Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stuffed Shells


If you're going to be noshing on cookies and gulping eggnog during the holidays, then you might as well fill yourself with a good pasta dinner! This party favorite is great for sharing, and versatile enough to make substitutions with other ingredients you might have on hand. I'll be away for the rest of December, so happy holidays to all and enjoy all the great winter veggies that will be on hand at your holiday table!

The Whats:

* 1 box of large whole wheat pasta shells
* 2 tbsp. butter
* 1 small onion, finely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed
* 2 tsp. nutmeg
* 1 tbsp chopped basil leaves
* 1 tbsp. white wine
* 1 egg
* salt & pepper to taste
* 2 cups fat free ricotta
* 1 box of frozen spinach, or 2 10 oz. bags of fresh spinach
* 2 cups tomato sauce
* 2/3 cup shredded parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino


The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta shells and cook for 10 to 15 minutes- pasta should be chewy and not quite al dente. Drain pasta. Fill a large bowl with cold water and place the shells in the cold water until ready to use.

2) In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and saute the onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add spinach by the handful, cooking until wilted and cooking liquid boils off; mix in salt, pepper, basil, nutmeg, and white wine. Remove from heat and allow ten minutes to cool.

3) Transfer spinach mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add ricotta and egg and beat well to mix. Taste for seasoning and add more nutmeg, salt, or pepper if desired.

4) Spread about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the bottom of a large baking pan. Remove a pasta shell from the cold water, shake excess water off. Fill with 2 to 3 tbsp of ricotta-spinach mix and place stuffed shell in the baking pan; repeat until your ricotta-spinach mixture is finished. Spoon remaining sauce over the shells, and sprinkle shells with parmesan cheese. Bake shells for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sad! Closing of Zen Burger

Though it's only been around for a year, the veggie answer to fast food in Midtown, Zen Burger, closed on December 12th. A note taped to the door cited extremely high rents as the reason for shutting its doors.

Too bad! When you need a veggie chicken wrap or veggie burger on the quick, Zen Burger was a great place to go! Alas, I'll have to resort to making crosstown trips to Zen Burger parent, Zen Palate, on 46th and 9th Avenue.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

For real???

Apparently, December 16th is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, as I learned while skimming The Treats Truck website... well readers, you know what this means.

A chocolate covered anything recipe for later this week, and a visit to the Treats Truck to partake in this national holiday :)

Roasted Carrots with Ginger


Have you ever bought a veggie because it was beautiful? Yeah, I said it, beautiful! I saw the most lovely baby carrots at the Greenmarket last week... bright orange with bright green stems, these were a food photographer's eye-gasm. And sure, roasting them and taking snapshots with my lil Sony Cybershot digital camera can hardly do these babies justice, but a little ginger and garlic might. Eat your veggies!

The Whats:

* 1 lb. fresh baby carrots
* 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
* 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 3 tbsp room temperature butter or olive oil (whichever flavor you like best!)
* salt & pepper to taste

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Trim stems from carrots and peel. In a large mixing bowl, mix together garlic, ginger, carrots, and butter/olive oil until carrots are evenly coated.

2) Line the bottom of a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Spread the carrots over the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until carrots are golden, and just slightly softened on the outside. (Even roasted, I prefer veggies with some bite or a bit of a crunch to them)


Makes for a great side dish! You can also saute the carrots, using the same ingredients, for an equally delicious result.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pancakes, 3 Ways

Pancakes are not just weekend staples; I'll make a giant batch every Sunday and have pancakes every morning during the work week. That being said, you should never resign yourself to eating the same boring pancake every day; I like to put more fun and creative twists on my pancakes!

Of course nothing beats pancakes from scratch... I don't know about you, but I'm a non-functioning mess before my first cup of coffee, so I tend to use a mix for my pancakes. You can find lots of healthy multigrain mixes in your supermarket, instead of using refined sugar and sodium-laden mainstream mixes. If using a mix, follow the general 2 cups mix + 1 cup (soy) milk + 1 or 2 eggs or 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil formula, then add whatever fruit or nuts you like. My choice mix, Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake Mix, tends to come out thick, so I tend to add a few more tablespoons of milk to the batter. Depending on your add-ins (rinsed raspberries or pumpkin puree) you might not need any at all! Here are my three fave varieties to get you started:



Blueberry Coconut Pancakes


The Whats:

* 2 cups pancake mix
* 1/4 cup soy milk
* 3/4 cup coconut milk
* 1 tbsp canola oil
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* scant 1 pint blueberries, rinsed (you could definitely add less, but I'm a big fan of blueberries)
* 1/2 cup shredded coconut


The Hows:

1) In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pancake mix, soy milk, coconut milk, canola oil and vanilla. Do not overmix- your pancakes will not be as fluffy! Fold in the blueberries and shredded coconut.

2) In a large skillet or griddle pan, heat a pat of (soy) butter until melted and coat pan. Over medium heat, pour 1/4 cup pancake batter for each pancake onto the griddle; cook until batter bubbles, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip over. Cook until other side of the pancake is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with maple syrup, butter, fruit, or whatever your fave topping might be.



Raspberry Nutella Pancakes


The Whats:

* 2 cups pancake mix
* 1 cup soy milk
* 1 tbsp. canola oil
* 2 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1 6 oz. container of raspberries, rinsed
* 1/4 cup nutella


The Hows:

1) In a large mixing bowl, mix together pancake mix, milk, oil and vanilla until just incorporated. Fold in nutella and gently stir until just incorporated. Fold in raspberries.

2) Follow cooking instructions as in Blueberry-Coconut Pancake recipe.



Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes


The Whats:

* 2 cups pancake mix
* 1 cup soy milk
* 1 tbsp. canola oil
* 2 tsp. vanilla extract
* 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
* 1 tbsp. cinnamon
* 2 tsp. nutmeg
* 2 tsp. ginger
* a sprinkle of brown sugar
* 1/2 cup crushed pecans

The Hows:

1) In a large mixing bowl, mix together pancake mix, milk, oil, vanilla, brown sugar, and spices until just incorporated. Fold in pumpkin puree and pecans; gently stir until just incorporated. You may need to add an extra tablespoon or two of milk if the batter is very thick.

2) Follow cooking instructions as in Blueberry-Coconut Pancake recipe.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lupa and Sakagura

Veggie dishes can be a mere blip on the culinary radar of some of NYC's more well-known dining institutions, as I bemoaned in my last series of reviews (yes, I'm still appalled at Savoy). I never understood the incredulous looks I'd get from servers when asking which dishes can be prepared without a random animal part- after all, if your Michelin star chef has such vision and talent, shouldn't he/she be up to the challenge of creating a veg-friendly interpretation of a menu specialty?

And though it's even easier to just visit one of New York's many vegetarian restaurants, I've made it a mission of mine to visit as many NYC Zagat darlings as I can to see how accommodating and creative they can be with vegetarian cuisine and share my findings with my fellow vegetarians that are similarly determined not to have their lifestyle choice marginalized when dining out.

I've got two recommendations here for non-veg specific restaurants... albeit one might be biased with many a glass of sake... that may not have the largest selection of vegetarian entrees, but the ones they have are out of this world.

First up: Lupa, a slice of Batali-Bastianich restaurant heaven in the West Village. Offering traditional Roman cuisine in a casual, rustic setting, Lupa (Italian for she-wolf, as you'll discover from a glossary on the back of the menu) has its fair share of seasoned tonno, guanciale, and hearty bolognese-type sauces, but it never neglects- rather, it nails- the simplest Roman fare, the basics that are sometimes vegetarian by nature.

We started our meal with verdure miste- a huge sampler antipasto platter with marinated olives, sliced brussel sprouts with pecorino, broccoli rabe tossed with ricotta, beets cooked with pistachio, radicchio with breadcrumbs, and sauteed squash. I usually shun giant appetizer platters for their overabundance of fat and greasy ingredients, but with fresh veggies gently cooked in olive oil with equally fresh, light cheeses, it didn't take much convincing to break out from my usual mold. For my main course, I chose a squash pansotti (the half-moon shaped ravioli) with sage. Cooked in butter sauce, the fresh pasta just melted in my mouth, and I was all too happy to savor the creamy squash-ricotta filling that remained. It might just be the most amazing ravioli I've ever eaten. We finished with a black pepper panna cotta with figs. The panna cotta was not particularly peppery, but I was more than happy with the vanilla-fig combination that was still not cavity-inducing sweet.

There are sometimes when simple is simply boring, but at Lupa, the mouth-watering flavors of simple is enough to make me a regular!

Lupa, 170 Thompson Street, between Bleecker and Houston, 212-982-5089


-----

Dinner is infinitely more satisfying after you hunt for it. Of course by hunting, I mean bars and restaurants where there is a hidden door or secret upstairs/downstairs level between you and your destination! And sake bar Sakagura is that hidden gem in Midtown East. One might easily be distracted by over 200 varieties of sake in this small restaurant straight out of Tokyo, but you might just as easily be swept away by Sakagura's extensive menu with authentic Japanese small plates.

Of course to be fair, we had to partake in both.

I started with a simple tofu salad with mixed greens and miso dressing. Sakagura was very generous with the chunk of tofu laying over my salad, and I've yet to have fresher miso dressing while dining out! My salad was soon followed by cold udon noodles with plum paste. The noodles weren't actually udon noodles at all, but the thin Thai-style noodles. Served with fish sauce on the side (thankfully) and a smear of plum paste, it was tasty, but there wasn't enough in this dish to make it as flavorful as it could have been. And honestly, after several premium sake samplers (Yuki No Bosha Super Premium was my favorite, with a really smooth finish and just a slight fruity aftertaste), it didn't matter. I love sampling new wines, beers, and sakes just as much as I do sampling new foods, and to be completely taken out of typical Midtown surroundings and brought into a little Japanese village where you can sip sake and chat, and perhaps have a few small bites, the experience overall was worth it!

Sakagura gets a few knocks for service- trying to move your customers to accomodate a bigger party isn't proper resto etiquette- but for the experience, you must give this sake bar a shot... minus the crappy pun that I couldn't resist typing!

Sakagura, 211 E. 43rd Street, B1 (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues), 212-953-7253

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gastropolis- 12/5/08

If I didn't work late on Fridays, you know I'd be here! Check this out:

http://www.astorcenternyc.com/ class-gastropoli s-food-new- york.ac

Astor Center Presents: Gastropolis - Food & New York
Date: Dec 05, 2008 (Fri)
Time: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Cost: $45

Place: Astor Center
399 Lafayette St
New York, New York 10003

An evening of New York City food history, delicious savories, and good wine.

Contributors of the newly published Gastropolis, a deliciously fun sampling of New York City's rich food heritage, will read from their varied chapters and some will prepare food inspired by their essays.

Co-editor Annie Hauck-Lawson on "food voice" narrative; Mark Russ Federman, 3rd generation owner of Russ and Daughters, on the soul of a store; Ramona Lee Perez and Babette Audant savor Latino NY; Andrew Smith gives a brief history of food and drink in New York City; Suzanne Wasserman presents a history of pushcart cuisine and markets; Harley Spiller weighs in on Chinese cuisine and prepares Garlic Steamed Shrimp; Performance artist Annie Lanzillotto prepares Rachele's Pocketbook Frittata.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Salut Montreal!



Montreal gets many a "kudos!" in my book- not just for the beautiful stone buildings from the colonial era, or the bars teeming with loud, silly college kids in the Latin Quarter, and funky Canadian artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Paris of the Northeast is actually a wonderfully veggie friendly city! With an variety of Indian, Vietnamese, and vegetarian cafes, along with a frequently recurring "Vegetarienne" section on several bistro menus, this is definitely the way to travel!

For all vegetarians traveling in Montreal, you should definitely pay a visit to Casa del Popolo- a grungy little vegetarian cafe and music venue on Blvd. St. Laurent. The small, artsy cafe serves up veggie samosas and other apps, sandwiches, and salads; and at night, you can sip wine and beer and listen to up and coming Canadian bands... tre fantastique!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NYC Vegan Thanksgiving!

For those of you who'll be in town this Thanksgiving weekend and prefer to avoid the stress that can coincide with holiday dinners with the fam, I'm reposting a fantastic list from SuperVegan.com with vegan Thanksgiving specials around New York City. Remember, stuff yourself, not the bird!

-------

UPDATE 11/24/08: It's Vegan Thanksgiving Week at Perelandra. Fresh
seitan and gravy, stuffing, garlic roasted smashed potatoes, pumpkin
tofu cheesecake and other holiday-ish foods every day this week.
(Probably not in quantity enough to cater your banquet, but perfect
if you're dropping by for lunch.)

Angelica Kitchen is offering a $50 five course prix fixe menu.

Blossom has a $68 four course prix fixe menu, while Cafe Blossom
offers three courses for $58.

Candle 79's four course prix fixe is $69, while sister restaurant
Candle Cafe gives you four courses for $52, plus a la carte options.

Caravan of Dreams will serve a three course dinner for $22.

Counter's got a $45 four course prix fixe, plus an optional $30 wine pairing.

Curly's will be serving a $24.95 prix fixe menu. You can choose
between soy turkey or maple-baked sham for your entree, plus a
variety of sides.

Foodswings is offering their menu for $15 in advance or $18 at the
door; Freedom posted the menu here in our forum.

Organic Grill will have a special Thanksgiving menu; you can choose
between a tofu turkey or stuffed squash entree for $14.95, plus pick
from a variety of Thanksgivingy sides.

Chef Ouiya has both prix fixe and a la carte options for delivery or
pick up. Check out the menu here and make sure to get your order in
by midnight Sunday.

Pure Food and Wine will be serving a fancy schmancy four course prix
fixe for $72. I almost want to go here just to see how they justify
offering the most expensive vegan Thanksgiving meal in NYC.

Red Bamboo will be serving their regular menu and a $20 Thanksgiving
prix fixe menu. If you're going out of town on the day itself, Red
Bamboo Brooklyn will offer their $19.95 three course prix fixe after
4pm on Thanksgiving Day as well as on the Tuesday and Wednesday
before.

'sNice and 'sNice Brooklyn are both closed Thanksgiving day, but we
recommend you stop by in the days before or after to try their
awesome Thanksgiving Leftovers sandwich.

Next to its "normal" Thanksgiving dinners for eight or twelve,
WholeFoods offers that same old Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner for one.
For $19.99, you get curried apple pumpkin soup, a holiday roast
stuffed with wild rice and dried cranberries, green beans with
almonds
, a mini pecan tart, and a firm reminder that the world
considers you an isolated freak.


-----

And something to pass on to your omnivorous friends & family: tips from About.com on how to accomodate vegans and vegetarian guests for Thanksgiving.

Chinese-Style Marinated Tempeh



Easy as easy can be, especially since all your marinade ingredients can be found in any local supermarket. You can marinate tempeh, seitan, veggies, or whatever you like and toss with soba or somen noodles for an easy weeknight meal that will undoubtedly be much healthier than the greasy takeout from your local Chinese joint!

The Whats:

* 2 tbsp soy sauce
* 2 tbsp rice vinegar
* 1 tbsp sesame oil
* 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce (or plum sauce if you prefer)
* 1 tsp. sambal olek or ground chili paste (omit if you prefer a more mild marinade)
salt & pepper to taste

The Hows:

1) In a large bowl, whisk together all of your marinade ingredients. Toss with tempeh and vegetables until well coated. Allow tempeh and veggies to sit for 30 minutes before stir-frying or sauteeing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the Resto Week Rundown...

I love fine dining, even more so when offerings include $24 lunches and $35 dinners. I'm usually the first to pounce on promotional prix fixe specials, eager to try out all the variety that NYC dining has to offer. And that was no exception this past week for the OpenTable Appetite Stimulus Plan- same deal as bi-annual Restaurant Week, here's the Friendly Veg Rundown:

Vong- a part of the Jean-Georges kingdom for Wednesday lunch. The standard Southeast Asian fusion you'll find at several of his restaurants, minus the fab decor of Spice Market and others. I started with a delicious ginger & basil butternut squash soup- served warm, the ginger, basil, and toasted squash seeds were presented in a bowl with the soup poured over these ingredients, making for sweet-spicy-herbal goodness on a freezing day. My entree was crispy tofu with a radish salad and lavender atop it- though the tofu was crisped nicely, and wasn't spongy on the inside, it was a bit lacking in the more noticable flavors I'd experienced with my soup. Molten chocolate cake with coconut ice cream didn't particularly coincide with the Asian theme, but then again, I don't think you can ever go wrong with chocolate. (I take that back, see previous review of Broadway East) Not the widest variety of veggie options, but my lunch was certainly enjoyed!
Vong- 240 E. 54th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, 212-486-9592


Bar Blanc- a pristine, glowing white interior with an upscale French-American comfort food menu for Wednesday dinner with the girls. Snail's pace service excluded (reservation at 8:30... didn't get seated till 8:55... orders not taken till 9:15... exited Bar Blanc after 11pm... so much for planning other activities for the night!) All of our dishes were hearty and very savory- the perfect comfort dishes on a cold night. I started with their savory carrot soup with coriander oil- not too sweet, not too salty, and the coriander oil was just the right essence for this soup. My butternut squash risotto with wild mushrooms was incredibly rich and heavier than I thought it would be. Creamy butternut squash puree was delightfully mixed with a little bit of saltiness from shaved pecorino. Dessert was a quince crisp with huckleberries and a dollop of fromage blanc ice cream- after a heavy dinner, the tangy fruit was a welcome addition to the table. As with Vong, there weren't a number of vegetarian dishes (and I can't imagine any were vegan-friendly), but the ones I had were spot on!
Bar Blanc- 142 W. 10th between Waverly and Greenwich, 212-255-2330


Ilili- a modern-looking yet warm Lebanese-Mediterranean restaurant in the Flatiron for a Friday date night with the honey. Filling small plates like oven fresh pita, baba ghannouj, falafel, and chankleech (feta, tomatoes, and onions) served as our appetizers; vegetarians have lots to choose from! Many Lebanese and Mediterranean sides have a wonderful way of being light yet filling at the same time; we wondered how on earth we'd manage to find room for our entrees after we not so delicately devoured our delicately plated apps. My creamy vegetarian fatte with chickpeas, eggplant, garlic and yogurt was tangy, lightly spiced, and between the veggies and beans, had great texture. Rounding out the gently spiced meal was a syrupy achta- very creamy and very sweet.
I'd give Ilili a great review if it weren't for being woken up at 4am with horrible stomach pains and nausea (bad yogurt maybe? I'm still clueless!). I'm sure it's a fluke, but I'm noting this nonetheless.
Ilili- 236 Fifth Avenue between 27th and 28th Street, 212-683-2929

I'd originally had reservations at Savoy for Friday night, and shame on them, when I called to ask about the menu that day, they said they would not make any substitutions, including vegetarian subs, to their prix-fixe menu. And believe it or not, this makes Savoy the only restaurant I've been to that has been unwilling to accomodate a vegetarian diner wanting the prix fixe. I'm not being unreasonable here- it's really not that difficult, especially for a place that prides itself on simple and seasonable food, to whip up something veggie friendly, and this was a sincere disappointment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Broadway East

Don't believe the hype. That's all I've got to say.

I've been meaning to go to Broadway East since it opened this past March. Descriptions of the very trendy veggie restaurant definitely piqued my curiosity, even if it meant going to the middle of nowhere Manhattan to reach it. And much like a man you might be going on a dinner date with, just because something is sexy and vegetarian does not necessarily guarantee it will be great.

A friend and I arrived at Broadway East for an early dinner on Tuesday, 6:45pm to be specific- and I couldn't figure out why we had horribly slow service with next to no one in the restaurant. Surely the 240 feet of vegetation that decorated the place did not need anywhere near as much attention as two cocktail-deprived ladies after a rough work day. Alas, this was not the case. When our waitress finally arrived with said alcoholic beverages, we immediately placed our order. My friend and I split an appetizer of sweet potato samosas; and the sweet and spicy flavors of the dipping chutneys were the most standout flavors of our dish. I enjoyed the twists on original Indian samosas- ours were made of flaky phyllo dough, and the slightly sweet mash of sweet potato stuffing was definitely a winter-ready shift from a traditional samosa- and though tasty, they still incited the "hmm, this needs something" reaction.

We still had hope when we received our beautifully plated entrees, but the same could be said of those as well- their signature crispy coconut tempeh I had ordered was uninspiring. There was hardly a hint of coconut in the crust, and the curry sauce that surrounded it was lacking in curry flavor, or any spices for that matter. My friend's veggie moussaka had a great texture, and the light eggplant flavor was enjoyable, but that's all there was to it. And where our entrees were lacking spice, the chocolate cake we split for dessert was over-abundant. I love the combination of spice and chocolate, but this was ridiculous- there should be a slight warm in your mouth with a good chili-chocolate, and not full-on heat.

Perhaps, after hearing rave reviews for months, my expectations were too high. But I don't think it's a crazy expectation to want flavorful vegetarian cuisine instead of the flat, one dimensional dishes we received. I certainly can't knock sustainable, locally grown, seasonal produce, but just because the cuisine has some wonderful green labels attached to it, does not make it worthy of stellar reviews; the food may be in season, but bland cooking is never in season. Sorry Bway East.


Broadway East, 171 East Broadway between Rutgers and Jefferson, 212-228-3100

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Curried Pumpkin Soup



Every vegetarian remembers their first Thanksgiving as a veg... and probably kept their fingers crossed that other dinner guests did not continually bombard them with questions about what on earth they'd eat, make silly comments like, "turkey isn't really meat," or worst of all, as everyone in my house liked to do, wave a turkey leg in front of you while making gobbling noises. No wonder why we get stressed out during the holidays!

And though there was plenty of the aforementioned on my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian, I still remember my mom, days before the bird-roasting bonanza, struggling to find a recipe suitable for her newly vegged out daughter- anything with pumpkin and anything with some spice would definitely score points. And Mom sure racked up the points big time with this curried pumpkin soup recipe! Though I don't miss the tradition of my sibs putting turkey skin on their faces a la The Cable Guy, making this thick, creamy soup in November is the tradition I will keep :)


The Whats:

* 3 tbsp. soy butter
* 1 large onion, diced
* 1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin
* 4 cups vegetable stock
* 2 fresh bay leaves
* 1 tsp. sugar
* 1 tbsp. curry powder
* 1 tsp. nutmeg
* 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
* 1 1/2 cups soy milk
* salt & pepper to taste


The Hows:

1) Melt butter in a 4 to 6 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until soft and golden brown, about 3 minutes.

2) Stir in pumpkin, veggie stock, bay leaves, sugar, curry powder, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and continue to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) In batches, transfer soup to blender to puree, or use immersion blender until soup is smooth. Return to saucepan, and add the soy milk, salt, and pepper. Simmer for ten minutes, but do not allow soup to boil. Serve hot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Is Red Meat's Bad Name Justified?"

As many of us already know, that answer is a resounding YES!

But just in case you had any doubts, the L.A. Times published an article on Monday touching on this issue. Def worth a read... especially when you consider that researchers at well-known names like Harvard, the World Cancer Research Fund, and National Institutes of Health have all linked meat consumption to liver cancer, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.

I already know my omnivorous pals will be saying these studies are all relative, that you've got to consume a lot of meat in order to be affected. Um, yeah, guess what, you DO eat a lot of meat and you ARE being affected! The average American eats a meat-based diet, and we all know that portion sizes are out of control in the U.S. as a whole. Just based on those facts, do the math- that's a lot of meat!

Also published via Associated Press, check out the breakdown of meat consumption, in pounds, of the average American, in 2007:

Chicken: 84.9 lbs.

Beef: 63.5 lbs.

Pork: 48.2 lbs.

Turkey: 17.5 lbs

Lamb & Mutton: 1 lb.

Have you been totaling these up as you go? That's over 200 pounds of meat last year. Ewww!


Just some (veggie) food for thought :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Panzanella



Tradition dictates this Tuscan bread salad be composed of day-old bread, tomatoes, and basil drenched in red wine. But like many classic dishes, every Italian has their own interpretation of what tradition should be. For example, this New York Italian has a tradition of not keeping bulky food items, like baguettes, in her tiny apartment for very long. Leaving bread out to harden isn't the most space-saving thing I can do for my kitchen, so instead of day-old bread, I've toasted my bread for this recipe- I really like the warmth it adds to the salad. My version also includes some zucchini, and you can also substitute with chunks of grilled eggplant; using only tomatoes is a bit too much like a traditional bruschetta. And who needs tradition? We vegetarians don't!



The Whats:

* 1 whole wheat baguette, ripped into bite size pieces
* 4 tomatoes on the vine, large dice
* 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
* 1 small red onion, sliced
* salt & pepper to taste
* about 15 basil leaves, torn
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can get away with using less if you choose!)
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


The Hows:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette pieces on a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until bread is browned and crispy.

2) Toss toasted bread into a large bowl with tomatoes, zucchini, onion, basil, and salt & pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and toss to coat.

3) Allow the panzanella to sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes to let the bread and veggies absorb the oil & vinegar. Toss again before serving. This dish is even more flavorful when you leave it overnight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

2008 Chocolate Show



The 2008 Chocolate Show was a choco-gasmic experience, as it is every year!

Originally concocted by the French (who else?), the Show now travels across the world, from Germany to Japan to New York, for the 11th annual expo at Pier 94... conveniently coinciding with the food & wine festival Tastings NYC. And death by chocolate isn't just some woman's wild PMS-fueled fantasy, au contraire! I've discovered it is fully within the realm of possibility to OD on chocolate. I applied the general munching principle of "as long as it's vegetarian, I'll try it!" and found some new faves, as well as great takes on old favorites... like "firecracker" chocolates from Chuao Chocolatier, pecan pie truffles from Roni-Sue's Chocolates at the Essex Street Market, and my fave green tea ganaches from Mary's Chocolatier in Japan.

And of course, the best chocolate of all... SweetRiot! After walking through the show and having been dragged away from many a booth, SweetRiot was the only vendor selling dark chocolate covered cacao nibs. And though I do work and volunteer for them, I'm a believer that you can't deny an all-natural chocolate fix from an equitrade and eco-conscious company. So go ahead, indulge, and don't look back!

Upcoming November Events!

I'm reminded on a daily basis of how many fun, random, and veg-friendly events are always happening around NYC. After working the Chocolate Show this past weekend (which I'll be blogging about later!), I'm listing several more upcoming foodie events that will help you celebrate Vegan Awareness month:

Green Drinks NYC
- November 11th, 6-10pm at LQ New York- these monthly meetings are the perfect way to interact with other members of the green community in NYC! The first 40 women to arrive get tanks, and the first 40 men get tees from organic clothing line Toggery by Kate D'Arcy.

Go Vegan Happy Hour Party- November 12th, 6-9pm at The Village Pourhouse- mix, mingle, & make new like-minded friends!

Appetite Stimulus Plan 2008- runs November 17th thru 21st- well, at least something good is coming out of recession specials! With $24 prix fixe lunches and $35 prix fixe dinners (including the hot veggie spot Broadway East!), one good Restaurant Week deserves another. Check OpenTable.com for the list of participating restaurants.

Peanut Butter Paradise Tasting- November 18th, 7pm at Vintage Irving- you know you loved PB as a kid, and it's now time to indulge in what childhood memories are made of in a more adult way- through PB cocktails and desserts!

Vegan Drinks- November 20th, 7pm at Angels and Kings- more drinks & more vegans? Just because we don't eat meat doesn't mean we don't know how to have a rockin time!

Undergrounds Unite!- November 14th & 15th, 8pm, location will be disclosed to confirmed guests- underground restaurants/dining parties like the Ghetto Gourmet and Light Bulb Oven present a 12 course feast that surely promise the most innovative dinner party you'll ever attend.

And coming up at the beginning of December, check out another dine-out event, Chefs for a Cure. Select restaurants (including the vegan classic Candle 79) will be donating 10% of their November 30th and December 1st sales to AIDS research. As if you needed more of a reason to feel good about dining out!

Be sure to check back for more Friendly Veg approved events!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

and speaking of Thanksgiving...

Chow.com has made their latest Top Ten list all about Thanksgiving vegetarian dishes, and they sure do sound good! I'm eager to try their recipe for roasted acorn squash with wild rice stuffing! Of course, I'll be posting some more recipes on here that will be sure to please vegetarians & vegans coming to dinner, so be sure to check back!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Honey Balsamic Spinach with Cranberries & Pignoli



Sure, the salad of hearty greens mixed with a variety of add-ins, like cranberries/walnuts/apples/onions/goat cheese is a staple at most restaurants and local salad bars alike, but with the weather getting cooler, I'm adding some warmth to this solid stand-by salad! Now that November is here and you've got to start thinking about the veggie options you'll be bringing to the Thanksgiving table, this dish makes for a great side. With some honey balsamic vinegar to saute your iron-vitamin C-potassium-rich spinach, Mum won't ever have to yell at you to eat your greens before your sweets!


The Whats:

* 1 large bunch spinach, rinsed and leaves trimmed from stalks
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1/4 or 1/3 cup honey balsamic vinegar, depending on your preference (wanna make your own? whisk a little honey and a dash of orange juice or the like into some balsamic vinegar)
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 1/2 cup cranberries
* 1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts)


The Hows:

1) In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the spinach by the handful and stir into the pan. Add the honey balsamic vinegar to the spinach and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until spinach is slightly wilted, and some of the vinegar has cooked down.

2) Stir the cranberries and pignoli into the pan, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and serve hot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Naya

"Naya", the Lebanese word for "new", is the most appropriate description for the tiny, futuristic looking resto that opened earlier this month in Midtown East. And new is what my hungry honey and I were looking for last week, along with a solid vegetarian section on the menu. Breaking away from the typically heavy designs and deep, bold colors that adorn most Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurants, Naya's interior is very chic, with shimmering white and silver booths, bright backlit walls, and a Buddha Bar-style soundtrack. It's definitely not yo' mama's Lebanese restaurant.

And luckily, you won't find yourself jumping over the moon with exorbitant prices that run like the dish to a stylish eatery's spoon. Naya keeps their share-able small plates to no more than $9, and even entrees don't venture past the $23 mark. We split a parsley-heavy tabbouleh salad, the perfect sweet & salty combo of pan-seared halloumi cheese with pomegranate sauce and tomatoes, fassoulia (roman beans in garlic & olive oil), a bit dry but flavorful stuffed eggplant, and a very creamy labne & pita. There are lots of vegetarian mezze to choose from- this definitely earns The Friendly Veg's seal of approval! And though they'll serve you Lebanese wine and beer, among others, Naya misses the mark with the, well, missing bar. I'll happily sit at a restaurant bar while I wait for my table, but considering the wait time for a walk-in and no space to wait within the restaurant, your best bet is to make a reservation.

But it was worth the wait.

With several new and cool looking bars and restaurants opening in my neighborhood as of late, I might be less inclined to flee the lame monkey-suit and tourist packed after-work scene that Midtown is generally known for... fellow foodies, let's keep the revolution going to take back Midtown!


Naya Mezze and Grill, 1057 Second Avenue, between 55th and 56th Street; 212-319-7777

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spinach-Ricotta Dumplings with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce




Sometimes, half the enjoyment of cooking is getting messy. The Friendly Veg will admit that these little balls of goodness are a bit time consuming, but is there really anything more satisfying than letting your hands sink into a bowl of warm, gooey ricotta and spinach and then eating the fruits of your (fun) labor? You can also serve these dumplings in broth for a hearty winter soup.

Spinach Dumplings

The Whats:

* 2 packages of frozen chopped spinach, completely thawed, and squeezed to remove excess liquid
* 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
* 1 tbsp. parsley
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten (or egg substitute equivalent, like Ener-E)
* 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
* 1/2 cup grated parmesan
* salt & pepper to taste

The Hows:

1) Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook garlic for 2 minutes. Stir spinach into the butter and garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in ricotta and parsley and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

2) Place the cooled spinach-ricotta mixture in a large bowl, and add the eggs, flour, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; mix well. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.

3) Prepare red pepper sauce as detailed below.

4) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Flour your hands, and make 1-inch balls of spinach-ricotta mixture; drop a few of the balls into the simmering water to cook. When dumplings begin to float, remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a plate or on paper towels.

5) Spread 1/3 cup of the roasted red pepper sauce across the bottom of a large pan or baking dish. Place the cooked dumplings into the pan; drizzle with more red pepper sauce, and top with some shredded parmesan or mozzarella. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve immediately.



Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

The Whats:

* 2 large red bell peppers (to save time, I bought some roasted red peppers from the deli counter)
* 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 tbsp. paprika
* 3/4 cup creme fraiche, or heavy cream
* salt & pepper to taste

1) If not using roasted peppers, slice the red bell peppers in half, and roast over an open flame or under a broiler, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes. Place peppers in a paper bag and seal. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop pepper halves.

2) In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium low heat. Add onion and saute until softened. Add the chopped bell peppers and paprika, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add white wine, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cream and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

3) Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, or in a standup blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Add salt & pepper, and keep warm in saucepan until ready to use.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

2008 Vendy Awards, Saturday October 18th

The classiest awards ceremony that you've all been waiting for... Iron Chef-style street food awards! Bring it on!

And while you may equate street vendors with phrases like "dirty water dogs", the finalists are vendors that even The Friendly Veg can get behind- ones with quality munchies and vegetarian options (falafel is one of my faves!). This year's Vendy's also debut the new People's Choice Award for best dessert vendor! (Treats Truck anyone??)

The 2008 Vendy Awards will be held at the Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo, and each $80 ticket is tax deductible, and includes all-you-can-eat street food, drinks, and can you really argue with the whole Iron Chef spectacle? Priceless... just like that amazing falafel cart that's always just a few steps outside your building right when you need it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Edible Manhattan Forum, Tomorrow Night

I won't be able to make it, but if you can, check out another Food Writing Forum at New School University. Much like the Gastronomica panel I attended last month, the editors of the new Edible Manhattan will be on hand to read from the new addition to the Edible brand.

Info is as follows:

Location: Alvin Johnson/J. M. Kaplan Hall, 66 West 12th Street, room 510

Admission: $5; free to all students and New School faculty, staff, and alumni with ID

Box Office Information: In person purchases can be made at The New School Box Office at 66 West 12th Street, main floor, Monday-Friday 1:00-7:00 p.m. The box office opens the first day of classes and closes after the last paid event of each semester. Reservations and inquiries can be made by emailing boxoffice@newschool.edu or calling 212.229.5488


If you can't get enough of food-related panel discussions, you can check out another panel, "The Food of Immigrants" at New York University, which delves into the old and new foodways in immigrant communities, at 4pm (and you can still make it to the New School panel!) at the Fales Library in NYU's Bobst Library at 70 Washington Square South. Suggested donation is $10.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Totally COOL

And by COOL, I mean Country-Of-Origin-Labels, a new law put into effect on September 30th. I finally noticed COOL labels on some of the produce while stopping at the supermarket this afternoon- products of Mexico, Guatemala, New Zealand, hello world!

By March of 2009, retailers will be fined if their foods are not labeled; this goes for meats and fresh and frozen produce, even for foods grown in the U.S. For you locavores out there, it will be easier to pick out locally grown veggies, and the next time there's a spinach/tomato/pepper/etc recall, companies can pluck specific products off the shelves, and sickened consumers can more readily identify where they bought any tainted food.

Though the law isn't going far enough by not requiring labels on processed and pre-packaged foods, like pre-washed salad mixes, bags of trail mix, or boxes of chicken fingers or fish sticks (which I think is an equally important issue, considering how many Americans opt for easy and quick meals to feed their families), I'm a fan of these new labels- after all, knowledge is power, and every consumer has a right to know where their food comes from and what they're putting into themselves.

Check out this CNN article for some quick info on COOL.

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins



I love a good carb overload in the morning. This woman cannot live on caffeine alone. A piece of fruit or yogurt just won't suffice either. Just give me a big muffin, a whole wheat bagel with tofu cream cheese, or a stack of pancakes with real maple syrup. Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day.

That being said, "the most important meal of the day" should also be relatively healthy, filling, and a lot of flavor, just like any other meal you'd spend time preparing. Making your meal vegan, of course, is definitely a step in the right direction. It's no secret I'm a choco-holic, and an even bigger fan of cinnamon and other spices, so I couldn't resist putting chunks of my fave Dagoba bar infused with chili powder into my muffin mix. Everyone deserves a little spice in their A.M hours, don't they?


The Whats:

* 1 cup unbleached flour
* 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1/4 packed light brown sugar
* 1 tsp. baking powder
* 1/2 tsp. baking soda
* 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
* 2 tsp. ground ginger
* 1 tsp. nutmeg
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
* scant 1 cup soy milk
* 1/4 cup canola oil
* optional: 1 2 oz. bar Dagoba Xocolatl bar, chopped or broken into small pieces (or 1/3 cup dark chocolate or carob chips)

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin or cupcake pan with paper cups. In one large bowl, whisk together the flour, pastry flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

2) In a separate medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, soy milk, and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold chocolate into the batter, if using.

3) Spoon batter into baking cups, and fill 3/4 of the way. Bake muffins for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins on a wire rack after removing from oven.

This recipe makes about 16 muffins.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ecorazzi

Just something I thought I'd share with my fabulous readers: for a more interesting spin on the celebrity gossip that you pray you don't get caught reading at your desk (hey now, I know I'm not the only one with this guilty pleasure), check out Ecorazzi, a site devoted to eco-conscious fashion, celebrities, shopping, and of course, environmental causes, animal rights issues and related events.

It's a guilty pleasure that you'll feel a little less guilty about. Besides, where else would find out about Travis Barker dropping his vegetarian diet following his near-death experience in a plane crash a few weeks ago (shock!!), or tidbits on Titantic's environmental message, or news about Bette Midler opening a community garden in Harlem?

Enjoy!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Butternut Squash Lasagna



You might be one of those reluctant cooks that think, "If I'm going to spend a few hours in the kitchen preparing a meal, then it better be damn good!"

And to those of you who refuse to be bound by stainless steel chains, this just might be the time to declare your surrender.

All jokes aside, traditional Italian lasagna is known for being a really heavy dish, completely overloaded with meat & cheese, and with butternut squash starting to debut at every stand in the Green Market, I couldn't think of a better way to ring in fall and satisfy my craving for something hearty, creamy, and somewhat light. Because I've made a really creamy butternut squash filling, you can even cut down on the amount of cheese you fill the lasagna with- fresh fall veggies should be the highlight of this dish! And if you're looking to cut a few more calories, you can easily make the bechamel sauce with soy milk and soy butter- it thickens just as much as the milk-based sauce.

Wave the white flag, you just might want to stay in the kitchen with this one :)


The Whats:

* 2 large butternut squashes, peeled, and cut into large cubes
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 2 tbsp. rubbed sage
* 1/2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
* 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
* 1 cup mascarpone cheese
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1 box lasagna noodles
* 2 medium sized zucchini or yellow squash, cut into thin slices
* 1 large bunch of spinach, arugula, or any of your favorite leafy greens
* 1 cup shredded mozzarella
* 1/2 cup shredded parmiggiano reggiano
* about 2 cups bechamel or your favorite cream sauce


The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; cook the butternut squash until easily pierced by a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain the squash, and place in a large mixing bowl.

2) Drizzle the squash with olive oil, and add the sage, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper. Mix to coat the squash. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the seasoned squash until smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and whip into the squash mixture. Your squash-cheese mixture should be light and smooth. Set aside.

3) Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; cook lasagna noodles until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Fill a medium bowl with cold water, and place lasagna noodles in the bowl until ready to use.

4) Prepare your bechamel- melt 4 tbsp. of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and whisk in 1/4 cup all purpose flour. Reduce heat to low, and whisk in 2 cups of milk. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken- about 8 to 10 minutes- and whisk in 1/4 tsp. nutmeg.

5) Spread about 1/4 cup of bechamel sauce across the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking pan. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles; spread 1/3 of the squash mixture over the lasagna noodles. Layer 1/3 of the zucchini, the greens, 1/2 cup of bechamel and 1/4 of the mozzarella over the squash mixture. Repeat with two more layers; finish last layer with the remaining bechamel, mozzarella, parmiggiano reggiano, and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until top layer is browned. Allow lasagna to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vegetarian Awareness Month

If you're already veg or vegan, it's time to take your veg pride out of the closet; if you're just soy-curious, there's no better time to check out the city's many vegetarian restaurants throughout October. Founded by the non-profit North American Vegetarian Society in 1977, World Vegetarian Day is celebrated nationally... though I'm sure you'll see more events here in NYC than, for example, where my parents live in Arizona.

So check out the following veggie & veg-friendly events this month, or take the pledge to go veg for 30 days. Or click here to find more ways to get in on the action.

Food Network's Wine and Food Festival- running October 9th through October 12th, it'll be tasting and TV chef heaven and the proceeds go to Food Bank of New York and Share Our Strength.

Natural Products Expo East- this one's only a Fung Wah ride away. Held in the Boston Convention & Expo Center from October 16th through 18th, with 1,200 manufacturers/companies of organic and eco goodies.

Brooklyn Goes Veg- the vegetarian spin on Restaurant Week from October 19th through 25th. Check the site for the list of participating restaurants.

Vegan Drinks- Thursday, October 30th. Vegetarians & vegans unite... over drinks! Can it get any better?

And because one good celebration deserves another, mark November 1st on your calendars- it's World Vegan Day!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ecofest, September 28th

This Sunday's 20th annual Ecofest environmental festival will definitely be a local event worth checking out! It will feature speakers on sustainability, alternative energy technology and encouraging activism, an eco-fashion show, a display of energy efficient cars, locally-based eco vendors, and activities for kids.

Ecofest is free and open to the public; it will be held in Lincoln Center Plaza from 11am to 6pm this Sunday, September 28th.


And though I'll definitely be talking it up as the dates get closer, the annual Green Festival in Washington DC will be taking place the weekend of November 8th and 9th. The largest environmental expo in the country, the original Green Festival was born in San Francisco, and festivals are now held in DC, Seattle, Denver, and Chicago as well. A short film I worked on for eco-friendly chocolate company Sweetriot screened at the Green Film Festival last year, and it was difficult to focus on work with a giant Fair Trade Pavillion with hundreds of fair trade/organic & all-natural product vendors and lots of delicious vegan food! They're accepting volunteer applications now, so if you're looking for a socially responsible excuse for a weekend getaway, this is perfect for you!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spicy Black Bean Soup




I'm normally an advocate of using fresh, local ingredients in your cooking, whether you're an omnivore or a vegetarian. But sometimes you really just want instant gratification with some of the things you might already find collecting dust in your cabinets (though that could very well be a rarity in our tiny NYC apartments). And why not? Waste not, want not, no? But just because you might yawn by simply looking at that big can of black beans in your closet, doesn't mean you can't spice it up and make something fun and delicious on a weeknight.

Soup is the easiest way to make good use of those black beans- one-pot dishes are simple, and now that it's fall, you can't help but crave a bowl of soup while still utilizing the last of the summer veggies at the GreenMarket. This recipe goes out to my mom, who's probably reading this now: even more the health advocate than I am, I made this without oil, so it's fat free too :)

The Whats:

* 3 cups vegetable stock
* a 1 1lb. 13 oz. can of black beans (or 2 15 oz. cans of black beans), drained and rinsed
* 1/2 cup your fave salsa (I used Rosa Mexicano Tomato Chipotle salsa for it's smoky flavor!)
* 1 large poblano pepper, diced
* 1 yellow onion, diced
* 4 cloves garlic, diced
* 1 large tomato, diced
* 2 tbsp. lime juice
* 1 packet Sazon seasoning
* 2 tbsp. cumin
* 1 tbsp. chili powder

The Hows

1) In a small bowl, set aside half a cup of the black beans, and a small handful (or a palmful) of the tomato and poblano pepper. You will be adding these to the soup at the end of your cooking.

2) In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth over medium heat. Add poblano pepper, tomato and lime juice and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining black beans with half a cup of veggie broth and the packet of Sazon seasoning. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the ingredients together until relatively smooth. Add the black bean mix to the veggies cooking in the pot, along with the remaining vegetable stock. Stir in your choice of salsa, cumin, and chili powder and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

3) Remove pot from heat and allow a few minutes to cool. If you like your soup smooth, blend soup in batches using an immersion blender. (I like chunky soup, so I placed the blender directly in the soup and blended for just 15 to 20 seconds.) Add the reserved black beans, tomato, and poblano pepper to the soup, and cook soup for another 5 minutes; if needed, you can add more chili pepper/cumin/pepper/salt, etc to your taste. Laddle into bowls and serve hot with tortilla chips.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crostini Toppers, Two Ways




Everyone loves options, no? Sometimes you want appetizers that are light and somewhat sweet, and sometimes you want something more satisfying- and with sweet plum tomatoes and a savory seasoned cannellini bean spread, you can have the best of both worlds! Slice up a whole wheat baguette for either recipe, and you've got classic Italian appetizers for four to six people, whatever flavor might be in their favor.

Also, as I'm a proponent of bringing your lunch to work, you can spread these mixes on large baguette slices for a satisfying lunch.


Sicilian Crostini

The Whats:

* 1 large eggplant
* 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
* about 10 basil leaves, finely chopped
* salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* a sprinkle of dried rosemary
* optional garnish- shredded ricotta salata

The Hows:

1) Preheat grill or broiler to medium-high heat; slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Season each slice with salt and pepper, and brush each slice with olive oil. Place on grill or under broiler, and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side until soft and slightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, mix the diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir a tablespoon of olive oil into the tomato mix. Roughly dice cooled eggplant slices, and mix into tomato mixture.

3) Drizzle baguette slices with remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper, and toast or broil until crispy and lightly browned. Top toasted slices with the tomato-eggplant mixture, and if desired, sprinkle with shredded ricotta salata before serving.


Cannellini & Sage Crostini

The Whats

* 1 15 oz. can of low sodium cannellini beans
* 3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* 1 tbsp rubbed sage
* 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tsp. salt

The Hows:

1) Drain and rinse cannellini beans; place in a medium bowl. Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over beans, and add the garlic, sage, salt, and pepper; stir together. Mash the beans slightly with a fork or with a potato masher; alternate mashing beans with drizzles of olive oil until mixture is incorporated, but still slightly chunky.

2) As with Sicilian Crostini recipe, drizzle olive oil over baguette slices and season with salt and pepper; toast or broil until crispy and lightly browned. Spread cannellini mix over toasted slices and serve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Presidential Picks... Food Picks!

As if I needed another reason why I love Obama... how many candidates put "vegetarian pizza" on their list of fave foods?

We've been reading continuous information about our candidates, including articles analyzing what they eat and how that translates into what type of person they are... but let's stray from being too serious for a little while, shall we? This fun little piece from Eats.com is a short list of McCain and Obama's fave foods :)



Obama & McCain's Unofficial Food Preferences

donkeyelephant.jpgJohn McCain

Likes:

Dislikes:

Barack Obama


Likes:

  • Chicken wings
  • Ribs
  • Grilled fish
  • Steamed broccoli (anyone see the irony there?)
  • Cheddar Cheeseburger
  • MET-Rx chocolate-roasted peanut protein bars
  • Black Forest Berry Organic Tea
  • Planters Trail Mix: Nuts, Seeds & Raisins
  • Roasted almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Water
  • Dentyne Ice
  • Nicorette
  • Spinach
  • Handmade milk chocolates from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle
  • Chili
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pizza
  • Cosi
  • Shrimp and grits
  • Waffles
  • Shave ice
  • Tuna fish sandwich
  • Vegetarian pizza
  • Topolobampo

Dislikes:

  • British food
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt & Vinegar potato chips
  • Asparagus
  • Soft drinks
  • Beets

Upcoming Restaurant Weeks... in the Boroughs!

Because why should Manhattan have all the fun? The rest of us representing Queens and Brooklyn already know our boroughs have some amazing culinary traditions and more to offer, and if for some reason you haven't been clued in, then check out these great (and inexpensive!) ways to familiarize yourself with some hot BK and Q-boro spots!

Discover Queens Restaurant Week encourages you to "eat like a king in Queens" from with $25 prix fixe lunches, and $35 prix fixe dinners at places like Riverview and Mezzo Mezzo in LIC, Cascarino's in Bayside, and Winegasm in Astoria; be sure to check the website for the full list of participating restaurants. Queens Restaurant week runs this week, September 15th thru 18th, and next week, September 22nd thru 25th.

And mark your veggie calendars, because coming up in October (which happens to be Vegetarian Awareness Month!), is Brooklyn's own vegetarian restaurant week, BKLYN Goes Veg! Imagine hitting up restaurant week and NOT worrying about what you can/can't eat on the special prix-fixe menu... okay, maybe that's something that only excites the Friendly Veg, but it's about time that someone brought the national vegetarian restaurant week initiative to NYC, especially to a borough with so many great restaurants to choose from! BKLYN Goes Veg runs from October 19th thru 25th, and participating restaurants can be found on their website.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Peppers Stuffed with Tomato-Basil Risotto



Can you think of anything better to stuff a pepper with than creamy, yummy risotto? Didn't think so. Stuffed peppers are an inexpensive and filling meal, and you can customize 'em however you like- in the past, I've made stuffed peppers with couscous, raisins, and ginger for a more North African flavor. But hey, San Gennaro is going on as we speak- how could I not post my veggie Italian version? And though the texture is wonderfully creamy, risotto is naturally low in fat... all the more reason to mangia!

The Whats:

* 2 large bell peppers, halved
* 3 tbsp. olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic
* 1 1/4 cups arborio rice
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (you might need just a tad more/less than this)
* 1 large tomato (I used a beefsteak tomato), cored and diced
* 2 sprigs of basil
* 1/3 cup shredded parmiggiano reggiano, plus some more for sprinkling on peppers
* freshly ground black pepper to taste


The Hows:

1) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute garlic in olive oil for two minutes. Add arborio rice and mix until rice is coated with olive oil. Stir in white wine with the rice until the wine is mostly evaporated.

2) Add one cup of vegetable broth, and continually stir until broth is absorbed. Add the basil leaves, and continue to add broth half a cup at a time, and stir until broth is absorbed.

3) Add the diced tomato; if the tomato is particularly juicy, cook for another few minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in parmiggiano reggiano and black pepper.

4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon risotto into each half of pepper. Top with some shredded parmiggiano reggiano. Place stuffed peppers on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and peppers are slightly softened.

Recipe serves 4.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

San Gennaro 2008!

Va bene!

The culmination of all things wonderfully loud, cheesy and greasy with good ol' "how YOU doin" charm and Dunk-The-Insult-Clown goodness, the 81st Feast of San Gennaro kicks off today!

Yes, I'm Italian, I'm allowed to poke fun at my wonderfully loud, vino-guzzlin, cannoli-eatin' brethren.

Be sure to check out the Cannoli Eating contest on Friday at 1pm, the Grand Procession up Mulberry Street on Saturday beginning at 2pm, a DVD release party celebrating the 35th anniversary of The Godfather hosted by Gianni Russo (for those of you who don't have goomba moments like I do and recite Godfather dialogue by heart, Russo played Carlo, Marlon Brando's nephew at the beginning of the first film), and a closing night KTU dance party.

San Gennaro runs through September 21st. Buona festa mi amici!

New School Panel: Gastronomica

This past Tuesday evening, I attended a free panel at New School University with the editor and two contributors to Gastronomica magazine, a seven year old quarterly publication with not just recipes, but scholarly articles on food culture, policy, and science, along with personal essays, poetry, and food art and photography. As a regular peruser of a variety of food magazines, websites, and blogs, I was impressed, because you never frequently see scholarly articles or specific food art with the normally flowery prose and all-too-serious tone that's associated with food writing. How have I never heard about this magazine before?!

Founder and editor-in-chief Darra Goldstein, a Russian professor at Williams College and cookbook author (including The Winter Vegetarian!), spoke about the magazine itself and its mission of initiating thoughtful discussion about food and advocating food studies as a serious discipline in schools. It makes perfect sense when you consider how many students will pursue degrees in sociology and cultural anthropology, and how cuisine and dining rituals define a myriad of cultures and could easily integrate within these established majors, or stand on its own. And though you might be curious (as many of us at the panel were) about Goldstein's experience in the two very different fields of Russian studies and food in creating this magazine, I thought her varied careers served as the perfect interdisciplinary foil for what she wanted to accomplish for Gastronomica and for food studies programs on a university level.

Even more impressive from my perspective, because I'd love to eventually bring together my love for writing, cooking, journalism, and production, and hearing from someone who has managed to do so is inspiring.

Listeners were also treated to readings from two Gastronomica contributors- author Arlo Crawford, who wrote a piece about growing up on his father's organic farm, and another New School writing professor (yes yes, I know, it's silly that I didn't write his name down and I apologize; he was a last minute subsitiute for author Sarah Odishoo) with a type of food science-fiction story where New York City was NOT the foodie paradise that we all know it to be. Both stories were definitely off the overly beaten path of "and when I ate this, I remembered my grandmother's floured hands lovingly rolling out the glistening dough..." style. Crawford's matter-of-fact writing really allowed us city-folk with romantic ideas about farming to be harvested into reality, and see the labor, the daily tasks, the no-frills side of the farm.

I had a great time at this lecture; it certainly got my creative juices flowing as far as new ways of thinking about food writing! If you really enjoy the more scholastic approach to everything food, check out the upcoming Gastronomica Forum: The Taste of Fame at the Astor Center on October 28th- panelists will include Momofuku's David Chang and Top Chef's Gail Simmons.

In other food publication news, the publishers of Edible Brooklyn bring you their newest New York area addition, Edible Manhattan, with more of New York City's varied culinary experiences. I can't wait to check it out, but I still gotta say... it took 'em this long for a Manhattan edition?

Ah well, happy reading!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Blueberry Pie


Nothing says summer like blueberries, and they're my absolute favorite- I'll put them in cereal, granola, salads, and of course, pies! When using really ripe berries, you can get away with using less sugar in the pie... calorie counters take note! I'll include a pie crust recipe later on, but for the sake of keeping this a quick and easy dessert, I used a pre-made pie crust (Fresh Direct uses mostly organic ingredients for theirs!)

The Whats:

* 1 unfilled 9-in. pie crust
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
* pinch of salt
* 1 cup water
* 4 cups fresh blueberries
* 1 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan butter (optional)


The Hows:

1) Bake pie crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.

2) In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of the blueberries. Cook over medium heat until mixture has thickened; about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Stir in butter and remaining 3 cups of blueberries. Allow mixture to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour blueberry mixture into pie crust, and chill pie in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy September!

I'm back from vacation! I'd love to report some wonderful culinary adventures from my time in Los Angeles and in central Arizona, but, um, yeah... (though nothing beat cheese or tofu on a stick on Santa Monica beach on my first L.A. visit)

Instead, I'll plug the "Let Us Eat Local" event that will be held at the Water Taxi Beach in L.I.C. next Tuesday, September 9th at 6:30pm. With 20 famous chefs creating dishes from food grown within 250 miles of NYC, eating on the sand is a sure sign that summer is not over! As if the 90 degree, humid weather we're experiencing today didn't clue you in.

And because I'm in denial that summer is "officially" over, I'm posting a blueberry pie recipe later tonight. With the sweeter, end of the season berries, you calorie-counters won't need to add much sugar to this pie!

Is anyone else bummed at seeing more and more fall clothing on the street? I'll cling to my denial and to my little sundresses until the weather really cools off, thankyouverymuch!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

on a short hiatus

Veggies need vacation too. Just giving my readers a heads up that I won't be updating The Friendly Veg for the rest of August, as I'll be on a much needed vacation. Okay, so I won't be crying a river over being away and not updating anything, but I promise I'll be back soon with yummy in-denial-that-summer-is-over recipes, like blueberry pie and melon with mint and mozzarella. Enjoy the rest of August and have a great Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vegetarian Center's Archive Sale

Just reposting some info I received on the VivaVeggie listserv- this coming Saturday in Union Square, the organization will be selling archived issues of vegetarian magazines and literature, as well as DVDs, books and educational materials... allow me to encourage everyone to go check it out, there might be some great vegan & vegetarian cookbooks for you to peruse, and get inspired like I do!

I've copied and pasted the post below:



Veggie Center archives blowout sale...

(Truth-be-told. ...MOST WILL BE ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY FREE !)

Saturday, August 23. 2008
11 a.m. to 7 p.m
.

Union Square
near the subway kiosk close to Gandhi Park
(across the street from Whole Foods)

VivaVegie will have a table set up throughout the day with a massive
selection of vegan books, magazines, DVDs, newsletters, and outreach
educational materials.

We're going to pile it high... All that good stuff.

So get out your sun screen, and join us for the great unloading. You
see, folks, we have just so much space in our office, and we have to
clear some of it out from time to time.

Special gems to look for:

- All back issues of The VivaVine, including 2 full sets (50 issues),
that is, every issue! ($150 per set)
- 30 vintage back-issues of Vegetarian Times... going back to the
70's! ($5 ea.)
- 35 back issues of Veg-News, including some classic issues before
their design make-over... (free)
- Back issues of vintage issues of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian"
(pamphlet)
- 5 copies of the inaugural issue of The VivaVine (1991 / $25 ea.)
- Classic newsletters from vegan organizations. ..from the early years (free)
- Back magazine issues from Vegan Outreach, F.A.R.M., United Poultry
Concerns
, PeTA .... and on an on (free)

and so much more...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gazpacho


The perfect cooldown meal for the summer comes in the form of a warming, winter favorite- a big bowl of soup. Gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup from Spain, is not only refreshing, but super simple. Because really, who wants to be slaving over a stove during the summer? I sure don't... I also don't have air conditioning in my place either, (no, I'm not crazy, I'm just trying to be eco-friendly!) so the only heat I want is the heat coming from the jalapenos I put in the gazpacho!

The Whats:

* 1 medium red onion, diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 medium bell pepper, diced
* 2 beefsteak tomatoes, roughly chopped
* 2 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced
* 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
* 1/4 cup packed mint leaves, roughly chopped
* 1 tbsp. cilantro
* 1/4 cup tomato paste
* 2 tbsp. lemon juice
* 1/4 white wine vinegar
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can omit this if you're looking to cut down on oils & fat)
* 2 quarts of tomato juice


The Hows:

1) In a large pot or bowl, mix together chopped vegetables with mint, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, tomato paste, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. Stir in tomato juice.

2) Cover bowl or pot and leave soup in the refrigerator to marinate overnight. Stir soup before serving, and garnish with bread cubes or crostini.