Friday, September 6, 2013

Cookbook Review: The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home (with recipes!)

The Starburst Cocktail. Photo Credit: Dan Boissy

This is a loooong overdue post. I've had my copy of Brian Patton's (aka The Sexy Vegan) Happy Hour at Home for many months now, but as I mentioned in my last post, the arrival of my copy of Brian's latest book coincided with the arrival of a three month bout of morning sickness. While I still won't be drinking any cocktails for the foreseeable future, I've been getting my cooking (and eating) mojo back, thanks in large part to this new book.

I reviewed Brian's first book last year, and it's no secret that I'm a big fan of the guy. He's totally hilarious, and the fact that he floated the idea of naming his second book Sexy 2: Electric Vindaloo means that we are kindred spirits, because if you find a way to toss this particular movie reference into a conversation, I will totally be your BFF. But hilarity aside, the best part of Brian's cookbooks are, naturally, the amazing recipes. Happy Hour at Home is divided into themed menus, each serving four people (more than four is a dinner party), and each accompanied by suggested cocktail/drink pairings. I also really, really appreciate that Brian gives you shopping lists for each menu, and advice on shortcuts like using store-bought pizza dough if you don't have time to make his recipe, for example.

There are so many recipes that I have flagged to make, but the first one I did was the Stromboli. I did use store-bought pizza dough from Trader Joe's, because I don't have time for all that kneading and rising business. This recipe is packed full of veggies - broccoli, mushrooms, olives, peppers - and plenty of vegan cheese (I used Daiya). It was absolutely delicious, and surprisingly easy to make. Although it is meant to serve four people, between my husband and this pregnant woman with pizza cravings, it was more two and a half servings.

These Cannoli Cups are part of the "Holy Stromboli" menu and you wouldn't even believe how easy they were to make. The hardest part was finding the little phyllo dough cups, which we eventually got from Whole Foods, because my neighborhood grocery store really sucks. The cashew/cream cheese filling takes only seconds to whip up in your blender or food processor, and the result is an elegant, not-too-sweet, tasty little bite-sized dessert. Perfect after that not-so-dainty stromboli feast.

I also made these Tamale Bites with Tomatillo Salsa Avocado-Walnut Puree, which have all the flavor of tamales with none of that pesky cornhusk assembly and steaming drudgery. The base is simply baked rounds of prepared polenta, topped with a spicy lentil mixture and the aforementioned salsa and avocado-walnut puree. These were spicy and delicious and again, we stuffed ourselves so much that we were glad we didn't invite over two more happy hour guests. We were plenty happy on our own.

Like I mentioned, there are so many more recipes I'm excited to try out in this book - like the New England jackfruit "Crab" Roll, Samosa Pizzas, or the portobello mushroom version of Unagi Nigiri (my favorite kind of sushi when I still ate seafood). But if you're looking for a recipe to try from this book, you can't go wrong with the Stromboli, which Brian's publisher has been kind enough to let me publish here, below. And as a bonus, you even get the recipe for the Starburst cocktail (pictured at the top of this post), which is Brian's recommended drink to go with the Stromboli, in nostalgic remembrance of his college rager days. Enjoy! And be sexy!

This Stromboli recipe is from the Holy Stromboli Happy Hour Menu that also includes recipes for Quick Giardiniera and Cannoli Cups.

There also is a video for this recipe here

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups bite-size broccoli florets
Unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting the work surface
1 pound store-bought pizza dough or Basic Pizza Dough (recipe follows), at room temperature
8 ounces mozzarella-style vegan cheeze, shredded
1/4 cup sliced pitted black or kalamata olives
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed

Preheat your pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven for 1 hour at 400°F. Yeah, you have to — just open your windows and stop whining about the heat.

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, oregano, basil, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, until the mushrooms are tender, then add the broccoli. Once the broccoli is tender, about 4 more minutes, season the veggies with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the veggies to a bowl and let cool.

On a floured surface, roll the pizza dough into an oval that is approximately 13 to 14 inches long and 9 to 10 inches wide. Transfer the dough to a floured pizza peel — one of those giant spatulas they use to put the pizzas in the oven at pizzerias. You have one, remember? I told you to buy one in my first book; therefore, you did.

Fold the mozzarella and olives into the bowl of veggies — this is your filling. Place the filling in an elongated pile in the middle of the dough, making sure that there are 2 to 3 inches between the edges of the dough and the filling on all sides. Fold in the short sides of the dough so that they cover a couple inches of the filling. Then take one long side of the dough and fold it in half so that the long sides meet, completely covering the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together.

With a paring knife, make three 1-inch slits in the top of the stromboli to release steam. Brush the top of the stromboli with a generous amount of olive oil. At this point the dough might be sticking to the peel, so gently run your hands under the stromboli to make sure it’s not sticking. Just before transferring the stromboli to the pizza stone, give it a little shimmy shake to make sure it will slide off. Then with one easy motion, thrust the peel forward over the stone, then quickly pull back to let the stromboli slide off.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the top is browned and crisp. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut crosswise into 4 pieces. Serve with the warmed marinara.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
One 7-gram package or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat the dough and bowl
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Healthy pinch of salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

In a bowl, combine the water, yeast, 1 tablespoon oil, agave nectar, and salt. Gently mix it all together and let it sit for 5 minutes, until it starts to froth. This ensures the yeast is active and has not expired. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix it up (I do it by hand, but you could use a stand mixer with a dough hook). Continue to slowly add the rest of the flour until you have a slightly sticky ball. Then knead the dough by hand or in your stand mixer. You can add a little flour if the dough starts to stick to your hands. You’ll need to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic; this will take about 10 minutes by hand (or 5 minutes on medium speed if you’re using a stand mixer). After kneading, form it into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil. (The dough is going to double in size in that bowl, so make sure the bowl is big enough.) Also coat the dough in olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl, cover it with a damp kitchen towel, and stash it someplace warm for 90 minutes for its first rise. I find that turning my oven on to 200°F for 2 minutes,
then turning it off, creates the perfect environment for rising dough. After the first rise, give the dough a couple of light, open-handed slaps to make it collapse so that it’s flattened out. Then let it rise for 40 more minutes.

Now your dough is ready to use and is the equivalent of 1 pound of store-bought dough.

The Starburst
Makes 1 cocktail

Ice cubes
1 1/2 fluid ounces (1 shot) strawberry vodka
2 fluid ounces fresh carrot juice
2 fluid ounces fresh orange juice
Splash of pineapple juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar
2 fluid ounces club soda
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge

Fill a tumbler halfway with ice cubes. Add the vodka, carrot juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, agave nectar, and club soda. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon and lime wedges and drop the wedges into the drink. Stir with a long spoon.

Both recipes excerpted with permission from The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home ©2013 by Brian Patton. Published with permission of New World Library

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