Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vegan Sausage and Beer Gravy over Cheddar, Scallion and Cilantro "Buttermilk" Biscuits with Fried Dill and Dandelion Green

If you're from the right part of the gold ole US of A, you know of a place called Bob Evan's. I'd call it a restaurant, but people in the know understand that it's more like kitchy, interactive dinner theatre. Let me first paint a pretty picture...

Red and white checkered table cloths, waitresses named "Fran" and "Ethel" that ask "What'll it be, sweet pea" in a raspy, twangy voice, biscuits that melt in your mouth like the butter smeared all over them, good pie, and lastly, a smoking section. As their slogan indicates, Bob Evan's truly is a "Down On The Farm" establishment.

Don't get me wrong...I'll always love B.E.s. But I had and heard my share of weird experiences that slightly taint my nostalgia. For example, my best friend, a vegetarian, ordered scrambled eggs and hash browns. As she's mid-chow, she looks up. Her face turns cracker-ass white.

"What?!" I ask, thinking she's about to start waving her hands in the air and I'm going to have to Heimlich.

"There's a piece of chicken in my hash browns!" She screams.

Vomiting and messiness ensue. Not to mention they only comp'd part of the check.

What? We're both Jews.

Part 2. Same friend that ate the chicken infused hash browns actually gets a job waiting tables at Bob Evan's. In her first few weeks of work, she has the pleasure of waiting on a large African American woman in a brand new ALL WHITE track suit. Best friend accidentally spills a glass of grape juice on said all white track suit clad African American woman, and almost looses her life.

Lastly, there was Rus. Rus seemed like a nice young man at first. Best friend was about to get off of work, so I decided to cozy up at Bob's breakfast counter and down some coffee to fuel our night of partying. One of her co-workers, aka Rus, took an immediate fancy with me. Before my best friend could stop me, he had my number in hand. Turns out Rus was a bit of a creepy creepster stalker. One horrendous date (let's just say it involved heavy metal and learning to drive stick shift), 50 phone calls from him a day and one week later, it had to end. I tried to let him down gently. I had to drop kick him to finally get the phone calls to end. It took a little over two months, but he finally gave up. Best friend still hasn't let me live that one down.

Bad stories aside, I still have a special place in my heart for Bob's place. I can't really eat there anymore...haven't in a long time, really. But damn do I miss my childhood feastings on their sausage, biscuits and gravy. Hell I just miss the damn biscuits.

I decided my own version was in order. Happy Halloween!

Vegan Sausage and Beer Gravy over Cheddar, Scallion and Cilantro "Buttermilk" Biscuits with Fried Dill and Dandelion Green

For the Biscuits...
• 2 1/3 cups Full Fat Soy Milk (4-5g per serving)
• 3/4 cup Vegan Sour Cream
• 3 TBSP White Vinegar
• 4 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
• Heaping 1/2 TBSP Salt
• 1/3 cup Baking Powder
• 1/3 cup Vegan Sugar
• 1/3 cup finely diced Scallions
• 1/2 cup fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped fine
• 1/2 Daiya Vegan Cheese Shreds (or other Vegan Cheddar, finely grated)

For the "Sausage"...
• 1 16 oz Original Field Roast Classic Meatloaf, or 2 packages of Gardenburger Breakfast
Sausage patties
• 6 TBSP Olive Oil, divided in half
• 2 cloves Garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup Fresh Dill Leaves
• 2 cup Dandelion Greens, halved crosswise and stems removed
• 1 Leek, top removed, split lengthwise, cleaned and thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
• 1 cup prepared Better Than Bouillon's No Beef Broth
• 1/2 cup Vegan Dark Ale of your choosing
• 1 1/2 TBSP Cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 TBSP Cold Water (optional, for further thickening)
• Salt and Pepper, to taste

To make the Biscuits...

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare a lightly floured work surface or large cutting board.

Make the "Buttermilk" by whisking the soy milk and vegan sour cream together until fully combined. Stir in the white vinegar, and set aside for at least 5 minutes until thickened. Once thickened, mix the scallions and vegan cheddar into the "Buttermilk".

In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, completely combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar on a low speed or by hand. Turn the mixer up to medium, then slowly pour in the "Buttermilk", scallions and vegan cheddar until the mixture just comes together.

Quickly turn the dough out onto the lightly floured work surface, then roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch round cooking cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut circles out of the dough and place on a greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, then set on a cooling rack until ready to serve.

To make the "Sausages" and Gravy...

If you're using the Field Roast Classic Meatloaf, cut into 12 slices. If you're using the Gardenburger Breakfast Sausage patties, make sure they're defrosted well.

In a large saucepan, heat the first 4 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the "sausage" in batches until browned and thoroughly cooked through, then remove from pan and place on a plate. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm, and set aside.

Add the second 4 TBSP of Olive Oil to the saucepan, and turn the heat up to high. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the dill, dandelion greens, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then fry for 1 minute. Remove the dandelion greens and as much of the fried dill as possible from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, add garlic and leek and cook until soft.

Sprinkle the cooked leeks with 1/2 cup of flour, and stir well to combine. Then slow pour in the No Beef Broth and Ale, stirring until all the lumps of flour are completely eliminated.

Bring the gravy to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until thickened to your liking. If you like your gravy very thick, whisk in the cornstarch/cold water blend and simmer for a few minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve...
Split each Biscuit in half lengthwise, the serve topped with browned "sausage" and gravy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

White Asparagus, Artichoke and Crimini Smothered Purple Potato Skins with Crisp Vegan Bacon and Garlic Creme Fraiche

Thank Goodness it's Friday! I'm an atheist (jew), or I'd say "Thank God". Here I sit in my "Legalize Gay" tank top, ready to get shit faced and shake my tail feather on the dance floor...although my friend does affectionately refer to my dancing as randomized tremors. I'll have a great time nonetheless.

What really comes to mind when I think of "TGIF"? Potato skins. And Food Network's Guy Fieri with flames shooting off of his body in a corny commercial. But more importantly, potato skins. I have fond childhood memories from my dorky theater days of cast meet ups at TGIF, gorging myself on the cheese-smothered spuds and chocolate cake. I really should say "TGIV" (Thank Goodness I'm Vegan) because my cholesterol would probably be sky high if I maintained my carnivorous fat kid eating habits.

I decided to give a go at my rendition of the appetizer, and I was pleased as punch to see them devoured solely by my omnivore posse and myself. Nothing makes me happier than meat-eaters savoring my creations. Well, maybe sex. But it's a close second.

In other news, I'm ENGAGED! I proposed to my lovely Jane, even though moments up until I showed her the ring, she was convinced I was about to murder her. Allow me to explain:

I made her dinner, told her I was taking her somewhere special, but wouldn't tell her where we were going. I had this lovely romantic spot picked out that overlooks the ocean. It's completely private, and utterly beautiful. We hop in my car.
"How long is the drive?", she asks...dying to know where I'm taking her.
"20 minutes", I say. I was wrong. It's more like 45.
Half hour into the drive, she says "Are you about to kill me? You're acting strange (I was nervous), driving to the middle of no where, we've already eaten, and there aren't any bars for miles. I've gone down the checklist, and I think you're heading for murder".
"NO! Trust me", I shout.
She starts patting me down, looking for a weapon. I freak out because there's the ring in my pocket. This only convinces her more that her fate is sealed.
To make matters worse, I pull over at our destination...and it's a 75 foot high cliff.
"That's it...I'm about to die", she says.
"Get over here and sit".
She reluctantly sits as I pull out the alcohol.
"No way...we can't drink here...we need to get the fuck out of..."
"Jane, will you marry me?"
Enthusiasm and a "Yes" ensues :)

I'm glad we have one to tell the kids one day. We'll be engaged for a long while, but it's such a great feeling to have that ring on my finger. Have fun with the tater skins, and a great weekend :)

White Asparagus, Artichoke and Crimini Smothered Purple Potato Skins with Crisp Vegan Bacon and Garlic Creme Fraiche

For the Potatoes...
  • 6 small or medium Purple Potatoes (or Russet Baking Potatoes), about 3 lbs
  • Olive Oil, enough for coating potatoes
  • 3/4 cup Vegan Cheddar Cheese (preferable Daiya, but any will work)
  • 1 batch of Vegan Creme Fraiche (recipe below) mixed with 2 cloves pressed or minced Garlic
  • 2 Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Chef's Note: Make the Garlic Creme Fraiche the day prior, and store in the refrigerator overnight with the garlic mixed in. You can also just substitute packaged vegan sour cream mixed with 2 cloves pressed/minced garlic.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Scrub the potatoes well to clean them, then rub with olive oil and bake them for about an hour until soft to the touch.

Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes in half horizontally and gently scoop out the insides. (Save them for garlic smashed potatoes? Yes, please.) Place the halved, scooped out potatoes on a wire rack set atop a baking sheet.

They will look like so...

Now go ahead and make the filling (see below).

Once the filling is complete, up the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Brush the skins all over with more olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake on the wire-rack-topped baking sheet for a total of 20 minutes, flipping the skins over after the first 10.

Let the skins cool, then fill each scooped-out potato skin with an equal amount of filling, then top with vegan cheddar. Turn on your broiler, then let the skins cool until the cheese is melted, browning and bubbly...about 3-4 minutes. Yum...

Top with Garlic Creme Fraiche, scallions and minced vegan bacon and serve.

For the Filling...
  • 2 1/2 cups White Asparagus, cut into small (1/2-1inch) pieces
  • 1 can Artichoke Hearts, drained well and quartered
  • 2 cups Crimini Mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 batch of Vegan Bacon, cut into small, thin strips
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil, divided in half
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • A splash of Lemon Juice, for deglazing
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Chef's Note: If you're pressed for time, feel free to substitute packaged Vegan Bacon.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Allow the cut white asparagus to cook for about 4 minutes, until softened, then drain well. Immediately submerge in or rinse the cauliflower with ice cold water to halt the cooking process. Set aside.

Heat the first TBSP of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the small strips of vegan bacon to the skillet, and allow them to saute for 6-8 minutes, until browned and crispy. Carefully remove them from the pan, and set aside.

Heat the 2nd TBSP of olive oil in the same skillet, then add the garlic, white asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. Allow the veggies to saute until the mushrooms are soft and have given off most of their liquid (they'll shrink in size by a little more than half), adding a splash of lemon juice to the pan about 4 minutes into the sautéing process.

Taste for salt and pepper, then remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cool, toss with 3/4 of the vegan bacon strips. Take the remaining 1/4 of the vegan bacon strips, and mince into tiny pieces for garnish.

Basic Crème Fraîche
  • 2/3 cup MimicCreme (or sub 2/3 cup Soymilk mixed with 1 TBSP White Vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup Plain Soy Yogurt
Mix the MimicCreme and plain soy yogurt together well, and leave out un-refrigerated for 12 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. It won't kill you...I promise.

Stick in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cumin and Avocado Oil Rubbed Portobello Tortas with Dragon Fruit Pico de Gallo and Purple Basil & White Peppercorn Mayo

I'm not just white, I'm saltine cracker soaked in soy milk white. I like Scrabble. And musicals. And scarves...plaid scarves. Whenever I attempt to make an ethnic dish, I feel like I'm doing something dirty. How dare I tread on another culture's territory because my skin reflects more light than quartz during a solar eclipse.

Despite my pasty facade, I'm not much of an American foodie. I love delving into the realm of ethnic cooking. I love experiencing the different spices, flavors, aromas and sensations of satiety. I absolutely love Mexican food, but rarely post the recipes I write because I simply feel like it's not my territory. I grew up incredibly north of the border in Youngstown, Ohio...an old steel town now governed by mobsters and crack whores. It truly is a great place to raise a family.
It's also a great place to eat.

For as far back as I can remember, there's always been an endless amount of amazing Italian food. Up until I was 13, though, the only options for Mexican were "Taco Bell" and "Chi Chi's".
Did I mention "Chi Chi's" is hispanic slang for big titties? No thank you.

EDIT [Note to self: Did I really say "No thank you" to big titties? Big self-slap on the hand, Jenn. Tsk, tsk.]

Then, all of a sudden, Cancun appeared on the scene in the late 90s. It was delicious. It was authentic. You could eat a full meal for less than you make in an hour working minimum wage in Ohio. Their chips were free and always fresh. The margaritas are amazing, which I was able to discover at quite an early age due to their lax ID policy.

Ok...there was a slight catch. They may have been shut down once (or twice) for health code violations. I don't eat animals, so I figure I escaped danger. But on the plus side, they always re-open with a vengeance! You've gotta respect their determination.

Enjoy making the tortas! They rock socks.

Also, if you missed my post a few weeks ago...NOW IS YOUR CHANCE! Take advantage of my friend Trevor's amazing program:

If you'd like to end your restaurant challenges, enjoy traditional comfort foods on the holidays (without compromising your ideals), and get plenty of calcium, Omega 3s, Vitamin B12, and other "elusive" nutrients from plant foods, here's great news. When you enroll in the Vegan / Vegetarian Mastery Program, you not only get a free 15-day trial...

You can also get an early bird bonus package with these five super bonuses...

1) The Restaurant Survival Guide for Vegans & Vegetarians
2) Vegan & Vegetarian Menu Items at 21 Chain Restaurants
3) Vegan Sources of Protein, Calcium, Iron, Omega 3s, A, B12 and D

4) All Vegan Holiday Recipe Collection

5) Charter membership in The Association of Thriving Vegetarians.

But to qualify for this bonus package, you must be one of the first 200 to enroll. That's why I'm writing... Enrollment opens at 3pm EST this Thu 10/8. Rather than make you compete with thousands of others, I've arranged for you to join 200 V.I.P.s at the front of the line. Here's how it works. First, read the program description and decide which program makes the most sense for you -- Bronze, Silver, or Gold. Read it here:

*Important note* -- If you try to enroll before Thursday, the "Add To Cart" links will NOT work. They won't be activated until Thursday afternoon. Next, complete the new student survey here:

The first 200 people to fill out the new student survey will get a first mover advantage. If you're one of them, you'll receive the enrollment link two hours before everyone else -- when enrollment opens on Thursday 10/8.

Cumin and Avocado Oil Rubbed Portobello Tortas with Dragon Fruit Pico de Gallo and Purple Basil & White Peppercorn Mayo

Cumin and Avocado Oil Rubbed Portobello Tortas
  • 4 Portobello Mushroom caps, halved
  • 3 TBSP Avocado Oil, plus more for grill pan
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 2 TBSP Dry White Wine
  • Shredded Vegan Mozzarella (use Daiya if possible), amount of your choice

Whisk together the avocado oil, cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Using your hands, rub of each piece of Portobello with the oil mixture to coat on both sides.

Drizzle enough Avocado Oil to coat the bottom of the grill pan (about 1-2 tsp), and heat over medium high.

Grill the portobellos on each side until browned and softened, about 4-5 minutes per side, adding the white wine about half-way through the cooking process to deglaze the pan. Top with vegan mozzarella for the last few minutes so that it has time to melt.

Use the "Other Sandwich Incidentals" listed below to build your Torta. Feel free to get creative and add whatever fixins you enjoy. I assemble mine like so:

1. Bottom half of roll
2. Romaine
3. Portobello with Cheese
4. Dragon Fruit Salsa

5. Purple Basil Mayo, smeared on top half of roll
6. Top half of roll

Other Sandwich Incidentals...
4 Torta Rolls (or Kaiser Rolls), sliced like a hamburger bun
Romaine Lettuce
Purple Basil Mayo (recipe follows)
Dragon Fruit Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)

Purple Basil Mayo
  • 1 cup tightly packed Purple (Opal) Basil Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 cup Vegenaise
  • 1/2 tsp Sherry Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Ground White Peppercorns

Combine all the above ingredients, in order, in a food processor. Blend until the basil leaves are finely minced and the mixture is fully combined. Add salt if desired.

Dragon Fruit Pico de Gallo
  • 1 small or 1/2 large Dragon Fruit, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 Radishes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped Cilantro Leaves
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • The juice of 1/2 Lime, or more if desired
  • A touch of Salt and Pepper, to taste
Combine all of the above ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Sparingly use salt and pepper if adding before tasting. You want just a hint of sweetness from the dragon fruit.