Monday, February 25, 2008

This Week's Obsession: Tea

Last week we received a wonderful book from our friend, Liz, called "The Way to Tea: Your Adventure Guide to San Francisco Tea Culture" by Jennifer Leigh Sauer. By a small coincidence, this week we are playing host to our friend, Stephen, who recently started up the website which is devoted to tea reviews.

On the recommendation of the book, we spent much of the week
taking tea classes, watching tea ceremonies, and sampling dozens of teas from around the world. On Sunday we took our tea at Samovar Tea Lounge in the Yerba Buena Gardens; on Friday we took a gai wan class at Teance in Berkeley where we learned how to properly steep and drink tea using the "lidded bowl" - the preferred method of tea drinkers since the Ming Dynasty; on Saturday we escaped the rain by spending the afternoon at The Imperial Tea Court at the Ferry Building where we watched a gong fu tea ceremony using yixing clay pots.

We can't wait to try a few other tea houses in the city and to take additional classes, but what we are most excited about is performing the tea ritual for our friends!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vegan Black Forest Cake and Other Recipes

We were hesitant to post this one, lest you think that our vegan experiment has consisted entirely of desserts, but this recipe was too good to pass up. For a dinner last Monday we baked a vegan Black Forest Cake. It wasn't that difficult to make and it tasted delicious. Also below are some of our favorite non-dessert recipes that we've had on heavy rotation over the last two months. Enjoy!

Vegan Black Forest Cake

2 cup almond milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

“Buttercream” Frosting:
3/4 cup margarine (or Smart Balance) softened
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
6 tbsps almond milk
3 tsps pure vanilla extract

Cherry Filling:
1 jar maraschino cherries
2-4 T kirschwasser (cherry liqueur)
1-2 T cornstarch

3-5 T grated chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease bottoms and sides of two 9" cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper.

Whisk together the almond milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil and extracts to the almond milk mixture and beat till foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients. Beat till no large lumps remain. Fill cake pans with batter. Bake 30-40 minutes till toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan five minutes and transfer to rack to cool completely. Peel off wax paper. Set aside.

Cream together the margarine and the shortening until well combined. Add the confectioners' sugar in about 1/2 cup batches and beat well adding a little splash of soy milk after each addition. When all ingredients have been well incorporated, add the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Make sure consistency is thick enough for frosting the cake.

Simmer cherries in syrup and add liqueur. Add cornstarch until filling is thick. Set aside.

Place one of the cakes on a serving plate. Spread some frosting on the cake and when cherries are fully cooled spread the cherries over the frosting.
Place other cake on top. Frost the cake evenly. Toss grated chocolate evenly on top of cake. Decorate alternating frosting with cherries. Serve.

And now for the non-dessert recipes…

Best Hummus Ever
(recipe modified from:
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves
3 cups of rehydrated garbanzo beans (or two 15-ounce cans, drained)
1/4 cup tahini
a pinch of cayenne and paprika
kosher salt
the juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup of olive oil

Toast cumin seeds in a little skillet until fragrant and dark, about a minute. Pour them into a mortar and pound with a pestle. Add garlic cloves to the cumin and pound them until they become paste.

Scrape everything into a food processor and add all the remaining ingredients. Pulse the machine a few times, then add 1/2 cup (or more) of olive oil. Process until smooth.

2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ripe avocados
1 habanero, minced
bunch of cilantro, take off stalks and mince leaves
2 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1 lemon, juiced
3-4T olive oil

Mash avocados with a fork. Mix in half of lemon juice and half of olive oil. Mix in shallots, garlic, habanero, cilantro, tomatoes. Add more lemon juice and olive oil if needed. Salt & pepper to taste.

(recipe from:
2-1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for sprinkling while kneading & rolling out dough
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
8 8-inch squares of aluminum foil for baking pitas

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the oil and water. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for three minutes then stir in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. If the dough is moist, add a small amount of additional flour.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.

Roll into balls, dust lightly with flour, and cover with a damp tea towel. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Use the palm of your hand to flatten each ball into a disk. Finish with a rolling pin, flattening the dough into a disk about 6" in diameter and 3/16" thick.

Place each round on a square of foil, and carefully place 3 or 4 of the rounds directly on the oven rack. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they are puffed.

Repeat with the remaining disks.

Japanese Avocado Salad
1 head red-leaf lettuce
3 stalks green onions, chopped
1 carrot, juliened
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 avocado, sliced thinly

Carrot-ginger dressing:
3 T mirin
3 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2 T vegetable oil
2 t sugar
1/2 T sesame oil
2 t ginger
4 T grated carrots

For the dressing, mix all of the ingredients in a tight-lid bowl and shake.

Toss lettuce and carrots and place in serving bowls. Throw green onions on top. Arrange tomato slices and avocado slices alternating the two. Put dressing on top and serve.

Vegan “Borscht” Soup
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 shallots, minced
6-8 cups water
beets, peeled and chopped (use latex gloves)
green stalks of beets, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
spinach leaves
mung bean sprouts
fresh dill, minced
fresh parsley, minced

Sautee tomatoes and shallots in oil. Add dill and parsley. Add 6-8 cups of water. Let simmer for half an hour. Add beets, beet stalks, potatoes, carrots, spinach, mung bean sprouts (or whatever veggies you want). Season with red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, dried dill, dried basil. Serve with a dollop of Tofutti Better than Sour Cream.

Chinese Vegetable and Noodle Soup
2 T oil
4 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ginger, minced
2 T red chili paste
6-8 C water
2-4 T rice wine
1 pack firm tofu, cubed
bok choy, cleaned
spinach, cleaned
mushroom, sliced
carrots, chopped
water chestnuts, drained
bamboo shoots, drained
baby corn, drained
1 packet noodles (mung bean, chinese vermicelli, soba or udon)
salt and pepper to taste

garlic - sliced thinly and fried until crisp (3-5 minutes)
shallots - sliced in rounds and fried until crisp (5-8 minutes)
ginger - grated
scallions - chopped
peanuts - ground using mortar & pestle

Sautee shallots, ginger and garlic in oil until golden. Add chili paste and sautee for another 2 minutes. Add water and rice wine. When boiling, drop to low heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Thirty minutes before serving, add all vegetables, tofu and noodles. Simmer for another thirty minutes and flavor with salt & pepper. Serve with condiments on the side.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Vegan Desserts

For a dinner party we're having tonight, we decided to try another recipe from Romero's & Moskowitz's VEGAN CUPCAKES TAKE OVER THE WORLD (the book which provided the wonderful recipe for our cupcakes), and we are absolutely amazed by how delicious these recipes are.

The vegan Milano cookies that we made last night are even better than Pepperidge Farm's, and we're not exaggerating. After a bite of these cookies, you'll realize that going vegan is really not that hard!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Veganism Rocks!

Hello again,

For those of you who haven't heard, we have gone vegan...temporarily. We've decided to try it from January to May and see how we feel. We've just passed out first month mark and so far we feel fantastic.

We've been experimenting with new recipes and modifying old ones. The vegan borsht was a big hit, as was the penne primavera, the veggie tempura and Courtney's vegan banana chocolate ice cream. But, by far, the recipe that got the biggest reaction from our friends has been the vegan cupcakes we made this Saturday for a housewarming party. Most of the guests didn't realize that the cupcakes were vegan until after they were all gone. It was a great pleasure to see our empty tray next to the unopened box of store bought cupcakes on the counter.

We found the recipe in the link below. The only change we made was to use almond milk instead of soy.

If anyone has any recipes they would like to share, please pass them along. Cheers!