Friday, June 12, 2009

think VEGETARIAN for dad's day

The St. Catharines Standard - Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A plant-based diet might not be deemed as the most manly for Father's Day, with thoughts of simple salads, dainty tofu quiches and chilled tomato gazpacho. Instead, a thick-cut slab of Man-Certified rib eye with a slow baked potato on the side, slathered with sour cream and pad of butter, seems to be the menu that comes to mind.

Add to that a barbecue, patio set, sausages and cream-laden salads, and it sounds like you have the typical Father's Day (June 21) feast. Although everything in moderation is fine, this special day spread might also just be a precursor of what is to come in these summer months: heavy, meat-laden meals.

Veganism, on the other hand, is often assumed as the antithesis of masculinity; the dietary choice touted for those with less testosterone. But these gender generalizations are as ancient as assuming that vegans nosh on carrots all day. Just ask Kansas City Chiefs' tight-end Tony Gonzalez; professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Ultra Marathon winner Brendan Brazier; Atlanta Hawks' Salim Stoudamire; or Mac Danzig, winner of The Ultimate Fighter. Yep, all vegans.

When thinking of plantbased cuisine that would appeal to the y-chromosome, hearty stews and chilies are the first things that come to mind. But these heavy meals - ones that heat up our kitchens during the summer months - aren't perhaps our dinner of choice once June rolls around. The answer isn't tossing vegan meals aside for half the year; instead, it lay in finding a way to please those pickier palates.

Given that, opting for a plant-based diet - at least a few times a week - has its benefits. In addition to animal rights and environmental concerns, health is a No. 1 issue. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, for example, followed half a million individuals for 10 years, finding those who consumed red meat had an approximate 33 per cent increase in early death, along with up to 50 per cent increased risk in heart disease and cancer. Conversely, those who didn't consume red meat had a decreased risk.

Not only that, many plantbased foods also contain vital nutrients designed with the man in mind. In North America, 220,000 men are diagnosed each year with prostate cancer; 34,000 of those men die from the disease. Foods rich in animal fats have been shown to increase the risk, whereas studies have indicated foods such as soy products, garlic and almonds decrease the risk.

Alas, convincing your meat and potatoes partner that you're going to celebrate his holiday animal-free might not result in the most enthusiastic of replies. But a little magic acronym known as the BBQ is sure to ignite his digestive juices.

Yes, firing up the grill will not only spark any man's appetite, but also your creativity. We're accustomed to grilling our favourite meats and kabobs, but it's time to think outside that basic barbecuing box: salads, meat-free mains and side dishes seared to perfection. And while you're busy manning the barbecue (no pun intended), the kids can whip up a two-minute dessert for daddy dearest.

And if it doesn't fly (although I am sure it will), then hand him a Guinness and call me over for dinner.

Laurie Sadowski, one of our rotating team of food writers, is a St. Catharines resident with a passion for food, fitness and helping others. Her cookbook is called Mission in the Kitchen, and she is editorial director of,an eco-lifestyle community. She can be reached at or

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Using colourful peppers results in a taste reminiscent of homemade roasted red peppers. The stuffing is delicious on its own, perfect as a side dish or mixed with greens for an impromptu salad.

4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (50 g) almonds, walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (60 g) dry brown basmati rice (or other rice)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups (425 ml) water
3 green onions, chopped
2/3 cup (90 g) sliced cherry tomatoes
handful of fresh basil
handful of fresh parsley
4 x 1 m (100 cm each) kitchen string, for securing peppers (if you don't have kitchen string, hemp string soaked in water works perfectly)

Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the nuts, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Add the rice, and continue to stir, until grains are glossy. Stir in the garlic, cooking for about 30 seconds more. Add the water and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35 to 45 minutes, until water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, prepare the peppers. Cut around the stalk of the pepper, setting aside for later. Make one slit down the length of the pepper and open gently. Remove any seeds and membrane. Repeat with other peppers.

When rice is finished cooking, remove from heat, cool slightly, and stir in green onions, cherry tomatoes, basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon some stuffing into each pepper, careful not to overfill. Take string and wrap around the centre about three times, tying the pepper securely. There should be string left over on each end. Top with the stalk, then tie in the other direction, securing the filling. You want to ensure the filling doesn't fall out - no matter how you end up tying it. Repeat with other peppers.
Preheat the barbecue to medium heat. Place peppers on grill for about 20 minutes, turning frequently so they are evenly browned. If they char - no problem, just slip off the skin; the pepper will still taste fabulous. You can also grill them on foil if you prefer.
Serves four

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This Swedish dish takes its name from Hasselbacken, the Stockholm restaurant where the original -- with baking potatoes -- was served. If you don't wrap them and bake them at 400°F (200°C) in the oven, they get a nice crispy texture, instead.

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp. (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, sliced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
grill-worthy aluminum foil

Preheat one side of the barbecue to medium heat. Leave the other side off. Make several slits in the potatoes (about 15 to 20). Mix together olive oil and crushed garlic, drizzle in the potatoes. Top with onions and thyme, making sure to get into the slits. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Wrap each potato in aluminum foil. Place potatoes on cool side of the barbecue and close the lid. Let roast approximately 35 minutes. They will be soft and bottoms will be slightly caramelized. Top with Pseudo-Sour Cream.

Serves four

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After pureeing the tofu, add salt and lemon juice to taste. After a few hours in the fridge, the flavours will mellow with the onions. Chives are a great addition, too.

1 (10.5-ounce) package of lite firm silken tofu (I recommend Mori-Nu)
2 -4 tsp. (10-20 ml)lemon juice (fresh is best)
2 green onions, finely chopped
sea salt to taste

In a blender or food processor, whizz the tofu until smooth. Add half the lemon juice and a few pinches of salt. Add the green onions. Add additional lemon and salt to taste.

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With romaine currently growing locally, this is the perfect time to enjoy this grilled variation of a longtime favourite - vegan style.

For the dressing:

2 Tbsp. (30 g) ground almonds
2-4 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 Tbsp. (37g) nutritional yeast 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) tamari
juice of 1 small lemon
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) grainy mustard
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) non-dairy milk or water
fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the salad:

1 head romaine lettuce, cut in half length wise
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients, and puree until smooth. If possible, chill for at least two to three hours before serving. Thin with additional non-dairy milk as needed. medium-high heat. Brush cut side of romaine with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place romaine on grill, season the other side with salt and pepper, and grill until its outer leaves are wilted and lettuce is tender.

You can either roughly chop the lettuce and toss with the dressing, or serve family-style, placing both romaine halves face up in a shallow bowl, and drizzle with dressing.

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You'd never think that popping a few bananas in the freezer would result in an ice-cream-like indulgence. And to correspond with the patience that dad will have while he awaits his Dad's Day Dessert, it'll be done in a snap. The dates give a sweet taste akin to smooth caramel, while the pecans add an extra crunch.

4 overripe bananas, peeled, cut in three pieces each, and frozen*
3/4 tsp. (4 g) ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (125 ml) honey dates, chopped
1/3 cup (30 g) pecans, chopped

Toss bananas in food processor with cinnamon. Let sit about five minutes, until lightly thawed, and whiz until smooth. Stir in dates and pecans. Serve immediately. (If it gets too soft, you can put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.)

*Using overripe bananas adds extra sweetness to the end result.

Serves four

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