BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Cooking for a crowd can be daunting even for the seasoned pro, especially when there are specific holiday traditions to uphold. Bound by expectations of great feasts, in addition to the dietary restrictions of every last guest, how is one supposed to plan a festive vegan meal when times of celebration come about? Before demurring and declaring it a potluck affair, do yourself a favor and pick up Nava Atlas‘ new cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Encompassing occasions from numerous religions and all throughout the year, it’s sure to guide you out of many sticky situations in any season. Trouble coming up with a hearty main dish for unenthusiastic omnivores, who still think that vegans subsist on lawn clippings and twigs? Or maybe you’re already preaching to the choir, but have trouble with menu planning? Whatever the case, Nava’s got you covered. Attractively photographed by the talented Susan Voisin, the pages sparkle with delicious inspiration and appetite-awakening ideas.

Gravitating first towards the more wintry fare, I can see how the Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie (page 98) could become the talk of a Christmas party. A mercifully healthy respite from the heavy, rich foods synonymous with the season, the incredibly savory flavor carries this dish far. Opting to make individual servings since I wasn’t actually hosting a great number of guests, and wanting to easily freeze and defrost portions at will, the conversion was painless. Lots of mashed potatoes were leftover after topping my personal pies, although I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. Next time around, I might skip the breadcrumbs at the bottom which didn’t really add much to the dish. (Edit: Nava has explained to me that the breadcrumbs are meant to make slicing and serving a whole shepherd’s pie neater and easier, which is actually pretty clever. So, definitely keep them for a complete, family-style dish, but feel free to omit them for single servings like I made.) Otherwise, it was all you could ask for from a main dish meant to impress- Highly satisfying, well-balanced with both protein and greens, and deeply flavored with umami mushrooms, soy sauce, and aromatic herbs.

Seeking a more complete sample of the recipes on offer, and wanting a simple side to whip together without much fuss, the Pasta and Red Quinoa Salad (page 236) caught my eye early on. Red quinoa eluded me at the grocery store, but the regular old white variety was a fine stand-in. Bright, fresh flavors highlighted by the creamy yet tangy dressing make this disarmingly easy salad irresistible. A delightful combination of textures, between the tender quinoa, al dente pasta (I went with adorable mini bow ties), and crisp veggies, it would be an excellent option for a spring or summer gathering. Of course, you needn’t wait that long- I enjoyed it just fine even in the freezing days of December.

All the previous success was nothing, however, compared to what I believe is the crowning jewel of this collection: The Matzoh Ball Soup (page 115). A simple but surprisingly difficult staple that both bubbies and their babies adore, it’s one dish that I’ve been missing since becoming vegan. Passover would come and go, and I could only look longingly at those pillowy spheres floating in golden broth being devoured. Previous attempts had been spectacular failures, ranging from cannon ball dumplings to magically dissolving and disappearing matzo balls, so I was pretty much convinced that I would never eat anything nearly as good as the original.

Well, I think you know where this is all going by now. I want to state, for the record, that these are the best damn matzoh balls ever. No, perhaps they’re not “fluffy” in the truest sense of the word, but they’re so ethereally light, the simple soup, so perfectly rich and comforting, that the first spoonful brought me right back to my childhood. This is what I had been missing, and will never again go without. For this recipe alone, the cookbook is worth its sticker price, and then some. (The key to absolute soup perfection, by the way, is a truly delicious no-chicken broth, so don’t skimp!)

I’m typically not one to host lavish dinner parties, but the Holiday Vegan Kitchen may slowly convince me to change my tune.


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Giveaway Winner and Happy News

Competition was fierce, with comments pouring in furiously throughout the whole giveaway period, but it’s all over and now is the time to announce the lucky winner of a $25 gift certificate to Allison’s Gourmet! After consulting the wise and all-knowing random number generator, I’m pleased to announce that the person who’s soon to have a very happy sweet tooth is…

Marika! Congratulations, and get ready to enjoy your truffles, peanut butter cups, and/or peppermint bark, as you’ll be hearing from Allison with the details shortly.

If today wasn’t your lucky day, don’t despair- You have a second chance to get some sweet winnings thanks to another Allison’s Gourmet giveaway being held at C’est La Vegan, until December 15th. Hurry on over and give it another go!

In unrelated, but perhaps similarly joyous news, I’m happy to announce that The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking by Julieanna Hever and Beverly Lynn Bennett has officially been released! An immeasurably useful guide to all things both free of gluten and animal products, it’s a book that deserves some prime real estate on your bookshelf. However, the main reason for my excitement is admittedly a bit selfish…

Because I shot the cover photo!

I couldn’t have been more thrilled when Beverly and Julieanna asked me for my assistance, and that delight only doubled once I tasted the finished raspberry chocolate chip cake. Never before had I ever made a gluten-free cake with such a flawless crumb and full-bodied chocolate flavor. No one could believe there wasn’t a tablespoon of wheat to be found, and I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to any sort of crowd. Honestly, that one recipe alone is worth the price of the book, so you can’t lose with a fool-proof purchase like this.

Not to leave you hanging, but you’ll just have to check out the book for the rest of those winning recipes, not to mention the sound health advice!


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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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Christmas in July

Sleigh bells are most certainly not ringing on this sweltering day, but in a summer state of mind, the ice cream truck’s cheerful jingle could happily suffice. Christmas in July is a phenomena that has not yet truly caught on in the US, typically reserved as a poor excuse to go on shopping sprees or drink a few too many cocktails by the beach. The lack of decent holidays through the hottest months of the year has me searching high and low for new events to celebrate, anything to shake up the monotony of one hot and busy day after another, so I say it’s high time we start getting into the spirit. Build a “snowman” on out of sand, string lights onto a palm tree, make gingerbread baked inside oranges over the campfire! If you can find an indoor rink, now is the best time to go ice skating, too; shockingly empty of other skaters, it’s the perfect chilly respite from a 100-degree afternoon.

Better yet, serve up some peppermint-mocha whoopie pies.

Though they do require quick use of the oven, the sweat will be worthwhile, since the end results are satisfyingly sweet and cooling. A spinoff on my Peppermint Mocha Trifles from Vegan Desserts, this hand-held version is ideal for speedy baking and on-the-go eating. Just make a half batch of everything, adding 3/4 cup of flour to the cake portion. Instead of pouring the cake batter into a baking dish, scoop it out onto a silpat-lined baking sheet, using a small cookie scoop for consistent shapes. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes at 350 degrees, until just lightly browned around the edges, and let cool completely. Spread your chilled chocolate custard between two cookies, and then roll the edges in crushes candy canes. Voila, a miniature, portable trifle- With a touch of summery Christmas spirit!

This will make you approximately 36 individual cookies, and thus 18 finished whoopie pies. Store the cake-like sandwiches in the fridge for maximum refreshment, or in the freezer to make mock-ice cream sandwiches. Be sure to eat them quickly once the peppermint candies have been added- As evidence by my photo, the can melt quickly due to the moisture and heat. Plus, I can’t imagine anyone being able to resist chowing down for that long!


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Hello, Beautiful

Glowing brightly like a cool, colorful homing beacon, the modest Ciao Bella kiosk in Grand Central Station would taunt me every time I arrived in New York City, straight off of a hot and sweaty ninety-minute train ride. Every flavor always appeared to be artfully arranged in its metal pan, carefully swirled and smoothed into undulating waves of frozen dessert. The heat must have always thoroughly fried my brain by that point though, as I never looked closely enough to see that there was in fact much more than the rich dairy-based gelato that the brand is so well known for. Sorbet, a mainstream godsend for the lactose intolerant, populates those immaculate cases in nearly equal numbers.

The best news of all, though, is twofold; that just recently, Ciao Bella has decided to go au naturel and dump the corn syrup and refined sugar, and that this very sorbet can be found in the freezer cases of most mainstream grocery stores, instead of just behind ice cream shop counters.

Boasting 12 different varieties of sorbet that any vegan would delight in, choosing a limited selection to sample was a tricky task. Noted as their best selling sorbet, their Blood Orange was the one clear pick. Peachy orange in color without much apparent aroma, this was clearly not your typical orange offering. Sweet and fruity, with subtle floral notes, the citrus flavor was still bright and clear, but not at all sharp or aggressive. Mellow, well-rounded, and highly refreshing, it strikes me as a summer snack that children and adults of all ages could enjoy alike. Super smooth, without the slightest hint of ice crystals, it scoops like a dream, too.

Wanting to try a more diverse lineup, but unable to fight off my rampant cravings for tangy citrus treats, I found myself drawn back, time and again, to the beckoning pint of Lemon sorbet on the frost-encrusted supermarket shelves. Hitting all the zesty high notes I could hope for, this was one intense, vibrant lemon experience! Like the Italian ice of my childhood all grown up, the ultra-smooth texture was practically creamy, but completely weightless without the cloying richness of premium ice cream. Also perfect as a palate cleanser between a multi-course meal, this sorbet didn’t stick around long after it made it into my home.

Most alluring of all, however, is Ciao Bella’s latest sorbet creation; Their sorbet bars, available in both their flagship Blood Orange flavor and brand new to the line up, Blueberry Passion. Swirled throughout with contrasting colors of deep violet and pale orange, each bite unexpectedly consistent in flavor. A tropical, unidentifiable flavor hits me immediately, and I recognize that this must be the passion fruit element. Not as well acquainted with this primarily South American, it provided an unexpected exotic element, reminiscent of a vacation on the beach. The sweet and simple blueberry flavor kept things comforting, making for a well balanced combination of both exciting and familiar tastes.

For the avid home cook or DIY-er, fret not; Ciao Bella has even come out with a cookbook, The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto, divulging their secret formulas for every flavor in the lineup, including exotics not available in hard-pack pints. Although most intriguingly, this provides otherwise impossible opportunities to veganize Ciao Bella’s gelatos, I was still drawn to the simplicity of the sorbet section. Besides, with a chocolate sorbet with such an intense, and complex depth of flavor, I don’t think I need the gelato version at all! Scooping soft and easily straight out of the freezer, just like the store-bought options, it seemed completely consistent with the quality of their factory-made frozen desserts.

I’m grateful that the folks at Ciao Bella were kind enough to provide me with a taste of their vegan offerings.  Next time, whether purchasing a single scoop from a Ciao Bella kiosk, grabbing a pint at the store for an impromptu indulgence, or crafting my own version at home, I know I’ll be in for a treat.

Chocolate Sorbetto
Reprinted with permission from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

3 Cups Water
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
4 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (About 60% Cacao), Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Dark Rum
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking often to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes, continuing to whisk until all the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate; whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add the rum and vanilla, then pour though a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Let cool, stirring often. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Printable Recipe


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Start Spreading the News

Ordinarily a stellar candidate for keeping a secret, I’ve been a regular blabbermouth when it comes to my own.  After practically shouting it from the roof tops around town, spilling the details to anyone who sees me and stops to say “Hi,” it’s about time the rest of the world (or at least, the internet) knows…

I’m writing a third cookbook, about vegan ice cream! Tentatively titled “Vegan À La Mode,” you can expect plenty of wild and crazy flavors, alongside decadent classics reinvented. I’m only about 40 recipes in thus far, and there’s so much more left to churn up… You just wait, because this one is gonna be sweet!


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Naturally Sweet and Savory Treats

Sharing a similar seasonable sensibility to my own style of baking, I was attracted to the Green Market Baking Book immediately. As soon as I caught wind of the release, I was entranced; that whimsical yet earthy illustrated cover, charming fabric ribbon, bookmark, and the comforting heft of a hard cover all had me sold. Though not a vegan cookbook, it is one of the few mainstream baking resources that actually provides clearly marked vegan options, a serious plus by me. Less positive was the fact that some recipes actually weren’t labeled as vegan, but in fact were, although such omissions are rather easy to figure out right away. Other options can be converted to use vegan ingredients in a snap, so don’t let those classifications prevent you from enjoying the full scope of this book.

Not only seasonally organized, but also devoid of refined white sugars and flours, those with healthy leanings are sure to appreciate the more wholesome bent to this collection. Rounded out by a guide to seasonal produce and tips for healthier baking, you won’t find outrageous, crazy flavors here, but very down-to-earth recipes. Classics that everyone can appreciate, and gentle twists on standard staples.

Jumping around a bit to get a better taste of its complete offerings, I will admit that I didn’t approach this book entirely in the correct order. Diving straight into the summer section at the lure of a yeasted Tomato Bread, it proved to be a very tasty decision indeed.

Brilliant orange and rust hues embolden this otherwise plain loaf, merely hinting at the flavor contained within. Subtle sweetness and acidity brightens the soft, even crumb, allowing the gentle but clear tomato essence to shine. Deviating slightly from the text and throwing in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, those rich pieces of concentrated tomato goodness were the perfect addition. Smelling like a full pizza while baking away, all I could think about was grilling up two slices, filled with a handful of vegan cheese… And yet, I found the longest my patience would hold me was to simply slather it with a whisper-thin smear of buttery spread, and eat it straight. Possibly the most tender loaf I’ve made at home, this is absolutely one to revisit in the height of tomato harvest, and perhaps introduce some fresh basil or oregano next time.

Briefly stymied about where to turn next, it was simply a matter of having everything on hand to make the Peanut Butter and Jelly Power Muffins to spur another round of baking. Though I didn’t expect much of them, these simple treats blew me away. Intense peanut and maple flavor sets them apart from other PB+J baked goods, making them a bit sweeter than my average breakfast nosh, but perfect for an addictive after school snack. The combination of textures is what really lends such an addictive quality; That chewy top, fluffy crumb, crunchy nuts strewn throughout, and generous dollop of gooey jam all combine to create a sum greater than their parts. Finished with a good amount of salt for contrast, these simple muffins had a surprisingly mature and complex flavor profile.

Spying the simple formula for Thumbprint Cookies tucked away in the summer section, I easily veganized them by swapping out the butter for non-dairy margarine, and honey for agave. A small pet-peeve but worth noting is the fact that the ingredient list neglects to include any jam, and thus no measurements or even estimates at amounts are given. It turned out that I did not, in fact, have enough jam on hand, and thus had to resort to filling my cookies with chocolate ganache. Oh, what a terrible fate.

Happily, the cookies did not suffer in the least, and perhaps where improved by this chocolatey addition. A bit on the delicate, crumbly side, the texture is similar to a shortbread cookie. Without a filling to hold it all together, I might not go back for seconds, but as a complete assembly, these strike me as a lovely offering to serve with coffee or tea.

While they might not be the most inventive, exciting options on the market, so far each recipe I’ve tried has been a home run. If you’re seeking reliable recipes for sweets that you can feed to your kids (or family, or yourself!) without feeling guilty, the Green Market Baking Book is your new best friend.

Generously provided by the publishers, I have a second cookbook to give away to one lucky reader, too! If these recipes sound like your style, then leave me a comment before midnight on Friday, June 10th, telling me how you’ve made your baking healthier. Do you substitute whole wheat flour? Reduce the sugar? Replace excessive oil with apple sauce? Give me you secrets to wholesome desserts, and you’ll be in the running! Just one comment per person, please, and unfortunately this giveaway is open to residents of the continental US only.


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Free for the Baking

Releasing a cookbook out into the wild is much like what I imagine sending off your child to their first day of school would feel like. Anxiety is the first feeling that flutters in my chest, because they’ve never been on their own before. Without the conscientious oversight of their mother, who knows what might come flying out of their mouth, especially given their rapidly expanding vocabulary? And what if the other kids don’t see what a loving parent does, and can’t accept them for both their gifts and flaws? What if they face rejection, and can’t make friends?

Of course, a book is not something that needs to be consoled after a bad day on the shelf, nor will it come home beaming with a winning smile, bubbling over to share all of the wonderful adventures and exploits it went on with new buddies. That, my friends, is where I need you. How is my baby doing? Is it minding its manners? Making positive contributions to the class? I sure wish they printed these things with blank progress reports included.

In an effort to continue gathering more opinions, and above all else, spreading the sweetness, I can hardly keep from handing out my whole personal stash of hard copies. So I won’t fight it; I want you to have my book, in your hands and your kitchen! No follow-up reviews are required of the winner, but certainly would be appreciated.

If you’re interested in securing yourself a free copy of Vegan Desserts, just visit this thread on the PPK boards, wherein I’ve posted the full listing of included recipes. Browse through the titles at your leisure, and tell me: What is the first thing you want to bake when you get the book? What catches your eye? Is it the ever-popular Mint Chocolate Macarons?

Or perhaps one of my favorites, the Watermelon Bombe?

Whatever it is that strikes your fancy, just tell me about it in the comments! Please, only one comment per person, on THIS POST and not the PPK boards, left before midnight EST, May 18th. There is to be one winner, to be announced shortly thereafter. I’m very sorry to put a limit on this one, but since I can’t spring for international shipping with such a heavy book, I’m afraid that the contest is restricted to residents of the US only.


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They’re Here…

No, not the poltergeist, but the books! My books! After laboriously dragging each 50-pound carton in through the front door, it felt so surreal to slice open the packing tape and see the fresh print staring back at me. Those same photos and words that I sweated over, painstakingly tweaked and fine-tuned for what seemed like a lifetime… Well, it all hasn’t quite sunken in yet, but it is completely thrilling. The delivery of those heavy texts is easily the most rewarding part of the process thus far, hopefully to be trumped still by happy bakers and satisfied sweet tooths (fingers crossed!)

This means that if you’ve pre-ordered, I am so grateful for your support, and your copy should be arriving on your doorstep shortly! Please, let me know what you think- Drop me a line, or consider leaving a review on Amazon.

And like most cookbooks and books in general, errors and omissions have already been spotted. Nothing major, not to worry, but I’ve started up an errata page to keep anything straight. If you should spot anything else out of place, don’t hesitate to say so.

In book-related events, if you happen to be in the New York area this weekend and want a signed book or some fabulous baked goods for a good cause, do not pass go, do not collect $100, but head straight to MooShoes on May 1st. Come celebrate both the release of Vegan Desserts and the World Wide Vegan Bake Sale. There will be tons of incredible sweet treats, in addition to a few selections from my book, so you can quite literally get a taste of the recipes within.

In case you can’t make it, the following Saturday, May 7th, I’ll be signing books and handing out samples at the Barnes and Noble in Westport, CT, starting at 1:00.

Coming right up after that on Sunday, May 15, you can find me hanging out at the Veggie Pride Parade in NYC, doing something similar yet again. So come, dress up like a carrot, and get yourself a book!

Many more opportunities to meet me and eat free food will be scheduled in soon, so stay tuned! And of course, Happy Baking!


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Kosher Cooking with Levana

Every day is a different job, making it rather difficult to explain exactly what I do when meeting new people. Truth is, I’m not quite sure I have the whole story straight myself- Am I a student? Photographer? Author? Restaurant cook? Blogger? Well, to make matters more confusing, it seems I’m about to add another descriptor to the list: Food stylist.

Food styling is something that is par for the course for food bloggers, but in the world of professional photography, the person wielding the camera is rarely, if ever, directly involved in plating and arranging that delicious subject seen through the viewfinder. The ability to artfully display edibles comes naturally to most food enthusiasts, or anyone who spends enough time eating out and seeing how the experts do it, but it’s not a job that one stumbles into with little real experience… Unless you’re me, apparently. Never had I flattered myself by assuming it was something I could do beyond my own kitchen- Most jobs clearly state that the stylist have a solid culinary background, a degree from an esteemed cooking school, and experience up the wazoo. So getting that last minute call from my publisher, saying that a kind woman in Brooklyn would love my assistance, was quite the shock.

And can I tell you something? I had a blast. Challenging at times and a definite learning experience all the way, but thankfully, Levana Kirschenbaum was every bit as warm and welcoming as promised, and we hit it off immediately. Two long days of fussing with greens, swabbing plates obsessively with q-tips, and a just one minor pâté fiasco later, and we had dozens of beautiful images (thanks to the camera work of Meir Pliskin) to add into her upcoming cookbook, The Whole Foods Kitchen. [Please note, though this isn't a vegan cookbook, there are many vegan options.] I still couldn’t help but pick up my camera a few times, though bear in mind that these are not the images going into the book. Just a few of my favorites, and a little sneak preview to whet your appetite!

Steel-Cut Oat Soup

Lemon Pudding

Steamed Dumplings

Pasta Salad

Roasted Fennel and Endive

Chocolate Steel-Cut Oats Pudding

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