November 09, 2007

Counterfeit Confederate Mattress

...Or, how to keep getting fat on a vegan diet. Mmmm.

On one of my recent visits to my sister in Portland, we had lunch at a delicious veggie-oriented restaurant called Laughing Planet. Actually, I lie, we had lunch there on both of my recent visits, partly because itâs delicious and partly because itâs in my favorite quadrant of the city (woo! SE!) and we kept schlepping out there to do other stuff. At any rate, this place has a varying daily special item which can be ordered either in rice bowl form or in burrito form. On the day I am talking about, the special was something called the Southern Dixie Mattress, a comfy and charming name apparently derived from the (defunct?) business next door, the Southern Dixie Mattress Co. The point of all this is of course that the burrito was delicious, and while I canât totally remember what was in it, Iâve faked up the following copycat recipe based on what I remember about the original. This is of course no substitute for patronizing this fine business, but it's cheaper than a plane ticket to Portland.

Counterfeit Confederate Mattress Burritos

This makes a big mess and a lot of dishes to wash, but it also makes a bunch of tasty vegan vitamin-A-filled burritos to take in your lunch all week, so itâs worth it. It also sounds labor-intensive because the recipeâs kind of long, but it goes fast.

Six or eight burrito sized tortillas
One large yam/sweet potato, scrubbed and cubed (donât peel!)
Approx. 4-6 oz. firm tofu, cubed
One giant or two small russet potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
A couple of cups of collard greens, washed and chopped (fresh or frozen)**
One small or  large onion, chopped
Two large cloves garlic, chopped
One 15-oz can black eyed peas, drained
 c barbecue sauce, or to taste
salt, pepper, and a pinch of sage
Olive oil or Earth Balance for sautÃing

**A NOTE ON COLLARDS: If you chop your collards too small, you will live to regret it. That is because collards are most frequently cooked by boiling, and if you make tiny little flecks of collards, whatâs going to happen when you drain the water? About half the collards will go through the holes in the colander, thatâs what. So you can either: use a fine mesh colander/strainer; chop your collards a little bigger; or use a slotted spoon to strain the potatoes and collard bits from the water. If youâre using frozen chopped collards, theyâll be small, so plan on using a strainer without huge holes or a skimmer/slotted spoon, or coming up with some other plan that involves pan-sautÃing the collards and boiling the potatoes and then combining them. Or, hell, you can make extra collards and plan for a lot of them to go down the drain. Up to you.

Youâre going to make all this crap in three different pots/pans, so youâll end up with three different stations on your burrito-assembly line. Iâd suggest a large pot, a smallish pot, and a large skillet or wok. If you donât have the right number/kind of pots/pans/stove burners to do this simultaneously, you can make this stuff in shifts and transfer to bowls; it doesnât matter.

Station 1: Mashed potatoes and Collards
Pan: Big pot for boiling

See **A NOTE ON COLLARDS at top of recipe, or seriously, youâre going to be pissed in about 5-7 minutes.

Boil a bunch of water in a big pot. How much water? Enough for your potato cubes and collards to float around freely and boil. When water boils, add collards and potatoes together; they should take about the same amount of time. Depending on the size of your potato cubes, they might cook in as little as 5-7 minutes. When potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork and seem soft enough to smash, drain the water, reserving about  c. cooking water. Or: if, like me, you use little tiny frozen chopped collard greens and have a colander with big holes, you will probably end up using a skimmer to pull the cooked potato cubes and as much of the collards as you can get out of the water and into a bowl or something. Drain the rest of the water out of the pot, reserving about  c. cooking water, and heave the potatoes and collards back in. Mash or smash the potatoes with a potato masher, spatula, fork, or whatever. The collards will get incorporated into the smashed potatoes. If they seem really dry and mealy, you can start adding in a little bit of the reserved cooking water. But theyâre going in burritos, so you donât want them too liquidy or goopy. At this point, throw in some salt/pepper, mix around, and thatâs done.

Station 2: Onions and Black-Eyed Peas
Pot: small to medium saucepan

Heat oil or Earth Balance in saucepan. Add onions and garlic and sautà until onions are nice and translucent. Donât burn onions/garlic or they will get bitter! Stir frequently and keep heat to medium-low. When onions are all nice, dump in can of drained black-eyed peas, a pinch of ground sage, salt and pepper to taste, and stir around until everythingâs warm and mixed. Remove from heat. There will be juice and cooking liquid in the bottom of the saucepan, so to avoid leaking burritos youâll want to either dish this out with a slotted spoon or drain off the liquid now.

Station 3: BBQ Yams and tofu.
Pan: Large skillet or wok.

Heat oil or Earth Balance in skillet. Add cubed sweet potatoes and sautÃ. Make sure you turn/stir them regularly so they donât stick and burn. Depending on the size of your cubes, this will probably take about 15 minutes. Give the sweet potatoes about a 5 minute head start, and then add the tofu. If/when the oil seems to have vanished and things appear to be sticking but the sweet potatoes arenât soft yet, turn the heat down to medium and add about a ladleful ( c.?) of water and cook, covered, until thatâs absorbed. Youâll probably do that about twice before the sweet potatoes are at a nice level of softness for eating. You can salt & pepper them if youâre compulsive like me, but you neednât bother because youâre about to do this: Remove from heat when sweet potatoes are done. Add about  c. of whatever barbecue sauce you want and stir to coat. You might add more at this point; you donât want the potatoes and tofu swimming in liquid, but you do want them all nice and coated and kind of goopy and you donât want to be stingy with the BBQ sauce and end up with bland burritos. I really like BBQ sauce.

Assembly line! If youâre feeling ambitious, you could heat your tortillas to make them nice and flexible, or, if like me youâre a little over it at this point, use them cold and know that if they split, youâre wrapping them up anyway so they canât totally fall apart. Easiest way to mass-assemble is this: On top of a big plate or cutting board, lay out a square of foil or plastic wrap and put a big tortilla on top of that. When youâre laying out burrito ingredients, start with potato & collard mixture, then black-eyed peas and onions, and finally top with BBQ yams & tofu. Roll up using secret ninja arts known only to the people who work in taquerias, or, alternatively, do a haphazard job of rolling the tortilla and then use the foil/plastic to roll everything into place.

When I did this, it made six burritos, but my first couple were really overstuffed and my last one was a little small. If you portion it out right, my guess is youâll end up with around six normal-sized burritos, or lunch for the whole week! I donât have a microwave and anyway that wouldnât help if youâve wrapped them in foil, but Iâve found that a foil-wrapped burrito stuck in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes warms up nicely if youâre eating at home; otherwise, theyâre perfectly nice cold or at room temp.

Let me know what you think!

In other vegan food news, I used the other two tortillas from the package to make tofu scramble burritos using part of the packet of Tobyâs Tofu Seasoning Mix my sister gave me. I have found the following: If you sautà the crumbled tofu with onions and carrots and tofu seasoning mix and soy sauce and roll it into burritos with cubed avocado, soy cheese, and fresh shredded cabbage, the result is sheer deliciousness. I heartily endorse this product, or I would if I could figure out how to buy it online; it appears mainly to exist in Eugene, Oregon, and Iâm not sure where my sister got it.

Posted by katie at November 9, 2007 07:32 PM | TrackBack

Yams: I recently saw them in one of those pre-sliced convenience packs at the grocery store, labeled, I am not kidding, Yamarama. As completely objectionable as it is to pre-slice and package something as easy-to-dissect as a sweet potato, I had to stand there holding it and arguing with myself for a good three minutes before I managed to put it back down and walk away. Yamarama!

I have also been making fake pale imitations of Laughing Planet food for several weeks now, mostly a fake Cuban Bowl with black beans and yams and salsa and chard. It's a little bit silly in my case, seeing as it would take me less time to go to Laughing Planet and eat an actual Cuban Bowl (including travel time by bike) than to make my fake one at home. It's probably not notably pricier, either. Huh.

The Toby's seasoning mix comes from New Seasons Market, which does not appear to be impressed with the benefits to be had by expanding into the mail-order-to-California market. But I might, for a price, be willing to be your seasoning mule and smuggle a few more packets across state lines to you.

Posted by: Dianna at November 9, 2007 09:35 PM