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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019
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Meat-free dining sprouts at Veg Fest

I recently took in my first Tampa Bay Veg Fest. I wasn't quite sure what to expect short of, well, food. I wasn't entirely wrong on that count, since there was a lot of vegetarian and vegan foods there — from smoked apple sage "sausage" and ginger snap cookie samples to butternut squash tostadas and cheddar-style spreads. What it proved to me is that meatless fare can be both diverse and delicious. The veg-savvy daylong event took place in Channelside's Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in downtown Tampa. By noon the park was packed and not only with people.
There were wagging tails everywhere: pet adoption organizations and animal rights groups gave away a wide swath of information about the status of factory farming, ways to help shelter animals and how to whip up a cruelty-free dinner in no time. I grabbed lunch at the Taco Bus and purchased a veggie taco made with rice and beans, taco veggies and lots of fresh cilantro. It was fabulous… but I could have done without hell-fire hot sauce! Lunch wasn't my only purchase. One booth that particularly caught my eye was Sproutlicious. Trays of micro-greens and wheatgrass filled its tabletop. As I perused the profuse greenery, all I could think about was salads and toppings. Unlike sprouts, micro-greens are grown in soil or a soil substitute so the roots can take hold. Essentially, it's like growing an edible lawn in a shallow pot that you can harvest many times over. Sampling several, I settled on the radish. They were substantial, crunchy and tasting exactly like a radish. The kit included trays, seeds, nylon sprouting bag, soil and instructions. I wrote a check. You can learn more at www.sproutlicious.com. I picked up this week's recipe while cruising the booths at Veg Fest. My first vegan pumpkin pie is so basic it's almost not a recipe. But then, these are often the kinds of recipes I love most. A side note: since even the simplest recipes can benefit from notes. Use a blender not a mixer. A blender gets the tofu smooth and creamy much faster. VEGAN PUMPKIN PIE Filling: 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust 3/4 pound tofu, soft or medium 2 cups canned pumpkin (plain) 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon ginger 1/3 cup vegetable oil 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup brown sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses 1 teaspoon salt Pie crust dough: 2 cups white flour or blend of flours 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening With a fork, mix 1/3 cup ice cold water into ingredients to form pea-sized lumps. Roll and shape to fit into pie pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and then mix all filling ingredients until smooth. Pour into unbaked crust and bake for 1 hour.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

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