Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pure Luck & Scoops: Take Two

Last Wednesday, the night of the lunar eclipse, I went to see my friend's band play in Hollywood. Rather than going all the way home after work and then going to the show, I decided to treat myself again to Pure Luck and Scoops.

I knew I was going to have dessert, so I ordered a small meal at Pure Luck (much more aesthetically pleasing photo here as I'm still photographing with my cell phone). These plantain and cream soft tacos (ordered sans onions, of course) arrived at my table smelling like open fire-roasted marshmallows. Oh, yum. I'm going to take a guess that the cream atop the plantains was Soyatoo because it began melting immediately and I've heard that's Soyatoo's M.O. I savored every bite of these delicious tacos, eating the plantains with a fork and tearing off pieces of the soft corn tortillas to dip in the remaining cream after the plantains were gone. I would definitely order this again, but I'd probably go more savory next time, ordering without the cream and with a side of rice and beans.

I rolled into Scoops like a kid in a candy store, eyes aglow with the four vegan ice cream possibilities before me: Thai Iced Tea, Chocolate Orange, Pistachio Lemon, and Almond Banana. When the Scoops scooper asked whether I'd like a sample, I eagerly asked to taste all four vegan options. I surprised myself by going for the Chocolate Orange over the Almond Banana and Pistachio Lemon was a no-brainer. Imagine the richest, creamiest chocolate ice cream laced with fresh orange and blended to smooth perfection. Then imagine bright green pistachio flavor enhanced with a subtle hint of lemon and full of pistachio bits on which to chew. That was the cup of deliciousness that greeted me at Scoops that night.

Pure Luck
707 N. Heliotrope Drive
Los Angeles 90029

712 N. Heliotrope Drive
Los Angeles 90029

As an aside, I've noted an interesting habit I've developed. I often eat dinner and then prep something or cook something to eat the next day. Tonight's example is that I prepped the Tangerine Baked Tofu from Veganomicon. I started this endeavor at 9:50 p.m. Is that crazy? I figured I'd marinate one side of the tofu overnight, flip it in the morning before work, and marinate the other side all day. Then I can bake it tomorrow night when I get home. I wonder if I'm the only person who does this.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Food Snobbery Survey #2

The lovely Liz at Food Snobbery is My Hobbery has posted another survey. Here are my responses:

1. If you have to choose between locally grown or organic, which do you usually choose?
Probably organic, but really, whatever is fresh and looks good.

2. Favorite way to prepare potatoes:
I don't prepare potatoes very often, but I suppose I like them best roasted.

3. Do you press your tofu before preparing/cooking it (if you eat soy)?

4. Name your favorite recipe that is a tradition in your family:
My Nana's noodle kugel is my favorite family recipe, but I haven't attempted to veganize it yet.

5. Any food allergies?
No, I don't, but I have a sensitivity to nutritional yeast and tomatoes give me eczema. I still eat them, though! Ok, I don't eat raw tomatoes, but that's just because I don't care for them.

6. When you want to go to a fancy dinner, where do you go?
Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana. It's gourmet vegan food!

7. When you have a cold, what do you crave?
Definitely soup. More specifically, the Chickpea-Noodle Soup from Veganomicon or Cindy O's soup from La Dolce Vegan.

8. What kind of water do you drink? (Filtered, spring, tap, etc.)
I use a Brita water filter at home.

9. Name a flavor of soda you'd love to see:
Mint or mango.

10. If the recipes you ate as a child were compiled into a cookbook, what would the title be?
My Mom Was a Home Ec Major and We Still Ate Hamburger Helper on Occasion

11. If you were allowed to grow one food that can't grow in your climate, what would it be?
I live in Los Angeles, so I pretty much have every food at my fingertips year round. I'm so lucky! I wish I had my own personal gardener, though, who would plant and harvest all my favorite fruits and veggies for me according to my wishes. ;)

12. Favorite type of mushroom?
It's between shiitake and portabello.

13. Most frustrating part of your kitchen?
I don't have nearly enough counter space.

14. Last food you burned?
Some of the carrots for Veganomicon's Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes.

15. Usual response to a veg*n's favorite question, "But where do you get your protein?":
I always say that I get protein from beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and veggies, but that our bodies don't need as much protein as the colloquial "they" say we need.

16. If you were baking your own birthday cake today, what flavor would it be?
If I were a magician, it would be a vegan Angel Food cake.

17. Favorite brand of chocolate chips?
Sunspire's grain-sweetened chocolate chips (and I LOVE their vegan carob chips).

18. You have $200 of your tax return reserved for Williams Sonoma- What do you buy?
Oh, there are so many ways to spend this money! I would probably get an oven-safe dutch oven. I don't think $200 would buy a Le Creuset one, but that'd be my preference. :) Those mango cutters are cool, too.

19. Do you plan your menus in advance? Any tips to share?
I don't usually plan menus in advance, but I'll often decide I want to make a specific recipe and then shop for it accordingly.

20. You have 3 minutes before you have to leave the house and you're starving- What do you eat?
A banana, a Luna bar, or a Clif bar.

21. If Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray got into a fight, who would win and how?
Rachael Ray is scrappy, but Martha Stewart would shoot death rays out of her eyes and kill the others.

22. If you eat oatmeal, what do you add to it before serving?
Raisins and brown sugar or real maple syrup.

23. If you got to travel to one country and learn all the traditional dishes there, where would you go (ignore commitments in your current place of residence)?

24. Favorite late night snack?
I don't usually eat late at night, but probably a handful of frozen raw cashews or a handful of carob chips.

25. Favorite springtime food?

26. Favorite food-related magazine?
VegNews or, if that doesn't count, Cooking Light.

27. Which do you prefer: shoyu, tamari, conventional soy sauce, or Bragg's Aminos?
I don't have a preference.

28. What vegetable or fruit do you dislike the most?
Onions and their relatives leeks, scallions, shallots, and chives. Also, avocados.

29. Name a holiday food you look forward to all year long:
Honestly, there isn't a holiday food I look forward to all year long. I love the stuffing I make every year, but I don't think about it except around Thanksgiving.

30. If you could convert anyone to veganism with your magic wand, who would you convert?
Everyone I love and the U.S. President.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes

I don't think I've ever used a cookbook as frequently as I use Veganomicon. It actually surprises me, since my M.O. is to buy tons of vegan cookbooks, read them like novels, and return them to my cookbook shelf until it's time to re-read them (and, believe me, I re-read them often). In any case, Monday night, I decided to make the Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes. I added extra carrots and omitted the onion, used 3 garlic cloves instead of 2, and added the juice of 1 tiny lemon instead of 1/2 of a lemon. I confess that I let some of the carrots burn while I was hollowing out my potato halves, but I didn't mind. I packaged up the stuffed potatoes for this week's lunches with a side of plain peas (and my requisite red grapefruit) and was a happy girl. These are really wonderful and my co-workers keep wondering what smells so good after I'm done using the microwave. ;)

Please excuse the terrible photo; my camera eats rechargeable batteries like crazy, so I took this with my cell phone.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Veganomicon's Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh

Last weekend, I made the Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh from Veganomicon along with some steamed green beans. It became my lunch for 4 out of 5 days last week and it was something I looked forward to eating every day. Instead of wine, I used 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar plus enough water to make 1/2 cup of liquid. I used 3 cloves of garlic instead of 2 and I dumped in a bunch more hot sauce than called for because I wanted to finish the bottle I had. I ended up marinating the tempeh for approximately 8 hours. I cut it into 8 thin triangles instead of 4 thicker ones because I wanted to make sure that the marinade really permeated the tempeh. The recipe gives different options for cooking the tempeh and I chose the broiling option, which worked out wonderfully. Once the tempeh was cooked, I took the remaining marinade and whatever liquid was left over from the broiling, added about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and heated it over a medium-high flame in a saucepan until thickened. That made for a wonderful sauce that I literally scraped out of my containers with a spoon after I finished the tempeh each day. ;)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Move over, Wheeler's Black Label!

I know those are big words coming from a girl who's never had a chance to try Wheeler's Black Label (unlike these lucky ducks: Hannah, Emilie, Bazu, and Chocolate Covered Vegan), which has been touted as the nirvana of vegan ice cream (or of any ice cream, for that matter), but this is one of the best vegan ice creams I've ever tasted. It's none other than the Cashew Banana Ice Cream from Dreena Burton's newest release, Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. When I first opened ED&BV, I remember seeing this recipe and immediately slicing and freezing the overripe bananas I had on my kitchen counter in anticipation of whipping this up someday. Well, that someday just happened to have been tonight, after the third demanding day in a row.

The ice cream came together really quickly and was the consistency of slightly textured soft serve. My cashew butter was pretty dry, which didn't bother me at all, and actually added a nice amount of graininess to the ice cream. You see, I'm a girl who likes stuff in her ice cream and this saved me from adding in some of my beloved carob chips. What an incredibly delicious treat (no, I didn't eat that entire bowl full) and it's healthy, too! There's not even a drop of sugar in it, as it's sweetened with maple syrup (or agave, if you prefer). I'm telling you, you will not be sorry if you go make yourself some Cashew Banana Ice Cream right now!

[Edit: The ice cream is made in the food processor, so you can make it even if you don't have an ice cream maker!]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

S'mores Muffins

I'm an exhausted auntie* tonight, so this will be a short post. A couple weeks ago, I made VeggieGirl's S'mores Muffins. I love carob, I love Health Valley vegan amaranth graham crackers, I love VeggieGirl's blog, and I like Sweet & Sara marshmallows (my preference is for the coconut ones, but the vanilla flavor is ok, too). I like these muffins (there are still 8 or 9 in my freezer), but I don't love them. Maybe it's that the carob is the only flavor that really comes through or the fact that I had a lot of difficulty getting the marshmallow pieces to distribute evenly in the batter. Whatever the case, I filed these under the "like, but not love" category. I'm definitely happy to have them in the freezer for when I need a snack!

*I have 4 non-blood-related nephews, all of whom I love very much and none of whom I get to see very often. I got to spend about 12 hours today with my 4-year-old nephew while his mom was working. We had so much fun, but he wore me out! He, of course, ate completely vegan while he was with me. ;)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cooking Class at Madeleine Bistro

This past Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a cooking class at Madeleine Bistro, taught by none other than Chef David Anderson, a 2007 VegNews Veggie Awards winner ! When I asked Dave if it would be ok for me to take photographs throughout the class for the blog, he readily agreed, but his wife and restaurant manager, Molly, was uncomfortable with me posting photos of him, so I will leave them off out of respect. I've also removed the photo that I previously posted of Dave and Molly when I wrote about the Vegan Meet-Up I attended in early January.

Although this was not a hands-on cooking class (with the exception of a small part of the dessert prep), this class was a lot of fun. Dave and Molly are good-natured, good-hearted people who were happy to answer questions and interact with the class. It started at 10 a.m. and they were kind enough to serve coffee and tea to us. They made us feel comfortable and at home.

I know how to cook, so I took this class for the chance to learn from a vegan master. I've always been more than happy to follow a recipe and am not one to create my own. More than anything, what I took from this class was the ability to use a recipe as a guideline. For example, Dave explained that practically any root or cruciferous vegetable could be substituted in equal quantity for the cauliflower in the soup we learned that morning. I'm sure I could've figured that out on my own, but I gained confidence hearing this from the master himself. I'm having difficulty expressing exactly what I mean on this point because I obviously modify recipes all the time to eliminate onions and their sibling offenders, but rest assured that I learned from this class! I also learned that, even if you're not necessarily a fan of wine, you just might love Braised Tempeh and Cabernet Sauce!

Cauliflower Soup garnished with Tempeh Bacon and Parsley Oil

Braised Tempeh and Cabernet Sauce with Mashed Potatoes

Chocolate Cake Charlotte filled with Chocolate Mousse and accompanied by Homemade Raspberry Sorbet

This was a gorgeous and delicious meal. The soup was creamy and flavorful, perfectly holding its texture and wonderfully accented by the smokiness of the tempeh bacon. I was skeptical about the tempeh dish because I'm not crazy about wine (although I'm learning, as a recent wine-tasting experience proves), but the Cabernet Sauvignon reduced to a richly-flavored sauce that both infused and coated the tempeh. I found myself adding more of this sauce to my plate! The mashed potatoes were the perfect consistency and flavor (I ate many bites of potato with some of the Cabernet sauce). Oh, and the dessert...a deep, rich, creamy mousse, ensconced in light, moist chocolate cake with a side of the most vibrant raspberry sorbet you've ever tasted. My goodness, this class was such a treat!

Dave and Molly are considering making these classes a twice-monthly event and I'm certainly looking forward to the next one!

P.S. As I'm a singer and always have a song running through my head and as someone who associates songs with all sorts of sounds, sights, words, activities, etc., raspberry sorbet obviously makes my mind burst into a rousing chorus of Prince's "Raspbery Beret" (with "beret" changed to "sorbet," of course!).