Another recipe from The Artful Vegan. I was especially intrigued by the idea of the pickles because 1) I am generally intrigued by pickles these days (I recently bought this book about tsukemono, or Japanese pickles) and 2) because I’ve tried to cook with lotus root before and have been completely underwhelmed. I love how it looks, but it pretty much is just a starchy tuber and has no flavor at all.
I made the pickles first, and right away ran into trouble. Here are the ingredients listed in the recipe: lotus root, rice vinegar, water, sea salt, and garlic. Uh, where is the saffron? Not listed at all. I had no idea how much to add, but since a little goes a long way with saffron I just used a tiny pinch. I hate when this kind of glaring error makes it into cookbooks, because it makes me distrust the rest of the recipe. Were any other essential ingredients omitted? Are all the quantities really correct?
While the pickles were chilling for a couple of hours I got started on the eggplant caviar and sesame buns. Once again I didn’t have the right kind of eggplant. The recipe called for globe eggplant. I went to the Asian supermarket to get the lotus root and some other stuff and they only had the skinny kind of Asian eggplants, so thats what I got.
The eggplants were roasted with sesame oil and salt, and then pureed, and then sauteed with garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, szechuan pepper, sugar, basalmic vinegar, and tamari. I’m not really sure why it’s called “caviar.”
On to the buns. They were a yeasted bun with sesame and olive oil, scallions, and black sesame seeds. They were quite easy to make.
After two hours the lotus pickles were ready. Since the recipe was for an appetizer but I was serving this for dinner I decided to add a few other vegetables- some bean sprouts tossed in a vinaigrette of agave nectar, ume plum vinegar, and white rice vinegar, and some snow peas sauteed with vegetarian oyster sauce.
Here’s everything all plated up. Oh yeah, I also added some vegetarian “duck” that I got at the Asian supermarket. It’s just layers of bean curd skin and mushrooms. The eggplant “caviar” is underneath the roll.
The verdict: I wasn’t terribly impressed with this recipe. The eggplant caviar had too much szechuan pepper for my liking- that’s pretty much all I could taste. Plus it was basically just eggplant goop, and I’m not really that big a fan of goop. I’m also starting to question if I’m really that big a fan of eggplant at all. It looked kind of gross and I think that’s why I hid it under the buns on the plate. I just wasn’t sure what to do with it.
The buns have potential for repurposing- they had a nice texture and flavor and would be good stuffed with sauteed mushrooms or something. I followed the recipe and shaped them into approximately “4 inches long by 2 inches wide” but thought this shape was pretty unappealing on the plate. It looks like a boring dinner roll. I’d probably make them more of a traditional circular bun shape if I made them again.
The lotus root pickles were the winner of this recipe- crisp and flavorful, salty-sour with a slight saffron flavor. I’m glad I made a double batch of this part of the recipe. I think they could actually work with Indian food as well, because of the saffron flavor.
Next up: Black rice cakes and grilled oyster mushrooms and pineapple. Hmm, I see that it includes the Asian Eggplant Caviar from this recipe as a garnish. I think I’ll be skipping that.