Some hours later (I don't recall exactly how long) my stomach started hurting. It quickly got so intensely painful, that my father -- who was home by this time, put me into the car and headed to the ER. This is the only time I had ever been rushed to the ER. The doctor did a very superficial exam, asked me almost no questions, ran no lab tests and then told me that he suspected I had acute appendecitis and was going to prep me for exploratory surgery to confirm his hunch. THANK GOD -- i had recently read Dr. Robert Mendelsohn's fabulous book, Confessions of a Medical Heretic. In addition to arriving at the hospital with acute abdominal pain, I also came with some health-preserving skepticism. It helped too, that I had also just taken a class as an undergrad called, The Fundamentals, of Food Processing, taught by what I believed to me the present day incarnation of Betty Crocker herself. Although the class was absurdly biased towards the processed food industry, I did get one thing of value from it -- I came away appreciating how common, how varied, and how under-diagnosed was food poisoning. "There is no 24 hour flu" my teacher said over and over. "It's food poisoning!"
In response to the threat of being cut open, I began to ask the doctors some questions like...."are there any tests short of surgery that you can run to indicate whether or not this might be my appendix?" The ER doc stormed out of the room in a huff. I was then left alone in the ER room, long enough to speculate that they must not really have considered me THAT much in danger of sudden death, since they were leaving me alone so long. That's when I started to notice something. My pain was starting to subside. Eventually the doctor returned to try to bully me into agreeing to his surgery, but by this time, I was feeling much better. I was also starting to connect the quick onset and quick resolution of my symptoms with what I had been learning about in my food processing class. Shortly after that my Dad and I just simply walked out of the ER against doctor's orders. When I got home and told my mom that I suspected I'd gotten food poisoning from something, she told me that in fact the gel sauce in the gefilte fish jar had looked, "off" to her, so she dumped it out, rinsed the fish patties under running water and returned them to the jar. That was the last time I ever ate gefilte fish.
For reasons I can't explain, after I became vegan, and started thinking about how to veganize various traditional Passover foods, I became obsessed with finding a vegan alternative to gefilte fish. Chef Ron Pickarski had a gefilte fish recipe in one of his books, but it did not work well for me. Year after year I would try something else. Year after year I was disappointed. Then last year I stumbled upon the website of The V Word, which had a recipe for gefilte fish and used an entirely different approach to make them from any I had tried before. I was actually pleased with the results -- however still not completely satisfied. So this year, newly inspired, I set about tweaking Rhea's recipe, I added Jack fruit to balance out the chick pea flavor. I increased the amount of kelp powder. I substituted lemon pepper for the lemon rind and pepper-- which saved time and worked better for me, reduced the amount of oil to make it healthier, and added agar powder, to help it all hold together and be firmer. Finally, I created a gel sauce to go with it -- as this was an important part of making it seem more authentic to me.
Gefilte fish should be served with horseradish sauce. But when I searched stores in town, I could not find a single one that had the stuff I remember -- which was colored with beet juice and made from just a few wholesome ingredients. The stuff I found had things in it I would never eat -- like cottonseed oil plus a long list of other stuff, that was completely unnecessary -- and it wasn't red! So i bought a horseradish root and made my own. The result of all this innovation is below -- I hope you like it. This makes about a dozen Gefilte Fish-less patties.
1 tsp Olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cups chopped carrots (about 2 large ones)
1 1/2 cups chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
4 cloves of garlic (diced)
3 cups of freshly cooked chickpeas (or two cans)
1 can of Jackfruit in brine, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp lemon pepper
2 TBS Old Bay seasoning
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 TBS kelp powder
1 TBS dulce flakes
2 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp agar powder
Ingredients for Gel Sauce:
1 1/2 - 2 cups of leftover liquid from cooking the chickpeas (or the liquid from can)
1/2 cube of Rapunzel bouillon
1 clove of garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp of kelp powder
1/4 tsp agar powder (optional - to make sauce gel better)
1) Rub the teaspoon of olive oil over the bottom of a large skillet. Turn heat to medium high and when oil is hot, add the chopped onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes stirring often, then add the drained chickpeas, chopped jack fruit, salt, lemon pepper, Old Bay, Cayenne, kelp and dulce stir well and turn heat to low.
2) While vegetables are on low, measure the 2 TBS of lemon juice into a cup and stir in the agar powder. Drizzle this mixture over the vegetable-chickpea mixture and stir well. Let simmer for 3 more minutes stirring often to keep it from sticking. Turn off heat, cover pan and let sit five minutes.
3) Transfer mixture to a food processor fitted with an "S" blade. Do this in two batches if processor is not big enough to do it all at once and then transfer it all to a bowl so you can mix both batches together.
4) Line a cookie tray with parchment paper, and using a large spoon, glop 12- 15 little foot-ball shaped blobs of the mixture onto the tray as shown in this photo:
6) To make the sauce, place the chick pea liquid, half cube of bouillon, clove of garlic, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, 1/2 tsp of kelp powder and agar if using into a blender, blend until well combined, transfer to small pot and bring to a boil. Then let this liquid must cool completely before you put it over the patties -- or else it will cause them to fall apart. When sauce has gelled, remove patties from tray and carefully arrange them into covered casserole dish, and drizzle the sauce over them. They can be eaten right away or stored in this sauce for several days in the refrigerator. These are best served with horseradish sauce.
You can make a horseradish sauce by peeling and chopping fresh horseradish root and placing it into the blender. Add about half as much chopped raw beet root, and just enough rice vinegar to help it all blend. blend on high, stopping to scrape down sides a few times. Be careful it's pretty hot!
Be sure to use UNRIPE Jackfruit that is packed in BRINE, not the ripened sweetened stuff!
Use Agar powder -- not flakes.