Friday, October 5, 2012

Green Pesto

Grilled Vegetable Platter with 3 sauces: Olive Tapenade, Green Pesto and Mushroom Pâté
Yes, it's fall! We love this time of year, with the leaves changing, the chimneys coming alive with smoke and a chill in the air. Wait a second... this is San Francisco, and October is feeling very different than your typical fall moment. Any month of the year, cold foggy nights and gray sweater weather can dominate. But for a few magical days, it is hot day and night, everyone is smiling and tan in their shorts and this metropolis by the bay actually feels like California.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vegan Big Island

From the Kona Farmer's Market
Ashley and I went to the island of Hawaii for our honeymoon! Our wedding, replete with vegan feasting and an epic dance party that left me limping down the stairs the next morning, couldn't have been better. But - in spite of the bliss of the event, and the affirmation of 15 months (plus a lifetime) of work on Ashley's part - we were so relieved it was all over and we could escape to an island!
So for us any trip anywhere is about eating, and because on a honeymoon you don't even have to pretend to do anything else, we pretty much ate our way around the island.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Macaroni and Cheeze

Yes, this is cheese with a "z!" When I first decided to cut dairy products from my diet, I figured I would have to do without some of my favorite foods, namely ice cream and cheesy noodles. Well, it didn't take long for me to learn that vegans love to eat these things too! I can still remember reading about nutritional yeast for the first time, thinking it sounded like a weird supplement and definitely not a delicious condiment that was to become a staple of my diet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

I am spending my days cooking for young people who want to change the world! Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Summer Camp is for kids who care about making our earth a better place. As part of the mission of the camp, vegan food is served to campers and staff. We explain that for people who want to eliminate injustices in our wold, the SAD Standard American Diet makes no sense. So not only do we want to educate them about helping others, but show them how delicious it can be!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Peanut Dressing

Peanut Butter, the miracle food. Ashley needs only a spoon and maybe some chocolate chips to enjoy the sticky stuff, which she does pretty much every day. I love chocolate and peanut butter like any red-blooded American, but the thick, greasy paste coats my mouth and leaves me thirsty. In our house, because I don't eat it by the spoonful every day, it sometimes seems like I am a PB hater. Not true! But I do prefer to thin the stickiness out of the PB and turn it into peanut sauce. And peanut sauce... that I can eat every day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New York City Adventure!

New York City in the last week of June. Glittering, steamy city... full of beautiful people and intoxicating energy. We traveled across the country to our old stronghold for our friend's wedding, and ending up spending a few days high on the summertime bliss of the frantic, unstoppable Big Apple. In terms of just about everything, New York is a machine of unparalleled size and efficiency. Anything you could ever want... there is lots to choose from, and lots of people there. Vegan food is no exception. The number of places has even grown since I left the city over a year ago, and following my stomach around Manhattan and Brooklyn led me to many delicious adventures.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Avocado Salsa Verde

More salsa! In our world, there is never such a thing as too much salsa! At our neighborhood taqueria (Oh the joy of being in California...) they have a salsa bar, and our favorite is a spicy, tangy salsa verde. It is hot, but mellowed out by the creaminess of avocados. For taco night, we tried to whip up a batch ourselves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Grilled Salsa

One day while I was in high school and watching Martha Stewart on TV with a friend, she opened her show with the following sentence: "The number one condiment in America isn't ketchup or mustard. It's salsa. Fresh, delicious, beautiful salsa." Her zealous use of adjectives made me laugh and anything that I liked for years was "fresh, delicious and beautiful." Martha and I may not agree on many things, like the distribution of wealth or eating animals and their secretions, but boy do we agree about salsa!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kelp Noodle Salad

You are probably thinking right now, what are kelp noodles? When I came across a recipe for kelp noodles in a vegan cookbook, my first thought was that pieces of kelp had been sliced thin and were being used like noodles. Being a reluctant seaweed eater, but someone who insists on making seaweed a part of my diet anyway because of its insane health benefits -- more vitamins and minerals than any plant grown on land -- I did not want to eat a big bowl of sliced kelp. But when I stumbled upon a package of kelp noodles at the Asian market, I couldn't resist. They look like clear vermicelli noodles, but they are made out of only kelp! As a result, they have all the nutrients of kelp but without the starch that is the basis of most noodles. All this sounded good, but what about the taste? Delicious! Different than any other noodle, they retain their firm texture, almost crunchy like a vegetable in the mouth. But for a light summer meal, they were exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Roasted Marinara

When people talk about quintessentially American foods, they usually think about meatloaf or some canned-soup casserole or maybe a gluttonous Thanksgiving table with a giant carcass in the middle. Not my kind of America! The great USA is a melting pot, and some cultures have been here so long their traditions have become embedded in our consciousness. For us, the most American of all meals is pasta with red sauce, a green salad and some garlic bread. The fact that this also happens to be vegan is bonus points! Sometimes living in Northern California really feels like being in Italy, and growing up here, where tomatoes grow to be eight-feet tall, passion for pasta sauce run deep.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Canyon Gourmet

In 2009, my dad invited me to join him on a 21-day river trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I knew there were treacherous rapids, dangerous hikes, and no escaping the river or the people in your group for three whole weeks. I also knew this was as close as you can get to one of the wonders of the natural world, and that my dad had done this trip eight times, each time wanting to go right back to the beginning and start all over again. So when he won a coveted permit through the lottery system, I did not hesitate; this experience may be once in a lifetime, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.
Well... it turns out I got bitten by the Canyon bug as well. As soon as I got back, I entered my name into the lottery system for a permit of my own. And I won! The responsibility of coordinating and planning a trip now fell on me. I knew it was incredibly important to have a group with whitewater experience, to keep us all safe, and that everyone had to be hardworking, positive and easygoing. The real risk of having a bad trip isn't in the elements; it's the people. So I put together a group of older men who have done this trip dozens of times between them, and my younger friends, a few of whom had almost never camped a day in their lives. With a group in place that I felt confident about, I could turn my attention to the most important of matters: the food!
When I returned from my first trip, I had many people ask me if I was okay with the food... was I eating enough? My answer was that I had never eaten so much in my entire life. The difference between river rafting trips and other camping trips is that you can carry everything you need for a gourmet kitchen on your rafts. We had pots and pans, chef's knives, crates of root vegetables and citrus and melons and coolers and coolers full of any ingredient you may ever need. For an average lunch, I would eat: two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, several handfuls of nuts, some chips, an apple, an orange, as many cookies as I could eat and wash it down with a beer or two or three. And a few hours later, I was hungry for dinner!
So when I first got my own permit, I was so excited to plan the food for the entire group. Initially, I thought I could happily force everyone to eat vegan for the whole trip. Later, I backed away a little bit from the idea, saying that I would take care of everything we might need for breakfast and lunch (and of course it will all be plant-based and very delicious) and that we would be split into cooking groups for dinners: as long as they were making vegan food that I and the other vegans could eat, I wasn't going to forbid them from adding animal products too. To my delight, most dinners we had were completely vegan! And so delicious! Even the only cooking group made up entirely of omnivores, affectionately named TEAM MEAT, made delightful vegan meals, including campfire-baked potatoes with make-your-own mushroom shish kabobs and desserts like pineapple upside-down cake and fudgy brownies. Everyone happily used the egg replacer I placed in the "BAKE - SWEETENERS" box of ingredients in their desserts. And no meal was lacking in flavor, as we had an excellent flavor toolkit in the "STAPLES - SPICES" box.
Cooking in the Grand Canyon is not what I'd call easy... the first task is lugging all the heavy equipment from the rafts into a flat section of camp designated the kitchen. Tables, stoves, propane tanks, metal boxes full of pots and pans, lanterns, utensils and all the ingredients for your meals are carried up the beach. Then you get to "go shopping" on the rafts using a bucket, searching in the produce crates and coolers for the ingredients for your planned meal. Then it's a race with the sun to try to make the meal as quickly as you can because everyone is hungry and wants to eat.
But it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. Firstly, this is the Grand Canyon! It is the most beautiful kitchen in the world! The golden light of dusk dances in the reflection on the surface of the river as it flows past, the towering walls of stone up above, sometimes red, sometimes black, sometimes green. Some camps have streams flowing down the middle, others lead back into side canyons, ancient creek beds that carved their own mini Grand Canyons. The air is clean and smells like campfire or blossoms. Furthermore, the whole group has worked up an appetite together every day. Any food is good food at the end of a long day on the river. In the real world, we often take meals for granted, but in the Canyon, every bite is a revelation. That said, my group, TEAM VEGAN, led by me and Ashley, sometimes took the camping gourmet idea a little too far. We made feasts that led our group on a tour around the world: First we did Chinese, then Mexican, Thai, Indian and finished it off with a European feast based around 5-mushroom stroganoff and roasted pumpkin. But boy, was the food good! An example of when we went overboard, here is our Indian menu:
Basmati Rice with Bay Leaves
Aloo Jeera (Potatoes with cumin seeds)
Cabbage Thoran (Cabbage with mustard seeds and grated coconut)
Gingered Cauliflower Curry
Vadouvan Dal (Red lentils with garlic and chiles)
And for dessert:
Giant Cowboy Cookie 

It was St. Patrick's Day when we made that meal and everyone was passing around a bottle of Irish whiskey, with a crate of Guinness by the campfire. By the time I finished cooking, by lantern light, all the Irish alcoholic beverages were gone! I enjoyed my Indian food with a Budweiser. But no regrets... deliciousness was enjoyed by all, and I know the non-vegans of the group left knowing that vegan food can be scrumptious and very satisfying as well as healthy.  I am already thinking about my next trip to the GFC (Grand Fucking Canyon!) and cooking in my favorite kitchen in the world.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Raw Mango Pudding

We keep hearing about how San Francisco summer is damp, cold and generally miserable, but we don't believe it. Since we moved here in September, we've had plenty of beautiful, clear days and the depths of winter were no exception. After years in icy New York and drizzly, gray Paris, it has felt positively spectacular. Yes... we know it's not actually summer yet, so maybe the misery has yet to come. The past few weeks have been full of warm, sunny days that smell like blossoms. The sunbathers are out in Dolores Park, and the line for Bi-Rite Creamery goes around the block yet again. We loooove refreshing ice cream and chilled puddings. But for now, we are craving refreshment and healthy, light dishes.
My favorite snack ever is unsweetened dried mango slices. It's like a natural fruit roll-up, so flavorful and sweet. This raw pudding combines banana, fresh mango and dried mango slices, full of rich, concentrated flavor. The result is a velvety, rich pudding packed with flavor. It's majorly MANGO! Any sliced fresh fruit on top makes this heavenly and healthy dessert even more substantial. It could even be a breakfast or anytime snack that feels like dessert.

Raw Mango Pudding
The frozen banana is really just so that you can eat it immediately without chilling. If you only have fresh bananas, just place the completed pudding in the fridge until cold.
1 frozen banana
1 fresh mango, peeled and sliced into chunks
about 6 slices unsweetened dried mango, soaked in water until soft
Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and puree until very smooth and fluffy. If necessary, add a splash or two of the soaking water from the dried mango.

Smooth pudding into bowls with spatula and garnish with fresh seasonal fruit. I used peaches and blackberries.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kale with Cashews

It's safe to say that we are addicted to kale. We eat it several days a week; lunches, dinners, salads, soups... everything goes great with kale. But because kale is so delicious and seriously one of the healthiest foods on earth, we continue to feed our addiction. Kale really goes with everything. Usually, we saute kale in a hot pan and serve it as a side dish. It is delicious plain and simple, but it also holds its own with some strong spices and seasonings.
This recipe is our basic tachnique for cooking kale. With a hot cast iron skillet, it is unnecessary to add any oil. The kale wilts and releases its moisture from the heat alone. Sweet cashews, the floral perfume of toasted coriander seed and the pungent duo of garlic and ginger round out the flavors of this healthy and tasty side dish. We served it with Thai curry and noodles, but this side would also pair nicely with an Indian feast or any Asian cuisine. Enjoy your kale! Your body will thank you.

Kale with Cashews
1 large bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
3/4 cup raw cashews
2 tbs. garlic-ginger paste (about 2 cloves garlic and 1-inch slice of ginger)
2 tbs. soy sauce, or to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime

First, prepare the kale. The easiest way to remove the fibrous stems is by hand. Grasp the bottom of the stem with one hand and tear the leaf away on either side of the stem with the other hand. Once the stems are removed, tear or chop the kale to desired size.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Dry toast the coriander seed and cashews, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant. Add kale and raise heat to high. It will cook quickly once the pan is very hot. Once it begins to wilt, stir to combine with cashews. Add garlic-ginger paste, soy sauce and lemon or lime juice. Stir to combine and turn off heat. The hot pan will evaporate excess liquid. Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce and lemon or lime juice, if desired. Serve immediately. Eat it while it's hot, and let the addiction begin!