August 4, 2008

My Favorite Sandwich

Posted in brunch, recipe, sandwiches, Uncategorized at 6:44 pm by veganalects

Look, I have been cooking. Really. It’s just that everything I’ve been cooking is a bit monastic (cabbage soup, plain cooked chard), less than fabulous (a middling coffee ice cream), or totally unphotogenic (a peach salsa that was actually quite good—don’t worry, I’ll make it again).

But I have also been making a lot of sandwiches. Actually, it’s just one that I make a lot. It’s my favorite sandwich ever, and it seems almost too simple to write about: the hummus sandwich. I say almost because I have specific directions for my version of this vegan classic. I like simple hummus spread on bread with veggies, but the magic is in the details for this one: spices and olive oil.

Have you ever had that Forty Spice Hummus? This is much better, and it’s only Two-Three Spice Hummus. All you need is cumin, paprika, and possibly cayenne pepper, depending on your taste. The cumin should outweigh the paprika, say 2:1; the pepper should just be a pinch. And the oil. Most hummus includes olive oil, but drizzling the bread with your own extra-virgin olive oil will go a long way in improving flavor. These two elements really transform this sandwich for me. I think it works best on a toasted bagel, but the bread is up to you. Toasting makes this sandwich easier to eat, though—the bread is less chewy and more crunchy.

By the way, I live on this at college. For any college vegans stuck in vegan-unfriendly dining halls, if you have access to hummus and a halfway decent salad bar, the hummus sandwich can be your best friend. If there’s no spice rack, you can bring the spices with you!

This hardly warrants a recipe, but for those who don’t want to sort through the post…

The Best Hummus Sandwich
Makes one sandwich

1 bagel, sliced in half and toasted
olive oil
½-¾ cup hummus
pinch cayenne pepper, optional
vegetables of choice, such as tomato, baby spinach, cucumber, sprouts, red onion…

Drizzle the bagel with olive oil. Add spices to the hummus, to taste, about twice as much cumin as paprika. Mix them in with a knife, then spread generously on the bagel. Add veggies, with spinach and sprouts on the bottom and more stable items like tomato and cucumber on top.

July 29, 2008

Sticky Fingers Bakery

Posted in brunch, cupcakes, dessert, eating out, Uncategorized at 7:40 am by veganalects

There are Philadelphia vegans, New York vegans, Portland vegans (of course), Texas vegans, and even Canada vegans. But where in the blogosphere are the DC vegans? I don’t want to say there aren’t any, but I haven’t seen the US capital make more than a cameo appearance on any of the vegan blogs I read. Further, vegan publications consistently overlook DC. Herbivore travel issue, anyone? Milwaukee made the destination list, but we got skipped! (And it’s not like Herbivore was trying to win points for obscure locations—Portland, San Francisco, and NYC all made the list. Who needs a vegan guide to Portland, for god’s sake?)

Anyway, to bring this rant to a point, I live in DC (well, the suburbs thereof) and I think it’s a great place to be vegan. There are plenty of restaurants and markets in the area with wide vegan selections, but what I find really exciting is to look at a menu and realize I can order anything on it. It doesn’t happen often. And what I find really really exciting is when that menu primarily comprises sweets. Enter Sticky Fingers.

Sticky Fingers Bakery has been a DC vegan staple for a few years now, but the old location near Dupont Circle was…well, kind of dingy. It occupied a small, rather dark basement store. One went for the apple tart, not for the atmosphere. But it recently moved to as-hip-as-Dupont-once-was Columbia Heights, and the new place is beautiful. It’s a real café, it’s light and cheery, and I think it may have an expanded menu, too. I don’t normally go for pink, but it works.

I went to Sticky Fingers twice over the course of a week, purely to fulfill my duty to you and DC’s reputation among spoiled Portlanders, and here is what I ate.

Actually, I didn’t eat this chocolate peanut butter cupcake. My friend did. She was craving peanut butter and to the best of my knowledge enjoyed it.

This I did eat. It’s an almond crème cupcake and it was very satisfying. It made me want to go home and bake some immediately, but instead I just went back to Sticky Fingers two days later. Whoo!

After I ate the cupcake it occurred to me to eat breakfast. My friend pointed out the breakfast sandwich. This ain’t your mama’s Egg McMuffin. It’s your vegan aunt’s Egg McMuffin: vegan egg, vegan sausage, vegan vaguely cheesy sauce. That explanation makes it sound kind of shady, but it was actually quite good. (Never having consumed an Egg McMuffin, however, I cannot compare the two.)

Finally, I had to have Sticky Fingers’s signature item, the sticky bun. It’s their trademark for a reason; I can make good cupcakes myself, but this was truly a treat. I recommend putting it in the microwave for ten seconds—it almost feels oven-fresh.

There was a surprise treat in here, too. Can you find it? (Ooh, it’s just like I SPY.) If you said the latte, you win nothing. The latte was one of the best I’ve ever had. Vegan lattes are harder to get right than dairy lattes because both the beans and the soymilk must be good; I’ve found that even good cafés often have inferior soymilk. Yet another advantage of the all-vegan institution—it does not just humor vegans but caters to us. Here’s hoping that this post single-handedly attracts a mass migration of vegans to the DC area, creating a vegan community to rival Frisco’s. Our motto: “Better than Portland.”

January 29, 2008

Oops, I made brunch.

Posted in brunch, tofu, VwaV at 3:18 am by veganalects

I said I was switching to dinners again—and I have—but one of my best friends just came back from El Salvador last night, so of course we had to see each other immediately. And of course brunch had to be involved. As the vegan brunch pickings are pretty slim in my ten mile radius, it looked like cooking was in the cards.

I wanted to test out the Sour Cream Pancakes recipe again to verify the proportions, but it I was also craving something salty. I love a good tofu scramble and I was feeling rather lazy. My friend and I (well, more she than I) made the Scrambled Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance and ate it in style—with a tablecloth and everything. We both liked it a lot. (And isn’t that some foxy grated carrot?) It’s nice to have a good tofu scramble in my repertoire.

And for the record—the pancakes were just as good this time around.

January 26, 2008

Sour Cream Silver Dollar Pancakes

Posted in brunch, recipe, the Challenge at 7:50 pm by veganalects

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pancakes. Some prefer sweet batter; some prefer neutral or slightly savory batter. I am a card-carrying member of the Savory Pancake Society, and I can debate passionately about sugarless pancakes’ superiority over their sweetened counterparts. In my book, sweet batter + maple syrup = too sugary. I like the sweet-salty contrast and I like to let the syrup speak for itself. But it’s really just a matter of taste, and no debating can change that. If you share my taste in pancakes, read on. (Or just skip to the recipe and make it immediately.)

What with all the pancakes sprouting up on vegan blogs these days, I could no longer resist making some of my own. I skipped my standard pancake recipe in favor of one I’ve been curious about for a couple years now: the Sour Cream Pancakes in the 1961 New York Times Cook Book. I don’t know why I didn’t make these sooner, but sometimes things need to lie dormant in my mind for a few years before I get around to doing them.

I used Tofutti sour cream for this (I almost got adventurous and used my leftover cilantro sour cream before I realized it has roasted garlic in it—not what I want in my pancakes). Homemade sour cream would probably work too, but I can’t vouch for it. I’ll have to try it out and let you know how it goes. Obviously I veganized this recipe, but I also altered it by adding a significant amount of soy creamer to improve the consistency. I’ll include my version here.

But I’m getting off track. Here’s the verdict: these were great! To return to my sweet vs. savory rant, I loved the slightly salty, slightly sour notes that come from the sour cream. For obvious reasons, these pancakes are also creamier and smoother than most. Their only downside is that the batter is a funny consistency and takes a little bit of coaxing into shape. But that’s really not hard. I made silver dollar pancakes because they’re easier in my pan, but I’m sure bigger ones would work well too.

Sour Cream Pancakes
adapted from the NY Times Cook Book
makes 14 silver dollar pancakes

1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cups vegan sour cream (homemade or Tofutti, as long as it doesn’t have things that would be gross in pancakes)
1 Ener-G egg replacement
½ cup + 2 Tbs soy creamer (soymilk also works)

1. In a large mixing bowl, sift or mix together flour, salt, and baking soda.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine sour cream, Ener-G egg, and soy creamer. Pour into the flour mixture and stir gently until just mixed. Do not beat.

3. Heat a griddle or skillet (do yourself a favor and use non-stick if you have it), grease lightly if necessary, and drop the batter by ¼ cupfuls onto it, spreading carefully into ¼ inch-thick circles. When bubbles break on top of the pancakes, check the underside with a spatula. If it’s golden brown, flip and cook on the other side until that’s golden brown as well.

January 24, 2008

Almond Scones

Posted in baking, brunch, the Challenge, VwaV at 7:05 pm by veganalects

I’d been planning to make the Hazelnut Scones from Vegan with a Vengeance for a while. I finally got it together and settled down to make them when I discovered, mid-recipe, that I didn’t have enough hazelnuts. Horror of horrors! I had my heart set on these particular scones and I’d already started brewing the coffee for them, so I raced to the closest grocery store for more. No dice. Are hazelnuts some kind of specialty item? Why could I find eleven glazes of roasted peanut but not one measly hazelnut?

In any case, I was determined to make scones, and I noticed we had slivered almonds on hand. I decided to adapt the standard scone recipe in VwaV slightly. I made a half recipe and added one tablespoon of sugar, 3/4 cup of almonds, and 1/2 teaspoon each of vanilla and almond extract.  I also sprinkled them with a few almonds and turbinado sugar before putting them in the oven.

They were quite tasty. I could have added a little more almond extract, but other than that I wouldn’t change anything. I had reduced the recipe because I thought sixteen scones for three people seemed a little excessive. But the nine scones I made disappeared in a day and a half. So I’ve learned three valuable lessons:

1. Make sure you have enough of everything before you start cooking.
2. If you run out of something, improvise something else yummy.
3. You can never have too many scones. In fact, you should make some more this weekend. With hazelnuts this time.

January 15, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Posted in brunch, Veganomicon at 2:03 am by veganalects

Five dinners, including one dessert; one batch of baking; a mango lassi. All I had left to complete the week’s Challenge was a breakfast or brunch. I decided to make the Lemon-Corn Waffles (sans blueberry syrup) from Vegan With a Vengeance and Diner Home Fries from Veganomicon. (Is it any wonder I had a dream about Isa Chandra Moskowitz?)

Hoping to keep the morning as stress-free as possible, I decided to follow Isa Chandra’s advice and make the waffles the night before, to be reheated the following morning. I dug our twenty-year-old waffle iron out of the basement—literally prying it off the shelf on which it has sat for the last decade—and hoped I could figure out how to use it without the manufacturer’s instructions. No suck luck; when I opened the waffle iron there was no waffle, just a burned skin sticking to both faces. So I made pancakes.

Despite the stack of pancakes all ready in the fridge, the next morning was pretty frantic. I accidentally overboiled the potatoes, so my dad and I did careful surgery on them by frying them on high heat and carefully turning over each potato. Miraculously, it worked. The Diner Home Fries live up to their name, the pancakes are tasty even without the blueberry syrup, and we had a great brunch with good friends and good food. I still want waffles, though, so maybe I’ll see what I can do about reseasoning that waffle iron.

January 8, 2008

A Very Vegan Breakfast

Posted in brunch, eating out at 1:55 am by veganalects

I have a bit of a backlog on posting as I’ve been away for the holidays, so here’s a quick breakfast post I meant to do a while ago. There’s a great brunch place called the Black River Cafe about an hour from Cleveland that offers an array of vegan options: pancakes, sandwiches, and a bunch of sides.

Pictured here is my delicious breakfast of a raspberry pancake and tempeh bacon (a Vegan With a Vengeance recipe, I suspect). Not pictured: the best home fries ever. Black River also has chocolate chip pancakes not to be sneezed at. Their only flaw (from a vegan’s perspective, anyway) is soymilk that tastes kind of funny in coffee. Bring your own and enjoy a perfect late morning.