The Sexy….Vegan?

I’ve been particularly lucky I guess when it comes to vegans. Generally you hear what I can only presume are stereotypes of horror stories of interactions with vegans; that they’re preachy, that they make it impossible for you to feed them or take them out to a restaurant, that they’ll spend all their time and energy trying to “convert” you. I’ve hung out with two different vegans in my adult life, once involving a wedding weekend, and I had none of those experiences. Both vegans accepted that the world around them was filled with those who ate meat and made no fuss about it, the one that was part of the wedding weekend ate two meals out that I was there for and skillfully navigated the menus causing no drama for the restaurant or her fellow diners, and both were a lot of fun to be around and in no way let being vegan be the thing that defined them. I liked them both a lot, (I shouldn’t use the past tense, it’s not like they’re dead or something. I like them both a lot, we should totally hang out sometime.) and I find myself liking Brian Patton too.

There’s really a lot for me to like. Patton is the author of “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude”. In the introduction he chronicles how he kind of stumbled into becoming a cook and then sort of tripped into becoming vegan. It’s a story that I think most of us, or at least certainly I, could empathize with. Although now a vegan, Patton never gets preachy or lays on a big sales pitch for the vegan life style. Part of that may be because if you’re holding a book called “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook” a presumption is made, but regardless, as a non-vegan, I appreciated not being given the full on Bermuda time share sales pitch. But much like my vegan friends I discussed at the introduction to this article, what I like best about Patton is that the fact that he, and his cookbook, is that vegan is not what defines them.

So if Patton, aka The Sexy Vegan, isn’t just a vegan, what the heck is there? Well, he’s very funny, obviously a geek, prone to swearing, loves food, is a fan of Sailor Jerry rum…..honestly, if the guy could just cook me a steak from time to time my marriage could have been in trouble. I mean he has a recipe, Sailor’s Oatmeal with Glazed Walnuts. This is oatmeal featuring a syrup made from Sailor Jerry rum. Oatmeal with rum! Rum in a breakfast food. ARE YOU LISTENING PEOPLE! Cough, cough, ahem….where was I?

“The Sexy Vegan Cookbook” is loaded with laugh out loud recipe titles and/or notes. How about the salad recipe called, The Girlfriend’s Favorite Salad that She Constantly Asks Me to Make and Won’t Shut the Hell Up About? Or the notes for his recipe for Minestrone are “This is my favorite soup on the planet. The key to this one is the cabbage. You may be like, ‘Waahhh, waahhh, waahhh, I don’t like cabbage! I’m a big baby! Waaaahhhh!’ Well, I don’t give a shit! You’ll use it, and you’ll like it.”?

I mean, they asked him to do a book trailer and this is what he came up with……

Okay Rebecca we get it, the dude is funny, he makes oatmeal with rum syrup (OATMEAL WITH RUM!), he’s you’re new BFF, but we’re not vegans, we don’t intend on becoming vegans, why on earth should we pick up this book? If you like food, and trying different kinds of food, picking up the occasional vegetarian and/or vegan cookbook is a great way to try new ingredients and methods that you may have never thought of before. Remember back to the Cranberry Solstice Cookies, we picked that recipe because we had never tried using tofu in a cookie before. Of course even those who claim to despise anything vegetable, probably could have interest in the awesome looking salsa, pico de gallo, or homemade refried beans recipes in here. Did I also mention there was this oatmeal recipe that had a rum syrup? Also, don’t tell Brian Patton, but you can also substitute non-vegan things into the recipes. For instance, he’s got an Avocado Toast recipe that calls for Tempeh Bacon…….I might consider using turkey bacon. And that’s why he’s got the girlfriend nagging him for the salad, and I’ve the husband I nag about playing more Saint’s Row the Third. (Which by the way, who’s with on it not being as good as Saint’s Row 2?)

Now if you’re a vegan, I suspect you’ve got to find a way to fill that meat void, nutritionally and flavor wise. Thusly you end up with many recipes that have things trying to be meat-like, and that’s cool with me. However, I’m not a vegan, I’m not even a vegetarian, so I tend to appreciate a good vegan recipe that doesn’t try to pretend to meaty, it just uses vegetables to their best purposes. To that end, Patton’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe really stood out. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but New World Library was nice enough to give me permission to share it with all of you! I hope you guys like it! If any of you try it, let me know how it turned out!

Shepherd’s Pie

This is for those blustery winter eves, when you come in from the cold, kick off your snow boots, and have your dinner while warming your feet by the crackling fire. I don’t have winter in Southern California, so I just sit at my table as usual. If I could figure out how to turn on my gas fireplace with the fake logs, I’d at least do that…but that has proven difficult thus far.

Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced fennel
2 cups roughly chopped cremini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
w cup green lentils
2 cup vegan dark beer
12 cups vegetable stock, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce**
4 cup frozen peas
Mashed Taters (see recipe below)
2 pinches paprika

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large pot or pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, mushrooms, garlic, and a healthy pinch of salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the veggies are soft. Next, stir in the lentils, add the beer, and let simmer for about 3 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock and Worcestershire, bring to a simmer, and cover. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Check it from time to time to make sure that the liquid hasn’t evaporated. If, when you check it, the lentils are no longer covered by liquid, add a little more stock.

When the lentils are soft, you’re good to go. Turn off the heat, and with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, mash the lentil mixture a little bit. Not into complete mush, just until the liquid thickens. Finally, stir in the peas, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the stew to a large casserole dish, and evenly spread the mashed taters over the top. Cover with foil, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the taters are warmed through. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top with the paprika, and broil on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned. Let stand 5 minutes, then serve.

**WTF is not vegan about Worcestershire sauce? Believe it or not, it’s made with anchovies. There are, however, a few fantastic vegan versions out there. You can find vegan Worcestershire sauce at a natural foods market or on the interwebs.

New World Library Editorial Director Georgia Hughes w/ Shepherd's Pie!

Mashed Taters

Serves 4

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
w cup unsweetened nondairy milk
4 cup vegan margarine, melted
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Turn the heat to high, and boil until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, shake them dry, and return them to the hot pot. Place the pot back on the stove over low heat for 1 minute (this will help further dry out the potatoes).

Excerpted from the book The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude ©2012 by Brian Patton. Published with permission of New World Library