Week One: Changing Vegan Perspectives
Re-inventing the veggie option: Think of a boring, bog-standard veggie option like nut roast or risotto and give it a makeover.
It is, perhaps, one of the most dispiriting events to experience while dining out as a vegan. You’re at a restaurant that touts itself as vegan-friendly. The menu arrives, and your eye runs down the page, looking for that familiar V or a little leaf-shaped icon. Finally, towards the end of the list, you find the mark… only to see it paired with an abysmally un-creative item. It’s a portobello mushroom wrap or penne with red sauce or, alas, a roasted veggie wrap. You sigh and order it anyway.
We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all put on a smile when facing the waiter or our omnivorous dining companions, pretending we’re totally fine with the laziest and most boring vegan option imaginable. But inside, WE ARE NOT FINE. Is it too much to ask for a creative, thoughtfully prepared and executed vegan dish?! When the internet and hundreds of vegan cookbooks are bursting with inspiration, it’s disappointing that chefs and restaurant owners rely on tired veg staples from the ’90s.
Perhaps that’s why I love today’s prompt: It gives us all the chance to take one of those tired staples and breathe new life (and deliciousness!) into it! I opted for that hated roasted veggie wrap, an option particularly despised by my partner Steven. In lieu of bland roasted veggies, a tasteless tortilla, and — god forbid — hummus, my vegan roasted vegetable wrap relies on a battery of flavor-packed elements. I start with a homemade garlic-cumin flatbread, spread with a little harissa mayo. In it, you’ll find:
- Harissa-tahini roasted cauliflower with lime (inspired by the charred cauliflower starter at True Food Kitchen in Bethesda, Maryland)
- Simple but flavor-packed roasted banana peppers
- A clean, crisp, simple lime cabbage slaw
Now, let’s be clear: This does require a bit more work than dumping some hummus on a tortilla, stuffing it with quick roasted veggies and calling it a day. But each element is relatively simple to pull together, and you can make any of them ahead of time to assemble on the fly. (The flatbread wraps are best fresh, however!) Eat it hot, warm, cold, or anywhere in between, and up the harissa content to meet your personal spice threshold.
Roasted Harissa-Tahini Cauliflower Wrap with Peppers and Lime Slaw
For the lime slaw
- Half head green cabbage, sliced into thin strips
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the harissa-tahini cauliflower
- 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
For the roasted peppers
- 3-4 banana peppers or other peppers of your choice, sliced into thin strips
- Drizzle olive oil
For the garlic-cumin flatbread wraps
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup aquafaba
- 1/4 cup nondairy milk
- 1 tablespoon oil
For the harissa mayo
- 1/4 cup vegan mayo
- Harissa paste to taste
Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
First, make the slaw. Mix the shredded cabbage with the salt, sugar, and lime juice, and use your hands to coat thoroughly. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Next, prepare the veggies. Put the sliced peppers on a baking sheet, then drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Whisk the tahini, harissa, and lime juice in a small bowl, and then toss this mixture with the cauliflower in a larger bowl. Pour onto a prepared baking sheet (either lightly sprayed with oil or lined with parchment). Put both pans or trays of veggies into the oven and roast for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the veggies are cooking, prepare the flatbread. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour to salt). Whisk together the aquafaba, milk, and oil in a smaller bowl, then add to the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the wet into the dry until combined, adding extra flour if the mixture is sticky. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Divide the dough into six balls. Pour a little oil into a nonstick or cast-iron pan and heat it to medium-low.
(At some point while you’re working on this, the veggies will be done. I like them soft and a little blackened, but you can cook to taste. Remove from the oven and set aside. You want them warm but not hot when you eat.)
While the pan is heating, use your hands or a rolling pin to roll one dough ball into a rough circle or oval, about 4 inches in diameter. (I like to roll them out one at a time; I’ll roll one while the other is cooking. If your pan can accommodate more than one flatbread at a time or you prefer to roll them all out in advance, that’s fine too.)
When the pan is heated, add the first flatbread and cover the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the pan is steamy and the bread has a few bubbles. Remove the cover and flip, cooking the other side for another 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Repeat for the remaining flatbreads.
When all flatbreads are cooked, mix up mayo and harissa to taste and assemble your flatbread sandwiches. Start with a layer of harissa mayo, then top with the lime slaw. Add roasted peppers and cauliflower, gently fold the flatbread, and eat!
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