Q is a tough letter. I could only think of two ways to go with it-- quinoa, that darling of the vegan set, or quince, a fruit I'd never had before. I saw quince somewhere recently and wanted to buy it but didn't... so thought I'd go ahead and do that for MoFo since it was a little more exciting.
But as you can see from my picture, I couldn't find an actual fresh quince when I went looking for one! In hindsight, I think the place I saw it was probably the farmer's market... as for when I saw it, I know I'm one of those infuriating people who use "recently" to catalog oh, any time in the past year or two, so for all I know this could have been September that I saw the quince. September last year. Heh. In any case, I couldn't find any fresh to work with, but after reading a bit on quince's use, decided that was okay. Quince is super super astringent, so aside from a very, very few varieties, it's never eaten fresh. You always have to cook it to reduce the astringency and make it delicious, and most of the time it ends up in jam. So I just went out and bought jam.
I ended up making a glaze out of the quince jam and some leftover port and using that to glaze black bean cutlets. They were going to be chickpea cutlets initially but um, I'm out of chickpeas somehow. (Also: I am out of quinoa, which is why our Q dinner ended up accompanied by couscous instead! The vegan staples in my house are dwindling!) The cutlets are basically a double recipe of the Veganomicon chickpea cutlets made with black beans instead and with the spices adjusted (no thyme etc, just a little pinch of allspice instead) so I'm not going to post that here, but I will post the glaze recipe as it's quite lovely and simple.
6 tbsps quince jam
3 tbsps ruby port
2 stars worth of star anise
generous grinding of black pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk til well combined and smooth.
2. Heat over medium-low until gently boiling; continue to simmer for about 10 minutes, until somewhat reduced, whisking often. (It will seem thinner than when you started, but will thicken upon cooling.)
3. Use a pastry brush to brush glaze onto black bean cutlets or other pieces of protein and then either eat directly or broil for 1-1.5 minutes each side. (Watch closely, because the glaze will burn quite easily under the broiler.)
I have to tell you, I am always a bit wary of sweet components in savory dishes. Like when I see mangos in a savory dish? I always cringe. My inner toddler does not want different things combined like that. So I wasn't really sure that I'd come out liking this dish. It was actually quite nice... the taste reminded me a bit of a non-spicy General Tso's sauce or of this orange glazed vegan chicken dish that Nancy Chang's in Worcester, MA makes. And I liked the slightly crispy-crunchy texture of the broiled glaze. The star anise was great, not at all overpowering alongside the quince & port. Mmm, star anise.
The Emperor quite liked the cutlet (which he identified instantly as seitan) and also ate some broccoli. But his crazy mother (me) mixed the whole wheat couscous and the broccoli together and though he likes the two apart, he was NOT pleased that there were "cuckoos" on his broccoli. He ate a couple of pieces that he painstakingly picked every grain of couscous off, but after that he left it. Oh well, I liked them together and thought it was nice to save on washing one more dish by steaming the couscous and the broccoli together.
Last but not least: your bonus picture! I get home from work a couple hours before everyone else. Every day when he gets home from preschool, the Emperor runs up to the front door and knocks vigorously. I then shout "who is it!" and peer around the blind of the front door. He peers around from his side. We both laugh hysterically. It's one of the best parts of my day and this is what it looks like from my end: