Crumby, Not Crummy

I love coffee cake, but I take issue with the false promises it makes right from the start. It strikes me as disingenuous to lure in the under-caffeinated with such a title, only to deliver a cinnamon-infused experience. I’ve heard the old argument that it’s simply suggesting how well it pairs with a cup of Joe, but that sounds like a poor excuse for deceptive branding, like “juice” that’s never seen a fruit in its short squeezed life. Coffee cake was an evolution, not an invention, derived from many other styles of baked confections in the early days of sugar cravings all across Europe, which can partially explain the indistinct, ambiguous definition of the form.

Some coffee cakes had fruits, others nuts, some were fashioned as loaves while others rose into towering rings and bundts; the one common factor that united them was the uncanny ability to eat them during a coffee break. Bearing out that logic, there would be some fresh hell to pay if we started calling all types of cookies “snack biscuits.” Can you imagine the anger and confusion that would result from the hangry sweet-toothed eaters receiving dry wafers when they were expecting rich, decadent brownies? That’s not a world I want to live in, quite frankly.

Steering clear of the controversy all together, I much prefer a more accurate headline. for my coffee complement: Crumb cake or struesel cake are equally appropriate. No one can deny that coarse, buttery topping, no matter the flavor nor format, for lack or abundance of additional mix-ins. The issue is far from black and white, contrary to this unconventional expression of the concept.

Inspired by the jar of black tahini remaining in my fridge after a fortuitous visit to the Living Tree Community Foods offices, this particular coffee-free spin on the classic fully embraces and celebrates the very best part of its namesake. Living up to its moniker, unlike so many cakes of yore, the struesel topping is thick, bold and unmistakable.

While we’re disrupting the usual routine anyway, why should cinnamon have all the crumb fun? A touch of cardamom and a hint of lemon complement the nutty notes of sesame throughout, subtle yet unmistakable nuances against the tender crumb.

A strong cup of spiced Turkish coffee would certainly be a welcome accompaniment, but as we’ve established, far from mandatory for maximum enjoyment. Whether you serve your slices with tea, lemonade, or nothing else at all, they will always make good on the promise of a delicious sweet treat.

Black and White Sesame Streusel Cake

Black Sesame Streusel:

1/2 Cup Black Sesame Tahini
2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter, Melted
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Black Sesame Seeds
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

White Sesame Cake:

1/2 Cup Raw Sesame Tahini
1/4 Cup Vegan Butter, at Room Temperature
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Plain Vegan Yogurt
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a square 8 x 8-inch baking pan; set aside.

Begin by preparing the streusel topping. In a large bowl, stir together the black tahini, melted vegan butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Add in the flour, sesame seeds, and salt, mixing with a fork to create coarse, chunky crumbs. Set in the refrigerator to chill while focusing on the cake batter next.

Place the raw tahini, vegan butter, sugar, and yogurt into the bowl of your stand mixer and thoroughly cream everything together using the paddle attachment. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, making sure that all the ingredients are incorporated into a homogeneous blend before proceeding.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon together into a separate bowl, whisking to combine. In a small pitcher, stir the non-dairy milk, lemon juice, and vanilla together as well. Add about half of the dry goods into the stand mixer, blending until mostly incorporated. Introduce half of the liquids, continuing to mix at a low speed. Repeat the procedure until both are smoothly blended in. Be careful not to over-beat the batter though; a few errant lumps are perfectly fine.

Smooth the batter into your prepared baking dish. Break up the crumbs with a fork and sprinkle them evenly all over. It may seem like a lot, but you want full coverage here, so don’t hold back.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan before slicing and serving.

Makes 9 – 12 Servings

Printable Recipe

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Fountain of Youth

In a business as ruthless and cut-throat as the restaurant industry, it’s a well known fact that few fledgling establishments survive beyond a single year. Such depressing statistics are far from shocking when you consider the cost of rent, rising prices for food, and aggressive competition on all sides. That makes the longevity of a place like St. Francis Fountain truly remarkable, speaking volumes of the menu, of course, but also the fiercely loyal following it’s created over the past one hundred years in operation. Yes indeed, first opened in 1918, this little slice of Americana has beaten the odds for a century, with no signs of fading away.

It’s the kind of place where some things never change. Wooden booths where young lovers and families of many generations alike convene over classic breakfast fare, no matter the time of day. Nostalgic signage lines the walls, bearing such endearing statements like “we’re glad you’re here” that you can’t help but believe their genuine sincerity. The relentless march of time is evident in the menu, however. The option to have a milkshake made with soy gelato, or scramble platter swapping eggs for tofu, was probably not part of the original plan.

While it’s true, you will find toast in ample supply here, it’s a far cry from the $9 avocado creations assembled for Instagram notoriety; rather, they’re the default side dish to all savory entrees, toasted dry, with a side of vegan butter on the side for all who wish to remain dairy-free. Sourdough seems mandatory for such a classic San Francisco institution, no matter the pairing. In this case, roughly crumbled chunks of tofu slathered in a mild ranchero sauce will cure what ails you, sauteed with as many (or as few) vegetables as your heart desires, scrambled to taste.

Best known for a quirky dish that’s offered as a side but eats like a full meal, the “Nebulous Potato Thing” defies definition, which is part of the appeal. A mountainous pile of hash browns, crisped on the outside, tender and buttery on the inside, arrive at the table like a gustatory challenge. Even the half portion is immense, enough to satiate any reasonable eater for a full day. Spicy pico de gallo is crowned with a generous dollop of creamy guacamole for the vegan version at no extra charge. In this day and age when just the green fruit alone can command sky-high prices, this just may be the bargain of the century.

Like any greasy spoon worth its griddle, pancakes flip onto plates in a diverse palate of fruit flavors. Banana walnut is a real winner, yielding large chunks of toasted nuts and sweet banana in every forkful. Granted, the syrup isn’t pure maple, but it suits the venue for its no-frills, unpretentious sensibility.

Though not explicitly stated, the chocolate egg cream, arguably one of the greatest obscure soda fountain staples, can still get its fizz on with a quick soymilk swap. This may be the only place in the city, if not the entire west coast, willing to serve up this slice of childhood sweetness for alternative eaters. Even if you wake up late, don’t sleep on this option.

Limited hours preclude it from being the late-night haunt of many stoners’ dreams, but every morning, seven days a week, St. Francis Fountain consistently delivers the hits to soothe the hungover and the heartbroken, to feed the community, body and soul.

It’s hard to say what might be coming out of the kitchen in another hundred years from now, but based on its track record, I’d sure like to think that it will be hot, comforting, and easily veganized.

St. Francis Fountain
2801 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Curry of Another Color

Glowing like a vibrant stoplight on the table, each bowlful of curry distinguishes itself with a visual warning, much like the markings of poisonous animals send out a visual alarm to all those who cross their paths. Stay away, or else, admonish the unworldly hues, seemingly more insistent and threatening when found in the boldest shades. For curry, quite the contrary, those alarm bells seem to be silent, and in fact beckon to gustatory fire-starters with their distinctive complexions. From the more mellow Indian yellow madras, the deceptively gentle browns of massaman, to the full spectrum of more fiery stews from Thailand in brilliant greens and reds, at least we only have ourselves to blame when our palates are set ablaze. The cautionary colors were all plain to see.

What then, if you came across a curry of another color, an entirely different beast altogether? Would the potential culinary danger be daunting, or a delicious challenge to face?

All hints of heat are hidden within that murky stew, concealed by a cloak of impenetrable darkness. Fresh vegetables light the way, promising a healthy and satisfying meal, but all other bets are off the table.

Darkened not by some flavorless edible dyes, but by the rich, pungent cloves of black garlic, this new breed balances out heat with a molasses-like sweetness, earthiness, and smoky character. All of that darkness conceals bright, bold pops of citrus and herbaceous cilantro, a stark but compelling contrast to those initial base notes.

Once you make the paste, you have this umami bomb ready at your finger tips for many more almost instant meals to come. Just freeze the leftovers in ice cub trays and store in zip-top bags when solid. Pop one or two out when you’re ready to eat, and toss in any of your favorite vegetables to round out the dish. Consider the following recipe a guideline to fill out to your own taste- and, of course, spice tolerance.

Black Curry Paste

1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Lightly Packed
2 Stalks Fresh Lemongrass, Peeled Chopped
14 Makrut Lime Leaves
4 Cloves Raw Garlic
1 1/2 Bulbs Black Garlic
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Roughly Chopped
4 – 6 Thai Bird’s Eye Chiles, Stemmed
3-Inches Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Roughly Chopped
1 Lime, Zested and Juiced
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Avocado, Peanut, or Olive Oil
1/4 – 1/3 Cup Mushroom or Vegetable Stock

To make curry paste, simply toss the cilantro, lemongrass, both types of garlic, onion, chiles, ginger, and lime into your food processor. Pulse to combine and begin breaking down the more fibrous vegetables. Slowly drizzle in the oil, followed by 1/4 cup of the stock. Puree, pausing to scrape down the sides periodically, until the paste is very smooth. Add more stock if needed to keep the blades spinning, and be patient. It could take as long as 10 minutes of processing to plow through all that lemongrass.

Use right away or freeze for more long term storage. It’s perfect for enlivening soups and stews, of course, but also stir-fries, salad dressings, veggie burger patties, cornbread, and more.

Makes About 1 Cup Curry Paste

Black Curry:

1/4 Cup Black Curry Paste
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 14-Ounce Can No Salt Added Black Beans, Undrained
1/4 Cup Mushroom or Vegetable Stock
3 – 4 Cups Mixed Vegetables (I used yellow squash, green beans, mushrooms and carrots)
Fresh Cilantro
Roasted, Unsalted Peanuts, Roughly Chopped
Rice or Noodles, to Serve

To make a simple black curry, stir the curry paste, tomato paste, and black beans together. The liquid in the can will help create a thick, rich sauce, so don’t even think of dumping it out! Heat the mixture, along with the stock and your vegetables of choice in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the stew is highly aromatic. Top with fresh cilantro and peanuts, and serve alongside hot rice or noodles to complete the meal.

Makes 2 – 3 Servings

Printable Recipe

Touring Like a Real Food Rock Star


Photo by Paul Marshall

One month since Real Food, Really Fast has been unleashed upon the world, the book has taken off like a rocket, with no signs of coming back down to earth anytime soon. Four previous cookbooks printed and published, still nothing could have prepared me for the sensation this new addition to the kitchen appears to have created. It’s been quite a trip, even in the span of just a few short weeks, to see the overwhelming enthusiasm with which my baby has been received. Words fail to convey the full extent of my gratitude to all of you who have embraced it so, because you are the single reason for this unbelievable achievement!

Strong sales are a wonderful marker for success, but the greatest victory for me is seeing those recipes actually going to good use in real life. Photos sprouting up all across social media have made my heart soar, proving that this collection is more than just a pretty paper weight. I’ve been sharing some sweet and savory morsels through my on-going book tour, but you guys are the real rock stars out there. In case you need any more evidence of that fact, just take a gander at some of the incredible posts that have come of this whirlwind adventure so far.

Starting on a strong and spicy note, Nava Atlas of VegKitchen shared the recipe for Instant Kimchi Noodle Soup; a perfect winter warmer for those early January days, and even now as temperatures remain bracing for much of the northern hemisphere.

Dropping by for a visit with Spabettie, Kristina shared not only the Black Forest Skillet Crisp, but followed that up with an encore performance by the Instant Kimchi Noodle Soup.

Spoiler alert: I already spilled the beans about Robin’s adorable and love-ly adaptation for the Hash Brown Waffles over on Vegan Dollhouse, but it’s so good, it’s worth repeating.

Super mamma and fellow author Stephanie Dreyer is next to host the book, flaunting a few favorites and sharing her experiences as a trusted recipe tester. She saw this project through from the beginning, cooking through successes and failures alike, so you can take her word to heart!

Next up, we make a stop over at World of Vegan, one of the best vegan lifestyle resources on the web developed by my good friend Michelle Cehn, with those now-famous Hash Brown Waffles, and readers seem to be positively eating them up.

Listen up! This next one is a podcast interview with JL Fields, vegan writer, culinary instructor, and all-around incredible human being. I could have chatted with JL for hours, but luckily she kept the conversation focused on Real Food, Really Fast, plus some extra tips and tricks for speeding up your old favorite recipes as well.

Dianne of Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen was kind enough to share one of my favorite dinners, Cashew Scampi over buttery spaghetti, along with a generous giveaway! I’m afraid the giveaway is now over, but that recipe is quite the prize all by itself.

Displayed in gorgeous photos by the amazingly accomplished writer and photographer Faith Gorsky, fan favorite Buffalo Butted Pecans have never looked more mouth-watering.

Traveling over to visit the Chic Vegan next, the heat is on with my recipe for Seitan Bulgogi. Dianne can testify that it’s both blazingly fast and flavorful!

Laying down another hot track for you audiophiles, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Winter Redd and Sharon Titus of the Hungry Squared podcast, of which I’ve been a longtime fan myself. We discussed veganism at large, quick cooking tips, and delicious inspiration.

Real Food, Really Fast makes the grade as a keeper according to the book report by Lisa of Lisa’s Project: Vegan. In addition to her official assessment, Lisa shares an interview with me along with those now famous Hash Brown Waffles.

Love was in the air on Valentine’s Day, and both VegNews and Fran Costigan had the same sweet idea. Peppermint Bark Meltaways are ideal for showing someone you care, especially if your significant other happens to be a chocolate fiend. Score some bonus points here by incorporating a touch of fresh mint for especially kissable treats.

Gena Hamshaw, a supremely talented author who recently released her very own compendium on healthy plant-based recipes, lavished praise upon the Falafel Fattoush Salad, which has never looked as beautiful as it does through her lens. Beyond that incredibly thoughtful review, you’ll want to hustle on over for her generous giveaway, going on now through February 23rd.

Now, there’s good news and bad news, although the subject is one and the same. Stunningly, unbelievably, the first print run has already sold out, so there will be a bit of a delay shipping out the next round of orders. Have patience! Delivery may not be as fast as the recipes within, but I promise it will be worth the wait. Meanwhile, you can still purchase the Kindle version for instant gratification at anytime.

This is all just the warmup act, with many more appearances soon to come, so stay tuned, and follow me on social media to make sure you don’t miss any more appearances online and in real life!

As thanks for your incredible support throughout this whole process, I’m thrilled to offer one very sweet bonus from Rodelle. On hopes of fueling a bit more real food revelry, I’m offering one reader a bundle of superlative pantry fodder that includes an 8-ounce container of cocoa, a 4-ounce bottle of vanilla extract, a 4-ounce jar of vanilla paste, and a 2-ounce organic chocolate extract, all of the highest quality like you would expect from Rodelle. For a prize of this caliber though, I’m going to ask you to do a little bit of extra homework. To enter, take a picture of a recipe you’ve made from Real Food, Really Fast, or a snapshot of the book that you’ve found on the shelves, and share it on any social media platform with the hashtag #RealFoodReallyFast. Tag me (@BitterSweet__) and log your submission on the entry form, where you’ll find many more options for improving your odds from there. Since the book is in such short supply, it’s fine you simply post an image of the cover pulled from the internet, too!

Rodelle Baking Bundle Giveaway





As always, keep it real, and especially really delicious!

Last-Minute Love Notes

It’s never too late to say I love you, especially when you can whip up an edible valentine that will make anyone swoon. That’s the beauty of Real Food, Really Fast. Designed to solve everyday mealtime dilemmas, it’s also a treasure trove of almost instant recipes, capable of creating last-minute romantic meals for two. If your love knows no bounds, there are plenty of sweet treats suitable for sharing with all of your crushes, too. For something truly special though, my thoughts drift to a surprise breakfast in bed.

Even without any advanced planning, you can rise to the occasion with a wake-up call sure to exceed your beau’s wildest dreams.

Photo by Robin Means of Vegan Dollhouse

As written in the book, the Hash Brown Waffles are already pretty special; combining the irresistibly crispy form of a waffle with the savory comfort of shredded potatoes, the quick cooking time was just a side benefit to this unconventional approach. Robin Means of Vegan Dollhouse turned this delicious flirtation into a burning hot passion by making hers in a heart shaped waffle iron, which struck me as an ideal presentation for today. She even went through the extra effort of grating fresh potatoes, boldly adding an extra minute of prep work- Now that’s true love, folks. Check her blog for that easy adaptation, or for all you procrastinators still figuring out your game plan, continue on for the original quick-fix formula.

Hash Brown Waffles

From Real Food, Really Fast by Hannah Kaminsky

Little more than piles of shredded potatoes, what separates superlative hash browns from the merely adequate hash browns all comes down to texture. Shatteringly crisp on the outside yet tender, even borderline creamy on the inside, it’s a fine balance that’s difficult to strike. Using a waffle iron instead of a standard frying pan maximizes the surface contact for a far more satisfying crunchy crust, while the enclosure allows the spuds to essentially steam from within, ensuring perfectly tender bites through and through.

1 Pound Frozen Shredded Potatoes*, Thawed
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter or Coconut Oil, Melted
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Before doing anything else, begin preheating your waffle iron. All models work differently so yours may take more or less time to reach a suitable temperature.
Squeeze any excess water out of the shredded potatoes if necessary before tossing them into a large bowl. Mix in the melted vegan butter or oil, salt, and pepper, stirring thoroughly to incorporate. Make sure that the shreds are all evenly coated before proceeding.

Lightly grease the waffle maker. Distribute the potato mixture equally between four waffle squares, covering the surface as evenly as possible while packing it in firmly. Close the lid and make sure that it locks to ensure full contact with the hash browns. Cook on medium-high for 5 – 8 minutes, until golden brown all over. Serve right away, while still hot and crisp!

Makes 4 Waffles

*You can also find ready-to-cook shredded potatoes in the refrigerated sections of some grocery stores, alongside prepared and packaged side dishes

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