My 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:
This 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.
This 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.
Finally, 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.
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:
- In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until fully combined.
- 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.
To make the Sauce:
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
To make the Reubens:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place 4 of the toasted bread slices on a serving platter. Divide the Seitan Corned "Beef" evenly among the 4 slices.
- 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.