Monday, September 19, 2011

Glorious Vegan Nut Cheese

Back in my pre-vegan days, I loved cheese. On any given day, there would be a wedge of cheese in the refrigerator- a creamy reblochon or a sharp shropshire blue or a simple piece of edam or soft-spreadable Alouette. Once I gained the full knowledge of the horrors & cruelty & pure heartbreak of dairy production, no piece of dairy cheese could ever taste delicious again.

Of course, there are amazing vegan substitutes for cheese like Daiya nowadays, but sometimes I crave a little wedge...

So what's a former cheese-lover to do? The answer is pretty damn simple. Make your own fabulous cultured nut cheeze! Guess this was always somewhere on my to-do list, along with making vegan kimchi and once I conquered that I was on the fast-track to fermentation. And once my Vita-Mix arrived, I had the tools to make my own glorious vegan cheeze. I found some adapted recipes from The Sunny Raw Kitchen and voilĂ !

Here they are just flavored:
Peppercorn & himalayan sea salt being molded:
I varied the recipes a bit with extra probiotics instead of rejuvelac, but definitely want to try that next time. These were all cashew nut based- one with peppercorn, the paprika one based more on an Alouette flavoring with added white wine and one herb flavored. They fermented in a warm spot above the 'fridge for about 16hours and then the real fun begins- adding all the yummy flavors. The hardest part of all- was waiting for the cheeze to really firm up in the 'fridge. Had to wait about three weeks, though they were definitely ready for snacking in about two days as a soft spread...The beauty of fermented food is the pungent taste but also added health bonus of probiotics. I have all kinds of nutty cheezy plans dancing through my head...apparently cashew based will always be softer, plan on experimenting with pecans soon!

Finished product three weeks later:

Do yourself a favor and make some cultured nut cheeze now!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hamptons Getaway - Vegan Style

Can't believe it's September already- summer has just flown by & fall is sweeping in, it's either been really busy or I'm having way too much fun or both? We didn't go anywhere- just out to the beach a few times, but we did have one especially fun experience....

One summer weekend, we were invited out to Southampton by some dear friends, who just happen to be way fancy...they rented a small house for the season and by "small", I mean small for them which is six bedrooms (Universe, if you are listening- I would be happy with a one or two bedroom bungalow by the beach)...anyway, we were looking forward to a fab few days!

It happened to be the hottest weekend ever in NYC & we were just happy to be out of the concrete jungle and in the lushness of the Hamptons. The icing on the cake? Quality time with our friends and well, them having a personal chef definitely did not suck. Chef never cooked vegan before, but she's a pro & as she put it- cooking vegan was no problem!

Here's a quick show & tell:

Friday night dinner:
a most delectable watermelon avocado salad and yes, it was delectable, delicious, delicate & perfect...
My entree was curried tofu- was super tasty- everyone else had fish in curry & Chef apologized for my dish not looking as, no complaints here!
Poached pears for dessert- sans honey mascarpone topping for me...
 Here's where we spent most of our time- lounging, eating & drinking by the pool- well we also got a great beach day in, but forgot to grab some pics...

Here's where Chef prepared our meals- this was mushroom risotto in the making:
Note to Universe: I would also like a nice Viking outdoor grill at my beach bungalow- thanks!
The roasted artichokes were divine.
Am not a big fan of zucchini or summer squash, but this raw dish with meyer lemon dressing was quite edible!
Buffet style & ready to eat- the vegan risotto was incredibly delicious.
We were in a lovely octagonish bedroom:
The pups know exactly where to dry off after a swim in the pool!
Earlier in the day, we went into town for lunch- which was an unmemorable salad for me, but then I found an Organic Avenue - hurray!
Got some Hail Merry raw chocolate almond butter tarts- tasty.
There was a lot more shopping & then back to the house....
Table dressed for a Sunday get-together:

Ready to feast!

Assortment of sauteed mushrooms
My plate consisted of: amazingly roasted/charred corn on cob- sans butter, portobello burger, beet salad, quinoa salad & more roasted veggies- YUM!
Monday's light breakfast- watermelon, pineapple, canteloupe & mint:
Chef built a yummy tower of leftovers for lunch:
We had taken the train out & our friends offered to bring us back to NYC- I just assumed that we would drive...silly rabbit, why drive for three hrs and that's not counting traffic when you have your own helicopter that can get you back to NYC in thirty minutes?

It was quite cinematic...just a lone spot along the road with helicopter waiting. As cool as the whole production was, I was simply unimpressed because I was just plain scared!
Yep, never been in a helicopter & have retained all the random helicopter crash stories heard over the years for an occasion such as this...there were six of us altogether including three schnauzers. Everyone engaged in conversation except me...frozen in fear & breaking into a cold sweat. I was also super nauseated- combination of fear & the giant headset/noise buffers trapping heat. Tried to stay calm and after what felt like forever, I calmed down a teeny bit...
The views got more amazing as we got closer to NYC...

And here's our little ole Long Island City- we were able to kind of spot our building...
And pulling in to land at the 34th Street helipad...
We watched pilot & helicopter head back out as we waited for the ferry to take us home straight across the East River. The weekend was definitely relaxing, but it was also nice to get back to the furry kids in our little abode....
I know they felt us fly by in the helicopter...and they were probably by the window...
 Hope everyone had a great summer!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wildflower, a NYC Vegan PopUp Restaurant

A little over a week ago the NYC vegan community got to experience the pop-up restaurant trend. A pop-up restaurant is a temporary restaurant, great for young chefs starting out or even notable chefs who might want to test out an idea with less financial risk.

Wildflower, NYC's first vegan pop-up was created by Ayinde Howell , with the help of donations large & small of many many other supportive people such as yours truly who contributed via Kickstarter. It was wonderful to see Wildflower come to fruition! And indeed it did, starting the evening of June 10th & serving brunch & dinner thru the 12th. The setting was LTO- Limited Time Only, which is the former space of Broadway East where I had a birthday dinner many many moons ago!

I had sampled Ayinde's food last year at a Gracious Gourmand dinner event. So I gathered up my friend, Elizabeth & new friend, Kera and it was vegan girls' night out for Wildflower's Sunday Vegan Street Food Menu.  Here was the menu:

Sunday Night: Street Food Favorites
Biscuit Slider Duo:                                                                               
featuring the Crazy Jamaican Burger & the Flaming BBQ Burger
Seitan Shwarma                                                                                       
The favorite plant based meat substitute… on a stick
Pineapple Pizza Sliders                                                                     
Hearty tomato sauce, italian tofu sausage, red peppers pineapples & white onion   
Quinoa Nachos                                                                                      
Savory quinoa, onion, black olives, cheesy sauce served over yellow corn chips 
Street Taco Duo:                                                                                              
Ayinde’s twist on two classics, Korean seitan taco & Beer battered tempeh taco
A classic street food served with hot chocolate
Belgian Beer Floats                                                                             
Vanilla ice cream over an ice cold stout.

Featured Cocktail:
Poached Pear Manhattan

And here's the location:
One of my favorites of the evening: the biscuit slider duo- we all agreed that the biscuits were divine, vegan or not, best biscuits ever. And the burger was really yummy- we couldn't believe that it was all tofu. I've eaten a lot of tofu & I have NEVER had it taste so burger like, the BBQ burger was delish...the Jamaican burger was a tad spicy for me & I like me some spice...
Next up, the seitan street meat on a stick- now I've had this before at the Gracious Gourmand dinner where it was absolutely, not so much, the texture was a little strange & just tasted oily & strangely bland.
This little Pineapple Pizza Slider was yummy for sure!
And this simple Nacho dish, blew me away- a modified Daiya creamy cheese sauce with smokey quinoa & olives. OMG, so good & the very idea of combining smokey quinoa with nachos was absolute brilliance.
And the one dish that I was looking forward to- the tacos! We were presented with two Korean seitan tacos, not sure what happened to the beer-battered tempeh which sounded amazing...but sadly the Korean tacos were way too salty. The yummy Korean, spicy sesame oil flavor was definitely there, but was oversalted which was really disappointing because they would have been so delicious. Also thought there might be more add-ons on the taco like kimchi or cilantro & salsa variation, that might have cut the saltiness. I'm never one to pass on a taco, but I couldn't finish these....I was very sad.
The Churros with Hot Chocolate never appeared, so not sure if that was crossed off the menu or just never made it to our table...Our meal ended with a Belgian Beer Float - I'm not big on beer at all, but my companions found it interesting & tasty.

 The general consensus was that dinner definitely had highlights for sure. There was a lot of hard work that went into Wildflower & it showed. But of course with anything new, there were kinks to work out, but for certain, I definitely appreciated being able to dine at a vegan pop-up and am certain there are more in NYC's future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Going to Eataly

I love Italy. I have been to Italy so often, one would have thought that I had Italian roots (far from it, I'm of Asian descent)...I fell in love with the country & it's language. For years, it was a nonstop love affair with Italy from Bellagio & Lake Como to Venice, Florence & Naples. I came back from my first visit & attempted to learn Italian. There was the year that I decided to travel to Ravenna and planned on coming back with a new career as a mosaic artist (still love mosaics, but hate the craft). That was also the year, I studied Italian for two weeks in Siena and still only speak rudimentary Italian enough to get by. There was the time some friends & I rented a seriously haunted villa in Lucca- ghostly piano playing at night & traversing the Tuscan countryside by day....And the time that flights to Rome were so cheap, I convinced my dad to pull my sister out of school so that I could take her...I am years overdue for a trip back to Italy.

In the meantime, I make due & peruse old pictures and of course, head to Eataly- the mega-market/eatery Italian food mecca....

This pic is of Assisi:
As one can see from the sign- Italy is Eataly...
This place is filled with gorgeous produce...

And even a Vegetable Butcher- for the New Yorker who couldn't possibly prep their own veggies....
Bottled Italian water con gas & senza gas & soda galore...
An Italian dessert bar...
Aisles filled with Italian torrone candy (no vegan, but I used to love this stuff)....
Jars of jams & preserved fruits...

Walls of Italian candy in super cute packaging....

Fresh pasta....
Dried pasta for miles...
Pesto & tapenade for days...
Freshly baked bread....
And even a restaurant where they only serve vegetables! (they also have other separately sectioned restaurants for pizza, seafood, meat, etc) Haven't eaten there yet, but there are a few vegan options....
Eataly is 50,000 square feet & stuffed with people & products & sights & smells- most of them not vegan the giant ham hocks that hang in the wine & cheese eatery or the live lobster tank in the seafood, but will be back to check out the veggies for sure.

This was my small stash takeaway- it can be quite overwhelming doing any shopping there- picked up some pasta, Balsamic, chocolate, candy, olives & some antipasti.

The olives were cured with citrus & basil & just tasted bright & yummy:
Sundried tomatoes, artichokes & capers:

And my American-Italian Fcat made the most delicious sauteed garlic with fried, crispy basil- so amazing on crusty bread:
And this was Fcat's Italian masterpiece- the best Italian food is simple & fresh, but big on flavor and this definitely delivered on all. This simple little plate of pasta was simply amazing.
Fcat veganized this recipe here which is adapted from Scott Conant of NYC's Scarpetta.
Viva Italia!
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