Some serious thinking on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

What a week it’s been. I started writing again (fiction, as opposed to chatty food epics) for the first time since June. That was on Monday and I thought it would be the most dramatic part of my week. Then I found out a good friend’s brother is very, very sick so I went into cancer crisis mode to do what I could to help support her and her family. Then another good friend got hit by a car (he’s going to be okay) and I spent the day in the emergency room with him, holding his hand and talking about Roman military formations while he lay on a gurney in a hospital hallway.

This is a food blog so I won’t go into more detail about any of this stuff, but suffice to say I didn’t get a lot of cooking done last week. I didn’t have a menu plan either, though, so it all kind of worked out.

Bean Salad with Harissa (from last week)

The day before my friend got hit by the car was his birthday (I know, how much does that suck?), and I joined him and his friends for a birthday feast that I’m still drooling over. His roommate makes the most incredible Indian food. There was this tofu tikka masala… It was positively dreamy. I’m a little jealous of this particular chef. It’s not often that I meet people (in my daily life as opposed to the blog world) who are both better cooks than I am and cook food I actually want to/can eat (i.e., stuff that is both vegan and gluten-free).

I requested that this chef of dreaminess write a guest post for me about that tofu tikka masala, so hopefully that will appear here soon! I asked him if he uses cookbooks or cooks from his head (because I try to be responsible about how many cookbook recipes I post here) and he said “I’ve been cooking Indian food for ten years, I can just do it now.” And yes, of course that makes sense. And thinking about his answer made me suddenly remember my pre-ME days, when I almost never cooked from recipes. Everything I cooked was either improvised or something I’d made a hundred times and knew by heart. I cooked Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Californian, a little Southern, plenty of old-fashioned hippie-food, and riffs and fusions of all those cuisines and more.

Pasta with Spicy Vodka Sauce and Cherry Tomatoes, Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins, Green Salad with Sesame-Citrus Vinaigrette (from last week)

It made me sad to realize how much things have changed for me. I almost always rely on directions now, especially when I’m tired. I’m teaching a friend to cook, and that certainly helps me to see how many things I still can do on instinct – stuff like knife skills and knowing how long to cook a certain vegetable or how much of a seasoning to add seem to be the kinds of things that stick. But that complex processing, envisioning your desired outcome and then laying out the whole process in a series of steps in your head, is not accessible to me right now. However, that does make me a perfect audience for the blog community. Even when you guys improvise you almost always turn that into a recipe, with a list of ingredients and directions that I can follow, because that’s how we roll here in blogville. And then I can just wander around your blogs checking out all the deliciousness, and count on the cognitive processing abilities of my fellow bloggers to carry me onward to dinnertime.

For a giant round-up of menus, check out the Menu Plan Monday round-up over at OrgJunkie!

Middle Eastern eggplant, zucchini, and chickpea stew (manazilet badhinjan)
Tomato salad with marinated shallots
Gluten-free pita bread (we can all take bets on whether this will actually happen)

Sloppy sushi with brown sushi rice, avocado, cucumber, and shitake mushrooms

Roasted fennel
Mushroom-leek ragout over polenta

Creamy chickpea curry
Roasted cauliflower with Indian spices
Brown rice

Arepas filled with refried beans topped with roasted tomato salsa
Spicy slaw
Taverna zucchini

Friday (defrost peanut sauce, marinate tofu ahead!)
Soba noodles with peanut sauce, broccoli, carrot, and cucumber
Malaysian tofu satay (save 1/2 block tofu for jap chae)

Jap Chae

Stuff I want to make, not necessarily this week but hopefully soonish:
Cashew “chevre”

Shopping list: Masa harina, cabbage, green onion, jalapeno, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, spinach, (napa cabbage, daikon, ginger)