Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Noms #9: Esc-Argo

It's my last and final Oscar Noms post of the year and I managed to get it posted just in time for the big event. This one is a take on Argo and escargot, with all of the garlicky goodness of that French delicacy but without, you know, the snails. It's a simple recipe I found in the previously mentioned The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook. It's just sliced shiitake mushrooms (or use any mushroom you want) sauteed in garlic, shallot, dried basil and oregano, fresh parsley, a bit of white wine, and a splash of lemon juice. These fauxscargot are served as appetizers, perfect for your Oscar viewing party, nestled on little beds of angel hair pasta (just take 4-6 strands of angel hair and twirl them around into little nests). It's really all about that scrumptious garlicky, lemony, wine sauce - which is the only reason anyone would ever eat snails anyway, right? I mean, I challenge you to find me a person who claims to eat escargot because they just LOVE the taste and texture of SNAILS. Seriously.

I think Argo is likely to be the big winner tonight, but regardless, I'm really rooting for my girlfriend (in my mind) Jessica Chastain to win for her role in it. Not only is she gorgeous and incredibly talented, but she's also a longtime vegan! So I hope you put on your best red carpet attire/sweat pants, pour yourself some champagne, munch on plenty of Oscar Noms, and enjoy the show! Or don't watch! Either way! Just drink champagne!

Doesn't this look a million times better than a pan full of SNAILS?
Party platter!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oscar Noms #8: Beasts of the Southern Fried

Hush puppies. This might possibly be the most unhealthy vegan food I have ever made. But these crunchy little deep-fried balls of cornmeal goodness are actually things of wonder, crisp on the outside but pillowy soft and fluffy on the inside. Let's just face it, fried food is delicious and sinfully good.

Hushpuppy is also the name of the most unforgettable character I saw on film this past year, in my favorite of all the Oscar nominees, Beasts of the Southern Wild. I was completely entranced by Hushpuppy's magical, other worldly, sometimes cruel but often whimsical life in the bayou. This little firecracker of a girl is also hard on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside. If you see any of the films nominated this year, it should be this one.

But back to those fried little fritters. I veganized this recipe from Martha Stewart, who isn't Southern but she knows how to make things good. They really are delicious, so splurge a little. Fry these up today and eat a salad tomorrow.

Vegan Hush Puppies
makes 16

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. grated onion with juice
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

1. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the cayenne. In a separate bowl, stir the lemon juice into the soymilk, then let stand several minutes to curdle (this makes a vegan buttermilk). Whisk together the "buttermilk," applesauce, and onion. Stir wet mixture into cornmeal mixture. Batter will be as thick as a heavy pancake batter.

 2. Heat 4 inches oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 360 degrees. Working in batches, drop batter by the tablespoon into oil. Cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and deep golden brown, 1-2 minutes on each side. (Adjust heat so that temperature remains constant.) Transfer hush puppies to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Serve warm.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Oscar Noms #7: Lincoln Chowder

Happy President's Day! In honor of the day and of our 16th (and maybe possibly vegetarian) president, I'm sharing with you my Lincoln inspired Oscar Nom. This "Three Sisters Corn Chowder" is a recipe I made from The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook. Apparently the "three sisters" are what the Iroquois called the combination of corn, squash, and beans. I call it delicious.

I don't have permission to print the recipe here but I can describe it for you. You simply saute a chopped onion in some oil until it softens, then add half of a butternut squash and a medium potato, both finely diced (so they cook faster and evenly). Stir in 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then simmer on low, covered, about 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add one can of pinto beans and 2 1/2 cups of frozen corn kernels, then cook uncovered about 15 minutes longer. Stir in 2 cups of soy or other non-dairy milk and simmer about 5 minutes more. Take the soup off the heat and blend about 2 cups of it until smooth. Stir the puree back into your soup, salt and pepper to taste, and then garnish with some additional corn kernels.

This is a super easy, hearty chowder that is great on a cold winter day like today because you can use frozen corn, it doesn't have to be in season. So ladle up a nice big warm bowl of it, relax, and celebrate feeling presidential.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oscar Noms #6: Gochujang-o Unchained

I needed a bold, spicy dish for Django Unchained. I mean, this is not a movie for the faint of heart. And I have it on good authority that my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino, is a huge fan of Korean food, so a Korean-inspired noodle dish with a spicy gochujang sauce seemed like the perfect plan.

I came across this recipe for Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes and Cabbage on the Epicurious site, and it was one of those gems you find that is already vegan. I didn't have to substitute anything. I will tell you though that the recommended 2-3 teaspoons of gochujang in the recipe was pretty mild for my taste. A healthy pinch of crushed red chili pepper or some chili sauce may be more to your liking. I'm just saying. But this is definitely the kind of dish where with each bite you take, another layer of flavor comes through. The sweetness of the brown sugar, the salty soy sauce, the gingery kick, the subtle (or not so subtle) heat, together with the crunch of the cabbage... it's a delicious combination.

And for dessert, since we celebrated Valentine's day this past week, I thought I'd share with you some pics of the delicious treats we had.

I made my husband a platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries and Sweet and Sara marshmallows. Chocolate covered strawberries are the simplest, yet always beautiful and delicious treat in the world. Recipe: Melt vegan dark chocolate. Dip strawberries. Place on a parchment-lined tray and refrigerate for 15 minutes so the chocolate sets. I added in some marshmallows too for an extra treat. I got one of Sara's variety packs of the 'mallows and dipped a couple of each. I especially love the toasted coconut ones dipped in chocolate, it almost tastes like a Mounds bar except with MARSHMALLOW. Enough said.

And my sweetheart got me an assortment of treats from Rescue Chocolate, which is wonderfully sweet in more ways than one. Who doesn't want to enjoy eating chocolate while at the same time helping animals?! 100% of Rescue Chocolate's net profits are donated to animal rescue organizations around the country. Compassion is SO SEXY.

Rescue Chocolate's "Wild at Heart" bonbons: dark chocolate hearts filled with raspberry ganache. Hubba hubba.

Rescue Chocolate's "Bow Wow Bon Bons": four different truffles in flavors Salted Peanut, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Cinnamon, and Dark 70%. Heavenly.

And this Gnosis raw chocolate "Romance" bar packed with amazing ingredients like strawberries, goji berries, cranberries, damiana, passionflower, rose hips, lemon essential oil, rose essential oil, and rose petals. Romantic indeed!

Make sure to check back this week for the final entries in my Oscar Noms series! Just one week to go until the main event!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Oscar Noms #5: Les Mozzerables

I'm glad I found a cheesy recipe to make for Les Misérables, because of all the Oscar nominations, this one is by far the cheesiest. I mean, I'll probably see it at some point because Anne Hathaway gave such a great performance and will surely win the Oscar for it and blah blah blah, but honestly musicals make me a bit crazy and I find them nearly impossible to sit through. I'm sorry if I'm offending any musical fans out there, but people just breaking out into song and all the melodrama and, well, people breaking out into song, it brings on some weird form of Tourette's in me and gives me an uncontrollable urge to yell obscenities until it stops. Russell Crowe singing will surely send me over the edge.

But back to the cheese. For these delicious, melty, crunchy, cheesy sticks, I attempted to make my own batch of mozzarella from the new Artisan Vegan Cheese book. Despite following the instructions and mail ordering hard to find (not to mention pricey) ingredients like carrageenan and xantham gum, all I ended up with was a bowl full of gloppy goop. It didn't solidify at all. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I would love to hear if any of you have had experiences, good or bad, with any of the recipes from that book.

With the artisanal cheese a bust, I had to call upon my trusty Teese mozzarella. I still roughly followed the instructions in Artisan Vegan Cheese for breading and frying the sticks, except that I omitted the nutritional yeast in the flour mixture and instead of using Ener-G egg replacer, I finally got a chance to try out the newest vegan product that everyone is buzzing about, The Vegg. Wow, I wasn't prepared for it to smell SO EGGY. It's the black salt in there that gives off the eggy sulfuric odor, which was a little more realistic than I needed it to be. Regardless, these mozzarella sticks were incredible. They were even better than I remembered the "real" ones being. They were perfectly crispy and crunchy on the outside, and melty and gooey on the inside. The Teese even stretches the way real dairy does!

Vegan Breaded Mozzarella Sticks
makes 4-6 servings

1 package (10 oz) Teese Mozzarella flavor
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp. The Vegg powder
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups panko
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup marinara sauce

1. After removing the Teese from the wrapper, cut it in half lengthwise. Cut each half again lengthwise, then cut each quarter into 4-5 evenly sized sticks.

2. You're going to need three separate bowls for the breading process: in the first bowl mix flour, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Blend (in a blender, NOT by hand) The Vegg powder with the water, put that mixture in the second bowl. In the third bowl place the panko crumbs.

3. Dip each mozzarella stick first in the flour mixture and coat it, then dip in the Vegg to coat, and then press into the panko until each stick is evenly coated. You'll want to coat each stick and place them on a plate before you begin frying. I recommend using a cast iron skillet for frying - you'll need about an inch of oil in the pan.

Prep all the sticks before you start frying, so you're not getting your hands all goopy and sticky while your oil is getting too hot between batches.
4. Heat your oil, then fry each stick 1-2 minutes on one side, then flip and fry 1-2 minutes on the other side or until they are evenly golden brown. (If they don't immediately start sizzling when you put them in the pan, your oil is not hot enough.) When you remove them from the pan, place them on a paper towel-lined plate until they are all ready. Serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Crispy, crunchy, melty, cheesy goodness!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Vaute Couture Fashion Show!

Today I had the great pleasure of attending Vaute Couture's first ever solo show for NY Fashion Week. Everything about it was stunningly beautiful - the models, the incredible space, and of course the amazing vegan fashion!

Many of you are already huge fans of Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart's gorgeous outerwear - innovative, fashionable coats using high technology fabrics so that they are warm, lightweight, and fashionable - but now she has also branched out into Ready To Wear designs that are every bit as adorable and fun as Leanne herself. Citing "borrowing clothes from our favorite guys, childhood ballet class, Midwest & Tokyo thrift store finds, and the magic of Sailor Moon," as her inspiration, her fashions for both men and women have raised the bar and set the new standard for ethical, sustainable, vegan fashion. Leanne's commitment to the environment and to the animals were present in every last detail of the show, not just in the fashion but in the all vegan hair and makeup products used on the models, the amazing little bites (strawberry cheesecake! tiramisu! green tea cheesecake!) provided by Vegan Treats, and the four-legged adoptable models from the Humane Society of NY and Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.

It was dark in the space so sadly the majority of my photos ended up fuzzy. The photos I have don't do it justice, but I will share with you anyway. Biggest congratulations to Leanne on an amazing solo show. I can't wait for the next one!

One of my favorite models of the day.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Oscar Noms #4: S'Amour Pudding

This Oscar Noms entry is a play on Amour and s'mores, which is appropriate because I amour me some s'mores. That doesn't make sense grammatically, but I think you get what I am trying to say. Who doesn't love the combination of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers? It brings back memories of camping out with friends, sitting around a fire playing music and telling ghost stories and eating food that you roast on a stick, like Field Roast sausages and Sweet & Sara marshmallows.

Speaking of friends, my friend Annie, whom you surely know as the vegan Betty Crocker of Meet the Shannons fame, has just released her first vegan cookbook, Betty Goes Vegan. She and her husband Dan worked long and hard on this book, and I am so proud of them and their achievement. I will soon post a longer review of their book after I manage to test some more recipes, but the first one I made is this S'Mores Pudding. A deconstructed and elevated version of the classic s'mores, this is a thick, rich chocolate hazelnut pudding topped with roasted marshmallows and a sticky, crunchy graham cracker crumble. It's decadent and delicious and will definitely have you wanting s'more. (See what I did there?)

Stay tuned for more Oscar Noms and more goodies from Betty Goes Vegan!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Oscar Noms #3: Silken Linings Playbook

Silken tofu gets a bad rap. I admit that I myself often discriminate against it.  I mean, silken tofu is great if you're blending it into a dessert, like a chocolate peanut butter pudding, but as the star of the show, in a savory dish, it just doesn't have enough bite. It's not "meaty" enough, if you know what I mean. I'll just come out and say it, I like my tofu extra-firm.

Until I had Ma-Po Tofu. The tagline for Silver Linings Playbook is, "Life doesn't always go according to plan." I didn't plan on liking silken tofu in this dish, but I did. The silky, custardy texture is a soothing contrast to the fiery heat of this Szechuan dish. It balances everything out.

This recipe was the first one I tried out from the new The Vegan Slow Cooker book by Kathy Hester. The traditional version is usually made with ground pork or beef, and the tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. Hester's version is simplified and veganized, omitting the meat altogether, and using a combination of Sriracha sauce and red pepper flakes instead of the harder to find peppercorns, along with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, tomato paste, black bean garlic sauce (easy to find in the Asian section of most grocery stores), garlic, ginger, agave nectar, and white wine. The silken tofu is cooked in this sauce along with shiitake mushrooms and broccoli. It is a bold, bright, spicy, fragrant dish that will surprise you with the unexpected delight of silken tofu.

If this recipe is an indicator, there are many more hidden gems awaiting discovery in The Vegan Slow Cooker book. Soy Chorizo Black Bean Stew, Kung Pao Chick'n, Tempeh Braised with Figs and Port Wine, and Earl Grey Poached Pears are only a few of the recipes I have flagged to try. There are few things more satisfying than tossing some ingredients into your slow cooker in the morning and having a warm, delicious meal ready for you by dinnertime. It just might be the silver lining to an otherwise stressful day.