Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tempeh in the Newest Issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle

The new issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle Magazine is finally here, and my column is now online.

I made this Tempeh Harvest Pie way back in November, but because of editorial changes at the magazine, it is just now coming out. So bookmark the recipe for autumn, or a stretch of cool, rainy weather. It's truly filling comfort food!

Edit: Tempeh is listed in the recipe's procedure, but not the ingredients. How embarrassing. You will need 8 ounces of tempeh to make four servings.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Now I Can Eat Pad Thai Every Day

Last month Mark Bittman's pad Thai recipe was one of The New York Times' most emailed stories. It's no wonder Americans love pad Thai: a combination of soft, starchy noodles and crunchy, nearly-raw vegetables in a sauce that balances sweet, sour, salty, and hot, the dish appeals to every part of the tongue and quickly makes you its zombie.

In Boston I lived near a phenomenal hole in the wall Thai restaurant, and take-out tofu pad Thai became my regular Thursday pick me up. The chewy noodles soothed away the week's stresses and indignities, while lime, sugar, and chili jazzed me through one last night of correcting math tests. Leftovers, if there were any, tinged Friday morning with giddy anticipation.

I was lazy, and while I had access to take-out I never bothered to make pad Thai on my own. I assumed I couldn't recreate that magical sauce without dozens of imported ingredients. Sadly, Bangor's Thai restaurants either don't know whether their pad Thai is gluten-free, or won't go to the trouble of making it without fish sauce. I'm on my own, and the little portion of my heart that belongs to pad Thai has been lonely too long.

Bittman's recipe calls for tamarind paste, but limes are easier to find and just as good. Tamari works in place of fish sauce. Bittman suggests clubbing pad Thai's intricate flavors over the head with scrambled eggs (the man's fondness for eggs is positively indecent), but obviously we'll omit those, because we are not disgusting. Tailor the sauce to your own tastes, and add any grated or julienned vegetables you like.

Easy Vegan Pad Thai

8 ounces flat rice noodles (¼ inch wide)

Sauce:
juice from 2 limes
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup wheat-free tamari
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or other chili garlic sauce)

Stir-fry:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1 large carrot, grated

Garnish:
chopped scallions
cilantro
chopped peanuts
lime wedges
mung bean sprouts

Boil a large pot of water and remove from heat. Immerse rice noodles for 6-8 minutes, until soft. Drain and toss with a drizzle of vegetable oil to keep from sticking together. Set aside.

Whisk together sauce ingredients.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high. Fry tofu 4-5 minutes, until golden. Add garlic and toss for 1 minute. Add cabbage a carrot and immediately remove from heat. Toss until vegetables are wilted.

Toss tofu and vegetables with cooked rice noodles and sauce. Top each serving with scallions, cilantro, peanuts, bean sprouts, and a lime wedge.

Makes 3 hearty servings.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Colorado Eating

I'm home from Denver, and now that I've had a chance to unpack and do laundry, I'll share with you some other highlights of the trip.

Sweet Action Ice Cream was a bit of a hike from downtown (you can also take the #0 bus along Broadway), but worth the trip for two scoops of vegan mint chip:

Sweet Action usually offers two coconut-based vegan flavors (on the day I visited, the other was brownie swirl), and gluten-free cones are available.

We revisited City O' City and WaterCourse Foods several times; they were near our hotel, and both restaurants offered several intriguing gluten-free options. Here is City O' City's La Osa salad, with a side of barbecued tofu:

Underneath all those tortilla strips were mixed greens, dried apricots, chickpeas, red onions, and avocado. The dressing, a jalapeño lime citronette, tied everything together in a tangy way. The spicy tofu was a little dry on its own, but it would be amazing on a sandwich with vegenaise and cole slaw.

Rod was on a buffalo seitan kick, so he ordered some on top of a caesar salad:

On Cinco de Mayo, we shared this gluten-free margarita cupcake:

It was cute, but it couldn't compare to the Ho-Ho. The vanilla cake was dense, and some of the protein-heavy flours left an aftertaste (I'm guessing sorghum?). The lime frosting was crunchy and fun, but nothing special. I recommend the Ho-Ho, night after night.

On another visit I tried the Scout Cookie, a gluten-free vegan version of the Samoa:

Made from shredded sweet potato, shredded coconut, walnuts, and chocolate, it's incredibly simple and insanely delicious. It tastes just like a Samoa—no hippie flavors are discernible. Scout cookies are served cold, so the edges stay firm and crispy while the center is soft and chewy. We all know my feelings regarding coconut; I'm afraid I could eat 6 of these in a sitting.

I recommend the mashed potatoes and the chocolate cake at WaterCourse, though my nighttime pictures don't do them justice. Denver has a few other vegan-friendly restaurants (The Rebellion will make any pizza or burger on their menu vegan, and Sputnik is known for divey vegan bar food), but we skipped them because they seemed gluten-heavy.

Before leaving Colorado, we rented a car and took a day trip to Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park to the northwest. Since Boulder is full of hippies and greenies, vegan food is easy to find. On our way up to the park, we dropped in at VG Burgers, an all-vegan fast food restaurant. I'd heard mixed reviews, but I couldn't resist a menu that included vegan milkshakes and veggie burgers on gluten-free buns. Here is Rod's *ahem* bacon cheeseburger:

It was just a mess of pickles, vegenaise, ketchup, tempeh bacon, and cheeze sauce. He liked it. I ordered the standard veggie burger. It was gritty and tasted like seaweed, but it was alright as a vehicle for ketchup. I was disappointed with my coconut-based milkshake, which was slushy and thin. VG Burgers is a novelty, but I'd never take anyone there who isn't familiar with and amused by vegan food.

Dinner in Boulder, at upscale Leaf, was much better. I ordered a banana tofu curry, which was a crazy mix of soft sweet bananas, savory tofu and firm vegetables, and a rich spicy sauce. I was afraid to pull out my giant camera in such a posh restaurant, but this rather dull picture taken with my purse-sized camera conveys the dish's artsy presentation:

Rod had a bowl of spicy kimchi soup and the Asian Mizuna Salad with wakame seaweed, mizuna greens, carrots, water chestnuts, snow peas, bamboo shoots, and sesame sweet chili vinaigrette. Everything tasted fresh, healthy, and creative, down to my sweet and sour mint lemonade.

Between eating bouts in Boulder, we spent the day driving on mountain roads. It was cold at 11,000 feet (many of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park reach over 14,000 feet, but the roads were closed because of snow):

The best part of the trip was seeing the park's wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, and this fearless chipmunk, who came within six feet of our camera:

Look at his little knuckles!

I'm happy to be home, and eating light to recover from last week's dessert bender. Rod is already talking about finding some buffalo seitan around these parts, but I think he may be out of luck.

Farewell for now...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mile High Vegan

I'm eating my way through Denver this week, so I thought I'd share with you some of the city's vegan and gluten-free highlights. When I think about Colorado cuisine, I think buffalo meat and rocky mountain oysters, but like most major cities, Denver has a respectable selection of plant-based (and testicle-free) fare.

After arriving in Denver, our first stop was WaterCourse Foods, a vegetarian restaurant with a vegan-friendly menu. The atmosphere was bright, casual, friendly, and young.

WaterCourse serves sandwiches and dinner entrées, but they are known for brunch, which is available until 5pm. Choices include vegan and vegetarian scrambles, omelets, pancakes, and pastries. All of the scrambles are gluten-free, and instead of deep-fried breakfast potatoes and toast, you can ask for brown rice and corn tortillas.

I had the Capri Scramble with tofu, Greek olives, tomatoes, grilled zucchini and carrots, and fresh basil (sheep's milk feta is optional). The flavors were good (you can't go wrong with green olives), but the scramble was wet and crumbly.

Portions were modest, so we had room after lunch for Sweet Action vanilla ice cream. It's coconut-based, which is a plus in my book, and the texture is perfectly smooth and creamy. WaterCourse offers it by the scoop, or you can enjoy it in one of their vegan milkshakes.

Almost everything at WaterCourse Foods is available vegan, and about half of it can be made gluten-free. Four chickpeas for ample choices!

For dinner, we headed to City O' City, a vegetarian coffee shop, bar, and restaurant located near the state capital building.

Operated by the folks from WaterCourse Foods, City O' City is hip, edgy, and geared toward adults. They boast an impressive selection of whiskey and Colorado microbrews; a sign above the bar endorses daytime drinking. While WaterCourse Foods feels clean and airy, City O' City is dark and graffitied, and most of the iPhone-using diners and drinkers sport self-consciously disheveled hairstyles and tattoos of literary significance.

City O' City is next door to WaterCourse Bakery, which supplies both restaurants with vegan and gluten-free breads and pastries. Many of City O' City's appetizers are gluten-free, including a Mediterranean plate with hummus, olives, and gluten-free flatbread. Salads, pizza, and the occasional entrée can be made gluten-free. Sandwiches and wraps cannot.

Thrilled at the opportunity to eat a pizza I didn't make myself, I ordered the La Chagall on WaterCourse Bakery's gluten-free crust. It comes with apricot sauce, brie (I substituted the house cashew ricotta), green olives, roasted garlic, and fresh tarragon.

It was truly, truly weird. At home I would never be brave enough to make something this bizarre, but somehow it all worked. I would order apricot pizza again. The crust, made mostly of chickpea flour, was delicious but insanely filling; I had to cry uncle after three slices.

Rod ordered a Buffalo Seitan Wrap with fries. He reports it was intensely tangy and spicy, and his mouth burned for hours after dinner (that is a good thing). It was also quite filling.

Of course the highlight of my visit to City O' City was the pastry case. According to WaterCourse Bakery's website, they strive to create gluten-free vegan baked goods that are even better than traditional pastries ("We have failed when someone comments, 'that's pretty good for vegan or gluten-free'"). I was skeptical, but wanted desperately to be proved wrong.

The evening's selection included Ho Ho Cupcakes, Hazelnut Chocolate Cupcakes, Sugar Cookies, and a giant version of Girl Scout Samoas. I was torn, but I went with a Ho Ho, because 1) it was shiny, and 2) personal experience has shown me that gluten-free cake is more difficult to pull off than gluten-free cookies.

Underneath that soft, shiny ganache was a layer of fluffy white buttercream, a layer of dark chocolate cake, more buttercream, and finally more cake.

My thoughts upon eating the Ho Ho Cupcake:

1. What?!? This is so good! Not even a little bit weird! They're lying—no way this is gluten-free!
2. How did they do this?! I am so jealous.
3. This tastes exactly like the chocolate cake my mom used to make.
4. Is there a WaterCourse Bakery cookbook? (Sadly, no.)
5. Why don't I live in Denver?

I can't wait to go back and try every other gluten-free thing in that case. Four chickpeas for City O' City!

More from Denver soon!