Sep 30, 2013

food truck finale! chocolate hazelnut crepes

Christian, Danielle and Matthew

I'm "ending" the Month of Vegan Food with the Crepes Bonaparte food truck. This is a French-inspired truck, the brainchild of Christian Murcia, based out of Orange County, another one located in in2insight's backyard. This truck evolved from a business project at University of Southern California - incidentally one of the schools my son is interested in attending.

The truck features a prominent mustache on the front and is nick-named Gaston -- because it is a French gas-guzzler. Now, that is original! The team had true French crepe makers imported and they serve everything on crepes, sweet or savory. 

For my final food truck make-over, I decided on their signature dish - HazzelBerryAnna, hazelnut-chocolate butter, strawberries, bananas and whip cream. I totally zonked the berries, so they don't show up in my crepes, but the rest is acutely represented.

The food truck uses Nutella as the spread, but there are vegan options in health food stores now, and, whether they use hazelnuts or almonds, they are just as delicious. 

As an aside, if you enjoy nuts - hazel, almond, peanut, walnut, pecan, whatever! - don't miss Robin Robertson's new Nut Butter Universe cookbook. I tested for this book and I went totally nuts with amazement. No hazelnut-chocolate spread in the book, but the Too-Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge will make you forget you ever even wanted it. 

Check it out and then check out my recipe for the crepes at the bottom of the post. 
I promise it'll show up eventually.

That's it for the wrap-up of MoFo 2013 from Zsu's Vegan Pantry. If you've been counting along, you will have realized that I failed miserably. I did not just miss the goal of 20 posts, but I missed it by more than half. 

Excuses I am full of'; let me count the ways: (1) we wound up moving this month, right on the heels of moving from Chicago in June. After making the transition from a small apartment to a bigger house, (2) our internet was unavailable for another week. Quickly on the trails of the move and lack of web-service, we found out (3) our neighbors were tenting their house, just a mere three feet from our new abode, for a termite infestation. This meant that the strong breezes of California would waft the toxic fumes over to our open windows. Californians have a distinct disdain for installing air-conditioning in homes, so the open window was not just essential, but for the three days of being tented also poisonous. So, we decided to get out of Dodge. 

As soon as we got back and settled, I was all set to continue with my outlined MoFo food tuck list - only to realize that there were (4) only three more days left in September! Oy vey! Three days, thirteen food trucks. Ahhh, no! Wasn't going to happen. 

So, you see, that as they say, is that. 

I will now go and catch-up on all the MoFo wonderfulness I've missed and find out if the missing GiGi has been located, yet. Hope so!  

Happy MoFo 2013 everyone!

Sep 18, 2013

food trucks! roxy's grilled cheese

James, Mike and Marc

Little compares to biting into a grilled cheese sandwich. The perfectly grilled, crispy crust, the deliciously melting vegan cheese, the sweet ripe heirloom tomatoes -- it all comes together as a juicy mess that you can't wait to gobble all up.

The folks at Roxy's Grilled Cheese food truck from Boston know this and capitalize on it. They entered the contest on The Great Food Truck Race  in Season 2 and left in Week 6, despite having won that week's Truck Stop which gave them $1000 advantage in the final tally. Moral of this story is that grilled cheese might be all that and a bag of rocks, but it isn't perfect unless it's vegan. Unfortunately, this lesson fell on deaf ears because Roxy's still hasn't converted to - or even offer!-  vegan cheese. 

Perhaps this'll help: my Heirloom Tomato and Kale Grilled Vegan Cheese Sandwich.

Roxy's carries their own version of it, the Rookie Melt. Rookie?? Maybe they can rename it Veteran Melt if they use my recipe, utilizing farm fresh heirloom tomatoes and vegan cheese.

I used Daiya jack-style cheese and swiss-style cheese for my melt. The sandwich needs a bit of heat, which is perfectly contributed by the jack. I used three different versions of tomatoes and grilled sourdough bread. I added some kale for health, wealth and color. OK, not for wealth. But it made me feel wealthy!

The key to perfectly melted grilled cheese is low heat and a lid toward the end. Covering the skillet with a lid allows the cheese to perfectly melt and the bread to attain amazing crispness. And unless you like warm tomato slices, add them toward the end of the cooking time, right before you introduce bread slice 1 to bread slice 2.

Sep 16, 2013

food trucks! vegan seabirds' tacos

The Seabirds Food Truck is based out of Orange County in California. The Great Food Truck Race welcomed them in Season 2. And these ladies run a VEGAN food truck! Heck yeah!

They left the race in week 4 after a slow start. They won the Truck Stop and the privilege to park in a money-making are of Manhattan, KS, but, they didn't work fast enough during service to make enough money to stay in the race. Such is life! Great food, good reception, but the attention to detail did them in. 

The Seabirds seem to be pretty popular. Above they are at the Ellen Show. And below they are visited by Moby. There are many other celebs patronizing their truck... let ME at a vegan food truck! That seems to be the way to go!

Their summer menu features Beer Battered Avocado Tacos. That sounds devine. I upped my ante and made Beer Battered Italian Tacos. I followed their same format, corn tortillas. cabbage, red onions, lime and jalapeno-cilantro sauce, but I replaced the avocado with slices of Italian Tofurkey sausage and yellow bell pepper. 

This was so good! That beer batter is amazing - it stays crispy even after I made everyone wait for dinner until the photos were done. Unhappy family during photo shoot, very happy family during dinner.

You can replace the sausage and peppers with thick slices of avocado, making this taco just like the Seabirds', or you can swap in anything. This one is a flexible recipe. 
Fry vegan Ho-Ho's if you must! 

Do they even make vegan Ho-Ho's? 

Sep 15, 2013

food trucks! bbq beet sliders

Another truck will be eliminated tonight on the Great Food Truck Race on the Food network. Unfortunately, last week I remade the Bold and Beautiful food truck, and they went home. Coincidence, I hope!

Good luck to these guys, who make, you guessed it, sliders. Their truck, The Slide Show, features unique, gourmet sliders. Each order comes with 2 sliders and a side of truffled fries. Which, to me, means that they added truffle oil to their french fries. 

Those who are fans of The Next Food Network Star might remember Das, the leader of The Slide Show, as a former contestant from Season 6.  Das was a high school culinary teacher. After his foray on the NFNS, he was all set to open a restaurant. Alas, his venture partner bailed, seemingly with all the money, leaving him in debt. 

Mo, Das and Ahren
Even if Das and his truck take the long road back to LA after tonight, I have a feeling that the Food Network will welcome him back on yet another show. He's charismatic and seems to be a good cook. And even if THAT isn't the case, he can still open a food truck, just not the exact one he drives on the show. 

Now all Das needs to do is recognize the need for some vegan sliders.

So, Das, here is my idea:

Beet Sliders. On the show last week he made Buffalo Sliders with barbecue sauce and fried onion straws on slider buns. I propose he use beets. Many chefs have successfully subbed the "t" for the "f" and consequently prepared beets instead of beefs. 

Cooking the beets in a flavorful, beefed-up broth and then searing the slices in a skillet, gives them an amped-up taste and mouth-feel. Not difficult or out-of-this-world unique, but it makes all the difference to the animals and those who care about them.

Just in case Das doesn't hear the plea, or you can't wait, make these sliders yourself. You can use your own BBQ sauce and grab a package of French's Fried Onions or home-make both -- up to you and the time you have. Grab some napkins, though, you'll need 'em!

Sep 14, 2013

food trucks! koi fusion

Koi Fusion Food Truck is based out of Portland, Oregon. They dish up Mexican-Korean fusion food, with tofu as an optional protein. They started back in 2009 when the prospective owner contacted Kogi Food Truck owner in LA for some advice since he didn't know exactly where to start, but he knew he wanted to operate a food truck. The guy from Kogi was nice enough to advise Bo Kwon and help him get going.

No, this truck wasn't on the Great Food Truck Race. On any season. They were featured on the show Food Truck Revolution back a few years ago, but there are so many popular food trucks that not all of them can be on The Race, for sure.

This truck dishes up burritos, tacos, quesadillas, rice bowls and sliders. Although you can pick chicken, beef, ribs or tofu, if you are looking for vegan, or even vegetarian, you should ask for your dish without the kimchi.  Kimchi is the Korean version of sauerkraut. As it happens, kimchi, unless vegan, is made with fish sauce, so check ingredients and ask questions.

I made a variation on their K-Fusion Burrito. This dish has rice, marinated in soy sauce and gochujang , cheese, meat, kimchi, pico de gallo, bean sprouts and a secret salsa. That secret salsa I interpreted as a Korean Salsa. This is where the imagination I mentioned the other day comes into play.

Gochujang is a Korean, spicy, pungent, fermented flavoring made from chilies, rice and soy sauce. If you can't find any, or don't want to spring for a package, you can use something that all vegans have in their kitchen - Sriracha. Use less of the Sriracha since it is spicier, but be aware that the taste will not be the same, as the fermentation lends its own set of unique flavor.

This burrito was good, we really liked it, but, I'll be honest, it was equally very different. Which is good, since you want food from a food truck that IS different - something that pushes you beyond your comfort zone for at least a single meal. No commitment needed. Don't like it? Don't get it again. What are you out, a few bucks? As for making it at home, it might be a bit riskier, but then again, we should all live on the edge once in a while, ey?

Sep 12, 2013

food trucks! pizza mike's award-winning pie

Season Three of The Great Food Truck Race saw 8 brand new teams competing for the $50,000 prize and the privilege to keep their food truck. While $50K is nothing to sneeze at, the food truck is worth a heck of a lot more, to the tune of 30-200K, depending on how tricked out your truck is, and the Food Network has some sweet rides. The lower end of that budget will only get you a trailer to pull, a used one, at that.

Season Three featured the truck Pizza Mike's from Columbus, Ohio. Michael Evans was the owner and operator of Michael's Pizza, an establishment that burned down around 2008. Not having the funds (or the desire?) to reopen the same place, Mike entered The Race and is currently still operating his own food truck in Ohio, albeit not the same one as he drove on the show. Mike and his team left the race in the third episode. 

In 2001, Mike represented the USA in the World Pizza Championship in Salsimiogorre, Italy, where his "Michael's Traditional" was awarded "Best in the USA" prize. The winning pizza was topped with his Grandfather Collura's sausage recipe, pepperoni and sweet onions. 

Making it vegan, I used Yve's pepperoni substitute and doctored Gimme Lean Sausage. Relatively easy pizza to replicate given vegan ingredients. I figure the sausage, the crust and the sauce are the necessary ingredients to work on. 

In addition to "Michael's Traditional," I also made another of his popular pies, this time topped with pepperoni, roasted red peppers, green peppers, olives and onions.

 Roll your dough thin, bake on high and allow it to rest before cutting. 

Not much chance that Pizza Mike's has anything vegan, so head to the kitchen and make your own "Best in the USA," or at least in your kitchen, pizza pie. 

That's Amore!

Sep 8, 2013

food trucks! 3-bean chili and sweet potato fries bowl

Today our food truck road trip takes us to Los Angeles to visit the Bowled and Beautiful food truck on our magic carpet ride. This California-based hopeful food truck is looking to win this season's Food TV's Great Food Truck Race.

The group of ladies dishes up fusion California cuisine served in a bowl. And they do have a chance to win! The ladies have earned one of the top two spots for three weeks in row, and they don't look like they'll be slowing down. We'll see how tonight's episode progresses.

Since none of the trucks this season actually own a food truck, yet, the ladies don't actually have a business or a menu I can peek at. No matter; Food TV has supplied cyber space with a picture of one of their meals.

A signature dish of theirs is 3-Bean, Beef and Bacon Chili Bowl. The picture of the bowl on the Food TV site appears to contain sweet potato fries, so, in addition to the name, I decided to add this golden root vegetable to the bowl.

I call my dish, 3-Bean, Barley and Smoky Chili Bowl. I used kidney, pinto and black beans as my trio. I added the barley to give the dish some bite while keeping the faux meat out of the bowl. 

I grabbed a package of sweet potato fries at my local Whole Foods, baked them up and plopped them at the bottom of the bowl. Topping the fries with the spicy, smoky chili and finely shredded vegan cheese and minced onions, gave me an adequate facsimile of the pictured dish

As it turns out, the bowl was quite a hit! The chili took only about 20 minutes to cook. Bonus! However, the fries were the surprise element that we all thought worked quite well with the chili.

Good luck to these women, although given that they are Californian, I'd expect more veg cuisine from them. 
Here's hoping they hear the rumble of the vegan crowd.

Sep 7, 2013

food trucks! bar-b-cuban sandwich

Here. We go. Again.

This is my fourth year participating in Vegan Month of Food. Before I get started, I'd like to send a shout-out to all the lovely people who make this extravaganza of vegan food not just possible, but incredibly fun. It seems there are more and more blogs participating every year! Welcome to all the new folks making their MoFo debut this year! Can't wait to check things out!

For the past three years, my theme has been veganizing restaurant foods. This year, I am veganizing food truck food. This is of course more challenging in the sense that not only have I not tasted any of these dishes, but in most cases, I haven't even seen any of them. Not to be deterred, I've done lots of research and I have a great imagination - hopefully that will be enough to fill in any gaps.

Food trucks have not only hit the foodie scene like a ton of bricks, but millions of people have tuned into The Great Food Truck Race on Food TV, for the fourth season in a row, making this show the network's second most watched program. 

The first two seasons of the show featured already established food trucks as the competitors, while the latter two seasons featured competitors who had never before had a food truck, however, some had already owned brick-and-mortar food places. 

Austin Daily Press, one of the first-season teams, still does a grooving business in Austin, and I am happy to report that they have vegetarian and vegan menu items. And I love their logo - as toasted as you are. They make paninis and toasted sandwiches, although not all of their sandwiches are actually hot, since not all sandwiches lend themselves to being toasted. 

I made my version of their Bar-B-Cuban Sandwich, which is a Cuban sandwich with smoked pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese and Carolina Mustard Sauce.

Let's talk bread. Authentic Cuban bread has a nice crust and a soft inside. Since it is also made with lard, I opted for a ciabatta bread, which has a great crust, especially when toasted.

Let's talk cheese. Daiya has added a new line of vegan cheese to their brand - slices. Perfect! Their Swiss-style vegan cheese was available at my Whole Foods and I snagged it up, along with a Follow Your Heart Cheddar-style cheese block. FYH takes about twice as long to melt than Daiya, so keep that in mind.

Let's talk meat. Or let's not! Along with the above mentioned cheese, my Whole Foods also had gorgeous oyster mushrooms available, for a great price, too- $6 a pound. That did it. I decided to use my stove-top smoker to smoke the mushrooms using hickory chips and they turned out fantastic. Lovely smoky flavor, but not overpoweringly so. 

Pickles + Carolina Mustard Sauce + Smoked Oyster Mushrooms + Mojo Artichoke Hearts

In addition to the mushrooms, I used artichoke hearts, which I found in packages in the produce section right near the mushrooms. Kismet. These are actually artichoke hearts, the very same ones you carve out of a steamed artichoke. Delicious. 

I cooked the mushrooms and artichokes in a screaming hot pan until they developed a golden brown color, after which I added orange and lime juice and spices - a mojo sauce, in essence. 

Let's talk sauce. Cuban food is not spicy as in hot, but instead is more sweet, salty and tangy. Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, Caribbean and African with lots of citrus. The called for mustard sauce hits all those flavor notes. It is tangy because of the mustard and vinegar and sweet thanks to the maple syrup and brown sugar.

 This sandwich has all of those superb Cuban flavors. It is a surprisingly easy 'wich to put together, to boot, probably more so if you aren't the one having to reinvent it! 

Hope you enjoy as much as we did.

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoon neutral oil, divided
Cuban Rub (recipe below)
1 (12- ounce) can artichoke hearts
1/4 cup minced onions
12 ounce smoked oyster mushrooms (see directions below)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
Loaf ciabatta bread
Vegan butter, as needed
Vegan cheese, as needed
Pickle slices, as needed
Carolina Mustard Sauce (recipe below)
Watercress, optional

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle about half of the rub on the artichokes. Cook the artichoke hearts and onions until golden brown, turning the artichoke once. Remove the artichokes and onions from the skillet and set aside.
2. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over high heat. Sprinkle the rest of the rub on the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until golden brown, turning them once. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Add the orange and lime juice to the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook until the juice is reduced to a syrup; reducing it by half. Pour over the artichokes.
4. Slice the bread in half. Butter each half of the bread. Layer the filling: cheese, mushrooms, artichokes, pickles, Carolina Mustard Sauce, watercress, more cheese. Top with the other half of bread. Grill the sandwich (cut it in half if the sandwich is too big to fit in a press or skillet) in a panini press or in a large skillet. If using the skillet, weigh the sandwich down with another heavy skillet. Serve immediately. 

Cuban Rub

2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl.

Carolina Mustard Sauce

¼ cup vegan mayo
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to combine

Smoking Tips

I smoke oyster mushrooms, but you can smoke any kind of mushroom you like. Trim the mushrooms and slice them into ½-inch slices if they are too big.

Using an indoor smoker, use hickory chips. Cover the smoker tightly with foil to prevent any smoke from escaping. Smoke the mushrooms for 30 minutes. 

© 2013 Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.