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Revisiting Vegfest 2010

Vegfest, is an annual event in Seattle hosted by the Vegetarians of Washington. It is the largest vegetarian food festival in the country. This year, it was held on April 10th and 11th at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Approximately 5,000 people were estimated to have participated. With over 500 different kinds of food to taste, cooking demonstrations, and the latest information about nutrition, this festival is a fun and educational event for the entire family.

Almost every year I participate as a volunteer, and it takes over 700 of us to staff the event. When I walked in for my shift last Sunday, it looked even busier than other years for the late afternoon time. People were lining up along the outer edge to follow the vendor tables around the event hall for sampling. Five of us were ready to go out on the floor as cooking demonstrators, and the volunteer coordinator said they were in dire need of all of us. I enjoyed the hubbub of the festival. As I talked to folks passing by my table, the range of knowledge about vegetarianism and the products being sampled ran the entire range. Some were happy to see their favorite products on display, while others were experiencing it all new and wanted to read the ingredients, find out what stores carry the item and what it tastes like. I enjoyed the enthusiasm for healthy living that takes place at this fair! Almost everyone was holding a brown paper bag from PCC Natural Markets, one of the festival sponsors. Part of the enjoyment of this experience was collecting literature and food and drink samples to take home.

Vegetarians of Washington is the largest vegetarian organization in the Northwest and one of the largest in the country. You can join Vegetarians of Washington online. Benefits include a monthly dining event, free subscription to Vegetarian Times, discounts at local shopping venues and much more. Check out the website for more information.

Roasted Marinated Mexican Tofu Steaks

by Chef Ken Charney, from the Vegetarians of Washington website

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds tofu, pressed to remove the water
  • 3 ancho chiles
  • 2 New Mexican Chilies
  • 1 guajillo chile or an extra New Mexican chile if not available
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 2 fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined cane sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock or water

Preparation

  1. Preheat the broiler with the rack set 5 to 6 inches from the heat. Slice the tofu into 8 cutlets.
  2. In a large dry skillet toast the chiles one or two at a time, by laying them flat in the pan and pressing down with a spatula 15 to 30 seconds, until they crackle and give off a slight wisp of smoke. Be careful not to burn them. Flip over and repeat on the other side. When the chiles are done, submerge them in hot water in a small bowl, cover and soak until very soft, 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, place the tomatoes, jalapeno or serrano peppers and red bell peppers on a baking sheet. Broil, turning with tongs, until blackened all over. They will finish in varying degrees of time. The tomatoes and peppers will slightly char and their skins will blister in 5 to 7 minutes. The bell pepper will probably take 10 to 15 minutes. You will want the bell pepper to blacken almost completely.
  4. When done, let cool, then remove the skins from the tomatoes and the stems from the peppers. You may leave the charred skin on the hot peppers unless it is exceptionally burned. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and hot peppers, retaining the juices. Scrape the charred skin off of the bell pepper, remove the ribs and seeds and coarsely chop.
  5. In a blender or food processor combine the chopped vegetables with all the remaining ingredients except the tofu and the stock. Puree until smooth, adding enough stock or water to achieve a sauce the consistency of a thick cream.
  6. Put the tofu in two large heavy duty, sealable freezer bags. Divide the sauce between the bags, making sure the tofu is well coated. Seal the bags and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the tofu with about half its sauce on an oiled baking dish. Roast 10 minutes on one side then 5 minutes on the other. Meanwhile heat the remaining sauce in a saucepan. Serve the tofu with the warm sauce. Garnish with the chopped cilantro.