Friday, February 26, 2010

Late February Romance, aka Brunch

We put off Valentines Day this year. Of course, C and I have never exactly been the kind to go all out over nationally prescribed holidays. We humbug most of them, actually, with two exceptions: Halloween and Thanksgiving. The former offers all the delights of drunken debauchery and inappropriate attire, and the latter gives us a good excuse to get our eat on--something we can rarely turn down. A V-day bug must have crawled under C's skin this year, though, because he gave me lots of warning--weeks and weeks, actually--to keep my schedule clear for February 24th. Knowing C, as I do, I was eventually able to figure out part of the plan and to decipher the motivating factor behind the selection of the date. A local community college was hosting a screening of Night of the Hunter that night, and the other plans sort of fell into place around it. I kept asking what I should be doing to contribute to the celebratory tone of the day, and he kept shrugging until we arrived at the perfect solution: brunch.

I'm pretty much down with any excuse to make a fussy meal, especially if it gives me the excuse to make from scratch ingredients that are easily available at the grocery store. I thought about this for a while, though. I contemplated coffee cakes and cinnamon rolls, pancakes made from unusual flours and filled with decadent nuts and chocolate, pastries filled with fruit and more chocolate, etc. Eventually I opted to steer clear of these sweeter options not for lack of sweet-tooth on either of our parts (though if you give him the opportunity, C will swear he doesn't really have one, ahem), but because we're both feeling like our pants are a little tighter right now than we like them to be. C blames all the beer we've been enjoying from breweries in the North Bay. Personally, I blame the multiple pints of Coffee Biscotti Hempmilk ice cream that we couldn't stop eating all through January. And there was an apple pie. And pistachio muffins. And cornbread laced with caramelized onions. And Black Forest cake. And. And. And. And now it has to stop. Well, mostly. For a little while.

I decided to make the Tofu Benny from Vegan Brunch. I'd made it once before, so to make it a bit more interesting this time I decided to make my own English muffins. The process of doing this raised many questions about the difference between an English muffin and a crumpet. They're pretty similar, right? Crumpets are slimmer, I think. In any case, the muffins were really fun to make, just like Isa said they would be, and something I'm definitely going to make again. You knead up a basic bread dough, let it rise, cut out the muffins, and lightly fry them before baking. C has a thing about buttering breadly things and dipping them into a bit of coffee (invariably stolen from my cup!), and these fit the bill quite nicely. The bennies themselves are lovely little stacks composed of half a toasted muffin, and slice of tomato sprinkled with black salt and liquid smoke, a slice of (marinated and fried) tofu, veganized hollandaise sauce, and herb garnish. I served them with steamed asparagus, grapefruit, and coffee.

I made the sauce the evening before and marinated the tofu overnight. (One of the side benefits to making my own muffins is that I was able to choose a drinking glass roughly the diameter of the tomatoes I planned to use and cut out the tofu and the muffins to match! No more tomato slopping over the side of the tofu or other such mismatching disgruntlements.) In the morning, I kneaded up the muffin dough and let it rise while we ran to the gym (see above disclaimer involving hempmilk ice cream). When we got back, I kneaded it a bit more while I heated up the oven and a griddle. After that, everything came together very quickly. We followed brunch up with a few episodes of Lost, dinner at Seed, a few beers at a dude-tastic Belgian brewery, and
the aforementioned film screening. I would be remiss, however, not to mention the V-day gift C got me: truffles! I had been whining incessantly about a place downtown that advertises "All Dark Chocolate Truffles" which are, nevertheless (and to my incredible disappointment), NOT vegan. He assures me, though, that even before this happened, he had ordered me some from Lagusta's Luscious. The sea-salt truffles, in particular, make my head explode. He also got me some salt and pink peppercorn chocolates in an anatomical shape. (!) Quite an excellent date day.

As I write this, only one muffin remains for my lunch. When it's gone, we've promised ourselves to stay off flour for a little while, maybe a few weeks. That's okay, though, since I'm already contemplating more veggie-centric dishes and have some serious plans for when our CSA subscription finally comes through.

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