Sometimes, your friends have a new, awesome Friend that you haven’t met yet. This Friend is talked up as the funniest/daringest/best-looking/most-traveled person around, and your friends insist you just have to meet them. So one thing leads to another and a dinner party or kickball game or whatever the kids do these days is arranged, and you finally meet The Friend. But after small talk falls flat, or maybe The Friend rudely snatched the last Pretty Things brew from the fridge, or maybe they just aren’t as good-looking as promised, you’re left wondering what do they see in this Friend? Well, it turns out that I met one of those friends in this fourth installment of Hello, Stranger.
Who failed to meet expectations in this latest round of experimentation with foods I’ve never eaten or prepared myself?
Hemp milk. That’s right – despite all the praise heaped on help milk by other nutrition nerds I know, this just didn’t cut it for me.
Now, I like non-cow milks, don’t get me wrong. And I’m all for foods can boast about their omega fatty acid profiles. So I gave hemp milk several chances to win me over: I bought unsweetened, plain (sweetened), and vanilla, and tried each with my regular cereal, in oatmeal, in chia seed pudding, and straight from the glass. But in every incarnation, this stuff tasted like pressed facial powder (see: Cover Girl or similar), and I just couldn’t get past it. I might be tempted to give it one more go in a smoothie, like this chocolate banana one from The Naked Dish, but it would take a lot of convincing (and a big sale/coupon).
But thankfully, a few tastier foods were also invited to this meet & greet. Follow after the jump to strike up some small talk.
Mung beans. Like most legumes, mung beans are nutritional rockstars: lots of vitamins, several minerals, a big dose of fiber, and lots of plant-derived protein. They’re relatively small beans, apparently cultivated and used in a lot of Southeast Asian cooking.
So probably not a surprise, then, that I found a lot of recipes originating from India that use these little green guys. As luck would have it, this worked in support of the “my vegetarianism won’t totally ruin your life” pledge I made to Mr. Eating The Week. He loves Indian cuisine, so I’ve been hoping to get more proficient at cooking flavor-rich Indian vegetarian foods. I rehydrated some dried sprouted beans for a mung dal with coconut and apples from the New York Times, and it was great. The beans have a pleasantly firm texture and a rich flavor, while the coconut and basmati rice (I added the latter) provided smooth sweetness.
Interested in more mung? This tangy mung bean salad on Food & Wine’s site is intriguing (provided I can figure out what the heck I’d do with the remainder of a bottle of pomegranate molasses).
Rice pasta. If your gut wants gluten to get lost, you probably know the catalog of rice-based products like the back of your hand. But I’m not gluten intolerant, so while I’ve had a lot of rice noodles in Asian dishes, I’ve never tried the rice-based versions of typical Italian pastas.
Rice pasta is a snap to use the same way you would wheat-based dry pasta, and I think (although I was too lazy to verify) that it cooked up a little quicker. I used a package of rice pasta spirals as a foundation for a fridge-clearing dish that included kale, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, capers, and onions. The result was almost indistinguishable from similar meals made with wheat pasta.
For a slightly fancier (and probably tastier!) version of what I made, check out Gluten Free Goddess’s brown-rice penne arrabiata recipe here.
Seitan. On the other end of the spectrum from rice pasta, this stuff would be a celiac disease patient’s nightmare, because seitan is basically condensed wheat gluten. But if you’re gluten tolerant and looking for a non-soy meat replacer, seitan may be for you.
After my initial flashback to anatomy & physiology lab (I’ll spare you the truly gory details, but it relates to a dissection during study of the CNS), I decided to rework the Italian sausage, broccolini and grapes recipe that I featured way back in Fruits & Veggies week. I mixed up fennel seeds and other spices typically used in Italian sausage, added them to the pan, and voila! I found the seitan tasted only moderately wheat-y, and carried the Italian seasoning flavors pretty well.
For another take on seitan, I’d also like to give a pot pie – like this one from Parsnips A’Plenty – a try at some point.
I’d fully intended to post the recipe for the seitan, broccolini and grapes dish below, but then left my hand-written notes somewhere I can’t recall. So once I figure out the spice measurements again, I’ll post that below. In the meantime, please entertain yourself with links to the first, second and third posts in my Hello Stranger series.