Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

And we’re back. Apologies for the radio silence from my post in the foggy folds of the veganoid blogosphere. As much as I would like to report that I had been dashed off to Europe by someone tall, dark, and fully willing to co-sign a mortgage or dethroning Bobby Flay in the Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium, the reality is a little less fanciful. No, I wasn’t gorging myself on chicken-fried steak and milkshakes. Truth be told, it was simply another writerly existential crises so endemic amongst us keyboard clackers. Snore. 

A lot has happened in the past couple of months. Only moderately notable in the jet-setting hip-hop video that is the bejeweled existence of the modern freelance writer is that I’ve moved to a new apartment. With no air-conditioning. Those Canadians who live outside of southern Ontario may scoff at this. I too used it as little as possible. I’ve sort of got the carbon footprint version of body dysmorphic disorder: I think it’s way bigger than it actually is. But before you lob a Birkenstock in my general direction, anyone who has spent any length of time in this part of the country is well aware of how chokingly humid it can be in July --  a two-minute walk to the corner store and you look like you’ve been hosed down with a Super Soaker. 

Notwithstanding, a girl’s gotta eat. These are the summertime salad days of North America, and nothing turns me off a hot stove like 89% humidity in a kitchen where the fruit flies are, I swear, two weeks away from growing opposable thumbs in their evolutionary odyssey. (Note: Here’s hoping my searing hatred of fruit flies doesn’t damage my vegan cred.)

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine turned me onto edamame, which are essentially soybeans. As with many, my first experience in eating them was in a Japanese restaurant, where they were served steamed, salted and still in their pods, which you ceremoniously stick in your mouth and suck out the beans. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Lindsay, edamame is sooooo 600 B.C. (according to Google Scholar, they’ve been popular in most East Asian diets since then)! So sue me, domesticated edamame’s been rocking tabletops since the Zhou Dynasty. But with good reason; beside its glorious flavour, it’s high in protein, Omega-3’s and -6’s, iron and calcium. 

Like just about anything, edamame is best consumed fresh. It has a nutty, smooth flavour, perhaps a bit creamier than fresh peas. However, you can also find them, both podded and shelled, in the frozen food aisle. Here I’ve combined it in a simple recipe with some seasoning, fresh basil and some artichoke hearts to make a sandwich spread with a little more zap than tired old Tofurkey deli slices. I squeeze mine between crusty bread with cucumber, tomatoes and sprouts, but it also works well as a poolside appetizer on crackers or as an inspired veggie dip. 

Edamame Sandwich Spread 

2 cups shelled edamame, frozen or fresh

2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced 

4-5 artichoke hearts, minced (canned is fine, but go for those packed in water)

2 tbsp fresh basil, minced (or cilantro if you prefer)

The juice of half a lemon (1-2 tbsp)

2 tsp olive oil 

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Boil the edamame for five minutes in boiling, salted water, or until slightly tender. If you’re feeling sassy, you can skip this step – though eating raw edamame tastes best when you’re using fresh beans. However, your spread will be a little chunkier and pack a bit more zip than the cooked version.

2. In a food processor or in a medium bowl with a hand blender, combine the edamame, garlic, artichoke hearts and basil (or cilantro) until fairly smooth – if you want a chunkier spread, ease up a little. 

3. By hand, mix in the lemon juice and olive oil and mix until combined. If it’s running a bit thick or pasty for you, add a touch of water. 

4. Season with several shakes of salt and pepper, to your taste. 

5. Enjoy with crackers, veggies or nestled between your favourite artisanal bakery bread.