Onto the last entry for Vegan Mofo. It’s been a lot of fun and definitely a motivator for Kev and I to keep the blog updated. We’ll try not to let the momentum die off, keeping these updates coming often.

Recently a vegetarian friend of mine, who has been on a long quest for a good alternative to bacon, passed on a recipe for shiitake mushroom “bacon” that she had picked up from a graduate from the Natural Gourmet Institute. I was a bit skeptical when she told me it only involved salt, olive oil and shiitakes. No liquid smoke?? Well, after a quick search on the google I found this recipe and instructional video from a chef at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Perfect. I made the bacon, following the instructions on the site. I had to cook a bit longer (about an hour) and could have actually gone a bit longer, as the crispier pieces came out more bacon like. Here are the shiitakes before and after baconizing:

I wouldn’t say you are going to fool an omnivore with this recipe, but no doubt, the “bacon” has an awesome salty and savory flavor, with a greasy touch that makes for a good substitute. There’s even a bit of smokeyness in the pieces that got a little blackened. Extremely flavorful and relatively simple.

I had some Brussels sprouts leftover from the harvest that I had stored in the freezer, which seemed like a good match for the bacon. I also had a bottle of Leffe Blond in the fridge (purchased with a friend on a 4 am drunken stroll through Manhattan last weekend, after closing The Ginger Man), so I decided to braise the thawed sprouts in 1/2 cup of Leffe Blond for about 10 minutes (avoid overcooking), then sprinkled them with some smoked salt and smoked black pepper.

Most of the beer was absorbed by the sprouts, which gave them a caramelized sweetness. This sweetness complimented the salty “bacon” perfectly.

To round out the meal, I decided to make quinoa. I chose quinoa mostly because it acted as the protein for the dish, but also because I’ve been meaning to try to make it in my Zojirushi rice cooker. I’ve read that quinoa can be made in it exactly as you would make white rice. I set it to medium hard white rice and it was ready – evenly cooked and delicious – in about 20 minutes. To add a bit more flavor, I made a pilaf with the cooked quinoa.

To make the pilaf, toast 1/2 cup of sliced almonds (I used almonds that were coated with maple and cayenne) and set aside. Then, saute 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 3 cups cooked quinoa. Stir for a few minutes, then add 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme and 1 tablespoon of cumin. Mix in the almonds and 1/4 cup of raisins or currants. Finally, mix in 1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos.

This was relatively easy to make and was bursting with flavor. Sweet, salty, savory and even a touch of spice from the cayenne coating on the almonds. All this went well with the peppery flavors in the Leffe. I will definitely be making this one again soon!