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 Post subject: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:43 pm 
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Wears Pleather Undies

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Having been mostly vegetarian/pescetarian for most of my life (until my recent shift to being fully plant-based), shellfish was always my go to ingredient when I wanted to make a meal feel special, fancy, or celebratory (e.g. for birthdays, New Years, etc.). It was less about the taste, I think, and more about symbolically demonstrating that the meal was meant to be luxurious and different from what I ate normally.

I'm finding that while I don't necessarily miss seafood itself, I do miss the function it served in my diet. For example, homemade tomato sauce and pasta was a good, tasty weekday meal. The same tomato sauce plus prawns became a birthday dinner by virtue of including an expensive, rich ingredient. I love, love, love cooking with a huge variety of plant-based ingredients all the time, but it's been hard for me to pinpoint particular vegan ingredients that stand out from the crowd and truly feel like delicacies.

Fancy mushrooms like morels and chanterelles definitely serve that function for me now, but I'm wondering if you guys have other ideas as well. Thanks in advance!


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:51 pm 
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Hmm, I guess for me the following thing feel special:

Fancy olives
Nut-based cream sauces
Heirloom tomatoes
Local vegetables that you can't usually get in grocery stores--think fiddleheads, unusual mushrooms, god it's been so long since I've been to a farmer's market (I'm ready for spring!) that now I'm blanking

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:53 pm 
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Cook with a lovely, nuanced wine, splurge on a fancy nut cheese, try something new with ethnic ingredients or special spices.

For me, a special meal is either something new and challenging to make, extra components, or just simply exactly what I'm in the mood for. My last birthday dinner was Daiya pepperoni pizza with homemade dough and sauce. Super simple and totally perfect. And a really lovely wine (that I had to fish my lush bird out of). Another time, it might be a taco bar with lots of extra components that I'd never be bothered to make normally.

Or go to Wegmans and buy a piece of locked up $699/lb truffle and make risotto.

This year for my birthday, I want to do tamales.

For your plain tomato sauce, make a pot of gorgeous, fragrant marinara with fresh herbs, a pine nut cream as a topping, a lovely nut-seed Parmesan, and serve it with some homemade r fresh eggless pasta, perfect garlic toast, and a super fresh heirloom lettuce salad with a special vinaigrette of some sort. I'd never go to all that trouble on a Tuesday. Add people to eat with, some candles, a hazelnut tart for dessert, and you have something special.

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Last edited by lavawitch on Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:57 pm 
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I think time investment does it for me. On a regular weekday, I may spend some time making dinner once in a while but if I make multiple components, it feels special. I rarely make pasta so if I make it, my husband acts like it is a special thing. I feel bad about that sometimes :)

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:06 pm 
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I think puff pastry (many of the frozen ones are vegan) does that. Anything made with puff pastry automatically feels luxurious. I also like to order beans from Rancho Gordo for special occasionas. I think you'd also like Artisian Vegan Cheese (there's a thread in the Library about it). Not only are they rich- and complex-tasting, but there's a time and planning input that makes it special.

ETA Also, you should take a few moments to drool over http://www.veganmenu.blogspot.com. His food is always luxurious.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:49 pm 
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Also check out the Voluptuous Vegan cookbook.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:21 pm 
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for me, what makes food special now is how from scratch it is. Like, if I make two types of curry with my own spice blends and then made naan, that feels really fancy to me.

I don't really have any ingredients that feel super fancy to me, but one of my favorite fancy dishes that really doesn't take any time to prepare is tofu marsala. Judging by your other posts though, i think we probably have different ideas about this sort of stuff. To me, comfort food is my favorite. if it can look fancy and be super hearty that is the best. Tofu Marsala does that for me. Panfried tofu in a mushroomy wine sauce. The red wine cashew cream sauce on the blog here does it for me, too. I make it with white wine sometimes too.

So yeah, in vegan cooking, I don't feel like there's a super special ingredient for me. Just special meals. Sometimes Gardein cutlets feel really fancy because it's easy and so tasty.

Seconding Voluptuous Vegan!

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:24 pm 
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I second everything strawberryrock said!

I like to buy really nice olives, usually from the olive bar at whole foods. I also buy or make different spreads, like the mushroom-walnut pate from V'con or olive & fig spread (found that at the store) and serve them with fancy crackers. Really really high quality fruit is also difficult to find, so I will go to the farmers market to buy stone fruit (never had a better peach than from the farmers' market!), strawberries, blood oranges, figs, berries, etc., and either eat them on their own or sauteed in a little bit of a nice liqueur, drizzled with balsamic reduction, a dollop of homemade coconut whipped cream, or a few shaved pieces of a high quality dark chocolate. I'd love to find some unusual veggies too but mostly I grow my own on my little balcony, like fern, sorrel, zucchini blossoms (these are so good stuffed with ricotta!), garlic scapes, sun chokes, edible flowers, unusual fresh herbs. Some day when I have a backyard I'm going to try to grow a lot more stuff...you can find tons of inspiration on pinterest!

For main dishes, you're spot on about mushrooms! I'm still not very good at cooking fancy mushrooms so I don't buy them very often. I make a lot of dishes with nut-based creams. There's a really good almond ricotta by Bryanna Clark Grogan that I use for everything and sometimes to make it richer I sub in cashews or macadamias for the almonds. Nut creams are also soooo good in desserts, especially truffles!

So much of what makes vegan cooking good is the way food is seasoned so I also like to cook with really high quality condiments to make a special meal, like truffle oil or truffle salt, true balsamic vinegar (Balsamico Tradizionale--I still can't afford this luxury, since it's over $100/small bottle so I just buy the really aged imitation balsamic), different nut or seed oils, spices like saffron, vanilla bean, & dried chilis, liqueurs & brandies, fancy salts, marinated veggies (artichoke hearts, etc), preserved lemons, sun dried tomatoes (even better if you buy tomatoes from the farmers' market in the summer, dry them in the oven or a dehydrator, and stored in flavored oil in the fridge).

So many omnis focus on aged meats and cheeses. Unfortunately, I didn't really like the cheeses from the artisan vegan cheese book but yeah, those are a huge time investment and are worthy of delicacy status! I wonder if anyone has ever tried to make a cured vegan meat? Like maybe from a smoker or something? I would feel so fancy if I could make a vegan charcuterie & cheese board!

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:30 pm 
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Fancy desserts make any meal special.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:33 pm 
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Anything I spend a lot of time cooking feels special, mostly because I normally cook really simple foods like roasted vegetables and bean soups. Anything beyond that is fancy to me!

Homemade sourdough bread seems extra special because it requires so much time, and I'm usually too lazy and/or don't manage to plan for it. But when I do, I'm always proud of myself!


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:17 am 
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Presentation. To me, fancymeals have visual clues before taste ones.

- en croute, like in puff pastry or a phyllo beggar's purse
- something stacked-y and shaped, like a napoleon or timbale or molded into a cylinder
- a delicate swirl of sauce underneath, and some empty space on the plate to make the presentation look clean
- several courses
- nice dishes/silverware. Maybe an unusual shape or color or fanciness of dish.
- a nice wine accompanying it

So it will surprise no one that my go to impress-guests meal is individual portobello wellingtons with a madeira wine sauce. (veganized version of the cafe flora cookbook recipe) This with a good full-bodied red wine.

I just got back from Japan and they are the forking masters of making humble ingredients look like the fanciest thing in the world through good presentation.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:03 pm 
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I think for me it's anything that I didn't have to cook myself and looks pretty. And any kind of plant that I haven't eaten before and sounds exotic.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:23 pm 
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Wears Pleather Undies

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Thanks everyone for the fabulous suggestions! My mouth is watering thinking about all of your great ideas. Yum!


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:13 pm 
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When i want my meal to feel fancy, i clear off the table, light some candles, put all my food into pretty serving bowls, etc. I figure if i spend a few hours cooking a nice, delicious meal, i should just take the five minutes to present it nicely.

Also, hazelnuts. Like hazelnut truffles, hazelnut chocolate pie, those hazelnut fudge dreamies from VCTOTW.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:17 am 
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Fancy mushrooms (there's a guy at my local farmers market who sells wild mushrooms which are good for this) and fresh herbs are great en-fanciers.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 12:36 pm 
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I love challenging myself with different types of cuisines. If you like Japanese food, check out the book Kansha. Vegan World Feast and Vegan Eats World are also packed with exciting recipes!

And I third (or fourth, or whatever) Voluptuous Vegan. As well as any of Bryant Terry's books.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:50 pm 
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I think anything stuffed can have really beautiful presentation and be super-special, like ravioli, pierogies, homemade stuffed foccacia, individual vegetables, like stuffed mushrooms or zucchini. Stuffed seitan is uber-fancy - and roulades. Sauces, relishes, jams and other condiments also make things fancy - especially when there's more than one! Rich foods like cashew cream too, or dishes containing wine or liqueurs. And individual serve, mini things - like little quiches, tarts and pies. And layered loaves, like one my friend's mum used to make us for Christmas with four colourful layers of carrot, asparagus, cauliflower and mushroom and walnut - served on a puddle of roasted red capsicum coulis - it just looked so beautiful!

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:19 pm 
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To me it's a constellation of rich and complex flavors, and a beautiful presentation. A spicy, complex curry thickened with cashew butter, with colorful ingredients, with fresh coriander added near the end of the cook time to give it some 3-D-ness, ladled on a dinner plate around a mound of rice garnished with more fresh coriander at the edges... that would do it! Especially with an additional attractive side dish and homemade bevvies.

I see what the OP means by "central ingredient", but that's all a matter of cultural expectations I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:22 am 
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I do think this is one of those ideals about food that resets itself when you become vegan. What is a "centerpiece" dish as opposed to a side dish? I tend to like things stuffed into other things, like stuffed cabbage or grape leaves or even stuffed squash. In the summer my favorite is seed cheese layered into squash blossoms with sprouts, veggies, and pesto (ugh, can't wait for summer). There's a lot of chance to create textural contrasts and develop a sound nutritional profile for a main dish.
Also, in general, any foods that I take extra time to prepare feel luxurious to me: home fermented veggies and nut cheeses always feel like a treat, homemade gnocchi, or homemade bread... Just ate breakfast and now I'm hungry again.


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:34 am 
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For me, a meal with multiple dishes spread over the table always feels special. Like a whole bunch of different curries and home made breads or tapas with breads and stuff.

It looks impressive all spread out and the effort put in is obvious...


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 5:29 pm 
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This:

annabazoo wrote:
Also, hazelnuts. Like hazelnut truffles, hazelnut chocolate pie, those hazelnut fudge dreamies from VCTOTW.


For me it's all about making a fancy, complicated/time consuming dessert.

Also, artisan vegan cheese. Just about the best thing ever.

Fondue! http://www.artisanveganlife.com/fondue-the-ultimate-cheese-sauce/


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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 1:15 pm 
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Wow, this thread made me hungry. Another book to check out for fancy meals is the Conscious Cook. (A lot of the recipes call for gardein, but I sub homemade seitan cutlets with very good results).

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:45 pm 
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I saw the thread title and thought "TINGS!!!!" I'm not sure what that says about me.

I feel like pretty much anything can be made fancy with garnishes. Shaved chocolate on desserts, or nicely placed leaves, star anise, stuff like that.

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 4:49 pm 
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DrakeRedcrest wrote:
I saw the thread title and thought "TINGS!!!!" I'm not sure what that says about me.

I feel like pretty much anything can be made fancy with garnishes.

Tings with a sprig of parsley... the ultimate vegan delicacy!

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 Post subject: Re: Vegan delicacies?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:04 pm 
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Rhizopus Oligosporus wrote:
DrakeRedcrest wrote:
I saw the thread title and thought "TINGS!!!!" I'm not sure what that says about me.

I feel like pretty much anything can be made fancy with garnishes.

Tings with a sprig of parsley... the ultimate vegan delicacy!


i recommend a vegan version chef michael's cheeto amuse-bouche from season two of top chef.


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