Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bryant Terry at Yale

As part of Yale's Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration this week, special guest eco-chef, Bryant Terry, gave a lecture and mini cooking demonstration on vegan soul food. He just recently published his second book, Vegan Soul Kitchen, which he was also here to promote.

We arrived early and had front row seats, so it was as if we were hanging out in Bryant's dining room chatting. Though he's down-to-earth and easygoing, he had a serious message.

Food is a part of who you are, and it can become a vehicle for change. He intertwined MLK's message of empowerment throughout his presentation, sharing stories of growing up in Memphis, having an epiphany after hearing KRS-One's song "Beef," burying his mom's roast chicken in the backyard, going to culinary school, and eventually founding a non-profit called Be Healthy which teaches inner city kids about healthy food. It's a great mission. He's passionate, articulate, inspiring and funny.

I'm really happy to have shared afternoon tea with him and the Yale community.

This week's menu

I just can't seem to get enough of my tempeh fish cakes. They're crisp on the outside, and creamy on the inside. And loaded with oh-so-much flavor. I made a few batches for my clients this week, and of course, you can also get them to order at Georgie's.

One of the other menu items this week was Curried Chick Peas with Vegetable Mallum and Basmati Rice. This was something new that I tried after reading an article about a woman who cooked her first vegan meal for some guests who were visiting over the holidays. She considers herself an adventurous cook and was surprised to find that many of her native dishes from Guyana were in fact vegan, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that putting together an entirely vegan menu was not only fun, but delicious. (that's what I always think!)

So this Vegetable Mallum couldn't be simpler. Simply cut some green beans and carrots on the diagonal, heat with a little olive oil in a hot pan and sautee until the colors turn bright (2-3 minutes). Then add a little shredded coconut, a pinch of turmeric, and some sea salt. That's it. Couldn't be simpler. And yet the flavor of toasty, slightly sweet/slightly spicy coconut contrasts so nicely with the juicy crunch of the fresh cooked veggies. So satisfying. If you're ever looking for a quick and tasty side dish, this is perfect.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Georgie's Diner Winter Menu

I just got back from an afternoon at the diner, Georgie's, that is. If you're looking for vegan comfort food in the New Haven area, you have to stop by Georgie's Diner in West Haven. Along with their regular vegan features, I just worked with them to create a couple of specials for the winter menu. These two are sure to please.

The first is Tofu Piccata with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Asparagus. I've been playing with this recipe for the past few weeks and I think the mashed potatoes really pull it all together. The squeeze of lemon is a pleasant surprise to the creamy sauce. I think you'll enjoy it.

But the big hit this month are the Tempeh "Fish Cakes" with Vegan Remoulade. When these came out of the pan, everybody couldn't wait to dig in. They are perfectly crisp on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside, with a taste reminiscent of salmon. I think they fall into the category of "you'd never know it was vegan."

And then there's the slightly spicy Remoulade that gets its kick from a few splashes of Tabasco. It's a lovely accompaniment.

We have big things planned for February... being the month of love that it is. If you're looking for a special way to celebrate Valentine's Day - vegan style - we've got you covered. Stay tuned for details!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Vegan Resolution 2010

It's the New Year, and as we all know, the time for resolutions. In a recent guest column for the Milford-Orange Bulletin, University of New Haven philosophy professor, Dr. Joel Marks, celebrated his one-year anniversary as a vegan. He writes about his conscious decision to make his actions reflect his beliefs, his successful transition to veganism, and the many unexpected benefits (the food really does taste good!).

I myself decided to take the plunge a year ago. It was my new year’s resolution. I did not exactly go cold turkey, so to speak, because I had abstained from eating mammals for decades. But my original motivation had been health and humanitarian. I had read about the cholesterol advantages of avoiding meat, and also about the inefficient production of protein by feeding grains to animals in a world where millions of people were starving.

Only much more recently did I learn about factory farming, and also that by far the most numerous abused creatures on this planet are poultry and fish. There was nothing for it, then, but to give up eating all animals as well as dairy and eggs.

If you're determined to fulfill a Vegan Resolution in 2010 -- for your own health, for the sake of the animals or because you care about the planet -- let me offer a few tips for staying on track. Remember, be specific. Every journey begins with that first step.

1. Set specific goals. Decide if you want to go "cold turkey" or take it slow and steady. Do what will work best for you.

2. Make a specific plan. Maybe you might want to give "Meatless Mondays" a try. Then gradually add one more day each week. Or maybe you could start with that favorite food that is impossible to give up (like cheese, for example - always a tough one!).

3. Follow up on a daily basis. Check in with yourself to see how you're doing and how you're feeling. Those who keep food diaries have the most success when changing their eating habits.

4. Be mindful of what you eat. The simple act of thinking about food and where it comes from has a tremendous impact on what goes into your mouth. When you find yourself saying "do I really want to eat that?" you will have come a long way.

5. Do some research. Vegan cookbooks and websites are plentiful. You could spend a lifetime reading them. Fortunately, most of the work has been done for you. [Check out my "Great Reads" in the Sidebar. One of the best for jumpstarting a vegan journey is Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin].

6. Discover new restaurants. Make dining out a pleasure by experimenting with new ethnic cuisine (Thai, Ethiopian, Japanese, and Indian have many delicious options) or go to your favorite places and ask the chef if he/she can create a vegan dish for you. There are many vegetarian restaurants in the New Haven area and New York City and Boston are vegan meccas. Explore!

7. Experiment at home. Try one new recipe a week from those fabulous vegan cookbooks you found. Go to vegan potluck dinners. Share your favorites with friends and family. They'll love you for it (especially if you bring desserts!)

8. Find a buddy. It always helps to know someone who is struggling at the same time so you can help each other out. Talk to someone who has been there before (I've been through it all, just ask). Or look online for vegan meetups in your neighborhood and make some new friends.

9. Enjoy your food. Really. It's new. It's different. And you don't have to feel deprived. You will soon discover an amazing array of options you never dreamed existed. Now, who could possibly be upset about eating these Sweet Nothings?

10. Be kind to yourself. Your choice to adopt a vegan diet is a big decision and will require dedication. Don't worry if you "fall off the wagon" or "cheat." It's not a guilt trip. It's not about perfection. Every little thing you can do to minimize the suffering of animals, improve your health and respect the environment has a positive impact on all those around you. The effect multiplies. And you'll feel pretty good in the process.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Vegan Brunch

Good food, good people... what a way to welcome in the new decade! I had a great time at my first Vegan Brunch - thank you to all who helped make it such an enjoyable afternoon.

It was a little snowy outside, but warm and cozy inside. Guests arrived to a table with Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Bagels and Tofutti Cream Cheese, Fresh Fruit, Coffee and Hot Chocolate.

I did a little magic in the kitchen and shortly thereafter brought out a Southwestern Tofu Scramble with Salsa, Guacamole and Tofutti Sour Cream, Curried Homefry Potatoes, and Soy Sausage.

That was followed by a mini cooking demo on "How to Make the Perfect Vegan Pancake."

I whisked up the batter, poured and flipped a few rounds.

Then I handed over my trusty spatula to a couple of volunteers willing to practice flipping in front of an audience. Excellent job!

When the show was over, we indulged in Cinnamon Apple Walnut Pancakes, Banana Chocolate Chip Pecan Pancakes, and Wild Blueberry Syrup.

We ended the brunch with some Chocolate Truffles and Soy Nog. I hope everyone left warm and satisfied and made it home safely.

Special thanks to Mom & Dad for all their help before, during, and after the party, and to Ben for the photos. And believe it or not, Zinny really is much sweeter than she sounds!

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Eve at Bloodroot

I was excited to close out the decade with a vegan dinner at Bloodroot, the feminist vegetarian restaurant in Bridgeport. I've been wanting to attend this annual celebration for many years and I'm happy to finally have experienced it.

The dinner began with a little appetizer plate with Mushroom Walnut Pate on Endive, Hoppin' Jane Blackeyed Peas and Rice, and water crackers. I couldn't wait to dig in!

This was followed by a warm appetizer of Grilled Tofu en Brochette with Peanut Dipping Sauce and Cucumber Relish. Colorful and very tasty!

The entree for the evening was a lovely Vegetable Phyllo Pastry Mariposa with Gingered Elderberry Sauce. A heart salad and fresh bread accompanied the meal. And I sopped up every drop of that sauce with the delicious sourdough pumpernickle (I ignored my gluten sensitivity this night!).

The meal was finished by a slice of Chocolate Devastation Cake with Fruit Platter and Persimmon Sorbet. The flavors blended really well together, and were made extra special with a glass of bubbly champagne. Cheers!

Happy New Year!

Tofu Piccata

It's been awhile since I've made Tofu Piccata, and I don't know why I haven't gotten around to it sooner. It's always so delicious and easy to make, too.

Several years ago a client requested Seitan Piccata, so I did some research into recipes and cooking techniques. At the time, I even made my own seitan, which I breaded and panfried (boy, those were the good ole days of eating gluten). Candle 79 has it as a regular entree, and I was fortunate enough to sample their version last year. The sauce is creamy, lemony, and salty from the pungent bite of capers. I really love the combination. You can get the recipe on VegCooking.

Since I don't eat gluten (or shouldn't eat it for health reasons), I decided to do a baked tofu instead. A success, iff I do say so myself. I made it three times last week, and really wish I had some tonight for dinner. We shall see...