The Year in Home Cooking

{The following piece is written by jess as a contribution to the Vegan Iron Chef blog}

jess’ 2018 downtime in a nutshell, er, sunflower shell

jess’ 2018 downtime in a nutshell, er, sunflower shell

I fully admit, as the following write-up will attest, that I’ve stepped back from the world of vegan gossip and products in recent history. As usual, that’s a life story for another day. So, I racked my brain and contemplated scrolling my curated feeds with my query: What was the biggest vegan food trend of 2018? I realized that I’ve asked and asked the vegan food makers I know what it’s in store for the future of vegan food, and their responses were largely similar, and in turn, that’s what the biggest thing in vegan food this year was….vegan food!

We (uh, the mainstream, the food industry, people who make food, and people who eat food) haven’t moved beyond the buffalo-everything-vegan, the soaked cashew, the crispy kung pao this or that, the aquafaba and food science’d realm of vegan eggs – it’s more that everyone else is sorta kinda, really, catching up, ‘veganism’ has officially moved into the mainstream, more than ever. It should go without saying that I’m now craving buffalo anything on top of some mac & cheese. Who’s with me? And what’s your go-to? Blended nuts or seeds? Squash-based? Nooch & roux-it-up? Shake the bag of shredded what-have-you and stir it in?
Lunch time aside, my intention here is to share my favorite recipes and methods of 2018. This is a personal list of highlights, from my personal, casual-yet-obsessive home cook life. I first wrote this list back in September, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that it hasn’t changed much. It reflects my lifestyle, for sure: DIY mentality + freelance income + community garden plot + library cookbook holds + farmers markets  + cozying up at home + Vitamix + buying less + one lovely & ravenous partner.

The cookbooks I turned to in 2018 were largely ones I’d either purchased immediately and continued to explore, or one or two (or three, or dozens & dozens) I’d picked up at the library to peruse at night, and couldn’t get enough of...or hey, keep returning to an online or copied version of just one recipe that’s changed my culinary life.

What were YOUR favorite recipes this past year? What did you try out that made it onto your regular repertoire? What new-to-you method brought on the “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhs” at your dining table, or what have you? What cookbook is getting well-loved & well-used? Hmmm!


Without further adieu, here are eight recipes that stood out in 2018 [in no particular order]:

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Vegan for Everybody, America’s Test Kitchen

Vegan chocolate chip cookies from  Vegan for Everyone , sprinkled with bonus cacao salt

Vegan chocolate chip cookies from Vegan for Everyone, sprinkled with bonus cacao salt

I have unofficially made this recipes so many times I’ve lost count. I borrowed this cookbook twice from the library, making a few recipes at home that Jules and I bookmarked (another highlight being the tempeh chimichurri). Full disclosure and heads up for the rest of this list, I developed a tree nut allergy a few years ago, so I perpetually substitute peanut for almond butter here, and often throw in tablespoons of chilled coffee in place of the water, if I have some leftover in the fridge. These cookies have changed my life, and now I’d say officially turned me into a chewy, very slightly underbaked cookie person. The texture is cookie perfection, and people flip out when I bring them somewhere...and yup, especially non-vegan-believers. Of course the ATK cooking nerds know what’s up! And my goodness, are they chocolate chip enthusiasts, with SO MANY in each bite.  The toasted oats version is equally tasty as heck.

You can find the recipe on their website, and once your freebies run out, also, here.

GLORIOUS BUTTER-LESS BUTTER

The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Miyoko Schinner

Miyoko’s butter and a white grits & baked tofu & greens & radish AKA I didn’t come across a photo of the homemade butter

Miyoko’s butter and a white grits & baked tofu & greens & radish AKA I didn’t come across a photo of the homemade butter

Okay, Miyoko + vegan butter = a double whammy of cruelty-free revolutions. You likely have some in your fridge, or sometimes do, because it’s rainforest-wiping palm-oil free and incredibly creamy and good, and available all over the place in North America, including freaking Trader Joe’s. And Miyoko is so damn inspiring (on top of the confident, lawsuit tackling, non-dairy empire she’s growing) that she actually shares her TONS of her methods in her cookbooks, and more than ever in 2015’s Homemade Vegan Pantry. She’s been doing this since the late ‘90s and her Now & Zen history, but THVP is easily my cookbook of the year...uh, every year, since it’s release. It’s tagline is “the art of making your own staples”, for goodness’ sake. Back to the butter, it feels so good to make my own dang vegan butter, and is a fun reason to buy giant tubs of organic coconut oil and halt buying little plastic tubs of corporate, debatable-palm oil-containing vegan butter spreads.

Tracking down liquid soy or sunflower was trickier, but totally worth it. I’ve made this 6+ times now, and even when it doesn’t set super perfectly, it’s lovely and useful as can be.

And that being said, I blame my differentiations with nondairy milks, duh. I’m making it again this weekend with nondairy yogurt for the “cultured” version.

I will continue going on and on about this book, because the rustic pasta dough and line of ‘fake meats’ are equally up there, but for now, if you also like to cook from scratch, check it out.

You can also find her butter recipe online on this blog, just soak in the photos and keep scrolling until you find it. And by all means, keep buying her cultured butter in the store!

MASTER RECIPE

The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

This was another cookbook that I kept on renewing from our fabulous local library system. Sure, I’d done the famous no-knead method for years for both loaves and pizza dough, but I still bought a loaf here and there, until I happened upon an even easier method. Look, “Bread in Five” is more than a method and large cookbook – it’s a lifestyle. The book is largely vegan-friendly, and again, changed the way I make bread. This past year saw me with a constant supply of dough in the fridge, giant jars and bags of flour all around our tiny kitchen, and baguettes...batards...boules...rolls...pizza...ciabatta...ready to go….and that’s just the super easy collection.  I very recently got into homemade sourdough, thanks to a friend, and while it floored me in a different way, I know I’ll be returning to #breadinfive soon enough. DID I MENTION THAT THERE IS NO KNEADING?!?!? There’s a gluten-free cookbook, as well.


See all of the books on the “Bread in Five” website.


Dude.

Dude.

TOFU-FRIED-TOFU

Superiority Burger, Brooks Headley

I am hereby going to stop myself from going on a related rant & rave about vegan food in NYC over the years (AKA the highlights & lowlights and fake food and great food since my high school days). One thing I will state is that Superiority Burger is super-de-duper special, and while not all vegan, sheesh, it’s seasonally-focused, which is not...normal….for NYC, and you should probably just check it out. I mean, I can’t even eat the namesake burger ‘cause of the whole treenuts thing, but I’ve enjoyed whatever else I can get my hands on in their tiny spot, and the Superiority Wrap alone is the one thing I long for on a cross-country flight coming back to the Pacific Northwest. Not pizza. Not bagels. Not falafel. Not ML (although swankiest take-out ever, mmmm). That wrap!

bonus duo from the Superiority Burger cookbook – roasted beet salad with crushed pretzels and hot maple collards

bonus duo from the Superiority Burger cookbook – roasted beet salad with crushed pretzels and hot maple collards

Anyway, the object of this feature is the Tofu-Fried-Tofu. I will be frank – it’s a labor of love & ingredients & patience & oil & frying & making condiments & beautifully messy eating – and it’s worth every step and bite. We had two rounds of this a few months back, with homemade brioche-style buns, to boot, and I gotta make this happen again.

To enjoy this TFT, you’ll need the rad cookbook. Or, you can catch it on special every now on E 9th. You can, however, get the burger recipe on the internet.


“The Ultimate Rich and Creamy Vegan Ramen” With Roasted Vegetables and Miso Broth Recipe

Note to self: double this next time and eat for years

Note to self: double this next time and eat for years

Serious Eats’ The Food Lab, J. Kenji López-Alt

Take that, 2015 to-do list! Or make that, please tell my adamantly non-vegan brother-in-law who loooooves this recipe from the “vegan experience” posts the PPK used to get all excited about that YES, I finally made it. Actually, I did tell him, and walked about it, and it was nice enough. Belated win, win.

Once more, I’m talking about a recipe that was well worth it, but did take me an entire weekend to source and put-together. It’s everything that title promises, and easily better than so-so bowls of vegan ramen I’ve ordered through the years. It’s complex! And yeah, rich and creamy, no doubt about that. I certainly hadn’t cooked or eaten that many mushrooms in ages.

I did everything hold the scallion oil, due to personal reasons of not digging scallions, but I subbed that with a sesame-chili oil I don’t use enough of, and made up for my skipping of one of the many components by making my own ramen noodles. Seeing a pattern here? I mean business! Well, when it comes to intimate, complex meals very few people will also enjoy : )

I’ve since made a cheater version, skipping the roasting but pureeing part of a simmered stock with garlic, pumpkin puree and tahini, and I gotta say, I enjoyed the hack and lightened version, but I do recommend giving the full recipe a go to vegan ramen enthusiasts.

Bonus points for folks who add on fried or fresh tofu, because, come on, we’re vegan.

What the heck, let’s throw mizuna in there, too

What the heck, let’s throw mizuna in there, too


SAUSAGE AND CABBAGE SAUCE

Best Pasta Sauces, Micol Negrin

We’ve made it to the “meaty” final trio! This recipe from Micol Negrin’s regional tour of Italian pasta sauces is one of two that were quite simply, fairly easily veganized for this list. Perhaps when you’re vegan going on a decade-and-a-half and already with an Isa, Terry & Miyoko arsenal (among 20+ others on my cookbook shelf), all of the newer books begin to look the same. I find myself scanning the library’s physical shelves and digital collections for releases, old & new, wandering near & far for inspiration & whims.

I’ve likely cooked over half the recipes in this cookbook by now, and from caramelized bitter radicchio to boldly pounded chilis, veganized ragùs (hello, THVP seitans!) and just perfect summer tomato sauces, I can’t get enough. I pick it up year-round, and as my wife can attest, cabbage became our winter tomato at the start of 2018. The recipe I’ve made the most is the “Sauce and Cabbage”, typically substituting a homemade seitan (and usually Italian-flavored) sausage for the animal. The seitan sausage is crumbled, browned and cooked down with heaps of fresh cabbage – savoy or green here – which takes on a lovely, melt-in-your-mouth texture with every bite.

True story, I make this dish more so in the winter, so I rarely have a photo of it. I’m subbing in a photo of the equally mesmerizing ‘Caramelized Radicchio and Onion Sauce’, where I switch the onion for heaps of garlic, ‘cause, you gotta be you.

True story, I make this dish more so in the winter, so I rarely have a photo of it. I’m subbing in a photo of the equally mesmerizing ‘Caramelized Radicchio and Onion Sauce’, where I switch the onion for heaps of garlic, ‘cause, you gotta be you.

I opt for a bronze-cut fusilli if I have it, and top with homemade parm or Violife’s excellent offering, freshly shredded, when I have it (and my goodness, I try to and it’s the only thing that’s come so close to my childhood memories!!)

This was a recipe I would normally go nowhere near, but, ‘twas the time of cabbage, and I’m impossibly delighted that I did. I made it yet again just last week.

For the record, Miyoko’s unpork, or her own sausages, are also stellar in these recipes. Do you trust me by now or what?

You can find a bunch of Micol’s recipes on her Rustico Cooking School website.

Hello, basil babies

Hello, basil babies


PAD GRAPOW

Eating Thai Food.com, Mark Wiens

Ah, the not-so-photogenic power duo of night-time dining and black rice? : )

Ah, the not-so-photogenic power duo of night-time dining and black rice? : )

Here’s something you should know about me: I’m obsessed with Thai food, and amazingly, have been several times over the years to Thailand, eating as much vegan curry as possible. Gosh. Back in Portland, come springtime, Jules and I grow multiple varieties of basil to recreate the flavors we crave. I’m certainly no expert, but I can tell you this: sweet basil and holy basil are very different flavors, and you want both in your life when you’re making cuisines from Thailand...and you want heaps of ‘em. Pad Grapow, or Pad Grapao, is a hot, fast stir-fry with a protein, chiles, garlic, a little sugar, the right sauces, and the star: holy basil. This is a method you can take with Miyoko’s unpork, eggplant, fried tofu, chickin’, whatever. Serve over rice, throw on more basil, maybe a little lime, and really, you shouldn’t need hot sauce if you’re using enough HEAT.  

And EatingThaiFood.com is a great place to turn to for actual Thai flavors!

Look for ‘HealthyBoy’ brand soy and mushroom sauces for seriously great flavors. Oh, and relevancy – I don’t think they make a vegetarian fish sauce, but there are a bunch of recipes online and packaged offerings from both Asia and North America available these days. I usually buy this Vietnamese brand. Don’t worry, there’s also one in THVP.


UNRIBS

The Homemade Vegan Pantry, Miyoko Schinner

Dum dum dum! It’s no shock that my top eight end with another Miyoko offering: her damnnn succulent, dare-I-say, toothsome unribs. I’ve made these three times now since I got my hands on the book, and yeah, I love them...and so do the meat-heads I’ve shared them with. <3

This is another labor intensive-go, that always calls for more barbecue sauce than I thought possible. The last time I made it was for a Fourth of July BBQ party at my sister’s in Bushwick. I did a Korean BBQ take on ‘em, and my sis even grilled them (on a new grate, praise satan!) They were such a hit that the chicken wings were kept on reserve for another day, and THAT is cool. I’d also made them for a work retreat a couple of years earlier, and even I even had votes for them over the slow-cooked animal offering!  Again, this recipe is a WINNER.

You can find the recipe in the aforementioned cookbook I keep raving about, and on this blog, if you can take a deep breath and navigate around the pop-ups.


In conclusion, these are a top eight based on my own (vegan!) life and seasonal influences. I’d say runner-ups include the Puffy Pillow Pancakes from Isa Does It because I make them all the time, Veganomicon’s Pasta E Fagioli come summer tomato and garden thyme-time, the rustic pasta in you-know-what that got us hand-cranking out surreal goodness, and the reality of how AWESOME steamed sausages are when made in the Instant Pot. To everyone else on the Vegan Iron Chef Board of Directors that I casually asked for your own year-in-review hits...hi! I forgot! You tell us!

So…..YOU! What rocked your vegan kitchen this year?

Cabbage for dinner again?!?! Again!!!!!

Cabbage for dinner again?!?! Again!!!!!