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!


    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)


    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.


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

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

Q+A with Gena Hamshaw and the Choosing Raw Cookbook

Choosing Raw Cookbook by Gena HamshawI am so delighted to have Gena Hamshaw on the blog today, talking about her new cookbook, Choosing Raw, veganism, cooking and more. I have been following Gena’s blog (by the same name) for years now. Her voice is reasoned, intelligent, warm, and candid.  She’s unafraid to tackle difficult topics and shares her own vulnerabilities with strength and bravery.  When I met Gena last year in person at Vida Vegan Con, I was delighted to discover that the same warmth and spirit that she exudes on her blog comes through in full force in real life.  She’s one of those people you just have to hug.

I’ve made many of Gena’s recipes over the years. (Her vanilla cashew milk is my favorite homemade non-dairy milk; plus, it’s so easy!) So I couldn’t wait to work my way through her first cookbook. Far from dogmatic or black and white, Gena’s recipes are popping with color and cover the best of both raw and cooked foods.  There’s something for every palate – whether you’re raw-curious, looking for hearty warm foods, or wanting to find more ways to use fresh produce.  Choosing Raw is loaded with large, colorful, saliva-inducing photos taken by the very talented Hannah Kaminsky.

My copy of the book is dog-eared with recipes on my to-make list. I started with the chickpea tofu scramble, which brings together my love of tofu and chickpeas. (Why choose?) I liked that this scramble was so different than the standard Southwestern-style scramble. It is seasoned with tamari, tahini, Dijon mustard, and nutritional yeast for a savory welcome to the morning. (I swapped out broccoli in the recipe for asparagus instead, because that’s what I had on hand.) I will definitely be adding this scramble to my early morning repertoire. 

Chickpea Tofu Scramble from Choosing RawWithout further delay, here’s the incomparable Gena:

Gena Hamshaw from Choosing RawWhen and why did you go vegan?

I went vegan about seven years ago. It was initially a health choice; I had terrible GI problems, and a gastroenterologist suggested that I try eliminating dairy in order to manage it. I had for the most part stopped eating red meat as a kid, when I saw Bambi, and I ate pretty little chicken, fish, or eggs. I hadn’t yet started to identify with animal rights, but I’d read Diet for a New America and knew there was something to the environmental and ethical arguments. Realizing that my diet was close to vegan already, I decided to take it all the way there and see how I felt. I felt incredible, as it turns out, and went vegan almost right away. I’ve never looked back.
A year or two into my vegan journey, I volunteered at a farm animal sanctuary event for the weekend. This was the first time that I made the connection between my food choices and compassion for animals. It was a profound, transformative revelation. I got into animal rights after that, and a sense of compassion became the overriding force behind my veganism. Today, I say that I went vegan for my health, but I remain vegan for animals.

What advice would you give to a new or transitioning vegan?

I’d encourage anyone who’s transitioning to take it slowly, first of all. I love stories of overnight transformation–they’re certainly inspiring–but I think that gradual transitions work more sustainably for most people. I’d also encourage folks not to get paralyzed by the idea of “perfection.” There are no “perfect” vegans, and anyway, veganism has nothing to do with personal purity or perfection. It’s not about you; it’s about animals. It’s about making a consistent effort to spare animals as much harm as you can. If you slip up, if you find the transition hard, if you find yourself struggling now and then, it’s all good. In general, I think veganism is much less difficult than folks typically assume, but of course it can be a challenge, like any other lifestyle change. Don’t feel deflated if you encounter bumps in the road. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start a new day.

Finally: there’s an unsettling pattern I see these days among new vegans. A person adopts a plant-based diet, but immediately becomes convinced that her vegan diet isn’t “pure” or “clean” or healthful enough. She (or he) begins to winnow down food groups: grains, wheat, soy, oil, all sugar. Eventually, what’s left is a very narrow regime of vegetables and little else: no indulgences, no variety. It’s a dangerous place to be, because at that point veganism–which could in theory be a robust, well rounded diet–has become the restrictive diet that so many critics believe it to be. If you’re new to veganism, I really encourage you not to confuse it with a cleanse, or an elimination diet, or a weight loss effort. All vegans are to some extent ambassadors of the lifestyle. It’s crucial that we take care of our bodies by not becoming excessively rigid or health-obsessed. (And I say this, by the way, as someone who has a long and colorful history with dietary restriction, but who has learned over time that moderation is the best assurance of longterm vitality.)
How would you describe your cooking style?

Simple, wholesome, fast. A lot of my recipes amount to something like “smoosh a giant avocado over something (grains, greens, zucchini) and top it all off with some lemon and salt.” I mean, not really, but you get the idea. My food tends to be pretty easy, with the exception of my raw desserts, which I often treat as a kind of art project, and therefore don’t mind giving a bit of time and effort. I think that a lot of my recipes are characteristic in that they feature a certain number of ingredients that I’m particularly fond of: avocado, tahini, lemon, paprika, kale, sweet potatoes, cashews. I often wish I were more creative, or that my recipes were prettier and fancier, but at the same time I think that the simple approach tends to resonate with my readers.

How do you fit making healthy meals into your busy schedule? What is your best time saving advice in the kitchen?

The best tip I can give is to plan, plan, plan. I don’t love making weekly meal plans, but the more organized I am, the better and faster my meal prep becomes. I devote time each weekend to washing, drying, and sometimes chopping vegetables for salads through the week; to making a couple staple dishes, like salad dressings, grains, and hummus; and to thinking about 3 or 4 dinners I intend to prepare. I find that these simply steps are incredibly helpful.

I also tend to create easy, fast recipes, and I don’t shy away from the odd convenience food in a pinch (commercial nut milks, frozen burgers, prepared soups, etc.).

What’s your favorite ingredient?

Oy — that’s a toughie! Can it be a tie between avocado and kale? ;-)

Is there a kitchen tool you can’t live without?

Food processor, hands down. I use the Vitamix a lot, but at the end of the day, the food processor is more essential in my kitchen.  

What surprised you about the experience of writing your first cookbook?

It was surprisingly difficult! I expected it to be just like food blogging, but it was quite a bit more meticulous and difficult. Preparing recipes for a book means getting picky about measurements and procedure in a way I’m usually not as a food blogger. I was also on an insane deadline, which complicated things. I sold the book while I was smack dab in the middle of a pretty rough pre-med, post-bacc program (at the time, I was trying to get into med school, having not taken a science class in about a decade). I wrote the book in between taking the MCAT last March, and September of this past year. Most of the recipe development and writing happened in a single summer, which happened to be the same three months in which I applied to 34 medical schools. To be honest, it was a slog, and I probably didn’t get as much pleasure from recipe testing as I would have if I’d been on a more reasonable deadline. But I also chose to take the project on at a crazy time, so it was really no one’s fault but my own! All things to keep in mind for book number two, if I’m lucky enough to write one.

There are so many beautiful options in your cookbook.  Which recipe(s) would you recommend people try first?

Oh, gosh. I love the heat free lentil and walnut tacos and the zucchini pasta with quinoa meatless balls for savory dishes. They sort of embody the point I was trying to make with the book, which is that it doesn’t have to be either raw or cooked food. You can merge raw techniques (like vegetable pasta, or using leafy greens as “tacos”) with nourishing, cooked components (for me, often legumes or grains).

I’m not a natural with desserts, so I must confess that I was pretty proud of those. I especially love the fig bars, the burnt sugar coconut ice cream, and the blueberry cheesecake!

Anything else you’d like to add?

When I wrote this book, it was in part for the sake of creating the kind of resource I wish I’d had when I was first getting into raw food. At the time, I found a lot of the recipes in raw books to be pretty difficult and complex; I also found that a lot of the rhetoric in the raw movement was a bit too black-or-white for my liking. I wish I’d had a book or a blog that told me I could make more raw food without too many fancy appliances; one that assured me that I didn’t have to go 100% raw to be healthy; one that made the lifestyle feel easy and fun. I also wish that I’d found a raw resource that was focused on evidence-based, critical nutrition information.

This is the resource I’ve tried to create with Choosing Raw. I hope it’s informative, useful, and inspiring. I hope it makes things feel easy and fun. Most of all, I hope that folks will love the food.

Thank you, Gena, for stopping by and sharing your thoughtful answers with us today!

Book image and headshot courtesy of photographer Jeff Skeirik

Disclaimer:  Post contains affiliate links