Review: The HappyCow Cookbook

HappyCow Cookbook ReviewWhen I heard that HappyCow was coming out with a cookbook, I was intrigued. For years I’ve been using their website to locate vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants when I’m home and while traveling, and their app is one of the most used and appreciated apps on my phone. For finding vegan restaurants when I’m on the road, it is incredibly useful.

Like the global reach of their website, The HappyCow Cookbook features recipes from vegan restaurants all over the world. The restaurants are from across the U.S., Canada, Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Spain. In addition, there are interviews that precede the recipe(s) for each restaurant. They highlight the owners of the restaurants, their most popular dishes, lessons they’ve learned, and what inspired them to go vegan and/or open a vegan restaurant.

So often when I travel, I wish I could bring back a souvenir from the trip that encapsulates an experience that I had, and this book offers that. Of the restaurants listed in the book, I have been to 11 of them: Café Blossom (now Blossom on Columbus), Candle Café, Karyn’s On Green, Millennium, Native Foods, Peacefood Café, Portobello, Real Food Daily, Stuff I Eat, SunCafe Organic, and Veggie Grill. (Click on the highlighted links to read my posts on those restaurants.)

In addition to revisiting some favorites, there’s also the opportunity to learn about restaurants I may never visit and sample some of their offerings. Even without cooking from it, the cookbook would make for a fun coffee table book. So far I’ve made 3 things from restaurants I’ve visited in the past.

Bistro steak sandwich - Native Foods - from the HappyCow CookbookI started with the recipe for the Bistro Steak Sandwich from Native Foods. This sandwich is one of my favorites from Native Foods. The sandwich is a multi-layered affair with marinated seitan steak, crispy shallots (like olive rings but in shallot-form), Native bleu cheese, and oven roasted tomatoes.

With this many elements, it was no small process making all of it. Plus, I had to first make a batch of seitan from scratch. (There’s no recipe for the seitan, just the marinade. I used the white seitan recipe from Viva Vegan and added freshly ground pepper to it.)

The end result was very tasty, but required quite a bit of changes because of confusing and possibly flawed directions. My sense was that the recipe needed more testing, especially with a home cook in mind (as opposed to a restaurant’s needs). However, with some changes, I’d make this sandwich again.

In case you’re making it at home, here are my thoughts:

Native Foods seitan steak sandwich - HappyCow CookbookI made a half batch of the crispy shallots, and it was plenty for 4-6 sandwiches. It’s not clearly noted that the salt is divided into two parts of the recipe – one for soaking the shallots and one for salting afterwards.

I think there was a typo with the Native Bleu Cheese, and it should be 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, not 2 Tablespoons. The full amount of vinegar made it inedible, and I had to compensate by adding double the amount of silken tofu. Again, just a half recipe of the bleu cheese would be more than enough for a full amount of sandwiches.

For some reason, the marinade recipe calls for the reader to make double the amount of marinade necessary. Then they are told to save half of the marinade for another time. Outside of a restaurant situation where you’ll definitely make more sandwiches in the near future, it seems counterintuitive to assume a home cook would want to make more than needed, especially when it’s simple enough to make just the amount you need.

Coconut Milk Butternut Squash Soup recipe from Karyn's On Green - HappyCow CookbookNext I made Coconut-Squash Soup with Garbanzo Bean Garnish. I had this soup at Karyn’s On Green a couple of years ago. This simple recipe has just roasted butternut squash and coconut milk for the soup, and then it’s topped with garbanzo beans that have been browned in a pan and tossed with paprika, salt, and sugar.

The recipe didn’t specify the size of the butternut squash needed, and squash can vary quite a bit. It said to bake the squash for an hour and a half, but mine was totally soft and ready at an hour. After tasting the soup, I ended up doubling the amount of squash, because it just tasted like coconut milk. So I’d recommend using large butternut squash for this recipe.

Because there weren’t any spices in the soup or onions or garlic, I found it to be quite bland. If I were to make this recipe again, I would definitely start by sautéing onions and garlic, and I’d add some spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, or curry powder.

Seitan marsala recipe from Cafe Blossom - HappyCow CookbookFinally, last night I made the Seitan Marsala from Café Blossom in NYC. I visited the restaurant last month, and it was one of the highlights of my trip from a food perspective. This is one of their most popular dishes; although, I’ve never tried it at their restaurant. The recipe calls for seitan filets, but there’s no recipe for the actual seitan. So I made a batch of the chicken-style seitan from Vegan Diner, which is one of my favorite seitan recipes, and cut large pieces from it for the filets.

This dish involves a layer of mashed potatoes, a bed of kale, and seitan that has been cooked with fennel, mushrooms, and shallots in a wine sauce. Since this recipe calls for 2 different kinds of wine, Marsala and port, it was definitely one of the pricier dishes to make.

Seitan marsala - HappyCow CookbookThe recipe is supposed to serve 4-6; however, I made a half amount of the recipe, and it was easily enough for four. There was a lot of liquid that was supposed to reduce in the pan, but after doubling the amount of time it was supposed to reduce, all of the ingredients were still swimming in it. So I removed about a cup of liquid from the pan. Then I took a little bit of the liquid, made a slurry with a tablespoon of flour, and put it into the pan to help it thicken.

The building blocks of this dish tasted good – the mashed potatoes, the seitan filets, the kale, fennel, shallots, and mushrooms. However, the flavor of the sauce was overpowering; it was both bitter and sweet all at once. Perhaps if I had purchased a different variety of marsala or port I would have liked it more. Since those flavors were the most prominent, they covered everything in their path and made it impossible to taste the mushrooms and fennel underneath. As it was, I don’t think I’d make this recipe again. It was too expensive and time consuming for the end result.

Seitan Marsala from Cafe Blossom in the HappyCow CookbookFinal thoughts: Because there were so many contributors in this book and because the recipes are from restaurants that need to cook in bulk, I think the recipes could have used some tweaking for a home cook. For example, there’s a recipe for Chia Pudding from Luna’s Living Kitchen, and the recipe makes enough to serve 7, and the first ingredient is 25 dates. It is more helpful for cookbook recipes to make enough for an even amount of people, so that the recipe can easily be divided. I don’t know who is making chia pudding for 7, but it seems more like the kind of thing a person would make for herself/himself for breakfast or maybe for one another person.

There are also instances where specificity could be improved, like in the size of the butternut squash in the soup recipe above, or in the seitan marsala recipe when it called for kale, but never noted to remove the leaves from the rib or chop them. It simply said to sauté three bunches with olive oil and garlic.

Finally, it would be handy if there was an index by ingredient, as opposed to just the name of the dish and by location. When trying to find a dish, it makes it easier than trying to remember the very specific name or restaurant.

Want to see more? Kelly at easyvegan.info has made quite a bit from the HappyCow Cookbook and wrote a lengthy and helpful post with pictures on her blog. 

Disclaimer: I received this cookbook from the publisher, BenBella Books.  The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Radical Reuben Recipe + The New Chicago Diner Cookbook

The New Chicago Diner Cookbook + recipe for Radical ReubenMy first stop in Chicago tends to be to the same place – Chicago Diner. With a 31 year history and two locations, it is a mainstay of the Windy City. Their menu is loaded with cozy comfort foods, hearty breakfasts, and one of my all-time favorite sandwiches, the Radical Reuben. Loaded with chewy seitan, crisp sauerkraut, and creamy Thousand Island dressing, it ticks all of my must haves for that classic diner sandwich. (And I’m going to be sharing that recipe with you today! But more on that in just a bit…)

I was so excited when I heard that the folks at the Chicago Diner were coming out with a new cookbook with lots of color photos and enticing recipes. The New Chicago Diner Cookbook by Jo A. Kaucher with Kat Barry celebrates so much of what makes the Chicago Diner great.  (This new cookbook is completely different from the Chicago Diner Cookbook that was released in 2002.)

There are recipes for vegan proteins and fillings, brunch, entertaining, salads, dressings, and condiments, soups and sandwiches, entrees, vegetables and side dishes, and desserts. While the Chicago Diner is a vegetarian restaurant, all of the recipes in the cookbook are vegan.

Here are a few things I’ve made from the cookbook:

Creamy Pesto Dip from the New Chicago Diner CookbookCreamy Pesto Dip from the New Chicago Diner CookbookThis Creamy Cashew Pesto Dip is in the entertaining section. I served it with crackers and crudités for an easy, summer nibbly night. This spread is cashew-based and filled with mounds and mounds of fresh basil.  For 2 cups of raw cashews, you combine it with 9 ½ cups of basil. That’s a lot of basil! In the variations, they offer the idea of substituting half of the basil for spinach for a less pronounced basil flavor. For dip purposes, I will probably do that next time. However, I used the remaining spread as a sauce for hot pasta, and it was wonderfully creamy and fragrant.

Eggless Salad from the New Chicago Diner CookbookEggless Salad Wrap from the New Chicago Diner CookbookThis summer I have been gravitating towards a lot of quick, no fuss lunches. One that I’ve been coming back to again and again is eggless (tofu) salad. I usually make it with just a few ingredients – tofu, Vegenaise, and kala namak. So I was interested in trying the Chicago Diner version with this Eggless Salad Wrap.

Their version includes everything that I put in mine plus celery, parsley, green onion, dill pickles, mustard, turmeric, and sunflower seeds. I’d never added toasted sunflower seeds to a tofu salad before, and it added a wonderfully nutty crunch that I really liked. I reduced the amount of Vegenaise in the recipe by about half, because I prefer a less mayo-heavy sandwich.  It took less than ten minutes to make, and it was absolutely delicious. This will definitely be my preferred recipe from now on.

Radical Reuben - vegan reuben from the famed Chicago DinerFinally, the crème de la crème – The Radical Reuben. This was the reason I was most excited for this cookbook, and it did not disappoint. Even though veggie reubens can be made with any number of toothsome fillings like tofu, tempeh, or Portobello mushrooms, it is chewy seitan that makes a reuben irresistible to me. This is a sandwich that doesn’t need any sides. It is super filling, and it has it all – sautéed onions, bell peppers, a layer of sauerkraut, and their signature corned beef-style seitan. (The recipe also calls for vegan mozzarella, but I left that out.)

There is a recipe for seitan in the book, but it requires a stand mixer with paddle attachment, which I don’t have. So I used the white seitan recipe from Viva Vegan, which is my go-to, never fail seitan recipe. (When you make the recipe below, use your own preferred seitan with the listed marinade.)  I then marinated a pound of the seitan in the Corned “Beef” Marinade. It’s the marinade that really brings the seitan to life. With a base of pickle juice, beet juice, and seasonings, the tart, salty flavor pops. It’s the beet juice that gives the seitan its vibrant, hot pink color.  The reuben rivals the one I’ve had many times at Chicago Diner, and you don’t even have to find parking!

I am the only reuben lover in our house, and so after eating a couple of sandwiches, I froze the rest of the marinated seitan in individual portions. Bread also freezes well, and so I froze the rest of the rye bread too. This has been kind of magical, because now whenever I have a reuben emergency, I have everything at hand. I just quickly thaw the seitan in the microwave, sauté it, toast the bread, and pull out my favorite sauerkraut. I can have a reuben in less than 15 minutes. It’s a beautiful thing.

I am so excited that the folks at Agate Publishing have kindly offered for me to share the recipe for the Radical Reuben with you today! I hope you’re hungry. You are going to love this sandwich.

Radical Reuben recipe from the New Chicago Diner Cookbook - all vegan and AMAZING

The Radical Reuben

Serving Size: 4 sandwiches

The Radical Reuben is our most popular dish. It took home the Vegetarian Times Magazine Readers' Choice Award for Best Recipe in the Midwest in June 2008 and was also featured on TLC's "Best Food Ever: Darn Good Diners" show. Basically, this sandwich rocks, and now you can make it right in your own kitchen!

Ingredients

    For the Corned "Beef" Marinade:
  • 1 cup (237 mL) pickle juice
  • 3/4 cup (178 mL) beet juice (Juice from a jar of pickled beets works fine)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • Dash dry ground mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound seitan
  • For the Thousand Island Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup (56 g) vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise)
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 mL) organic ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped dill pickles
  • For the Reubens:
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) sliced yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup (38 g) sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup (38 g) sliced green bell pepper
  • 1 1/3 cups (303 g) sauerkraut
  • 8 slices marble rye bread
  • 1 pound (454 g) Seitan Corned "Beef" (See marinade recipe above)
  • 1 cup (112 g) shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (Chicago Diner uses Daiya brand for this sandwich)

Instructions

    To make the marinade:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until fully combined.
  2. Slice 1 pound of seitan thinly. Place it in a large, shallow baking dish. Pour the marinade over the seitan and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
  3. To make the Sauce:
  4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
  5. To make the Reubens:
  6. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and peppers and sauté for 7 to 9 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Remove from the heat and transfer the onion and peppers to a medium covered bowl. Set aside.
  7. Place the sauerkraut in the skillet and return it to the heat. Warm it in the skillet for 5 minutes, until it is warmed through. Remove from the heat and transfer the sauerkraut to a medium bowl. Cover the bowl and set aside.
  8. Toast the bread. Place the Seitan Corned "Beef" in the skillet and return it to the heat. Warm it in the skillet for 5 to 7 minutes, until it is warmed through and a little brown on the edges. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  9. Place 4 of the toasted bread slices on a serving platter. Divide the Seitan Corned "Beef" evenly among the 4 slices.
  10. Atop each pile of Seitan Corned "Beef," layer 1/4 of the sauerkraut, the pepper-onion mix, the vegan mozzarella cheese, and the Thousand Island Sauce. Top each sandwich half with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately.

Notes

Reprinted with permission from The New Chicago Diner Cookbook by Jo A. Kaucher, Agate Surrey December 2013.

http://cadryskitchen.com/2014/08/06/reuben-sandwich-chicago-diner/

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  I received this cookbook for review from Agate Publishing. The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.