Monday, January 31, 2011

Veganize This! Jenn Shagrin's Cumin "Crab" Tostadas

I am a jackfruit virgin no more. Jenn from one of my favorite blogs ever, Veganize It...Don't Criticize It! and author of Veganize This!, has initiated me into the wonders of this fruit, and I just have to say that whoever first thought of using it as a meat substitute must be some kind of genius.

I was super excited to receive my copy of Veganize This! and have been flagging all the recipes that I want to try, which is pretty much all of them. Unfortunately for me, Jenn's book arrived just at the time that I embarked on a temporary gluten-free phase, and since the majority of her recipes are based around seitan, I'm going to have to wait a while to make a lot of them. Fortunately though, she also has some amazing looking recipes using jackfruit as a seafood substitute.

I'd been wanting to try a jackfruit recipe for quite a while now. I've seen a lot of recipes online, for everything from Chow Vegan's BBQ Pulled "Pork" sandwiches and Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos to the recipe on Jenn's own site for Jackfruit Crab Cakes, which is also included in her book. I made some vegan crab cakes recently, so I decided instead to make Jenn's recipe for Vegan Black Cumin Crab Tostadas over Cabbage Salad with Lime, Mint, & Wasabi Dressing. Oh yeah. How could you not want to make something with a description like that? So many of her recipes have titles like something you would order in the kind of fancy restaurant where they make you wear a jacket, and there are separate waiters to fill your water, fold your napkin, and hand you sculpted pats of butter with fancy little silver tongs.

I have to confess that I didn't have any black cumin, so I just used regular cumin. That might have fundamentally changed the flavor of this recipe, but it still turned out great, so I'm not too worried about it. You mix cumin and some other spices together, then coat the jackfruit with the spice mix, and pan-fry it until browned and slightly crispy. I should mention that these type of savory recipes make use of the young, green jackfruit that is packed in water or brine. When the jackfruit ripens, it becomes yellow and sweet, and is usually canned in syrup. That is not the kind of jackfruit you want to use for this type of recipe.

It amazed me how much the jackfruit actually did resemble jumbo lump crabmeat, or pulled pork shreds for that matter. You have to pull apart the chunks of fruit into these smaller pieces, and the texture is very similar to canned or jarred artichoke hearts.

Jackfruit lump "crab" meat
I wouldn't say that this really tasted like crabmeat, but it was delicious nonetheless. There were so many different layers of flavors and textures in this dish, from the crunchy tostada to the fresh, crisp cabbage salad that was singing with the lime/mint/cilantro/wasabi dressing, to the tender, meaty, cuminy (not a real word) jackfruit that was mixed with salsa before serving. Jenn recommends using a pico de gallo-type salsa, but again, that's not what I had on hand, so I used a spicy mango peach salsa which added a bit of sweetness to this dish and complemented the other flavors quite nicely. I just can't wait to try more recipes from the Veganize This! cookbook now, if they are all as creative and delicious as this one then we're in for many more vegan good things.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

It's Vegan Pizza Day! In my house, every day is Vegan Pizza Day, although I confess we don't observe it every single day. But some geniuses went and made it an official day, so hopefully you have the day off from work to properly celebrate, and by celebrate I mean stuff your face with some delicious vegan pizza!

I have some favorite homemade pizzas. First, there's the Two Moons Special, our beloved creation of Shitake Mushrooms on a Cornmeal Crust.

Then there's the close second runner-up, my Mexican Pizza with Homemade Seitan Chorizo:

I've even made a Zucchini Blossom Pizza:

And this quick Mushroom & Sausage Pizza, inspired by Pala, one of our favorite places to get vegan pizza in the city:

But in honor of Vegan Pizza Day, we wanted to do something new. I decided on making two different pizzas, both with gluten-free crusts that I made from a Bob's Red Mill mix. I found the gluten-free crusts to be slightly chewier than the normal kind, but not unpleasantly so. I would definitely make them again.

The first pizza was a classic Veggie Lover's pizza because, you know, I love the veggies. Simply topped with organic pizza sauce, mushrooms, red pepper, artichoke hearts, fresh garlic, black olives, and Mozzarella Teese. It would have been good with some spinach on there too, but I didn't have any, so whatever. I didn't reinvent the wheel or anything with this one, but it was really, really good, and more than satisfied our pizza craving.

Veggie Lover's before going in the oven...
And after! Delicious!
The second pizza, a Pesto Potato one, was a little experimental for me. I made a homemade pesto with fresh basil, pine nuts, vegan Parmesan, garlic, and olive oil. I cut a potato into some very thin slices, sprinkled them with salt, and soaked them in cold water for about an hour before draining and patting dry. The potato slices went on top of the pesto sauce, then I topped with fresh garlic, fresh thyme & rosemary, and just a small amount of the Mozzarella Teese. 

Fresh from the oven!

The result was a hearty, flavorful pizza. The potatoes got just lightly crisped, and the flavors from the fresh pesto and fresh herbs on top really complemented each other.  I was glad I didn't put too much cheese on this one, because it might have become too heavy, but as it was it was a perfect winter pie. And the best part is that with the leftovers, I can hereby declare January 30th the official Vegan Pizza for Breakfast Day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Weekend Eats: More Good Things from The Urban Vegan

Happy Monday everyone. It's a whopping 13°F here in New York today, so to combat my winter-induced grumpiness I'm going to tantalize your taste buds with photos of all the good stuff I made this weekend, yet again thanks to recipes I'm currently testing for The Urban Vegan. Rest assured, I will soon be back to posting my own original recipes and will be busily veganizing other recipes I find elsewhere, but for now, feast your eyes on these goodies:

Island-Style Tempeh. This tempeh was marinaded in a mixture of fresh chopped pineapple, orange and lime juice, garlic, chili sauce, and a blend of spices. It managed to stay moist and tender, and the marinade sauce was fresh, tangy sweet, and delicious. I served it over some cinnamon-spiced sweet potatoes and steamed kale. Delicious!

Lemon Tartelette. Lemon desserts are my favorite. I will choose lemon over chocolate any day. (Sorry, chocolate.) This lemon tart was just perfect - a delicate balance of sweetness and tartness, with a homemade pastry crust. We ate these for dessert and then, um, for breakfast too. Don't judge.

Asparagus-Filled Crêpes with Hollandaise Sauce. Crêpes! I've had kind of a crazy craving for crêpes for a while now, so I was thrilled to see a crêpe recipe pop up on The Urban Vegan's list. This is a classic savory version, filled with asparagus (if you didn't figure that out from the photo above) and topped with a super easy hollandaise sauce made in the blender. Light, delicious, and it made me feel very Frenchy.

Crepes with Bananas and Gianduia (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread). And more crêpes! It was a crêpe party. Gianduia is a chocolate-hazelnut paste, much like the familiar brand Nutella, but Dynise's version is homemade and, of course, vegan. And what's a better combo than chocolate and hazelnut? Chocolate, hazelnut, and banana, helloooo!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vegan Doughnut Launch Party! DOUGHNUTS PEOPLE!

Photo by Ryan Pfluger via Dun-Well Doughnuts
Who are these dapper dans? Why, they are Dan and Christopher, the newest vegan doughnut-making mavens on the NY scene.  Their soon-to-launch company Dun-Well Doughnuts specializes in vegan yeast-risen doughnuts, which are the "gold standard" among doughnut lovers and described as "light, fluffy, and sweet doughnuts that melt a little with each bite."

You might remember what a doughnut lover I am, and to say that I am excited about these new treats is an understatement. I'm turning into Homer over here, just thinking about these doughnuts. I have it on good authority that lemon poppyseed will be one of their flavors, and peanut butter & jelly another. Peanut butter & jelly doughnuts??!! I think I've died and gone to heaven.

So by now I'm sure you're on the edge of your seats wondering when and where you can get your greedy little hands on some of these sweet little gems. You're in luck, because they're having a launch party on February 2nd at Moo Shoes, where we'll not only get to taste these doughnuts but we'll also have treats from Lula's and cocktails from NY's first all-vegan bar, Pine Box Rock Shop. What more incentive do you need, people? I'll see you there!

If You Can't Stand the Heat, Put Away Your Kitchen Torch

I have a new toy. I've been wanting to get this kitchen torch for a while now, ostensibly to make vegan versions of crème brulée, French onion soup, toasted meringues, and things like that, but really just because it looks so cool when you see chefs using those torches on TV and such. It's so... dangerous. It makes me feel like I'm really serious in the kitchen. Like I'm someone who knows how to sous vide things, or make foams and crap like that. (For the record, I understand the basic principle of sous vide, but I have never attempted it, nor do I plan to do so.)

So now that I am torch-equipped, the first project was this Holiday Spiced Crème Brulée recipe that I found on Chef Chloe's always-inspiring blog. The cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger make this a perfect alternative to the usual holiday cakes, pies, and cookies. The base of the "custard" is non-dairy milk (I used almond) and coconut milk, with cornstarch as a thickener. The result is rich, creamy, spicy, and as sinful-tasting as a holiday dessert should be.

The best part of any crème brulée, however, is the crackly layer of sugar on the top. That's where the fun comes in. You have to sprinkle a layer of sugar over the chilled brulée, and then torch it until the sugar becomes bubbly and melts. It's harder to do than it looks, and as this was my first time ever torching anything, I had a few uneven overly-dark spots. Chef Chloe's version is certainly more photogenic than mine, but I'm going to keep working on it. Right after I sous vide something, and top it with a foam.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Urban Vegan-ing!

I know I haven't posted many new recipes or homemade dishes lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy in my kitchen. On the contrary, I have been quite busy testing more recipes for The Urban Vegan's next cookbook. I think when you see what you're going to get, you'll be as excited as I am for her book to come out. Here's another sneak preview:

Old Bay Cakes. Reminiscent of Maryland-style crab cakes, these are tofu-based and manage to be crisp on the outside, and flavorful and juicy on the inside. They were delicious to eat on their own, but would also be great on a sandwich with some vegan tartar or remoulade sauce.

Jambalaya. You probably already know how much I love Cajun & Creole cuisine, as I've made my own étouffée, gumbo, and "shrimp" and grits in the past. The Urban Vegan's recipe for jambalaya was a dish after my own heart, with just the right balance of spiciness, tempeh bacon, and vegan chorizo.

Spicy Seitan "Wings" with Cumin-Harissa Dipping Sauce. Admittedly my wings look more like nuggets than wings, but either way they are just the right size for dipping into this addictively spicy Vegenaise-based sauce.

Fig-Pecan Stuffed Acorn Squash. What a perfect autumn dish. The agave-sweetened fruit and nut mixture is a perfect contrast to the buttery savoriness of the roasted squash. This would be a welcome addition to any Thanksgiving menu.

Kale with Raisins and Chana Dal (Yellow Split Peas). Bursting with flavor despite a deceptively short ingredient list, this is a tasty side dish or could make a light meal served over rice, quinoa, or any grain of your choice.

Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding). Rice pudding is such an easy and comforting dessert. Cardamom makes this delicious and fragrant, and the slivered almonds, pistachios, and raisins add additional flavor as well as texture. This was a simple yet very elegant dish.

There will still be some more testing to come, so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Waffle Brunch in Williamsburg

If there's anything that will motivate us to go out on a Sunday morning, walk over to the G train, and head to Williamsburg, it's a vegan waffle brunch. Joshua Katcher has yet again put together a not-to-be-missed vegan foodie event. You might remember the time that we attended one of Joshua's Gracious Gourmand dinners, which was coincidentally one of the evenings featuring Chef Ayinde Howell, who is the very same chef cooking up the most amazing waffles every Sunday now at The West Cafe.

The West Cafe is a sunny, cute little place with many vegan offerings on their regular menu, in addition to the all-vegan waffle brunch on Sundays. They have vegan muffins and pastries from Champs Family Bakery, and even Mast Brothers chocolate bars. But the waffles...oh, the waffles!

The waffle menu changes somewhat each week, but there is always Le Classic and a gluten-free variety. This week's offerings included Pumpkin Spice, Orange Chocolate Marble, and a Mocha Waffle. Deciding which flavor to order may very well be the most difficult decision of your life.

Ayinde makes & tops each waffle himself. Just look at how skillfully he pours the syrup!

No matter which waffle you get, you absolutely have to order a side of Ayinde's secret recipe mac & "yease." We tasted this for the first time at the Gracious Gourmand dinner, and it remains one of the best and most unique macaroni & cheese recipes I have ever tasted. I know there's nutritional yeast in there, and some lemon juice, and... I don't know what else. But it's so good. It's you-have-to-taste-it-to-believe-it kind of good. Get it.

This is the gluten-free corn waffle that I ordered. Joshua swore that these gluten-free waffles tasted just like the Eggo waffles of his childhood memories, and I agree! Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, and with just a hint of sweetness, these were light yet incredibly flavorful and satisfying. They might be gluten-free, but there was nothing missing from these waffles.

And this was the incredibly decadent Chocolate Orange Marble waffle. Topped with chocolate sauce. And vegan whipped cream. I could wax poetic about this waffle, but really, just look at it. That is a thing of perfection.

And last, but certainly not least, is the Pumpkin Spice waffle. Warm, fragrant, and perfect for a chilly Sunday morning. I think these were even in a vegan-friendly cow shape. They were heavenly. So where are you going to be next Sunday?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Soy & Sake. What More Do You Need?

Where can a vegan go to feast on Peking Ribs, Pork Buns, Coconut Shrimp, all kinds of fancy sushi rolls, and more? Soy & Sake, of course! In this city with an abundance of great vegan eats, Soy & Sake is one of the more underrated vegan havens. That's a shame, because they are serving some of the tastiest and most creative vegan food that I've had the pleasure of sampling, and I'm eagerly looking forward to my next visit.

I went for dinner with some friends recently, and we were overwhelmed by the dazzling array of menu options. I only remember seeing three items on the entire menu that were not vegan, and these were clearly marked to let you know that the items contained casein and/or whey. As I mentioned before, I've only recently delved into the world of vegan seafood, because, well, it kind of scared me. I just thought that seafood, in both taste and texture, would be much more difficult to replicate in a vegan form. I will have you know that I have seen the light. I have been converted. Vegan seafood can be absolutely delicious and taste just like the "real" thing, without all the environmental destruction, the toxins, and, you know, killing and stuff. And Soy & Sake had some of the very best vegan seafood that I've tasted yet.

We started our dinner with some Coconut Shrimp and Pork Buns. The shrimp were so deliciously crunchy and coconutty (is that a word?), and tasted exactly like I remembered them. I've never had real pork buns before, but these were great. The bun itself was soft and spongy, and the "pork" filling inside had a savory barbecue flavor that was utterly addictive. They actually brought us out a small bowl of some extra filling, and we couldn't stop eating it.

Coconut "Shrimp"

"Pork" Buns with some extra "pork" filling on the side
For our entrees, we shared some of the Lemon Fish and Peking Duck. Weirdly, none of the items I have mentioned so far are listed on their online menu, so be assured that they actually offer even more options than what is listed. The lemon fish was lightly seasoned, with just a hint of ocean flavor from seaweed, so not overly "fishy," and came with a side of steamed vegetables. This was probably the healthiest dish we had, but also very tasty. The Peking Duck, however, was incredible. It came with wrappers that seem to have been made from the same type of dough as the Pork Buns, shredded scallions, and a delicious hoisin sauce. The roasted "duck" had a very authentic flavor, and I think we all could have eaten another plate of these.

Lemon "Fish"
Peking "Duck"
But of course we also had to sample some of their specialty sushi rolls. When I ate fish, sushi was one of my favorite things to eat, so I was excited and a little scared to taste vegan sushi. Now, even though these weren't imitating raw fish flavor, these sushi rolls were absolutely, mind-blowingly good. They tasted fishy, but not too much.We got a "Black Dragon" roll, which was soy crab and avocado, topped with eel, and a "Volcano" roll, which was a fried roll filled with spicy tuna, cucumber, and asparagus. They both came with their own specialty sauces as well. I am now officially hooked on vegan sushi, and can't wait to go back and try more rolls.

Black Dragon Roll: soy crab & avocado, topped with eel
Volcano Roll: deep fried roll with spicy tuna, cucumber, & asparagus

Stuffed as we were, we agreed to share a small bowl of pistachio vegan ice cream, because we all agreed that vegan pistachio is surprisingly hard to find. It was a perfect pistachio ice cream, complete with the familiar green hue. Not only that, but they also serve Vegan Treats there, and we were indeed treated to a slice of Oreo Cookie Cake - rich, sweet, decadent, heavenly, Oreo Cookie Cake. The desserts didn't really fit with the Asian theme of the rest of our meal, but who cares, because it was all vegan and all delicious. Vegan good things, for sure.

Pistachio vegan ice cream
Oreo Cookie Cake from Vegan Treats

Happy diners at Soy & Sake (that's me on the left).

Soy & Sake Village
47 7th Ave. South (between Bleecker & Morton St.)
New York, NY 10014

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Urban Vegan is Keeping Me Busy.

Testing recipes for her forthcoming cookbook, that is! If you own a copy of The Urban Vegan, then you'll know why I'm so excited for Dynise's newest (as yet untitled) cookbook to come out. And even more exciting is the fact that I'm one of her recipe testers, so I'm getting previews of all the great stuff that will be included. I can tell you that most of the recipes I've seen so far are fast, easy, budget-friendly, and of course, delicious! I'm going to be testing a lot more recipes for her over the coming weeks, but here are photos of what I have tested so far... consider it a sneak peek at what you can look forward to when you get your own copy of her latest!

Pear Tarte Tatin. Delicious, flaky crust. Warm, caramelized, spiced pears. Perfect with a scoop of So Delicious Vanilla Bean ice cream!

Seitan with Quince, Apple, and Onion. Sweet and savory, with a unique and aromatic blend of spices. A warming, hearty stew-type dish, perfect for a winter night.

Ethiopian Collard Greens with Mini Injeras. I love, love, love Ethiopian food and was so excited to test this recipe. These collards are spicy and loaded with flavor. And injera is easier to make than you may think! I also made some Berbere-spiced red lentils (mesir wat) to go with these, what a delicious dinner!