The Virtual Potluck: Almost Meatless Goes Meatless

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Today is a special day in the short life of my blog. I have been honored with an invitation to a potluck. For today’s big spread, I am linked to 30 of the most interesting, diverse food bloggers, all for a common cause. In the virtual world, all of us are making a recipe from the book  Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet (Ten Speed Press, 2009;$22.50. ISBN: 1-58008-961-5) by Joy Manning and Tara Matazara Desmond. (check out Tara’s blog at http://crumbsonmykeyboard.com/) It’s a wonderful book for the meat-lovers among you, one whose message is not really all that far from my own.

Eat less meat.

OK, I just skip it altogether, but these creative cooks have put their minds to cutting the amount of meat in familiar dishes, often by adding more healthful plant foods. So, you might wonder, am I adding a little meat to the robincooksveg message?

Nope. To participate, and to honor the book in all it’s glory, I picked a recipe that had chicken in it, and used tofu. So, in a sense, we are stretching the tofu, in this case, with antioxidant rich cauliflower. This recipe intrigued me from the first time I read through the book. Tara is a great friend and colleague, and of course, when her first book arrived, I wanted to soak up all that energy, and of course, steal her ideas! (just kidding!) This is the kind of food that I make for meat-loving clients, with just enough meat to satisfy that craving, and lots of plants to fill them up.

There were a few things that jumped out in the dish that grabbed my interest. First, the cauliflower is tossed with curry powder and roasted, making it gloriously yellow. I immediately thought that tofu would be really tasty done in the same way-even before she asked me to potluck.

Secondly, it was interesting to me that there were raisins and cashews in the salad, something that I love to do. Lastly, I just really craved a tasty salad in a sandwich on a hot day. So the dish was perfect for me to make.

When I got into it, I decided to cut the tofu in very small cubes, about 1/3 inch pieces, so that I could roast them on a separate pan for the same amount of time as the cauliflower. I also decided to take the curry powder that was intended for the dressing and put it on the tofu, so it would be as colorful as the cauliflower. Once I got going, I decided to just go all the way vegan, (and lazy) and use Vegenaise vegan mayo instead of making the amazing handmade one in the recipe.  It was really tasty, although the Chinese curry powder I used was not as yellow as it was ocher, so I put a little pinch of turmeric in to give it a little highlighting.

Then I knew I needed a really good bread, so I picked up a loaf of artisanal whole wheat sourdough from Rustica Bakery in Minneapolis.

Thanks, Joy, Tara and all my virtual potluck companions, for introducing me to this delicious sandwich. It’s a keeper!

Chicken and Curried Cauliflower Salad Sandwiches (reprinted courtesy of Ten Speed Press)

Chicken salad can be boring. our version adds bold spices and crunchy nuts to the sometimes bland sandwich spread. Cauliflower complements the chicken, making this dish rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins a, B, and e, but it also adds a welcome nutty, roasted flavor and interesting texture. salty cashews and plump golden raisins balance out the flavors.

Serves 4 to 6

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into 2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil

1 teaspoon hot curry powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black  pepper

1 (1-pound) bone-in, skin-on chicken breast (12 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed, 1/3 inch cubes)

mayonnaise (I used 1/2 cup Vegenaise, added the pinch of turmeric, skipped to adding the cashews and raisins)

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 grinds black pepper

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/2 cup canola oil

2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced very thin

1/2 teaspoon hot curry powder

2 tablespoons grated onion

1/3 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup golden raisins

Toasted slices rye, pumpernickel, or other brown bread

To prepare the cauliflower and chicken, arrange 2 racks in the oven and preheat to 400°F.  Toss the cauliflower with the 1 tablespoon oil, (2 teaspoons) curry powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in a glass baking dish.  (Cube tofu in 1/3 inch cubes, put on another sheet pan, and toss with 2 teaspoons oil and the 1/2 teaspoon curry powder from the dressing, roast with the cauliflower.) Put the chicken in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer both to the oven, one on each rack. Roast the cauliflower for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Let the chicken roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes (30 to

35 minutes total), until a meat thermometer registers 160°F. Remove from the oven and cool.

To make the mayonnaise, whisk the egg yolk with the vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard in a bowl. When well combined, begin adding the oil very slowly, a few drops at a time, until about a quarter of the oil has formed a smooth emulsion with the yolk. Add the remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. To this half-cup of basic mayo, add the scallions, curry powder, and the grated onion. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed, and refrigerate until ready to use.(Stir a pinch of turmeric into half a cup of vegan mayo)

To prepare and serve the salad, when the chicken is cool, remove and discard the skin, cut the meat from the bone, and dice it into 1/2-inch pieces. give the cauliflower a rough chop so the pieces are no more than 1/2 inch. In a large bowl, combine the chicken (tofu), cauliflower, mayo, cashews, and raisins and toss until well mixed. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or curry if you like.

Scoop the salad onto toasted bread and enjoy.

Tip: When making the mayo, pouring the oil from a measuring cup with a spout or squeeze bottle makes it easier to control the flow.

curry-roasted and golden cauliflower

curry-roasted and golden cauliflower

curry-tofu cubes, instead of chicken

curry-tofu cubes, instead of chicken

Add crunchy cashews and raisins!

Add crunchy cashews and raisins!

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