Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vegan Dad on the Road: Govinda's and Sweet Freedom

Only two days left in Philadelphia and then it's back home. I will miss the option of going out to eat but I can't wait to get back to the family (and my kitchen). Yesterday's stop was Govinda's. I had been there before and I don't think much has changed. Keep in mind that I am talking about the "Govinda's to Go" side of the restaurant--a small and slightly shabby take-out diner with slow service that largely serves vegan takes on American diner classics. It's a bit greasy and a little sloppy but I still think it's fun. I have yet to go to the fine dining side which is only open Thursday to Friday. I decided to get two things this time, and not the chicken cheesesteak since I had that last time. First up: the Kofta Sub.
I liked it. The meatballs were a little mushy but I liked the spiciness with the tomato sauce and cheese. Next: fish sandwich.
I have never had faux fish before and it was actually pretty good. By itself it had a rather fishy taste and texture (if you are into that kind of thing). I would have preferred tartar sauce to a glob of vegenaise and pickles, and I thought the "fish" got lost in all the toppings and bun. Govinda's is another place that suffers from very average bread. If only these veggie places could hook up with a quality bakery it would make things oh so much better.

Since it is only a few doors from Govinda's, I popped into Sweet Freedom.
Many of you had recommended it and a few had not. As you well know I don't do gluten-free baking. I have nothing against it, it's just that I don't have a gluten intolerance and I really love bread. So, I'm not exactly sure how to review the stuff that I ate. It's not fair to compare it to its glutenated (is that a word?) counterparts, but it sounds patronizing to say it's good for gluten-free. But, I think that is what I am going to have to say. But first, let me tell you that a place like Sweet Freedom is my dream--a small, specialty bakery where I could serve up all sorts of awesomeness. Maybe in another life . . . . I really have to admire that variety of things Sweet Freedom offers: all of it soy, egg, corn, dairy, gluten, peanut, and refined sugar free. I got there at the end of the day and a lot of the stuff had been sold so I chose the Strawberry Double Chocolate Cookie Sandwich, and a Coconut Bliss Cupcake.
I wasn't crazy about the cookie sandwich--the filling had a toothpaste consistency, was too thick, and didn't taste very much like strawberry. The cookie was pretty crumbly . . . but then again it had no gluten to hold it together. The cupcake was better, I think, and was moist but really heavy and dense (and not worth $3.75). Again, no gluten. I would not go back, but I think if I had a gluten intolerance or allergies then this place would be a piece of heaven.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vegan Dad on the Road: Reading Terminal Market

I love to wander around Reading Terminal Market when I come to Philadelphia. The downside is there is a lot of meat there. I mean a lot. I guess that is because the locavore scene is largely about meat these days. But there are some good local produce stands as well, a vegetarian place to eat, a little spice store, a book store, some bakeries, etc. It's a funky place where you can get some local produce (I got some white cherries and peaches) and you can people watch to your heart's content.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vegan Dad on the Road: Brunch at Mi Lah

After many a recommendation I went for brunch at Mi Lah on Sunday. I wanted a mix of savoury and sweet so I ended up ordering a lot of food. First up: Tofu Benedict with kale and roasted potatoes. The kale was a welcome addition to my on-the-road diet but the potatoes were a little overdone. The Tofu Benedict had great taste but, as you can see from the pic, lacked a little something in the presentation. I could have used more Hollandaise sauce (which tasted great) since the pieces of tofu were substantial and the plain whole wheat English muffin needed something to mop off the plate.
Next: french toast. I had to ask for maple syrup, which I thought would have been a standard part of the dish. This tasted great but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is deep fried instead of pan fried. I also wasn't crazy about being served the end of the loaf of bread. Still, I really enjoyed the brunch as did the continuous stream of people coming in the door.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vegan Dad on the Road: Blackbird Pizzeria

Today I walked around Philadelphia hitting all of the historical sites I could. Yes, I visited the first AND the second Bank of the United States because that's how I roll. For lunch I stopped by Blackbird Pizzeria, a completely vegan pizza place that sits just south of the historical district on South 6th Street and Lombard. This was actually the second time I ate here (well, third because I came a few years ago when it was Gianna's Grille), but this time I had my camera. I just love the concept as well as the simple yet sufficient menu.
The first time I got a simple pepperoni and cheese slice and a mushroom slice. This time, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and tofu topped with Daiya, and a red onion and sausage slice.
All in all, not bad. I love the big slices and super thin New York style crust. The mushroom slice was a touch greasy, and I prefer the pieces with less Daiya rather than more. My only complaint is that the crust is dry. I like a pliable crust that can be folded to accommodate its thinness. Still, I love the convenience of being able to drop in and choose a variety of pizza slices and will be sure to visit one more time before I leave the city.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Creamy Zucchini Farfalle

You are probably going to be inundated with fresh zucchini soon, either from your own garden or the farmer's market. This is a very easy and very tasty way to use some of it up.

- 1.5 lbs zucchini, diced
- 8 oz firm tofu
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup light coconut milk, or other non-dairy milk/creamer
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb farfalle

1. Get a large pot of salted water boiling (you will cook both the zucchini and the pasta in this water).
2. Meanwhile, crumble the tofu into a food processor with 1/2 cup of the coconut (or other) milk/creamer. Blend for a good 5 mins until very smooth, adding more liquid if needed.
3. When water is boiling, add zucchini and cook until tender (3-5 mins, depending on how big you diced your zucchini). Remove into a colander with a slotted spoon and drain/cool.
4. Add farfalle to the pot and cook until al dente.
5. Add zucchini and nutritional yeast to the food processor and pulse until blended (you want some texture). Add nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add additional liquid if needed.
6. Toss pasta with sauce and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vegan Dad on the Road: Mi Lah Vegetarian

Oh, the glamourous life of an historian. On the road, delving into archives, researching, analyzing documents. I am back in Philadelphia, one of my favourite cities in which to research. I'm sorry to see that Independence Hall is shrouded in scaffolding but it's still great to wander the streets of the city that hosted the Continental Congress and the Grand Convention. The other amazing thing is the food: purely vegan restaurants in which you can order anything off the menu! I'm really getting spoiled.

Tonight's dinner was from Mi Lah Vegetarian. I went there for lunch the other day and will be sure to hit the brunch on the weekend. It's a bit on the pricy side but nothing too outrageous. With my order placed the waiter brought some bread and some kind of dipping oil. I'm not exactly sure what was in the oil (red peppers?), but it was good nonetheless. The bread wasn't anything to write home about but I am pretty picky about my bread.
Next: salad. Mango, Avocado and Mixed Green Salad with Lime Dressing. Sorry for the pic but the low lighting of restaurants really does not lend itself to food photography. It was really nice to get fresh veggies after a few days on the road. The mango was perfectly ripe and the dressing was delicious.
Entree: Grilled Oyster Mushrooms with Brandy-Tequila Tomato Sauce with Vegan Sausage, Corn Masa Cakes, and Shaved Apple Salad. All in all, this was a great dish. The sausage had the right texture and was perfectly spicy, complemented by the sweet crunch of the apple. The masa cake was a touch ponderous but had a nice crust on it. I was disappointed, though, with the oyster mushrooms. The were the king variety, and just the stems. They did not have any seasoning on them and were a pretty good chew. Since I know how tasty grilled mushroom can be it was a let down. That being said, I would order it again.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spiderman Returns: Happy 5th Birthday Vegan Son #3

Ah, another birthday, another cake. Vegan Son #3 requested the Spiderman cake I made for Vegan Son #2 last year. I like this cake because it has a simple colour scheme and the pan comfortably fits a double cupcake recipe. The webs are a little tedious, but all in all it is a relatively easy cake to make.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate

A while back we were invited to a birthday party. In preparation, the host sent me the recipe for the cake she was making for the party so I could bring a vegan version. The cake was fairly standard (an old family recipe), but the icing was a bit different because it had two eggs yolks. What caught my eye, though, was the addition of grated bittersweet chocolate to the batter. This is a fantastic way to make a cake that is somewhere in between chocolate and vanilla, but with a more sophisticated look and flavour than a marble cake. Rather than make it in a bundt pan (as the original recipe called for), I opted for cupcakes. I used Isa and Terry's vanilla cupcake recipe and folded 4 oz of grated bittersweet chocolate into the batter. The icing is a standard buttercream with a tinge of yellow colouring to match the colour of the egg yolks in the original, and the drizzle on top is a slightly thinned ganache. In the end, it looked almost identical to the original and was incredibly tasty.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sweet Onion Relish

Sweet Onion Relish from Vegan Dad on Vimeo.

- 9 lbs Vidalia onions
- 1/2 cup salt
- 4 cups apple cider vinegar
- 4.5 cups sugar
- 1-2 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper, or pimento
- 1 tbsp pickling spice
(more or less this recipe)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Glazed Strawberry Pie with Shortbread Crust

My aunt made a pie like this on my recent trip to the southland (when you live in North Bay, Ohio is the southland) and I thought it would be even better with a shortbread crust. Sort of a tart meets pie meets shortcake kind of thing. Of course, you could just use a pre-baked or pre-made pie shell and be done a whole lot faster. The great thing about this recipe is that you don't cook the berries, giving that juicy fresh berry taste bursting in every bite. So, a big thanks to my aunt for the filling recipe. And be sure to savour every bite because a pie like this only comes around once a year.

Shortbread crust
- 6¾ - 7 oz oz all purpose flour (conversion chart)
- 3 oz icing sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5½ oz cold Earth Balance margarine

1. Sift flour, icing sugar, and salt into a bowl, then cut in margarine and work into a crumbly dough. Add more flour if too wet, or a few drops of oil if too dry.
2. Press mixture into a 9" pie pan. Cover the pie plate in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 mins.
3. Preheat oven to 375. When crust has cooled, prick the bottom and sides many times with a fork. Bake for 15- 20 mins, until a light golden brown all over. Remove and let cool. Make the filling.

- 6 cups fresh whole strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water

1. Mash enough of the berries to measure 1 cup. Place remaining berries in a large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch, then gradually whisk in water and then crushed berries.
3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.
4. Cool for 10 mins, then pour over berries and gently turn to coat. Transfer to cooled pie crust and chill at least 3 hours or until set.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kaiser Rolls

Happy Canada Day/Independence Day weekend to all my Canadian/American readers! This is a video double feature recipe to help you make some delicious buns for whatever BBQ adventures you are having this weekend. Both come from Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice and have been adapted and veganized as needed. The first is a pâte fermentée, a basic pre-ferment that can be used for a variety of recipes like French Bread (which I will post at a later date). The thing to keep in mind is that the pâte fermentée needs to be made the day before you want to make your rolls, but it can be kept in the fridge for 3 days. Next are the kaiser rolls. The video is a bit long (yet again) to show the technique needed to get that characteristic shape. Enjoy!

Pate Fermentee from Vegan Dad on Vimeo.

Kaiser Rolls from Vegan Dad on Vimeo.