Sunday, October 30, 2011

Castle Gourmet Pop Up Dining

I had really hoped to post more this month, but I have been swamped with a number of things. Earlier this month I was guest pastry chef to my friend Anne Lee's awesome vegan gourmet pop up dinner.  Here's some more info on that: Plus the blog with menu details:

The dinner we prepared was inspired by the weather and had an Indian Summer theme. Think BBQ, burgers, slaw and ice cream, but with hints of the approaching fall season. The first course was a creamy, pumpkin butternut & sage soup garnished with fennel and pomegranate.

Next course was a refined "slaw" of beautiful tri-colored beets, watermelon radish and grilled avocado, served over a bed of watercress with a mustard vinaigrette. The colors were amazing. Just look at the watermelon radish. Nature is awesome.

The main dish was an open-faced chipotle spiced lentil burger on a cornbread "bun" with aioli, pickled red onions and grilled pineapple. Served alongside, seared kale and breaded and fried okra with a spicy BBQ marinara sauce. The okra was outstanding. Couldn't stop snacking on those guys. Wish I had a picture of this dish, but I was so caught up with cooking, and of course preparing and plating the desserts. I will update this post in the future when I get copies of the photos taken by the other photographer.

On to dessert. This was a really fun dish. No summer is complete without ice cream. We decided on an ice cream truck indulgence you can't find vegan any where -- THE CHOCO TACO. When's the last time you had one of those? Probably long, long ago after a shitty "burrito" made with powdered beans at a fast food joint that shall remain anonymous. Well behold, friends! This Choco Taco is better than the original.

This bad boy was made up of a crunchy chocolate coated almond tuile cookie, filled with coconut vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate ganache, topped with toasted crushed almonds and a little raspberry coulis. I didn't get good shots of the plates we served at the dinner, so this version was reshot and reconstructed with what I had on hand, strawberries. Pretend that coulis is strawberry and not raspberry. Just know that my boyfriend was eagerly waiting behind me as I shot these photos. After the shoot, he tore into this plate.

This was an exciting experience and I look forward to next month's Castle Gourmet dinner. If you're interested, sign up! Seats are currently limited to 12 and will fill up fast!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tempeh Buffalo Tenders

This should have been posted a week ago, but again more technical difficulties. My backup, not to mention NEW, compact flash card is crapping out on me. I've lost more photos than I'd like to think about, and time! It's really testing my patience, so I've ordered yet another flash card.

Let's talk about something fun and tasty. Buffalo wings! These are better for you and don't have any bones! Yay! These bad boys were served up as an appetizer for the Soul Food pop up dinner I had a couple weeks ago. They were so popular, I've made them three times since then, but only recently had a chance to photograph them properly. They are hard to photograph because they just kept disappearing! I don't know how!

Tempeh Buffalo Tenders

Preparing the tempeh

3-4 8oz packages of soy tempeh

Before doing anything with tempeh, I like to poach or simmer it in some kind of flavorful broth. Doing so makes the tempeh more tender and flaky, and also cuts out some of the funky flavor some might find off putting. I add a few spoons of No-Chicken Broth Powder mixed with 1-2 cups of water and a pinch of dried thyme into a medium pot and drop in the tempeh. Simmer tempeh for 10-15 minutes, remove from broth and set aside to cool.

When tempeh is cool enough to handle, slice into 1/2 inch thick strips or slightly thicker, if you desire. Set aside and get the batter started.

The Batter

5 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (I used soy)
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (Double check for veganocity. I used Kikkoman brand.)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
a few grinds of pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram


Set up your deep fryer or deep frying apparatus and get the temperature between 350 - 375 degrees F.

Bust out three shallow pans or plastic tupperware-like containers. Create your assembly line! Fill one with the non-dairy milk, another with panko crumbs, and the third with your flour and spices. Stir the flour and spice mixture and combine all the ingredients well. Take a piece of tempeh and lightly coat with your flour mixture. Shake off any excess, then dip into the soymilk and coat evenly. Finally coat the wet tempeh with panko crumbs.  Set your coated and ready to fry tempeh on a plate and continue coating the rest of your tempeh. Try using only one hand while you work. It helps to have one clean hand free. You will definitely end up with a panko crumb glove.

If you're feeling agile, gently drop in 3-4 pieces of coated tempeh into your deep fryer while you're working your coating assembly line. Just watch your tempeh. You want it golden brown and delicious, not burnt! Tempeh will fry up fast! It will probably be ready in 2 minutes or so, depending on your fryer temperature. Continue working in batches and place hot fried tempeh on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath. This method of cooling keeps things crunchy and crisp.

Coat tenders with buffalo sauce and serve with a side of vegan ranch dressing (recipes follow!)

Buffalo Sauce

1/4 cup melted Earth Balance or vegan margarine
5 or more tablespoons of Lousiana Hot Sauce (or your favorite hot wing style hot sauce)


Whisk ingredients well and drizzle over tempeh tenders just before serving. Recipe can be doubled with ease if you're making a particularly large batch.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

1 cup Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
up to 1/4 cup unsweetened soy or non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
few grinds of pepper
salt to taste (if desired)


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Add soymilk to desired consistency. Taste and check for salt and acidity. Adjust lemon to taste. Serve chilled with fresh crudite and tempeh tenders.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

But wait, there's more!

Here's the only proof of the vegan soul food pop up dinner.

Everything else was consumed. I did manage to save one of the apple brown betties. I was so full of mac n cheez, I never got around to dessert.

So there. It happened.

Hammin' it up!

I encountered a few delays while attempting to make this post. First, my compact flash card for my DSLR took a dump on me. I made the most awesome sandwich, took photos & everything, only to have the memory card fail me. Needless to say, I ate the sandwich and said "fuck it!" I figured I'd have to recreate that sandwich and start all over again. Not complaining about that.

Then I got all busy planning a vegan pop up dinner. That went over well, I did a soul food dinner with tempeh hot wings, mac n cheez, black eyed peas with ham, braised garlicky kale, fresh baked corn bread, and oatmeal apple betty with homemade vanilla bean coconut ice cream. Whew! but of course no pictures, so I guess it didn't happen. :( Womp womp! Now I'm all stuffy with a head cold.

Shaddup, Denise.

Let's get on with it. Vegan ham. Pretty versatile stuff. Good grilled or stewed up with black eyed peas and kale. I've mostly used it for breakfast-y stuff like this here tofu benedict.

The benny is comprised of grilled french bread, vegan ham, seasoned slices of tofu, tomato and kale, then topped with warm vegan hollendaise. I'd give you a recipe for the hollendaise, but then I'd have to kill you. Don't worry, it's mostly silken tofu, FYH's Vegenaise, nooch & spices. You'll figure it out eventually! 

Another fun breakfast item I've had the chance to recreate is my ex-favorite sammy from Denny's. Yeah, it's really shitty chain dining, but back in the day it filled the void after a late night of drinking. That was a long time ago, and I hope I never have to eat there again. Even if they serve Amy's vegan burgers. Here's vegan Moons Over My Hammy. I think I like it mostly for the name. 

This is basically tofu eggs with vegan ham and vegan cheese. I used a nice, seeded multi-grain bread and grilled it with a little Earth Balance. Then I sliced up some firm tofu and coated it in nooch with a little garlic & onion powder, black salt & pepper, then fried it on a hot griddle. I also grilled up the ham and then layered it all on the bread with Daiya pepperjack cheese. Any kind of vegan cheese will do. I believe the real thing has Swiss & American cheese, but we don't want any of that. 

All right now, go make this for yourself! 

Vegan Ham

2 1/4 cups Vital Wheat Gluten 
1/2 package Mori-Nu Firm Silken Tofu
1/2 15 oz can Canellini Beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1 "No Beef" bouillon cube (or equivalent no beef powder)
2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon hickory smoke/liquid smoke
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
several grinds of black pepper
splash of tamari or soy sauce
tamari for basting


Set oven to preheat at 350 degrees F.

In a food processor, puree silken tofu, beans, bouillon, brown sugar, oil, tomato paste, tamari, liquid smoke, water and nutritional yeast. Mix until smooth. In a large bowl mix vital wheat gluten with onion powder, garlic powder, salt, paprika, and pepper. Add wet mix into the dry mix and combine until a dough is formed. Dough should be moist, easy to handle, but not too wet. If necessary, add a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten until dough feels right. Knead dough for several minutes then allow to rest for 10 minutes. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, let that thing do the work. Once dough has rested, form into loaf-ish shape and wrap tightly in foil "tootsie roll" style. Put your foil wrapped dough into a loaf pan filled half way with water. Place into oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Check after an hour to see if you need to add any more water. After 1 hour and 45 minutes has passed, remove from foil, place into water and add a splash of tamari to the water. Baste the ham with liquid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until outside is lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool a little before slicing.


This stuff makes awesome Lunchables! Remember those super salty, highly processed & nitrate-filled meat, cheese and cracker snacks? Try a thin slice of this ham on multi-grain flax crackers with a slice of vegan cheese or fresh, spreadable cashew cheese. HEAVEN ON A CRACKER! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Late Bird MoFo aka Lazy Mofo

And by lazy MoFo, I mean lazy mother-- shut your mouth! No recipe this time around, because I can't give away all the goods! I will, however, exercise your salivary glands with some exciting food porn! Ready?! Wait! Let's add another exclamation mark first! .... !

Breakfast. Most important meal of the day. The meal I often neglect and skip over entirely most days. When I have time, this happens. Breakfast nachos. Greatest thing ever invented. Tortillas make everything at least 40% more awesome. Fried tortillas, even better. If I had a restaurant, I'd put this on the menu.

Soul food night happens pretty often around here. Mac 'n cashew cheese is a staple of this household.

Most of my time has been spent baking. Above are some fun peanut butter & jelly cupcakes. Peanut butter cake, filled with strawberry or grape jelly, topped with whipped peanut butter frosting & drizzled with jelly. If you didn't know, I run a small batch vegan baking operation out here in Los Angeles. Check it out:

This is what I like to call the breakfast cupcake. Maple cupcake with creamy maple frosting and topped with candied coconut bacon. These were a special order for a dear friend's birthday. He's a big fan of meat and meat products, so this was my way of showing him how awesome animal-free food can be. Candied coconut bacon melts all hearts. Needless to say, they were the talk of the party.

I also made some special birthday cuppies for my boyfriend. Caramel-filled chocolate cupcakes topped with creamy, rich chocolate ganache, salty pretzels and then drizzled with more caramel. Pretty insane.

And for good measure, here are some mocha chocolate chip cookies. All the perk of coffee in a convenient cookie! Woo!

More to come! Also, if you're in the area, I'll be vending all sorts of baked goods at the Vegan Halloween Event in Eagle Rock later this month. More info here.