Veg Fest & Feast

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Weekend Hodgepodge, this Saturday was spent enjoying vegetables, plain and simple. I am an omnivore, and a locavore, no longer vegan or vegetarian, but I love vegetables and was happy to be able to see them in the spotlight this weekend.

Jaime K

Jaime K of Save the Kales!

First of all, let me say that Bethlehem Vegfest was a knock-out success and I hope to see it continue for years to come. Many thanks to the Downtown Bethlehem Association,  Jaime K of Save the Kales! and everyone else who contributed for bringing this sort of festival to Bethlehem. I heard rumor that 10,000 people attended the fair, which stretched for several blocks down South Bethlehem’s Greenway. I arrived at 12:10, just ten minutes after the festival began, and a large crowd had already amassed. I had never actually visited the Greenway before and was quite happy to see such a well maintained rail-trail through the heart of the city! I had heard of the trail before, but tended to stay away from the area due to its previous reputation as a skeevy part of town before the tracks were paved.

Vegfest Entrance

The start of Vegfest

Emeril's Booth

A chef from the local Emeril's restaurant serves samples.

The festival grounds were divided into several themed areas (think platzes from Musikfest, but without the sausages and obnoxious people) housing about 200 vendors. There was a pet area, a farmers’ market, a food court, a sustainable energy area, a lecture tent, cooking demo area, and music stage, among others. Vendors peddled goods, services and wares while entertainers put children inside huge bubbles, and vegetarians could eat free samples without having to ask “Is there meat in that?”

Local Dub

This band, Local Dub, played some chill reggae music, and even used the word "irie" in their PR for the gig! Irie is our cat's name, meaning the ultimate positive, powerful, pleasing, all encompassing quality. I've never heard anyone else use it.

Cooking Demo

While catching a few minutes of this cooking demo, I got to taste grilled watermelon. Mmm! Definitely keeping that in mind!

Smart Juice

Bethlehem-based Smart Juice company

I was on a pretty tight budget since Vegfest fell between paydays, but I did indulge in a bottle of yummy organic no-sugar added peach-apricot juice from Smart Juice, a Bethlehem-based company that I first encountered when they donated juice for the Iftar dinner I attended (read about that here). This juice made me feel like I was James in a giant peach, that’s how real it was.

I also found a book that I must purchase, From Asparagus to Zucchini. It is a comprehensive guide to produce, listing nutritional information, storage and cooking techniques and recipes. One of the best parts, though, is in the back, where it lists recipes using seasonal ingredient combinations. SO, when you get your CSA share and wonder what to do with a bunch of eggplants, a tomato, and several ears of corn or something, you can just check the book! Wishing there was a book fairy right now …

Vegan Treats Display

My sister-in-law works the Vegan Treats table.

Vegfest didn’t carry any hints of the pompous attitude vegetarians are sometimes unfairly labeled with. Instead, it exuded a warm community vibe, inviting people of all sorts to take a look and try something new.

Later that evening, my in-laws came over for a very belated Christmas gift of a dinner & game night at our house. My mother-in-law recently began moving in the vegan direction, so I wanted to prepare a meal that honored that decision. However, my husband and I are fairly opposed to many of the “fake meat” and “dairy” products on the market. A lot of those products are so highly processed and full of genetically modified or laboratory-created ingredients that I cannot justify eating them. So, I made a meal highlighting vegetables, with no meat, dairy or egg substitutes. It’s also very important to me to use local ingredients, so everything in this meal is from this area with the exception of cooking oil, salt, pepper, cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and polenta. Nothing on this menu will require a trip to the health food store or a large amount of money.

Normally, I leave the vegan meals up to Save the Kales!, but I will share this one with you.

A Vegan Feast:

Vegan Meal

An all-local vegan meal, with no "fake meat": salad, roasted tomatoes with garlic & herbs, tri-color potatoes & beets, polenta & beet green stuffed zucchini, and pear crisp.

In the interest of avoiding carpal tunnel, I am going to list the vendors I purchased ingredients from once, here, instead of immediately following the ingredient: Heritage Farms CSA, Apple Ridge Farm, Bechdolt’s Orchard, Jett’s Natural Produce, Cardamom & Curry, and Jumbars.

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic & Herbs

Roasted Tomatoes

The contrast between the slow-roasted flavor of the tomatoes & garlic and the freshness of the herbs balances wonderfully.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 6 or so basil leaves
  • a few sprigs oregano

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut tomatoes into 6-8 wedges each and place in glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Chop garlic cloves and sprinkle over tomatoes.
  4. Remove thyme leaves and sprinkle over tomatoes.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Bake 30 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and begin to turn golden.
  7. Chop basil and oregano and mix with tomatoes before serving.

Tri-Color Potatoes & Beets

Rustic & colorful

Rustic & colorful

Ingredients:

  • 5 potatoes of different colors (I used purple, red and white)
  • 10 small beets (or 3-4 large ones)
  • 1 red onion
  • few sprigs thyme
  • few sprigs rosemary
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Wash potatoes and cut into 1″ chunks.
  3. Peel and trim beets, reserving greens for zucchini recipe or to sauté on the side. Cut into 1″ chunks.
  4. Cut onion into thick slices.
  5. Combine potatoes, beets and onion in 9×13″ baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, rosemary, salt & pepper.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  8. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Polenta & Beet Green Stuffed Zucchini

Polenta and Beet Green Stuffed Zucchini

A hearty vegan entrée

Ingredients:

  • 2 big zucchinis
  • 1/2 c. coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1.5 c water
  • 10 small beets’ worth of beet greens (or 3-4 large beets’ worth)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • few sprigs thyme
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut a v-shaped opening, going the long way, into each zucchini, removing in one piece and setting top aside. Scoop out insides, discarding large seeds but reserving pulp. Scrape pulp from removed top, too.
  3. Salt hollowed zucchinis and tops and place, cut side down, in greased baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring water to boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low. Slowly add cornmeal, stirring with a whisk. Stir until thickened and creamy looking.
  6. Add thyme leaves to polenta and stir.
  7. Dice onion and garlic. Sautée in olive oil over medium heat until tender.
  8. Chop zucchini pulp and add to onion and garlic mixture. Cook for 4 minutes.
  9. Chop beet greens, removing tough stems, and add to zucchini mixture. Cook until greens are wilted.
  10. Remove zucchini from oven and spoon thyme polenta into zucchini boats.
  11. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over polenta.
  12. Place cut out tops of zucchini over filling.
  13. Bake 20 more minutes, or until zucchini are tender.
  14. Let sit 5-10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Pear-Granola Crisp

Pear-Granola Crisp

You can make this dessert ahead and serve at room temperature or pop it in the oven when guests arrive and serve warm.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium pears
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger (I ended up using some turmeric tea (with ginger in it) from Cardamom & Curry that I had already steeped a few times instead. It’s a great way to get the most of your tea—Use the leaves to make 2-3 cups of tea, then add them to a dish you are cooking—They still have flavor!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1.5 c. granola (double check that it is vegan)
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar, divided
  • 5 T. canola oil (walnut or coconut oil would be even better)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Peel and slice pears. Place in deep, square baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle pears with 1/4 c. sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (or tea leaves!).
  4. Add vanilla extract and 1/3 c. sugar. Stir until evenly mixed.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, remaining 1/4 c. sugar, and granola.
  6. Add oil and stir until mixture is wet.
  7. Spread topping evenly over pears in baking dish.
  8. Bake 40 minutes or until top is golden.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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