Monday, March 23, 2009

Reuben experiments and a vegan wine review!

B. came for another visit earlier this month, to coincide with my spring break. A couple months ago I purchased a BlendTec Total Blender (and I've actually created a second blog devoted entirely to it). One thing I love about the BlendTec is the ability to reduce whole fruits and vegetables to juice, without any peeling or left-over pulp. Since we'd had good luck with apple-based marinades, I was eager to experiment with the blender in creating a marinade for reubens. We added beet, for the color mostly, and because I'd seen at least one other reuben recipe that employed beet juice.

Beety Reuben Marinade:

1 large apple, quartered and cored
1 medium beet, trimmed and quartered
1 small knob of fresh ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

We tossed all these ingredients into the BlendTec and ran it on the Whole Juice cycle. The result was a very red, soupy yet thick marinade. We had about half a block of left-over tofu, which I sliced thin and laid in a Pyrex dish, then covered in marinade. We put thinly sliced white mushrooms in a bowl and added the rest of the marinade. Both sat in the fridge over night.

The next day, we baked the tofu for about an hour at 425, flipping part way. For the mushrooms, we first sliced up most of a medium yellow onion, sauteed it until softened, then added the mushrooms and sauteed until the mushrooms had cooked down a little. The marinade was so thick, it stuck with the mushrooms and turned out to be more of a sauce as well. It wasn't bad, but I don't know if it was preferable.

Both sandwiches got the same reuben sauce from this post, and this local raw sauerkraut, from Farmer's Daughter in Carrboro.

Tasty! We ate the tofu on a light deli rye baked at the local co-op, and the mushrooms went on the same dark 100% rye from the earlier post. Both toasted of course.

We tried the mushroom first, paired with some vegan syrah from Frey Vineyards that I'll get more into later.

The beet flavor was pretty strong, but the onions and mushrooms still came through. I liked the tofu the best I think---tofu is a great medium for a strong marinade, and of course takes on color quite well. I did end up adding a little Siracha hot sauce to my tofu reuben. After tasting the mushroom one, I thought it would be complemented by a little more spiciness. B., who is officially a tempeh fiend I think, missed the meaty texture that nutty soy product provides. I really like the raw, local kraut---the woman who runs Farmer's Daughter is a pickling genius in my opinion---but it is a little milder than your average kraut, and was perhaps a bit overpowered by the beet, in the case of the mushroom version at least.

I wasn't disappointed by either of these sandwiches, but I wasn't blown away either. I think in future experiments, I will use a minimal amount of beet, maybe just a few slices, and probably add more water so that the marinade functions more like a marinade and less like a sauce.

Now for the wine! I'm excited about this inaugural product review. And after visiting the Frey Vineyards website, I'm genuinely excited that this environmentally-friendly, vegan wine is not only delicious, but affordable. B. and I both immensely enjoyed the Syrah and the Chardonnay. I'm the type of person who rarely spends more than $15 on a bottle of wine, so when I found I really, really liked Frey's offerings, I assumed that it was an expensive, high quality wine that would typically be out of my price range. Upon investigating the website though, I found that at least currently, they have some great deals.

So, did you know that alcohol isn't always vegan? It's something that annoys me, but I often utilize a "don't ask, don't tell" type of approach, mostly just because there are very few alcoholic beverages that will state on their label whether they contain animal products (or used animal products at some point in processing) or not. Luckily, I enjoy hoppier ales as opposed to stouts, which more frequently include dairy. Frey Vineyards, which by the way was voted Best Vegan Wine by VegNew Magazine in 2007, states this on their website, "No animal products are used in the making of Frey Wines, such as egg whites, gelatin, or dairy-derived substances."

Like I said, our impressions of the wine flavors were very good. I like red wine over white typically---the syrah was complex and sweet, but not overly sweet. B. and I decided it would go well with a spicy, rich meal--probably would go great with a tempeh reuben with a lot of heat and spice. The Chardonnay was light and pleasantly dry, probably the best white wine I've ever had.

So check out the Frey Wines website. Located in Mendocino, California, their Organic and Biodynamic products have gained acclaim from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, and numerous wine competitions. And they are almost local to Portland!

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