Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Dirty (and Vegan) in the Dirty South

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Years ago, when I came out to my mother as a vegetarian, she replied, “But you don’t like vegetables.” She was partly correct. I just didn't care much for the vegetables I grew up with. But I’d begun to be exposed to a lot of new types of vegetarian food that I’d had no access to in my younger years. There were, however some dishes from my childhood that I found hard to give up and had to adjust to my new diet. Specifically, all those beans flavored with ham (which I now flavor with Liquid Smoke) and sweet potato casserole with marshmallows.

Another child of the South, Bianca Phillips, found herself in a similar predicament. And when she moved from being vegetarian to vegan, she faced the horror of giving up macaroni-and-cheese and ranch dressing, too. A good Southern girl simply cannot live without ranch dressing! And thus, Vegan Crunk was born, a food blog dedicated to demonstrating that you can still eat great Southern food (sometimes with a nice twist) without any animal products.

Now, Bianca’s got a cookbook so that you can make Southern and Southern-inspired vegan dishes at home. Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South includes Southern staples such as a vegan Ro-Tel dip and country-fried tempeh steak (as well as the aforementioned mac-and-cheese and ranch dressing) to Southernized versions of more international cuisine such as black-eyed pea hummus and a Southern fassolada.

Each recipe is accompanied by helpful notes, nutrition facts and charming stories about the dishes and their inspirations. She also includes a useful section at the beginning of the book to help you stock essentials for the vegan pantry as well as a note on the appropriate pronunciation of “pecan.”

There are a number of recipes that I plan to try very soon. At the top of the list is making homemade seitan, which I hope will be toddler-approved. I’m also considering this recipe for Nutty Mushroom Quinoa, which might be making its way to my husband’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner:

Nutty Mushroom Quinoa
makes 5 to 6 helpin’s

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa [rinsed]
½ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons white cooking wine
Ground pepper

Pour the broth into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and decrease the heat to low. Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly brownd and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Melt the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to cook down, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the sage, salt, and tarragon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Add the quinoa and pecans and mix well. Season with pepper to taste.

For a photo of the finished dish, visit the website.

Cookin’ Crunk: Eating Vegan in the Dirty South is published by Book Publishing Company (for those of you who know of it, it’s the publishing company associated with The Farm in Summertown) and is available via the Vegan Crunk website or on Amazon.com. Recipe republished with permission of the author.

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