BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Unsung Heros (and Hoagies, Tortas, Wraps, et al.)

Do I really need recipes for putting stuff between bread? What could be more simple, more intuitive than building a sandwich? At least that’s what I thought, ever skeptical, until that fateful day when Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes‘s latest collaboration, Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, was crammed into my undersized mailbox. It’s okay to admit if you too underestimated the power of a properly constructed sandwich, as long as you proceed with an open mind. Besides, there’s so much more to it than just grilled “cheese” and veggie burgers- Wraps, rolls, open-faced sandwiches, hot and cold options, and even desserts are included. True, a few liberties may have been taken with the sandwich concept, but I’m ruling this one a fair play because it’s all worth exploring.

Starting at the beginning meant flipping to the final chapter first, where all the breads, “meats,” and other interchangeable additions are filed away. Seeking a loaf that could set my sandwich journey off on the right foot, “The Building Blocks” of chapter 8 is precisely the spot I landed before exploring any other tempting pages. Bread is arguably the most important part of a sandwich, creating is a solid foundation to build upon, imparting complimentary flavors, and still allowing the filling to take center stage when its solo must be sung. Knowing Celine’s talent for taming the wild yeast, I would expect no less than homemade options more exciting than your standard white bread, and she did not disappoint.

After purchasing an overwhelming volume of leafy greens yet again, the Green Monster Bread (page 178) was a god-send for dispatching a good portion of my arugula. In fact, I went ahead and doubled the amount called for, with excellent results. Living up to its name, the loaf rose to incredible heights in the oven, and each slice yielded a cheerful light green, fluffy crumb. A subtle hint of garlic is what really sets it apart- Though you may not be able to pick out exactly what that faint flavor is, it’s easy to taste that there’s something extra going on in there beyond the standard flour and water, making for a very tasty mystery.

Clamoring to utilize my lovely green loaf right away, I landed on the super simple Deviled (Not) Egg Salad Sandwiches (page 57) largely out of laziness. Already stocked with the necessary ingredients, it was only a matter of mixing and mashing before I had my first fully loaded lunchtime tower. Unlike any other faux-egg recipe I’ve ever known, liquid smoke adds an additional savory element. While highly enjoyable, this made me think more of a smoked fish salad, or an entirely new culinary creation. Happily, it doesn’t matter what you call it, as it should be a hit with any crowd. Smartly smashing the chickpeas means that they retain a nice bite, but won’t roll out like a handful of marbles between bread. Even outside of its sandwich assembly, it was a very enjoyable, eggless option.

Caesar salad has long been a rare “treat” for me, consisting of crunchy croutons, rich, creamy dressing, and some token lettuce just to fill the bowl. Well, the Tempeh and Arugula Caesar Wrap (page 68) has taken that filler salad and turned it into a well-balanced and highly satisfying portable meal. Rather than greasy croutons, toasted sunflower seeds provide the crunch in this combination, with simple marinated tempeh strips adding in a much needed punch of protein. Remarkably bold, tangy dressing ties the whole tortilla-encased filling together. This recipe will undoubtedly work its way into many future meals.

Ending with something sweet was in order, and the promise of Mango Butter and Ginger Whoopie Pies (page 167) proved irresistible. Despite concentrating the mango puree into a smooth, sweet paste, ginger completely out-shined any fruity flavors. Fail to mention the mango component, and even eaters with fine-tuned palates would never guess. Sparkling brightly with gingery spice, that didn’t stop me from savoring those fluffy, cakey cookies one bit. Melt-in-your-mouth tender once fully stacked, the creme was aggressively sweet by itself, but sufficiently tempered by the cookies’ bite. Something tells me that this recipe will be worthy of a second visit, perhaps in cupcake format instead.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on all that Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day has to offer, but I’d like you to have the opportunity to taste test as well. Are you up to the challenge? Let me know about your current favorite sandwich in the comment section, and one randomly chosen winner will walk away with a shiny new copy of this cookbook to enjoy. You may even find a new combination that steals your sandwich-loving heart! Be sure to include your name and a valid email address in the appropriate boxes before Saturday, September 29th, at Midnight EST. This post will be updated with the winner shortly thereafter.

UPDATE: As chosen by everyone’s favorite random number generator, the winner is…

The owner of comment #39! That means the book goes to… Richa! Congrats, and check your email for further details!


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Hearty and Heartfelt

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to seasonal cravings. Though immediately inspired to get in the kitchen as soon as my copy of Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites by Celine Steen and Joni Newman came in the mail, mere months ago, it was too hot to even contemplate turning on the stove, or even approaching the oven. After pouring over the pages with shining eyes and growling stomach, leaving a barrage of bookmarks in my wake, all I could do was wait for the inevitable switch that would make a warming, belly-filling meal more appealing than a bucket filled with ice-cold watermelon. As temperatures now dip and dance around the 40’s and 30’s, it’s safe to say that that time has come.

Finding a pause in the action to break into my long list of desired dishes was another matter, though. Luckily, many recipes are brilliantly simple to throw together, and pretty much cook themselves, as was the case for the Slow Cooker Corn Chowder (page 76). Toss ingredients into your slow cooker, crank it up to high for a few hours, and eat. Preferring a thicker, creamier chowder myself, I opted to blend half of it to add body, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T. The natural sweetness of the corn was nicely balanced with the spicy kick contributed by a dose of cayenne pepper, giving this unassuming recipe a complex, delicately nuanced flavor profile. Though I had never used a slow cooker prior, now I can’t for the life of me figure out why not.

Having first spied the Red-Eye Treats (page 250) on Celine’s blog years back, I knew that it was time to finally give them a test run for myself. An unusual combination of chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter, I wasn’t entirely convinced that these distinctive components could all play nicely together. Happily, my fears evaporated with one taste. A soft, chewy, but crisp bite yielded subtle sweetness, and a very satisfying depth of roasted flavor due to the coffee. The chocolate does take a bit of a backseat here, contributing more color than flavor, but next time, I think I will just have to add a handful of chocolate chips to remedy that, because there will be a next time.

The sleeper hit of my recipe trials actually came about by accident. First lured in by the promise of Hickory-Smoked Breakfast Strips (page 36) wrapped around water chestnuts to imitate bacon-wrapped scallops, my original plans were dashed once I popped open that can and discovered tiny chestnuts approximately the size of chickpeas. So here I was, far too much seitan bacon on hand, and no where to go with it. Quickly switching gears and frying it up as one typically would for “bacon,” I riffled through the pages for an appropriate accompaniment. Scramble, there had to be a scramble, I thought, homing in on the breakfast section. There, almost as an afterthought, the Scrambled Eggs hidden within the recipe for a Hearty Breakfast Bowl (page 35), were the perfect thing. So few components, so little effort, I didn’t expect much other than a nice way to round out the photo, to be honest. Adding in a bit more creaminess with a splash of soy creamer, I could scarcely believe how downright eggy things were beginning to smell- and look.

The hickory strips were completely overshadowed by the greatness of this scramble. A bit too sweet and chewy for my tastes, any flaws could be forgiven as long as that scramble was on my plate. Although I always add tons of veggies and seasonings, yet again, the mantra of “simpler is better” was proven true. I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I wolfed down the first entire batch, unaided. The very next day, I had to have this killer tofu again, and couldn’t help but make further tiny tweaks, just to suit my own palate to perfection. Though there are a million recipes out there for tofu scramble, I implore you: Try this one. You will never miss eggs again.

Straight-Up Scramble
Adapted from Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites, by Celine Steen and Joni Newman

1 16-Ounce Container Extra-Firm Tofu, Pressed for About 45 Minutes
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Kala Namak (Black Salt)
Pinch Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil
3 – 4 Tablespoons Plain (Unsweetened) Vegan Creamer
2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced

Crumble the pressed tofu into a large bowl and add in the nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, kala namak, turmeric, and braggs. Use a fork to lightly mash and combine.

Set a saute pan over medium heat, and melt the margarine or coconut oil. Once liquified, add in the tofu mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until heated through and just barely browning in some places. Pour in the creamer until it reaches your desired state of creaminess, cook for 1 minute longer, and turn off the heat. Toss in the sliced scallions and serve while hot.

Makes 2 Servings, or 1 for a Vegan with a Monster Appetite

Printable Recipe

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