Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vegan Tacos  by Jason Wyrick: Mushroom Tacos + a Giveaway!

This is my seventh VeganMoFo post for 2014, and is part of Chef Jason Wyrick's Vegan Tacos blog tour.

I love it when a cookbook practically oozes excitement, expertise and enthusiasm for its subject, and Vegan Tacos by Chef Jason Wyrick does just that. His passion for this classic staple of Mexican street food is infectious, and VT is beautifully executed with snippets of taco history, ingredients and techniques nestled between tons of carefully researched and creative taco recipes.

I love tacos, but trying to order vegan tacos in a restaurant can be hit or miss. Sometimes the beans are soaked in lard or pork and sometimes there is nothing notably creative about vegan options offered on the menu. Because of this, I prefer to make my own tacos at home, but it's easy to get into a taco rut. 

This is why Vegan Tacos has already become a well-used part of my cookbook collection even though it's only been out for less than a month. My favorite recipe so far has been Jason's mushroom tacos (see recipe below). I love how oyster, cremini and shiitake mushrooms are carefully layered to create a richly textured taco that offers an unexpected and complex pop of flavor and smells absolutely amazing once assembled. I also love that these are so simple to throw together in just a few steps. 

Hungry for more? Want a chance to win your own copy of this taco-ey tome? Lucky for you, the kind folks over at Vegan Heritage Press have kindly offered to give away one free copy of Vegan Tacos through this post! 

To enter, just leave in the comments section below your favorite taco filling. If you'd like, also share this post on facebook, pinterest, twitter or instagram and tell me you did in a separate comment for a bonus chance to win! I'll randomly draw a winner on September 25. Shipping is limited to US only, and please leave your email or some way to contact you in case your comment is drawn as the winner. Good luck!

Mushroom Tacos (Tacos de Hongos)

From Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick. ©2014 Jason Wyrick. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press.

The mixed mushrooms are the stars of this taco, so I leave them fairly unadorned so their flavors can shine. Oyster mushrooms give the taco a heavily browned flavor; the shiitakes add earthiness; and the creminis a sort of mellowness, all working together to provide a complex flavor in every bite.

The taco is topped off with roasted habanero sour cream for a piquant bite. For less bite, omit the habanero. These tacos can be a little light, so I sometimes add a cup of cooked black beans at the end of the recipe to make the filling heartier.

Makes 6 Tacos
Heat Level: 7

The Filling
1 guajillo chile (to make guajillo powder) or 1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups oyster mushrooms, chopped into big 2-inch pieces
10 to 12 small fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut in half 
10 to 12 cremini mushrooms, quartered
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped epazote, optional 
3/4 teaspoon salt

The Tortillas
6 (5 to 6-inch) corn tortillas

The Toppings
1 cup vegan sour cream or cashew cream
1 roasted habanero, optional
Raw pine nuts

Heat a dry skillet over a medium heat. Add the guajillo and toast it for 30 seconds on each side. Use a spatula to press it flat on the skillet to maximize the area that gets toasted. Remove the stem. Grind it into powder and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Stir in the oyster mushrooms only, then let them cook for 1 to 2 minutes until they begin to brown. Stir again, and let them sit again. Continue to do this until they are greatly reduced in size and heavily browned and crispy. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the shiitakes and cremini mushrooms. Sauté until soft. Add the garlic, epazote, if using, reserved guajillo powder, and salt and sauté another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a blender or food processor puree the roasted habanero, if using, with the sour cream and transfer to a bowl. Warm the tortillas. Fill each taco with the mushrooms, then top with the sour cream or cashew cream, and finish them off with a sprinkle of pine nuts.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vegan Soul Kitchen : Johnny Blaze Cakes

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

I was initially drawn to buy Vegan Soul Kitchen because I was craving some good Southern food that I was missing from growing up in the South. But I wasn't really looking for things like veganized biscuits and gravy or fried okra—although those are wonderful. I wanted something that offered freshness and spice, and not only took me back to where I grew up but also offered some wholly new-to-me dishes and ingredients. 

As I flipped through the pages of VSK by Bryant Terry and saw recipes like Black-eyed Pea Fritters with Hot Pepper Sauce, Succotash Soup with Garlicky Cornbread Croutons, Spicy Mafé Tempeh, Jamaican Veggie Patties and Carrot-Cayenne Coleslaw, I was instantly smitten.

After reading through Bryant's introduction and a handful of his recipe headnotes, I learned that VSK is much more than just a collection of Southern dishes that have been veganized. It's a reflection, reinterpretation and modernization of traditional dishes he's eaten from countries in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as African-American and Southern dishes in Memphis, New Orleans and other parts of the South. It's also deeply personal, a celebration of what he refers to as "Afro-Diasporic cuisine" (a mixture of African, Caribbean, African American, Native American and European staples) with an emphasis on fresh and nutrient-dense ingredients.

What you see here are Bryant's Johnny Blaze Cakes, a beautifully simple crispy corn cake which utilizes a technique I had never heard of or tried before. What I like best about these crispy-on-the-outside-but-perfectly-soft-on-the-inside cakes are that they are sort of a blank canvas for you to put whatever you want on it. Craving something sweet and sour with a hit of heat? Bryant suggests his Strawberry and Slightly Hot Pepper Jam. Want colorful and fresh? Try his Chilled and Grilled Okra, Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad.

I topped these with fresh tiny heirloom tomatoes, slivers of jalapeño and grilled corn. I loved the little pop of breaking the crispy shell to reveal a pillowy soft interior, and these cakes could be topped with almost any kind of sauce, fresh vegetable or nestled up next to a bunch of cooked greens. The leftovers also reheated perfectly the next day in a preheated cast-iron pan.

Next up to try? Bryant's Roasted Turnips and Shallots with Turnip Greens Soup, Cold and Creamy Cucumber-Watermelon Soup with Pickled Watermelon Rind Salsa and his Spiced Peach Rustic Pie with Dried Cranberries.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spork-Fed : Strawberry Shortcakes with a Coconut Whipped Cream Topping

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

I don't make a lot of dessert on the blog. Dessert to me is like that friend that lives over an hour away that I want to visit, but don't always have the energy to travel to. But once I do decide to go and get there, I'm all like, hi! so good to see you, we're going to have fun! And we do.

So dessert. Since it's way out of my comfort zone, I rely heavily on cookbooks to select and make them. Last weekend, while flipping through my copy of Spork-Fed, I decided Strawberry Shortcakes with Coconut Whipped Cream was going to happen in my kitchen, and I'm glad it did. When I think of coconut milk, I immediately think of savory Asian dishes, not really dessert or whipped cream, but that's silly—coconut whipped cream is magic, and I'm so happy to have discovered it through this cookbook!

A little background on Spork-Fed: it's penned by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg who are genius cookbook authors, sisters and founders of Spork Foodsa Los Angeles-based gourmet vegan food company, and is an adorable-sized cookbook packed with more than 75 recipes, plus tips on cooking, health and entertaining. All of the recipes inside are carefully crafted and expertly developed and made with a spirit of fun and adventure. A couple of years ago I blogged about their Tofu Satay with a Decadent Peanut Sauce, and still make their peanut sauce often because it's quick and easy, and so perfectly balanced and versatile.

I loved making this Strawberry Shortcake. The shortcake dough had an impossibly poofy and light texture, and baked to perfection. The strawberries were marinated in a perfect blend of sweet and sour ingredients, balanced out with a little hit of vanilla. But the star of this dessert was the whipped cream, made from coconut milk and a pinch of other complimentary ingredients. I initially followed the recipe exactly and the whipped cream came out perfect: impossibly thick and airy with little peaks. But I decided I wanted more of it, and made the mistake of adding more liquid than the recipe called for. Oops. So this whipped cream is a little thinner than it should be—but it still looked and tasted fantastic. My mistake = a good excuse to try it again! 

When I stored the leftovers in the refrigerator, I decided to drizzle the leftover whipped cream over the shortcake. The next day, I took a bite and it was heavenly: it had a cakey texture and was beautifully rich and creamy, and almost like a completely different dessert ... one more reason to love coconut whipped cream. 

This dessert and more is yours with Spork-Fed!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crazy Sexy Kitchen : Beetroot Ravioli with Cashew Cream Cheese

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

When I first started this blog in 2011, I was working full time at a law firm, doing legal marketing. During my 45-minute commute on the Orange Line from Boston's North Shore into the Downtown's Financial District, I would pull out my latest copy of VegNews or Bon Appétit, or a new cookbook I had just bought and just kind of get lost in what I saw within the pages before I started my workday. During one of my commutes in, I distinctly remember coming across a recipe from Chef Chad Sarno for Cashew Cheese. Cashews = cheese? Probiotics = flavor? what.

After not quite understanding it, but still curious, I replicated it—then became a huge fan of Chef Sarno's work. But what he creates goes beyond nut-based cheese and expands into culinary artistry, as everything he makes is incredibly fresh, mind-blowingly creative and visually stunning. 

When I saw that Chef Sarno had partnered with Kris Carr and 10 other guest chefs to create Crazy Sexy Kitchen, I knew I had to have a copy. Packed with more than 150 plant-based recipes, CSK is a visual feast that celebrates whole foods, collaborative cooking, vibrant color and the simple pleasure of cooking fresh food in your own kitchen.

CSK will tell you how to make Truffled Parmesan, Walnut Falafel, Zucchini Carpaccio, Cauliflower Risotto—and this lovely recipe for Beetroot Ravioli with Cashew Cream Cheese. Simply raw and deeply crimson, this dish instantly conveys fresh and is a perfect balance of light and rich once assembled with the tangy and herb-kissed cashew cheese sauce.

While prepping this dish, I loved dragging the beets across the mandoline slicer and seeing the gorgeous swirl pattern it revealed in each slice. The cashew cream came together with a quick puree in the blender before it was spooned and sandwiched between two paper-thin slices of beets, topped with fresh asparagus and drizzled with a touch a balsamic and coarse sea salt. This gorgeous appetizer is as delicious as it looks and will leave you feeling just as vibrant and fresh as the ingredients it so masterfully utilizes.