Vegan MoFo: Caponata, for all your eggplant-devouring needs  »

Vegan hero Kittee posted her family’s caponata recipe last month and I have been dying to make it since. Unfortunately it’s been too hot for serious cooking since June, and only in the last couple weeks has it cooled down enough at night to even open the windows. And this week? Another heat wave.

Last weekend, though, I had plenty of time and cooler evenings to do some serious stove work, and I whipped up a big cast-iron pot full of Kittee’s caponata. I have eaten it for lunch every day since Saturday and every day it tastes amazing; you will love it. Thanks, Sicily, for inventing possibly the best way to eat vegetables of questionable textures.


I grew mushrooms, and you can too!  »

Look what I made! It’s oyster mushrooms, growing out of a box, and heading straight for my belly! 

The box, as you may or may not be able to tell from my crappy, grainy photo (sorry) is a kit from Back to the Roots. The kit is pretty rad and makes growing fungus on top of your refrigerator a miraculous joy instead of just a gross accident, like it normally would be.

The whole thing started right at U.C. Berkeley in 2009, when a pair of students figured out they could become rich and famous by selling people kits to grow mushrooms on coffee grounds. 

I first encountered these kits in an earlier iteration for sale at Berkeley Hort in mid-2010. I bought one for my man for his birthday, but you had to collect your own coffee grounds and we only drink a little coffee, so that took forever. By the time we had enough, the mushroom spore/coffee mixture had molded; it was a messy disaster.

Fast-forward to this year’s VegFest Colorado in Boulder, which I will remind you is 1,250 miles from Berkeley. Lo and behold, there was a Back to the Roots booth! This stuff had gone global (or at least regional)! I told the lady at the table about my sad, gloppy failure, and she was totally puzzled. See, now the kits come pre-loaded with coffee grounds (they come from Peet’s), and is much fancier and easier. She gave me a free one so I could try again and write this review.

Well, VegFest lady, it took me forever but I have tried, and I have conquered, and I say to the pink dinosaur-loving masses, go grow thee some mushrooms!

Step 1 involves slitting open the bag of mushroom spores (white) and coffee grounds (black) and soaking them in water for 24 hours. The water turned all dark like coffee; it was kind of gross, but not really that bad.

Next, you put the bag back in the box, put the box in a spot with indirect light, and keep the whole thing moist by misting it twice a day. For nearly a week, it looked like NOTHING was happening. Then BAM, it was like super-speed.

See all those little shroomies poking out on the right of the opening? I’d leave for a few hours, and when I came back, they would be noticeably bigger. Every time! It was like The Peanut Butter Solution. SO COOL!

I harvested a batch and they were tasty. I’m going to see if more grow, then I’m going to flip the kit over and open the other side and do it again. I’ll update if there’s more news. Home-grown mushrooms. Love ‘em.


Guest recipe: Fresh pasta handkerchiefs with mushroom sauce and really good beans  »

Or, duxelle fazzoletti with scarlet runner confit.

There are three parts to this recipe: the beans, the pasta, the mushroom sauce. Any one of them can be plucked out and used in other dishes. The beans must be started at least one day in advance. This recipe is for two people so you can adjust accordingly, but you may have extra of both the pasta dough and the beans at the end. They both keep very well. Lastly, this is largely a pantry dish but the fresh ingredients—mushrooms, rosemary, greens, onion and garlic—come through so clearly that it still feels springy. I do suggest seasoning to taste and that’s how the recipe is written, but if you‘re meticulous or don‘t know what you‘re doing, a general standard is to salt at .5 percent the weight of the ingredient.

1 cup large dried beans (I use scarlet runners)
½ bunch rosemary
4 cloves garlic
Approximately 2 cups olive oil
6 large crimini mushrooms (about 200g)
2 to 4 grams Dried porcini mushrooms
1 small onion
2 Tbsp. white wine, not a sweet one (get a box or a four-pack of those smaller bottles—you‘re not going to use that much so this way it keeps)
1 Tbsp. any kind of wheat flour
½ cup white wine vinegar
12 oz semolina flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill mainly ‘cause Bob seems like such a nice guy)
½ bunch greens, stemmed if necessary (I like kale or sorrel for this)
6 capers

This is a bean confit—in French confit generally means to preserve, more specifically to cook something at a low temperature covered in fat and leave it in the fat in which it was cooked. Most traditionally this method is used for dead duck cooked in the fat of all its friends and family, but more recently it’s been applied to lots of things, from artichokes to tomatoes to garlic to beans to cabbage. You may have leftover beans, and you can eat them at 2 a.m. with a spoon in the light of the refrigerator. Or on a salad, or in another pasta, or on a sandwich.

Soak your beans overnight with a bunch of salt. You cannot over salt them in this state so just put in a handful. The salt will reduce cooking time even further than just plain soaking.

The next day drain the beans and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them by about three inches and add 2 Tbps. of salt. Simmer until the beans are cooked—it could be anywhere from a half hour to an hour. Start tasting at about a half hour.
Drain the beans when they feel cooked but before they‘re falling apart. Now we will make them delicious. Put the beans in the smallest pot that will hold them all. Cover the beans with oil. This may seem like a lot of oil. It is. Fat makes delicious. Don’t quote me. Put in 4 sprigs of rosemary, 4 peeled garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon salt. Gently stir it up.

Cover with a pot lid or aluminum foil and cook for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Spoon one out and blow on it or let it sit in a cold place for a solid minute. When they are done they will feel luxurious in your mouth. Season the pot with 2 or more tablespoons of white wine vinegar and more salt if needed. Do this either earlier in the day or like 2 weeks ahead of time, the most important thing being that it needs to cool down in this oil to get the most out of this preparation.

If I had to choose one food to be forced to eat every day for the rest of my life it would be pasta. It’s funny and sad that vegan options at restaurants are almost always limited to spaghetti with marinara. While some Italian traditions do use eggs in their fresh pasta, most Italian homes before WWII could not afford eggs and therefore used flour and water as their dough, like in this recipe. Keep this book in your bathroom and you will learn a lot. At home, dried pasta is one way to go, almost all of it is vegan and lots of it is awesome. But fresh pasta is a whole different creature and it only takes them about 5 minutes to make it on Iron Chef.

Take out a scale. Weigh out 250g of semolina, 2g salt, and 100g of water. If you don’t have a scale this will be about 1½ cups flour, a two-finger pinch of salt, and ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. water. I wouldn’t suggest it for this dish, but if you want a slightly richer dough, you can also add 1 Tbsp. olive oil toward the end of mixing.

Use a food processor, a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook, or a large table and your hands. Mix the semolina and salt. Pour in the water and mix until it becomes a firm ball. Keep mixing for a few more minutes.

Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for about 45 minutes. During this time you may want to make the mushrooms.

Dust a surface with flour. Roll out large bubblegum-size pieces of the dough into 1/8th-inch flatness using a pasta machine or a rolling pin. If you want to cut neat corners do that, preferably with a pizza wheel. Then ball the scraps back up and roll them out again. Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled-out dough and hang it up on your clothes dryer rack from target, or shower curtain rod so that they don’t stick to anything as you keep rolling out more.

You will want about 5 of these pasta sheets per plate.

This is called a duxelle.

Put the mushrooms in a food processor or chop them up fine by hand. Small dice the onion or if you’re really lazy put that in the food processor, but separately from the mushrooms. Pick the leaves off a rosemary twig and chop them up too. Break up about four pieces of dried porcini mushrooms into breadcrumb-sized pieces.

Heat up a nine-inch frying pan and put 4 Tbsp. of oil in it. When that’s hot, put in the mushrooms, onion, rosemary and porcinis and season it all with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring every two minutes or so. At every point you want enough oil so that the bottom of the pan is shiny with it.

When it’s pretty dark brown, after say 10 minutes, sprinkle in 1 Tbsp. of flour. Stir it around to incorporate. This will give the final product body and make it more of a sauce  Cook for another two minutes. Pour in 2 Tbsp. of white wine. Cook until it is mostly evaporated and then remove from the heat.

To put the whole dish together, fill a large pot of water and put it over high heat. This is one more thing you can’t really over-salt; make it into the sea—just not the Dead Sea. Roughly chop five big-stemmed leaves of kale or put aside a small handful of sorrel.

When the water is boiling, heat your mushrooms back up over medium heat and drop your greens, 12 capers, and about 15 beans into the mushrooms. Lightly salt your greens. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring so that nothing sticks. Drop your pasta into the boiling water. Wait 90 seconds. Take your pasta out of the water and drop it into the mushrooms. Stir gently or flip until everything is incorporated. Serve.

Mark Tinkleman is committed to a radically better future for all of humanity where borders are replaced by bridges, religions replaced by thriving cultures, and meat and dairy are replaced by beans, nuts, grains and vegetables. He is a cook by profession, was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has worked at restaurants including Angelika Kitchen, Blossom Café, Counter, and Parc. He lives with his beautiful partner and their cat in Philadelphia. Go Philly!


A Vegan in Central Europe: Thanksgiving in London!  »

Visiting London over my Thanksgiving break was awesome thrice over: my cousin lives in London, so I got to spend a lovely Thanksgiving with family, despite the fact that I’ve been living 5,000+ miles away from home; I got to eat hella vegan food; and I saw items in the produce section of Whole Foods (!!!!) that I honestly forgot existed—Prague grocery stores carry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes; kale? fuhgeddaboudit. Japanese eggplant? nowai. Fresh herbs if you’re lucky. While I have a shitty camera, and didn’t keep it with me the whole time, I still managed to take some photos of the damned good food I ate.

For Thanksgiving, I went to Manna with my cousin for the Thanksgiving special. For £27 per person, we got one of the yummiest dinners ever. It started off with a cranberry cordial aperitif, which my cousin and I fucking devoured the hell out of despite neither of us being cranberry fanatics. I was expecting it to taste like old grandma, but it was really refreshing and I downed it quicker than I should have, I’m sure. The first course was a pumpkin soup with rosemary spelt foccacia. I love pumpkin with rosemary, so I was a little let down when my bread ran out and the soup tasted bland in comparison. Then was the wilted spinach salad with walnuts and pomegranate in an apple-cider vinaigrette. Can I just say they know how to make salad dressing? I could have guzzled that shit by the gallon. I could have drained all of the blood from my body and replaced it with apple cider vinaigrette. I don’t know what they put in that other than apple cider vinegar and oil, but they know what the fuck they’re doing, lemme tell you what. The main course (pictured) was an herbed tempeh roast with wild mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and stuffing. I, in general, fucking hate mushrooms. The mere fact that I ate everything on this plate, including the gravy, was a fucking feat in and of itself. Licked our damn plates clean, we did.

The last—and most impressive—course was the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. You can’t tell how delicious the ice cream is from here, but it should officially be renamed to “buttercream” flavor or something; they did NOT wimp out on the rich vanilla. I was so impressed with the texture I asked them what it was made out of, I was sure it was cashews. The manager/owner assured me that no, it was soy. SOY! Who knew?!?!?! She then gave me a sample of their truffles and petits fours ON THE HOUSE. Because we were chatting about the awesomeness of Booja Booja and she liked me, I guess. I got SO fat that night, and left the chocolate gift till breakfast the next morning.

I also had a chance to go to the posh and happenin’ Mildred’s restaurant in Soho. It was too hip and expensive for me, so naturally I pigged out shamelessly. By myself. In the midst of this bustling restaurant that reminded me a lot of Angelica Kitchen in NYC, without the wholesomeness. To the left, you’ll see my starter. It was grilled artichoke with crostini, some basil-soy dipping sauce, and a small green salad (it cost £5.50, not too bad for a starter). I think this was better than what I got for the main course, to be honest; maybe because in my opinion artichokes are the best vegetables of all time and goddamned it all to hell if the Czech Republic needs to get on that shit and zomg you must order this dish if you go to London. My second course (below) was basically this Middle Eastern creation with a harissa sauce on the side, a cupful of almond-scented couscous, and a chickpea-eggplant stew, served with some crispy-ass pita (£8.50 if I remember correctly). It was a real winner, but I think they put too much coriander in it or something.

Also on the list of amazing places to go in London is the pricey but delectable all-vegetarian Italian/Mediterranean restaurant Amico Bio. All I can say is that they really celebrate the vegetables they use, and don’t dress them up that much. It’s perfect. I started with a zuppa di fave secce e brocolli de rapa (£5.50), then had the seitan scallopini on a bed of the most delicious sauteed spinach I have ever had the pleasure of eating (£8), with a side of sauteed kale (could have left this one after all, for £2.80) and finished off with frittele de mele con salsa al ciocollato (£5). The last dish, the fried apple pastry, had the same aroma as every fried pastry that lures you in with its smell but you know isn’t vegan so you cry a lot, but they’re vegan here. GO. Also, go to Pho. I thought the pho I got from Loving Hut here in Prague was baller; clearly I was mistaken. The place is hella cheap, I think £7 for the tofu-mushroom—again, I managed the dish with the mushrooms, it was THAT GOOD.

Lastly, MAKE IT OUT TO THE GREENWICH MARKETS TO TRY SOME FUCKING VEGAN CUPCAKES. This is a picture of me devouring the hell out of a vegan chocolate chip cupcake I got from Ms. Cupcake (£2 each and I bought four). It was one of three that I ate; my cousin was the lucky recipient of the fourth. I ate the Ferrero Rocher-style cupcake as well as a banana cream one, in addition to the chocolate chip one here. I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I make some fucking amazing cupcakes, and Ms Cupcake here makes them better than me. I know, impossible, right?! BUT SHE IS THAT GOOD. GO HERE PLEASE GET FAT FOR ME. Also, Ms. Cupcake, if you’re reading this, can you move to NYC or LA for me pretty please?!

My last suggestion: if you should find yourself in Camden Town, which you will, go to Inspiral Lounge. I went there and ate some HELLA amazing lavender ice cream AND had a pint of beer with it. They also have free internet for you to use, and even a computer if you’re a weary traveler like yours truly.


Recipe: Meave’s ma’s fresh mushroom soup!  »

It’s cold and rainy in the Bay Area! But I am neither whining nor complaining about it; when you are having a life crisis and more depressed than usual, you should not question a legitimate reason to stay the hell in bed all day, you know?

Luckily, in addition to sleeping your feelings away, you can eat them! That’s why I present to you today my mother’s recipe for fresh mushroom soup. It is hearty and healthy and warming and filling, so you can eat an enormous bowlful (or two or three or however many) and not add to your reasons to weep. What I’m saying is, this soup is John Mackey-approved, i.e., choke it down and it won’t lose you your PLATINUM DISCOUNT.

The directions are copied nearly verbatim from my ma’s recipe cards, which she keeps in a recipe tin she got from mailing in Grape-Nuts proofs-of-purchase a long time ago, when I was a small girl and cereal companies made it worth your while to shell out for postage.

2 medium onions, chopped
2 Tbs. (plus a little extra) non-dairy butter
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
5 Tbs. uncooked barley
3 fist-sized potatoes, diced
3 cups water
3 1/2 cups plain unsweetened non-dairy milk

1. Saute the onions in the non-dairy butter (we like Earth Balance at my house) in a pan.

2. Add the mushrooms, a bit more non-dairy butter, and continue to saute another 10 minutes over a low heat.

3. Place the onions and mushrooms in a large pot. Add the barley, salt and pepper to taste, the potatoes, and the water. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. More water can be added now and then.
N.B.: Up to this point, everything can be done the night before, in which case you perform step 4 just before you plan to eat the soup. If you’re cooking to eat it now, the 45 minutes have fragrantly passed.

4. Add the non-dairy milk (we used soy) and very slowly heat soup, stirring constantly, just to the brink of boiling. A bit more or less milk can be added, depending on how you like the consistency of soup. Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.

I like mine sprinkled with nutritional yeast as well, but I am in the minority around here. My ma reports that this recipe can be easily doubled, but you might not need to because it really makes a lot of soup.

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