Friday, October 24, 2014

Cashew-Basil Stuffed and Beer-Battered Zucchini Blossoms


Makes 8-10 blossoms
Time: about an hour

One of the things I miss most about Boston were my solitary trips into Chinatown. I loved picking up a piece of produce or package that was a complete mystery to me (most labeling was in Chinese), bringing it home and figuring out what it was and how to use it. 

Now that we are in LA, those trips have been replaced with Saturday visits with Jeff to Torrance City Farmers Market, a pleasantly monstrous expanse of fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, a few prepared food vendors and a vast array of plants and flowers. Everything is fresh and cheap—we typically leave with enough produce for the week for less than 15 dollars. 

As we were leaving the Farmers Market last weekend, I spotted a booth with several boxes lined head to toe with hundreds of zucchini blossoms. I gathered about 12 of the blossoms, which had deep green thick stems and were topped fiery orange petals, for about a dollar. Like most new-to-me produce, I was excited to buy it, but had no idea what to do with it once I brought it home. Taking inspiration from Cadry over at Cadry's Kitchen, I decided to stuff and batter these, although there are lots of ways to prepare and eat them

Once slathered in an IPA-kissed beer batter, these stuffed blossoms fried to perfection in minutes. The stems were crisp while the blossoms themselves were satiny, and every bite paired perfectly with fresh basil, creamy cashews and tangy marinara on the side.

INGREDIENTS
for the basil-cashew cheese
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
1/2 cup almond milk, whisked with 1 tsp coconut vinegar
10 large basil leaves
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
a few dashes of salt and pepper

for the batter
3/4 cup AP flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup beer (I use a strong IPA)

grapeseed oil, for frying
marinara sauce, for serving

METHOD
Puree all of the basil-cashew cheese ingredients together. Set aside.

Combine all of the batter ingredients together except for the beer. Make a well in the center, then slowly pour the beer in. Gently mix until smooth, taking care not to overmix. Set aside for about 10 minutes.

To stuff the zucchini blossoms, carefully open up the blossom. Remove the pistil from inside, then spoon some of the cheese mixture inside, about 2 tablespoons. Bring the petals back together and gently twist to seal.





Pour several inches of oil into a heavy, flat-bottomed Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, test the oil. There are three ways to do this:

  • Insert a wooden spoon into the oil so it touches the bottom. If bubbles form around the spoon immediately, you are ready to fry.

  • Throw a pinch of batter into the oil. If it poofs up immediately, you are ready to fry.

  • Insert a thermometer into the oil. You are ready to fry once the oil reaches 350 degrees.

Once your oil is ready, dip one of the stuffed blossoms into the batter. Make sure it's evenly coated, then transfer to the hot oil. Allow to fry in batches of only one or two at a time, until they are golden brown all over. Transfer to a paper towel and sprinkle immediately with salt.

Repeat with the remaining blossoms, then serve immediately with marinara sauce.

Thanks to Pacific Merchants for sending me the pretty serving vessels you see here! Pictured here are their tapered chop board and two-piece condiment set.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Lusty Vegan | Review, Recipe and Giveaway! [closed]


lusty
[luhs-tee]

adjective
1. full of or characterized by healthy vigor
2. hearty, as a meal
3. spirited; enthusiastic

synonyms 
1. robust, strong, sturdy, stout

vegan
[vee-guh n] 

noun
1. a vegetarian who omits all animal products from the diet

lusty vegan, according to Ayindé Howell and Zoë Eisenberg, are vegans who are looking for love. In their newly titled The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Relationship Manifesto for Vegans and Those Who Love Them, they explore the connection between food and relationships—specifically focusing on vegans dating omnivores and vice versa—and present advice and recipes on how to help bridge that gap.


So why is this important ... it's just food, right?

Wrong. Ayindé and Zoë will not only tell you why, but also describe their own personal experiences of being a vegan dating an omnivore, and share what they've learned along the way.


Ayindé, a life-long vegan, chef and founder of ieatgrass.com and Zoë, a writer, certified holistic health counselor and founder of sexytofu.com, have one thing in common: neither have dated another vegan. So who is this book written for: omnivores or vegans?

Both! If you are an omnivore, TLV will give you tips on "how to handle your vegan" (heh) and, if you are vegan, it will give you advice on how to coexist peacefully with your new omnivore friend.


In addition to sharing experiences and advice, TLV also presents recipes designed to delight omnivore partners with an emphasis on not trying to "convert" or "change" them, but to show that vegan food isn't all steamed tasteless greens and brown rice. How does Moroccan Tempeh Chermoula, Seitan Kabobs with Sangria Tomato Salad, White Mushroom Truffle Gravy and Devil's Pot Pie sound? And to finish? Care for Spiced Peach and Plum Cobbler, Lemon Meringue Chia Pudding, or Mexican Hot Chocolate-Covered Strawberries? (Recipe below!)

I'm a firm believer that
there is a strong connection between food and sensory memories, and I love that TLV recognizes and discusses that in detail. Food and cooking not only offers nourishment, but also a unique opportunity to connect with another through creating experiences, establishing bonds and forming memories ... and isn't that what relationships are all about in the first place?

Curious and hungry for more? The kind folks over at Vegan Heritage Press are offering one free copy of The Lusty Vegan through this post!

To enter, just leave a comment below that includes a vegan dish you've made for non-vegans that they've loved. Or, if you've dated an omnivore as a vegan or a vegan as an omnivore and have a piece of advice for others, please share it! Either or both comments will enter you into the drawing. I'll announce the winner on October 23.

Please leave your email or some way to contact you in case you are the winner. Shipping is limited to the US only. Good luck!

Congrats to Laura, winner of this giveaway ... thanks to everybody who entered!

Mexican Hot Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
(From The Lusty Vegan © 2014 by Ayindé Howell and Zoë Eisenberg. Used with permission from Vegan Heritage Press.)


Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 3 minutes | Serves 2 to 4


The combination of sweet strawberries, creamy chocolate, and a tiny kick of cayenne creates the ultimate trifecta of deliciousness.


1 (3-ounce) block semi-sweet dark chocolate, chopped or grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound strawberries, cleaned

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate, stirring with fork or whisk so it melts evenly and doesn’t burn. Add the cinnamon, cayenne, and salt. When fully melted, remove from the heat to prevent burning.

2. Holding the strawberries by the stem end, dip them in the melted chocolate, coating them on each side.

3. Place the dipped strawberries on the prepared cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the chocolate, or until ready to serve.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Forks Over Knives Plan | Review and Giveaway! [closed]

I've been cooking and posting almost exclusively about cookbooks for the last two months, and have especially loved immersing myself in so many other diverse and unique points of views and cooking styles and writing about them. So when the kind folks over at FSB Associates sent me a copy of the newly released The Forks Over Knives Plan: A 4-Week Meal-By-Meal Makeover, I was more than happy to continue along on that theme into this month.

Vegans are vegans for a variety of reasons, but I eat this way for reasons that are purely ethical—the health benefits are just a bonus. But sometimes I get into a rut, and eat too much processed food, not enough vegetables or skip meals altogether, especially when I'm busy or stressed. That's why books like The Forks Over Knives Plan are not only useful to me, but also to anyone who needs a clear and simple plan for getting their diet back on track.

Written by Doctors Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman, this plan focuses on hearty comfort foods that don't involve portion control or measuring single nutrients. Week One focuses on breakfast, Week Two on lunch, Week Three on dinner, ending on Week Four, which offers tips on how to successfully maintain the diet. 

Included are 100 recipes that embrace whole- and plant-based food, and are packed with freshness, color and simplicity. I tried the plan's South-of-the-Border Pizza, which uses enchilada sauce in place of traditional tomato sauce, black beans, red pepper, creamy avocado and fresh cilantro. This recipe is a good representation of the book and recipes within it—it's simple, accessible, colorful and easy. 

Because I love the concept of this book as well as this recipe, I'm excited that FSB has kindly offered to give away one copy of this beautiful hardcover cookbook to one reader through this post! 

To enter, leave a comment below that includes your favorite simple and healthy go-to vegan dish, including your email or some way to contact you in case you are drawn as the winner. Shipping is limited to US only.

I'll randomly choose a winner on Thursday, October 9 ... good luck!

The winner of this giveaway is Nicole, congrats! Thanks to everyone who entered!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vegan Brunch : Chocolate Beer Waffles

This is my eleventh and final VeganMoFo post for 2014. For more information on this month's theme, see my Cook from Books description here.

If you are vegan and do any cooking at all, chances are you probably have at least one of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbooks on your shelf (and if you don't, you should!) 

When I first became vegan, I was angry at everything I read about that caused the endless and needless suffering of animals: factory farming, cosmetic testing, the fur industry, etc. Everything I read was written by a similarly angry (but infinitely more eloquent) person than me, so I was always surrounded by this tone.

But cooking quieted that noise, and the kitchen became a place I went to to create things instead of reading about things I felt I had little control over. 

What turned this escape into a passion was Isa Chandra Moskowitz's first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance. It was different that other vegan-authored books because Isa's tone was different: she was funny, had a whatthehell attitude in the kitchen and made cooking approachable and cool. After I cooked my way through VwaV I wanted more. Since then, Isa has written seven more cookbooks, has contributed to countless others. 

Isa's fourth title, Vegan Brunch, was released in 2009 and, like all of her previous titles, was placed on preorder as soon as I heard about it. And when I received my copy, I did what I do with most cookbooks: I sit down and read my way through it like a novel. Vegan Brunch is funny, delicious, creative and inspiring.

It offers countless brunch staples like waffles, scrambles, pancakes and scones, made with completely accessible and affordable ingredients, showing that there's more to vegan brunch than cold fruit and dry bagels.

What I chose for this recipe are Isa's Chocolate Beer Waffles. They have dark beer in them. They have chocolate in them. They are smothered in a duo of chocolate drizzle and sweet cashew cream. They are delicious. 

The beer injects the batter with little pockets of air that mingles with the baking powder to create an impossibly poofy waffle that's fun to drag through the rich cashew cream and dark and sweet chocolate sauce. Is this for everyday? No, but why should vegan mean no indulgence or fun? Go grab your copy of Vegan Brunch from your shelf or on amazon and make these easy, fun and delicious waffles!

Next up to try: Isa's Puttanesca Scramble, Swiss Chard Frittata, Matzoh Brie, Cornbread Waffles with Pantry Mole Rojo and Seitan, Lemon Cashew-Stuffed Crepes with Whole Berry Sauce, Creamy Avocado Potato Salad and East Coast Coffee Cake.

So that's it for VeganMofo this year! It's been fun to take a closer look at my favorite cookbooks and bring some of the recipes to life in my kitchen and onto the blog. 

I'll also admit it's been fun to cook from someone else's cookbook as opposed to coming up with ideas and recipes on my own this month. I've enjoyed immersing myself in another's culinary point of view and style. In a way, it's kind of been like meeting the author!

To read more about VeganMofo, visit the kind folks who run it or go to randomofo. If you've been following along this month, thanks for stopping by! I hope something here has inspired you to open that unused cookbook on your shelf or try that recipe you were thinking about but never attempted. Or maybe even buy one (or two) of them!