Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summertime & the Livin' is Easy: BBQ Seitan Sandwich with Crispy Cole Slaw & Lemon Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

My friend Antoinne is a barbecue purist. He gives me a lot of grief when I call something "barbecue" that isn't 1) meat, 2) rubbed/basted with some homemade barbecue seasoning/sauce, 3) slow-smoked over some organic mesquite wood chips, or something like that. Whatever it is that he does. I don't actually know the rules of barbecue, and although he will kill me for it, anything grilled and doused with that tangy, smoky, tomato-y sauce means BBQ to me! (You know I love you, Antoinne!)

I say all this as a preface to this post about a BBQ Seitan sandwich I made recently from the Veganomicon cookbook. Summertime being officially here, I had a craving for something tasty and cookout-worthy. I have no doubt that this would tempt even the meatiest of meat-eaters and the staunchest of any BBQ purist. (Well, maybe.) The seitan - you can make homemade from their recipe, but I simply used store-bought - is grilled, then tossed in the BBQ sauce, then grilled again. There's also a recipe for their homemade Backyard BBQ sauce, or you can use your own favorite prepared brand.

The recipe for the Crispy Cole Slaw was also super easy to make, and very tasty. The combo of the spicy, meaty BBQ'd seitan and the cool, crisp, creamy cole slaw is definitely a winner. It will have you lickin' your fingers for sure. With some fresh corn on the cob and a side of maple baked beans, you can just close your eyes and feel the grass under your bare feet, even if you live in Brooklyn and have no yard.

And what's the perfect summer dessert to go with some BBQ? A vegan lemon cheesecake with fresh berries of course! This lemon cheesecake was the first recipe I got to try from my new copy of Vegan Diner, and if this is any indication of how good the other recipes will be, I can't wait to test out some more. This cheesecake was everything you want in a cheesecake: smooth, creamy, dense but not heavy, and had a delicious, zingy, lemony tang to it. Summertime is so sweet!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Return of True Blood & Some Yummy Bites

True Blood Season 4 premieres tonight! I can't tell you how excited I am about this. It has been approximately 17 years since the last season ended... really, the wait has seemed endless. I can't wait to hear Bill say "Sookie" again in his husky, breathless voice; or see Eric, well, being Eric; or see Lafayette do absolutely anything at all, because he is the greatest character on TV, ever.

As excited as I am about the return of True Blood, I get almost as excited about making some Southern/Cajun food to eat while we watch, just so I feel like I'm down in Louisiana with all the vamps (and werewolves, and fairies, and witches). You can check out my past recipes for Louisiana-style Barbecue "Shrimp" & Cheese Grits; Smoky Red Peppers 'n' Beans Gumbo (from Veganomicon); or my also-inspired by True Blood Vegan Chicken & Spicy Sausage Étouffée. Tonight I opted for Red Beans & Rice with Red-Wine Simmered Seitan from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen, which is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, and for dessert, some red velvet cupcakes - or Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes, as they are called in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Both of these recipes appealed to my Southern side, and had the added bonus of keeping with the red theme in honor of True Blood.

The red beans & rice recipe was a very pleasant surprise. I actually had in mind a more traditional red beans & rice recipe, which usually ends up looking something like this, kind of thick and stewy and all cooked down together. Bryant Terry's version is more modern and refined, and has the very untraditional addition of seitan cooked in red wine with garlic and herbs. Oh if only there were restaurants in New Orleans selling this kind of food! The flavors were absolutely delicious, a medley of garlic, shallots, green pepper, and plenty of fresh thyme. The only thing I changed from his recipe is that I made white basmati instead of brown rice - I know brown rice is healthier, but sometimes I just prefer white - and instead of mixing the rice into the bean/seitan/vegetable mixture, I left it separate and served the bean mixture on top. Absolutely delicious. If you don't already have his cookbook, I highly recommend you order it.

Red velvet cake is such a quintessential Southern dessert, its red hue in part originally attributed to the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk, which would reveal the red anthocyanin in the cocoa, according to Wikipedia. Regardless, pretty much every recipe I've ever seen calls for a crapload of red food coloring, which has always kind of scared me away from red velvet cakes in the past. Now you can find natural food colorings, but they certainly don't come cheap. I found this India Tree natural food coloring set at Whole Foods for about $20, which is kind of crazy if you ask me. It's cheaper if you order it online, but still not what I would call "cheap."

Like every other recipe I've tried from VCTOTW, these turned out great, and I say that as someone who was never a big fan of red velvet Crimson Velveteen. The cakes were perfectly moist and spongy, with a light cocoa/almond flavor. The Old-Fashioned Velvet Icing was not quite as thick and dense as a buttercream, but instead had more of a thick whipped cream consistency. A perfect ending to a delicious meal!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Trip to Bonnaroo & Some Other Good Things

So I was hoping to do another extensive post like I did last year about my experience at Bonnaroo, but I have to say that this year's trip felt like a lot of work and not nearly as much fun. Part of it was that I came back a day early, cutting out the day I usually have pretty much free to check out some shows and other stuff at the festival, and part of it was because, being pregnant this year, it was really hard for me to handle all the heat, dust & dirt, general smelliness, and the awful porta-potty situation. I don't recommend attending Bonnaroo or any other multi-day outdoor music festival while pregnant. Although the Florence & The Machine show that I did manage to catch made up for a lot of my discomfort. As did getting to meet and hang out with my friend Hillary while there.

The food situation was pretty much exactly the same as in previous years - lots of festival food, meaning lots of burgers and other meat and a plethora of deep-fried choices:

Burgers, burgers, and more burgers

Gator Nuggets anyone?
I'm a fan of the part of Bonnaroo dubbed "Centeroo" (because it's located in the center of the Bonnaroo grounds), which is like a mini-village of social activists, full of workshops, various campaign information and other fun stuff.

Learn how to garden at Bonnaroo!
There are a lot of smelly things at Bonnaroo, but at least compost is for a good cause.
Random picture of girls with a gigantic hula hoop in Centeroo. They never did manage to get that thing going.
Yes, KFC should stop destroying the forests. Also, chickens.
And I guess the food truck craze hit Bonnaroo this year too, because these were the only new food additions that I noticed. There were a couple veg options among them, but not many.

This truck had a vegetarian chickpea gyro, which you would have to order without the tzatziki sauce to keep it vegan.
Surprisingly, one of the few vegan options among the food trucks was from a meatball truck of all places. They had an eggplant, lentil, cilantro version that sounded like it might be tasty, if it wasn't a thousand degrees outside.
The meatball truck had clever slogans like "Eat my box" and "Balls deep," which I thought was funny because I have the sense of humor of an adolescent boy.

But like last year, I was lucky to be able to eat many of my meals in the catering tent - one of the perks of working at Bonnaroo. I love that they have a fresh juice and smoothie bar in there, and a fresh salad bar, which is pretty much all I ate while there. The first day of the festival they had bbq tofu on the menu, which was great, but the other days the vegan options (other than the salad bar) were kind of slim. Plenty of vegetarian stuff, but most of it drowning in cheese or creamy sauces. The one exception was the night that culinary students from Art Institute did the catering, which was mostly vegan, with a rice noodle dish, a tempeh stirfry with vegetables, and some other Asian-prepared veggies.

Art Institute culinary students prepared this meal.
What I ate the rest of the time - salad, some couscous salad & hummus
Florence & The Machine. That little spot of orange in the middle is her hair. Sorry for the terrible pic!
But since I felt guilty not having much in the way of food news from Bonnaroo to share with you, I thought I would share all the food porn pics I had sitting on my phone. Here's a record of some really good vegan eats I've had over the last month or so:

This is the amazing Zen slice from Viva Herbal Pizzeria. I actually crave these slices. They call this the "super antioxidant" pizza, but I just eat it because it's delicious and is topped with green tea herbed miso tofu, green tea basil pesto, shiitake mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, sundried tomato, and roasted garlic, on a green tea herbed spelt crust.

I met a friend recently at Pure Food & Wine and we wanted just a small snack. We decided on these Hazelnut Crostini with Crimini Mushrooms garnished with caraway sauerkraut and apple cider reduction. Scrumptious.

We also shared this dessert, it was some kind of chocolate mousse mille feuille, with raspberry sorbet. Whatever it was called, it was heavenly.

Ok, and we also shared a classic sundae, which was my ulterior motive for suggesting that we meet there in the first place. I love this sundae so much! And the fact that everything there is raw never fails to completely blow my mind.

This is my new favorite dish on the menu at Angelica Kitchen (new to me, not to their menu). It's the hot open-faced tempeh sandwich that comes with mushroom gravy and ruby sauerkraut on a bed of spinach. You must get it with the scoop of mashed potatoes.

Before going to see the ballet at Lincoln Center, we went up to Peacefood Cafe for lunch and shared one of their delicious Caesar (vegan of course) salads.

And we also shared one of the Roasted Japanese Pumpkin sandwiches, which is pumpkin mashed with some black pepper and olive oil, topped with caramelized onions, ground walnuts, vegan feta cheese, and greens. A very unusual and very delicious combo!

And yet another amazing vegan pizza slice, this one from Whole Earth Bakery in the East Village. I love this slice and I also love that they chop up all those veggies for the pizza, because I would be too lazy to do this at home.

These are the vegan buckwheat waffles that I made for my husband on his birthday. Topped with fresh strawberries and soy whipped cream. I'm nice that way.

This is a brownie sundae that I shared (really, I shared it) from everyone's favorite vegan ice cream shop Lula's Sweet Apothecary. I'm using being pregnant as an excuse to make more frequent visits to Lula's, when the truth is that I crave it all the time anyway.

A friend of ours is an ice cream purist and doesn't put nearly enough (read: any) toppings on his ice cream. It still looks very pretty and 100% delicious.

But this is more like it. I might have had a bite of this sundae too.

And here's a gratuitous pic of my Bella, just because she is so cute and cuddly. Look at that little face!

I have some more vegan eats to post about soon so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Heading back to Bonnaroo...

It's that time of year again. I'm packing up & flying to TN tomorrow for the annual Bonnaroo festival, for work. I always dread going... the heat, the humidity, the reek of tens of thousands of people camping for four days with minimal showers and porta-potties... I'm getting dizzy just thinking about it. Plus, there's the whole problem of finding decent vegan food in the middle of TN, although there are some good options once we're inside the festival itself. As much as I dread it, we almost always end up having fun once we get there, though. It's hard working in that kind of heat, but we do manage to squeeze in some good entertainment and can usually catch at least a few shows. And the people watching, well it just can't be beat.

I will again chronicle my days at Bonnaroo and give you the lowdown from a vegan perspective. Until then, check out my post from last year's festival. Will there be more vegan options this year? A veggie burger stand? Vegan sweets? More BBQ tofu sandwiches? Stay tuned to find out soon!