Friday, October 29, 2010

Let's Kick It Up A Notch: Louisiana-Style Barbecue Shrimp & Cheese Grits

Ok, so obviously I'm on a N'awlins kick. I'm in the Big Easy right now, and I have to say that it hasn't been very easy to find the vegan eats here. Last night I ate dinner with coworkers at NOLA, one of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants here. Now, seeing that Emeril has his "Emeril Green" show on the Planet Green network, where he has done several vegetarian episodes, including a Vegan Soul Cookin' episode with Bryant Terry, and a Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan episode, I felt pretty optimistic that they would be able to handle a vegan request there. When I asked our server if there were any vegan options, he very happily said "No problem, I'm going to have them do something for you!" He had such a great attitude about my request, and I was literally on the edge of my seat in anticipation at what they were going to bring out...

And then it came. A plate of grilled vegetables. Some squash, zucchini, asparagus, eggplant, a slice of tomato, and some grilled onion. Now, to their credit, I will say that it had some hot Cajun spices, so at the very least it was more flavorful than it looked. But still... it was just a plate of grilled vegetables. Not exactly an inspired dish, and not exactly what I hoped for from chefs of the caliber employed by Mr. Lagasse. It was sad. I was sad.

It was even more disappointing because I've eaten at NOLA before, so I know how good his food can be. I especially enjoyed his famous shrimp & grits, which at the time I had the sense to order without the bacon, although I obviously didn't have the sense at the time to know that shrimp is one of the most environmentally destructive types of seafood that one can consume. Which takes us to this veganized version that I made before leaving home, which is good for you and good for the marine life as well.

Now I will tell you that I've been highly skeptical of vegan seafood substitutes. Vegan sausages, vegan chicken, mock duck... I love it. But seafood... maybe it's because seafood was the last thing I quit eating before becoming vegan, and so the taste memory is much more recent in my mind.  I also thought the delicate texture of seafood would be harder to replicate successfully. But still, I was curious, and definitely intrigued by the array of vegan seafood items on display at a recent trip to May Wah. I was feeling adventurous. I was ready to conquer vegan seafood.

So what's the verdict on vegan shrimp? Personally, it's more of a novelty for me. As someone who used to enjoy eating seafood, I liked the "fishy" flavor, but the texture was a little...strange. You might also notice that I opted for the shrimp balls instead of the more realistic looking prawns, and I did that for a few reasons. But mostly just because balls are funny.

Feel free to make this recipe with the faux seafood of your choice, or even with tofu, tempeh, seitan or mushrooms. Just take note that this recipe is hot stuff! Like, your tongue burning kind of hot. Like, need a cold beer kind of hot. Fortunately, the rich, creamy, cheesy grits are a bit of a foil for the heat of the barbecued shrimp, but still, don't say I didn't warn you.

Louisiana-Style Barbecue Shrimp and Cheese Grits
makes 4 servings

For the shrimp: (adapted from this recipe)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. frozen vegan shrimp
about 1/2 batch of Wendy's Seitan Chorizo, diced*
2 large stems of fresh rosemary, left whole, but bruised with the back of your knife
3 Tbsp. of vegan Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 large lemon, juiced and quartered
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. paprika
1/3 cup beer (ale)
4 Tbs. vegan butter, room temperature
Sea salt and pepper to taste
*Ok, so a vegan Andouille sausage would be the more authentic choice, but basically I wanted a spicy sausage to add, and Wendy's Seitan Chorizo is awesome, so I used that.

For the grits:
2 cups water
1 cup non-dairy cream (I used MimicCreme)
1 Tbsp. vegan butter
3/4 cup grits
1/3 cup Daiya cheddar cheese

1. First prepare the grits. Bring water, cream, butter, and some salt and pepper to a boil. Add grits, reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5-7 minutes until grits are thickened. When grits are thickened, stir in cheese. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the shrimp. If grits get too thick, feel free to add some additional cream or water to achieve the consistency of your choice.

2.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add garlic and brown, but do not let burn.

3. Add the shrimp, chorizo sausage, whole rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, lemon quarters, basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne,  and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add beer, scraping up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom.

4. Cook another few minutes, adding the butter 1 Tbsp. at a time, stirring to incorporate fully. (The original recipe called for EIGHT Tbsp. of real dairy butter... even using vegan butter, I started to get grossed out after 4 Tbsp. That is plenty of butter, vegan or not.)

After the butter is fully incorporated, taste the sauce and adjust any seasonings to taste. Remove lemon quarters and rosemary and serve over the grits.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I'm Going to the Big Easy... So Let's Eat Some Gumbo!

I'm heading down to New Orleans this week to work at the annual Voodoo Music Festival. This will be my third year at the festival, and I've really grown to love the city and all its sights, sounds, smells, and of course, fabulous tastes.

I plan to report on the festival from a vegan's point of view, like I did for Bonnaroo earlier this year, but in the meanwhile I'm getting pretty excited for some Cajun & Creole cuisine. I already made an étouffée in honor of the True Blood finale, so this weekend I decided to make another classic: gumbo.

I found this recipe for Smoky Red Peppers 'n' Beans Gumbo in everyone's favorite vegan bible, Veganomicon. The ingredient list looked kind of long, but I have to say that everything came together pretty fast. It's totally yummy and had me thinking I was already down in N'awlins, listening to some jazz and dodging vampires.

The first step is making a roux, which consists of flour and butter and is used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, then add 1/3 cup vegan butter (like Earth Balance) and stir until melted. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and stir to dissolve. Cook the flour mixture, stirring frequently, until it is a rich caramel color and smells toasty, about 10 minutes.

 The color of your roux will change from this... this.

To your roux, add 2 diced onions and 2 diced green bell peppers. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until vegetables are very soft, at least 12 minutes. Add 1 thinly sliced stalk of celery, 4 minced cloves of garlic, and a 10-oz. bag of frozen okra (slightly thawed), then cook another 6 minutes. The recipe said to thinly slice the frozen okra, but I thought that sounded like a lot of extra work so I didn't do it, and the gumbo didn't seem to suffer for it.

Lastly, add 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes with their juices, 3 finely diced roasted red peppers, 1 16-oz. can of kidney beans*, and 3 cups of vegetable broth. Whisk together 1 cup ale-style beer and 3 Tbsp. tomato paste, then add that to the mixture, stirring to incorporate completely. Stir in 1/4 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke, a pinch of grated nutmeg, 2 bay leaves, and 4-5 sprigs of thyme.

Raise the heat and bring everything to a gentle boil, then lower heat to medium and partially cover. Simmer 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally until okra is very tender. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm Grateful for the Gracious Gourmand

We finally got to make it to one of the Gracious Gourmand dinners, a biweekly event launched in August this year by our friend Joshua Katcher, otherwise known as The Discerning Brute. Hosted in a cozy private room at Williamsburg's Second Stop Cafe, Gracious Gourmand features a rotating cast of guest chefs who all create their own gourmet, sustainable, cruelty-free menus.

Last night our chef was Ayinde Howell, who in addition to being a great chef is also a lifelong vegan, an actor, musician, writer, and founder of the blog I Eat Grass. He's also, at least the two times I've met him now, a super nice guy. This is his second appearance at Gracious Gourmand, and this evening we were treated to a Moroccan-inspired menu, and even a couple surprise courses to boot. I apologize for the quality of the photos below, they don't do the food justice but it was very dimly lit in there and I only had the camera on my phone!

I was actually the first person to arrive, so I had the honor of taste-testing one of the Preserved Lemon Drop Martinis with a Date Sugar Rim. If you like lemon drop martinis, you would love this one. It was lemony, but not too tart, and sweet, but not overly so. After a long week at work, I so needed this.

The first course was Shwarma "Street Meat" Skewers. I've never eaten "street meat," but I can tell you that these were amazing. They definitely had some kind of lemony marinade on them, and were delicately but very nicely seasoned. I wanted to just order another big plate of these and call it a meal, but I'm glad I didn't...

After the shwarma, we had a Mediterranean mushroom soup, which was nice but I didn't get any good pictures of it. You'll just have to trust that it was good. Next, we got a surprise course that was a roasted sweet potato with scallions and cilantro butter. Simple, but suprisingly rich and tasty.

And then we got yet another surprise course of "mac & yeese" with a side of greens, pomegranate seeds, and black olives. The mac & yeese was one of the most unusual and most delicious versions I've ever had. There were spices in there that I just couldn't figure out, and it had a very pleasant, almost vinegary tang. We were desperately trying to figure out the ingredients, but Chef Howell would not divulge anything other than that the "cheese" sauce was a family recipe, it was nutritional yeast-based, and it included lemon juice (not vinegar), among other secret ingredients. I guess I'll have to hope he publishes a cookbook in order to get the recipe.

The main entree was Chermoula Tempeh over Raisin Couscous. Chermoula is a Moroccan type of marinade usually used on seafood or other meat, and again includes lemon juice and/or preserved lemons (lemon being the definite motif of the menu), and a mixture of fresh herbs and spices. I really enjoyed the tempeh prepared this way, and the couscous soaked with all the juices from the marinade was also delicious.

And finally, as if we had room left after all that, we were treated to a Cashew Ice Cream Affogato, which basically means a shot of hot espresso over ice cream. I love coffee-flavored ice cream (or coffee-flavored pretty much anything), but I have to tell you that I stopped drinking coffee several months ago, so just this shot of espresso, even mixed with the ice cream, was STRONG!  At any rate, this was a very nice ending to a fantastic meal, and a good way to combine coffee with dessert so they could get our butts out of there before the next seating.

If you are in NY, I really recommend that you check out the Gracious Gourmand. It's not exactly cheap, but you get an incredible meal in a warm, intimate, cozy setting amongst other vegans (or vegan-friendlies), and you have a chance to check out new chefs and their imaginative creations. It is definitely worth every penny, so go for the splurge. I know we'll be back.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vietnamese Noodle Soup for the Soul

Cooler weather means that I've decided to pull out the slow cooker so I can come home from work to a nice, warm, mostly already cooked meal. Well, my rice cooker doubles as a slow cooker, so I didn't really have to "pull it out," like it was stored away with my scarves and sweaters or something, but you know what I mean.  At any rate, the first thing that I wanted to make in my slow cooker was a delicious, soothing, aromatic pot of phở.

If you haven't had phở before, it is a traditional Vietnamese soup with rice noodles in a rich broth deeply fragrant with cinnamon and star anise. It is also usually very meaty, with a beef based broth and either slices of beef or chicken, but that version is for chumps. I found a vegan version in Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

I think nearly every culture has their own version of a make-you-feel-better chicken (or not-chicken) soup, and I've adopted this recipe as my own. It is warm and healing in an almost medicinal way. Not medicinal like a shot of Robitussin, but medicinal in a soothing, comforting, good for your body and your soul kind of way.

Robin Robertson's Slow Phở (recipe from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)
serves 4

1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small green chile, seeded and chopped
3 slices fresh ginger
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 Tbsp. tamari or other soy sauce
5 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
4 oz. seitan, cut into strips
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. barley miso paste, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. hot water
6 oz. dried rice noodles, soaked 15 minutes in cold water to soften, then drained
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts for garnish
4 scallions, chopped, for garnish
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1. In a 4-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, chile, ginger, anise, cinnamon stick, tamari, and stock; cover and cook on Low for 6 hours.

2. Meanwhile or beforehand, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the seitan strips, and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Strain the stock and return the broth to the cooker.

4. In a small bowl, combine the hoisin, lime juice, and miso paste mixture, then add to the broth. Stir in the drained rice sticks and seitan and cook 10 minutes longer, or until the rice sticks are soft.

5. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mexican Pizza With Homemade Seitan Chorizo

I've been craving pizza lately. Not that there's ever a bad time to eat pizza, but something about the crisp fall air makes me crave a nice hearty pizza. And beer. Pizza and beer. Spicy pizza and beer. Oh yeah.

I've been meaning to make a Mexican pizza for some time now and I knew that I wanted to top it with a spicy sausage. I'm a huge fan of the Field Roast Mexican Chipotle sausages, and the Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo isn't bad, but when my friend Wendy told me that she had a recipe for homemade seitan chorizo, well there was no question. I had to make my own. And lucky for you folks, she said I could share her recipe here.

The directions for Wendy's chorizo really couldn't be any easier, and it is addictively good. The hardest part is waiting for it to finish cooking, because it smells so mouth-wateringly delicious. And I am extremely happy to report that it actually packs quite a punch! I wanted something really spicy, and I got it. It's not for the faint of heart or palate. But if you like spicy food, as I do, then you will love this stuff.

I also made pickled red onions to go on top of the pizza, but other than the time it takes to make the chorizo and the onions, everything else comes together pretty instantly. Although you could use any type of crust, I really recommend a cornmeal crust for this pizza. It's so hearty and delicious, and just really goes well with these types of toppings. You could make my Cornmeal Crust recipe, but I would leave out the herbs if you do so, or you could buy frozen cornmeal crusts from Whole Foods. Go ahead. I won't tell.

Mexican Pizza With Homemade Seitan Chorizo
makes one 9" pizza (2 servings)

1 cornmeal crust (homemade or frozen)
1/2 cup of your favorite pizza sauce
sliced black olives
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced with seeds removed
1/2 batch of Wendy's homemade chorizo (recipe below), cut into small cubes
Daiya or other vegan cheddar cheese
vegan sour cream
pickled red onions (I made a 1/2 batch of this recipe)
sliced fresh avocado
*Note: I'm not giving exact amounts for the pizza toppings. Use as much or as little as you like. Go crazy!

1. Preheat oven to 450. Top your crust with sauce, sliced jalapenos, and sliced olives.

2. Sprinkle chorizo cubes over pizza, then top with cheddar cheese.

3. Bake on pizza stone (recommended) or a crisper for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Top with dollops of sour cream, pickled red onions, slices of fresh avocado, and cilantro. Pour yourself a Mexican beer and enjoy!

Wendy's Seitan Chorizo

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
2 TB nutritional yeast
2 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (or kosher)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
3 TB water
1 TB apple cider vinegar
2 TB ketchup
1 TB canola

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk all of your liquid ingredients together.

2. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, it should be elastic and spongy. Let it rest while you clean your hands and prep your pans.
3. Put a glass loaf pan into the center of a brownie pan or roaster (2" sides) and fill the outer pan about half way full with water.
4. Now form your dough into a loaf (about 7" - 8" long) and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil, twisting the ends. Place the wrapped loaf inside of the dry glass loaf pan and bake it for 90 minutes. I recommend turning it after 60 minutes (this method won't give it a thick crust, but I like it to cook as evenly as possible). Also be sure to check the water level. If it evaporates, then you're looking at crusty city.
5. When it's done, unwrap and let it cool completely. After cooling, you can re-wrap it in plastic or foil (or store in a tightly sealed container, recommended) and store it in the refrigerator for when you're ready to use it. It also freezes well so if you don't use it up in about 5 days or so, divide it into portions and store it in the freezer.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Catch-Up & Some Good Links

Have you heard about Pinnacle yet? Last night we attended a fundraiser for the new anti-fur initiative Pinnacle, which is the dreamchild of everyone's favorite vegan guru, Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute. The fundraiser also doubled as Joshua's 30th birthday party, so there were two reasons to celebrate, and three cakes from Vegan Treats to help with the celebrating.

The concept of Pinnacle is quite simple: to reinvent the iconic anti-fur pin. Anyone and everyone can participate. Just go here to see how you can get involved create your own anti-fur pin (or any kind of accessory). Also make sure to check out the online issue of the Pinnacle magazine here, but be warned that in addition to the beautiful faces of vegan models Karolina & Adam (pictured above) are graphic images that are meant to remind and inform people about where fur actually comes from.

And while I'm in the sharing mood, I'll share some good links with you to the most drool-worthy of the recent posts I've come across:
photo from Veggie Belly
  • Hawaii has a special place in my heart. My husband & I got married on the island of Kauai, and we've been going back every other year for our anniversary. So when I saw Chef Chloe's Mahalo Mud Pie, I swooned. Partly because I imagined eating it in Hawaii, partly because it looks so ridiculously good. 
 photo from Chef Chloe Blog
  • And finally I have to share with you the most amazing Halloween food-themed post I've ever seen. This is the kind of stuff I wish I could come up with myself, except that I'm not crafty or imaginative enough. This Ghostly Dead Man dinner from Wing-It Vegan and all of their other Halloweegan ideas are so adorable, er, I mean SPOOKY! Frighteningly delicious.
photo from Wing-It Vegan

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Southeast Asian Vegan Banquet & a Camping Trip on the Delaware

Hi everyone. I've been a slacker posting this past week, but you'll have to forgive me because I was drowning my sorrows that my Vegan Fall Dinner Party post did not advance to the next round of Project Food Blog. What a bummer! Nevertheless, I am still touched by all the wonderful comments and votes that I got for my posts. It was fun while it lasted!

Now that I'm not busy with the PFB challenges, I busied myself with a cooking class at Natural Gourmet, where I previously took Chinese Homestyle Cooking and Vegan Hors D'Oeuvres classes. This time, the class was for a "Southeast Asian Vegan Banquet" and was taught by Myra Kornfeld, author of The Voluptuous Vegan. As always, it was a great time with fun people, and best of all, we got to eat everything we made and drink some wine at the end.

The first course we made was a Watercress & Green Mango Salad with Peanut Dressing, served with Hot & Sweet Sesame Nori Fins. Actually, the green mangos were a little overripe (in other words, not quite green anymore) so we didn't use them. At any rate, it's a watercress salad over sliced cucumbers with grapefruit supremes, which might sound not all that exciting but the peanut dressing made everything delicious and went surprisingly well with the grapefruit, which I never would have thought to pair with it. I'm definitely going to remake the sesame nori fins for a future post because they were so surprisingly and incredibly addictive. You basically paint sheets of nori with a mixture of brown rice syrup, sesame oil, and a little cayenne, then sprinkle them with sesame seeds and salt, then bake them. They are sweet, salty, crunchy, and kind of fishy tasting... and so very good. I think these might be the next big thing, so look out kale chips! Your reign is over!

 The main course that we made had several different components, that all came together beautifully. And deliciously. First we made Red Bhutan Rice with Roasted Baby Vegetables with Lemongrass & Cilantro. Then we had two different sauces, both coconut milk-based, a Yellow Pepper-Coconut Milk Sauce and a Spinach-Thai Basil Sauce. The two colors looked beautiful together on the plate, but I think I preferred the green sauce with all the wonderful Thai basil flavor - one of my favorite ingredients. We also made baked tofu that was marinated in a delectable combination of garlic, galangal, lemongrass, coconut oil, kaffir lime leaves, Thai chilies, and quite a few other things. Definitely one of the best marinades I've ever tasted, and it will also be remade and posted soon. But one of the most fun parts of the class was making the crispy rice sticks that we sprinkled on top of the dishes. Just drop some dried rice sticks in hot oil and see what happens:



And for dessert we made a Mango-Lemongrass Ice Cream with Lemon Tuiles. I would have never thought to put lemongrass into an ice cream, but it was really refreshing and zesty in this one, perfect paired with the mango. Also, I always thought that tuiles were the kind of fancy schmancy things you would find in Parisian bakeries and places with certified pastry chefs, so I was surprised and delighted to learn how easy they are to make. Now I want to make them all the time! I think I'm going to have to invest in some Silpat for my new tuile-making mania.

This tuile has a hole in it. Mine will be better.

And just for fun, because I forgot that I had these on my phone until I uploaded my cooking class photos, here are some pics from our most recent camping trip with friends, somewhere along the Delaware river. I forgot to take pics of the Field Roast Apple Sage sausages that we cooked over the fire, and it was too dark to take pictures of the vegan s'mores (but you can see s'mores pics from another trip here) but you can still see that we managed to eat very well. I'm a master of roasting veggies over a fire! 
Gorgeous tomatoes from my friend Susanne's garden.
Eaten with just some sea salt & a drizzle of truffled balsamic glaze.

Potatoes & brussels sprouts drizzled with olive oil & dried herbs turn into this:

Crispy, caramelized goodness.

Is there anything better than grilled corn on the cob?

Farmer's market squash & zucchini with a little jalapeno for kick,
drizzled with olive oil & dried herbs

Turned into more grilled goodness!

I call this dish "Tofu Flambé"

And our first jack-o-lantern of the year!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Greatest Cheesecake Recipe of All Time, Ever. Seriously. Ever.

I've been tickled pink by all the wonderful comments I got on my Dinner Party post, many of which requested the recipe for the stellar dessert that I served: Oven Roasted Banana Rum Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Crust & Maple Rum Sauce. As the saying goes, ask and ye shall receive!

The recipe is from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook. Also known as the vegan chef who prepared meals for Oprah's 21 Day Vegan Cleanse, and who catered Ellen's & Portia's wedding, he is truly a superstar vegan chef. And everything that I have made so far from his book has exceeded my already high expectations. But this cheesecake really, well, it really took the cake.

Step 1: Make the oven-roasted bananas:
Preheat the oven to 325. Place 4 large, very ripe, unpeeled bananas on a roasting pan and roast for 15-20 minutes, until bananas are soft and skin turns dark brown. Let bananas cool to room temperature in the pan in their skins. Set aside. Increase oven temp to 400.

Step 2: Make the Spiced Pecan Crust:
Combine 1 cup pecan nut flour*, 1/2 cup spelt flour, 1 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar, 4 Tbsp. partially melted vegan butter, 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, and a pinch of sea salt in a bowl and stir until well incorporated. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and put in freezer for 5 minutes. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes, until crust is a little dry and edges are light golden. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

*To make pecan nut flour, freeze the nuts overnight, then place in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Freezing the nuts prevents them from turning into nut butter when you process them.

Step 3: Make the filling:
Peel the roasted bananas and remove any obvious strings. Puree bananas in a food processor until very smooth. Add 16 oz. nondairy cream cheese, 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 cup dark rum, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp. salt then pulse until smooth, scraping sides of bowl periodically. Do not overprocess or cream cheese will separate and curdle.

Step 4: Bake cheesecake:
Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake another 35-45 minutes, until the top is the color of light brown sugar and center is set. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

Let cheesecake cool to room temperature on a rack for at least 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Step 5: Make maple rum sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup maple syrup, 4 Tbsp. vegan butter, and sea salt to taste and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. dark rum, stirring carefully, as sauce will bubble up a bit. Let cool for a few minutes then taste and add more salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a squeeze bottle. If not using immediately, the sauce can be rewarmed by putting the bottle in a pan of hot water off the heat.

To serve: Rewarm the sauce in a pan of hot water. Use an offset spatula or thin knife to loosen edges of cheesecake, then remove sides of the pan and cut cake into slices. Top with toasted pecans and warm sauce.