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 their world-famous vegan reuben sandwich. Loaded with chewy seitan, crisp sauerkraut, and creamy Thousand Island dressing, it ticks all of my must haves for that diner classic.
(And I’m going to be sharing that vegan reuben 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 Chicago Diner 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 sandwich.
This vegan reuben was the reason I was most excited for this cookbook, and it did not disappoint. Even though a person can make a vegan reuben 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 sandwich 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 vegan 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 Radical Reuben sandwich recipe with you today! I hope you’re hungry. You are going to love it.
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I received this cookbook for review from Agate Publishing. The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.