Monday, November 19, 2012

A Birthday Dinner

With the pizza long gone, it was time to try the Grilled Seitan Caponata with Lemon Pilaf from The Sexy Vegan Cookbook.

Let me start by saying that I began this recipe on Tuesday so that it would be ready Thursday night. Brian Patton says upfront that the dish is "quite a production," and he wasn't kidding. This recipe requires 5 recipes from the book. I cheated just a little though. I had seitan cutlets from American Vegan Kitchen in my freezer, so I used those.

On Tuesday morning I took said cutlets from the freezer to thaw, since I'll need to marinate them for 1-4 hours. I also soaked the beans, salted the eggplant, and roasted the tomatoes. I made the Tomato Killer, which is the sauce that forms the base of the Caponata, cooked the beans, and made the Caponata that night. It took forever with all the chopping and simmering. I did this in part to save time Thursday, but also to make pizza for dinner, which I'll write about later.

On Wednesday, I marinated the seitan, and I made the dessert, which you'll hear more about later.

Finally, on Thursday, I grilled the seitan, made the pilaf, and put the whole thing together.

It's not necessary to begin so far in advance, but there is a lot of down time that makes this impractical without planning ahead. This is definitely a Sunday dinner scenario, where you have the whole day to roast, and soak, and salt, and wait. Also, I was working late on Thursday, so I knew I couldn't come home and try to put together a smashing dinner in record time. Even still, I put way more time into this meal than I have into any in a long time. So was it worth it?

I know that having to make a bunch of recipes from one book to make a single dish is a sticking point for a lot reviewers. I always grumble at first when I see that, but it's not so bad. In fact, making stuff from scratch is one of the real joys of cooking. You can exercise some serious quality control that way.

In this case, I have mixed feelings.

I do like the Caponata. It's all veggie and it you can't help but feeling you're getting a better nutritional experience than you might be with plain old marinara, which is the suggested substitute if you're feeling lazy. Plus, the texture really adds a lot in terms of making it feel like a full meal.

The Lemon Pilaf was bright and zesty. I liked the contrast with the heavier tomato flavor of the sauce. However, I wish I would have made this dish in the early spring or late summer. The veggies make more sense during those times, and the flavors just make more sense then.

Like I said earlier, the seitan was from another book, but I don't think that was a problem. I should have grilled it in my new George Foreman rather than laz-ing out and pan cooking it, so that it would have been crisper. I know that's user error, but one recipe complaint that I have is that it was too lemony. In the future, I'd reduce the amount of lemon juice by half in the marinade.

So in the end, this dish didn't knock my socks off as I'd hoped, but it was pretty good. I can't say that I'd make it this way again as it was so involved, but it might be interesting to play around in order to come up with a simpler, more flavorful version.