So Denise posted a Meat-Eater’s Menu for Romance last week. But we know that not all of our readers are meat eaters — and I tend to vacillate. What if you or your significant other don’t eat meat? No fear! I’ve got a tasty vegan menu for sharing — or indulging in by yourself. This is my version of a refined plate, with subtle and complimentary flavors for a fine dining feel in your safe, allergen-free home: Grilled Coriander-Cumin Portabella Mushrooms, Toasted Garlic Green Beans, and Wine-Baked Red Potatoes.
There is nothing hard about this menu, but the timing is important to get everything to come out at the same time. So I’m going to give you each dish’s ingredients up front, then break down the timing by doing all the instructions for the meal as a whole instead of each dish. Hopefully that won’t be too confusing since I’ve told you up front, and timing’s always the hardest part for me.
Since I’ve not made a dessert either, I’d echo Denise in suggesting a fine bar of chocolate to share, a pint of your favorite safe ice cream, or check out our desserts category for ideas. I’d tell you that this is heart-healthy or some other such cheesy pun-age, but who knows? It’s tasty, and allergen-free, plus animal-free. Enjoy.
Be My Vegan Valentine Dinner
Wine-Baked Red Potatoes (adapted from an Edward Espe Brown recipe)
- 2 pounds small red potatoes — look for about ping-pong ball size or smaller
- 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 5-10 sprigs of fresh herbs (dill, rosemary, or thyme are recommended — buy whatever you like best and looks freshest)
- about half a bottle of red or white wine, your choice (but don’t get something sweet). I had some of each, so I used about 1/4 a bottle of red table wine, and about the same amount of a chardonnay. Pick something you like OR if you don’t drink wine regularly, get a table wine — a blend of wines that should be neither too dry nor sweet.
- 3/4 cup non-dairy milk or cream — if you make your own, just cut the amount of water in half
Toasted Garlic Green Beans
- 1/2 pound (be generous with this) green beans
- 1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil — you will use about half of this for the mushrooms)
- 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
- salt to taste
Grilled Cumin-Coriander Portabella Mushrooms
- 4 mushrooms, washed and de-stemmed
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- pinch of cayenne (optional, but adjust for your desired spice-level)
- (you will be adding some oil to this from the green bean recipe)
- The potatoes are going to take about 2 hours — they can go more, if you want, but do not plan for less.
- The green beans themselves will take maybe 10 minutes, but the garlic will take about a half an hour before you cook the beans.
- The mushrooms will take about 8 minutes if you have a two-sided grill (like a Foreman grill), and about 13 if you’re using a skillet or grill pan.
- IF you time it right, this will all be done in 2 hours, with a few periods of activity but a lot of downtime. We’re working in the order of these bullets — potatoes, garlic, green beans, mushrooms.
To begin, preheat the oven to 375F. Wash and scrub your potatoes. If you were unable to find smaller red potatoes, cut the ones you have down to approximately the size of ping-pong balls. You need a baking dish that will hold all of your potatoes in a single layer with a little space around them — I have an 8.5″ by 11″ glass dish that is perfect for this.
Lay your herbs out on the bottom of the baking dish so that you have an evenly dispersed layer. Put your potatoes on top. Throw the whole garlic cloves in scattered around the dish. Then add your wine — it should come about halfway up the potatoes, which is why I haven’t given you an actual measurement — just pour it in until you have enough.
IF your potatoes are cut, add salt and pepper now. If they aren’t, I prefer to add the salt and pepper at the table. Cover the dish with foil, but don’t scrunch it too tight — you want some of the steam to escape, but not most of it. Put the potatoes in the oven and set the timer for an hour. Now go find something to do for an hour. You are not needed here.
One hour later …
Reset your timer for 30 minutes. Leave the potatoes alone. They still don’t need you.
Put a skillet, cast iron if you’ve got it, over medium low heat and let it heat empty. When the skillet is hot, add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Let the oil heat up, and then turn it down to low. Add your 2 Tablespoons of chopped garlic and stir. Stir it every 10 minutes or so over the next half hour — you are aiming for a golden brown garlic here.
While the garlic cooks, rinse your green beans and trim the ends off. Set these aside to drain and dry while the garlic cooks.
Depending on your speediness, you probably have 15 minutes or so to clean up some dishes or go read some internet.
When your timer goes off, check on your garlic first — is it golden brown? If so, tilt your pan and skim out the garlic, leaving the oil behind. Set the toasted garlic aside. If it’s not quite done yet, move on to the potatoes, but keep an eye on the garlic.
Take your potatoes out of the oven, or just open the oven and slide the rack out so you can reach the potatoes. Remove the foil. Add the cashew or almond or soy cream or milk, whatever you’re using. Put or push the potatoes back in the oven, leaving the foil off. Set the timer again, for another 30 minutes.
If you haven’t removed the garlic, it should be done now. You can safely leave the oil on over the heat — you’ll be cooking the beans in about 15 minutes.
Turn on your grill or put your grill pan over medium to medium-high heat.
If you need to wash your mushrooms, do so. Then mix up the spice mix, making sure to incorporate the spices into the brown sugar. Tip your skillet up and scoop out about half of the oil into the spice mix. You don’t need to be exact here, but it should be about 2 Tablespoons if you’d rather measure. Mix the oil into the spices well. Brush the tops of the mushrooms well with this mix, and then liberally baste the interiors of the mushrooms with the oil-spice mix.
Turn the heat in the skillet for the green beans up to medium, and add the green beans. Stir occasionally.
If you’re using the grill pan or skillet for cooking the mushrooms, start now — tops down. You’ll cook them for 6-10 minutes on the first side, and another 5-8 on the other. If you’re using an electric grill, you only need about 7 or 8 minutes total. Plan accordingly.
This should net you three lovely decadent vegetable dishes all done at the same approximate time. Slice the mushrooms, sprinkle the garlic over the green beans, and cut the potatoes in half and salt if they weren’t salted before cooking. Light some candles for ambiance, add some amusing conversation, and enjoy a nice dinner with someone special — or add a good movie and call yourself special. Hey, no judgements.