Say wha? Ryan Poli, have you turned vegan?
"God, no," he says. "But my girlfriend is."
Ah, that explains it. Poli's love, Kelli Zink, an entertainment reporter for CelebTV.com, is actually a "self-proclaimed seafood vegan -- a sea-gan," Poli says. "She loves when I cook for her. But I can't just riff off whatever I've got in my fridge. It's really tough. Every Sunday, we cook together and it's like a Top Chef challenge."
And because love makes you do crazy things, Poli has started fiddling around with vegan cooking. (It should be said that Poli respects tofu.) Nutritional yeast? "I had no idea what it is," Poli says. "I was like, what do you people eat? But it's actually very common. I got it at Whole Foods in the bulk section, and it's pretty cheap. They use it in place of Parmesan cheese. I think brewers use it for beer."
The first version of Poli's mac and cheese came about at Zink's parents' house during Christmas. Poli made a generous amount ("what I thought was too much") of gluten-free pasta with this cheesy vegan sauce, as well as a chefy, non-vegan version made with aged Gouda and all sorts of other lovely, stinky, artisanal wonders from Pastoral.
"Everybody chose the vegan pasta over the regular one," he says.
Poli revised the vegan pasta even further last weekend. This is how much he likes this dish: "We're actually considering putting vegan mac and cheese on the menu [at Perennial]."
Recipe after the jump.