If you need a good last-minute, impress-your-vegan-date recipe for Valentine’s Day, here’s a good one: mushroom-wine cream sauce. Completely vegan, but it’s so rich, you’d never know it.
Start with a pound of sliced mushrooms. You don’t need anything fancy here; just plain old white mushrooms from the grocery store. Saute in margarine or olive oil over medium heat until they start to release liquid. Reduce heat to low.
In a separate pan, make a quick roux by melting about 2 tablespoons of margarine, adding enough flour to make a thick paste, and stirring constantly over medium-low heat until browned. (I normally use white flour for this, but I didn’t have any on hand this time around, so I tried substituting wheat flour. It was OK, but the texture of the final product was slightly gritty because of the bran in the flour, and the little brown freckles didn’t make the sauce look particularly appetizing. White flour will yield much nicer results.)
Add the roux to the mushroom pan, then add about a cup of wine, stirring it in a few tablespoons at a time to prevent lumps. If you can put your hands on a bottle of Madeira, use that; if not, any decent red wine will work in a pinch. (Rule of thumb on wine: If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. Seriously. Heating lousy wine won’t make it suck any less.)
Gradually add about a cup of soymilk, stirring constantly until you have a thin sauce. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. If it seems too thick, add more soymilk. If it’s too thin, you can thicken it with a little more roux — or just keep simmering until the excess moisture evaporates.
You’ll end up with a rich, boozy cream sauce that’s great over linguine, capellini or couscous. Serve with salad and maybe some chocolate-dipped strawberries* for dessert.
*Vegan chocolate-dipped strawberries are uber-easy. Just put a bag of vegan chocolate chips (available at any respectable health-food store) and about a tablespoon of plain cooking oil in a microwave-safe bowl, nuke 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until chocolate is completely melted. Dip whole strawberries in chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.