Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday Brunch at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco

It's good to know that Zuni Cafe on Market (between Franklin and Gough) is still around. And still serving great food. Last time I ate here, I was probably in my twenties. It was the place I chose when my mother was taking my friends and I out to celebrate (read: not inexpensive). I also used to go to the very crowded bar with friends on a Friday or Saturday night and drink whiskey sours with Johnny Walker Black. Boy, that was a long, long time ago.

As I arrived right on time, I used the $10 valet parking (I drive a lengthy wagon now) and was greeted by the fresh-faced host. I was meeting a friend from high school who was in town for the holidays, having moved to NYC some time ago. The youthful host informed me our reservation was 15 minutes later than I had thought. So I took the opportunity to hang at the (unchanged) bar and ordered a glass of red wine. I told the bartender of my lengthy absence from the place, discovered next year is Zuni's 30th birthday, and asked for her recommendation of the best vegetarian item on the menu. It occurred to me that this would not have happened the last time I was here. I would never have thought to strike up a conversation with the bartender, nor share any personal details, but my eye make-up would have been perfect.

But enough about me, what about the food?

I took the bartender's advice and ordered the "Eggs, fried in rapini, with artichoke, beans, and fried breadcrumbs (pictured above). I asked the server what "fried in rapini" meant and he responded that rapini was a green. I think the menu should have said "fried with rapini", as I was trying to imagine what "fried in rapini" meant (a fried egg wrapped in rapini?). Anyway, the dish was really sublime, fried eggs with rapini, topped with capers, and super-fried breadcrumbs. The special touch was topping the eggs with a delicious sweet vinegar. The artichoke was a great compliment, but I felt they could have done more with the beans. Still, I would order this dish again in a heart-beat.

My friend ordered the very pretty baby arugula salad, with red and golden beets, and pomegranates to start:

He followed this with a pizza of Asiago and gorgonzola cheese with chicory:

The pizza was delicious, very thin crust with a lovely melding of the cheeses. The chicory was really not much of a player on the piece I tried. Ornamental, perhaps, with the subtlest bitter crunch, but not that special.

As a space, Zuni is full of nooks and crannies. We had a pleasant, tiny table for two and the sunlight streamed in on us throughout our meal. I hope to enjoy another meal at Zuni again soon.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vegan Turkey Breasts

Here's a favorite holiday dish that I will be recreating for this year's Christmas feast. These high-protein vegan turkey breasts are delicious and compliment all the traditional turkey trimmings. And, most of the work can be done the day before!

Happy Holidays to all!

Vegan Turkey Breasts (adapted from Real Food Daily Cookbook):

8 oz tempeh
6 oz tofu
4 tbsp miso
1-1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut up the tempeh and tofu and blend in a food processor until crumbly and well mixed. In a small bowl, mix together the miso and mustard. Set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and fry the onion until soft (6-8 minutes). Add the sage, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tempeh-tofu mix and the miso-mustard to the pan and saute for 8-10 minutes, until starting to brown. (My mixture was moist, rather like tuna salad, but it did brown). Remove from heat and allow to cool. When the mixture is cool enough to touch, form into 4 patties with your hands. Brush the patties with olive oil and bake from 25-35 minutes until golden brown. (Gentry says the unbaked patties can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days if you want to make these ahead).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Butternut squash and coconut soup

I tend to avoid butternut squash for two reasons:
1. It is frequently the vegetable of choice for bland vegetarian dishes in non-vegetarian restaurants.
2. It is often mixed, esp. in soup form, with a sweet partner, like apple. I like my vegetables savory!

If you thought I was going to say, I hate cutting and peeling those darn squash, stay with me.

This recipe combines roasted butternut squash with onions, jalapenos, vegetable broth, coconut milk, and cilantro. I loved this savory, creamy, spicy vegan soup. My only disappointment - one butternut squash made two fairly modest servings. And, they're hardly inexpensive as vegetables go. Anyway, if you're like me, and you've had that butternut squash sitting around for a few weeks looking pretty and fall-like, this may be the recipe for you.

It's also a strikingly beautiful soup that my photo does not do justice to. I'll certainly be making this one again soon.

Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup:
1 butternut squash
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1" ginger, peeled and minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and ribbed
7 oz vegetable broth
7 oz lowfat coconut milk
3 TBS cilantro, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the butternut squash on the diagonal to expose as much of the inside squash. Scrape out the seeds and fiber. Cover a baking sheet with foil and cover with EVOO. Lay the slices out, covering both sides with oil and using the slices as tools to cover the sheet evenly with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 10 minutes, turn slices over, and roast for another 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cover a heavy bottom pan with oil and cook the onion over low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Remove the squash rind and chop the flesh. Add to the onion mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, then simmer. Add the coconut milk and puree using an immersion blender. Add the chopped cilantro and adjust the seasoning.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Portobello and Walnut Pate on Crostini

If you like mushrooms, this is a delicious, light pate that makes flavorful holiday appetizers. It's a raw recipe from The Artful Vegan from my favorite vegan chef Eric Tucker. Trust me, Eric knows mushrooms.

The recipe in the cookbook is a filling for root vegetable ravioli with sweet pepper-olive tapenade, but I enjoyed it on crostini with creamy goat cheese, on crackers, and as a dip for crudite. I thought it would make an awesome pasta sauce, but heating it really depleted it's flavor.

This recipe is very easy to make and keeps refrigerated for 4 days, so you can make it ahead of time. My minor adjustments: I used all fresh herbs, added a little red wine and dropped the nutmeg and reduced the recipe (6 oz portobellos - a Trader Joe's pack vs. 16 oz, but I didn't adjust all of the proportions evenly).

Portobello and Walnut Pate adapted from The Artful Vegan

1/2 cup walnuts, soaked in warm water for 4 hours
6 oz portobello mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp barley miso
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/8 tsp fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper
red wine

While soaking the walnuts, combine the mushrooms, red onions, garlic, miso, and EVOO. Marinate for 2 hours.

Drain the walnuts, then place all ingredients in a food processor and process adding red wine and additional EVOO until you reach the desired consistency (mine was slightly fluffy).

Below, the pate spread on toasted baguette and topped with goat cheese and fresh thyme leaves. I broiled them the cheese topped crostini for 2 minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Millennium Cooking Class: December Holiday Food

I left today's Holiday Cooking Class at Millennium elated, which was amazing only because I ate so much food, I could have felt weighted down. This class was full of energy - an awesome group of proactive, engaged cooks and a particularly ambitious menu created by executive chef Eric Tucker, who was even more on fire today than usual.

Our lunchtime meal above (starting at 1 o'clock): spinach salad with tempeh bacon and braised leeks, tofu aioli, marinated and broiled portobello, salad with braised celery, mandarines, and toasted pumpkins seeds candied with agave, chard-cilantro pate, walnut fougasse bread, and red onion marmalade.

I have to tell you, I was very excited to have the opportunity to make the bread with expert guidance. Bread-making has been on my list of things to learn for a couple of years, but I have procrastinated due to a lack of confidence. Making it today, with Eric's hands-on demonstration and expertise was a really great learning experience for me, and the bread turned out great!

Here's a good look at the spinach salad: braised leeks, bacon tempeh, and mushrooms. The hot tempeh and mushrooms just wilted the spinach - sensational!

Here's the salad with salad mix, radicchio, braised celery, mandarines, and pumpkin seeds:

A strikingly beautiful chard-cliantro pate, garnished with pomegranate, an adaption of the Spinach-Cilantro Pate from The Millennium Cookbook, set with agar agar flakes. The taste was pure freshness!

Here's another shot of the sliced pate, which paired beautifully with Millennium's red pepper jelly: that's lunch! Let's move on to the second meal we prepared...

In the center is a seitan roast - shepherd's pie with cranberry sauce, at top a side of sauteed cauliflower, strawberry daikon, and tat soi, baked beans, asian yuba roll, and wasabi-edamame mashed potatoes.

The seitan holiday dish was decadent: braised seitan, topped with garlic mashed potatoes, topped with vegan béarnaise (made with cashew cream, white wine, and tarragon):

How could you not be salivating right now!

Still life: Yuba roll on a rainy day.

Yuba is tofu skin, here, stuffed with Seitan and asian-style sautéed vegetables (cabbage, parsnip, carrots), baked and topped with black and white sesame seeds. Served with a rich red wine reduction sauce.

Holiday colors: cauliflower, strawberry daikon, and tat soi, sautéed with garlic and ginger-black bean oil:

I really loved this combination. Eric makes the best cauliflower ever and he just sautés it .

And, finally, a mini dessert plate:

Two flans with rich caramel sauce: one persimmon and one meyer lemon. Fruit compote and a tiny bite of olive oil bundt cake.

Man, what a class this was! Thanks to Eric, Ann, Thomas and Kevin for making it an amazing experience!

See the end for links to previous Millennium class posts.

I made the tofu aioli and this was a delicious, easy-to-make spread that would be great as a holiday dip for bread or crudite, or spread on a sandwich. We used a medium firm tofu, so it had a very slight grainy quality. Enjoy!

Tofu Aioli

2.5 TBS finely chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage
6-7 oz medium firm tofu
1/2 cup roasted garlic in oil
2 TBS chickpea miso
pinch black pepper
few drops of cider vinegar

Saute the herbs in the EVOO to release their flavor. Put the herbs, tofu, roasted garlic in oil, black pepper and chickpea miso in a food processor and process to a paste. Add a few drops of cider vinegar.

This was my 8th amazing cooking class at Millennium!
Here's links to previous posts on Millennium cooking classes:
  • Fall Harvest 2008

  • Indian Summer

  • Southern Comfort Cooking Class

  • Spring Cooking Class

  • Fall Harvest Cooking Class

  • Chiles Class

  • Tomatoes Class
  • Monday, December 08, 2008

    Winter Vegetable Soup

    Is hibernation starting to seem like a good idea?

    Bit of a "cold snap" here (by Calif. standards), so here's a recipe for a hearty Winter vegetable soup to bring you comfort and joy! Stay cozy!

    Winter Vegetable Soup:

    3 leeks
    1 TBS olive oil
    1 TBS butter
    1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
    2 cloves garlic, pressed
    1 potato, peeled and diced
    2 carrots, sliced
    1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
    1 small cauliflower, cut into small florettes
    1 Qt Imagine Organic Vegetable broth
    1/4 cup red lentils, rinsed
    1 tsp tomato paste
    1 tsp basil pesto
    1 cup water (if desired, to make a more brothy soup)
    1/2 bunch dinosaur kale, stems removed, torn into 2-3 " pieces
    salt & pepper as desired

    Remove the green part of the leek and the roots. Slice the leeks lengthwise into quarters, leaving the top part intact. Swish around in water and leave to soak for 5 mins to remove any dirt and grit that may have traveled into the leek. Slice.

    Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook the leeks over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the potato, carrots, butter, garlic, and Herbes de Provence. Cover and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes (stir to avoid sticking). Add the cauliflower florettes and sweet potato and a couple of pinches of salt. Cover and cook 2-3 minutes.

    Uncover, and add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add the red lentils, tomato paste, and basil pesto. Season. Simmer, partially covered for 10-15 minutes. Add the dinosaur kale and simmer until kale is just tender (about 8 minutes) and water if desired. Adjust seasoning and serve.

    p.s. I enjoyed this soup with some crusty bread and creamy Havarti cheese.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Coconut Ceviche and Cafe Gratitude

    This delicious vegan recipe for Coconut Ceviche is from the I Am Gratefulcookbook of Cafe Gratitude, raw vegan restaurants located in San Francisco, San Rafael, Berkeley, and Healdsburg. I adapted the recipe to include agave nectar and avocado, and it was really amazing. The recipe uses julienned fresh young thai coconut, along with traditional ceviche ingredients including diced tomato and cucumber and finely chopped red onions, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, minced garlic, fresh lime juice, and salt and pepper.

    All ingredients are combined and allowed to marinate for at least an hour.

    On tasting, I found the lime overpowering, so balanced the acidity with sweet agave nectar and the creamy addition of avocado. It was delicious.

    I recently went to the Marin Cafe Gratitude with fellow food blogger Anna, of Anna's Cool Finds. Here's her post on the amazing meal we enjoyed.

    I loved it so much I went back the following week and enjoyed "I am Transformed", tacos with Bhutanese red rice and black beans (cooked) and their amazing guacamole and cashew "cheese".

    My friend had the "I am Fulfilled" salad:

    And we both enjoyed the "I am Abundant" appetizer plate, with a delicious (cooked) cauliflower-cumin soup:

    All the food was outstanding: fresh, vibrant, and incredibly delicious. I can't imagine anyone eating here and feeling deprived. The service was excellent and the food was so filling both times, I had no room for dessert (and, from what I've heard, the desserts are amazing!). Even though I came out feeling quite full after both meals, I also felt full of vitality. I definitely expect to be a regular customer.

    I was wondering if I might find the atmosphere uncomfortably new-age. Not at all. The whole experience was unconditionally positive and I recommend it without hesitation. Same goes for the cookbook! I'm really excited to try these dishes.