Vegan Chews & Progressive News {9-5-14}

In case you missed the edit to Monday’s post, please hop on over to the top of my “Saffron Cantaloupe Butter | The Importance of Calling Each Other Out” post and check out a very important retraction. Thank you!

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Happy Friday and welcome to your weekly dose of Vegan Chews and Progressive News (#NewsandChews)Today’s recipes feature an original take on the classic kale chip, a delectable interpretation of a quintessential flavor pairing, and a vegan taco bar for a crowd. Turning to news, we’re looking at an enlightening perspective on women’s lack of advancement in the workplace, Hong Kong’s powerful Occupy Central movement, and a book that explores a myriad of problems within the U.S. food system through investigative journalism. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Baked Pesto Kale Chips
via Sweet Simple Vegan

Photo via Sweet Simple Vegan.

Photo via Sweet Simple Vegan.

I’ve crafted many a crispy leaf of smoky kale in my time, from rich savory treats coated in cheesy cashew sauce to simply roasted greens coated in coconut oil and smoked paprika. I’ve even coated to-roast kale in hummus, but never before encountering this recipe had I contemplated the same use for pesto. Bound to yield deeply yet brightly flavored kale chip fabulousness, this recipe will certainly enter my repertoire in the very near future.

Sweet

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookie Bars
via The Honour System

Photo via The Honour System.

Photo via The Honour System.

In my 21-person vegan living cooperative, we devour our fair share of chickpea-based desserts, thanks to our monthly supply of 25-pound sacks of dried chickpeas. Similarly, I’m fairly certain that we consume up to 41% of New York state’s peanut butter supply. This 8-ingredient treat, therefore, proves more than well-suited for the Ferry Haus kitchen and bellies, once again marrying those three letters made for each other: PB & J.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Ferry Taco Bar with Roasted Chickpeas, Dirty Rice, Crispy Cabbage Slaw, & Salsa
Original Recipe

tacos

Speaking of Ferry Haus, last week I packed up my Brooklyn apartment and completed the short journey to my on-campus cooperative in Poughkeepsie, where this Tuesday I began classes as a junior Geography major at Vassar College. With 21 creative minds – both culinary and otherwise – to fill the kitchen, our nightly communal dinners never fail to wow, surprise, and disappear within minutes. Inspired by the corn tortillas that turned up in our refrigerator, I felt compelled to prepare a summery taco bar for the Haus, complete with smoked paprika-roasted chickpeas, tomato-laden dirty rice with plenty of spices (cumin, oregano, cilantro, Spanish paprika, cayenne), a bright and crunchy cabbage-carrot slaw for contrast, and a canned tomato classic-style salsa with onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Who can argue with veggies, grains, and legumes rolled up in a soft tortilla? Almost as good as a sandwich. ;)

Must-Read News Article

Why Aren’t Women Advancing at Work? Ask a Transgender Person.
via Jessica Nordell at New Republic

Photo via New Republic.

Photo via New Republic.

This eye-opening article from New Republic explores the fact that women advance in the workplace at a much lower rate than men, specifically the notion that this happens because of personal choices or cognitive and emotional characteristics, whether innate or socialized. Through interviews with individuals of trans experience who have remained in the same careers/jobs after their transitions, author Jessica Nordell reveals that individuals experience starkly different treatment in the workplace depending on their gender, even though they’re essentially the exact same person.

To take an example from the article, when a man named Ben still presented as a woman and solved a difficult math problem, his biology professor insisted that “Your boyfriend must have solved it.” However, after Ben’s transition, that same professor – unaware of Ben’s transition – commended his work, commenting that Ben’s work was “so much better than his sister’s.”

A fascinating article that sheds light upon the clear anti-woman bias that still exists in our society of supposed gender equality.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Hong Kong ‘Occupy Central’ Protests Call for Political Freedom After China Rejects Open Elections
via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

In Hong Kong, an outpouring of protestors have united under the name of Occupy Central to oppose the Chinese government’s rejection of demands for Hong Kong to freely choose its next leader in 2017. The oldest global faction in the Occupy movement, Occupy Central has proven its determination through huge numbers of protestors and international recognition, and is currently threatening to blockade the city’s central business district.

I don’t highlight this story to bash the Chinese government, for I don’t feel that it’s my place to do so as a Westerner whose government has its fair share of problems with its democratic leadership. Instead, I seek to act in solidarity with the protestors, who have publicly requested that individuals in the Western world spread the word of their struggle. Additionally, I hope that seeing these powerful protests against an oppressive government will inspire U.S. actors to more actively speak out against our less obviously exploitative system of rule, especially in regards to its regards to its treatment of already marginalized peoples.

Book Recommendation

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table
by Tracie McMillan

Photo via American Way of Eating blog.

Photo via American Way of Eating blog.

In this acclaimed book uncovering a myriad of problems existing within the U.S. food system, award-winning and working-class journalist Tracie McMillan worked undercover in three jobs that feed America, living off of her wages in each. Reporting from California onion and grape fields, the produce aisle of a Walmart just outside of Detroit, and the kitchen of a NYC Applebee’s, McMillan investigates how most folks living in the U.S. eat, while a much smaller group happily spends $9 on organic heirloom tomatoes (guilty as charged). Most insightfully, McMillan explains the national policies (especially their racist dimensions) that lay the groundwork for this “American way of eating.” Though McMillan does not explore the problems within the U.S.’ system of animal agriculture, I think that it proves especially important for vegans to educate ourselves about the non-animal-related issues surrounding our nation’s food, so as not to ignore the plight of farm workers and other individuals exploited in various forms of food service.

In solidarity, Ali.

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Review, Recipe, & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

Before getting into today’s giveaway, I’d like to point you all toward Episode 241 of the Our Hen House podcast, on which I provide a review of my three favorite vegan mayonnaise brands. Also check out this post for a backstory of how my passion for vegan mayo began. 

Another week, another giveaway here on Farmers Market Vegan. As I prepare to journey from Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie to begin my junior year of undergrad, I’d encourage you, dear readers, to prepare your cookbook senses for a tingling and your allergy-free treat desires for a sparking.

With the recently increasing incidence of food allergies, celiac disease, and diabetes in children and adults alike – as well as an allergy-heavy son herself – Debbie Adler felt called to create wholesome, nourishing baked goods free of dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, wheat, nuts, and refined sugars. And create she did, launching a Los Angeles-based vegan and allergy-free bakery known as Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes that specializes in gourmet baked goods including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and muffins.

Debbie Adler.

Debbie Adler.

Though Debbie ships her creative and allergy-friendly treats nationwide, seven years after opening her bakery she sought to spread her culinary love even further and published her cookbook, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery. Chosen as a “Best Gluten-free Cookbook of 2013″ by Delicious Living Magazine, a “Best Vegan Cookbook of 2013″ by Green Vegan Living and a “Favorite Book” by Living Without Magazine, Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats features over 50 recipes for truly unique muffins, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, energy bars, donut holes, and breads.

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Guiding you through such mouthwatering recipes as Salted Caramel Apple Muffins, Quinoa Cranberry Cookies, Coconut Crunch Donut Holes, and Krispy Kale ‘n Cheese Soft Pretzel Rods, Debbie provides fun, upbeat, and snarky commentary on every page to inform readers about particular ingredients and the story behind the treat (including a very harried excursion to a neighborhood pumpkin patch).

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Though some of the ingredients Debbie recommends – like coconut nectar, certain gluten-free flours, and powdered erythriol – cost a bit more than is accessible for many of us not beholden to food allergies, substitutions for these ingredients abound, and I can vouch for the fact that smart, budget-friendly ingredient subs still yield delectable goodies.

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The first of  the Sweet Debbie’s recipes with which I experimented caught my attention with its promise of summery, refreshing flavors. The Basil-Lemonade Cookies feature a moist crumb and chewy texture to provide the dessert version of a cooling waterside beverage, complete with a sticky glaze that abounds with citrus flavor. Clearly, Debbie sees the powerful wisdom in accentuating sweet treats with herbs (Rosemary-Plum Ice Cream, anyone?).

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Eager to try out Debbie’s baked version of fried dough balls, I grabbed the saffron gifted to me by my aunt who recently traveled to Morocco and recreated a batch of Saffron and Cardamom Donut Holes. With the sophisticated flavor of saffron infused into both the dough and the glaze, these donut holes boast a gorgeously pink hue. Of course, considering saffron’s exorbitantly high price point, I certainly wouldn’t have made this recipe without my aunt’s herby gift, and I’m confident that the donut holes would taste just as complexly spiced with only the cardamom. Cakey and dense, these bite-sized donut holes provide a fun dessert or snack easy for popping right into one’s mouth.

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An avowed chocolate fanatic, Debbie also includes plenty of cocoa-filled recipes in her cookbook, and she’s graciously agreed to share one such recipe here on Farmers Market Vegan! Debbie’s Caramel-Glazed Fakin’ Bacon Brownies offer an animal-friendly way to participate in the recent bacon-chocolate phenomenon, employing the versatile shiitake mushroom for a vegan meaty topping. Given the rampant worker exploitation in the chocolate industry, I would highly recommend using either carob powder or a cacao powder approved by the Food Empowerment Project in the recipe, which you can find at the bottom of this post.

Photo via "Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats."

Photo via “Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats.”

I’m sure that many of you are eager to enter today’s giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats, so don’t wait any longer and click the links at the top and bottom of this post! Also don’t forget to connect with Debbie and her bakery on Facebook and Twitter.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 31, and I will announce the winner on the following day.

Caramel-Glazed Fakin’ Bacon Brownies

Makes 16 brownies.

Must Have (Faux Bacon):

15 x 10-inch sheet of parchment paper
1 cup 1/4-inch-thick sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Must Have (Caramel Sauce):

1/2 cup coconut nectar
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Must Have (Brownies):

Grapeseed oil, for greasing the pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1/2 cup cacao or carob powder (make sure to use Food Empowerment Project-approved chocolate if using cacao)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/8 tsp stevia powder
10 tbsp warm water

Must Do

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.

To make the faux bacon, spread the shiitakes on the prepared pan. Drizzle the grapeseed oil on the mushrooms, toss them gently with your hand to coat, and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the mushrooms are slightly crisp. Set aside.

Reduce the heat of he oven to 325°F.

To make the caramel sauce, mix together the coconut nectar, sunflower seed butter, and salt in a small bowl until well-combined.

To make the brownies, grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with grapeseed oil.

Whisk together the flour, cacao or carob powder, baking soda, guar gum, salt, and cayenne (if using) in a large bowl.

Add the grapeseed oil, coconut nectar, vanilla, and stevia and stir to combine. Next add the warm water and stir until it is absorbed and the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth down with a wet baking spatula or the back of a wet spoon, and drizzle with caramel sauce. With a swirling motion, run a pointy knife in and out of the caramel sauce so some of it seeps into the brownie. Top evenly with the “bacon” bits.

Bake the brownies for 11 to 12 minutes, or until the batter starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Rotate the pan from front to back after 9 minutes of baking.

Transfer the pan from the oven to a wire rack and let rest for about 20 minutes before cutting the brownies into 16 squares. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed.

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with a free copy of the cookbook. All opinions are completely my own.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {7-25-14}

Before I dive into today’s post, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to the winner of my Salad Samurai cookbook giveaway: Lydia Greenfield! Thanks to all who entered, and be sure to look out for my next giveaway of the summer.

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

For this eighth edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (#NewsandChews), revel in hearty and brightly flavored rice paper rolls, oh-so-chewy cashew cookies, the epitome of a summery dinner, stories on climate change and the sure demise of capitalism, accurate coverage (unique among the skewed U.S. mainstream media) of the current situation in Gaza, and an intersectional analysis of the infamous Bill and Lou saga.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory
Photo via Minimalist Baker.

Photo via Minimalist Baker.

 I tend to believe that a dish as simple and difficult to ruin as rice paper rolls don’t merit a recipe, but this one from Minimalist Baker proves unique and mouthwatering enough to make me eat my words (and hopefully one of those rolls…). Though the crispy tofu in particular drew me to the recipe, I can hardly argue with a tangy almond butter dipping sauce or a generous helping of fresh mint and cilantro to offset the recipe’s richness. Recreating this recipe (which I intend to do next week) also provides me with another use for my favorite brown rice paper wrappers.
Sweet
Chewy Cashew Cookies
via Lunchbox Bunch
Photo via Kathy Patalsky.

Photo via Kathy Patalsky.

I’m a gigantic fan of baking with nut flours, due to the rich mouthfeel and tender texture that they impart in scones, muffins, and cookies alike. Not only do these cookies from Kathy Patalsky feature the sweet, ivory-hued flour ground from cashews, they also employ my all-time favorite sweetener: maple syrup. Though making the entire recipe calls for a substantial amount of pretty expensive ingredients, halving the recipe renders the certain joy of these cookies much more accessible.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Zucchini Noodles & Kale in Tomato-Basil Sauce with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Portobello-Walnut Balls
adapted from This Rawsome Vegan Life

zucchini noodles, roasted tomatoes, portobello-walnut balls (3)

This fabulously summery recipe inspired by Emily at Rawsome Vegan Life provides a fresh, complexly flavored, and texturally contrasted take on spaghetti and meat(less) balls that knocked the tiny socks off of my tastebuds. I tweaked Emily’s original recipe a bit by baking the portobello-walnut balls and roasted the tomatoes instead of dehydrating, and adding shredded kale to the zucchini noodles for a kick of green leafies. Even so, Emily’s flavor-combining genius shone through. With succulent and juicy cherry tomatoes, toothsome zucchini noodles coated in a creamy sauce, and meltingly tender portobello balls with a hint of sweetness from the dates, this dish offered me an ideal mid-summer meal.

Must-Read News Article

I’d like to feature four articles this week, grouped into two categories:

The first set of stories centers on climate change, with one from The Nation offering advice from a longtime climate activist on advocacy strategies that I see as helpful to activists of all stripes, and the second from Mother Jones revealing that the most frequent instances of climate denial occur in anglophone countries with strong neoliberal regimes.

Photo via Al Jazeera.

Photo via Al Jazeera.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite topic of neoliberal capitalism, the second set of stories offer hopeful views on the future of our economic system. The first story from Al Jazeera suggests that Millennials view capitalism with a heavy does of skepticism, while the second story from Truthout features an interview with sociologist William I. Robinson on the crisis of capitalism. Combined, the two stories provide me with optimism that our up-and-coming generation are poised to finish off the dying remains of capitalism and foster a new, more equitable and just economic system.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Today’s podcast/video recommendation comes as a two-parter, focusing on the increasingly dire state of Gaza thanks to an appalling abuse of power from Israel and its allies (most notably the U.S.). Though Israel proponents continue to insist that the country has a right to defend itself from Hamas’ unsophisticated rockets, they refuse to acknowledge the history of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the enormous disparity in economic, military, and political power that has resulted.

Photo via Democracy Now!

Photo via Democracy Now!

I’d first like to point you toward an episode of the Radio Dispatch podcast, in which John and Molly call out the U.S. media’s “spectacular failure” in covering Israel’s attacks on Gaza (I mean, NBC misled viewers to believe that the scenes of Gazan destruction they showed took place in Israel, for goodness’ sake).

Thankfully, progressive news outlets like Democracy Now! have provided far more truthful (read: unsullied by a desire to conform to the U.S. government’s status quo) coverage of the current situation in Gaza. Indeed, Democracy Now! has devoted most of its air time over the past week to highlighting the voices of those on the ground in Gaza and those for justice in Palestine, including correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, the executive director of a Gaza hospital shelled by Israel, an NBC veteran reporter pulled from Gaza after accurately reporting on the situation, members of Jewish Voices for Peace arrested for protesting an organization that raises money for the Israel Defense Forces, and MSNBC’s sole Palestinian voice Rula Jebreal who faces persecution for publicly criticizing her own network’s coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. These clips from Democracy Now! clearly demonstrate the horrifyingly skewed coverage by U.S. mainstream media of the current Gaza situation.

Book Recommendation

The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collison
by pattrice jones

Photo via Lantern Books.

Photo via Lantern Books.

I’ve long supported the work of pattrice jones, the fierce intersectional activist and co-founder of VINE Sanctuary, and cannot recommend more highly her most recent book. Part retelling of the Bill and Lou saga; part analysis of its historical, sexist, racist, and ableist components; and part suggestions of what animal advocates can learn from the controversy, pattrice with characteristic fearlessness provides a work of huge value to anyone involved or interested in intersectional activism. A short and accessible read, this book took me all of two days to finish, and I found myself enthralled in every moment. An absolutely fascinating read.

In solidarity, Ali.

Am I a Vegan? | Walnut Scones with Maple Glaze

I have fond childhood memories of walking into a local bakery with my mother, greeted by the comforting aroma of sugary dough, and leaving with our favorite treat: a generously sized, dense yet flaky walnut scone with lip-smackingly sweet maple glaze. This scone was not vegan, and I – but a wee child who had not yet learned of animal suffering or intersecting oppressions – didn’t call myself one either.

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But should I now? Label myself as “vegan,” that is. The use of the word “vegan” comes up as a rather hotly debated topic in animal rights circles, from those who prefer to employ “vegetarian” in their advocacy – assuming that non-vegans feel less threatened by the word – to James McWilliams who just published a blog post on “The Vegan Identity,” to the Hens of Our Hen House who often discuss vegan diction on their podcast.

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Recently, as I read bell hooks’ Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center – recommended on my latest edition of “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” (#NewsandChews) – I came upon a passage that spoke directly to the issue of labeling oneself with a certain identity. Here, I’d like to quote the passage at length:

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“Focusing on feminism as political commitment, we resist the emphasis on individual identity and lifestyle…Such resistance engages us in revolutionary praxis. The ethics of Western society informed by imperialism and capitalism are personal rather than social. They teach us that the individual good is more important than the collective good and consequently that individual change is of greater significance than collective change…To emphasize that engagement with feminist struggle as political commitment we could avoid using the phrase “I am a feminist” (a linguistic structure designed to refer to some personal aspect of identity and self-definition) and could state “I advocate feminism.” Because there has been undue emphasis placed on feminism as an identity or lifestyle, people usually resort to stereotyped perspectives on feminism. Deflecting attention away from stereotypes is necessary if we are to revise our strategy and direction. I have found that saying “I am a feminist” usually means I am plugged into preconceived notions of identity, role, or behavior. When I say “I advocate feminism” the response is usually “what is feminism?” A phrase like “I advocate” does not imply the kind of absolutism that is suggested by “I am.” It does not engage us in the either/or dualistic thinking that is the central ideological component of all systems of domination in Western society. It implies that a choice has been made, that commitment to feminism is an act of will. It does not suggest that by committing oneself to feminism, the possibility of supporting other political movements is negated.”

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In the interest of our discussion, we can replace hooks’ use of “feminist” and “feminism” with “vegan” and “veganism” (though revolutionary feminism is also something in which all of us should be involved). For now, I find myself persuaded by hooks’ argument, and intend to begin discussing my veganism as a practice rather than as an identity. This linguistic shift in no way signals a wavering of my commitment to veganism (nor do I think that hooks’ implies that such a shift would do so), but a new mode of discussing the lifestyle in the hopes of reaching more people and furthering the movement in a revolutionary direction.

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I find this discussion absolutely fascinating, and would love to hear any and all of your thoughts.

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In return for your shared views on the topic, I give you a veganized recipe for those walnut scones of my childhood, dedicated to my mother.

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Walnut Scones with Maple Glaze

Makes 16 mini scones or 8 large scones.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup cold coconut oil, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
(or use 1 cup of maple sugar in the place of both of these ingredients)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt. Stir well to combine.

Add the pieces of cold coconut oil to the flour mixture and use the tips of your fingers to “cut” (integrate wholly) the solid oil into the flour. You should end up with a mixture of grainy texture that almost resembles sand.

Add the maple syrup, cold water, and vanilla to the dry mixture and stir well to combine. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to wet the dough, but have faith and keep mixing until you have thoroughly incorporated the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in 3/4 of the chopped walnuts.

Flour a flat surface like your kitchen counter and drop the entire bowl of dough onto the surface. Form the dough into a disc that’s about 1 inch thick all the way around. Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 16/8 (depending on if you want mini or large scones) even wedges. Separate the wedges and place them onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes for mini scones, and 15-17 minutes for larger scones, or until lightly golden brown.

While the scones bake, prepare the glaze. If using the coconut sugar-starch mixture, whir the coconut sugar and arrowroot or cornstarch together in a food processor until a fine powder forms. Whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. You may need to warm the glaze in the microwave for a couple of seconds to render it pourable. Once the scones have cooled for a few minutes, spoon the glaze into the middle of each scone and let it drizzle down the sides. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle each scone with the remaining 1/4 of the chopped walnuts.

These scones will keep for 3-5 days in an air-tight container at room temperature, or for a couple of months in the freezer.

You can make these scones gluten-free by replacing the flours with 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup almond meal.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {7-4-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Happy 4th of July! While the news highlighted in this fifth edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News may not contribute to your patriotism, July 4th still provides a fabulous excuse to fire up the grill for some summer veggies and dig into a pint of non-dairy ice cream. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Strawberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon-Caramel Glaze
via Yup, It’s Vegan

vegan_strawberry_sweet_rolls_lemon_caramel_glaze_1-1024x768

Photo via Yup, It’s Vegan.

Though the end of strawberry season is upon us in Brooklyn (hellooo, cherries!), Shannon offers up a chewy, yeasty, doughy, succulent, mouthwatering recipe to make creative use (not that eating them unadorned isn’t a fabulous use) of any late-season strawberries you might be lucky enough to snag. I expect that these whole-grain, refined sugar-free sweet rolls would provide both a comforting breakfast and a lovely warm-weather dessert, perfect for enjoying on the patio just before sunset.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Ranch Potato Salad, Buffalo Tempeh with Homemade Sauce, and Sweet Kale Salad
via Betty Goes Vegan, Post Punk Kitchen, Emeril Lagasse, and Chef Mickiyah

dinner

The “recipe” highlight of this week is actually a full meal made up of three components. The first: a Ranch Potato Salad with sweet green peas and a vegan ranch dressing adapted from the vegan-Betty Crocker remix cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. The second: crispy sauteed tempeh simmered in homemade buffalo sauce, inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe with a DIY twist. The third: a warm salad of wilted kale in a succulent sauce of Dijon mustard and coconut sugar with a sprinkling of juicy raisins, courtesy of Chef Mickiyah of Woodland’s Vegan Bistro (remember my rave review of this DC vegan hot spot last summer?). Hearty, boldly flavored, and nourishing, this dinner would have impressed any July 4th-celebrating non-vegan.

Must-Read News Article

This past week brought an onslaught of landmark court decisions, both inside and outside of the U.S.

canadian-harper-pipeline-protest

Photo via Grist.

Via Grist: In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations that have a claim to it. In addition to challenging the Northern Gateway oil pipeline that would run from Alberta to China, the ruling recognizes the rights of the First Nations whose land the U.S. and Canada colonized long ago, and who have endured heaps of discrimination ever since. Way to go, Canadian Supreme Court.

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Photo via Slate.

Back home in the U.S., however, the Supreme Court produced decisions much less worth celebrating. Via Slate, Truthout, and Mother Jones: Not only did the Court strike down a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot buffer zone that anti-abortion protesters couldn’t enter to heckle patients outside of abortion clinics, it also declared that the government couldn’t require closely held businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that covers types of birth control that offend the owner’s religious beliefs. Both decisions severely infringe upon women’s health and reproductive rights, essentially indicating that corporations constitute “people” more so than do women. A much more sarcastic “way to go” to you, SCOTUS.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

BEST OF: Melissa Gira Grant on sex work, savior complexes, and a vegan dominatrix
via Citizen Radio

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Photo via Citizen Radio.

The topic of sex workers and their rights proves hotly debated, even in feminist circles, as many well-meaning folks attempt to control the actions of women who find themselves in precarious situations and choose to engage in sex work in order to get by. In this “Best Of” episode of Citizen Radio, Melissa Gira Grant—author of Playing the Whore, which is definitely next on my reading list—explains the politics behind the issue of sex workers with elegance, clarity, and wit. A must-listen.

For more information on sex workers’ rights, check out this recent article on Truthout, entitled “Cutting Off Sex Work Advertising Sites Disrupts Communities, Not Trafficking.”

Book Recommendation

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
by Matt Taibbi

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Photo via NPR.

While anyone who hasn’t lived under a slab of tofu for the past few decades has clearly seen the staggering wealth gap into which capitalism has sent our country spiraling, Matt Taibbi highlights the concrete impacts that this gap has upon the bodies of the poor and the criminal justice system. Switching between narrating startling stories of corporate/Wall Street money laundering and the clear discrimination in policing against people of color, Taibbi demonstrates the stark contrast between the treatment of the rich and poor in arrests, trials, and punishments. For example. on the one hand, the police arrest an impoverished Black man for “obstructing traffic” by standing in front of the door of his own home, while “too-big-to-fail” companies like HSBC receive no more than a slap on the wrist for major corporate fraud. A book to make your blood boil and your cynical laughter to ring.

In solidarity, Ali.

Spring Panzanella with Vegan Parmesan Croutons

The springtime—with its bounty of green gems of produce like asparagus, peas, artichokes, and fava beans (hear more about all of these on my recent appearance on the Our Hen House podcast!)—has sparked in my memory a recipe that my mother and I enjoyed often during our pre-vegan days. A creation of our past Top Chef sweetheart Michael Chiarello, this innovative, spring-inspired take on panzanella (Italian bread and tomato salad) featured lightly cooked spring veggies and parmesan-coated croutons in a basil-asparagus puree, topped with shavings of ricotta salata cheese. Every iteration of this salad that my mother and I made offered a brilliant amalgamation of fresh and unctuous flavors and contrasting textures.

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While the past four springs have passed without my attempt at recreating such an artful salad (well, artful except for the exploitatively manufactured butter and cheese…), the urge to once again experience the dish’s symphony of tastes and mouthfeels recently overwhelmed my gastronomic sensibilities. To veganize the parmesan croutons, I employed a commonly invoked technique of the world of vegan cheese-making, and blended nuts with nutritional yeast for a parmesan-like cheesy sprinkle. Tossed with coconut oil-coated bread cubes, this nourishing vegan parm—packed with vitamins B12 and E, not to mention tons of umami—yielded croutons quite flavorful enough to shine alongside the fresh spring veggies of this exceptional panzanella.

Fresh nut ricotta from Kite Hill (photo courtesy of Kite Hill).

Fresh nut ricotta from Kite Hill (photo courtesy of Kite Hill).

Instead of the ricotta salata, I dotted the composed salad with fresh cashew-and-macadamia ricotta from the much-hyped vegan cheese company Kite Hill (now, excitingly, available at Whole Foods in the fancy cheese section!). While this cheese will blow your mind with its firm creaminess and deep tanginess, if you can’t find it, a homemade cashew cheese would work quite well.

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Hurry on over to your local farmers’ market, for asparagus season won’t last much longer! And I assure you: you’d be remiss to allow a whole ‘nother year to pass without reveling in this mouthwatering, substantial salad. Happy springtime!

Spring Panzanella with Vegan Parmesan Croutons—Soy Free.

Serves 4-6.

Parmesan Crouton Ingredients:
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp raw almonds or walnuts
2 tbsp raw cashews
Pinch of lemon zest
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
4 cups day-old whole grain bread, crusts removed and cubed (I used Ezekiel brand bread)

Panzanella Ingredients:
1/2 small head of radicchio, cut into ribbons
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
5 tsp lemon juice, divided
1 large handful of arugula
1/2 cup-ish Kite Hill firm ricotta (or homemade cashew cheese)

Make the parmesan croutons: Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a food processor, pulse the nutritional yeast, almonds, cashews, salt, and lemon zest until crumbly. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the melted coconut oil. Add the nut mixture and toss to combine. Spread the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the croutons are crisp and lightly browned. Set aside.

Make the rest of the salad: Fill a medium-sized bowl with ice and cold water. Place the radicchio ribbons into the ice water and let sit as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Cut the asparagus in half, separating the tender tips from the more woody ends. Once the water is boiling, blanch the asparagus tips for one minute, then remove from the water with a sieve. Set aside. To the same water, add the asparagus ends and blanch for 3-5 minutes or until tender.

In a blender or food processor, puree the asparagus ends (not tips!), basil, 3 tbsp of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine the parmesan croutons, asparagus, peas, and scallions. Add enough of the asparagus puree to coat the mixture lightly and evenly. Add 4 tsp lemon juice and toss again.

Drain the radicchio ribbons and dry with either a salad spinner or a clean dish towel. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of lemon juice. Place the dressed arugula on a large platter, then mound the crouton mixture on top. Dot the plate with the Kite Hill ricotta or spoonfuls of cashew cheese. Serve immediately.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Green Tea-Almond Cake with Coconut Glaze

This past semester, I had the immense pleasure of taking a college course dedicated to reading James Joyce’s Ulysses—arguably the greatest novel in all of English literature. Joyce has long held a special place in my literary heart, ever since my first reading of his short story “Araby” in my junior year of high school, and delving deep into his pivotal work proved challenging, thought-provoking, eye-opening, and hilarious. To conclude the course, in honor of protagonist Leopold Bloom’s gastronomic enthusiasm, our class decided to turn our last meeting into a potluck of sorts, each agreeing to bring an Irish dish to share.

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While my classmates covered the whiskey and soda bread, I opted to interpret Irish cuisine a tad more loosely and create a cake that celebrated the quintessential colors of Ireland and the Irish flag: green and white. To impart a naturally green hue into the batter, I employed the mildly sweet, unctuously flavored, and antioxidant-packed matcha green tea powder, enhancing its flavor profile with lemon, cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg and adding a handful of toasted almonds to emphasize the matcha’s nuttiness. A simple coconut milk glaze added to the cake’s moistness and richness, while a decorative line of clovers imparted an extra dose of Irishness (right?) to the verdant cake. Expectedly, my class met the cake with great enthusiasm, reveling in our “Irish” food festival in true Bloomian fashion.

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For an additional kick of Irish flavor, why not spike the glaze with a splash of whiskey?

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Green Tea-Almond Cake with Coconut Glaze–Can be Soy Free, Low Sodium.

Makes 1 loaf, about 10-12 servings.

Cake Ingredients:

2 tbsp flaxseed meal
3/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
1 1/3 cups whole wheat, spelt, or gluten-free blend of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

Glaze Ingredients:

1 can light coconut milk, placed in the refrigerator overnight and unshaken
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To Finish:
Clovers for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Oil an 8×4-inch loaf pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flaxseed meal and non-dairy milk. Set aside.

In another medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, matcha, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, coconut sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk in the flax mixture. Add a third of the dry mixture at a time to the wet mixture, stirring well to combine after each addition. After all the dry ingredients are incorporated, stir in the almonds.

Scoop the batter into the oiled loaf pan, place in the oven, and immediately lower the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the cake bakes, prepare the glaze. Carefully pour only the creamy white liquid at the top of the can of coconut milk into a medium-sized bowl, taking care to get as little as possible of the clear coconut water at the bottom of the can into the bowl. Reserve the leftover coconut water for smoothies. Whisk in the arrowroot, syrup/nectar, and vanilla. Place the glaze in the refrigerator until the cake has cooled completely.

Once the cake has cooled completely, place it onto a baking sheet and spoon the coconut glaze over the top, letting the glaze drizzle down the sides of the cake. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and either serve immediately, or, for a moister texture, allow the cake to sit for a couple of hours while the glaze soaks in.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Salted Caramel Date (or Fig) Loaf

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About one year ago, as I scoured the boards of Pinterest, I came across a recipe title that widened my mouth agape and my tongue lolling: Salted. Caramel. Date. Loaf. Faced with perhaps the most perfect ingredient pairing in all of baking-dom (caramel? And dates? In LOAF form?!?!), I of course clicked on the recipe…only to elicit disappointment. Featuring butter, eggs, heavy cream, white flour, and refined sugar, this particular iteration of Salted Caramel Date Loaf did not comprise something that I wanted to put into my body, largely due to the harm that it would inflict upon the non-consenting bodies of chickens and cows.

I moved on, X-ing out of the webpage and opting not to save the recipe on my extensive “Recipes to Try” Word document. But the recipe lingered. It lingered in the culinary-inspiration node of my brain as I prepared my breakfast that morning. It lingered as I attended my classes that day. It lingered as I started on a Geography essay that night. I wanted to find research articles on the commodification of human body parts in the global organ trade, I really did, but darn it all, that Date Loaf simply begged to be made.

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So I made it. And I made it vegan. And I made it free of refined flours and sugars. And I’ve made it for the twenty members—some vegan, some not—of my on-campus living cooperative about three or four times now, eliciting all but the kissing of my feet and near-weekly requests to replicate the loaf. Once you create this loaf for yourself (and I would very highly recommend, if not insist, that you do), you’ll understand my housemates’ enthusiasm. Dense, moist, succulently yet naturally sweet, and boasting pockets of sticky caramel, this loaf will leave you marveling at the possibility that such utter perfection can result from less than ten ingredients and a stint in the oven.

This loaf utilizes unrefined coconut sugar for the caramel, though I’m sure that Sucanat would also do the trick. I’m not certain, however, that either maple sugar or date sugars would work, as I don’t know if their physical properties would allow them to melt in the necessary manner. I’ve not experimented with this recipe using a gluten-free flour blend, but I have no reason to doubt that one would work. If you find yourself without flaxseed meal, you can substitute equal amounts of psyllium husks—but double the amount of water that you mix with them (six tablespoons instead of three). Finally, as you’ll note from the title, this loaf tastes equally decadent with the substitution of dried figs for dates. I’ve made the fig variety of this loaf about twice now, yielding terrific results on both occasions. Okay, enough with the introductions—get thee to a kitchen stat because you need this loaf in your life.

Salted Caramel Date (or Fig) Loaf—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Makes one loaf.

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup medjool dates (or dried figs), chopped
1 cup hot water
6 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 3 tbsp water (mix before you start making the rest of the recipe)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan, place the coconut sugar over medium heat. Stir the sugar gently (and constantly so that it doesn’t burn!) until it melts and caramelizes completely. At first, it will seem like the sugar will never melt, but have patience, because it always does (yay for physics!). Turn off the heat and stir in the water, chopped dates, and coconut oil. The mixture will probably harden as you do this, but don’t fret—simply place the mixture back over medium heat so that it re-melts.

Once the mixture has re-melted, lower the heat all the way and keep the caramel warm while you prepare the rest of the loaf. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the caramel, flaxseed mixture, and vanilla extract, and mix well to combine completely.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 30-60 minutes before slicing and experiencing the most intense culinary epiphany of your life.

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Recipe submitted to Recipe Wednesday, Healthy Vegan Friday, and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan in Florence, Part 3

Don’t miss your chance to win a jar of body butter and a tube of lip butter from the all-natural and vegan cosmetic company Ellovi! Enter Farmers Market Vegan’s latest giveaway by Wednesday, April 2.

Well, dear readers, my adventures in Florence, Italy have come to a close, but I still have one more round of vegan Italian cuisine to share with you all. The last few days of my trip included day trips to the nearby towns of Siena and Fiesole, both of which boast magnificent churches and stunning views of the Italian countryside; a dinner party with my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousin; and a theater jaunt to see the previously on-Broadway show Stomp. And of course…tons of tasty vegan noms. Here are a couple culinary highlights from my final days in Florence:

Il Vegetariano

Via delle Ruote 30r, Florence, Italy 50129

My travel companion Gabe shows off the front of Il Vegetariano.

My travel companion Gabe shows off the front of Il Vegetariano.

I first discovered this 30-some-year-old staple of Florence’s vegetarian scene three years ago when I spent the summer with my aunt, and eagerly returned to introduce this popular, all-organic eatery to my travel companion Gabe. Luckily, from that summer I gleaned the experiential know-how about how Il Vegetariano works, so that I could lead Gabe along in the process. You see, Il Vegetariano’s set-up differs from that of a traditional sit-down restaurant, functioning in a more cafeteria-style manner. Upon entering the restaurant, the diner proceeds past the two dining rooms to greet the kind bespectacled man behind the ordering counter, seated beside a colorful blackboard that lists the daily-rotating menu of small plates, salad bar, entrees, and desserts. The diner puts their order in at the counter, pays, picks up a tray, and stands in the line in front of the salad bar/dessert counter to wait for another kind balding man to grab a freshly made plate from the kitchen, and/or to choose from an array of raw and cooked vegetables to enjoy in a salad. Finally, the diner can choose a seat in one of two mahogany-clad dining rooms with exposed brick walls, or on a covered patio just behind the restaurant.

Dessert case, salad bar, ordering station, and pick-up counter at Il Vegetariano.

Dessert case, salad bar, ordering station, and pick-up counter at Il Vegetariano.

During our visit, Gabe and I opted to enjoy the warm weather and took a seat on the patio. Peckish after meandering around the city all morning, we dove into our bowls of immensely savory brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes, cauliflower, and parsley. Herbaceous and full-bodied, the pilaf’s flavor showcased just how complex simple vegetables and grains can taste. Of course, considering that Il Vegetariano describes their wide dessert selection as their specialty, Gabe and I simply had to sample a slice of a crumbly tart jam-packed with succulent pears and apricots. Certainly no complaints there, especially when my entire meal cost less than 10 euro.

Brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes and cauliflower.

Brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes and cauliflower.

Pear-Apricot Crumble Tart

Pear-Apricot Crumble Tart

Gelateria Perche No!

Via dei Tavolini 19r, Florence, Italy 50122

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Gabe once again serves as my restaurant model.

Venturing out for gelato after enjoying lunch at home became a favorite ritual of mine and Gabe’s during the latter portion of our stay in Florence. While we most often headed to Festival del Gelato due to its close proximity to our apartment, Gabe and I opted on one occasion to sample another of Florence’s famous gelaterias, founded in 1939 and known as Perche No! (aka “why not!”). Upon first entering the small shop, I noticed and hugely appreciated that the gelateria had separated its non-dairy gelatos into a separate cooler, making ordering much simpler for myself and others who avoid dairy. On the day that we visited, Perche No!’s non-dairy flavors included banana, dark chocolate, pear, soy-based hazelnut, soy-based vanilla, strawberry, lemon, and raspberry. Funnily enough, Gabe and I both chose the soy hazelnut and raspberry to satisfy our daily gelato quota. While both gelatos held the exact flavor essence of their respective fruit and nut bases, the soy hazelnut proved less creamy than the rice-based hazelnut that we often enjoyed at Festival (strange, considering that rice milk tends to hold a much thinner texture than soy milk!). Regardless, Perche No! boasts some darn tasty gelato.

The "senza latte" (without milk) case at Perche No!

The “senza latte” (without milk) case at Perche No!

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Miso di Riso

Borgo degli Albizi 54r, Florence, Italy, 50122

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A couple of weeks before arriving in Florence, my mother emailed me to express her excitement that she had discovered a newly opened vegetarian restaurant called Miso di Riso (translated to rice miso) along the main pedestrian street in her neighborhood. As such, I made it a point to accompany my mother to lunch at the eatery during one of my final days in Florence. Brightly lit, filled with verdant potted plants, and boasting a plethora of vibrantly colored décor, Miso di Riso provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy some macrobiotic-inspired vegan noms.

After ordering, my mother and I check out the dessert case to find such tantalizing creations as two mixed berry tarts, as well one with a semolina crust and chocolate ganache filling. While we opted to head to Festival del Gelato for dessert after our meal, Miso di Riso’s bakery selection definitely impressed me.

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Soon after we had sufficiently ogled at the dessert case, my mother and I received our plates. I chose to sample a savory tart of cauliflower and seaweed with a remarkably flavorful crust, accompanied by a meltingly tender pile of curried cabbage and a lightly dressed salad of gorgeous greens and shaved carrots. As for my mother, she opted for the tofu burger, complete with vegan mayonnaise and coupled with a colorful sauté of mixed vegetables, as well as a salad similar to mine. While both my mother and I “mm”-ed with delight at the features of our plate (the tart and burger) as well as at the impeccably fresh salads, the vegetable side dishes left us unimpressed—though tasty, they struck us as dishes easily made by any home cook. This new restaurant has a great base (and space!) on which to build, but it definitely requires improvement.

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Le Fate

Borgo Allegri 9r, Florence, Italy 50122

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About seven minutes before my mother, Gabe, and I planned to leave to see Stomp, my mother decided to call the restaurant at which we wanted to have dinner, only to find that they had no open tables for the night. Scrambling to find another eatery for the evening, we soon recalled another newly opened vegetarian restaurant that we had passed by on one of our evening passeggiare (walks), called Le Fate (translated to “the fairies”). With moments to spare, we secured a reservation and ran out the door to the theater.

That scramble for another restaurant resulted in one of the best gastronomic decisions of my trip, as the meal that my family and I enjoyed at Le Fate will live on in the Seiter family memory for years to come. True to its name, Le Fate boasts a rather enchanting dining room and a mystical menu: the four appetizers find inspiration in the four elements (earth, water, wind, and fire), while each of the entrees corresponds to one of the twelve astrological signs. Upon noticing the struggles of our English-speaking family to decipher the Italian menu, our charismatic waiter called the chef out of the kitchen to explain in detail every dish—VIP treatment, eh?

As a pre-meal amuse bouche, we each received a small crostini of house-made whole-grain bread spread with what I took to be an artichoke pate, served upon a leaf of soft and lemony sorrel. For an appetizer, the table opted to share a platter of house-made vegan cheeses and fruit compotes. Though I couldn’t discern the exact flavors of each of the cheeses, I could tell by the textures that two of them certainly featured agar-agar seaweed as a binder, while the other two seemed to be aged nut spread-type cheeses. Unfortunately, the latter two lacked the creaminess integral to satisfying cheese, though their flavors proved intensely complex. I have absolutely no complaints about the sweet and expertly spiced compotes, however.

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While I found the vegan cheeses a tad lacking, there was absolutely nothing subpar about any of our entrees. Indeed, every bite (both of my own dish and stolen from the plates of others) offered a new flavor and mouthfeel, providing for a hugely interesting and astronomically delicious meal.

The only diner of our party to order the dish that corresponded to their actual astrological sign, I chose the Vergine (Virgo) plate as soon as I heard the chef say “dates,” “fennel,” and “homemade basil tofu.” The bowl of homemade noodles coated in a creamy, succulent sauce of dates and caramelized fennel that I enjoyed that night still enters my dreams. Providing textural contrast to the silky pasta were leaves of bitter radicchio spread with house-made basil tofu and topped with orange segments and toasted hazelnuts. An inspired dish.

My mother opted for the Gemelli (Gemini) plate, which featured a bowl of fluffy-on-the-inside-crusty-on-the-outside biscuits in three savory varieties, accompanied by a number of spread and toppings: a mild golden chutney of onions and apples, a rainbow-colored salad of minced peppers, a fluffy and cloud-white vegan mayonnaise, oil-marinated heirloom white beans, and quenelles of smooth hummus. Um, wow.

Finally, both Gabe and my father chose the Capricorno (Capricorn) plate: creamy black lentil soup topped with a puree of white root vegetables, served alongside perfectly round balls of falafel with carrot-tamarind spread, and rounded out by a salad of mixed greens and ripe berries. Need I say more?

Though we all found ourselves too full to enjoy dessert, we did end the meal quite enjoyably by speaking with the bubbly owner of the restaurant—a longtime vegan and astronomer who gave us each our horoscopes before leaving. Le Fate’s inviting atmosphere, it’s enormously hospitable waitstaff, and its inspired and tantalizing culinary creations have earned a top spot on my list of most memorable travel restaurants, and I can hardly wait to return during my next trip to Italy (crossing my fingers that it’s soon!).

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Though I probably experienced one of the more perfect spring breaks of my entire life during the past two weeks, I’m happy to find myself back at school and among the community of my on-campus vegan living cooperative. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the spring on Farmers Market Vegan!

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan in Florence, Part 2

Welcome, dear readers, to round two of my special post series for the month of March: “Farmers Market Vegan Goes to Italy”! My last post, reaching you from the art-filled city of Florence, offered you a taste (pun very much intended) of the first of my vegan adventures during my two-week stay in Italy; check it out to fulfill your daily quota of quaint cafes, traditional Neapolitan pizzas, and dairy-free gelato.

In the days following my last post, I and my travel companion Gabe have continued our slow and steady touring of the city, journeying to Piazzale Michelangelo, an elevated square in Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city (and the trek up the steep winding roads to the Piazzale will also take your breath away).

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In addition to the sightseeing above and the restaurant exploration below, I also discovered a storefront of the vegan cosmetic company LUSH, which practices ethical product sourcing and actively combats animal testing. Further evidence of a growing consciousness of animal rights in Italy!

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Of course, Gabe and I have also continued our survey of Florence’s vegan scene. Our second round of culinary gems include:

Mercato Sant’Ambrogio

Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, Florence, Italy 50121

Touted as Florence’s second-best open-air market (close behind the Mercato Centrale), Mercato Sant’Ambrogio offers a colorful bounty of fresh produce alongside artisanal bread, marinated jarred veggies, and other goods. Open everyday except Sunday, the market is located just around the corner from my parents’ apartment, and my mother and I pay it a visit on most mornings (in much of Europe, grocery shopping happens on a daily rather than weekly basis like in the U.S.). Spring has arrived here earlier than in the States (not too excited about returning to a snowy New York in a couple of days), and the market accordingly boasts piles of green goodies like artichokes, fava beans, delicate greens, and Romanesco cauliflower alongside early fruits like strawberries and pears. Much of the produce has made appearances in the dinners that I and my mother have cooked at my parents’ apartment, including steamed artichokes served with vegan aioli; platters of roasted veggies; crisp and simple salads; and breakfast bowls of fresh fruit, granola, and hazelnut milk.

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From top right: globe artichokes, zucchini with blossoms, Romanesco cauliflower, enoki mushrooms, mixed lettuce, and fava beans.

La Raccolta

Via Giacomo Leopardi, 2r, Florence, Italy 50121

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The La Raccolta storefront.

The La Raccolta dining room.

The La Raccolta dining room.

A natural foods store complete with non-dairy milks of every ilk, ancient grain bread, dried seaweeds, and a well-stocked bulk section comprises the front of La Raccolta, while through a doorway in the back you’ll find a macrobiotic restaurant in an inviting dining room with walls lined with brightly colored art of various African animals. Along with the Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, the grocery section of La Raccolta has provided an almost-daily destination for me while in Florence, fulfilling all of my soy yogurt, non-dairy milk, granola, and apple cider vinegar needs. Due to the pretty steep prices of La Raccolta’s restaurant, however, I’ve only dined there once during this particular stay in Florence—but boy, do I always enjoy my meal there.

Vegan items make up the vast majority of La Raccolta’s impressive menu, complete with whole-grain pasta dishes, seitan scallopini, and macrobiotic-style vegetable dishes accompanied by lip-smacking sauces. Despite such an extensive menu, however, I’ve ordered the same dish on all three of my past visits to La Raccolta (I first ventured there three summers ago when I lived with my aunt for three months): the mixed platter. This substantial plate is composed of 7-10 separate preparations of roasted, steamed, and sautéed veggies embellished with creamy sauces, accompanied by fresh raw salads and more hearty grain and bean dishes. On the platter pictured below, I found (from the top of the plate and working clockwise) a gingery sauté of cabbage and carrots; herb-roasted potatoes; a crisp salad of lettuce and shaved carrots in olive oil and vinegar; a delicately flavored mash of fava beans; parsley-packed orechiette (ear-shaped pasta) with broccoli in a creamy sauce; herb-roasted kabocha squash; steamed purple cabbage in a bright yellow-orange sauce; and steamed broccoli and green cabbage in a tahini sauce. All so simple, yet so lovingly prepared and bursting with freshness.

After such a pleasant savory experience, I couldn’t help but sample one of La Raccolta’s many vegan dolci (desserts): a multi-layered pastry similar to phyllo dough stuffed with almond cream and topped with caramelized pears (known in Italy as mille foglie, or “cake of one thousand sheets”). A transcendental experience.

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Festival del Gelato

Via del Corso, 75r, Florence, Italy

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Gabe and I have made a point of enjoying una coppa of gelato once per day, for no afternoon ritual can beat reveling in creamy, artisanally prepared yumminess that tastes exactly of the real fruit, nut, or other edible that comprises its flavor. One of Florence’s most popular gelaterias, Festival del Gelato finds itself right next to the Duomo, one of Florence’s most popular tourist attractions. In addition to a number of fruit-based gelatos that contain no dairy (including mango, strawberry, and lemon), Festival boasts two rice milk-based gelatos (cappuccino and nocciolia, aka hazelnut), neither of which, as an added bonus, contain sugar! Surprisingly, Festival’s rice milk gelatos prove creamier than those based in soy milk that I’ve enjoyed at other gelaterias, though their fruit-based gelatos tend to harbor an ever-so-slightly more diluted fruit flavor than other gelatos I’ve sampled. I feel like the spectacle of their neon lights make up for this disappointment, though.

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That’s all for this round of vegan Florentine extravaganzas! Look out for my next post on eating vegan in Florence.

Until next time, Ali.