by Terry Hope Romero, November 2, 2012 10:01 AM
I'll wager that many of us could use a little extra sweetness to wrap up the events of this intense week. With Thanksgiving a few weeks away (on my blog, Vegan Latina
, I'll be gathering together a few of my go-to recipes plus a few unconventional new favorites soon), the daily enjoyment of pumpkin sweets is practically a ritual. I've been making vegan flan for years, so practicing pumpkin vegan flan has been on my mind.
Practicing flan? Indeed. Both traditional and vegan flan radiate elegance and sophistication that clouds the simplicity behind the caramel curtain. Simmer an easy caramel and the flan; pour and chill for a few hours or overnight. But flan may require a little practice. Once you've done it a few times, however, it's so easy to prepare, it can be made while house guests are napping (as I made mine). Or you can get up a little early, simmer, and pour before leaving for work to have flan later that night.
This recipe can be made even richer by replacing a cup of almond milk with more coconut milk or made very light indeed by replacing the coconut milk with additional almond milk. Try adding a tablespoon of dark rum whisked in with the vanilla, or use only brown sugar for an intensely gingerbread-like flavor. Make one big flan in a pie plate or several individual servings in 1-cup or smaller ramekins. What is not negotiable is the agar power, a vegetarian substitute for gelatin made from a glassy sea vegetable. When boiled and cooled, it will even firm up at room temperature; here it does a smash-up job of replicating the gelling quality of eggs without having to cross a single chicken.
With that, I'd like to thank you for joining me for this week of blogging. It's been more challenging than I expected, but I'm grateful for the chance to share what's cooking in my world right now with Powell's hungry audience. Have a great weekend, spend time with good friends and good food, and relish every day.
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Maple Pumpkin Flan
Agar powder can be found in natural food stores and some Asian markets (especially Thai groceries). If you find it at an Asian grocery, make sure to buy the plain variety without added sugar or flavorings. If you can only find agar flakes (inferior to the powder but unfortunately more common), double the amount and cook for twice as long until the flakes have completely dissolved.
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 cups vanilla almond milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon agar powder
2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
1 cup very smooth pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup and agave nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium high, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mixture turns a darker shade of amber and a drop of the caramel in water hardens into a firm ball. It will smell like caramel, but watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Immediately pour the caramel into a clean, dry, 9-inch glass pie plate (or divide among small ramekins or bowls); tilt the plate to coat the bottom and lower portions of the sides of the plate with caramel, and set aside to cool. The caramel may make a cute tinkling sound as it cools, and that's okay!
2. In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 cup of almond milk, white and brown sugar, and the agar powder, then bring to an active simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together the remaining almond milk, cornstarch, pumpkin puree, coconut milk, lemon juice, spices, and sea salt. Using a wire whisk, slowly stream in the coconut milk mixture into the saucepan and bring to an active simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the cornstarch has fully cooked and the mixture thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Pour into the caramel-coated pie plate and set aside to cool on a kitchen countertop for 20 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 4 hours or overnight.
3. To serve, invert the flan onto a large shallow bowl or dish with curved edges. Gently tap the top of the plate to release the flan; if the flan is stubbornly stuck, lower the bottom into a pan of hot water for 2 minutes to loosen the caramel. Slice and serve with caramel sauce spooned on
by Terry Hope Romero, November 1, 2012 10:26 AM
It's been quite the week in post-hurricane NYC: at my place we've played halfway home to many stranded out-of-town friends, and we've watched local friends twist in the wind over 2½-hour-long commutes into the city. But before all this mayhem, I had a grand blogging plan surrounding my latest trip: less than a week ago I was in Amsterdam as an American vegan ambassador on a five-day food-centric trip coordinated by the amazing American Book Center
, the stylish Hotel V
, and the Dutch Cookbook Awards
featured as part of Dutch Design Week.
This is the second time in two years I've had the immense pleasure of stepping beyond U.S. boarders to get a taste of veganism outside of North America. Ethnic cooking at home is my specialty, but it's another thing entirely when I get the chance to see what's cooking in the rest of the world. While I believe we have the widest options here in the States, we have much to learn looking beyond our borders and across the oceans.
The first vegetarian restaurant I ever went to was in Venezuela in the mid-80s, long before I'd find one near my childhood home in Connecticut. I've been to Toronto once a year for four years (as speaker at their vast and impressive Vegetarian Food Fest) and strongly believe that Toronto will soon rival NYC's vigorous vegan food culture in a few years (The Hogtown Vegan introduced me to the closest I'll ever get to "chicken" and waffles). And less than two years ago I presented at Vegan Paris Day, a bustling event luring thousands in a city that worships foie gras, cheese, and butter. The world is getting hungrier for vegan cuisine!
I was eager to get an insider's view of foodie Amsterdam. This was not my first trip to the tulip kingdom: over 10 years ago I camped out with friends of friends in a tiny apartment deep in the red-light district. It was the perfect vacation for young punks, revolving mainly around cheap beer, falafel, and wandering through the clouds of ogling tourists looking for typical Amsterdam hijinks. This second time, a decade older, I returned to represent American veganism with a new book
, some recipes, and a lecture or two. But far more exciting than coffee shops and dodgy-looking pizza, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet people really doing something in European veg-friendly food culture.
I met a woman who's made the leap from fashion designer to one-woman vegetarian restaurant, an Italian vegetarian Michelin star chef, a gusty U.K. author and blogger spreading the word about underground farmer's markets and DIY secret supper clubs, and a Dutch vegan chef and author infiltrating hip eateries with a killer veggie burger crafted from seaweed (tucked into a crusty bun tinted olive with more seaweed). These are just a few of the fascinating folks that are shaping the world of meatless (or less-meat) cuisine in Europe.
The vegetarian and vegan locals confessed to me during my stay that veggie cuisine is still relatively unknown and considered "fringe." Having battled this for decades here in the U.S., it's sometimes easy for me to forget the inroads that vegan cuisine, the cuisine I've invested a lot of myself into, has made in many urban locations. In a Tampa latte joint I tucked into vegan pumpkin cake, I dined in a new vegan restaurant in Madison last summer, and I'm excited to check out all the new hot vegan eats when I travel to Atlanta next week for their first ever vegetarian food fest.
Having seen where it's come from, I'm pretty excited to see where vegan cuisine will make headway next across the planet. Vegan food is going places... and I hope to follow
by Terry Hope Romero, October 31, 2012 10:01 AM
On day two of Hurricane Sandy's aftermath, I'm awash with strange feelings of sadness and hope, weariness from reading too much news, and some confusion that it's also Halloween today. Trick or treat? The sun and a little blue sky peek through fluffy clouds. It's easy to feel a little better and forget about yesterday's mayhem looking out the window, sipping my pumpkin-spice coffee.
In my little corner of Queens we got off easy. The power held through the night (only a few flickers, usually reserved for the dog days of August), and the next day left me with a productive day of cooking, reading, cleaning, and playing games. Both nights I couldn't help but think of friends less fortunate: those sent to evacuation centers whose basements and apartment lobbies flooded, and, by far the most horrifying of all, friends who lost their homes to the raging fires that engulfed Breezy Point near Rockaway. By the time this post goes live, surely this post-apocalyptic image of Breezy Point will be a familiar sight to many of us keeping tabs on the aftermath these next few days and weeks. Over the past few summers, I've spent many delicious beach days on those boardwalks since Rockaway Beach has been deemed a foodie hot spot (the zesty tofu tacos of Rockaway Taco are an absolute must). To imagine the damage to the businesses, homes, and lives in the area is absolutely heartbreaking.
My thoughts also go out to the food-industry workers of our city, those millions that commute into Manhattan from the outer boroughs every day to steam hundreds of thousands of lattes, flip endless burgers or tortillas or pizza, and deliver mountains of pad thai to offices and apartment buildings. Living wages are notoriously in short supply in the food-service industry. A food-industry job in Manhattan often just barely pays for an apartment in Brooklyn (and not a lux or hip location like Park Slope or Williamsburg — typically a shared arrangement in Marine Park or further), Queens, Staten Island, or New Jersey. Somehow, some way, many of these people are getting to work. Hell or high water, or exploding power stations, the island will be fed. While it's easy to joke about not getting one's caffeine fix due to a Starbucks closure, it's also easy to joke when it's not your low-wage job on the line when the entire mass-transit system isn't expected to be fully operational until the weekend.
I'm saddened that a public-transit shutdown, a power-station explosion, and massive flooding in downtown canceled — or possibly postponed — Halloween in NYC. I love that people in NYC love Halloween so much. It's not the most important thing right now, of course, but it's undeniably a bummer.
Yesterday was also the "official" release date for Vegan Eats World. I'm feeling a little guilty about the suggestion of anything eating one's world after this week's events. In the introduction to VEW, I confess that this book is really a vegan love letter to Queens, the borough I call home — how its diverse population and lush ethnic-food culture influence my approach toward making great vegan food. Knowing that so much of Queens is hurting after this record-breaking hurricane, I feel I must connect the dots between what we feed ourselves and how it impacts the rapidly shifting world we live in.
Ripples in the media that this Frankenstorm may be evidence of global warming are hard to ignore. Many of us are becoming aware that our daily food choices have far-reaching effects, including the connection between eating meat and the climate. I don't like the view from the top of the soapbox, so while I climb up there (and quickly climb down), I offer my deepest apologies to all, including a few to myself.
I'm completely invested in helping others make tiny choices that add up to big changes. Among the smallest are the ones we make several times a day: what we eat. These tiny choices are often thoughtless, shoved into our mouths, bites caught in between life and work, to be forgotten within minutes. The good news is that better small choices don't require a lot of time either. And sometimes they're even fun.
I've made it a life mission of mine to help others make those better, tiny, even enjoyable choices. Making tasty vegan food is my favorite teaching method. Teaching better choices improves the world threefold: it helps us right now (our health), it helps us achieve long-term goals (improving the lives of domesticated animals and the folks who work in our agriculture system), and it changes the great-big picture (moving away from unbalanced food systems that impact our stressed-out environment). Choosing one meatless option for lunch won't stop coastal flooding, but maybe a lot of those choices made by many people over a long stretch of time could make things a little better for somebody.
I'm feeling tempted myself to be a Halloween Scrooge (boo humbug?), but today I'll chin up, help someone out who might be having a tough day, and try and spread a little pumpkin cheer. Today there are no tricks, only
by Terry Hope Romero, October 30, 2012 10:00 AM
I'm a fan of marrow beans — an intriguingly named, old-fashioned bean I found on a recent trip to Kalustyan's and couldn't pass up. Some say marrow beans taste like bacon or even fatty bone marrow. In a world where pumpkin may just overthrow the gastric tyranny of bacon worship
, these beans could be the tipping point toward regaining some sanity.
These little, round white beans add creamy richness and thicken up (without a touch of dairy) pumpkin bisque, the little black dress of cool-weather soups. I wouldn't call the flavor "meaty," but it's soothing and just the thing for rapidly cooling fall nights. Leeks add further body, and a touch of smoked salt (found mine at Trader Joe's — it's that trendy) brings home the almost-bacon. No smoked salt in your pantry? Try adding ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke.
This is a lazy soup because I didn't feel like browning the vegetables before adding the liquid; I just threw (almost) everything into the pot and let it go to town. I'm crazy about the aroma of simmering beans with plenty of garlic and bay leaves, the ideal home fragrance when I'm browsing through the Internet, cookbooks, or comic books, or playing a video game. Once cooked to creamy perfection, I add a drizzle of good, fragrant olive oil to taste on top of each serving. A little goes a long way, so you can pull out all the stops and use the fancy stuff here.
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Lazybones Pumpkin Bean Soup
Serves 4 to 6
Any white bean can be used (such as more common navy or cannellini), but you'll miss out on the "bone" of this soup! I keep the salt amount fast and loose; use a little less if you're using vegetable broth, especially if it's made from bouillon cubes.
Be patient when cooking beans from scratch. Let them simmer until very creamy, and stir in more water if the broth is too thick. Like all bean soups, this will taste even better the next day. For variety, stir in diced tomatoes or finely chopped dill or basil during the final 5 minutes of the simmer.
For a chunky (rather than smooth) consistency, remove only a cup or two of the soup, puree in a blender, and stir back into the pot.
1 cup dried marrow beans
5 cups water or vegetable broth
6 cloves peeled garlic, finely minced
1 large leek, ends trimmed, cleaned, and chopped into ½-inch-wide pieces
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons smoked salt or sea salt (use 1 teaspoon or less if using veggie broth)
1½ pounds pumpkin or sweet winter squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, fresh lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil
- In a mixing bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water and soak overnight. Or soak them in the morning before leaving for work. When you wake up (or get home), drain and rinse the beans.
- In a big soup pot, combine the beans, water/broth, garlic, leek, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and salt (using less if the broth is salted). Bring to a rolling boil for 3 minutes over high heat; I skim off some of the bigger puffs of foam, but if you're truly lazy, just stir them back in. Turn heat down to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for 70 to 85 minutes until beans are very tender and creamy. Test by removing a bean, cool slightly, and crush in your mouth; it should feel mushy, not gritty.
- If you desire a more brothy soup, stir in up to 1½ cups of additional water or broth. Taste the broth; add more salt if necessary. Stir in the pumpkin, increase the heat to medium high, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is very tender. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Season the soup to taste with lots of freshly ground pepper and fresh lemon juice. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Use an immersion and puree the entire pot of soup as smooth as you like. Ladle warm soup into wide, deep serving bowls, and drizzle with good-quality olive oil. Serve with rustic crackers and celebrate your lazy
by Terry Hope Romero, October 29, 2012 10:17 AM
I'm writing this, my first guest post for Powell's, on the eve of NYC's first "Frankenstorm," courtesy of hurricane Sandy. I trundled to my home at 7 p.m. on perhaps one of the last trains to Queens on Sunday night, picked up a few cartons of almond milk, and lamented that I didn't get there sooner to grab the last loaf of bread.
As the city prepares to batten down in the face of a storm, I prepare to shut down myself after a long summer and fall of travel and work. This Friday I flew home after nearly a week in Amsterdam, each day an opportunity to meet remarkable people making an impact on their food culture in diverse ways. If my planning had stretched a day or two longer, I would still be there. Or perhaps I'd just be homesick for my own home cooking? As I sit here in my cozy leggings with a pot of pumpkin rooibos tea, it's fun to imagine being hundreds of miles away from the city that inspires my food for another few days. But after a long summer and a fall that's disappearing faster than my cup of pumpkin-spice coffee, I'm fully prepared emotionally and physically to curl up for a long winter of hibernation and creativity.
If there's one thing I've learned about creativity during eight-plus years of writing vegan cookbooks, it's that while vigorous exercise keeps those cooking skills muscular and flexible, they require equally important periods of rest for optimal growth. My interest in food lives not just in the matters of pleasure (vegan food must be enjoyable) and health (it should often be healthy, providing a diverse range of nutrients), but also in the belief that it should feed the curiosity of creative, adventurous cooks.
And if that's the case, then this year I've been the cookbook author's equivalent of a gym rat. Vegan Eats World, my second solo cookbook (and number six counting all titles), felt like running the New York City marathon after cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 300, only spread out over many months. Immediately after handing in my manuscript, I've yet to spend two weekends in a row at home; instead I've made another round of visiting and presenting at vegetarian food festivals and other food-related events in the U.S. and beyond.
I'm not complaining! I'm just excited to reconnect with the slow, often prosaic, even occasionally boring part of creativity. As I batten down these next few days along with the rest of the city and make my new favorite twist on pumpkin soup (see me tomorrow!), I'll savor every quiet moment of