Bookshelf

Chocolate Without Compromise

Vegans deserve decadent desserts, too – and a new book is here to help

by

TM_BK_VEGCHOC_AP_001When I was in high school, my best friend was a vegan. She subsisted primarily on rice, beans, fruit, and the vegan cookies her mom baked in giant batches every weekend. Any time there was a party, she’d bring a plate of these cookies to share. They were overly sweet, weirdly gummy, and not at all appealing to anyone who wasn’t devoted to a strict plant-based diet.

Happily, things have changed a lot in the world of vegan desserts over the last 20 years, in large part thanks to Fran Costigan. She has been working as a vegan pastry chef and baking instructor for more than two decades and is known for desserts that satisfy in a way that’s better for you and for the planet.

In her recent book, Vegan Chocolate (Running Press, 2013), Costigan serves up a luscious array of vegan truffles, cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, tarts, and drinks. Of the recipes I tried, not one felt like a sacrifice or compromise. They were universally delicious and were a pleasure to make, because I could taste freely throughout the prep process without worrying about raw eggs in the batter. MORE

Viva La Vegan

Flatbread with a French Accent

A street-food staple from Nice is a vegan's best friend

by

TM_VV_SOCCA_AP_002For many vegans, chickpeas and chickpea flour are saving graces. Full of good fats, protein, and fiber, these delicious legumes are like hitting the nutritional jackpot.

Most people, vegans or otherwise, know chickpeas for their role in Middle Eastern cuisine; the ever-popular hummus is the classic example of a chickpea-based dish. One of the last places one might expect to encounter a flatbread composed of chickpea flour is Nice, in the southeast of France.

Yet that’s where socca, a pancake-like unleavened flatbread made almost exclusively of chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil, originates. Socca is a staple street food in the city of Nice and in the surrounding region. It is generally made quickly, using large cast-iron skillets in an open oven and is served in roughly chopped pieces, dripping with olive oil, with nothing but a generous dash of black pepper as accompaniment.

Such a plain, unglamorous dish may seem unappealing to some, but socca’s modesty intrigued me. What could it be about a simple preparation of flour and water that would purportedly make people devour entire pans of the stuff within minutes? I intended to find out. MORE

Bookshelf

Vedge Out

Veggie inspiration from the acclaimed vegetable restaurant's new cookbook

by

Since it opened in the fall of 2011, Vedge has been one of the most celebrated restaurants in Philadelphia. Chef-owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby pride themselves on producing inspired cocktails, dishes, and desserts using only local, seasonal produce. And when I say only produce, I do mean only. No animal products of any kind are used or served at Vedge.

Vedge calls itself a vegetable restaurant, and it has transformed the way this city thinks about carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower (to name a few). So far, the only drawback to Vedge has been that in order to taste their transformational food, you had to finagle a reservation or lay in wait for one of the few coveted seats at the bar. Happily, now there’s another option.

With the recent publication of Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, you can now make many of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes at home.
MORE

Viva La Vegan

Rabbit Food Redux

Salad can be a substantial, healthy meal

by

As a vegan, I try not to get preachy about my diet. But a certain common exchange makes it hard to hold my tongue.

“A vegan?” someone will ask, scrunching up his nose. “So what do you eat, then? Salad,” the S word uttered with distain.

The truth is that salad gets a pretty bum wrap. And sadly in many instances, its poor reputation is somewhat deserved. Look at any mid-range chain restaurant menu, and you’ll see that most of the dishes in the “Salad” category are just strips of chicken, beef, or fish sitting on an underwhelming pile of lettuce, shaved carrots, and flavorless cherry tomatoes.

In salad’s role as a health food, it receives even less respect. The typical mound of iceberg lettuce topped fat-free Italian dressing may be low in calories, but it fails to satisfy most people, including myself.

If only more people knew how to make a great salad, it wouldn’t have this bad reputation. These are my basic rules for pulling together a hearty, healthy, delicious salad: MORE

Viva La Vegan

Snap Crackle Pike

A father's obsession becomes a daughter's interpretation

by


Sometimes, I swear, all my dad wants is for me to like fish.

The man is a fishing maniac. He subscribes to New Jersey Fisherman magazine and keeps the pages dog-eared. His station wagon always carries his rod and tackle box just in case a spare moment arrives; because of this his vehicle always emulates a strong fishy smell. He loves everything about fish: watching them, catching them, gutting them, cooking them, eating them, trying to get inside their tiny fishy brains. As an professional artist, he even loves drawing them, and fish play a central role in many of his stained-glass window designs. Each Thanksgiving, Dad goes out to cast in the morning, hoping to catch a fresh spread for our table. Even if nothing bites, he’ll pick up some fish from the store to make his annual bouillabaisse. We can always tell though, the years when the additions to the stew are his own. He doles out bowls of thick red stew with special care, encouraging us all to marvel with him at the freshness, and regaling us with the details of exactly how he reeled it in. His pride is palpable.

When I became a vegetarian, my dad was confused. I explained to him what it means, but he still had questions. “You can still eat fish, right?” he implored, and I shook my head, reminding him that I’ve never liked the stuff to begin with. To this he replied, “You never really gave it a chance. Now you can’t even try it.” I’ve been meat-free for almost three years, and a vegan now for almost a year, and still my dad asks. He always asks if I want a piece of fish. MORE

The Larder TM_TL_GRAPET_FI_001

Grape tomatoes. Most of year they are readily available and entirely average. But as soon as the hotter days arrive, truly exceptional tiny tomatoes start trickling into local markets. By high summer, it’s a welcome deluge.

I buy a pint or two every time I shop, to have on hand for quick meals. I toss them into salads, scramble them into eggs, and dip them into hummus. I also have a few favorite recipes in which I make repeatedly over the summer months, in order to get my fill before the season ends. MORE

DIY TM_DY_SEITAN_FI_001

If I was in charge of All Food Everywhere, I would fire whoever made the decision to name tofu the ambassador of meat substitutes. Now, I don’t want to insult tofu — like a child who gets a puppy instead of a kitten for a pet, I have learned to love tofu after spending a few years with it. But even for me — a tofu enjoyer of five years and counting — there is still something about tofu in its raw state that turns me off. Sure, when tofu converts try to convince the uninitiated, they bring up a very good point: tofu tastes like whatever you cook it in. But while this is mostly true, it doesn’t stop tofu from having a consistency that can vary between pudding and hard cheese, but never retaining the best qualities of either. The worst offender is salad-bar tofu, the tofu that’s put out as more of a visual courtesy than an edible ingredient. Here’s a tip: If you have not tried tofu before, do not try salad bar tofu. It’s like eating a bean-curd-flavored cube of Jell-o.

But then…then there’s seitan. MORE

The Larder TM_TL_ASPAR_FI_001

Each spring, when the first local asparagus arrives in the farmers markets, I go a little bit overboard. Those fat, green-verging-on-purple stalks mean that the season of abundance has finally arrived. I binge on asparagus, buying several pounds at a time without any kind of a plan, a little bit fearful that it will disappear before I have my fill. MORE

Bookshelf

Whole Grains for a New Generation

Kick off the new year with delicious, healthy home cooking

by

The arrival of the New Year means that it’s time for clean slates and refreshed habits. I always look forward to January as a chance to reset and start being a little more intentional about how I spend my time and what I eat. For me, this means getting a little more sleep and reintroducing vegetables and whole grains into my kitchen. (I have a bad habit of losing all restraint during the holiday season.)

In past years, redoubling my whole grain efforts has mostly meant that I eat a lot of sautes with brown rice, pots of vegetable soup with barley, and slabs of salmon over quinoa. While moderately healthy, tasty, and filling, these meals aren’t particularly inspired or exciting.

This year is different, thanks to Liana Krissoff’s new book, Whole Grains for a New Generation. As follow-up to her book Canning for a New Generation, this volume contains whole grain recipes for every meal of the day. It’s one of those books that made me want to leap up and start cooking. So far, I’ve made four recipes from it and I have at least another 20 earmarked for the very near future. MORE

Thanksgiving, Viva La Vegan TM_VV_THKSG_AP_001

At an early age, I learned that the best way to get out of the endless cleaning and dish-washing activities that accompany the Thanksgiving holiday is to help my mom in the kitchen. Each year, from Wednesday until Thursday evening, I am her prep cook, her errand runner, and her preserver of sanity. Over potato peeling, apple chopping, turkey basting, and some perfunctory wine sipping, my mom and I simply click. The conversation flows, punctuated only by her showing me, for perhaps the tenth time, how to properly roll out a pie crust, and by me reminding her, for the hundredth time, that she needs to relax. Beyond the company and holiday cheer, cooking with my mom is what makes Thanksgiving special. MORE

Viva La Vegan

Surfing the Vegan Wave

For plant-based inspiration, look to the blogosphere

by

This October, along with squashes of all colors, pumpkin-flavored everything, and beautiful crisp weather, marks my tenth month living the vegan lifestyle. In that time, I’ve gotten through six college courses, completed a six-month nine-to-five internship, started a blog, and moved into a new apartment. To put it lightly, all the time in the world is never enough for me, especially when it comes to the kitchen. Food made in a rush simply doesn’t taste as good, and flavor inspiration is hard to come by with my mind on my homework.

Luckily, I can always find a limitless bounty of ideas online. It seems that vegan food is on the rise, and one can now find a category for plant-based recipes even on sites as mainstream as Martha Stewart or Cooking.com. The real gems, however, are the vegan cooking blogs. Because the writers are generally cooking the food they share online for themselves and their families, the recipes, whether for comfort food or avant-garde apps, are, very simply, good. These bloggers’ enthusiasm for their food shows through; just have a look at some of the saliva-inciting photography. MORE

Viva La Vegan

Alfredo: A Love Affair

A vegan version of the pasta classic that's just as rich as the original.

by

Vegan alfredoI fell in love with Alfredo at age 11. After dithering painfully over dozens of options at an Italian restaurant, my mother wisely commanded: “Order the Alfredo. You’ll like it.”

I obeyed, but I was skeptical. At that age, I recoiled from any new food. The fettuccini part was, of course, safe and familiar, but slathered in a cream-based white sauce instead of the usual red, it became suspect. When my plate arrived, I encrusted it with Parmesan, praying that a thick coating of cheese might make it more like the pasta dishes already part of my small repertoire. But, after a single bite of those buttery, peppery noodles, I never looked beyond the word “Alfredo” on any menu again. I didn’t care what gnocchi was or how to pronounce “pasta fagioli.” In the realm of Italian American cuisine, I had found my soul mate.

And our bond was bliss until I became a vegan eight months ago.  MORE