August 29, 2008
Once again, I find myself having to apologize for my unexplained absence. The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind—I went to California (Millennium Restaurant absolutely lives up to its reputation) and Milwaukee (I must retract my snarky comments about Cream City’s vegan offerings; I ate quite well), then packed for school and am in the process of moving into my apartment. But I have been cooking and documenting—now I just need to update.
My second try with the ice cream maker yielded results similar to the first time: good but not perfect. I think the texture on this one was a little better because I just used soy creamer, which has a higher fat content than soymilk. Getting a better soy creamer might improve the ice cream, too (I’ve been using decent-and-widely-available Silk creamer). Again, I’ll provide the recipe because I liked it well enough to serve to others, but I don’t consider this my final pronouncement on coffee ice cream.
But first, a word or two on starches. I used arrowroot powder the first couple times I made ice cream because that’s the standard on A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise. After two quarts of ice cream, however, my $6 container of arrowroot was almost gone. My wallet could not support my ice cream habit. I’ve heard cornstarch doesn’t freeze well so I decided to look for tapioca starch. I found it at my local Thai grocery for 89¢ a pound. The arrowroot was $6 for a 50 gram container (a spice bottle). At about 450 grams per pound, that means arrowroot costs more than sixty times as much as tapioca starch. Sixty! Arrowroot may come a bit cheaper in bulk, but any way you add it up, it ain’t worth it. So, budding vegan ice cream makers, find an Asian grocery, inconvenient though it may be for some of you, and stock up on dirt cheap tapioca starch.
Coffee Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 ½ cups soy creamer
1 ½ cups very strong coffee
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Stir the tapioca starch into ¼ cup of the soy creamer until dissolved. Set aside.
2. Heat the remaining creamer and coffee in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.
3. When the liquid boils, turn the heat down until the liquid is at a simmer.
4. After 3 minutes, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then whisk in tapioca mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker to solidify it. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.
August 4, 2008
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
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
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.”
July 20, 2008
Tea, tea, tea. I cannot get enough tea. Everything about it delights me: the wares, the process, the associated foods…not that I’m even very knowledgeable about tea, as became clear to me when I looked at a few tea blogs. But anyway, I decided that for my first foray into ice cream-making I should attempt not vanilla or chocolate but green tea. I had the matcha powder, I now had the ice cream maker, so I had no excuse not to make it.
For ideas about how to proceed I started with Veganomicon. Its one ice cream recipe is based on coconut milk, however, and I wanted to avoid a strong coconut taste in this case. So I turned to the internet, recalling that I’d come across a vegan ice cream blog once before. It’s not too good to be true! I used a template from the extremely useful A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise, with my own add-ins. So while the recipe is mine, the credit is not.
Onto the verdict. The ice cream was really good—the ingredients were well-balanced, the tea came through nicely, it wasn’t too sweet, and (paramount for me) it was satisfyingly creamy. It fulfilled my ice cream needs and I would definitely make it again.
It’s not perfect. The texture is not quite right. It’s not sorbet, which I’ve never cared for much; it is creamy. Yet it’s not quite ice cream either—not full-fledged, silky-smooth ice cream, anyway. It’s sort of 85% ice cream, 15% sorbet. This may be an issue of veganness, but I doubt it: I have had both store-bought and homemade (well, restaurant-made) vegan ice cream that did not suffer from this flaw. My mom also said she remembers having this problem with dairy ice cream, and that the solution was to make a custard first. So I don’t know if cooking it longer would help, or increasing the creamer-to-milk ratio, or what. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Still, I’m posting the recipe because I’m mostly happy with it and I still recommend it to other vegans craving ice cream. I used an ice cream maker, but apparently there are other methods.
Green Tea Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 cups soymilk
2 cups soy creamer
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons matcha (green tea powder), sifted to remove lumps
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1. Stir the arrowroot into ¼ cup of the soymilk until dissolved. Set aside.
2. Heat the remaining soymilk and creamer in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.
3. When the liquid is gently bubbling, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then matcha until dissolved (it will not actually dissolve, but will be in suspension).
4. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in arrowroot mixture until dissolved. Then stir in the extracts.
5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker if you desire a thicker texture. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.