The Real Food Journal
Still looking for a fun dessert for the holidays? Now that you’ve got Thanksgiving under your belt, so to speak, it’s time to plan the coming feasts, parties and get-togethers. Why not shake it up with a technicolor purple pie? Yes, this Purple Sweet Potato Pie is just the thing to give the dessert table a pop of color, while delivering the spiced sweet potato flavor we all love.
Purple Sweet Potato Pie Will Get Noticed
As we slide into the end of the year, perhaps people are a little jaded by pumpkin spice, and kind of over the same old pecan pie. That’s when you need to toss a purple bomb right in the middle of the party. The Stokes Purple variety of sweet potato is still unusual enough to surprise, but easy enough to find at your Coop or grocery store.
I know, I’m kind of obsessed, and I’ve written about them multiple times here, so you can check out recipes for Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Purple Sweet Potato Quesadillas, Hasselback Purple Sweet Potatoes, and probably more if you keep looking….
But this pie!
The Stokes Purple is brilliant purple all the way through, and unlike any other sweet potato I’ve tried. It’s drier and meatier in texture, so when you cook with it, you want to give it a little extra time to make sure it’s really, really tender. I steamed it for this, which kept it moist. As you can see by the pie, it makes a nice, slice-able filling, once baked.
The Stokes is a relative newcomer to our markets, and there is some dispute over the origin story. It may be a new and original variety, or it may have been derived from some Japanese cultivars. Whatever the origin, I’m all in. I’m just enjoying the beautiful purple sweet potato in all sorts of ways, and I hope it all works out for the best.
For this pie, I used my fave plant-based crust, and a simple filling with a touch of almond butter for a little nuttiness. I used an almond creamer, because I just love the taste of unsweetened almond milk and creamer. You could use coconut milk, too, for a hint of Tropical flavor. I started out with the spices I like in regular sweet potato pie, and added a little extra. Just because that’s how I like to roll.
I want this pie to wake people up. The color is just the first surprise, and the lovely sweetness and spice is the second little jolt.
If you were feeling a little blah at this time of year, this one will surely awaken all your senses.
Purple Sweet Potato Pie
The Stokes Purple Sweet Potato makes an eye-catching pie.
- 2 pounds Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy creamer
- 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup arrowroot
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoons ground clove
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- coconut sorbet or other non-dairy ice cream
Make the pie crust and chill until cold.
Halve and steam the purple sweet potatoes until very soft when pierced with a paring knife.
When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a food processor bowl and puree, scraping down and repeating as needed. Add the non-dairy creamer, light brown sugar, arrowroot, almond butter, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt and process, scraping down and repeating as needed to mix well and make very smooth.
Preheat the oven to 375. Line the pie crust with foil and pour in pie weights or beans, then bake for 10 minutes.
Transfer the purple puree to the pie crust and spread out, smooth the top. Swirl your spatula decoratively, the swirls will keep their shape as it bakes.
Bake for about 1 hour, until the pie is puffed in the center and a little cracked around the edges. Cool on a rack before slicing.
This is the season for indulgence, when we all find ourselves eating, drinking and acquiring things with abandon. So, instead of another recipe for dessert, consider taking a few bites of wisdom from Gesshin Claire Greenwood, and reading her latest book, “Just Enough; Vegan Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Buddhist Temples (New world Library $17.95)
I made two of the recipes from the book and photographed my meal, and hope you’ll try the Sushi Chirashi and Tofu Agedashi. They were the perfect counterweight to balance the holiday feasting.
The book is part memoir, part cookbook, and gives the reader an intriguing peek into the world of contemporary Buddhism, both in Japan and the US. Greenwood starts her journey in her early 20’s when she uproots herself to journey to Japan and live an ascetic life in a monastery. Greenwood embraces the simple, hardworking lifestyle and finds great wisdom and peace in zen philosophy, and is eventually ordained as a priest.
She also finds her place in the kitchen of the monastery, where rice, vegetables, and simple food are prepared in ritualized, carefully proscribed ways. The nuns teach and practice “oryoki,” which is a way of life in which one seeks to want and take only what one really needs. Just enough.
Every morning, before eating their porridge and vegetables, the nuns chant:
“We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
We reflect on our virtue and practice, and whether we are worthy of this offering.
We regard it as essential to free ourselves of excesses such as greed.
We regard this food as good medicine to sustain our life.
For the sake of enlightenment, we now receive this food.”
The nuns season with restraint, as Greenwood explains by describing how much less soy sauce she came to use on her food. Learning to taste food, and feel satisfied by it, is a step toward tasting life, and being satisfied with what you have.
I won’t spoil the book when I tell you that Greenwood, like many before her, opts to rejoin the secular world and leave the convent. She find a new Buddhist community in California, where the work and meals are just as proscribed, but definitely Americanized.
Greenwood describes her realization that following “the middle path” of the Buddha doesn’t have to mean inflicting suffering on herself, and that renouncing the pleasures of living to find spiritual purity isn’t the path for her. Greenwood has gone on to teach and write about Buddhism, while also finding love and happiness in the US. Her thoughtful, deeply personal writing on the struggle to practice Zen and live in the modern world gives us a glimpse at the space where spirituality and real life collide. Few of us have the tools to consider our actions with a deep Zen perspective, and her intellectual and emotional clarity is a gift.
She blogs at http://thatssozen.blogspot.com/ if you’d like to read more.
I recommend this book to anyone who is seeking balance in life, and has an interest in mindfulness. It’s become the buzzword, and it’s very valuable to look more deeply into practices that encourage gratitude. Even if you are just into Japanese food, you’ll enjoy trying the recipes from her time in Japan.
In a culture in which more is always better, it’s deeply refreshing to contemplate what might be “Just Enough.”
Fried Tofu in Sauce (Tofu Agedashi)
An excerpt from Just Enough by Gesshin Claire Greenwood
A necessary component in Fried Tofu in Sauce is excellent dashi, which in turn makes excellent sauce. This dish involves deep-frying tofu and serving it in a strong sweet-and-salty broth garnished with grated daikon and ginger. The grated ginger blends into the broth and gives the simple tofu a rich and satisfying
I know I say this about everything, but this truly is one of my all-time favorite Japanese foods. We would prepare this on special occasions at Nisodo, for example, for the annual ceremony to honor the temple members’ ancestors. For this event, the people would come to take part in the ceremonies and then dine in a private area afterward.
For this meal we would take out the formal obon, or black lacquered serving trays that you often see in fancy restaurants in Kyoto. We would spend days cleaning, prepping vegetables, and choosing and setting out the dishes. For the kitchen work group this was a particularly stressful time, because we had to serve about eight specialty dishes to order, as in a restaurant, rather than follow our staple rice, soup, and side-dish routine. Invariably, one of the eight dishes was either this Fried Tofu in Sauce or Marinated Fried Eggplant. Whoever was in charge of running the frying station would be covered in sweat by the end of the day, but the meal break when we could sample the specialty dishes was always a highlight.
Tofu agedashi is served in restaurants and izakaya bars (pubs) throughout Japan. In the United States, it has made its way to izakaya in major cities, but I’m always disappointed in the way it tastes. A gauge for the quality of an American Japanese restaurant is how well it prepares tofu agedashi. It’s not a hard dish to make, but something is often lost in translation. In this recipe, I cut a block of tofu into thirds because this is how we would celebrate and honor our guests (by giving them big pieces!), but you can cut the tofu into smaller pieces, as they do in izakaya, if you prefer.
- 1 block (14 to 16 ounces) firm tofu
- ½ cup cornstarch or katakuriko (potato starch)
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- ½ cup grated daikon, for garnish
- 4 teaspoons grated ginger, for garnish
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced, for garnish
- 1 cup dashi
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
Cut the tofu into thirds and wrap each piece in paper towels. Cover all three with a tray or cutting board, put a weight on the tray/board, and let sit for 30 minutes to press out excess water. Remove the towels. If you prefer smaller pieces, cut the tofu into 1½-inch cubes. Pat the tofu dry with towels.
Bring the dashi, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for 2 minutes, stir, and turn off the heat. Cover the saucepan with a lid.
On a plate or cutting board, spread the cornstarch or katakuriko into an even layer. Dip the tofu pieces in the starch, coating them evenly. Shake off any excess starch and set aside.
Pour at least 1½ inches of oil into a large deep pan and heat to between 350 and 370°F. (Or if you have a deep-fryer, use it following the manufacturer’s directions.) Working in batches, drop the tofu into the oil and fry until golden brown, flipping once. Remove the tofu from the oil and place it briefly on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Divide the tofu among three small bowls. Spoon the hot soy broth over the tofu and garnish with the grated daikon, ginger, and sliced onions. Serve immediately, while the tofu is still hot.
Colorful “Sushi” Rice
An excerpt from Just Enough by Gesshin Claire Greenwood (Note: I skipped the Koyadofu when I made this dish, since I was making tofu on the side.)
Sushi chirashi, or “mixed sushi rice,” is a high-class specialty served in sushi restaurants in Japan. This dish is usually comprised of a bowl full of sweet vinegared rice covered in a layer of assorted sashimi (raw fish), fish eggs, and shredded egg. The vegan version of this begins with the same vinegared rice, but layers on edamame (green soybeans), stewed shiitakes (see chapter 3), koyadofu (tofu), grated carrot, and avocado. This provides a variety of interesting textures and plenty of umami (see chapter 3). In Japan, hardly anyone eats avocado with rice — this is a California innovation — but I do enjoy the rich fattiness of avocado.
Koyadofu is a kind of freeze-dried tofu that is reconstituted in water and then stewed so that it absorbs the flavor of the broth. It has a spongy texture that is off-putting to some Westerners. If you can’t find koyadofu in an Asian market or if the notion of a “spongy” texture doesn’t appeal to you, you can of course substitute sliced grilled tofu. But I think the inclusion of koyadofu helps approximate the taste and texture of raw fish.
Edamame can be purchased already shelled, which is easiest, or you can boil the unshelled beans for 5 minutes, drain, rinse, and then squeeze out the beans.
I first ate this dish at Nisodo. We were required to use the formal black lacquered oryoki bowls at all three meals, but if the cook wanted to serve an ippan, a separately plated specialty dish like this recipe, she would do away with the large rice bowl. We would eat soup from our middle bowl, the ippan, and pickles, of course.
- 1 piece (2 × 2 inches) konbu (dried kelp)
- 2 cups uncooked rice
- 5 tablespoons sushi vinegar or 2 tablespoons sugar dissolved in 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 block (about ½ ounce) koyadofu (freeze-dried tofu)
- 4 small dried shiitake mushrooms or 2 larger ones cut in half, soaked overnight in enough water to cover
- 1 cup cooked and shelled edamame (green soybeans)
- 1 carrot, julienned or grated
- 1 avocado, sliced
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
- Shredded nori, for garnish (optional)
Broth for the Koyadofu
- 1 cup dashi
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 1½ teaspoons sake
- 1½ teaspoons mirin
Broth for the Shiitakes
- ½ cup dashi
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Add konbu to the rice and cook the rice according to package directions. When the rice is done, remove the konbu. Pour the rice into a bamboo serving basket or a heat-resistant bowl. Drizzle the vinegar over the hot rice and mix vigorously with a rice paddle. As you mix in the vinegar, fan the rice with a paper fan. This allows the rice to cool faster and makes it shiny rather than dull.
Reconstitute the koyadofu by soaking it in water for 5 minutes. After it has expanded and become soft, remove it from the water and squeeze out the excess liquid. Bring the dashi, soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin to a boil in a saucepan. Add the koyadofu and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the liquid to cool completely, if time allows. This will allow the koyadofu to absorb even more of the flavor from the broth.
Remove the shiitakes from the soaking liquid and slice them very thinly. In a saucepan bring the dashi, sugar, and soy sauce to a boil and add the shiitakes. Cook on medium for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Be careful — the broth is very sweet and may caramelize and burn!
Once the koyadofu has cooled, remove it from the broth, cut it in half lengthwise, and then slice it into 1/8-inch slices.
Spread the rice onto two plates in even layers. Keeping each ingredient separate, arrange the koyadofu, sliced shiitakes, edamame, and carrot on top of the rice, half on each plate. Layer the avocado slices carefully over everything. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or nori.
# # #
Gesshin Claire Greenwood is the author of Just Enough and Bow First, Ask Questions Later. She also writes the popular blog That’s So Zen. Ordained as a Buddhist nun in Japan by Seido Suzuki Roshi in 2010, she received her dharma transmission (authorization to teach.) in 2015. She returned to the United States in 2016 to complete her master’s degree in East Asian Studies. A popular meditation teacher, she lives in San Francisco, California. Find out more about her work at Gesshin.net.
Excerpted from the book Just Enough. Copyright ©2019 by Gesshin Claire Greenwood. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
I know we are in pumpkin pie season, but really, how many pies can you eat? Dare we break away for a moment to celebrate the beauty of the pear? I’ve been playing around with desserts that don’t have any added sugar lately, and this recipe for Poached Pears in Cherry Syrup is a winner.
Poached Pears are Just Enough
I love sweet desserts as much as the next person. I’ve also been reading lots of research that implicates a sugary diet in all kinds of health issues, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. I know that cutting carbs can seem like a joyless exercise, so why not start by cutting the white sugar and refined foods, and turn to pure fruit?
Using Reduction to Make a Fruit Sauce
The recipes I’ve used to make poached pears in the past all employed white sugar to make the syrup thick and glossy. The pears were poached in red or white wine, then the wine was cooked with sugar to make a syrup. To dump the added sugar, I opted to use bottled dark cherry juice instead, and to reduce it to make a concentrated, flavorful sauce.
Reduction is Magic
By simmering the pears in the cherry juice, the flavors meld, giving the pears a hint of cherry and the cherry juice a hint of pear. I added orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla, too, to give it some depth and complexity. Once the poached pears are tender, the remaining juice is boiled down until thick and shiny. By boiling the liquids, all the flavorless water leaves the sauce, concentrating the juices for an intense, fruity syrup.
Fresh Tarragon and Pistachios Add Intrigue
Once the poached pears and syrup are complete, a sprinkle of fresh, licorice-scented tarragon gives the dish an unexpected kick. I like to toss some crunchy pistachios over the syrup-drizzled fruit, to finish it with added texture and color.
Of course, I served it with a small scoop of coconut sorbet. Adding a little fat to a meal slows digestion and lowers the glycemic index, so why not? The fiber in the poached pears also keeps the natural carbs in the fruit from spiking your blood sugars. The poached pears are also naturally gluten-free, plant-based, and vegan, so everybody can indulge.
Elegant and Impressive Dessert
Don’t tell anyone that this might be a little more healthful than that pie. It’s so alluring on its own, and its the perfect ending to any meal. When you just want something sweet after dinner, go for an all-fruit dessert.
Pears Poached in Sweet Cherry Syrup
Make this classic, elegant dessert and wow your guests. Using cherry juice instead of wine means you don't have to add sugar, unless you want to!
- 4 medium bosc pears
- 2 cups dark sweet cherry juice
- 3 inches orange peel pared in a strip
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 4 sprigs fresh tarragon plus a few leaves
- chopped roasted pistachios
- coconut sorbet or plant-based ice cream
Carefully peel the pears, leaving the stems on. Using a paring knife,
cut a cone shaped hollow in the base of the pear to remove the flower end. Pare
straight up into the pear to remove the seeds, hollowing out the pear without
cutting through it.
Place the pears in a 2 quart sauce pan and pour in the cherry juice, add the orange
peel, vanilla, and cinnamon stick. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce
to a simmer. Put the lid on, slightly ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes,
turning the pears every 5 minutes to color them evenly. Test for doneness by
piercing with the paring knife. When the pears are tender but not falling
apart, take them off the heat. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to gently remove
them from the juice and place on a plate.
Put the juice mixture back on the heat and bring to a boil
over high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup,
about 10 minutes. The juice will get quite syrupy and the bubbles will become
large and shiny. Transfer the syrup to a small pitcher.
Serve the cooked fruit drizzled with syrup and sprinkled
with pistachios, and a scoop of your favorite plant-based ice cream or sorbet.
Thanksgiving is coming, and your instagram feed is filling up with holiday food porn, so you can start planning for the big day. But between now and then, you still need to eat. If you like to make a big feast, you might find yourself putting all your kitchen time in on making pie crusts and cubing bread for stuffing, and having precious little energy left to make a decent dinner tonight. That’s where my Sheet Pan Tofu And Veggies can save the day.
Sheet Pan Meals Save Time
The sheet pan meal has become part of the popular consciousness in recent years, although it has been around forever. The simple practice of putting everything on a pan and baking it was often associated with meat-based dishes. But I’m here to tell you, there’s one plant-based food that is perfect for the sheet pan meal.
Tofu is Better Baked
That’s right, the ancient food we associate with stir fries and soups is even better baked. I started baking my tofu when I cooked in restaurants, and it was a way to marinate and bake large quantities of tofu for use in salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. Instead of the quick sear that you get on deep-fried tofu in a Chinese restaurant, baking tofu makes it dense and chewy. Because you are baking it, you can use a small amount of good oil, and let the oven do the work.
(for more fun tofu recipes, check out the links below:)
Veggies love the Sheet Pan, Too
In this dish, I roasted sweet potato cubes alongside the tofu, since they both take the same amount of time. On another pan, cauliflower and kale get the heat treatment. The kale gets crispy, almost like a kale chip. You’ll love it, the meltingly tender veggies and chewy tofu contrast with the crisp kale.
Then, a Super Quick Sauce
After the tofu and veggies spend their time in the oven, you just stir up a simple tahini sauce and drizzle it over. That’s it. I went with some Sriracha sauce for zip, but you can use your favorite hot sauce.
Vegan Meal Prep Alert
You can serve your sheet pan meal now, or make it ahead of time and eat it all week. There’s nothing quite like having meal prep in the refrigerator, when you walk in that door. Thanks to your pre-planning, you can put your feet up and simply enjoy a meal.
So go ahead and plan and prep for the big holiday meals, but make yourself some sustaining food right now. Sheet Pans make it easy.
Sheet Pan Sesame Sriracha Tofu and Veggies
The sheet pan dinner is a sweet way to cook all your veggies and tofu at once. A simple sauce of tahini, lemon and Sriracha gives it all the flavor you crave, almost effortlessly.
- 1 pound extra firm tofu drained
- 2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
- 2 cups cauliflower florets large
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Get two sheet pans.
Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Place on one of the sheet pans. Place the sweet potatoes on the same pan and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Toss gently to coat with oil.
On the other pan, place the cauliflower and kale and toss with the remaining half of the olive oil.
Roast both pans for 20 minutes, then take out the cauliflower and kale, and gently stir the tofu and sweet potatoes, turning with a spatula. Roast for 20 minutes longer.
While the vegetables roast, stir the tahini, lemon, tamari, sriracha and garlic in a cup. Pour over the warm vegetables and toss to coat.
Serve hot, or cool completely and store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.
We’ve all been there. As the family sits around a table, a roasted turkey or ham is carved into slices. It’s a primal scene. It’s part of some hunter-gatherer genetic memory, one that’s baked into our brains. Well, I think I’ve found a vegetable dish that has the presence of a ham, and gives you the savage but civilized satisfaction of wielding a knife at the table. It’s a Roasted Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction.
A Roasted Whole Brussels Sprout Stalk is Easy
To be honest, it wasn’t my idea. my friend Julie Kendrick, writer and hostess extraordinaire, served one at a party at her house. It was a delightfully surprising way to put a vegetable out on the buffet, and let everyone carve a few sprouts for her plate. Of course, I resolved to pilfer the idea, straightaway.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
I soon realized that the whole stalk roast was a clever way to avoid the work of trimming and cutting the Brussels sprouts before cooking! The only obstacle is getting a whole stalk. Our local farmers grow the stalk, like a little tree, then as the season goes on, they lop off Brussels sprouts as they mature. The Brussels tree keeps giving, generating new buds until the weather just gets too cold. That’s why you only see the whole stalks in the market in late Fall.
Ask a Farmer for a Whole Brussels Sprout Stalk
I was on the prowl for one, so I asked all the farmers at the market who were selling loose Brussels sprouts. They didn’t have them that week, but promised to bring one the following week. I snapped it up. I think it cost $7, which is alot less than a ham!
Of course, if you garden, you can grow them yourself. I’m sure that is what Julie did, since she has a big garden, overflowing with veggies all summer long. If you are inspired, you can start planning your garden now, and make room for a few of these epic Brussels Sprout plants.
Balsamic Reduction is the Easy Sauce
So, while my massive Brussels Roast was in the oven, getting sweet and slightly charred, I boiled some balsamic vinegar to make a thick, syrupy drizzle. I’m obsessed with reduction these days, and the act of condensing foods down into intense concentrations. Balsamic has the ideal balance of sweet and sour to reduce, and it only takes a few minutes. Seriously, 10 minutes, tops.
If you can’t find a whole Brussels sprout stalk, you can still make this, just trim and halve a pound of sprouts and toss them with oil, and roast for 20 minutes. Then pile them on a platter with some white space around them so you can make the zig zag drizzle across the top.
Because plants deserve to get the same star treatment that hunks of animal do. Really.
Brussels Sprout Recipes: Szechuan Brussels Sprouts
Whole Roasted Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction
Head to the farmer's market at the end of the season to buy a whole stalk of Brussels Sprouts, then roast it whole, for a dramatic centerpiece dish.
- 1 stalk Brussels Sprouts
- avocado or extra virgin olive oil
- coarse salt
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Place the whole stalk on a large baking sheet, and spray or drizzle with oil, brush to coat. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Roast for about 20 minutes.
While the sprouts roast, pour the balsamic into a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer and let cook until reduced by half. It takes 10-15 minutes. The liquid will become thick and shiny. Transfer to a small pitcher or bowl.
To serve, place the roasted stalk on a large platter or cutting board and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve the rest on the side. Proide a knife to cut the sprouts from the stalk at serving.
I don’t often review a restaurant, but once in a while, a meal is so singular that it just blows me away. Such is the case with my dinner at Fancy Radish; a vedge restaurant, in Washington DC. It’s the latest outpost of the talented Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, the brilliant chefs behind Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.
My dear friend, talented writer Ellen Kanner made the reservation, as she is in the know about all things vegan. We were in DC for the Reducetarian Summit, so we seized a chance to sample a multi-course plant-based meal from the chefs who are raising the bar and creating a whole new approach to vegetable cookery. I hope you’ll accept my attempts at phone photography, as I drank a glass of funky natural orange wine, talked, and attempted to capture a delightful meal in a dark room.
Ellen and I have both interviewed the chefs and read their cookbooks, Vedge and V Street , so our expectations were high. The menu is arranged in three categories: Urban Picnic, Farm Board, and Wood and Fire. Urban Picnic features cold food, including the Pastrami Spiced Carrots pictured above, and the Smoked Chiogga Beets, below.
What sets the food of Landau and Jacoby apart from other restaurants is the intense attention to detail, and multiple processes applied to vegetables to heighten, concentrate, and complement their natural flavors and textures. Using processes usually applied to animal foods, they do things like make a pastrami spice cured carrot, a multi-step, several day long process, then slice it paper thin and present it like charcuterie. It comes out infused with spice and salt, sweet as a carrot, but with depth and umami, and a texture that gives you just a bit of chewiness. The schmear of white bean and sauerkraut complements it with creamy, tangy elements, and piling the whole affair on a pumpernickel toast point with smoked mustard creates a bite as nuanced and satisfying as the Deli food it mimics in shape and form.
Our second course, the Smoked Chiogga Beets, was presented in a tower with a slice of beet on top, and was quickly destroyed with our probing forks. Smoke is the umami-boosting secret of the plant-based chef, and we were glad to see that it was not being used heavy-handedly. A hint of smoke in the beets and tofu didn’t overwhelm the dish, just added nuance. Tender, diced beets, crunchy bits of cucumber and silky avocado made a sweet and tangy base for a smoked tofu salad, and the crunchy microgreens capped it with hints of bitterness and crunch.
When the restaurant shares a name with a dish, you know it’s a signature, so of course we tried the Fancy Radish. As you can see, it looks like a pair of scallops, with seared edges, sitting in a pool of sauce. In pursuit of maximum flavor and texture, the simple radish had been browned and slow simmered in flavorful veg stock, to make a tender scallop, with a mild radish kick and plenty of savory and sweet notes. The creamy avocado sauce had enough tang to wake the palate in between bites, and a little smoke and peppery shiso leaf played it up.
A plant-based meal isn’t complete without the meaty, umami-boosting mushroom dish, and this one didn’t disappoint. In the photo, it looks like a bowl of sauteed mushrooms, but somehow, it was one of the best dishes of the night. Thinly sliced, seared mushrooms in a broth, with a few slices of tomato and basil seems so simple, but it was intense. I’m betting that the broth is a multi-step affair, slowly simmered, strained, reduced, and emulsified with an industrial blender. It was just too good.
I suppose this Tofu, from the Wood and Fire section of the menu, is the main course. These dishes have more richness and weight, and this one had a satisfying infusion of good olive oil. After all the sensory fireworks of the other dishes, it needed to have a strong flavor game, and it did not disappoint. The slab of tofu was dense and chewy, with plenty of texture. It was painted with a thick layer of spicy, citrusy chermoula sauce, that enlivened the weighty tofu. A smear of olive puree coated the plate, and tiny cubes of tender, lightly smoky eggplant and tangy carrots perched at the other side. Each bite awakened a different part of my palate, readying me for more.
We also had the sour cherry turnovers with sumac rose glaze and halvah buttercream. If you thought that eating plant-based meant losing out on pastry, you were so wrong. The sweet and tangy cherries are a favorite of mine, and they were perfect in the crisp, fried pies. Elegant, rose and sumac scents accompanied each bite, and the creamy, sesame cream on the plate was a revelation.
Our bellies full, Ellen and I agreed, this was destination dining, possibly the best vegan meal we had had in a restaurant ever, or at least within recent memory. Landau and Jacoby are elevating plant-based cuisine to new levels of inventiveness and sophistication. By systematically applying techniques and processes once used only for meat, they are adding complexity and intensity to vegetables, and showing us all what plants can become when they are given the attention that we have historically only given to animal foods.
The service was great, the wine list, all natural and intriguing, and the setting was tasteful and un-distracting. No loud music or reverberating voices to take away from the dining experience.
So, if you are in DC, or Philadelphia, make a reservation, you will be glad you did. Bravo to the chefs!
On a fine Saturday morning, everything seems possible. The day stretches before me, like a bottomless well of time, free to do something adventurous. Rested and ready, I make my way to the Farmer’s Market most Saturdays, where tables of colorful produce stretch out around me like a palette of juicy paints, begging to be stroked on a canvas. Sure, I tell myself, you have a bunch of work to do today, but those organic raspberries won’t last forever. Why not make a Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie?
Slab Pie Appeal
I always hit the market early, to beat the rush and get some of the more limited goodies before they sell out. This particular day, there was a table overflowing with just-picked raspberries. It’s Minnesota, and there is a short window for these Fall berries, before the cold snaps start. Fresh local fruit has a short window of time here. When I saw those perfect berries, I was overcome with the urge to make a slab pie.
Click here for my Apple Raspberry Galette
Before I could talk myself out of it, I had 2 quarts of berries in my rolling bag, balanced on top of a watermelon, corn on the cob and sprouts, and assorted onions and greens. What a haul. Once I got it all home and put away, I fortified myself with coffee and started making pie dough.
Whole Grain Pastry is Best
I’m lucky to have freshly ground flour from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread available to me. Their whole wheat pastry flour is fantastic. If you can’t get it, you can use a whole wheat pastry or white whole wheat flour.
I had a reason for making a big fat slab pie. I knew I was going out of town and leaving my husband home alone for a few days. A big slab of pie might give him some comfort and sustenance while I’m gone. I have a feeling that the pie will be gone when I get back.
Lest you think that a slab pie is somehow harder than a round pie, it’s actually easier. It’s basically two pies’ worth in one big rectangular slab, with a minimum of fuss.
Choose the Right Fat
I’ve been making my pastry with Melt Buttery Sticks lately, but I also use chilled coconut oil in the same way. You need a more solid fat that holds its shape when chilled, and creates a flaky texture. If you opt for coconut oil, choose refined for a mild flavor. I recommend melting the oil in the jar, either by placing it in a pot of warm water, or microwaving. Measure the liquid oil in a cup, then refrigerate until solid. Then you can grate it into the flour.
Wholesome But Still Dessert
I love dessert as much as the next person. I also love making them with real, whole foods, so that they aren’t nutritional disasters that pile nothing but sugar, fat and calories on the plate. Organic raspberries, nectarines, whole wheat flour and healthy fats give this dessert a firm foundation in the real food category. Don’t tell anyone it might be a little bit good for you, just let your family and friends revel in the luscious, juicy pie.
A slab pie is sure to make your family happy, even if it’s just one sweet guy left at home alone.
Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie
Feed a crowd with this fruit-packed pie, wrapped in a tender whole wheat pastry. Crystallized ginger gives the sweet and tangy fruit a little kick!
- 4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 sticks Vegan butter or 1 1/2 cups coconut oil (measure coconut oil then chill until hard)
- 1 cup ice water
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 1/4 cup unbleached flour
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot
- 4 large nectarines sliced
- 4 cups raspberries fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup crystallized ginger chopped
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- 2 tablespoons water
- Turbinado sugar
Make crust: Get out your 9x13 baking pan and reserve. In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Using the large holes on a grater, grate the vegan butter or coconut oil into the mix, tossing every few strokes to coat the bits of fat with flour. in a measuring cup, whisk the vinegar and ice water. Stir gently into the flour mixture and use your hands to mix to form a dough. If needed, add a little bit more water. Form into a rectangular block about 2 inches thick on a counter sprinkled with a little flour.
Cut off one third of the dough for the top crust; wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour and arrowroot. Add the sliced nectarines, raspberries, and crystallized ginger and toss gently to coat the fruit. Let stand while you roll out the crust.
On a floured counter, roll out the larger rectangle to make the bottom crust. To judge the size, place the 9x13 pan over the dough and continue rolling until the dough is 2 inches wider and longer than the pan. Use a metal spatula to carefully remove the crust from the counter, folding it gently in thirds. Transfer to the pan and press the crust up the sides of the pan, trim any extra dough and press to make a neat edge.
Roll out the smaller portion of dough to the length of the pan. Use a fluted pastry cutter wheel or a knife to slice the dough in 3/4 inch wide strips. I used decrative cutters to cut the scraps into little hearts and flowers, which I placed on a small sheet pan.
Fill the pie with the prepared fruit, spreading it to make an even layer. Place the strips of dough across the pie in a lattice pattern. In a cup, stir the agave and water and brush the top crust and the decorative dough scraps, if you are making those. Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes at 425, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for 25 minutes longer, then raise the heat to 400 F and bake for 20 minutes. If the top crust is getting browned, cover loosely with foil. Bake for 10 minutes, until the center of the pie is bubbling.
Cool on a rack.
Fresh Mint Forever
You really only have to plant spearmint once. I can’t remember when I made the fateful move to put a little mint plant in my garden, but it was years ago. The mint flourished and spread and persists, year after year. After we eat tabouli and minty salads and make lots of fresh mint tea, I often have to rip out rafts of the fragrant plants just to keep them from choking out the tomatoes and basil. As much as I love the bracing flavor of fresh mint, it has to be willing to share the space.
All this lovely fresh mint means I need to get creative, and this New Potato Salad with Mint Pesto is one of many quick minty dishes I serve in summer.
Fresh Mint is Great in Savory Dishes
While we often associate mint with sweet flavors, like mint-chip ice cream and minty chocolates, it takes on a different character when you go savory with it. Take away the sugar and add some olive oil, and you start to see how similar it is to sweet basil, in some ways.
T’is the Season for Potato Salads
New potatoes are happening at my farmer’s market, so I boiled some young Yukon golds and quartered them. I chilled them in the refrigerator, which made them a little dark in color, but still full of that buttery Yukon flavor. To keep it easy, I used canned chickpeas (saving the aquafaba for later in the freezer) and just rinsed and drained.
I’m so in love with pistachios, I keep both raw and roasted ones around at all times. In this dish, they make a lush pesto and also a crunchy garnish.
The fresh mint melds with the olive oil, garlic, and pistachios for an herbal, slightly peppery taste. With a jolt of lemon, the flavors feel fresh and lively. Red bell peppers add a pop of red against the green background, and a bit of juicy crunch.
This recipe barely made a dent in my fresh mint crop, but that’s ok. I’m thinking that a Minty Iced Tea is in my future. Mint is known to help with digestive upsets and have a decent amount of antioxidants, like most green leafy foods. It’s even associated with improving memory, so I should definitely eat more of it!
If you don’t have a mint plant, your farmer’s market should have some big fat bundles of it. Enjoy it in potato salad, and you might just remember some passwords while enjoying a delicious meal.
New Potato, Chickpea and Mint Salad with Pistachios
Cool off with this tasty salad, with mint and lemon to spark on the palate.
- 1 pound new potatoes cooked and cooled, halved
- 1 can cooked chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1/2 large red bell pepper slivered
- 1 large scallions chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh spearmint packed
- 1 clove garlic peeled and sliced
- 1/4 cup raw pistachios divided
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- mint sprigs for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the new potatoes, chickpeas, peppers and scallions.
In a food processor, combine mint, garlic and half of the pistachios. Process to mince finely, scrape down and process a few times, then add olive oil and blend. Scrape down and add the lemon and salt, blend again until smooth.
Scrape over the potato mixture and toss to coat.
Serve topped with reserved pistachos and garnished with mint sprigs.
Plant Based Fish, The Next Big Thing
Plant Based Meats have been the food trend to watch, in recent years. I even wrote a book about it. Hot on the heels of mock meats is a new growth industry: Plant Based Fish. The hunger for familiar, high protein foods that come from plants is driving a surge in the development and sales of mock seafoods, and I’ve had some pretty tasty “crab” cakes, faux “salmon,” and now,”Tuna.”
While researching my Plant Based Meats cookbook, I met and spoke to lots of people in the business of making plant based foods. One of the earliest adopters of the plant based meat concept was the Loma Linda company, who started manufacturing veggie meats back in 1890.It’s quite an accomplishment that heir product line goes back 125 years. They are now part of Atlantic Natural Foods, along with Neat, makers of plant based “eggs,” baking mixes and prepared foods, I spoke to the inventor of Neat Eggs, Laura Lapp, in this post. They recently came out with their own version of tuna, called “Tuno,” and it is in packets or cans, packed in water or Sriracha, Lemon Pepper, Thai Sweet Chili or Sesame Ginger Sauce.
I’ll Be Giving Away Cans of Plant Based Fish at Minnesota Veg Fest
Thanks to Atlantic Natural Foods, I’ve got a large assortment of plant based proteins to give away at my booth at Minnesota Veg Fest on September 15th!
The first 500 people who come to my booth get to pick a can, from an assortment including Tuno, Taco filling, and more. You can toss one in your swag bag, and not worry about it spoiling as you frolic at the festival. We are expecting several thousand attendees, so come early. I’ll be selling my books Plant Based Meats; Hearty High Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians and Curious Carnivores, Vegan Meal Prep: A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes, and Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat, No Dairy All Delicious.
The Tuna Question
Much was made, in recent articles, about Millenials not eating tuna. The folks at Starkist blame them for killing tuna sales, claiming that Millenials don’t own can openers and can’t be bothered to open the can and get utensils. That bit of creative PR overlooks a 30 year decline in tuna sales, fueled by fears of mercury in the fish, concerns about overfishing, dolphins being killed in the nets, and yes, the smell.
I can assure you, the Tuno I used in this recipe did not stink up the kitchen. My cats did stroll in when they heard me open the can, and they did want to sniff it, but that’s a cat’s automatic response to the sound of a can opener. Had it been smelly cat food or tuna, they would have been frantic with desire.
Nostalgia for Tuna Salads and Casseroles
For this recipe, I used the Sriracha Tuno. If you can only get water-packed, you can always just drain it and sprinkle with Sriracha sauce before putting it in the rolls. If you miss the tuna salad sandwiches and casseroles of your youth, definitely try making them with Tuno. It’s got a nice, lightly seafood-ish taste and a tender but chewy texture that does remind you of tuna in all your fave tuna dishes. It’s less salty and fishy than real tuna, but that’s a plus, for most people. It’s made from Non-GMO soy protein, so popping open a can or packet delivers an easy protein to your day.
Summer Rolls are Great with Tuno
I took a little swerve from making the hits and made these veggie-packed Summer Rolls. A typical Vietnamese Summer Roll or rice paper roll will have shrimp, and sometimes a little pork thrown in for good measure. I usually make mine with tofu, but I wanted to see how the mock-fish interacted with the rice noodles and veggies and peanut sauce. It was a huge hit with my husband, and we made quick work of all ten of them!
So, look for Tuno at your local grocers, and if you can, come to Veg Fest on September 15th, 2019, and share in the plant based celebration!
"Tuno" Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce
Summer Rolls are a refreshing, light appetizer all year round. Try these and add the protein, texture and spicy flavor of Tuno to your meal.
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste more to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
- 2 teaspoons fresh turmeric grated
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
- 4 ounces rice noodles I used red rice noodles
- 2 cans Sriracha Tuno
- 1 large avocado pitted, sliced in the shell and scooped out
- 1/2 large cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced in strips
- 1 cups thinly slivered red cabbage
- 1 large carrot shredded
- 1/2 cup fresh mint or Thai Basil
- 10 large rice or tapioca wrappers
In a 1 quart pot, combine the coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, turmeric, palm sugar and salt and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the lime juice and peanut butter and simmer just until thick, if needed, thin with water to dippable consistency. Makes about 3/4 cup.
Put water on to boil for noodles. Mix the rice vinegar and palm sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil just to melt the sugar. Let cool. Cook noodles and rinse under cold water, drain. Place in a medium bowl and add the vinegar mixture, toss to mix. Drain the Tuno in a wire mesh strainer, don't rinse. Prep the vegetables, keeping them in separate piles.
Prepare a lasagne sized pan of warm water, and a kitchen towel lying flat beside it. Put a wrapper in the water and submerge gently. When it softens, put on towel to drain. On each wrapper, place a couple tablespoons of tuno, then about a tenth of the vegetables and rice noodles, then fold the sides in, then roll up. Place on a platter, not touching. Cover the rolls with a damp towel as you go. Serve within a few hours with peanut sauce for dipping.