2008

Feeding a Vegan: Ellie Krieger’s Aromatic Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce

Though I’m a proud chicken devourer, vegetarianism always seemed like something I could handle. Like, if a doctor told me, “Kris, you have a terrible spleen disorder. We call it Spleenism, and it means you can’t eat, look at, smell, or make out with meat for one calendar year. What does the spleen have to do with meat, you ask? I don’t know. But let’s pretend for the sake of this essay,” I’d be fine. There are enough substitutes and options on this crazy, crazy planet to make me forget about animal flesh for at least a little while. (Well, except maybe bacon.)

Going vegan? That’s another story. I know there are a billion agave nectar muffins and triple bean chilis out there, but I’m not sure a life without cheese is worth living. What’s more, since 1977, I know exactly one successful vegan. I have a few college friends who tried it out way back when, but among them, even the crunchiest of Phish fan hippies failed miserably. A butterless universe seemed meaningless, and within a month or two, they always went back to the wide world of mozzarella sticks. (It sounds like I’m knocking veganism here, but I swear, I’m not. I respect and admire anyone who can hack it without resorting to rice 24/7.)

Incidentally, my one successful vegan friend, S, came over for dinner last night. Now in his ‘30s, S has been a vegan for years and years, and by god, I didn’t want to poison him. I figured pasta was safe, so I began by researching veggie-heavy noodle dishes. Then, I remembered Ellie Krieger’s Aromatic Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce, which I made for one of my mom’s rare sojourns to Brooklyn last year. Thanks to the peanuts, chilis, and lime, it has a slight Thai flavor, and the mixture of snow peas, broccoli, and peanut butter sauce gives it a moxy lacking in an average pasta primavera. Mom liked the dish, and that was good enough endorsement for me.

It was good enough for S, too. He went home full and un-poisoned, which is a main goal of mine nowadays. (Oh, also the cheap and healthy thing.) After the experience, I’m ready for other vegans now, as well. At the rate I meet them, though, that won’t be ‘til 2037.

On a side note, the more I see of Ellie, the more I like her. She’s knowledgeable, reliable, and soothing-er than a Sarah McLachlan record. It’s a nice counterpoint to Ray-Ray, Ingrid Hoffman, and The Banshee That Ate Paula Deen. Here’s hoping she never gets hit by the “Turn it Up to 11” flu.

Only the pricing info is included below, since so graciously provided nutritional listings.

P.S. #1: Reviewers on the Food Network site substituted all kinds of veggies and protein for the peas (which tend to be expensive) and broccoli. You can, too. The star of the recipe is the peanut sauce, so go nuts.

P.S. #2: I was worried at first, and we had side salads just in case, but this really did feed six people.

P.S. #3: Not all pasta brands and types are safe for vegans. Read the labels to make sure.

Aromatic Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce
Makes 6 servings (1 cup pasta, 1 cup veggies, 2.5 T sauce)
Adapted from Ellie Krieger.

3/4 pound spinach linguine or whole-wheat spaghetti
2 cups (about 9 ounces) broccoli florets
2 cups (about 6 ounces) snow peas, trimmed
2 cups (about 6 ounces) sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 scallion, cut into pieces
3/4 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shelled unsalted peanuts

1) Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to stop cooking process, and set aside.

2) While pasta is cooking, steam broccoli for 3 minutes in a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add snow peas and sugar snap peas and steam for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat when finished.

3) Toast peanuts until fragrant, around 3 minutes. Set aside. Chop when cooled.

4) Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, scallion, ginger, sugar, and red pepper flakes in a food processor. Puree until smooth.

5) In a large serving bowl, mix pasta with 3/4 cup peanut sauce, stirring thoroughly to combine. Top with veggies and pour remaining sauce over everything. Serve with roasted peanuts on top.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
451 calories, 19 g fat, $1.58

3/4 pound spinach linguine or whole-wheat spaghetti: $1.12
2 cups (about 9 ounces) broccoli florets: $0.99
2 cups (about 6 ounces) snow peas, trimmed: $1.60
2 cups (about 6 ounces) sugar snap peas, trimmed: $2.74
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter: $0.42
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce: $0.38
1/4 cup water: $0.00
2 tablespoons rice vinegar: $0.48
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice: $0.60
1 scallion, cut into pieces: $0.20
3/4 inch fresh ginger, finely grated: $0.20
2 tablespoons brown sugar: $0.06
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes: $0.01
1/2 cup shelled unsalted peanuts: $0.70
TOTAL: $9.50

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Monika K said...

I think the vegan blog world is a real testament to the number of people who eat and live vegan (supposing that everyone who blogs is being honest). For most people, veganism is either a moral or health choice. For me, it was always about health (which is easy to forget when someone sets a baked brie in front of you). So, I consider myself a vegetarian who eats a lot of vegan stuff, rather than a vegan who occasionally jumps of the no cheese band wagon. Not sure if this comment makes any sense, but your recipe looks great, so I think I'll end on that note. (-: Cheers to S!

Lady Di said...

I tried veganism for my health, couldn't keep it up, and I feel guilty about it, and in awe of people who can, I must admit. But, I do still love vegetables, and such, and found out I do like eating like that occasionally, just not all the time. I really like "Vegan with a Vengeance" and "Veganomicon" their foods are tasty and the stuff isn't too "weird" with hard to find ingredients. I just cut back on the oil when I make their stuff. And their (Moskowitz and Romero) cupcake book is great too when I want to do some baking - I actually usually do my baking from it since I'm not a big sweets baker in the first place and I know they'll turn out.

Krista said...

Ha! I have been vegan off and on for years. The thought of a lifetime without cheese just scares me, so I only last 6 months, max. Yeah. I know. I suck at the will power thing.

I also love Ellie Krieger and am hoping that the Food Network doesn't ruin her. *Keeping my fingers crossed*

This looks really good. I am adding it to my weekend -feeding the vegetarian SIL and the picky nieces- menu.

Daniel Koontz said...

"I have a few college friends who tried it out way back when, but among them, even the crunchiest of Phish fan hippies failed miserably."

Now THAT is quoteworthy. Can I borrow that one at some point? :)

Casual Kitchen

Anonymous said...

My wife says she wants to go vegetablarian except for the fact that she loves meat. Apparently, the fact that the meat portions are tiny doesn't count. Anyway, she just walked in and pronounced that this dish looks tasty...

Kris said...

Monika: Since I consciously started eating less meat, I find I eat more vegan meals unknowingly. Even browsing through the recipes on this site, there are a bunch I didn't even realized qualified. Who knew?

Lady Di: The Post Punk Kitchen ladies seem really cool, and Veganomicon (besides sounding like a Neil Gaiman novel) looks like a vegan cookbook I could get into. There's a good interview with Moskowitz on Chow right now.

Anon: Ha. I hear her.

K said...

Oh man I'm not vegan but I made these tonight and they are really delicious. I swapped out the peas for baby bok choy and eyeballed a few measurements. And didn't toast the nuts because I didn't want to wash another pan (I'll admit it...) It turned out really delicious though, especially as an alternative everyday (quick! <25 minutes by my count) pasta dish (since I usually have limes, ginger and peanut butter around)

Brendan said...

The sauce was amazing by itself, but when I mixed it with the noodles, it became too thick and lost some of its flavor.

I also made the mistake of skimping on the vegetables which make the dish (I guess I put too much emphasis on the cheap part of the blog)

Brittany said...

My roommate and I made the sauce and veggies and then dipped homemade pita in it instead of serving it over noddles. I also threw some small bits of tofu into mine. It was delicious and delightfully squishy!

alternakiddy said...

This sounds amazing! I was a vegetarian on and off for years, and yes you do miss bacon, and smoked meats in general. Being veg in an Italian household isn't easy either, my mom was very confused, lol.

I could never be a vegan, I can deal with soy milk, but I love yogurt and yes, life without cheese is no life at all.

Ellie Krieger's is one of the few sane, and easy to follow shows. She's not being militant, with fat free cheese, or fake foods, she's very reasonable and advocates a little of the good stuff, just not a lot. I wish we saw more of her and less horrible reality shows on Food Network. I guess that's why they needed to create Cooking Channel, you know, for cooking shows.

Lori said...

I loved this dish and wound up daydreaming about it at work the day after I had it for dinner. It's Thai-tastic! I think the fresh lime juice really makes it. I can't believe some of the negative comments on the Food Network website... I think they must have made unwise substitutions or something.