The Jackson Bowl with Vegan Comeback Sauce

by on June 3, 2013
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The Jackson Bowl

What makes a dish a local specialty? I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over that question since I returned home from a hectic, nerve-wracking (to this introvert), and ultimately exhilarating trip to Portland and Vida Vegan Con last week. (Big confession: I took almost no photos. See the end of this post for links to some people who did.)

My daughter E and I spent five solid days eating in incredible vegan restaurants that ranged from fast-food (Buffalo wings and All Hail Kale at Veggie Grill) to gourmet (gnocchi and beet tartare at Portobello Vegan Trattoria), but by the end it was a simple bowl of quinoa, kale, tempeh, and sauce–Canteen’s Portland Bowl–that made the biggest impression on me. I’m still not sure whether it was the quality of the tempeh or the way it was prepared, but it was the best I’d ever had–flavorful, tender, and lacking that sharp, bitter taste that tempeh can have. I was left wondering what made this delicious bowl of food specific to Portland, and if I were to make a bowl based on my adopted hometown, Jackson, Mississippi, what would it contain? So I came home with a mission–to make The Jackson Bowl.

You know how when you move to a new area, there are things the locals know–shared history, customs, local dishes–that are entirely new to you, but which they expect you to know (and often won’t bother explaining to you)? When I moved to Jackson, I was thrown into a world of confusion when I’d ask about the salad dressing in a restaurant and be told “Comeback Sauce.” No one could quite explain to me what it was, and it took an internet search to tell me that it’s a mayonnaise and ketchup-based sauce similar to a spicy Thousand Island dressing or a remoulade sauce. Since it obviously wasn’t vegan, I never sampled it in the local restaurants, but online recipes gave me a pretty good idea of what it would taste like. I knew that the sauce in my Jackson Bowl would have to be vegan Comeback Sauce.

Comeback Sauce or Dressing

Making a vegan Comeback Sauce could be so easy: Just mix a cup of vegan mayo with quarter cups of ketchup and Heinz chili sauce and add some seasonings. But that’s too many processed ingredients for my taste, so I went back to basics on everything, substituting silken tofu and cashews for the mayo and tomato puree and seasonings for the ketchup/chili sauce. And whether or not it tastes like non-vegan comeback sauce, this recipe is a keeper if you like spicy as much as I do. Before you even get to the kick of the red pepper and mustard, the raw onion and garlic give it a real bite. In Jackson it’s served with seafood or as a salad dressing, but you can dip your falafel, “crab” cakes, or sweet potato fries in it or spread it on sandwiches. Or make The Jackson Bowl!

The Jackson Bowl

If there’s such a thing as Jackson cuisine, I think it would have to be a combination of country home cooking and soul food–field peas, greens, barbecue, and corn bread–heavily influenced by New Orleans’ Creole and Cajun dishes. You’ll find gumbos and red beans and rice on a lot of local menus, though they are never vegan. I chose red beans and rice for my Jackson bowl because it’s one of the few local specialties that can easily be made vegan. And I topped it with sweet potato “croutons” in honor of the Sweet Potato Queens series of books and parade, another local tradition that I learned about only after moving here but which, like Comeback Sauce, gives this area its own spicy, quirky flavor.

Vida Vegan Con

If you’re curious about the incredible vegan love-fest that was Vida Vegan Con 2013, check out these bloggers who weren’t so nervous that they actually forgot to take photos:


And so many more! If I left you out, please add a link to your post in the comments below.

Susan

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gena June 3, 2013 at 10:29 am

I love this, Susan! Those bowls made a big impression on me, too. Perhaps I’ll take a stab at an NYC bowl…though I’m not sure I know what that would mean!

This meal looks delicious, and the sauce sounds perfect.

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2 Susan Voisin June 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

Gena, wouldn’t it be fun if everyone at VVC made a bowl based on their home town?

P.S. It was great seeing you, but I wish we’d had more time to talk!

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3 moonwatcher June 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

Susan,

This is absolutely inspired!! I laughed out loud with delight to read your local redo of that fabulous Portland bowl! It really was heavenly. What a great idea. . .I guess if I was to make a “Moscow bowl” or a “Palouse Bowl” it would have to have lentils in it. . .hmmmm. But first I may take a detour South and try a version of this Jackson Bowl. Love the sweet potato croutons. Thank you so much–this brings back that fun dinner and puts a whole creative spin to looking back on our wonderful time in Portland!

xoxo

Maria (moonwatcher)

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4 Susan Voisin June 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Maria, having dinner with you, Mike, and Kelly was the cherry on top of the vegan sundae that was VVC. I’m sorry if E and I were so burned out after so much sensory overload that we did little but stuff our faces. I really regret not getting a photo with you! Or with almost anyone else! :)

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5 Lee Yeager June 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

It all sounds so good as do nearly all of your creations. Thank you so much for your perk me up blogs. I see recipes calling for golden raisins(which are treated with sulpher dioxide) so I haven’t used them. I just substitute regular raisins but the color is often nasty.

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6 Sayward Rebhal June 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

This looks absolutely delicious, a perfect tribute to that amazing Portland Bowl. It was so great seeing and spending time with you Susan! <3

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7 Susan Voisin June 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm

It was wonderful to get to meet you and to be on your panel, Sayward. You did a great job moderating! Also, thank you for mentioning the Portland bowl in your VVC post. It was really what I needed after 4 days of vegan decadence.

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8 Aimee June 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I first heard about comeback sauce when reading the Sweet Potato Queen books (which are fabulously funny)! Thanks so much for posting this healthy version!!

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9 Carrie @ Carrie on Vegan June 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hi Susan! I love that you’ve created your own version of the Portland bowl. It was fun running into you at Canteen. Thanks for including the link to my post, too. :)

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10 moonwatcher June 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Yes, Susan, thanks for incuding my post abotu Portland, too. And Carrie, I am sorry I didn’t put it together to meet you while at Canteen. A friend of mine from the McDougall board, Nicole, recommened your blog to me. I really enjoyed your post about Portland! I look forward to following you more.

Maria

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11 luminousvegans June 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

As an introvert too I can relate. I feel like I didn’t meet as many folks because I have a hard time initiating conversations and found that I had to get away from the conference now and then due to sensory overload too. Your talk was really great and I took away a lot of great tips from it.

The bowls had an impact on me as well and I have been attempting various little bowls since we got back. I love that you put a hometown spin on yours. The sauce looks terrific and sounds exactly like something I would love!

Thanks for including my link.

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12 Ricki June 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm

It was SO great to finally meet you, Susan, and say hello to E! And I am so making this bowl. . . sounds even better than the one I had a Prasad. ;-)

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13 Ruth June 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I am curious what is the difference between Cajun and Creole seasoning. And, have you found a way to create a nonfat dark roux?

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14 Susan Voisin June 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Ruth, in simple terms, Cajun food is the food of the country and Creole is the food of the city. Creole is the product of several different cultures, including French, African, and Spanish, and tends to use more cream sauces (like remoulade sauce). But when it comes to those Cajun and Creole seasonings in a jar, I don’t think there’s a lot of difference; just use the one that you like best.

I actually have made a fat-free roux by browning flour in a hot pan before adding liquid. It works amazingly well, and you can see it in action in my etoufee recipe: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2012/02/vegan-sausage-and-mushroom-etoufee.html

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15 Debmar June 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm

I made your “Jackson Bowl” tonight. Fabulous! My husband said “you know hon, you are a great cook– before and after becoming a Vegan”. :)

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16 Rachel - A Southern Fairytale June 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm

This sounds amazing! Wow. You’ve got my mouth watering!

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17 Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy June 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm

this look phenomenal! I love the walnuts on there! Good omega 3s!

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18 Dazzle59 June 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Oh wow, Susan – this looks fantastic! I can’t wait to try it. I love all your wonderful culinary creations!! I live in New Mexico and will have to develop a “Santa Fe Bowl.”

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19 Amey June 4, 2013 at 12:08 am

Susan!! I love this post so much. I love everything about it! I’ve never heard of Comeback sauce, but what a great name. I also really loved the Portland bowl so much, and it has been on my mind. What a great idea to come up with a Jackson Bowl. I’m going to try your recipe next week! I also want to challenge myself to come up with a Santa Cruz bowl. What will it be???

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20 Pat June 4, 2013 at 7:32 am

Is tomato puree the same as tomato sauce?

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21 Susan Voisin June 4, 2013 at 7:58 am

Not really. Tomato puree is just tomatoes and salt, while tomato sauce has added seasonings. Tomato puree is also a little thicker than tomato sauce. Tomato sauce would probably work in this recipe, but it would add flavors that would make it different than my original. If you don’t have tomato puree and don’t want to buy a can just for this recipe, another option would be to take a can of diced tomatoes, drain off about half of the liquid, and puree it in a blender. Then measure out a half cup to use in this recipe.

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22 Jared June 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

Susan, I didn’t get the chance to meet you in Portland while at VVC, but this bowl makes me want to visit Jackson. It’s so interesting the way you capture the flavors of your hometown and describe how they work into a vegan bowl.

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23 Genki Kitty June 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Oh that looks delicious! Perfect for kale season in a lot of American states. :)

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24 Alissa - Not Just Apples June 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

This looks so tasty! Amazing flavour combinations…

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25 Stephanie June 5, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Dude. That sauce is insane. I riffed on the beans (northern beans with Tony’s — all I had in the pantry) and sweet potatoes a little (added some red chili), and did pepitas instead of pecans. Of course kept “the precious” (kale). My husband went nuts over it. This one is a KEEPER.

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26 Andrea - Chocolate and Beyond June 7, 2013 at 3:44 am

Hi Susan – sorry about communication via your comments page! Did you get my reply emails and questions? Need to complete the article soon. Hoping haven’t been spammed again!

Andrea

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27 Lydia June 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Hi Susan, it was great to finally meet you at VVC. It’s funny that now that we’ve met, as I read your post I could hear it in your voice. It made the recipe sound even better :-) Now I’ll have to make a Dtown (can I still use this sauce or will I have to make my own up?) bowl to try it since I didn’t get to go to Canteen while in Portland. Too many restaurants to try.
P.S. A friend of mine who used to live in Portland told me about this sauce. He calls it yum sauce. He made it for Mauro and I and had us over for dinner. It truly is super yum!

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28 Shayla June 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Love this recipe, it was delicious. It was more than 30 minutes of prep, but worth the effort.

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29 Kate June 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

That sauce sounds so amazing! I want to try it.

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30 Mikelle June 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Wow! Amazing. I loosely followed the directions and the end result was amazing! This is some good stuff and very healthy. I didn’t have a lemon and I only had onion powder but it was still off the chain good!

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31 Tom June 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I wasn’t certain what tomato puree was. I have tomato paste, tomato sauce, cans of crushed tomatoes. Is this similar to Pomi tomatoes? I simply used 1-1/2 tomatoes and pureed them in the vitamix? Is this the idea? It may have made the sauce a bit watery (maybe I could have taken the seeds out). Open to suggestions or ideas. Thanks!

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32 Tom June 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Oops, just saw this answered above. THANK YOU. That is helpful!!!

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33 Susan Voisin June 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Hi Tom, I’m glad you found the answer but sorry your dressing came out watery. I think the secret would be cooking down your tomato purée until its pretty thick.

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34 Megan July 1, 2013 at 9:32 am

This recipe is soooo good! It is the first thing I have made on your website, and I love it! My kids loved it (4 and 1); I made a non spicy version for them. My recently vegetarian husband loved it. I loved how easy it is. It is super filling too. Great recipe. It is going to be a regular in our household. Thank you.

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35 Wendy July 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm

This sauce is awesome! It made my baked potato and steamed veggies sing!

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36 Julie F August 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I just made this last night for dinner. It was excellent! This will become a regular in our household. Thanks so much for your recipes. I try them often and many have become household favourites.

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37 Michelle August 14, 2013 at 10:20 am

Hi,
The recipes look great on your website! I was looking at the recipes under the ETL 6week plan but noticed they don’t abide by the 6week plan guidelines. Is there a place here that has recipes purely for the 6 week plan?
Thanks,
Michelle

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38 Susan Voisin August 14, 2013 at 10:44 am

Hi Michelle, can you point out any that don’t abide by the 6-week plan guidelines and how? They are all supposed to be appropriate for the 6-week plan if you use them without adding salt.

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39 Liz August 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Susan,

I know you posted this over 2 months ago, but I just HAD to come back (LOL) and leave a comment. ThoughI haven’t made the salad, I am OBSESSED with the sauce. OBSESSED. Since first making it a month ago, not one day has passed without this being in my fridge. I rarely eat tofu, but I’m gearing up to make yet ANOTHER batch of this magnificent sauce. I put it on almost anything and everything, and it instantly makes it that much better. I need to go procure myself some more tomato puree, and as soon as I do, it’s on to the second month of my love affair with your Comeback Sauce. :) Thanks a million for this creation and your endless sharing.

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40 Lynn August 27, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Thanks for this recipe and the idea of having unique bowls like this!

I made the Comeback Sauce and put everything together for the Jackson Bowl. My kale did not look that great. Then I discovered one of the really good things about Comeback Sauce – it can cover up imperfections very well. It was so good! I had refrigerated the sauce, so the bowl had the contrast of a cool, spicy taste with warm beans and rice and the other textures and flavors from the rest of the toppings.

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41 Steffy October 16, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hei!

Wanted to give notice that your blog has not updated in Bloglovin since this post. None of the other ones are visible, or been notified to your subscribers. I happened to find this out by half-accident, missing your posts, I decided to check whether you write this blog anymore. It would be absolutely lovely if you could get that fixed. It is such a convenient way to follow, I saw there are 3,900+ followers that may also be sad about not reading your work!

Thanks and have a beautiful fall! We’re expecting snow here in Scandinavia in two days time!

Steffy

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42 Susan Voisin October 16, 2013 at 10:02 am

Thanks, Steffy! I’ve contacted Bloglovin to see if they can fix it. I appreciate your letting me know.

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43 Steffy October 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

It works now! Thank you!

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