Lowcountry Vegan

I am neither a South Carolinian nor a vegan.

Monday morning I received an email from an acquaintance who had accidentally purchased an eighth of a cow and was looking for people to split it with given her limited freezer space. The cow in question came from Grimaldi Farms, a grass-fed, free-range, organic farm in the Hudson Valley. How could I say no?

Seven hours later, Marissa and I met up for a drink and a cash-for-cow exchange. My $50 bought me a whole lot of meat. Three pounds of ground beef and a giant hunk of bone went into the freezer for a future use. Last night I tried my hand at beef liver–a dish I’d never actually eaten before. I soaked the liver in milk and pan-fried it with a light dusting of flour mixed with salt and pepper. Oumar and I ate it with a red onion jam, arugula in a lemon dressing and pillowy egg tagliardi with a pan sauce that included butter, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and lemon zest.

This was good stuff, to be sure. But a rich, restaurant-style dinner (and, possibly, the after-dinner bourbon) took its toll. I have 24 hours to regain my strength. My cow share also included half of a five-pound top round roast. Rather than divvy it up, we decided to have dinner together. Tomorrow night Maureen, Kevin, Sara and I will be tucking into pot roast.

So tonight it’s a lowcountry vegan meal for me.

Grits with Shiitake-Seitan Gravy and Braised Collards

  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced and 1 minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves sliced
  • smoked salt
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (While not necessary, this will really boost the flavor. And it makes a great popcorn topping.)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) seitan, torn into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil in a small pot, lower the temperature to medium, and add the grits. Whisk constantly for a few minutes until the mixtures starts to thicken. Lower the temperature until you achieve a very slow simmer. Whisk occasionally for the next 45 minutes or so. When the grits are done, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute onions until they are soft and beginning to brown. Add red pepper flakes and the sliced garlic and cook stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in the collards, some pepper, a good pinch of smoked salt, and 1/2 cup water. Let simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding water if it starts to dry out.
  3. Bring two cups of water to a boil and pour over the dried mushrooms in a small bowl. When they have softened, remove the mushrooms and chop them, being sure to retain the mushroom broth.
  4. Add the coconut oil to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic. After 30 seconds, add the flour and whisk constantly for two or three minutes until the mixture takes on a pale blonde color. (Look, you made a roux!) Add the liquid from the mushrooms and whisk constantly. After a few minutes, your gravy should thicken. (Ah, the wonders of a roux.) Stir in the mushrooms and nutritional yeast. From here, you can add water as needed to keep the gravy from getting too thick. Add salt, pepper and the hot sauce(s) of your choice. I used Frank’s, Tabasco and Matouk’s Calypso Hot Sauce, which has been one of my obsessions since I discovered it while vacationing in the Bahamas a couple of years ago. Cook for a few more minutes and your sauce should start to darken. Stir the seitan (which is fully cooked) in for the last minute or so. Add the parsley off the heat.

Grits with Shiitake Seitan Gravy and Braised Collards

This recipe makes enough for two people. I just polished off half of it to steel myself for tonight’s birthday party. Given that the festivities are at a dive bar walking distance from my house, I imagine the second half will make an excellent breakfast.

Happy Rich, Seitan and Skiitake Stir-Fry

This is a big week. CSA season started and the teenage vegan is making her annual pilgrimage to New York. Rather than camp out on an air bed in my living room, my baby sister will be interning with the Powerhouse Theater for six weeks and, much to my delight, bunking in my old dorm. She was scheduled to fly into LaGuardia at 3:00 this afternoon. It is now after 8:00pm and her flight to White Plains (yes, White Plains) has yet to depart. This is Eliana and the plane that may or may not bring her to New York tonight. 

Eliana and the Plane

I had planned a lovely vegan dinner for two. Alas, it looks like I will be dining alone.

Happy Rich, Seitan and Shiitake Stir-Fry

  • 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon corn, canola or peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3-4 small cloves)
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 15 or so sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 small onion, halved and cute pole to pole
  • 1 small bunch Happy Rich (shoutout to Windflower Farm and Prospect Park CSA!), broccolini, Chinese broccoli or other sturdy greenery, chopped
  • 8 ounces seitan (which, incidentally, freezes brilliantly)
  • 1/2 tablespoon concentrated vegetable stock (If you have remembered to replace the tamari you used up last week, you could probably use that instead.)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • parsley (optional)
  • 1 cup brown Jasmine rice or whatever else tickles your fancy, cooked
  1. Boil a little water, pour it over the shiitakes and let stand while you get your rice going.
  2. Bring a wok or large heavy-bottomed skillet up to medium-low temperature with the vegetable oil, chili oil, garlic, ginger and sichuan peppercorns. (I might recommend crushing the peppercorns up a bit, which I did not.) Once your pan starts sizzling and from then on, be sure to stir almost continuously. Cook for a couple of minutes until the oil is infused, add the onion, crank up the heat to medium high, and stir-fry until the onion starts to brown around the edges. Add the Happy Rich and cook until just starting to go limp. Toss in the seitan.
  3. Add the vegetable stock or tamari, rice wine vinegar and the shiitakes with their liquid. Cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two until the liquid has boiled off.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil and some fresh flat-leaf parsley if you happen to have some languishing in the fridge.

Happy Rich, Seitan and Shiitake Stir-Fry

Polish off half of this with the remainder of the surprisingly full-bodied Pinot Gris you’ve been nursing all week. Pack the rest in a recycled takeout container to present to the teenage vegan–if and when she arrives.