Monday, September 26, 2005

IMBB#19: The 'I can't believe I ate Vegan?!' Picnic

Shhh! Fred won't know he ate a totally Vegan lunch yesterday until he reads about it on this blog.

photograph picture of a vegan picnic of falafel, dolmades, homemade pitta and coleslaw with recipe links

The end of September marks our annual canoeing trip on the Russian River. This is the third year we have gathered together a group of friends to meet at Burke's Canoes in Forestville. From there we paddle ten miles down the pea soup-green meandering river, past the towering, majestic Redwood trees, stopping at little beaches along the way to swim, paddle and picnic. The first year we took the trip, Fred and I capsized our canoe and ruined our lunch. Water found its way onto all our Deli goodies and even though we tried to dry our soggy baguette on the scorching hot steel surface of our canoe (it was about 100 degrees that day), most of our food was rendered unedible. Luckily our friends bailed us out and shared their own snacks with us. Last year I made a creamy potato salad and we managed to keep our boat upright. For yesterday's feastivities I decided to make a vegan picnic, without telling a soul what I was up to...

photograph picture of the russian river as seen from Burkes canoes

On this year's menu there were homemade wholewheat pita breads, delicious Dolmades which I made with fresh grape leaves (25 cents each from Knoll Tairwa Farm at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers' market), Falafel and two different types of Coleslaw.

photograph picture of homemade dolmade with fresh grape leaves

The Dolmades, made using this recipe on Epicurious, were the most popular. They were incredibly easy to make and quite impressive. A friend who claims to not care in the slightest for this Greek take on finger food pronounced she actually liked them. Because they are freshly made, instead of using preserved leaves, they lack that vinegary taste that Dolmades often suffer from. The rice filling includes plently of fresh dill and mint (I just used one full bunch of each), juicy Early Girl tomatoes (instead of tinned as the recipe suggests), garlic and toasted pine nuts.

photograph picture of spicy chili coleslaw with cilantro and lime

The two Coleslaws, both with a base of shredded white cabbage, shaved carrot and purple onion, were popular too. People were having difficulty deciding whether they preferred the creamy, mustardy coleslaw made with a Vegan mayo (psst, another secret to keep from Fred) and Maille mustard from France, or the brighter, more zingy version mixed with a little lime juice, rice vinegar, chilli jam and cilantro.

photograph picture of a vegan picnic of falafel, recipe links

I was less happy with the Pita and the Falafel which weren't as delectable as the rest of the picnic items. The Falafel recipe I used tasted underseasoned, and even though I added some more salt, I think it would have benefited from yet more. I actually used dried chickpeas and despite soaking them for longer than the prescribed 'overnight' they were still a little too crunchy for my tastes. If I tried it again I would perhaps used tinned ones instead as well as adding more seasoning, more garlic and more overall flavour. They looked good though - forming them into perfectly-shaped balls was made easier by the use of a cookie scoop.

photograph picture of baking a fresh wholewheat pita with recipe link

The pita (made from this darling recipe) were actually fine, but I prefer them toasted which wasn't possible because I just couldn't find the plug for my toaster inside my canoe. As I didn't have the required heat diffusing pan for making the breads, I improvised by inverting my steam basket into a skillet. Cooking each pita was a slow process!

Entries have started to roll in for this edition of IMBB. You have until September 30th to post up your entries. See here for more details of how to enter. I am amazed by the standards and the creativity so far. Thank you all for your efforts. I can't wait to see what else people will come up with.

PS. I am not sure if my friends actually read my blog that often, but if they happen to notice this particular post, I hope they won't mind that I experimented with a little bit of Veganism on them. Some of them even claimed to have liked the dodgy vegan chocolate, caramel, pecan crunch cookies I purposely forgot to mention.

Archive Alert! On this day in 2004: The potato salad recipe from last year's Russian River picnic!

posted in and +
IMBB#19: The 'I can't believe I ate Vegan?!' Picnic


  • At 26/9/05 08:51, Blogger Rachael Narins said…

    What a beautiful setting for a meal, vegan or otherwise. I love it. Ive always found falafel to be super tricky, Ive actually given up on making them at home, its just never as good as at Eat A Pita...LOL

  • At 26/9/05 09:52, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Fresh grape leaves are so much better than the ones in the jar! They're naturally tangy. You can make an interesting variation of Italian salsa verde with tender young grape leaves in the spring (great as a sauce on white fish like halibut). I agree with Rachael about homemade falafel. The freshly made ones at Sunrise Deli on Irving St.(@22nd) are the best I've had in SF.

  • At 26/9/05 10:52, Blogger Randi said…

    Those all sound yummy. Where is the vegan cookie recipe?

  • At 26/9/05 13:58, Blogger Owen said…

    Guess I'll have to dry the dolmas, Sam. We have about 5000 grape leaves ready to go right now (unfortunately not a single grape - we won't go into that right now except to say that if I had a gun we'd be eating a lot of squirrel stew - maybe raccoon too...)

  • At 26/9/05 16:25, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Is this a good time for fresh grape leaves? I thought you had to get them early in the year. I used some I picked in July, and only half of them were tender... Really, should I go foraging again? Because the good ones were GOOD.
    Sam, I love your picnic. I was going to do dolmades too, along with an avocadolemono soup (no egg!), spanakopita with spinach and tofu, plus pilaf with beans. But I didn't get around to it... Bad CookieCrumb.

  • At 26/9/05 18:14, Blogger Delphine said…

    Whoao looks good!
    It's a pity S. was too sick we couldn't join you... :(

  • At 26/9/05 20:34, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    Wow, Sam, what a welcome back post! Such a splendid meal (even if it was vegan) and delightful setting. Reminds me of where I live now, which is ironic because I used to live near Forestville and yet never paddled the river.

    P.S. Owen, don't stew your squirrels; roll them in flour and pan fry them in homeade lard! : )
    P.P.S. Fried raccoon is not so good. Stick with the squirrels, but be sure to allow at least a couple per person if serving them as a main course. They're little things.

    P.P.S. To Sam: I never came across anything about that diffuser thingie in all of my research. Guess I'll have to check into your recipe.

  • At 26/9/05 20:36, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Although Sam doesn't higlight her cookies they were yummy as was everything else.. a great day indeed.. Katja

  • At 26/9/05 20:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The first (and as yet only) time I attempted to make falafel, the balls disintgrated in the frying oil as they cooked. They kept shrinking and shrinking
    until nothing was left. Amusing, but frustrating.

    Your dolmades sound wonderfully tasty!

  • At 27/9/05 00:11, Blogger Niki said…

    That sounds pretty good; I like the sound of the two salad dressings.
    Something I just thought of before....coconut milk is vegan, isn't it? So, I could have done some kind of Thai curry...hmmmm. I just checked Technorati and haven't seen any examples yet. I wonder if we've just thought Vegan=BEANS,LENTILS,TOFU!?

  • At 27/9/05 00:23, Blogger Lady Amalthea said…

    That sounds like such a delightful picnic! I'm sure no one minded the experiment, especially since the results sound so tasty. Thanks for hosting!

  • At 27/9/05 01:29, Blogger fiordizucca said…

    looks all wonderful to me! especially knowing its vegan :)

  • At 27/9/05 01:39, Blogger laughing snail said…

    Sounds magic Sam! Its been a great thought provoking topic. I can't wait to see what everyone got up to.

  • At 27/9/05 02:16, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Re dried vs tinned chickpeas
    Most of my favourite cookbooks (such as Moro) always bang-on about using dried beans or chickpeas etc - then soaking them overnight and then boiling them. I almost always substitute tinned - and I don't think there's any difference in flavour.
    In fact, when I do use dried, I end up sticking them on to boil, forgetting them and then burning them!
    I think that - so long as you buy good quality ones and rinse them in plenty of running water (why do they put salt and sugar in the water?) - that tinned are as good, and easier to work with.

  • At 27/9/05 06:12, Blogger mzn said…

    That looks like a great lunch. I would have been thrilled to eat it.

    Canned chickpeas don't work in falafel because the chickpeas must be raw--soaked, but raw. If they were crunchy, they might have been undercooked or underpureed. These things happen.

    BTW, richard, I much prefer dried chickpeas. I find that the canned ones are mushier and less flavorful and, as you say, their liquid is vile. The cooking liquid you get using dried chickpeas is delicious: rich and lip-smacking. I don't soak them ahead of time, either, and I cook them in the oven which makes burning them rather unlikely.

  • At 27/9/05 06:52, Blogger AnnaW said…

    Delicious food in a beautiful outdoor setting. Life doesn't get much better than that!

  • At 27/9/05 07:16, Blogger Sam said…

    Rachel - well if you have given up on them - what chance do I have, eh?

    Brett - thanks for the Sunrise Deli tip - I will have to check them out.

    Randi - I think I need to do a little more work on the vegan cookie recipe before I share it. My friend Katja (see under anonymous) does love them thoug, so I am keeping them for her in the freezer.

    Owen - 5000! You could sell them at 10 cents each and make a killing!

    CookieCrumb - I don't know about the time - well its not spring but the leaves I bought were absolultey perfect although they were not regular in size.

    Del - sorry S was sick - but I hope you enjoyed the wedding anyway

    Soycap - the surroundings couldn't be more beautiful. If you are ever in the area, this canoe trip is a must do. Especially in September when the crowds are safely back at school!

    Farmgirl - never paddled the river??! well, next time you visit, eh? And do at least read the recipe I used - its really charming.

    Katja - get well soon - cookies are waiting in the freezer for you.

    Kitchen Chick - I read that lot of people had the falafel collapse problem - but this part of the process was successful for me. I made sure the oil was hot enough first (measure the temperature on my candy thermometre). They only took seconds to cook.

    Niki - i did think of cocunut milk. In fact, I am in the process of trying to make some coconut rice pudding, but I am not sure how it is working out. Someone else made a spicy coconut soup.

    Lady Amalthea - I am sure no one minded - I am always experimenting on my poor bunch of friends anyway, and they are all very patient with me

    fiordizucca - well thank you for the compliment.

    laughing snail - the thing is that I have so many good ideas for vegan tricks but not enough time to feature them all. I think I might keep this theme going on my blog every now and again, just by the by.

    Richard - what you said made sense and then I read what MZN replied and now I am torn and confused!

    MZN - ok - do you mean raw or cooked? I used mine raw but soaked, and I am wondering if i should have cooked them? Or maybe just soaked them longer?

    Anna - life has so many beautiful guises and I am more than lucky to end my vacation with a trip on this beautiful stretch of river!


  • At 27/9/05 07:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow. What a fantastic spread! Falafel looks great and I love the sound of fresh vine leaves.

  • At 27/9/05 10:45, Blogger mzn said…

    I meant fried in the oil, not cooked ahead of time.

  • At 27/9/05 18:21, Blogger Babe_KL said…

    wow what a lovely surrounding to have such a yummilicious picnic with an unsuspecting partner hahaha cool!

  • At 30/9/05 18:27, Blogger Charlotte said…

    Oh yum. A middle east feast ... and more. Thanks for the tip to the pita recipe, I might try it next time I attempt homemade pita.


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