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Showing diversity in the kitchen
Back home, there aren’t many people (outside of St. John’s) who can boast a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
Newfoundland and Labrador has always been a wild and unforgiving place where hunting, fishing and adventuring came part and parcel with survival and seeing your family fed well into the harsh weeks of winter. As a result, many (if not most) outport communities still have a strong cultural affiliation with meat and folks in these towns tend to scoff (no pun intended) at anyone who craves a more guilt-free and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Here in Ontario though, it seems as though vegans, vegetarians and eco-friendly people make up a large chunk of the population even in the more rural areas. Since I’ve become a single soon-to-be father, my imminent need for a stable career move and living environment for my son has brought me to the suburban paradise known as Markham, where I’ve come to cohabitate with one of these modern-minded dieters named Samantha.
Our “Roommate Agreement” (yes, we have one of those and I love it) states that in return for relatively low rent, I also have to do a few of the manlier chores around the house – her upstairs portion of it – as well as use my culinary prowess to cook some delicious gluten-free vegetarian meals at the end of my work shifts as a landscaper. Naturally, I welcomed the challenge and opportunity to diversify my cooking skills and add a few dozen more unique creations under my belt.
A few of these initial vegetarian dishes flopped in terms of flavour, with my reluctance to rely on spices to compensate for the lack of robust palate when cooking with meat. But over time I improved through my usual method of experimentation and standing on the shoulders of culinary giants when it comes to research. As I cooked and Sam supervised, we developed a good habit of debating (she’s a smart cookie, this one) and while I’ve offered in debate (perhaps, in defence of my meat-loving Newfoundland culture) that vegan and vegetarian lifestyles aren’t as eco-friendly as people think due to the amount of habitat loss needed for more farmland demands, she, in the end, convinced me that I was wrong – a feat many others haven’t been able to accomplish.
In time, I’ve come up with recipes involving grilled eggplant kebabs, pulled barbecued jackfruit burrito bowls and many more. But my personal favourite is a gluten-free vegetarian rice dish that is so good that even the staunchest carnivores will leave the table satisfied. The only problem was in naming the thing. For that, Sam piped in with…
Sam’s Favourite Veggies Rice
- 3 cups fully cooked rice, any kind
- 1 small eggplant, bias sliced
- 1/2 a zucchini, bias sliced
- 1/2 each of red, yellow and orange pepper, julienned
- 1.2 small apple, thinly sliced
- 2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup plum sauce
- 1/2 cup garlic butter
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- Prepare all ingredient mise en place. In a large wok, melt garlic butter on medium heat and increase to medium high.
- Add all vegetables/fruit ingredients and cook while stirring continuously for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add rice and all sauces. Continue to cook for approx. 8 to 10 minutes while gradually adding the apple juice every 2 or 3 minutes and gently stirring continuously.
- Cover and set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
- Serve with a side of your favourite sautéed vegetables.
Sam was extremely pleased with this dish and has given the recipe out to the vast majority of her vegetarian and gluten-free friends (there are an alarming number of these creatures). I myself must admit that it’s tasty in the extreme and quite satisfying… although my inner Newfoundland Chef thinks that it could be a lot better with some slivers of moose.
Until next time!
H. Keats – Gander, NL
Dear Food Dude,
I can’t say enough good things about your column. So I won’t on here. My question is about the udon noodles in your article this week. The broth was fantastic, beyond belief, and full of flavour but my noodles were sticky and clumped together an awful lot. Is there anything I could have done to prevent this? I LOVES Japanese food and wants to get better at making it at home.
Dear Mr. Keats,
Dude, my mom is a Keats, too. We could be related! I’m also from the Gander area so, yeah! Likely!
As for the compliments, much obliged! The noodles can get that way if they aren’t kneaded enough or are wetter than necessary. Adding a little dust of flour to your work surface could prevent that and help immensely. If you can get your hands on a little tapioca starch it’ll help out a lot, too. I can promise that.
Roxy Gillette – Toronto, Ontario.
Just wanted to say that I’ve been following your food column for a while now and I’m in love with your writing style and delicious recipes! Your photos can use a little work but it’s otherwise great material! I found out about your writing through a family friend out east who is a fan and I’ve been hooked ever since! Is there any chance I could convince you to publish something using Indian food? It’s my favourite! Cheers!
Roxy, Roxy, Roxy…
Thanks for being such a far-flung reader! I’m definitely not the best photographer in the world but I do try. Maybe someone will give me a good camera for Christmas or something and I can improve my skills! I love curries! And I’m good at them! So maybe. Keep watching and you’ll find out! ;) Cheers right back!
More from The Food Dude:
- Campground turns to battleground for proud chefs as they create the sloppiest of Joes
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- Terry Bursey plays a 'Game of Scones' to claim the 'Iron Grill'
- Childish creations like these marshmallows, Oreo crumb squares stand the test of time
Terry Bursey, otherwise known as the Food Dude, is a Newfoundland chef transplanted to Ontario who enjoys putting his mark on traditional recipes and inventing new tasty treats with unexpected ingredients.