Monday, March 30, 2009

For a long time I tried to produce Indian food in my own home with very little success. Then, I realized the virtue of a few choice ingredients, and I was able to make a curry that, while not terribly authentic, is delicious and satisfying. One key ingredient is fresh coriander! I like to grind it myself with a mortar and pestle. You start with olive oil, chili flakes and garlic, then add the ground coriander. When the garlic has begun to cook into the oil, add some canned diced tomatoes. After a few minutes you can start to add your veggies. I love cauliflower in curries, so that’s what I used in this one. Then, I usually add a legume. Peas are delicious in Indian food, because they soak up all of the intense flavors very nicely. Mushrooms are also a lovely addition. After you’ve added your veggies, you will need to add the other key ingredient; coconut milk! This stuff is the best for veggie kids who want to add creaminess to a dish without using soy. You can add as much as you would like depending on how creamy and coconuty you want the dish. Then, add some chili powder, some good quality pre-made curry powder and a dash of garam marsala. You need to let this simmer for about 15 minutes or so in order to allow all of the flavors to integrate. Then, voila, you have a beautiful home-made curry.
To pair, I would suggest a light Chardonnay with some oak adding hints of vanilla to match the richness and light sweetness of the coconut. You could also try a Gewürztraminer with a light bit of residual sugar to counter the spice.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Ate Half of Manhattan: A Love Story, Part I

I am a lucky little vegan who gets to go to NYC on a regular basis. This last trip was somewhat bitter sweet, because I had recently been through some personal drama, but the fabulous food and the company of my best friend Julia (see matzo bellow) were very cathartic. I usually plan my trip itineraries around the many, many amazing vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in and around Manhattan I want to hit, so I thought I would share some of the fantastic food adventures I had during my last trip there.

One of the most wonderful food experiences I’ve had in a long time was going to 4 Course Vegan. This is one of those underground dinner party deals, where you reserve a spot at someone’s apartment and eat with strangers. Yes, it may sound sketchy, and in fact, I had my doubts as we trekked out to Brooklyn to what looked like an old warehouse to get to Chef Matteo’s loft. As soon as I took one bite, though, all of my doubts disappeared and I fell into food love! The meal started with a beautiful little amuse bouche that consisted of a raw cashew cheese ravioli. This had to be some of the best cashew cheese I’ve ever had. Chef Matteo told me that he made it using a similar technique to Roxanne Klein for whom I incidentally used to do PR and whose cookbook I happen to already own! I will surely be trying this out soon.

The next course was a lovely creamy parsnip bisque with crispy shallots and apple relish. The shallots were such a nice salty addition, and the soup was flavorful and hearty.

After that we had another amazing nut cheese! This romaine salad covers up a generous dollop of macadamia nut cheese that was also incredibly delicious and very much like soft cheese I remember from my dairy-eating days. Incidentally, I had nearly given up on vegan cheese recently after too many bad experiences with Follow Your Heart and Tofutti, but this trip really brought back my faith! Vive le fromage végétalien! I’m ready to join the vegan cheese revolution.

Our main course was a rich lasagna with portabella mushrooms and a pesto sort of sauce. The cream sauces he made were mind blowing. They would blow any omni’s socks off.

We ended with a cute little cinnamon and carrot torte that was light and sweet. It has been a long time since I’ve gotten a tasting menu where every course was this spot on, and this is just one guy in his own apartment, making only one set of dishes to please everyone! It was truly impressive.

We paired the entire meal with an Alsatian white wine we bought at wine shop down the street. By the way, we only paid $40 for this fresh gourmet 4 course meal! That is a serious deal.
This is me and Julia lookin' very happy at the dinner!
One spot I always, always have to hit when I’m in NYC is Atlas Café. They carry Vegan Treats desserts, which are the most orgasmically, unbelievably decadent and delicious desserts! This time we ordered a brownie with peanut butter mousse. I have no idea how they made this rich fluffy mousse, but my god, was it good. We also got a slice of chocolate s’more cake! This was almost too sweet, but we sacrificed ourselves and ate it anyway. The whole shebang was paired with soy hot chocolate.

As long as I’m talking about desserts, let’s move on to Babycakes. My friends and I ordered a vanilla, a chocolate, and a carrot cupcake. The carrot was by far the best with its thick coconutty frosting and light moist cake.

Another place that I will absolutely not miss when I go to Manhattan is Counter. Their brunch rivals that of Fellini in Berkeley, and that is one of my all time favorites. Pardon these terrible photos, but the lighting was poor at our little corner booth, but I decided to forego asking to be reseated, because I was enjoying the ambiance. We ordered a tofu frittata Florentine and breaded French toast with banana flambé. Both were painfully good. The frittata was eggy with a dreamy hollandaise sauce, and the French toast was decadently rich. We paired this with fresh orange juice and soy lattés. That’s all the vegan adventures I can tell you about tonight. Stay tuned for part II, and tales from my next trip this April.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Very Belated Valentine's Post

I wanted to share some lovely treats that I made this Valentine’s Day. The first are the chocolate stout cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World with cream cheese frosting from that same book with a dusting of cocoa powder instead of the crumb top (I just figured that would be more decadent.) Note; boys love things made with beer. They just do. Don’t question it, just learn how to make these or beer potatoes (I’ll have to do those in another post).
The second treat is a classic bit of pastry that I made for my Valentine’s dinner. I used the recipe for a fruit tart from The Joy of Vegan Baking. The shortbread crust is genius! The pastry cream is delicious, and the fruit choices were fabulous (thanks, me!). In case you can’t distinguish, I used clementines, kiwi, strawberries, and raspberries.
For pairing, you might couple the cupcakes with a nice creamy stout (there are many vegan ones), or you could go with a robust dessert wine such as a tawny port. I also recently tried a Muscat that was aged in Rye barrels that would go nicely. The tart would do well with a demi-sec sparkling wine. The tart is not a terribly sweet dessert, so a lightly sweet demi-sec would go beautifully with it.