Monday, August 24, 2009

Vegan Surf and Turf + Some Kitchen Musings

Lemon-Thyme Agave Braised Vegan Short Ribs and Seared Tofu Scallops with Mineola Tangelo Saffron Sauce

Sweet Sally Sassafras...I've been cooking up a storm lately. Let me impress upon you that the typical amount of time I spend in my kitchen is already above and beyond what a typical human being would consider normal. No, I do not own a dishwasher. Yes, my hands are softer than a baby's behind...that smells consistently of garlic. An avid home cook really cannot do wrong by indulging in fine moisturizing linements and oils.

On the downside, I have finally come to the conclusion that my POS (Piece of Shit) oven is inadequate in every way. I have given it many chances. When I want to boil, it burns. When I want to simmer, it shuts off. When I want to roast, it chars. Enough is enough. I am breaking open my Carrot Bank (vegans can't have Piggy Banks, right?), and splurging on something amazing.

Instead of sexual fantasies, I have intimate nighttime visions of me growing hot and sweaty as I show this beast who's boss:
Unfortunately, my credit card limit tells me I'll just have to keep my pants on for now. I will have to settle for the hand-holding, schoolyard puppy love oven of my day dreams, which I believe will be satisfying in it's own sweet way:

This little beauty performs every function I could possibly desire. It even has a "Chicken Nugget" button, which of course means I will immediately run to the store and buy a box of Health Is Wealth vegan variety just to make a statement.

Instead of posting a recipe this week, I thought I'd just give you a little peek at a few of the dishes that have been fed to all of my friends/guinea pigs as of late.

First, as you saw at the top of the post, my rendition of vegan surf and turf.

The Surf: Seared Tofu Scallops with Mineola Tangelo Saffron Sauce

The Turf: Lemon-Thyme Agave Braised Vegan Short Ribs

Also, a very tasty breakfast dish...

Vegan Sweet Baguette Hazelnut French Toast

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vegan "Escargot" A La Bourguignonne En Croute Vegan Brioche with Cafe De Paris "Butter" and an URGENT MESSAGE

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, being a vegan can often be accompanied by a slew of cultural stereotypes: "Health Fanatic", "Hippy-Dippy", "Kombucha-Guzzling Yogi" get the point. Sure, we all deeply value our bodies and how we treat them. More importantly, we value the bodies and minds of all living creatures...and do as much as humanly possible to ensure ethical treatment.

I rarely use this blog to address serious issues...but for the first time in all my years as an animal activist, I have encountered a fellow vegan that bucks every single stereotype I've ever heard slung our way. Allow me to explain:

My girlfriend almost lost her life back in the winter due to a completely unnecessary physical attack by her roommate. He was on heavy amounts of recreational drugs at the time of the attack, and she fled her home fearing her life. She unfortunately had to leave her dog, Jezzy, behind.

In the months following the attack, she has pursued legal action against him. One of the terms of the settlement was that she wanted her dog returned safely. This past week, we learned that he not only gave the dog to a vegan friend of his in San Francisco...but convinced her to write an extremely defamatory letter against my girlfriend stating that the dog "exhibit[s] some classic symptoms of severe abuse", "had never been to receive her vaccinations" and that Jane "never provided her with food, water and exercise".

This vegan's name is Sheerein Hosseini. She lives in San Francisco. All of her statements are violent, terrible lies.

Jane and I have a dog, Shwee, together. I have seen her give nothing but love and devotion to Shwee. She cares for her needs better than mine :) I have also seen the vaccination and vet visit papers for Jezzy, as we obtained them some months ago just incase proof of ownership was needed during her legal battle.

To make matters completely worse, Sheerein had met Jeezy in Jane's presence about year ago...and had blow marijuana smoke in the dog's face without my girlfriend's permission. Sheerein already has three dogs...and even if Jezzy was the only dog in her possession, couldn't possibly care for the dog as well as Jane can.

If you know her, please send me an e-mail so we can bring her back safely to her rightful owner. If you're feeling particularly ballsy, you can e-mail her directly at:
and let her know how you feel. I am in utter disbelief that someone claiming to care for all living so deeply could commit such an act, and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that this wrong is made right.

EDIT: Here's a link the the entire story...

Sorry to get all super-cereal on you guys, I'm just pretty peeved off.

On a completely unrelated note, MY COOKBOOK IS GETTING PUBLISHED!!!

I'll post more details when I have them, but let's just say I'm super-duper stoked. If my consistent rate of posting slacks off over the next few months, know it's because I'm hard at work. The quality of my book is my top priority.

Vegan "Escargot" A La Bourguignonne En Croute Vegan Brioche with Cafe De Paris "Butter"

Brioche ingredients...
  • 6 TBSP Vegan Margarine. plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp Dry Active Yeast
  • 2 TBSP Warm Water
  • 1 TBSP Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 c MimicCreme, at room temperature
  • 2-3 TBSP High Fat Soy Milk (I like Soy Dream)
  • 2 TBSP melted Vegan Margarine mixed with 1 TBSP MimicCreme, for "Egg" Wash
"Escargot" A La Bourguignonne ingredients....
  • 18 Fresh Morel Mushrooms, cleaned (you can substitute Shiitakes or Chanterelles)
  • 2 tsp Vegan Margarine
  • 1 medium Carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 small Onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk Celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 Black Peppercorns
  • Fresh Thyme
  • 4 cups Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
  • Salt
Vegan Cafe de Paris "Butter" ingredients...
  • 3/4 cup Vegan Margarine
  • 1 TBSP Shallots, minced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 TBSP Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp Mustard
  • 1/8 cup MimicCreme mixed with 2 TBSP "Egg" Mix
  • 1 dash Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Burgundy Wine
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
For the Brioche...
Coat a bread loaf pan with vegan margarine and flour.

In a large mixing bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the flour with the compressed yeast and water. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place (no hotter than 85 degrees F). Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size.

Kneed the rest of the flour with the sugar, salt, MimicCreme and soy milk. This mixture needs to be forcefully kneaded for about 15 minutes for the appropriate amount of gluten to develop in the dough. Once the dough has come together with a smooth consistency, work in the soft 6 TBSP of vegan margarine. Now work the two dough mixtures together (the one you just kneeded + the one you set aside to rise) until you have one smooth ball of dough. Place the ball in a floured bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Form the chilled dough into six even "balls", then place in them side-by-side in the greased/floured bread pan. Place the pan in a warm area, and allow the dough to rise again until doubled in size.

Brush the top of the Brioche loaf with the faux "Egg" wash, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden dark brown and set. Remove from the oven and set the pan on a cooling rack until cool enough to handle.

Turn down the oven temperature to 425 degrees F (or preheat if you decided to take a break for a Mai Tai). Slice the Brioche into 1-inch-thick slices, then use a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass to cut 2-inch round discs from the slices. Press down in the center of each round to create a well where the "Escargot" will sit. Place the discs on a baking pan and put into the oven, then toast until light brown.

For the "Escargot" Bourguignonne...
Melt the 2 tsp of vegan margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then saute morels for 2 minutes. Add the vegetables, vegetable broth and herbs to the saucepan, then bring to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes.

Prepare the Cafe de Paris "Butter" by creaming all of the ingredients together. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

Preheat your broiler. Place the Brioche discs back on a baking tray, then place 1 "Escargot" (Morel) in the well on each disc. Top with a dollop of Cafe de Paris "Butter", the place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the butter has browned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rainier Cherry, Lemon and Vegan Ricotta Gratin

I've developed a recent obsession with the NBC comedy 30 Rock. It's not just because I have an obsessive school-girl crush on Tina Fey with her sexy plastic cat glasses, relentless sass, and guiltless intimate relationship with food. Okay...maybe she's, like, 45% of what keeps me glued to the screen. In all truth, the writing is great. There's blunt humor and characters that everyone in America can relate to on some personal level. I even find Alec Baldwin charming. Mind you that "Baldwin" and "charming" were two words I never expected to find together in a sentence I'd form.

To top it all off, I've never been much of a television fanatic. As an actress, I tell myself I should watch TV as "research". I'll sit myself down, do some yoga-like deep breathing, and mentally prepare myself for an evening of CSI: Tahiti, Cold Case and Gossip Girl. Somehow, I just end up crying my eyes out as Jessica on the reality show Intervention sticks a needle in her arm while spilling her guts about how her neglectful father led to her combination heroin addiction/eating disorder/kleptomania/pedophilia. It's heart-wrenching, I tell ya'. Both 30 Rock and Intervention are Emmy-nominated shows this year, and it's because honesty, with drama or comedy, is what makes television great in my mind.

I asked my girlfriend, initially as a joke, to honestly write about what it's like to live with a 24-year-old vegan trapped inside the body of June Cleaver aka me. Jane, being the crass, sarcastic and witty writer that she is, immediately took me up on my challenge. It was so f'in funny, I decided to include it as part of my post to really demonstrate my "humor rooted in truth" philosophy.

Ok, so we both like to embellish the truth a little...or a lot. As a disclaimer, this isn't true at all. But what fun is life if we can't laugh at ourselves a little, right?

The Real World of Jenn Shagrin aka Vegan Food Addict Plus

Though many may think that her turning traditionally carnivore dishes into animal friendly but tree killing goodness is a step in the right direction, I am here to say that you have all been deceived. Veganism is a delicate form of eating, yet can turn deadly and disease filled when in the wrong hands. Case one, being my ever-so-lovely soul-mate, wife, and beautiful woman: Jennifer L Shagrin. Jenn had started down the path of Veganism in the right direction, avoiding all things from animals. But her denial to eat common things seemed to go too far one day as she found out that bees have feelings. One thing lead to another and now poor sweet Jenn is diagnosed with severe Veganistic Agoranimal Anorexia. Once Jenn realized that bees had feelings, she also became concerned with things that, as scientists would say, did not have any feelings. In a rare instance, she decided to become an Airitarian. To top it all off, in that same moment, she had put a plastic bag over her head, not wanting to suck in the particles which create life. Now me being the most valiant and great girlfriend, I watched patiently for ten to fifteen seconds before removing the bag, and shoving kale down her throat as she cried out "Murder!". As time passed, I was forced to drug her with heavy narcotics so that she could regain strength and rebuild a proper vegan diet. After 8 weeks of Vicoden, Xanax, and Trazadol, she was Jenn again! The tree loving, fake cheese eating love queen of the twenty first century. I still have to give her MDMA from time to time to keep her on track, but she is doing moderately better. Spending less time staring at the grass and more time in the kitchen (where all women belong). Thanks, Jenn, for being a survivor and saving yourself and Animals that both breathe at the same time.

And on that note, this week's recipe:

Rainier Cherry, Lemon and Vegan Ricotta Gratin

For the Vegan Ricotta...
  • 12 oz Extra Firm Silken Tofu
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Lemon Zest
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Organic Sugar
  • 1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

For the Gratin...
  • 1 1/2 lbs Rainier Cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 TBSP Black-Currant Flavored Liqueur (or Raspberry Flavored)
  • 1/4 tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
  • 6 TBSP Organic Sugar, divided in half
  • 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Agar Powder
  • 1/2 cup + 2 TBSP MimicCreme
  • 3 TBSP Slivered Almonds, toasted
In a large bowl, use a fork to mash together all of the Vegan Ricotta ingredients until the mixture has the texture of cottage cheese. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, combine the 1 TBSP of lemon juice, black currant liqueur and black pepper. Set aside.

Start your oven's broiler pre-heating.

Add the first 3 TBSP of organic sugar to a large skillet, and heat over medium-high heat until the sugar begins to melt ("clear" spots will start to appear), about 2 minutes. Add the pitted Rainier cherries to the pan, and let them cook 2 minutes without stirring. Pour the liqueur, lemon juice and black pepper mixture over the cherries, stir once, then cook an additional 2 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.

In the bottom part of a double boiler, begin bringing 2 cups water to a boil. Do not place the top part of the double boiler over the water yet. In the top half of the double boiler, add the remaining 3 TBSP of organic sugar, MimicCreme and sea salt. Sprinkle the 2 tsp of agar powder over top of the MimicCreme mixture, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Turn the boiling water down to a fast simmer, stir the agar powder into the MimicCreme mixture, then place the top half of the double boiler over the bottom half with the simmer water. Cook the MimicCreme mix, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened considerably to a paste-like texture (about 2-3 minutes).

Remove from heat, and beat on high with a hand mixer or vigorously with a whisk until the MimicCreme mixture is fluffy and forms peaks.

Pour the contents of the Rainier Cherry skillet into a gratin or casserole dish, then fold the MimicCreme mixture into the Vegan Lemon Ricotta until combined. Spoon the Ricotta Mixture evenly over top of the Rainier Cherries, then place under the preheated broiler until the topping is browned.

Sprinkle the toasted almond slivers over top, then allow to cool briefly before serving.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Coffee-Rubbed Vegan Steak Tacos with Grilled Lobster Mushroom, Heirloom Cherry Tomato and Corn Salsa

I'm in the midst of a personal acceptance crisis. I don't mean I'm having issues embracing myself. I fully admit that I'm eccentric, tomboyish, a hopeless romantic, lack fashion (and nunchuck) skills, a total dweeb, overly neurotic about cleanliness, gayer than Ellen, sarcastic, a horrible dancer when sober, and enjoy 80s sitcom re-runs. I claim it all with pride.

I am, however, facing head on the fact that I am entirely too picky. There are so many areas in life where being "picky" is acceptable...and it's entirely subjective to us as individuals as to when we should be selective. For example, my sister is a picky eater. She's alright with that, but it's completely incomprehensible to me. If you put something vegan in front of my face and tell me it's good, you bet your ass I'll not only taste it, but most likely make it disappear faster than Paris Hilton's music career. Put something foreign in front of her, and verbal reassurance means nothing. She'll poke at the food, smell it, hold it under a microscope and run diagnostic testing. There's about a 35% chance she may actually take a taste.

I'm not saying I'm an elitist...far from it. I can even justify some of my pickiness because it correlates to my overall quality of life and well-being. My crisis arose because I...

...goodness this is hard to admit...

I need to get a job.

On top of it all, I'm spoiled. I had the luck and opportunity of living the life of a freelance artist for a few years, but the commercial royalties are running low and Reno 911 reruns just don't generate enough to pay the bills. Not that I haven't worked in the past few years. I've worked on several film and TV projects. I busted my ass baking Vegan Twinkies for the masses for quite some time, but my true love of cooking led me away from the bakery to focus on finishing my cookbook. I had an amazing job at the now sadly closed Jax Vegan Cafe, which spoiled me even further because I actually loved going to work every day. To me, it was the paradigm of restaurant work, and it set my standards entirely too high.

I'm starting a vegan menu design business, but I need something solid while I seek out more clientele. I know I want to work in a restaurant kitchen. I want to be allowed a little creativity. I don't want to work with animal products, drive more than a few miles to work (aka stay east of the 405) and I don't want to work for assholes. According to Craigslist, I'm going to be looking for a job for the next 5 years. I'm being too picky, but I'm also trying to figure out a good reason why I should compromise aside from a need for $$ to support my obsessive grocery shopping habit. For now, my only answer is to take matters into my own hands. I'm just going to start knocking on doors of the restaurants I want to work for, and hope for the best.

On a related note, one of my fantasy jobs is having my own cooking show. The Food Network is also known for its issues with pickiness (AKA no shows that don't enlist T-Bone...and I don't mean the a regular guest star). While I was procrastinating my job hunt last week, I made a little show in my kitchen. Like I said earlier, I embrace the fact that I'm a total dweeb...and I curse like a trucker so keep your kids out of the room. I apologize in advance if I ramble like an idiot. I was a little nervous.

Coffee-Rubbed Vegan Steak Tacos with Grilled Lobster Mushroom, Heirloom Cherry Tomato and Corn Salsa

Coffee-Rubbed Steak
  • 1 batch Beef Style Seitan*
  • About 8 Tortillas, warmed before serving
  • 1 TBSP Organic Coffee, Ground
  • 2 tsp Organic Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground Coriander Seed
  • Pinch of Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Organic Canola Oil Spray, for greasing grill pan or grill
*Chef's Note: When you prepare the Beef Style Seitan, make sure you cut the dough into "Steak" shaped pieces before dropping into the boiling broth.

Make sure your Beef Style Seitan "Steaks" are drained well.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients well. Rub each "Steak" liberally with the Coffee-Rub, then place in an air-tight container or plastic bag. Place the rubbed "Steaks" into the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Use a knife or electric blade to thinly slice the steak.

Grease a grill pan or large skillet well over medium-high heat, then grill the slices of "steak" for 3-4 minutes on each side until brown.

Lobster Mushroom, Heirloom Cherry Tomato and Corn Salsa
  • 2 TBSP Canola Oil, divided
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 oz Dried Lobster Mushrooms
  • 3 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ears fresh Corn Kernels (or about 1 cup thawed frozen Corn Kernels)
  • 1 small Sweet Onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Lime Juice, for deglazing pan (about 1 TBSP)
  • 1 Jalepeno Pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 TBSP Green Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Lime Juice, plus an extra 2 tsp for de-glazing skillet
  • Sea Salt, to taste

Soak the dried Lobster Mushrooms in water for about an hour. Drain the mushrooms well, then roughly dice on a cutting board.

Heat the first 1 TBSP of Canola Oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic, Corn, and both the diced Lobster Mushrooms and sliced Shiitakes to the pan, and cook 3-5 minutes until brown. Add the sliced Sweet Onion to the pan, the 1 tsp of the Lime Juice to deglaze. Saute for about 1 minute, then add the another 1tsp of Lime Juice, Corn Kernels and diced Jalepeno to the pan. Saute until the Onions are translucent and beginning to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium low, and add the quartered Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes to the pan. Saute for 30 seconds, remove the pan from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, place the contents of the pan into a large bowl and toss with the 1 TBSP of Lime Juice, Green Onions, Fresh Cilantro and Chili Powder. Add salt to taste.

Serve over "steak" tacos.