Splendiferous

Many great stories begin with soup. Soup can soothe the soul, fortify the infirm, nourish the hungry, and uplift the cast down. It can be just about anything ladled into a bowl and eaten with a spoon; hot or cold, thick or thin, based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, noodles, or just straight cheese.

Splendid Spoon also begins, and ends, with soup. Founded on the healing principle of the bottomless bowl, it’s a plant‑based meal program that delivers ready-to‑eat brews, blends, and even bowls. Smoothies and grain bowls have joined the menu, but as the name would imply, soup is the main event here.

The menu rotates weekly, drawing seasonal inspiration to appeal to contemporary cravings. Warming chilis, congees, and stews through fall and winter, and lighter, cooler broths and blends become available in spring and summer. Many recipes appear in found and CEO Nicole Centeno‘s book, Soup Cleanse Cookbook. For those of limited energy, patience, or ingredients, the full service affair is a godsend.

Kabocha Congee is the kind of a bowl you can curl up with, swaddled in your softest blanket and fuzzy slippers, to feel like all is right with the world. Brilliant sweetness that came as a surprise, all courtesy of the natural sugars inherent in both the squash and coconut milk. Creamy, deeply soothing, rich yet not heavy, it’s a remarkable study in balance. Subtle hints of cinnamon perfume the bowl, marrying beautifully with notes of pepper and a touch of nutmeg. Even better than the average rice stew, toothsome pumpkin seeds are scattered throughout, lending a hearty bite that fully satisfies all the senses.

Not to get hyperbolic, but the Green Split Pea Soup is nothing short of a revelation. Rather than the murky morass of over-boiled legumes, there are full, whole peas in here! Like oversized caviar, they burst in juicy bites, lending an air of luxury to this once humble stew. Easily the best rendition of the concept I’ve encountered to date, it’s fantastic enjoyed cold on a hot summer’s day, too.

Take your taste buds globe trotting with a stop in Italy and France for a bowlful of Garden Minestrone and Butternut Squash Ratatouille. Leaning into a tomato base with savory herb seasoning, the minestrone focuses in on zucchini and white beans, whereas the ratatouille, true to the name, is all about that orange autumn gourd. Happily, neither one taste out of season, appealing to the senses all year round.

Billed as one of the “light” brews, Fennel Consommé presents a zesty citrus-infused broth with softly simmered pieces of licorice-y fennel. An excellent appetizer or palate cleanser between courses, it sings of sunny spring days. You can practically taste the morning dew still clinging to those leafy fronds.

New to the lineup, the Mint Chip Smoothie is everything you want and need out of a creamy summertime treat. Part decadent dessert, part wholesome meal replacement, each verdant sip is loaded with fresh greens and cool peppermint flavor. Trust me, I’m very serious about my mint chocolate chip milkshakes, so it’s really saying something to rank this one so highly on the hit list.

The spice is right in the Carrot Ginger Chia Smoothie. Think “liquid carrot cake” and you wouldn’t be too far off. Bright ginger blends with the tropical notes of mango and banana to recreate a more fruit-forward rendition of the old-fashioned staple. Stay in the bakery department for a moment to drink deeply from the Pumpkin Spice Smoothie while you’re at it. Enriched with almond butter and defined by a heavy dose of cinnamon, each bottle contains all the taste of America’s favorite crusted wonder, without the stodgy pastry.

For a souped up menu or smooth moves to power you through the day, you can do no better than the convenience and comfort of Splendid Spoon. With nationwide delivery and free shipping, there’s never a bad time to break drink it all in. Use the code “SAVE25NOW” to get $25 off your next order.

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On Everyone’s Lips

Do you eat food? Then boy howdy, do I have a book for you. Yes, that’s certainly painting with a broad brush, but Laura Theodore’s Vegan for Everyone really is a cookbook built to accommodate each and every eater out there, no matter age, location, tastes, and time constraints.

This is the essential reference built of simple staple recipes to get you started or keep you going on a plant-based path, transforming everyday ingredients into remarkable meals. No experience necessary, because these formulas are built upon basic cooking skills, even easy enough for a toddler to mash together in some cases. At a time when ingredients can be limited and patience is wearing thin, such instant gratification is a true comfort to revel in.

Visually inspiring from cover to cover, there’s a mouthwatering photo accompanying almost all of the 160 recipes within. Beyond the food itself, there’s a real wealth of information for new vegans or reluctant cooks. Get detailed shopping lists to build out a plant-based pantry, organizational advice to keep your spice rack in order, and get educated on nutritional needs, all in place.

Starting bright and early with breakfasts worth waking up for, the promise of Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins (page 46) certainly gave me something to look forward to on a few very dreary mornings. Effortless to throw together, just as promised, the tender crumb cradled just the right ratio of decadent chocolate chunks to toothsome coconut shreds. Amazingly moist yet low in fat, I was honestly stunned by the texture, considering there was no added oil. Balancing out healthy impulses and more indulgent cravings, these are a great option to prepare in advance to grab and go.

Eggs are off the menu of course, but you’d never know it by one bit of the Vegan Egg Salad for Everyone (page 140.) Sunny yellow tofu is mashed into creamy submission with the very same salty, savory comfort that defines the classic hard-boiled rendition. Granted, I had to substitute capers for the prescribed green olives based on grocery shortages, but the flavor didn’t seem to suffer one bit. Sandwiched between two hearty slices of homemade molasses wheat bread, lunch was served in about 5 minutes flat.

Simmer down and get cozy, because the Red Lentil-Potato Curry Soup (page 132) is like a warm blanket wrapping your entire body with soothing energy. Thickened by legumes alone, each spoonful has real body and soul. I did double down on the curry powder to get the spice just right, but that easy adaptability is part of its beauty. Season to taste to suit any palate, whether you keep it mild for the kids or wild for the hot-blooded chili lovers among us.

Cold peanut noodles are already a lightning-fast staple for eating on the run, but if you can believe it, the Peanut-y Carrot “Noodles” (page 186) are even faster than conventional approaches. By swapping out spiralized carrots for starchy pasta, you don’t even have to cook these vegetable strands to make them delicious. Better yet, they lighten the dish considerably, meaning you can slather on extra peanut sauce without a second thought.

Not only am I sharing the secret recipe behind this shockingly simple recipe, I’m giving away the whole kit and caboodle. That’s right, one lucky reader will WIN a copy of Vegan for Everyone! To enter, get started by leaving me a comment below about your #1 basic recipe for everyday eats. What’s the first thing you recommend everyone learns to cook? Don’t forget to fill out the form to make it official, and gain additional entries to improve your odds, too.

Continue reading “On Everyone’s Lips”

Fealing Better

It’s barely an exaggeration to say that the whole world has gone CBD crazy. The range of infused products is staggering, from shampoo to cough drops, cookie dough to sparkling water. I can personally vouch for the benefits of this natural nootropic. Sometimes the stresses of daily life can become overwhelming, and while it would be nice to run away on a yoga retreat to de-stress, having a little tincture of hemp oil on standby has been a real lifesaver for a quick fix.

I’ve tried many different brands over the years, so when I had the opportunity to try Feals, I was excited. What immediately stood out to me about Feals is their personalized approach. They have a testing flight for $20, which contains 3 samples of different strengths. This is perfect for the CBD newbie, as you can try all 3 (600MG, 1200MG, and 2400MG) before committing to a full sized bottle. Most people don’t know where to start when it comes to hemp-derived products, be it how much to take or when to take it. If you’re uncertain about how hemp might affect you, this trial flight is an easy introduction. Experience firsthand what a lesser or greater dosage feels like, without any risk, to figure out what works best for your unique brain chemistry.

My favorite thing about hemp is that it doesn’t cause a drastic, sudden change in mood. It’s much more subtle, slowly soothing and calming over the span of about 45 minutes. For those times when you’re stuck in a rut, in a sad downward spiral, it can be just the little push to get you out and get on with the day.

Improved mental health is the primary reason why I turn to Feals, but it can have many other beneficial uses, too. Products containing hemp oil have been shown to also help alleviate chronic headaches, muscle pain, inflammation, and other physical ailments.

Scientifically speaking, THC, the oil that is extracted from the hemp plant, is the ingredient that makes you feel calmer. The highest amount of THC you’ll find in any hemp product is under 0.3%. The trace amounts will not leave you feeling out of it, but just generally more at ease. I’m able to take a couple of drops during the day and still be fully functional, not the least bit groggy.

The great thing about hemp oil is that the effects are cumulative the more you take it. The only downside is the taste, which is every bit as appealing as cannabis smells. You can always mix a few drops into your morning coffee or smoothie to mask the intense grassy flavor.

Reaping the full rewards of hemp oil is all about finding the dosage that works for you. Feals is ideal for just that reason. When you find your optimal strength, their full sized tinctures last a long time because they’re so concentrated that you only need a couple of drops at once. Feals is a convenient, affordable way to start trying CBD without making blind leap of faith; the results will speak for themselves.

The folks at FEALS are extending a special offer to BitterSweet readers! Sign up for a membership and get 30% off your order, every time!

Rise to Shine Again

Mezze Sampler

Ful Medames

Baba Ganoush

Soup Du Jour

Kofta (meatballs with allspice, cumin, mint, cilantro, onion, and olive oi)

Saha Yellow Curry (aeasonal vegetables, wild mushrooms, tofu,  rice or quinoa)

Bastilla (almonds, onions, parsley, spices wrapped in phyllo and baked with powdered sugar garnish)

Wild Mushroom Knaffe (wild mushrooms, shredded phyllo, vegan cream cheese, coconut-chermoula-chipotle sauce)

Ya Mama (roasted seasonal fruit, date & almond marzipan, and dark chocolate wrapped in phyllo)

From San Francisco to Berkeley and back again, the east bay lost a shining star last spring when the cooks at Saha packed their knives, but the light continues to burn brightly on the other side of the bridge. Originally a destination commanding crowds inside the Hotel Carlton, Chef Mohamed Aboghanem has reignited the flame back where it all started sixteen years ago.

Drawing from a lifetime of Yemeni cookery and family recipes, Chef Aboghanem sources local, seasonal ingredients to lend a contemporary twist to his menu. Boasting a wealth of vegan, gluten-free dishes, his own daughter’s dietary needs inspired the innovative, meatless bill of fare, but rave reviews keep these offerings in heavy rotation. Presented with elegance and finesse, the experience is on par with fine dining, without the typical price tag. Bold spices romance the plate, capturing nuanced, harmonious flavors from start to finish, allowing diners to focus their amorous intentions on their dates.

Separated from the boutique hotel lobby by gently parted curtains, Saha is a world apart from it’s humble roots, but still true to the soul of the cuisine.

Saha
1075 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Seeds of Revolution

Ben & Jerry’s is making headlines so fast, you could get whiplash trying to keep up with these two men. No sooner than I hit “publish” on what I thought would be the ice cream review of the of the year, or at least of the season, did a brand new press release come flying through my inbox. Thrown in there as if it was a second thought, a little note to just slip under the door while no one was home, turned out to be a bombshell.

Beyond announcing another flavor, this was a brand new base entirely, never before seen in commercial ice cream production.

Sunflower butter.

No nuts, no dairy, pure indulgence.

If you were a fan of the original almond milk line from Ben & Jerry’s, you’re going to be disappointed… Because you’ll be deeply displeased that the entire range of flavors can’t be upgraded to this new base instead.

Almonds have enjoyed mainstream success for their established identity as wholesome, fairly neutral carriers of good fats and creamy textures. Sunflower seeds are the underdogs, with all those positive qualities, but none of the recognition. Masterfully blended with decadent flavors and extravagant mix-ins, I personally would have never guessed the seedy underbelly supporting it all. Not a hint of nuttiness, no matter how carefully I tasted, came though above the intended indulgences.

Coming this summer, keep an eye out for these three sensations that will rock your local freezer aisle and scoop shops:

“Milk” & Cookies (vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate sandwich cookies, and chocolate cookie swirls):

Delightful doughy bites swimming in a frozen pool of non-dairy milk, slowly returning to a more liquid state, coating each morsel in a luscious cloak of thickened cream. Huge chunks of sandwich cookies jut out of every other spoonful, as if they hadn’t even been chopped before being loaded into the pint. The end effect is neither vanilla nor chocolate, but somehow, all the best components of the two all at once.

Crème Brûlée Cookie (burnt caramel with brown sugar cookies and salted caramel swirls):

Dirty blonde with a dark, mysterious edge, this complex little vixen is my new obsession. Though it sounds like a straight shot of sugar in a waffle cup, it manages an impressive level of balance with subtly bitter, lightly salted caramel, toasted and nutty, perfectly complimenting the seeded base. The interplay between gooey swirl and soft, fudgy molasses-flecked cookies makes every bite exciting, right down to the bottom of the carton.

Mint Chocolate Cookie (mint with chocolate sandwich cookies):

Fresh, bright, sweet peppermint cradles a fine mist of crumbled wafer cookies, interspersed by enormous cookie boulders. Treading the fine line between rich and refreshing, the overall experience is solidly one of indulgence.

These seeded pints are being added to the current dairy-free offerings, making 17 flavors in all for the truly lactose intolerant to raise a spoon to.

Tongue Thai’d

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was still fresh off the plane from Thailand. For weeks, I still dreamed of stone temples and skyscrapers, street markets and tuk-tuks, elephants and endless green plains.

Even now, so many months removed, the taste of numbing chilies lingers on my lips, a haunting memory that teases at the tip of my tongue. Northern California is not lacking in exceptional eateries, yet none can quite match the full experience. Actually being in Thailand to enjoy the native cuisine probably has a lot to do with the flavor, more so than the mere ingredients.

Taking into account that one can never quite match the full bouquet of flavors, complemented by the nuances that each cook uses to season their dish, as passed down by generations of chefs and mothers and eaters alike, I was able to take away quite a few lessons on Thai cookery that have served me very well since then. It’s truly selfishness, and laziness, that has kept me from sharing the secrets abroad. Well, the time has come to divulge at least a taster of those truths! It all comes down to the expertise from May Kaidee‘s legendary cooking school.

Alongside about a half-dozen other hungry students, we learned straight from the source how to make the best Thai food anywhere in the world. It all comes down to balance, like everything else in life, and quality ingredients. That should come as no surprise, but it was the tiniest little things that shook me to the core, completely changing the character of a dish in unexpected ways. Whereas I had always thought that the delicate perfume of lemongrass, that fibrous stalky aromatic, was the key to essential “Thai” taste, it turned out that makrut lime leaves were actually the silent source. Otherwise known as kaffir lime, the zest and juice add their own piquancy of course, but those tender green leaves, difficult to source fresh overseas, held the key. Grassy yet mild, sweet but subdued, they’re the vanilla extract to every savory success; adored yet rarely identified and properly celebrated.

Furthermore, tom kha paste, a shortcut ingredient I would have looked down my nose at on grocery store shelves, comes to life in a completely new palate when made from scratch. Every home cook has their own blend, just like a curry paste of any color, but May Kaidee’s stands alone as more than mere soup stock.

We smeared it atop sliced seedless cucumbers piled high with sticky rice and pumpkin hummus, lending a gentle burn, a comforting warmth, to the whole assembly.

Then there was the pad Thai, one of the last dishes I would ever order at a restaurant. Nothing against the noodles, but most renditions I’ve twisted around my fork have been gluey, sugary lumps of starch, with vegetables being few and far between. No, this isn’t how it should be! Replacing the egg with an startling splash of coconut milk, of all things, we were taught that this keeps the strands of rice vermicelli lubricated while enriching the light coating of sauce. Never would I have dreamed of trying such an incongruous addition, but there it was, advised by the experts and working its magic in real time.

Som tum is a light starter salad that I have certainly dabbled with in the past, but never put the proper muscle into. Lazily mixing raw vegetables in a bowl, it turns out that technique is everything in this application. Do not give in to the food processor and think you can just blend the base for an equivalent outcome. It takes just as much time, if a bit more elbow grease, to bust out that mortar and pestle to do a proper pounding.

At first, I was aghast at the inclusion of exotics such as pineapple, corn, and the suggestion of apples, even grapes! Previously these items would have struck me as “inauthentic” interlopers that had no place on this plate, but it goes back to balance. Yes, while green papaya salad should be primarily sour, bitter, and spicy, it still needs a dose of sweetness to balance everything out. Don’t forget the peanuts for a satisfyingly crisp crunch. That’s not just the western love of the legume speaking; Thais truly love the goober, too.

Hungry for more than the basic sustenance of these staple foods, we devoured platters of spring rolls, vats of curries and stews, steamer baskets heaping with rice, trying to take in the knowledge as if it could be directly consumed. From start to finish, the revelations arrived with a smile, a spoonful, a laugh and a dance. If there’s one thing you do in Thailand, let it be a lesson on how to bring this cuisine back home in its full-flavored, unabridged glory. If that’s still a venture too far to consider, I’ve heard May Kaidee has setup shop state-side in New York City, too…

Better study up to keep the ball rolling, along with your tender wheat wrappers or softened rice papers, to get a taste of Thailand in any kitchen.

May Kaidee Restaurant and Cooking School
59 Ratchadamnoen Avenue
Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Thailand