Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NYC for Xmas!

So I headed home for Christmas and planned a whirlwind trip of NY and the surrounding areas.

First off.  I stopped in Richmond for snackiepoos on the way up, and shock shock, Harrison St Coffee was CLOSED.  Oh well, I hit Panda Veg.  I ordered the home style tofu, a spring roll and the sesame balls.  The tofu was not the tofu I'd had at the buffet, and I ended up throwing most of it in the trash, but can I expound for one moment on the joy and beauty that is sesame balls?  Okay
, so you have these little balls that get put
 in the deep fryer and expand to 3x their size.  Nothing amazing there.  What is amazing is the crispy, sesame seed coated outside, which yields to a hot, doughy, sticky bun with dense, molasses flavored peanut butter core.  I didn't want to eat all of them before I got out of Virginia, but I totally did.  They were fantastically delicious.

My first night, I had dinner at new restaurant Dirt Candy.  Dirt Candy is a very small restaurant on 9th ave, devoted to, as they 
say "leaving the 
vegetables to professionals."  A 3 person operation, it is a 
little snug, but uses that size issue to its advantage.  The front-of-house man is very helpful, 
charming and friendly.  He asked us and all parties seated after us if anyone at the table was vegan and made reccomendations on dishes accordingly.  The menu is very small-- 9 items total. We ordered everything on the menu except spinach soup and carrot risotto.  Here's how it went down:

The "snack" of jalapeno hush puppies was tasty, but I wish that chef
 Amanda Cohen had devised a more inventive way of combining the popcorn sized snacks with the perfect condiment that is maple butter.  If Cohen ever decides to make brunch, this would be the perfect thing to serve with, well, every breakfast item possible.  It would be ideal on waffles, pancakes and toast.  It does complement the puppies, but swabbing them across the butter is a little awkward.  I'd like to see a chef who seems interested in advanced techniques like Cohen try something like flash freezing the butter, then surrounding it with hush puppies.  

The star of this meal, as far as I was concerned, was the appetizer.  My father ordered the greek salad-- I didn't try it due to the cheese, but the
 portabello mousse.  Can we talk about this mousse for a moment?  Honestly, I was scared, but t
he waiter sold me.  My love for mushrooms can turn to hate very quickly, particularly when they are pureed, mixed with gelatin and served in futuristic style cubes.  BUT these totally scored.  The mousse tasted like mushrooms, almost more so than the thinly sliced pile that accompanied it on the plate.  The pear confit was a surprising
 burst of sweet that worked out.  The crostini
 added salt and a little crunch to what would otherwise be a mushy dish.  I really loved this.  I probably could've eaten two of them.  I kind of want to 
make portabello mousse squares for my friends, but I don't think they'd understand.  My mom ordered the regular garden salad, which looked pleasant but was really saved by the grapefruit
 pops.  The grapefruit pops are essentially grapefruit sections, coated in a hard candy shell.  They were divine and have resparked my interest in grapefruit brulee.  Hooray butane torches.

I went and saw Playing Dead and Autumn People at Mr Beery's in Farmingdale.  Playing Dead are friends of a friend who played the Stately on Labor Day Weekend.  They serve up radio friendly rock which holds echoes of local Long Island heroes 
Taking Back Sunday.  Autumn People are devoted psychadelic noise rockers.  I didn't expect to like their set as much as I did, but I really liked the show.  Fabian's voice is unexpected, the bass player can really write a bassline and their drummer managed to continue playing as feet, beer, instruments and band members came hurling at him and knocking over his drumkit.

The next day was Christmas, and for Christmas I made the I'm Fucking Hungry Fajitas for my main dish, and a slight variation on VWAV's Tuscan White Bean soup.  Add about 2 cups of spinach, then tell me how much you love me.  My family was, sadly, pretty wary, but my dad tried some and drank a whole lot of soup the next day.
I also made an apple-grapefruit pound cake.  I love pound cake.  It's very beautiful, but doesn't keep extremely well because it's so moist, and because the grapefruit on top starts to go bad.  Photo at right shows the Cake, and a slab cut off of it, for your delicious joy.  I did kind of nick and modify this recipe from my friend Rachel, so I'm going to share my changes with you.

Fruit Pound Cake

1.5 C flour
1 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C apple cider (or go half and half, cide and grapefruit juice)
1 Tbsp grapefruit zest
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp almond extract

1/2 C shortening
1/2 C margarine
2 T apple cider vinegar
2-2 1/2 C powdered sugar
Grapefruit zest to taste

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a pan.  Mix all dry and wet ingredients separately, then mix together quickly, for no more than 2 minutes, then get it in the oven.  If you use a bread pan (to make a little loaf cake like me) it will need about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you use an 8x8 pan bake about 30 minutes. You can also double the recipe and make a big honkin' cake with two 8x8s.

While your cake is cooling and shortening and margarine are approaching room temp, peel and section a grapefruit.  Then you can mix the icing ingredients together, adding more sugar if it's too loose and more cider if it's too stiff.  Ice the cake as you would any other.  Part of the beauty of this cake is that you can sub in/out almost any fruit and be alright.

On the way home, I got to go to my favorite place in the world: Vegan Treats. 
(Warning, this post is about to become a love song)

How do I love vegan treats?  Let me count the ways.  Observe the look of almost-mindless ecstasy as I bite into the love of my life, the Berliner.  Oh, how I miss jelly donuts.

I have lots of pictures of this donut because i wanted to remebmer it forever, but I won't make you look at them.  I also got a slice of chocolate covered strawberry shortcake, two (yes I know) cinnamon buns and a couple of mini cakes to taste.  They were so pretty!  How could I resist?

The cinnamon buns were exactly as I remembered-- overbearingly rich, smothered in icing, soft and chewy...so totally effing wonderful.  I shared them with my bandmates and it got everyone's seal of approval.

I'm just going to leave off with photos of all the wonderful treats now, but I propose a question or a challenge-- does anyone have any *idea* how they get their icing so fluffy and wonderful?  I know transfats are involved and don't really care.  Most baked goods are not that healthy anyway, and a little transfat to make the difference between satisfying and I-will-eat-this-until-I-cannot-physically-swallow-any-more seems like a fair trade.  Maybe it's because my real dream in life is to have a Vegan Treats Satellite here in Durham.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  I love food.  Thanksgiving is unabashedly devoted to it.  Where can I go wrong?  Well, this year it was creating too much wonderful food.

We started cooking on Tuesday night, this year, with the Candle Cafe Cookbook (CCC) seitan. Wessie and I went out drinking first, then came home, cleared off our island, floured it an
d got to kneading.  The next Morning, I woke up with VwaV's Raspberry Blondies.  The batter was FAR stiffer than
I thought it would be, but I didn't care!  The raspberry preserves were beautiful.  This picture doesn't do them justice.  My friend Jill Homewrecker came over and crocheted legwarmers while Wessie and I threw together the blondies.  While the blondies baked, we began the arduous task of washing out the dough for the seitan.  I know you can buy the pre-sorted out gluten, but I feel like you're cheating somehow unless you put 40 
minutes of backbreaking kneading into making your seitan.  Maybe it's that "5 miles to school, uphill both ways" good old days mentality.  Maybe it's the ab workout that justifies eating oneself into a coma on seitan.  It is a *very* good ab workout, FYI.
Once the seitan was resting, the blondies smelled so good that we couldn't resist and ended up cutting into them before the chips

were cooled and gooing them up.  Not that any of us cared as we shoved
 vanilla raspberry goodness into our mouths.

In the meantime, I started on the lemon tofu cheesecake from CCC and the gingerbread apple pie from VwaV.  Unfortunately for me, I ended up having to sift brown sugar.  Packed brown sugar.  On the plus side, my lemon tofu cheesecake 
with pom glaze actually 
TURNED OUT this year.  The cheesecake was perfectly set, and the glaze was thin enough to be poured over the top of the cheesecake, but thick enough to stay put and not dribble off.  I
 was super duper amped.  see the photos at right of the lovely/amazing dessert pairing.

That night I got to work on one of my favorite "feed an army" dishes: lasagna.   I don't mean to toot my own horn, but my lasagna has won over omnis far and wide and can defy the laws of the stomach.  I feel the need to share this recipe with you as a result of that.  I make product reccs here, but I've used others with good results.  For me, it's just the magic combo.

Can't Believe It's Vegan Lasagna

Tofu Ricotta (modified from Angelica Home kitchen)
2 packages tofu
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T to 4 T lemon juice
2 T to 1/3 c italian style herbs (think basil, oregano, thyme, sage)
2-4 cloves fresh garlic or 1-2 tsp garlic powder
1/2-1 tsp salt
few cranks of fresh black pepper

Put all ingredients into food processor and blend until no large chunks of tofu remain.

Bolognaise Sauce
1 and 1/2 jars Rao's tomato sauce (I like Rao's, I know it's really expensive but there is something abuot the flavor that speaks to me.  If you want to go cheaper, you can use 1 jar of premium sauce and 1 jar of regular sauce like prego, ragu, newman's...just make sure that one of your sauces is thinnish.  If you make your own, more power to ya, but I like this as a quick meal for when I suddenly have to feed 8-10 people.  Or myself, for a week and a half.)
1 package lightlife smart ground (yves is a good substitute but I find it has a slightly greasy aftertaste that reminds me of fatty beef, which I was not a fan of then and am not a fan of now.  The boca ground, to me, is pretty much inedible.  They tried way too hard to make it "meaty."  On another note, if you're trying to avoid processed soy, mushrooms, finely chopped and sauteed in a veggie broth will work well)
1-2 C chopped broccoli
1-2 C chopped spinach (either the broccoli or spinach can be replaced with your fav green leafies, left out or increased.)  

Set aside 1/2 jar (or about 3-4 C) tomato sauce.  Mix the rest with "meat" and veggie.

"Invent-a-cheesey melt"
1 block FYH Monterey Jack
1 block FYH Mozarella

Grate both blocks and mix together in a bowl.  Either fake cheese will work on its own, but I find the Mozarella is a little bland and the Jack is a little strong.  Mixed together, they give the affect of a combination of mozarella and parmasean.


Either boil your noodles or get your no-boil noodles ready for assembly.
Pour 1-2 cups plain tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 9x12 pan, spread it around, then cover the bottom of the pan with noodles.  Spread about 1/3 of the tofu ricotta on the noodles.  Pour about 1/3 of the bolognaise sauce over the ricotta.  Take 1/4 of the shredded cheese over the sauce.  Make 2 more layers of noodle, then ricotta, then sauce then shredded cheese.  For the last layer, put your noodles down, dump the rest of the ricotta on top and down the sides of the lasagna, use your other pure tomato sauce, then sprinkle the top with cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil.  You can refridgerate overnight or stick in the freezer (but if you freeze, be sure to thaw for 4-6 hours before cooking) before baking.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 10.  The sauce should be bubbling, cheese on top at least making moves towards melting. 

And voila.  You'll have 12 servings of deliciousness.

In addition to the lasagna, I had some really beautiful local greens from my CSA
 program, including kale, mustard greens and collards.  I ripped them up and made some super garlicky greens.  I also found some very pretty shitake mushrooms and baby bellas to complete my wild mushroom gravy.  Every time I make wild mushroom gravy, I seem to buy too many mushrooms...but wouldn't you?  They're so good!

Lastly, I'll leave you with the finished picture, and a few close ups, as well as guests enjoying the food.
The spread, starting at the bottom center and going clockwise:
CCC wild mushroom gravy
CCC Seitan Steaks, pan fried
Garlicky mixed greens
Mashed potatoes
Anne Gomez's roasted root vegetables
Vegan Lasagna
Dairy mac and cheese (Wessie's a lacto veg)
Dairy Crescent Rolls
CCC Lemon Poppy Muffins
VwaV Raspberry Blondies
CCC Lemon Tofu Cheesecake with Pom Glaze
VwaV Gingerbread Apple Pie
VwaV chocolate cupcakes with injected peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate buttercream 
Pumpkin Pie

As you can see, we kind of got into a couple of things before people started eating.  I also had to wear a sweatshirt while pan frying the seitan so as not to get oil spatter on my pretty new dress.  Someone needs to get me an apron.

Unfortunately most of the other pictures of us hanging out and eating are a little blurry.  =(  I hope you all had great TGs!

Friday, December 12, 2008


I had a pot luck at work a few weeks ago and needed to provide something I could make in the 20 minutes before work with ingredients I had on hand. Good thing I've turned into a super jew.

Charoset is a traditional passover "symbol" that goes on that plate in the middle (okay so I'm not that good of a jew) and represents the sweet times. Eastern European jews like my dad's fam make it with apples. If you're ghetto like me, anything will do.

Glucklich Yummy Charoset
3-4 Apples (whatever's around...I prefer honeycrisps, but had a few braeburns and a granny smith too)
1-2 pears
1 cup walnuts
handful of raisins
dash cinnamon
splash of maneschewitz concord grape wine (but grape juice or any red wine will work if you add a little syrup)

Finely chop walnuts, apples and pears. Mix cinnamon and wine, if possible. Toss in a bowl with raisins and wine mix. Serve with either main course or dessert. Makes an excellent snack too. Will keep in your fridge for about 4 days.

Field Roast vs. Viana

Hi Guys...
I know I got *massively* behind on blogging...the holidays, eating healthy and working hard will do that to you!

I'd like to offer some advice on "exotic" fake meats, per my palate.

First off, I probably should let you know that I bring Light Life bologna to work for lunch almost every day. Light Life is my friend.

Secondly, I ordered several products off Veganessentials.com to try and they came in evenly down the line.

We'll start with the bad:
I did not want Field Roast deli slices to be vile, since Field Roast tends to strike me as a little healthier (I can pronounce and understand what all ingredients are). Unfortunately, they are VILE. I ordered the Lentil Sage and Smoked Tomato flavors.

I really wanted to like these but they were inedible. You don't have to take my word for it, but they're pretty pricey, and you'll be happier just making a hummus sandwich. I know I was.

However, there is a company out there that's worth its price tag. That company is Viana's Holzfaller Farms. The products are supposed to look like the image to the right, but they actually look more like large tear drops. Having been a vegan for a while, amorphous, unidentifiable fake meats don't really scare me. I ordered the cowgirl steaks and the chicken fillets.

The steaks are really good, solid seitan. They taste a lot like Field Roast celebration roast, but less salty and without the somewhat peculiar filling. They work very well with greens and mashed potatoes. More than the steaks though, I found the chicken fillets to be worthwhile. The breadding is light (I definitely reccommend baking, not microwaving or pan frying) and the flavor of the meat is also mild. This made it excellent both on its own and used in a dish. I'm very big on garlicky greens at the moment (thanks to my CSA) so I made a little Chicken Parmasean with Collards. It's pictured at right. I just used some of Mom's Brand Spaghetti Sauce and leftover Mozarella Tease, put it in a dish and baked on 350 for about 20 minutes. Picture of it at left. I ate that all up and it was delicious. More to come, soon!