Sunday, June 24, 2012

Chopped Vegan Style: This Is How We Do It!

Pistachio Toasted Coconut and Mint Crushed Tempeh with a Drizzled Blackberry Mint Reduction, Lemon Mint Sugar Snap Peas and Mojito Black Eyes Peas, Topped with Shaved Bittersweet Chocolate
Vegan Chopped Competition
     Just one short year since I started this thing and I'm entering a cooking competition. That's just how I roll. But before I began and no matter how this turns out, I want to thank some people. Of course, my mom for showing me how delicious vegan food could be in the first place. Kevin & Brett of for inspiring to cook with their awesome meal ideas, even if their site is lacking in updates. Beth for being my arch-nemesis (and sending me award-winning cupcakes) in our informal cooking competition and telling me about this awesome competition. The special one for allowing me to cook for her and try out new meals, not to mention cleaning up my mess! Thanks! Most importantly, however, I wanted to thank Isa. It was her cookbooks, specifically Vegan Brunch, that really made me a believer in cooking. And now, she's the reason, I'm entering this competition. Thanks, Isa! 
     Mystery Ingredients: Blackberries, Mint, Black Eyed Peas, Bittersweet Chocolate 
Organic And Fair Trade Ingredients!
    When the ingredients were announced, I must have bite my nails down to the cuticle. I was so nervous thinking about how to combine everything into one entrĂ©e. It happens whenever something "creative" is required. I've had some practice combing different recipes together for what would be an awesome meal, like THIS and THAT. After some brain simmering, I had that aha moment. The results? I was definitely impressed by how everything went together. The blackberry mint reduction went perfectly with the crusted tempeh.
     The biggest question mark was how the black eyed peas would work as a rice replacement to serve the tempeh over. Needless to say, even I was impressed. It's exactly what I expect when I go out to a meal, but sadly only Vedge/Horizons (I'll post my review soon! I promise!) exceed that expectation. Since I adapted some of the recipes, I'll post them below in case you want to give it a whirl. As for getting to the 40 minute mark which this comes right up against, I switched out tofu for tempeh to avoid the pressing and used one of those food choppers to save time on chopping because I take forever with a knife.You'll also have to be quick and have three burners and a stove going at the same time! I also made blackberry mint mojitos to serve with the meal as well, but this took outside the 40 minute time, but it's worth it! Oh, and I had to use jam that I acquired from the farmer's market, instead of the fresh berries that I wanted. To be honest, the plating and picturing taking took me over the 40 minutes, but plating and photographing doesn't count, right?

Pistachio Toasted Coconut & Mint Crusted Tempeh
Adapted from Mark Reinfield's 30 Minute Vegan
Ready To Be Cooked

8 ox box of tempeh ( I recommend Turtle Island's/Tofurkery
1 tbs Shoyu, Soy or Tamari (I used Shoyu)
1 tbs Toasted Seaseme Oil (don't substitute!)
1 tbs Water

Tahini Marinade:
2 tbs Tahini
1 tbs Shoyu, Soy or Tamari
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbs water

1/2 cup pistachios
2 tbs toasted shredded coconut
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon seal salt (I recommend Realt Salt from Redmond, Utah)
1/4 black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon dried majoram
2 tbs chopped fresh mint

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now, slice the tempeh in half, then hold the blocks up again and slice those in half so you have four equal sized blocks. Place them on a cookie sheet and combine the marinade of oil, soy sauce and water and brush onto the tempeh cakes. Let stand for 5 minutes, flipping sides. Now, prepare mix the marinade ingredients together and set aside. Place the tempeh into the oven for 6 minutes, per side. It should have a nice carmelized color when it's ready. When it's cooking, prepare the crust. Use the food chopper (or a knife if you have the time) to chop the pistachios. Combine everything else. Now move onto getting the Black Eyed Peas together. When the tempeh is ready (12 minutes), dip both sides into the marinade and then into the pistachio mixture and then cook for 5 minutes each side. 

Mojito Black Eyed Peas
Adapted from Kathy Hester's The Vegan Slow Cooker

1 Can Black Eyed Peas ( I recommend Eden Organic or Fig Foods, both are BPA Free!)
1 small onion, maybe a cup or so
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup rum
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1-2 teaspoon of veggie stock powder
1 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
Juice on lime (2 tbs of lime juice)
zest of a lime
1/4 cup of mint leaves, plus more for garnish, if you wish.

Chop up the onion and pour everything else into a pot and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes or until everything else is ready. You're just trying to reduce to liquid. Now that this is set, move onto the blackberry mint reduction sauce.

Just What Summer Ordered!
Blackberry Mint Reduction Sauce
The Perfect Couple, Mint And Blackberry!
1/2 cup of blackberry jam (I used Utah's Weeks Berries of Paradise)
1/2 cup of packed mint, the more the merrier
3/4 cup vegan beef broth (I used Edward's & Son's Not-Beef)
1 tbs of balsamic vinegar (optional, I forgot it and then added it afterwards and liked it without)
1 teaspoon of corn or tapioca starch 

mix everything together and simmer for just a few minutes until the mint wilts or until everything else is ready. Now move over to the sugar snap peas.

Meal With Mojito
A Very Minty Meal
Sauted Lemon Mint Sugar Snap Peas
From Bell Organic
1 bag of sugar snap peas from your CSA (or 1lb from the farmer's market)
3 tbs of fresh chopped mint
juice and zest of a lemon
3-4 green onions
olive oil for cooking
salt and pepper
sugar, maybe 1/2 teaspoon

heat up the oil over medium heat, throw the sugar snap peas in and toss to coat. sprinkle with some salt, then some sugar. cook for a minute or two. Turn off the heat then throw in the mint and the lemon juice/zest and toss to coat. 
One Dirty Kitchen
Controlled Chaos, I Say!

Now plate everything up, make it look pretty top it all with a beautiful sprig of mint and a few bodacious blackberries and then shave some bittersweet chocolate over the tempeh and beans. now eat and enjoy! hopefully, you exhibited more controlled chaos than I and ended up with less burns! I have lots to learn before taking stone from master, Isa! 

Just Two Burns
Battle Scars!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scraping By With Garlic Scapes!

Garlic Scape Walnut Pesto with Braising Mix, Soy Curls, Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta and Lemon
Pesto Pasta Power!
     I love Bell Organic. Not only are they the nicest people in the world, but they grow the best produce in the Wasatch Front. And just like the name implies, it's all certified organic! Last year was my introduction to joining a CSA through Bell Organic. Not only did I get an education of in the wide world of veggies, but I learned about and fell in love with new plants, like arugula. Now, I can't get enough of this spicy salad green! 
Soy Curls and Braising Mix
What More Could You Ask For?
      I feel pretty confident around greens. When collards are in the bag , I'll be making citrus collard greens with raisin redux. Green beans means pad prik king will on the menu. However, every now and again, the Bells like to switch things up with a curve ball.  Last year, I had a choice between kohlrabi or beets. Feeling adventurous, I went with the kolrabhi (I ended up making THIS). This year, garlic scapes appeared, along with a recipe for the garlic scape pesto. Garlic scapes are these snake like plants that resemble a more curvy, less rigid green onion. The taste is a much milder version of bulb garlic. Unfortunately, I didn't grab a photo before grinding them up so I'll have to rely on the internets. 
Garlic Scapes
Photo from Floyd The Guy (
     While the original recipe called for chicken and Parmesan cheese, I decided to veganize it with soy curls. I've already written about how much I love soy curls. Quick, easy to use and versatile, they are my go to for making meals. Plus, I have a 12 lbs box that I'm cooking myself through. Yup, I don't mess around. For the Parmesan cheese, I went with the Galaxy foods one, however I bet it would be amazing with the new Parmesan cheese alternative from Parmela, It got a glowing review from Vegnews saying it was "dead on".
Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta
No Semolina Flour Here!
      Just one more tip before I post the recipe. It does call for extra-virgin olive oil, something that I skimped on. I went with walnut oil because I was out of olive and had it in the cupboard. It's about what you have, folks. So don't judge me! Plus, I was using walnuts as the base, so in my defense, I thought it would complement it. It wasn't bad, but it would have been banging with some organic unfiltered cold-pressed olive oil. More modifiers make it more better, right? Even plain ole extra-virgin oil would have been better. Just learn from my mistakes or at least stock your cupboards better.
     Oh, one final tip, if you're lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe's pick up these spices below, the lemon pepper and south african smoke, they go perfect with everything, especially this pesto. My mom showed me the light on my last visit and I was able to smuggle some back to our Trader Joe's less state. Now I'm just crossing my fingers that they will last until the end of the year when we'll get our own Salt Lake Trader Joe's! I'm craving some of that cookie butter, too! 
Lemon Pepper and South African Smoke 
Trader Joe's Awesome Spice Grinders

Garlic Scape Pesto with Braising Mix, Soy Curls, Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta and Lemon Recipe (adapted from Bell Organic)

1 lb pasta, choose your favorite shape, silly. whole wheat or regular
10 large garlic scapes
1/3 Cup nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, or pistachio)
2-3 TBS vegan parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt (I recommend Real Salt from Redmond, Utah)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 Cup extra-virgin olive oil (try not to substitute)
4-6 oz of Soy Curls, rehydrated and drained
1 bag of Braising Mix, preferable from Bell Organic (though you could get away with a bunch of another bag of greens, like Bok Choy, Collards, Arugula or even Kale)
1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon Italian herbs, your choice.
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
Lemon Pepper or Smoked Grinders from Trader Joes (optional, but not really).

     Okay, now start boiling the water. Throw some salt in and cook the pasta according to the directions. But really, you can cook pasta, right? You could use the leftover water to hydrate the soy curls, if you wanted to be ecologically conscious. Next get out the food processor or if you're like I used to be, thinking that I could just use a blender for everything, you can get away with that, too. You're life will be easier with a food processor, though. trust me. Well, unless you have a high-powered blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix. Anyway, throw the garlic scapes (I didn't even cut them up), nuts, vegan parmesan, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper and get crazy. Blend until smooth. This will be your pesto. Love it embrace it.
     Now, get out a large cast-iron skillet (another worth while investment, trust me) and heat that sucker up. Saute the braising mix and hydrated and drained soy curls together until the greens are wilted, maybe 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle some salt, red pepper flakes and the Italian herbs while it's cooking. Once, it's done combine it with the pasta then combine that with the pesto and then juice a lemon into the mixture. Depending on your level of pesto loving, you could just use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of the pesto and freeze/save the remaining pesto or be like me and just use it all. Choose your own adventure, folks! Top it with some tomatoes, a sprinkle of more vegan paremsan and a twist or two of the grinders. Enjoy and share!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

If I Was A Dinosaur, I Would Be A Donutosaurus!

Chocolate Glazed with Jimmes!
There Is No Such Thing As "Spinkles" Period.
     It's true. Not only do I have a mouth filled with sweet teeth, but I have a donut affliction. If I see a donut, I must eat it. Consider me a sommelier of vegan donuts or if we were back in the mesozoic era a donutosaurus. If you doubt my donut worthyness, check out my credentials. I've written about Seattle's award winning Mighty O's, San Antonio's Vegeria, and New York's Cinnamon Snail. If there's a vegan donut, I've had it.  Sadly, I've had Allentown's Vegan Treats and Las Vegas's famed Ronald's Donuts, but without documentation. So, you're just have to trust me. Well, I had them all except for Portland's Voodoo Donuts. Anyone want to fund a fact finding mission to Portland so I can complete my training? Anyone? I do take deliveries as well, just in case you're wondering.
Dun-Well's Donut Case
Donuts Galore!
     I know I'm starting out with Chocolate Glazed with Jimmies. Normally, I don't like holey donuts. I mean donuts are so good why waste any space with nothing? Let's eat more donut with stuff inside. However, that's how good Brooklyn's Dun-Well Donuts are. I mean they went head to head with traditional donuteries and New York Daily News voted them the best donut shop in the entire city. That just impressive. And continues the trend of vegan bakeries beating traditional ones. Chef Chloe, Sticky Fingers, Mighty O, and Cakewalk have all bested traditional bakeries to take home prizes from Cupcake Wars to Salt Lake City Weekly. It's not just baking, but grilling, too. Vegans took home prizes in a grilled cheese competition
Jelly Donut
A Donut Complete!
     Right as we were ordering, the person in front got that last peanut butter and jelly donut. I was flabbergasted. That was the donut my host Brett recommended. So I had to settle for the jelly donut, which I thought was going to be the best, especially since the jelly is some local made jam that I can't recall. But I kept coming back to the chocolate glazed. It had this buttery flavor and the chocolate was subtle enough to not overpower everything else. Plus, it had jimmies on it. Don't believe the lies, there is no such thing called a "sprinkle".Jimmies make everything better.
Lemon Lavender
Kriss Kross Donuts Will Make You Jump!
     For my third donut, I went with lemon lavender which had this perfect clean lemon taste with a burst of lavender. You wanna know their secret? It's in the criss-cross glaze. It'll make you jump! Jump! What's even cooler then they're glaze layering technique is the atmosphere.
 Dun-Well Inside
Cool Retro Feel
     Dun-Well Facade

     Walking into Dun-Well's is like taking a time machine to the 1950's. Well, not that I know, but it's how I imagine it would be. The inside has this cool retro feel, much like Lula's. Tea hanging in clear jars and vintage posters lining the wall make up the interior. Even the shop workers wear bow-ties!. To top everything off, they serve the donuts to stay on these cool wooden coasters. Oh, and even better they're right across the street of the Montrose L train station. 
Wooden Coasters
I Can't Confirm Or Deny That There Was A Donut Here!

Donut On  A Wooden Coaster
There May Or May Not Have Been A Jelly Donut On This As Well!
     I washed them down with some delicious iced coffee and we were off to see the king of late night himself, David Letterman with Florence and The Machine as the musical guest! The only thing that I'm sad about is that they do serve Lula's ice cream. As if that's not enough they make a donut sundae. Yup, that's right, a donut sundae. I'm just disappointed in myself for not getting one. I'm sorry to let you down, too. But cheer up, there's also next time, right? 

Making Donuts Disappear!
Caught Powder Handed! There's No Denying It!
Dun-Well Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hot On The Trail Of The Cinnamon Snail

General Tso's Haberno Apricot Glazed Seitan Sandwich with Arugula

Overheard Somewhere Near Midtown New York City:

Guy: What's this Cinnamon Snail? (looking at the line to order)
Girl: Do they really serve snails?
Guy: Oh, not if it's vegan.

 Now picture that conversation in a thick Staten Island accent. Yes, there is a difference. 

      I'm not sure what it is with food from a truck, maybe it's the quintessential american meal, trucks and fast food. Or maybe it's the garage band theory when the most passionate chefs are working to prove their worth. No matter what it is, I can't get enough. Seabirds was my first truck love, which inspired Salt Lake City's best restaurant (wheeled or not) Union Street Eats, and now the famed and great Cinnamon Snail, hands down the best food I ate in the city! I know I have a tendency to use the superlatives, but, look, I'm not alone. Mobile Cuisine just nominated the truck as the top influential vegan food truck in the country. See, I have back up! Plus, how cool of a name for a restaurant is Cinnamon Snail! (Spoiler: It's what they call a cinnamon roll. Oh, those creative, East Coasters!) 
The Cinnamon Snail in Action
Look At That Dessert Window!
     On a recent visit to the big apple Cinnamon Snail was on my mind  after a VegNews article on Food Trucks, but I thought Hoboken was a little too far to travel given the cornucopia of food choices. Luckily, my great hosts had a Cinnamon Snail calendar that lead me to the journey. Not only did they tell me, they come to New York City, but one of the calendar photos had a picture of a donut. This was just an ordinary donut but a creme brulee donut! Needless to say, we got some shut eye and a late start to the day and then headed to midtown to stalk Cinnamon Snail. Well, I didn't have to work to hard to pick up it's scent, my great host Brett @ Veganbrew gave me perfect directions that lead right to the truck. 
Creme Brulee Donut
After Some Warming In The Oven!
    With menu items like ancho chili seitan burger, maple mustard tempeh sandwich, the hardest part was what to choose. Well, the entrees anyway. I was nervously watching the stack of creme brulee donuts shrink to just two! A cold sweat ensued and then the lady in front order of me order one! Oh, not I might not get the famed donut! But alas, I got the last one (and a box of other donuts)! Perfect timing if you ask me. In other news, I decided to go with the special of the day General Tso's special and the special one got a Lemongrass Five Spiced Seitan sandwich, which looked just like mine. I paired mine with some Artisan Passionfruit ginger ale from Bruce Cost. This guy literally wrote the book on ginger. My hero. Swoon! 
Cinnamon Snail in Action
Box O' Donuts
Creme Brulee, Smores and Boston Creme!
     Ordering food from a truck isn't a bad deal when you can go back to your home or office, but new york city is lacking in benches. Luckily, we walked a block and found half a street that was converted into an outdoor area, complete with table and chairs. Pretty cool, though it was a bit weird eating with cars driving so close by. The second thing I learned is how hard it is to photograph a sandwich, especially with rain drops percolating from the sky. The third thing I learned is how delicious Cinnamon Snail is. Wow, this was an awesome sandwich and organic, too. I just wish I could have went for breakfast or another stop. Hopefully, they get picked up by the Food Network so we'll get another visit in Salt Lake! If you're headed to the Big Apple, make Cinnamon Snail one of your must visits. Just be sure to follow on twitter or facebook to get their current location. Oh, and it's cash only so hit the ATM before following the snail trail. If you're not convinced just gander at one of last week's special: Panang curry grilled tofu with marinated greens and Thai chili roasted coconut and peanuts served open face on a chili butter grilled tortilla. Now will someone overnight me one? Please? I would settle for some recipes.
    Smores Donut
Like A Campfire, Only In Donut Form
     The donuts were dense and packed with flavor. Like children, I can't admit to my favorite, but if you twisted my arm enough I could be forced to squeal creme brulee. It's not my fought you forced me!    
     While we were eating, we got word that we scored tickets to David Letterman. I've been a fan since I was a wee lad so it was awesome to see the shows in person. Not only was that great, but Florence and The Machine were the musical guest. Our lucky stars were aligned. I was feeling so lucky, I played the lottery, but sadly I didn't win.
     With bellies full, we headed to the 9/11 memorial. It's really a beautiful memorial and didn't require any advanced tickets,unlike the plethora of signs that indicate otherwise. This was awesome, because we're the fly by the seat of our pants people.
9/11 Memorial

Freedom Tower

The Cinnamon Snail (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon