Sometimes it's tough being a vegan. Or, let me qualify that. . . being a gluten-free vegan. Going out to eat with friends inevitably proves to be a challenge unless you plan ahead. Most vegans can do well by choosing ethnic, as most Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and even Italian restaurants can accommodate us with only minor tweaking to their menus. But when you eliminate gluten, it pretty much rules out everything.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. So that means pasta is out of the question. I've lived in New Haven for two years and have yet to sample one of its famous pizzas. (sad, I know) No more lo mein noodles. And even soba - which are technically buckwheat noodles and ok for the gluten-intolerant - usually are made with some wheat, and therefore off limits. Same goes for soy sauce which is made with fermented wheat and soy (read the label).
So I was at a quandry when invited to go to Consiglio's, one of New Haven's finest Italian institutions. What to do. What to do. I called ahead and asked if they served risotto, thinking they might possibly be able to make a veggie risotto sans dairy. They assured me they could. I was pleasantly surprised, asked again just to be doubly sure, and had my request confirmed. When we were seated and ready to order, I calmly (albeit abit reservedly) made my request. He pleasantly responded that the chef would be happy to do that for me. What shock!
A minute later, amidst good cheer and conversation, my world came crashing down: no risotto for Mary. The waiter informed me that they could not make the risotto to order because it would take too long and, frankly, would be pretty listless without all those gobs of cheese. I did my best to hold my head up after receiving this dreadful news. And then we spent the next 15 minutes or so scavaging the menu for veggies which could be concocted into an impromptu dinner suitable for a gluten-free vegan. I am pleased to report that the end result was far superior to your standard risotto primavera.
This dish is now my new standby for Italian restaurants. Grilled eggplant with marinara, broccoli rabe in olive oil and garlic, white beans and calamata olives. Mmmmm... DEEEElish! Take a look: