‘Lust For Leaf’ Out in June

Photos by Aaron Farley

Photos by Aaron Farley

WHAT: “Lust For Leaf,” the cookbook formerly known as “Spring Blaze.” 70 + vegetarian and vegan recipes spread out over 128 explosive pages. This is the only cookbook you’ll find with chapters called “Bro-tein” and “BBQ Mosh Pit,” or filled with recipes for DIY Wieners and Patties, Sauce-y Explosions, Salsas that Hurt, Deep Sea Mushrooms, and Nachos that Cook Themselves. And don’t forget dessert: try Hand-Cranked Cream Dreams and Booze You Can Eat. Hot Knives bring you vegetarianism with a new set of rules: “Enjoy your food, but party harder.Eat everything with your hands. Drink booze and fruit, not water. Make all of your junk food yourself. Cook at least half of everything you eat on an open fire. Switch to uppers, if possible.”

WHO: Food-blogging duo Alex Brown and Evan George — better known as Hot Knives — have shown their readers that vegetarians are “cheeky [and] over-the-top” too and “don’t much care for established notions of propriety” (LA Weekly). Photographs by Aaron Farley. Design by Jen Wick Studio. Published by Da Capo.

WHERE: Now officially available for PRE-ORDER HERE

WHEN: Hits book shelves every where in June.

HOW: The only cookbook ever shot in real time at food parties on the streets and backyards and bars of Los Angeles, California.

WHY: Why not?

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Pepper, Mint, Mushrooms

mushrooms

On Easters past, we’ve partied with Jesus. And we’ve partied as Jesus. This Easter we became fixated with how to make a meaty lamb fake-out so we could dress it up in mint sauce. (You know us, fake meat usually means deep shrooming.) But at face value, the idea of mint and mushrooms tasting right together seemed almost as daunting as walking on water. Like ice cream and truffles. Like Altoids and lamb chops. A couple passes later, we sat staring at roasted Maitake mushrooms cooling in pools of black pepper-horseradish cream and emerald-colored herb garnish. Happy Spring.

Forest Veg
3-4 bunches of Maitake mushrooms
1 large golden beet (roasted and sliced with a mandolin)
1 celeriac (blanched and sliced into thick matchsticks)
1/3 teaspoon pepitas (pan-toasted and finely chopped)
2-3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

Mint Sauce
small handfull of fresh parsley
small handfull of fresh cilantro
2 small handfulls of fresh mint
juice of one large lemon
dash of water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt

Pepper-Horseradish Cream
1 teaspoon grain mustard
1/4 cup Veganaise
1 tablespoon fresh prepared horseradish
a dozen chives, minced
sea salt to taste
lotsa black pepper (go nuts)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 360 degrees.

2. Make mint sauce. Put half the mint, all the parsley and cilantro, the lemon and water in a blender. Pulse it. Slowly add the oil and season. Chop the other half of the mint and stir it in.

3. Make the cream. Combine all the ingredients and stir!

4. Grease a baking sheet with a couple teaspoons of olive oil. Gently sweep the bunches of mushrooms around on the sheet to cover with oil then place them around the sheet. Slide it in the oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until slightly brown and crispy on the edges. Flip and keep roasting. Remove and season.

5. Assemble the dish. Place celeriac down first. Slap some cream around. Pick a couple slices of beet, roll them into conical shapes and use as garnish. Sit the mushrooms down on top of the cream pools. Sprinkle the whole mess with chopped pepitas and spoon mint sauce on top.

Beverage: Russian River Brewing’s Redemption Ale
Soundtrack: Ministry, “Psalm 69″

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Iron-Seared Sweet Potato, Salad

sweet pots

If you don’t have a cast iron pan that you cling to like your first stuffed animal, consider why not and figure out a solution. Sure, you can use a regular sauté pan or skillet, but it just wont be the same. That non-stick pan you cook everything in that you got at Target? It will loose its non-stickiness and slowly poison you. Cast iron? It’ll outlive you, and while you live will fortify your food with so much iron you may as well be shooting bull’s blood for breakfast.

Cast iron gives you purpose, and it will reinforce any tendencies you have to avoid soap (or at least it might make you a little less anal about germs).

Cast iron turns you into a charming hoarder and will give you something to do at any thrift store or antique shop you ever go to again.

Cast iron entrenches sincere notions of commitment and care. Its like baby training, except cast iron never pukes on you (obviously you need to keep babies out of the oven).

This little quickie is an ode to the quick, direct, and braindead simple way a well cared for cast iron pan will feed you and make you happy. Also, sweet potatoes are healthy, or something.

Try this tactic with most, if not all, vegetables: Heat your pan ’till it smokes, sear your treats, finish in the oven. Repeat until you’ve got grandkids (then teach them a thing or two).

Sweet Potato Salad
(serves 2)

2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
1 head of garlic
1 head of lettuce
juice of 1 lemon
1 shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
12 turns of a pepper mill (about 1 teaspoon)

1. Place your trusty cast iron pan in the oven and crank it to 500 degrees. Go about your day/evening/life for half an hour. Clean your kitchen. Walk the dog. Make out.

2. Give those sweet potatoes a quick scrub under cold running water. Split them in half lengthwise.

3. Carefully remove your hot pan from the oven (use ‘dem mitts) and place it on the stove top burner on high flame. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Heat the pan for about 2 minutes, then add enough grapeseed oil to coat the pan.

4. Place the sweet potatoes face side down in the hot oil to sear. Leave them undisturbed for about 4 minutes and check them – you want nice brown blisters to be forming on the flesh. sear2

5. Once you’ve got nice spots, turn the potatoes skin side down and place an unadulterated head of garlic on top of the potatoes. You want to roast the garlic but you don’t want it to burn. Put the whole shebang back in the oven and roast at 400 for 25 minutes.

6. While the potatoes are roasting, wash and dry your lettuce and get the vinagrette started. Skin and then slice the shallot thinly and combine with the lemond juice and 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar. Set it aside and make the “aioli.”

Roasted Garlic “Aioli”
That roasted head of garlic
2 heft pinches of sea salt
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil

7. Slice off the bottom of the head of garlic. Cut deep enough so that the bottoms of each clove are exposed. Squeeze the cloves out of their skins into a mortar, or a food processor if you’re more contemporary. Add salt and crush, or pulse, until you get a smooth paste. Mix in the vinegar and the mustard, and combine. Then add the grapeseed oil slowly, dribbling in 1 tablespoon at a time while mixing or pulsing until all the oil is emulsified.

8. Fish those slightly pickled shallots out of the co-mingled acids, cover them with ground black pepper and set aside. Stir the olive oil into the acid-combo and dissolve a pinch of salt into the mix. Toss the lettuces with this deeply un-anal vinaigrette.

10. Place two halves of sweet potato on two plates. Add a hefty dollop of the “aioli” to each plate and plop the peppered and pickled shallots on top of the goop. Place a fistful of dressed lettuce aside the sweeties and serve.

Beverage: Don De Dieu, a swell strong ale from Unibroue.
Soundtrack: Father Finger, Temper.

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Under the Spell of a Gypsy

gypsy

It has been more than a year – if you can believe it — since your loyal beer geeks sat down deliberatively to hold forth on the merits or sad shortcomings of a given beer. That’s right, we’ve kinda stopped writing beer reviews. (We did not stop drinking beer.)

Why? Maybe we were just busy with life and, oh you know, finally finishing our second book, or we just got lazy. But what’s probably closer to the truth is that we haven’t felt that same “eee gads” compulsion that we used to when we’d taste a new batshit flavor of beer and nearly shit our pants. Yes, like married yuppies so familiar with each other’s bodies from years of cohabitation, we just haven’t been thrilled by any of the hundreds of beers we’ve sipped lately. (There’s better beer than ever before in history of course, we’re just harder to surprise nowadays.) Which is why when we put a chilled wine glass of Gypsy Ale to our lips this week, we felt something downstairs stir. Pronouncements were made, a second bottle opened, pictures were staged, and texts were texted. We’re back baby, we’re back!

Gypsy Ale is a variation on California-style brett beer brewed using rye malt and locally grown plums. (The brewers claim they listen to traditional gypsy jams while fermenting this thing.) It’s plenty sour and effervescent with a little funk, but if comparisons are your thing, it’s less extreme in its pucker-iness than Russian River and more subtle than Jolly Pumpkin. It has something else going for it.

One word: Salt. Gypsy Ale is salty. It’s refreshing in a way only tart booze and salt can be (see “Margaritas” and “Gatorade Cocktails”). But the closest thing we can recall tasting was a beer experience about 2 years ago in East Los Angeles at a club called Eastside Luv. Imagine for a second that you’re riding high on having just seen Pavement re-unite in concert (we had) and you’re stopping in for a night cap at your neighborhood bar. You sidle up to the bartender and order a beer while a Morrissey cover band is playing so loud he can only guess at your words and indeed what he hands you instead is a Miller High Life with a testicle-sized Saladito bobbing at the bottom of your glass. At first your bummer, but then you realize that sure it’s watery but that tart saltiness that dissolving makes it infinitely better.

It was good then, and it’s sublime now.

Soundtrack: Woods, “Size Meets the Sound”
Cheese: Holy Moly, a stinky goats cheese made by Bohemian Creamery — its rind is washed in Consecration.

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The Vegan Chili

photo by Cambria Griffith

Mmmmm mmmmm. Napalm in the morning. That aptly describes the flavor of the recipe you’re looking at. But it’s also the smell of victory we found ourselves huffing lustily on a given Sunday last month, when we bombarded four competitors in a vegan chili cook-off. Utter annihilation.

There’s mushroom and TVP meat for chunky umami, heirloom beans, and there’s a ton of fresh roasted green chile for the taste of flame. There is, or course, caramelized tomato paste and a goo of long-cooked onions with harissa. We simmer with beer. We cook cherry tomatoes in garlic oil until they become little bombs that burst in your mouth. We make a sour cream replacement with pulverized fried shallots. We turn the world’s hottest chile pepper into a garnish. So… a warning: This is a prize-winning chili. Do not attempt at home unless your ready for no-shortcut attention to detail, and a long proverbial haul.

Now the question is, having conquered grilled cheese, chili and vegan macaroni, what should we perfect in 2013?

Hot Knives Chili
(Serves 10-12)

“Meat” & Beans
1 cup textured vegetable protein
1/2 cup veggie “bacon” bits
4 shiitake mushrooms
1 white onion
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
sea salt to taste
more olive oil
1 lbs. Anasazi beans
1/4 cup kosher salt

1. Cover the dry Anasazi beans with twice as much water, and add 1/4 cup of salt. Soak for 6-8 hours at room temperature. The salt will help prevent the beans from bursting out of their skins when you cook them.

2. Drain and thoroughly rinse the beans. Place them in a large pot and cover with three times as much water as the now hydrated beans. Set on medium-high heat until you get a boil, and then set to simmer and cook this way for about 45 minutes. Taste and make sure beans are slightly under-cooked (they’ll cook further later). Salt the bean water to taste – it will become part of the future chili. Let the beans sit in their bean water until ready to use.

3. Heat a small sauté pan with medium heat and add the cumin. Agitate frequently to ensure even toasting. Toast for 3 minutes or until the seeds start to pop. Remove from heat and grind with a mortar and pestle – or if you don’t have one a coffee grinder (don’t clean the coffee grinder if its dirty, a little coffee flavor would work for this recipe).

4. Saute and gently hydrate the “meat” in 2-3 stages so not to overload the pan. Heat a saute pan on high heat, add olive oil and some diced shiitake mushrooms and chopped onion. Let them saute for a few minutes then add the textured vegetable protein and bacon bits followed by the cumin. Stir for a minute to keep from sticking and then dash with a cup or so of stock. Season to taste. (This should make the “meat” soften and expand.) Repeat until you have several cups of fluffy, spiced mushroom-protein. Set aside, covered, until ready to use.

Tomato Confit
1 pack cherry tomatoes (red and yellow)
6 cloves garlic
several sprigs of fresh thyme
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
2 cups olive oil

5. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Place washed cherry tomatoes in a casserole dish and cover with olive oil. Peel and crush garlic cloves and add them along with thyme and plenty of black pepper and sea salt. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for about an hour, or until tomatoes are fully soft but not exploding. Let cool until ready to use.

“Cheese & Sour Cream”
1 cup Veganaise
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 cup fried shallots
1/4 cup minced chives
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce of choice

6. In a food processor, pulse the fried shallots until you have a fine onion powder. In a large mixing bowl, combine Veganaise, nutritional yeast, fresh chives, black pepper and shallot powder. Whisk with hot sauce and add salt to taste.

Ghost Chile Death Sauce Sauce
5 dried Ghost Chiles
5 confit tomatoes
1 confit garlic clove
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt

7. Wearing plastic gloves, finger condoms, or seran wrap, CAREFULLY seed the Ghost Chiles and cover them with hot water and steep for 10 minutes.

8. Wash your hands. Do not touch your genitals.

9. Puree all the ingredients. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and disgard the solids left over. Store in a small squeeze bottle until you’re ready to unleash hell.

10. Wash your hands. Do not touch anyone else’s genitals.

Chili Base and Garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
1 and 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
4 onions (mix of colors)
4 stalks celery
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
10 dried Ancho Chilies
5 dried Chipotle Chilies
1 tube (5.3 oz) tomato paste
1 tube (5.3 oz) prepared harissa paste
32 oz. canned tomatoes (chopped)
1 cup roasted green chile (chopped)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch cilantro

11. Now that all other components are ready, make the chile base starting with a onion-chili paste. Place a heavy bottom pot or cast iron skillet on medium heat, add about half the olive oil. Slice 2 and 1/2 onions into half-moons and add them to the pot. Let them cook down slowly for at least 20 minutes, stirring every so often, until they shrink by half. Add the soy sauce and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

12. Seed and stem your chilies. Carefully chop the top off of each pepper, then make a vertical incision and scrape the seeds. Rehydrate your dried chilies by covering them in a bowl with hot water and let sit for 8-10 minutes. Fish out the chilies and combine them with the onion goo in a food processor. Add the whole tube of harissa and as much leftover chile water as needed to make a smooth paste.

13. Finely chop the rest of the onion and the celery. In a large pot, heat more olive oil and add the chopped veg. Saute and stir, cooking for a few minutes just until softened. Now add the tomato paste, cook for a few minutes to caramelize, stirring more. Next, add the onion-chili paste and stir well. Follow this with the remaining vegetable stock ,chopped tomatoes and green chile. Toss in bay leaves. Let this simmer for 15 minutes before tasting and adjusting.

14. Add beans along with some of the bean-water until you have a good mix of beans and vegetables. Let simmer until you’re back up to a bubble.

15. If you’re eating the chile now, you’re ready to combine all the ingredients.: Spoon in a good proportion of mushroom meat, tomato confit and as much of the tomato oil as desired. Top with a squirt of the “cheese and cream”, followed by a well-placed garnish of finely chopped cilantro and scallions. Lastly top with 2-5 drops of the ghost chile sauce. (If not eating right away, store these components separately and combine and re-heat up to 2 days later.)

Beverage: High Water Campfire Stout
Soundtrack: Misfits’ “Green Hell”

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A White Christmas in LA

Attention colleagues. This year’s holiday party will be held at Eagle Rock Brewery and attendance is mandatory. The CEO has done away with the raffle prizes, but refreshments will be served. Because nothing says Baby Jesus like a congregation of obsessive taste-seekers whipped-up into a feeding frenzy for five weird beers and five freaky-deeky cheeses. This is the first co-ed beer tasting event at the brewery known for its infamous women’s forum. Come all ye faithful. The theme? White beers.

Among the suds: We’ll knock back a German salt beer, a hometown hero, a Quebec strong ale, a one-time-only-inner-sanctum-nerd-alert Wheat Wine… and some IPA…

In the cheese department: a tit-shaped goat goo, a mixed-milk butter bomb, some hard-assed mountain tack, Eagle Rock’s Alpine doppelganger, and a blue stinker named after a revolutionary war supply line…

A WhHITE CHRISTMAS
Thursday, December 13
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Eagle Rock Brewery
3056 Roswell St.
Los Angeles CA, 90065

Go here for details and to reserve a space by the water cooler!

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Thanksgiving Classics

Our national feast is upon us. Time to baste ourselves in real and fake butter fat. So grab your feather headdress and your pilgrim hat. (We like to tuck Kleenex in our sweater cuffs like colonial douchebags.)

This year, Evan got asked by some colleagues to perform a nearly impossible task: buy a frozen soy turkey and make it taste as delicious as possible, to answer once and for all, “Can a fake turkey taste good?” But not just for omnivores; for a James Beard-award winning food critic, a chef and food show host, and two famous butchers. Will he convert them all, or fail miserably? Listen below!

As for the big meal this week. Here’s some recipe inspiration. In years past we’ve celebrated our favorite food holiday with experiments, like nut-heavy bread-less stuffing, leek-and-apple “pork” loin, and of course Thanksgiving Pop-Tarts. We’ve shared with you before our family holiday tradition of “nut balls.” And in “Salad Daze” we spend several pages on must-haves like beer-cranberry sauce and vegan coconut-mashed potatoes. So there’s that. This year, we’re sticking with the basics. Below are the classics: perfect stuffing and meatless mushroom gravy. You’ll need those Kleenex to sop up the mess.

Stuffing
(Makes too much)

At least 3 cups vegetable stock
4 cups sourdough bread cubes (dry)
4-5 Shittake mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 bunch heirloom carrots
1 large parsnip
1 fennel bulb
5 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
8-10 fresh sage leaves
several sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup raw walnuts
1 tablespoon fennel seed
3 stalks celery
2 medium-sized shallots
1 green apple

1. Make a large pot of vegetable or mushroom stock from scratch. This being Thanksgiving, this should be your first task anyway; you’ll need about 3 cups for this recipe.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees for roasting your vegetables and roots. Wash, peel and chop the carrots, parsnip and fennel. Toss with a liberal splash of olive oil and lay on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 25 minutes or until starting to brown. Remove and let cool.

3. In a sauté pan, heat more olive oil. Slice or dice the Shittake mushrooms into large meaty hunks and sauté for several minutes. Add soy and vinegar, letting it cook off slightly and coating mushrooms. Remove and set aside.

4. In a separate sauté pan, toast the pecans on low heat for 5 minutes, shaking pan every 30 seconds to brown evenly. After five, add the fennel seed and a drizzle of olive oil, and shake to keep from burning. Nuts should be fragrant but just a notch above raw. Salt to taste and set aside.

5. Prepare herbs and raw ingredients: pluck and mince thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley (keep the parsley separated from the other herbs). Chop your apple and slice your shallots. Slice each celery stalk lengthwise into 3 long pieces, then line them up and dice into small pieces.

6. Set out all your ingredients on the counter, plus a large mixing bowl and a large casserole dish or roasting pan that you’ve greased with olive oil. In the bowl, start to combine everything (you may need to do this in two batches). Bread cubes first, then add the roasted veggies, mushroom plus pan juices, walnuts, raw ingredients and herbs except for the parsley. Add about a cup of stock while mixing by hand, trying to wet evenly. Repeat with a second cup of stock.

7. Fill your casserole dish with the stuffing. Top snugly with aluminum foil and slide into the oven. Cook this way for about 20 minutes. Then remove from the oven and add final cup of stock, stirring gently and return the foil on top. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove and let sit (covered with foil) until ready to serve. Garnish with parsley and salt to taste.

Shittake Mushroom Gravy
(Makes 2 cups)

3 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup mushroom stock
1 cup almond milk
4-5 shittake mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
several sprigs fresh thyme
a lot of freshly ground black pepper
sea salt to taste

1. Make a roux: Heat a medium-sized stock pot on high heat and after 30 seconds toss in the margarine. Let it melt and coat the surface of the pot before adding the flour. Stir frequently with a spatula to keep from burning the flour. The flour and butter will form a thick paste.

2. After about 3 minutes or as soon as the roux starts to brown, add half a cup of almond milk and whisk vigorously. Let it return to a near-boil. (It should re-thicken as you whisk.) Repeat this step twice, adding another 1/4 cup while whisking each time. Now repeat this step two more times, adding 1/4 of mushroom stock each time (you should have 1/2 cup stock left over). Now you should have a less thick, creamy liquid. Lower the heat to a simmer and let it slowly return to a near-boil.

3. Dice your shittake mushrooms. Place a skillet on high heat with the olive oil. Wait 30 seconds and toss in the mushrooms along with the fennel. Saute for several minutes, tossing frequently. Once they wilt and start to brown, add about 1/2 cup stock and soy sauce and cook like this for 5-10 minutes on medium, letting the mushrooms soak up this liquid. Set aside.

4. Season the still-simmering gravy with sage, cayenne and black pepper. Rip the thyme off its stem and into the pot and stir. Add the mushroom bits with as much or as little of the liquid as desired. Season with sea salt to taste. (Add remaining mushroom stock if needed, it’s extra just in case)

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Perfecting Vegan Mac & Cheese

Earlier this month we were asked to do a stint as judges of a contest — one we did not immediately feel well-qualified for: The Best Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown. At first we gently protested to the contest’s mastermind, the gracious Chica Vegan , that we’re not exactly proponents of vegan cheese since we find most taste like the Nutra-Sweet equivalent of shredded yellow cheese, and we know too well how real mac & cheese should taste. “But that’s exactly why you’d make good judges,” she insisted. That’s how we ended up licking cashew cream off our digits and picking Daiya strings out of our beards.

At the showdown, we quizzed the five restaurants on their particular recipe; we took a cup of each into a nearby photo booth to record our uncensored thoughts and opinions; and ultimately voted for a concoction of handmade pasta smothered in a homemade cashew cheese sauce and topped with slivers of fried onions. While not quite our idea of what mac & cheese should be, it was the best tasting, and better conceived, dish of the five. Most were good; none was perfect.

Vegan Mac & Cheese became our white whale. And we were Ahab, in a Hollywood photo booth. Frankly, we were surprised that the majority of the recipes were gluten-free, as if faking cheese weren’t hard enough they’d tackle pasta too? We thought too many of them used store-bought vegan cheese products. And to our horror, not a single entry was baked… for our full frontal, impartial photo booth observations, listen here:

Our brief appointment to this food tribunal got us thinking about what makes the truly best mac & cheese. Our first philosophical conclusion is that, yes, it can exist in a vegan form. Our reasoning: Kraft’s Mac & Cheese is barely real, and certainly easier to mimic than, say, a tomme of raw sheep’s milk cheese. With that tenet outta the way, we turned to the deeper question: what’s the platonic ideal of Mac-And? You see, we believe that Mac & Cheese by nature is a casserole, it should be al dente pasta tossed with sauce and baked with a crust. Stove-top mac? Pffff, whatever. Having catered off-site events with mac & cheese, we can confidently say it travels well and holds up to both time and temperature. We also believe that mac & cheese should involve nothing that takes away from the two namesake ingredients. It should be properly salted and thoroughly gooey.

With these principles in mind, we give you the ultimate vegan mac & cheese recipe: quality noodles that are partially toasted before boiling to add a nutty Parmesan flavor; tossed with a thickened almond-milk cream sauce loaded with nutritional yeast, an umami jigger of shittake juice and a ton of salt and pepper; topped with a Panko-herb crust that bakes until golden brown. We tried regular breadcrumbs and found them lacking. We also tried coconut milk and loved the texture but found the taste to be a little too Thai. And while traditional macaroni pasta works A-OK, we used a pasta called strozzapreti, which uniqely mimics Kraft while adding goo-friendly nooks and crannies.

Perfect Vegan Mac & Cheese
Serves 2

“Cheese Sauce”
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (big flakes)
1/4 cup beer (Witte or Hefe)
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 shittake mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Crust
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs (check ingredients, some aren’t vegan)
1/4 cup crispy fried shallots (store-bought)
1 tablespoons vegan margarine
1 teaspoon parsley
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups dried pasta
1 small shallow casserole dish

1. Cook the pasta. Set a pot of salted water on high, on the back burner. Divide your dry pasta into two 1 cup piles. Toast one pile for a couple minutes in a saute pan over medium-high heat, tossing frequently, until the dry pasta starts to brown. Remove from heat. Once the water is boiling, add both the toasted and un-toasted and cook until al dente. Strain and sit.

2. Make your umami jigger by finly chopping your shittake mushrooms and setting a saute pan on high heat, coat it with a tablespoon of oil and add the shrooms. Cook like this for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, and then douse with soy sauce, water and vinegar. Let it cook for another minute, then remove from heat and let sit.

3. Create “cheese” sauce. In a medium sauce pan, melt margarine on medium heat and add the flour. At first, the flour will just soak up the fat and look like (vegan) cookie dough crumbles. Keep cooking it until it melts back down and starts to brown a little, stirring with a spatula to move it around. Then slowly add about a quarter of the almond milk and whisk. This should result in a thick paste. Wait 30 seconds and then repeat until it’s all whisked in and slightly looser. Then add the beer, which will thin it out more. Now add half your nutritional yeast and stir, then the second half followed by the umami jigger. Whisk again. Taste and season with salt, pepper and white pepper. Sauce is done, set aside.

4. Prepare your crust. Mince your herbs and set a saute pan on high heat. Add your margarine and once melted toss in the herbs and remove from heat. In a bowl, toss the Panko with herb oil and salt.

5. Assemble your mac & cheese while you pre-heat oven to 400. Toss your strained pasta in a large mixing bowl and add cheese sauce, tossing to coat. (It should be heavily covered). Lightly grease your casserole dish with margarine or oil, add spoon the macaroni in it. Top with your crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the crust starts to brown. Let cool for 5 minutes for eating.

Beverage: Drake’s Hefe
Soundtrack: Primal Scream’s cover of “Some Velvet Morning”

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All One, All One, All One. Unity

In honor of LA Beer Week, we scooped up the limited “2 bottles per visit” of Unity, the official brew by Eagle Rock Brewery.

At 3.25% alcohol, this Berliner Rye made with prickly pear tastes like… well, why type it when we could….

Soundtrack: Operation Ivy’s “Unity”

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‘Spring Blaze’ Rising

As the final spurts of a nationwide heat wave jerk to a close and the Grand Old Party’s party spoiler dissipates into overdue drinks for parched mid-west plains, another summer slumps its way into limbo. There’s a gap, you see, between August and October, known to us as September. Its a thirty day-long opportunity to contemplate BBQ’s past, the beer gardens that got away, the beer crawls that didn’t, a ripping Halloween costume on the horizon, in the future … THE FUTURE!

Our Future, firmly rooted in the past (as all good futures should be) sees our second cookbook ready for the printers!!! Last summer, we partnered with our exclusive designer Jen Wick and our friend and venerable dead-eye Aaron Farley to shoot our second opus, Spring Blaze, a seasonal slam dunk follow-up to our fall/winter joint Salad Daze: The Hot Knives Vegetarian Cookbook. (You bought it right? No? Well…do it!) We’re finally feeling share-y about the new book, so here’s some show ‘n tell.

Spring Blaze was literally conceived and created by fire – and parties – in this cyclical zeitgeist of the warmer months of the year, when hanging out and getting drunk in the sun is a sincere priority. This is our tome dedicated to the ideology of the cookout and all its disciples: the pool party, the backpack picnic, dessert spreads, group huddles on curbs over paper plates of tacos. Barbecues.

A precious few of you may be conceivably confused at this announcement. “Didn’t I order Spring Blaze on amazon-dot-com like a year ago? Didn’t my order get cancelled? Is this a pyramid scheme?” (Yes, yes, and no. Make sure the Internet has refunded you.) These questions are important and YOU are important for asking them, but the details are pretty boring, so lets ignore them together! Let it suffice to say that publishing details have changed and we’re close to finding a new home for this rum-soaked manuscript. What’s more critical, whats essential is that this book will be in your hot little hands in time to destroy any potluck that the warmer parts of 2013 throw at you!

Behold below: Teasers shots. Word chasers. This party haiku encyclopedia will be out soon. Happy fall, let’s start looking forward to spring!

Summer squash salad with epazote.

fresh summer squashes
what the hell is epazote?
that day we were drunk

“Ambient nachos.”

Ambient Nachos
a slothen decent into goo
pretty girls dig in

Mushroom ceviche and jackfruit carnitas tacos.

raw mushrooms and lime
your new favorite chip abuse
the streets rejoiced

Coconut-seitan banh mi with fresh plum hoisin.

true road sandwiches
fueled by our own gatorade
party in waterfall

Grilled tomato for salsa.

smokey dripping orb
we will destroy you again
tacos above all else

Peach-barbecue jackfruit hoagie with pickles.

barbecue beer party
what in the world rules harder?
more sandwiches (you say)

Pies, pop-tarts and tartlets filled with booze fillings.

apricots, mezcal
manhattans in pie form. What?
sugar high, brain bomb.

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