Friday, August 22, 2014

The HappyCow Cookbook Review & Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Napoleon Recipe from Millennium Restaurant

There's an abundance of vegan recipes available online these days, but I still love flipping through cookbooks, bookmarking my favorite recipes, and admiring all the mouthwatering food photos.  So, I was excited to learn that the HappyCow team was putting together a cookbook featuring recipes from various vegan restaurants from around the world.  During my travels in the U.S. and abroad, the HappyCow guide has been a lifesaver, leading me to some of my most memorable vegan meals.  I purchased The HappyCow Cookbook as soon as it was released and now I can enjoy recipes from well-known vegan restaurants such as Candle Café in New York City, Counter Culture in Austin, and Portobello in Portland-- all from the comfort of my own kitchen!  

For me, and I'm sure for most people, photos in cookbooks are a must. Thankfully, The HappyCow Cookbook includes a full color photo of nearly every recipe, as well as snapshots of each restaurant.  Another cool feature in the cookbook is a question and answer section with each restaurant's chef/owner that provides interesting information on the restaurant's history, philosophy, and most popular dishes.  

The cookbook features over 80 recipes including comfort foods, ethnic foods, desserts, gluten-free dishes, and raw foods.  From casual to gourmet recipes, there's something in this cookbook for home cooks of all levels.  A good number of the recipes are from U.S. based restaurants, but recipes from restaurants as far as Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Israel, Canada, and Japan are also included.  How's that for a vegan food tour around the world? 

(Photo Credit:  The HappyCow Cookbook)

As if finally getting my hands on the cookbook wasn't enough, I was even more excited to be asked to participate in The HappyCow Cookbook's Summer Road Trip blog tour. Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, one of my favorite vegan restaurants of all time, is featured in the cookbook.  As a San Franciscan, I'm lucky to live near such an amazing restaurant.  I've dined there several times for special occasions and have always been impressed by their innovative dishes, unique flavors, and beautiful food styling. Millennium also has special events like their recent Annual Heirloom Tomato Dinner.  Earlier this year, I attended their Annual Southern Comfort Dinner, which included an inventive 5-course prix fixe menu. I enjoyed this delicious tequila and oregano marinated king trumpet mushroom "fish" taco with chipotle crema as my entrée.

(From Millennium's Annual Southern Comfort Dinner on May 22, 2014)

As part of The HappyCow Cookbook's Summer Road Trip blog tour, I'm happy to represent San Francisco and share Millennium's stunning Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Napoleon recipe from the cookbook!

(Photo Credit:  The HappyCow Cookbook)

Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Napoleon
(Millennium Restaurant; recipe posted with permission from BenBella Books)

Serves 6

For the eggplant:
2 cups coarsely ground shelled pistachios
3 cups white rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Soy milk, as needed
2 to 3 Rosa Bianca or Tuscan Rose eggplants, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds (12 rounds total)
Vegetable oil, as needed

For the lemon tofu “cheese”:
1 1/2 pounds medium-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 sage leaves, thinly sliced
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the tomato, leek, and artichoke tagine:
2 pounds whole San Marzano or plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili Urfa or Aleppo chili pepper flakes (or substitute crushed red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups sliced leeks, cleaned and sliced 1/3" thick
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock, or as needed
4 cups quartered fresh blanched or frozen artichoke hearts
2 cups cooked Corona beans (or substitute any large cooked bean)
1 teaspoon arrowroot, dissolved in cold water
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the cilantro-cardamom coulis:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano chili, seeds removed
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Israeli couscous salad:
2 cups cooked Israeli couscous
2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
4 tablespoons minced parsley or cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To assemble:
2 cups frisée leaves
Herb of your choice (optional)

For the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the ground pistachio, flours, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and combine well. Place the soy milk in another mixing bowl. Place a piece of eggplant in the dry pistachio/flour dredge, coat well, then place in the soy milk, then dredge again in the flour mix. Place the finished eggplant slice on a well-oiled sheet pan. Follow with the remaining eggplant slices.

Place the pan in the oven and bake. Flip the eggplant over after 6 or 7 minutes. After a total of 12 to 14 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside.

For the lemon tofu “cheese”: Place the crumbled tofu in a mixing bowl. In a pan, sauté the garlic in the oil over medium-low heat until just starting to brown. Remove from the heat and add the sage, lemon zest, and chili flakes. Stir together ingredients in the pan, then pour over the tofu. Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and more yeast to taste. Stir or knead to incorporate the ingredients. Set aside.

For the tomato, leek, and artichoke tagine: Place the tomatoes on a baking pan and broil until the skin on top is blackened. Cool to room temperature. Peel the skin off the tomatoes. (It should slip right off.) Try to keep the tomato in one piece.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the ginger, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, chili, dried mint, thyme, and cinnamon stick until they sizzle—for 20 seconds or so. Then add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Sauté 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and sauté another 30 seconds, followed by the stock. Simmer covered for 10 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Add the artichoke hearts and simmer 5 minutes. Follow with the peeled tomatoes and add the 2 cups cooked beans, and simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in the arrowroot slurry until just thickened. Add the salt and pepper.

For the cilantro-cardamom coulis: In a sauté pan, heat oil and pan-char the onion, garlic, and chili over high heat. Sauté until they are 25 percent blackened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cardamom seeds, then place in a bowl to cool to room temperature. When cool, place in a blender with the remaining ingredients, then blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper.

For the Israeli couscous salad: Combine the couscous with the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On an oiled sheet pan, set down an eggplant slice, top with 1/4 cup of tofu “cheese,” then top with another eggplant slice. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices to make 6 Napoleons. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until heated through. To serve, place a portion of the tagine in shallow pasta bowl. Follow with a portion of the couscous salad in the center of the plate. Top with a Napoleon. Combine the frisée leaves with the herbs and top the Napoleon with the frisée herb salad, if using. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cilantro-cardamom coulis around the plate. Serve.


The HappyCow Cookbook combines two of my passions:  vegan cooking and travel. The unique recipes in the cookbook not only motivate me to get in the kitchen and cook, but they also make me want to hit the road so that I that can experience all of these wonderful restaurants in person.  But until then, having these recipes at my fingertips makes me one happy person.  :)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vegan Eats in Vancouver, BC

I recently visited Vancouver, BC with one goal in mind:  Try as many vegan eateries and dishes as possible.  I've always heard wonderful things about Vancouver, so I finally took the short flight north from San Francisco.  I did some research on vegan food options beforehand with the help of various blogs, Yelp, and the #veganvancouver and #veganYVR hash tags on Instagram. So, as soon as I landed, I was ready to explore.  And by explore, I mean eat.  Here are a few highlights from my trip!

Granville Island Public Market. Other than dishes from a few of the ethnic food stands, produce, spices, and other cooking ingredients sold there, I wasn't expecting to find many vegan food items.  But I still wanted to check it out because I absolutely love food halls.  Who doesn't?

Laurelle's Fine Foods (in Granville Island Public Market).  After meandering through the maze of stalls, I was about to leave when I luckily walked by Laurelle's Fine Food stand.  They had several sweet and savory vegan offerings, which were clearly marked. After doing a little happy dance, I tried a puff pastry tofu roll and peanut butter square. Both were awesome.

I'm thinking the peanut butter square was actually a peanut butter version of the Nanaimo bar, but I could be wrong.  Whatever it's called, it was really, really good.

Barbara-Jo's Books To Cooks.  This quaint bookstore is just a short walk from Granville Island Public Market.  Like Omnivore Books in San Francisco, Barbara-Jo's is a bookstore devoted to cookbooks.  How awesome is that?  They had a pretty good vegan cookbook selection and many non-vegan cookbooks that I'd never seen.  It's definitely worth a trip if you're a cookbook addict like me.

Edible Flours (Kitsilano). This bakery gets extra credit for having such a creative name.  They offered a wonderful selection of donuts, cinnamon buns, and other decadent baked goods.  Since I never see vegan croissants in bakeries, I knew I had to get one.  This is their cheese croissant (made with Daiya vegan cheese).  Moist, buttery, and flaky.  Nuff said.

The ever-elusive vegan croissant

Heirloom Vegetarian (Fairview Slopes, South Granville). I loved everything about this restaurant...great vegan options, lovely decor, and extremely friendly staff.  I stopped by in the afternoon, so it wasn't busy (as you can see from the photo).  The waitress mentioned that the lunch crowds had just left.  Perfect timing.

Avocado sandwich with crispy beet 'bacon' 

Raw vegan and gluten-free chocolate cake (more like a brownie) with chocolate ganache

Pho Goodness (Davie Village, West End). This is a small, casual eatery with good prices. It's not a fully vegan restaurant, but I heard about it after searching for "vegan" on Yelp.  Vegan items were clearly marked on the menu.  Even though it was warm out, I had their vegan pho.  I thought the broth was pretty flavorful on its own, but I ended up adding chili sauce to it, which made it even better.

Tofu, veggies, and rice noodles, which are down there somewhere.

Whole Foods Market (on Robson, West End). Even though I live just a few blocks from a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco, I was on the lookout for unique Canadian grocery items to bring back home. The items at this Whole Foods were pretty similar to what I could get in San Francisco, with the exception of a few brands that I've never seen. So, I left empty-handed.  But they do have a great prepared foods section and a nice outdoor seating area with free Wi-Fi. :)

Cartem's Donuterie (Downtown). This was the first place I noted on my Vancouver 'to do' list. I was told that their vegan Earl Grey donut was fabulous and it definitely did not disappoint. In addition to being one of the prettiest donuts I've ever seen (check out those rose petals), the Earl Grey tea flavor was perfect.

Maple walnut and Earl Grey vegan donuts!

I initially thought Cartem's only offered one vegan donut option, but to my surprise, they had several. (another happy dance moment)  I noticed that the Earl Grey donut wasn't on the list below, but the person at the counter confirmed that they offer an vegan Earl Grey donut.  I also had to try the maple walnut donut since I was in Canada after all.  But I couldn't bring myself to try all the vegan varieties for fear of a donut overdose.  But looking back, I regret not trying them all. You snooze, you lose.

The Templeton (Downtown, Granville Entertainment District). This is another restaurant that I didn't know about until I entered "vegan" on Yelp while I was in Vancouver.  It was pretty close to my hotel and was given many accolades online, so I thought I'd check it out.  It's a tiny place, which meant that the line was out the door.  It's not a fully vegan restaurant, but they offer many vegan options for brunch, such as a vegan poutine with mushroom gravy and tofu scrambles.  I opted for the vegan lentil loaf, which was great.  And check out Elvis serenading me!  Too cool.


North Vancouver:

There are also a few vegan eateries in North Vancouver (listed here).  To get there, you can take a short SeaBus ride to Lonsdale Quay.  As soon as you get off the ferry, you'll immediately see the Lonsdale Quay Market, which is another food hall.  There's also a nice farmers market that takes place there on Saturdays.

Cafe by Tao (Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver). This cafe is conveniently located right next to Lonsdale Quay.  In addition to a menu including raw entrees, desserts, and juices, the cafe also sells common raw foods such as cacao nibs, nut milks, and kale chips.  They also sell raw vegan cookbooks and kitchen items.  I loved the vibe of this place.  I felt healthier just walking through the door!  I had their collard rolls with nut pâté, a slice of lemon blueberry cheesecake, and a cold-pressed grapefruit, apple, pear, celery, and ginger juice.  Perfection.

Buddha-Full (Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver).  This eatery is just a few blocks away from Cafe by Tao.  I didn't stay to eat, but I did pick up a matcha green tea rice krispy square to go.  It was delicious and definitely something I'll try to replicate in my own kitchen. I also saw them sold at Buzz Cafe in downtown Vancouver, so I'm not sure if Buddha-Full makes them and spreads their matcha goodness around town, or if another bakery makes them. Either way, I totally loved the concept, not to mention the flavor.

Honorable Mention:

  • Choices Market (Yaletown).  This is a pretty cool natural foods market. If you're in the neighborhood, take a gander.
  • Sejuiced (Kitsilano). I was too full from snacking at Granville Island Public Market to get anything here, but they had a lot of vegan dessert options. Next time!
  • Indigo Cafe (Kitsilano). I was looking forward to eating here, but there weren't any available tables when I dropped in (it's tiny). Boo. Indigo Cafe is connected to Greens Organic and Natural Market, so it's a two for one special. :)

This was just a short weekend trip, so unfortunately there were some stones left unturned.  Alas, these eateries are also still on my Vancouver 'to do' list:

Luckily Vancouver is only a short flight away from San Francisco, so I'll definitely be back. Stay tuned for my Vancouver Vegan Food Tour Part II!