Monday, August 26, 2013

Vegan BBQ Mac & Cheese Pizza

This pizza "recipe" was made from Amy's soy mac & cheese, Gardein BBQ pulled pork shreds, and Stubbs BBQ sauce.  We used a prepared dough for the crust.

Have you ever seen pizza....on weeeeeeeed?

Allie: This is possibly the best thing I've ever tasted.  When I'm feeling lazy I always grab an Amy's mac & cheese (No, I was not paid to say that, but I'm open to offers.  Hit me up, Amy!  P.S. I love you.) and it is always gooey, cheesy, and decadent.  I don't know where I got the brilliant idea to spread it on a pizza, but I am more proud of this idea than I am of my law degree (Diploma pizza?  Pleh!).  We used whole wheat pizza dough because we are obviously healthy and into nutrition and fiber and whatnot.  In an interesting turn of events, Brian single-handedly assembled and baked this pizza because something (gin and tonic) happened to me.  We couldn't make it on the grill because Mothra's spawn somehow invaded our corn meal but I can safely say it couldn't possibly have been any better.   I would give this 6 out of 5 slices but there are rules.  So, 5 slices.

Brian: We’re mac! I mean back! Apologies for the long delay between posts, which have been primarily due to my own negligence (Allie has been dutifully writing blog reviews which have gone unpublished, maybe a future lost letters of AJ edition?) Well trust me when I say the adventure buddying did NOT go away, as there has been camping, dinners, adventures and buddying galore. I could not be happier to make our triumphant return with this entry.

Did you know that Einstein discovered the theory of relativity when he was just too tired to do something else? No? Well, that’s probably because it’s not true. However, this pizza is evidence that sometimes something great (and I consider this on par with ANY so-called scientific breakthrough) can happen when you just don’t want to do something else.  The original plan was to make a pizza with roasted garlic, veggies, maybe some vegan cheese and various other things I no longer recall. At the last minute though, we decided it would be a far better idea to just dump some amy’s mac and vegan BBQ shreds on some dough and chuck it in the oven. Boy did we ever choose the right path. This was contender for best pizza we have ever made. The amy’s mac, while vegan, was still creamy and decadent enough to serve as a topping and sauce for this pizza. We did add some extra BBQ sauce to the shreds, but I don’t even know if that was totally necessary, as I think this pizza would have been plenty moist without it. Allie had one slice plus a few bites and I absolutely HOUSED the rest of it. Quite frankly I was ready for more afterwards too! This will most definitely continue to be a regular arrow in our quiver of delicious food…archery…. 5 OUT OF 5 SLICES!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Curried No-Meat Balls

This recipe was from Vegan Fire and Spice.  We added an extra teaspoon of hot curry powder and hot chile powder at the end.  We also baked the veggie balls instead of pan frying them.  We served it over short-grain brown rice.

Allie: This recipe was frustrating to make and I don't think it was written very well.  First of all, I had the blot the chickpeas dry, but chickpeas are kind of in a gel so that is really not possible.  Second, I had to process the chickpeas through a potato ricer, which we do not have so I mashed them with a fork.  Next, the instructions told me to chop peanuts and onions, but after I mixed it all together I determined that they should have said to dice them instead because the larger chunks were not holding together with the chickpea batter.  I formed the balls to the best of my ability.  Then I had to heat a pan to fry the balls, but the recipe failed to specify a temperature so I just used medium.  As soon as I dropped the balls into the pan they started falling apart so I set the oven to 400 and just baked them for 15 min, then flipped and baked for 10.  They mostly held together but once we added the balls to the sauce they mostly fell apart.  The sauce was easy to make but it came out bland and we needed to add extra spices.

THAT BEING SAID, this was super yummy!  I loved the crunch of the peanuts and the comforting flavors.  The coconut yogurt made it rich and creamy.  I have to penalize this recipe by 1 slice due to how irritating it was to make, and I probably would hesitate to make it again but I'm glad I ate it so 4 slices.

Don't curry, be happy! Wait... do curry!

Brian: I was not witness to the ball drama unfolding in the kitchen while Allie prepared these, but if she hadn't told me something was wrong when I came in I don't think I would have ever known. Sure, the curry balls did fall apart a little bit, but I don't think it's exactly reasonable to expect a perfect meatball like product from something that is not actually a meatball (though we have had great success when replicating more traditional fake meatballs.)  The balls themselves were delicious and had a good crunch from the peanuts and onion in them that made it very satisfying to eat in the sauce. My main gripe with this dish probably comes from the fact that I am not a huge fan of how vegan yogurt, or really any yogurt, tastes. To me, when it is in sauces it tends to overwhelm everything else and a lot of the flavors get lost, which might explain why we had to basically add twice the spices at the end to bring it up to any sort of heat level. From a book called "fire and spice" I would expect the recipe to come out already on the hot side. This is not to say it was bad because it was definitely delicious, I just don't know if it would go in to regular rotation at any point in the future. I would rank this at a 3.5 out of 5 slices.

Cameroon-Style Seitan with Spinach

This recipe is from Vegan Fire and Spice.  We added 3 dried dundicut chile peppers and served it over Israeli couscous cooked in vegetable broth.

Allie: I can't say enough good things about this recipe!  It was easy, fast, and packed with flavor.  The recipe called for store-bought seitan, which we used, but next time I would make my own since the ready-made stuff is not that great and a waste of money.  We added the dried chiles with the onions as suggested, which caused the kitchen to be filled with spicy fumes and made all 6 people who walked in and out of the kitchen cough.  Brian's roommate's throat is "all f***ed up now," so there is probably a lawsuit there.  But it was all worth it because the resulting dish was perfectly spiced and very comforting.  The little bit of peanut butter in the sauce gave it some creaminess without going overboard.  I got to eat the leftovers, but not before Brian picked out all the remaining seitan.  But he did the dishes so I'll let it go this time.

Hope you saved Came-room for seconds!

Brian:  It's amazing how easily recipes like this come together when you don't have to make your own seitan. It's also amazing that in the past little while we have gone from thinking seitan was a "impossible to make as good as the stuff you buy" type product, to our homemade version being far superior. Sometimes you need to just go with what's convenient though. This recipe was amazing even with the inferior seitan (though I admit the charges of stealing the rest of it out of the pot at the end.) As Allie mentioned, we practically broke the Geneva Conventions against chemical weapons cooking this by causing my roommates considerable distress, but the outcome was well worth it. The sauce was creamy and spicy and blended well with the Israeli couscous in a way that made this a dish easy to go back for more. 5/5 would definitely make again!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Penne Arrabbiata

This recipe is from Vegan Fire and Spice, we added a fresh jalapeno, a small can of diced tomatoes, doubled all the herbs and about 1/2 teaspoon of thyme.  We topped with some vegan parmesan and served alongside a yummy mixed veggie salad.

Allie: I LOVE PASTA.  I could eat it for every meal forever.  I wanted to increase the amount of servings in this recipe, so I added extra pasta and sauce ingredients.  It was almost embarrassingly easy to make and the ingredients cost pennies.  Besides chopping garlic and hot pepper, the only other tasks were to simmer the sauce and boil pasta. It came out awesome!  The spice level was perfect.  I simmered it longer than the 15 minutes advised because I happened to have plenty of time and I think it really developed the flavors.  Recently when I make salad I've been dressing it with a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce, and the resulting veggies added a fresh, light note to the meal.  We shared some with Brian's band after practice and it was a hit.  I rate this 5 out of 5 slices.  Next time I'll try adding something, like meatballs or maybe using fresh pasta.  I may never buy a jar of sauce again!  I know it was good because Brian actually brought the leftovers to work for once, even though I was totally planning to sneak into his house and eat the crap out of them.  Foiled again!

mettere questo in faccia!

Brian: I am not proud of this fact, but pasta is the only thing I have ever eaten so much of I actually threw up (why wasn't it pizza?)  I mention this to say that Allie's first sentence goes double for me. It is so easy to make (I'll have to take Allie's word on this since, once again, I didn't have to to doodly squat) and delicious that I can't believe all Italians don't just lay around clutching their stomachs and rolling to wherever they need to go. Maybe not being americans means they are less inclined to do things like eat until they are literally sick? Who knows! This pasta dish was no exception, it was spicy and simple and incredibly delicious. It would be very good with some sort of meatball, tempeh, tempeh meatball etc in it but on its own it help up to other incredible meals we have had lately. The accompanying salad was made from leftover sushi ingredients mixed with a little oil and was honestly just as good as the main pasta dish. Having it for leftovers today, with a little more time to marinate in the sesame oil and soy sauce, it was even better.  A 5 out of 5 to be sure, and I look forward to variations on the sauce we could make in the future, and the resulting leftovers Allie won't be able to have any of.

Citrus-Marinated Tempeh with Sweet Potatoes

This recipe was from Vegan Fire and Spice, except we used peanut oil instead of canola and reduced the oil by 1 tablespoon.  We also cut the marinating time from 1 hour to about 30 minutes.

Allie: The more I think about this recipe, the less impressed I am.  First of all it took a long time but there wasn't enough inactive cooking time that I could actually go do something else, so that was annoying.  In the end I got impatient and halved the marinading time, and I also probably didn't saute the tempeh for as long as I should have either, because it didn't get very brown.  That being said, the marinade was also the sauce and the tempeh was very flavorful so I don't think it made much of a difference.  The marinade/sauce was extremely citrus-y, which I know is in the title of the dish but I think maybe it was overkill.  The other ingredients in the sauce were completely overpowered.  It called for a dried chile and I used EIGHT dried chile piquin, and it was not that spicy at all.  The sweet potatoes were average.  This recipe made me think that maybe I just don't like citrus-flavored things or sweet potatoes all that much at all.  We had lots of leftovers but nobody really cared enough to save them.  I would not make this again, and I'm rating it 2 of 5 slices.  On the plus side, we are cooking from Vegan Fire and Spice all week so I look forward to finding recipes I like more!

A one note meal. A C note, the C standing for citrus

Brian: Like Allie, I was left feeling kind of mixed about this dish. In theory, a meal made of tempeh and sweet potatoes would be the best thing ever, but the sweet citrus flavor of the sauce kind of took over everything and made it taste like a slightly tempeh flavored orange and a slightly sweet potato flavored orange. I think if they had made you prepare the sweet potatoes a different way than cooking them, then putting them in the sauce to heat at the end it would have gone a long way to creating a wider array of flavors. Also the spice level way insanely low for the amount of peppers that were put in. Is it possible to get a whole container of duds? Are we just so used to ghost pepper sauces that we are now unaffected by lower spice levels? I think not, since the recent spicy sushi was pretty intense, but it makes you question yourself. Overall, I would give this a 3 out of 5, because like so many meals recently I didn't actually have to cook it. I would imagine if I had present during that laborious process I would be down with Allie's 2 out of 5. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sushi Bonanza!

Allie: Sometimes avocado rolls get boring, and it's hard to find creative vegan sushi.  While Brian was in another state, my law school buddy Sadie and I commandeered the kitchen and dining room for a whole day and figured out how to make delicious sushi for us to devour.  The rice recipe, which had 90000 steps and came out perfectly, is from World of the East.  The rolling instructions were from Veganomicon.  It was labor-intensive but the instructions were easy to follow and I had fun.  Sadie and I made some experimental lunch rolls that were delicious and then I made 5 fancy dinner rolls:

1. Spicy tempeh, avocado, scallion 
2. Spicy tempeh, jalapeno
3. "Yamroom" Steamed sweet potato and shiitake mushroom (inside-out, rolled in black sesame seeds and sea salt)
4. Roasted garlic, scallion, roasted salted peanut
5. Jalapeno, avocado, sugar snap pea, scallion, cucumber (inside-out, rolled in hot chile powder)

Somehow I got the spiciest jalapeno ever grown and it was unbelievably hot.  It was like, a ghost chili or something.  And I have a very high tolerance for spice.  The #5 roll was almost too hot to eat, especially with the chile powder coating but I managed to make it work somehow.  We almost killed Brian's roommate though.  The #2 also had jalapeno but I think the tempeh mixture with the mayo cooled it down a bit.  My favorite was the roasted garlic roll.  It was sweet, salty, crunchy and full of flavor.  Overall this meal gets a strong 5 out of 5 slice rating and I wish I could eat it every day.

Don't lose your tempeh, you too can make this

Brian:  I am starting to get incredibly spoiled by the amount of awesome food getting made for me. This was another dish that Allie prepared, with help from a friend, before I got home. On one hand, that is clearly awesome, but on the other kind of a bummer (not really) since I have wanted to learn how to make sushi for a long time. I suppose that just means we will have to prepare it again together soon! I've always heard that making the rice is one of the hardest parts about making good sushi, and judging from Allie's description of the process I can see why. Lots of rinsing, filtering and very specific cooking instructions. However, she nailed it and the rice was restaurant quality perfection, and each roll was rolled with precision (see above. Ain't it beautiful?) My favorite was the sweet potato and mushroom roll with the black sesame seeds on the outside, followed closely by the roasted garlic roll which was reminiscent of a roll you would get at local sushi place Miyas. The jalapeno rolls packed a pretty intense punch which made them the last to go, but as leftovers the next day they had mellowed and went pretty quickly. Overall, definitely a 5 out of 5 and I look forward to making these as a team in the future!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vegan Cobb Salad

This salad was loosely based on a recipe from the sweet life, except we didn't have time to make cheese so we used soy feta, and since we were doubling up on soy products we made eggplant bacon from Appetite for Reduction instead of fakin' bacon.  We used herb dijon gardein chicken breasts but omitted the sauce packets.  We also substituted a vegan bleu cheese dressing from earthen feast, minus the crumbled tofu.

Allie: I know this recipe sounds like it has a ton of elements but it actually was no big deal to make and I really enjoyed making fake hard-boiled eggs.  I added a little black salt for that "eggy" flavor but let's not kid ourselves, those eggs were not very eggy although they looked quite convincing.  The real star of this dish was the bleu cheese dressing, I could have eaten it by the spoonful!  I loved arranging all the elements into a stunning dish and once it was all mixed up the flavors were WOW.  The eggplant bacon was great as always (also good in BLTs) and the feta and chicken were good too.  I made the bacon, eggs and dressing before Brian got home which was a good choice because finally I got to eat a little bit of bacon before he snacked it all.  This was a decadent and filling meal.  I rate it 5 out of 5 slices and I would totally make it again with infinite variations.  Thanks internet!

The stripes come from the official flag of the Cobb Islands

Brian: I had never had a cobb salad, vegan or otherwise, prior to this one, but if this was any indication of their general quality I have been really missing out! I was lucky enough to have Allie make all the ingredients of this salad prior to me getting home, only leaving me to oversee the final assembly (also done by Allie.)  I can't remember if food is supposed to taste better if you have made it yourself or if you didn't have to make it at all, but judging from our mutual reaction to it both probably work (we both loved it.) The eggplant bacon we used in this is probably one of my favorite things we have picked up in our months of cooking. It doesn't quite hit pure bacon, but liquid smoke and soy sauce make it something that adds a huge flavor pop to whatever you use it in. It also pairs incredibly well with anything with avocado in it, making a salty, smokey, decadent flavor bomb in every bite. I'm not sure what sort of witchcraft went in to the dressing, and I will throw Allie in a lake later to see if she floats, but it was incredibly creamy and delicious and made it really hard to believe it's good for you. While the hard boiled "eggs" didn't add a huge amount in flavor, getting lost in the dressing, they definitely pulled their weight in the aesthetics department and as the Dude would say "They really tied the salad together." This is a definite 5 out of 5 and I am looking forward to having the leftovers tomorrow, if they make it that long. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Veggie BBQ Ribs with Grilled Brussel Sprouts

These recipes are from fat-free vegan kitchen and Alton Brown.  The sauce was Guy Fieri's bourbon brown sugar BBQ sauce.
Vegan BBQ? Guy Fieri is rolling in his grave.
Allie: Whoa, this recipe was great!  I can't believe it's not ribs!  Ever since we got a container of Spanish smoked paprika from Penzey's spices, I've been looking for recipes that use this delicious product and these ones didn't disappoint.  The seitan ribs were extremely meaty, with a very convincing carmelized BBQ sauce crust on the outside.  The sauce was sweet and delicious, even though Guy Fieri is a ridiculous person and the packaging made me nauseous (Is "sticky" ever an appetizing adjective if it's not associated with Cinnabon?).  The brussel sprout recipe has been a go-to grill staple for us, we even made them on Thanksgiving with great results.  They got super crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  The secret is microwaving the sprouts for a few minutes before trying to skewer and cook them.  If you don't microwave them, they will be rock hard and you will end up with skewered hands and that's not vegan.  Also they won't cook through.  We didn't want anything complicated, and this was very simple and quick.  I rate this meal 5 out of 5 slices, and I'd definitely make this at any barbecue.

Brian: The thing I miss the most about not eating meat (besides fish) has always been barbecue. Despite various products claims to be convincing vegetarian BBQ equivalents, I have always been unsatisfied (and I like riblets as much as the next guy, if that guy likes vegetarian BBQ equivalents.) This recipe, however, not only met my expectations, but greatly exceeded them. So delicious! When we first started making seitan we would always boil it, which would lead to a soggy product (duh) but at some point we discovered that baking seitan led to a much meatier texture. Baking this seitan and then grilling gave it a very genuine BBQ meat texture. While one would expect a Guy Fieri sauce to fall somewhere between mediocre and crushingly disappointing, it was actually deliciously sweet and spicy and worked perfectly on the ribs. Grilled brussel sprouts are fast becoming my favorite vegetable to do on the grill, second only to asparagus. As Allie said, you need to soften them up in the microwave first, but done properly they are crispy on the outside and tender in the middle (and tasty all the way through.) I have no qualms about giving this meal a solid  5 out of 5.

Friday, May 17, 2013

AB on the Road: Bridgeport, CT

Allie: AB went to Bridgeport, CT the other day because we heard that the Beardsley Zoo had newborn Nigerian Dwarf goats and boy, did they ever!  Those goats were bananas!  How did I not know this zoo was 20 minutes from my house?  They had two tigers!  In Bridgeport, CT!  Tigers!  It was a surprisingly nice zoo, with peacocks milling about everywhere, gorgeous weather, a sweet greenhouse with weird plants, and a lot of different types of animals.  The highlights included some prairie dogs, otters, cute farm animals, monkeys, etc.  I got to feed the goats and they loved me.  And two freaking tigers!  I felt like we were able to get a lot closer to the animals than at other zoos, but that this was because the animals seemed a little more closely confined so that was kind of sad/cool.  And holy cow what is the deal with children???  Why do they have to be ALWAYS SCREAMING AT MAX VOLUME?!  This zoo would have been way better with no children.  Some exhibits were closed for now, which was a bummer because one was a LEOPARD and another one was a MEXICAN WOLF and I would have liked to see those, but maybe we will go back.  I had a really good time and I give the zoo 5 slices.

So as you can imagine, we were pretty hungry after seeing all that and we needed some real stick-to-your-ribs fare, so we headed to Shandals Vegetaratian Cafe.  The restaurant is small and has a couple of tables, it was pretty bare bones and also somehow dark, even though it was noon on a sunny day.  The owner was really friendly, I think we arrived right as he opened so he was still arranging the selections, which are arranged buffet-style.  I ordered a small, which includes 4 choices, I chose rasta pasta, lo mein, BBQ tofu, and lima beans with wheat gluten.  That was a lot of food, especially for $7!  Everything was yummy, especially the lima beans which I would never have guessed would be my favorite.  I was looking forward to the rasta pasta and it did not disappoint.  I very nearly finished everything and I had to make Brian drive home because I went into a food coma.  5 out of 5 slices!




Brian: "Excuse me little child, what animal did you say that was? A ti...? A what? I'm sorry I couldn't hear you, could you speak up?" - Something no one has said ever at a zoo. But you know what? It's ok because tigers, bison, alligators, eagles and weird plants are all cool enough to make me not care that an entire elementary school is screaming directly in my ear. Obviously zoos are problematic for many many reasons, but I feel slightly better when most animals are there for rehabilitation reasons or to keep a species from becoming extinct. It was a beautiful day out and we needed a place to go and enjoy being outside, and like Allie said despite this place being about 15 minutes away from us we had never gone. I'd say it was completely worth the trip! When we were leaving we saw advertisements for a wine and beer event there, which sounds like something we would be in to. I'd have to say feeding the goats was the highlight of this trip, though they didn't jump up on the fence for me like they did for Allie. I will try to not hold it against them.

We went to Shandals for lunch, which was only the second time I had ever been there. I opted for the "small" plate this time, since last time I got the large which is actually massive (I'd estimate around twice as much as pictured above.) As before, this really hit the spot. You can really tell how chilled out the guy who runs this place is by eating his food. It's delicious, hearty food that makes you want to lay down and sleep for a while. I got the mashed potatoes, lima beans, soy chicken and peppers, and brown stew tofu which were all great. The guy who runs the place (I really wish I had learned his name) was as impressed as I was at my selections and, holding the plate at an arms length like he was inspecting a work of art, commented that he had prepared a great looking plate of food. I could not agree more, and it tasted just as good as it looked. 5 out of 5.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Vegetarian Bacon Wrapped Scallops & Homemade Pasta

The scallops were adapted from a recipe from Olives for Dinner, but instead of using mushrooms we used mock scallops that Brian picked up on a whim at the health food store.  I also used almond milk instead of coconut cream in the sauce, and did not add liquid smoke.

The pasta was from New American Vegan and the garlic-fresh herb sauce from The Vegan Family Cookbook.   

Tonight on the menu we have bacon wrappeYES PLEASE


Allie: I made the appetizer while Brian was practicing with his band, and it was easy!  I've never made scallops before and I've only eaten them a couple of times, but I watch a lot of Hell's Kitchen so I'm basically an expert.  I was kind of skeptical about the weird frozen fake scallops that Brian got, and I also failed to properly thaw them before I started cooking them so I was sure they would be gross but they actually maintained a scallopy shape and texture and even crisped up nicely in the pan.  Next time I would thaw them but it's good to know you can wing it.  The smoked paprika sauce was amazing and so simple to make.  I am leery of coconut cream because it's packed with saturated fat, but the almond milk worked well.  The tempeh bacon was easy to use as always, and the wrapping process was easy and made the scallop the perfect little vessel for holding sauce.  I give this recipe 5 out of 5 slices, it was fun and surprising.

Unfortunately I ran out of steam after eating a bunch of scallops and could only have one bite of pasta so I can't rate it.  However, we are doing recipes from The Vegan Family Cookbook all week (after they won the pizza dough recipe bake-off last week) and I am looking forward to trying more stuff from that book.

Brian: I am grateful to Allie for transforming the vegan scallops I bought on a whim in to something so delicious, when I thought they would probably end up being just weird. The lesson? When unsure about how something will taste, find a recipe that wraps it in (tempeh) bacon. I can't say for sure that I would buy the scallops again since, on their own, they didn't knock my socks off, but when I was at the store I did see some vegan calamari they also sold. Look forward to a post about Allie making something delicious out of that.

The sauce on the pasta was delicious despite not being the hugest fan of sun dried tomatoes. It was super garlic-y and had a whole bunch of fresh basil in it so how could I not like it? However, I think it could have used more of a spice element, but we generally feel that way about everything. Side note: Allie and I appreciated the simplicity of the recipes in the vegan family cookbook, but this recipe called for "a bunch" of basil and "a bunch" or oregano. I am familiar with the concept of bunches of herbs, but maybe something a little more precise would be helpful. Rather than make fresh dough, we used some left over dough from making lasagna a while back which we had frozen. I don't think this really affected how it handled, but I kind of had a pain of a time trying to make the pasta. I had bought the pasta machine on a whim and opted for a cheaper one, so it might just not be up to the task, or I could have been rolling the dough too thin, but it was really hard to get individual strands of pasta from the machine. We also don't have a pasta rack so I was just laying them out on a plate, which led to some clumping, so the final product was some really fine strands of pasta and some really wide noodles. I look forward to attempting pasta again when we are better equipped and have made fresh dough. Overall I give the scallops 5/5 and the pasta a 3.5/5.

Restaurant Review: Bentara

Bentara there, done that

Allie: AB took this show out on the town this weekend to celebrate my graduation from law school (woo!).  We decided to go to Bentara, a Malaysian restaurant in downtown New Haven.  We've been there a few times and it never disappoints.  It's a little pricey, so it is better for special occasions.  But it's worth it (especially if you have Brian to pay for you--thanks boo!).  I got a fancy cocktail that had pineapple juice in it so that was good.  We got the spring rolls for an appetizer but we didn't take a photo because we wolfed them down in a millisecond.  They were awesome!  I got kuew teow goreng, which was broad rice noodles with veggies and tofu in an extra-spicy sauce.  It was amazing and the flavors were outrageous.  I also appreciated that they were very accommodating when I asked for my dish without egg.  The service was pretty good, at first the staff were very attentive and friendly, but after we got our entrees all of our servers seemed to fade into the woodwork and I practically had to hunt them down to get Brian a second beer, to get the check, and then again to get them to run the credit card.  No big deal though.  5 out of 5 slices!

Fancy drinks, no cherry jokes

Could we make a pizza with this?

Brian: As Allie said, we went to Bentara to celebrate her graduating from law school (congrats!!) This place is pretty much the perfect place for us when we want to go some place fancy (graduations, birthdays, cashing in change at the coinstar, etc.) The great thing about asian cuisines is that there is always plenty of stuff that either is vegan, or can easily be made vegan and there is stuff that caters to my liking seafood. After totally annihilating the spring rolls we got, I got the BBQ salmon with roasted tomatoes and baby bok choy I had ordered, and man was it good. I've never had anything less than stellar from Bentara, but this was especially delicious. The salmon was cooked perfectly despite not really knowing what to tell the waiter when he asked how I wanted it cooked. I guess the correct answer is "medium" since that is what the waiter eventually assumed I wanted. We overheard the waiter telling another table that Bentara is the only authentic malaysian restaurant in THE WHOLE COUNTRY since they use whole spices that are fresh ground/cracked/whatever for each dish, rather than using pre-ground spices that every other place uses. I cannot independently verify this claim, but it certainly went a long way in making me feel like a fancy person. I totally crushed the salmon and then proceeded to help myself to a bunch of Allie's dish (and then finished it when we got home) which was also really good and spicy. Clearly this is a 5/5 experience, and I would recommend it to anyone in town who wanted a slightly fancy delicious meal out.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Turkey Gobbler Pizza

This pizza layered mushroom gravy from Veganomicon with cornbread stuffing from Vegan Celebrations, asparagus, more gravy, and Tofurkey smoked turkey slices.  The dough was from The Vegan Family Cookbook.

Gobble! Gobble Gobble!

Allie: Thanksgiving in May, on pizza.  OMFG.  5/5.  Brian sucks. Tofurky 4 eva.
[Translation: I love Thanksgiving, this pizza was a perfect combination of all my favorite parts of it.  Brian doesn't actually suck, but like most things he would be better if smothered in gravy.  Tofurky gets really crispy and amazing on top of pizza.  This meal had me "stuffing" my face all night.]

Brian: While I may suck, this pizza certainly did not. It's all the good things about thanksgiving, including the post meal drowsiness, but on a pizza and without annoying family so it's about a million times better. We finally nailed the crust, using the recipe from the first two pizzas but instead of rolling it out (which is a habit we picked up from using inferior doughs) we just spread it by hand which made it really light and not at all cracker-ish. This pizza required pretty intense preparations, but luckily Allie was kind enough to make an entire cornbread to use in the stuffing, make the gravy and then assemble the stuffing before I got home. All these combined as toppings resulted in a pizza that needed two hands to bring to the grill on the peel. This also meant that I could only down 3 slices, which I think is actually the same amount of food most people normally have at thanksgiving. I will agree with Allie that this was a 5/5 slice pizza, but definitely one to break out only on special occasions.

Falafel Pizza

This pizza was made with a layer of Abraham's spicy hummus, spinach, tomato, onion, baked falafel from Appetite for Reduction, and topped at the end with garlic-ginger tahini dressing from New American Vegan.  The dough is from The Vegan Family Cookbook

I pita the fool who doesn't eat falafel pizza!

Brian: After semi diminishing scores following the benny pizza back on Monday, I was starting to worry that, like the fog in the movie The Mist, some sort of inescapable pizza fatigue was setting in. Luckily, this winner of a pie came along to slap me in the face and say "No! There is no such thing as too much pizza! Don't be such an idiot!" This was definitely a 5 out of 5 pizza. Allie was once again kind enough to get everything together before I got home from work, but remembered that she had read/heard that adding a layer of hummus before the toppings works for this kind of pizza. I stopped at our local grocery store and picked up some spicy hummus and was so glad Allie asked me to when I started eating. It put this pizza firmly in the 5/5 arena, adding a spicy and creamy base that, along with the tahini sauce, kept the pizza from being too dry with the crust and the falafel. Speaking of crust, we went back to the recipe we used fo the first two pizzas and split the difference in the amount of oil, and we think we have finally nailed the best recipe yet. It cooked perfectly with a soft chewy crust and a firm bottom to support all the toppings. While I once again couldn't finish the remaining slices, I don't feel at all bad, since the crust, falafel, tomatoes, onions, spinach and hummus made this a pizza of great magnitude. Would eat again in a heartbeat!

Allie: Falafel pizza?  Yes and very yes.  Every part of this pizza was amazing.  The falafel was really quick and easy to make and was super light.  I liked how it was baked and not fried.  The tahini dressing was more savory and delicious than your average tahini, the addition of ginger and nutritional yeast made it very zesty.  I would put that dressing on anything.  Brian said he wanted to bathe in it, and anything that gets him to want to bathe is amazing in my book.  As Brian mentioned, the crust was perfect, which was good because if it was too dry again I was about to get really bummed.  I give this pizza a perfect 5 out of 5 slice rating.  If you eat it you will probably want to burn all your pitas because this is so much better, but that's wasteful.  Instead, feed pitas to geese.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Peanut Curry Pizza

This pizza was made with a thai peanut sauce adapted from an online recipe (we substituted soy sauce for fish sauce and only used 1 can of coconut milk).  We layered the sauce with cauliflower, red pepper, and chickpeas.  The dough was from Grills Gone Vegan.

Chickpeas! You cauli that a pizza?

Allie: I appreciate that this pizza took no time at all to whip up, because I had a rough day and then we went to a happy hour that ran long and I was beat.  I also appreciate that Brian did all the dishes!  The sauce was very creamy, sweet, and spicy (we used extra hot chili powder that we got at the Indian market).  I would not recommend this sauce if it was a bowl of curry and not a pizza, because that would be a bit much.  I only had 1 piece and it was enough.  The crust was kind of cracker-ish, even though we let it rise for almost 3 hours, which is annoying.  But it was easy to work with.  The veggies were great.  It didn't knock my socks off, but it was a perfectly tasty pizza.  I was too tired to see if Brian left any slices behind, but we did get some help from his roommate Tim, who said it was great.  I was going to give this a 4 out of 5, but upon reflection I'm bumping it down to 3.5 slices because it wasn't anything special, and I've come to have higher expectations from our meals than yumminess alone.

Brian:  Out of the pizzas we have made so far, this one left me the most unimpressed. This is not meant to say it was bad, because it was definitely delicious, it just lacked a certain quality to push it over the top. As Allie mentioned the crust was the thinnest of the ones we have made so far, despite being left to rise the most, which led to a kind of bland cracker vibe. This, combined with the fact that the we forgot we were halving the amount of sauce we would make and put in the normal amount of peanut butter but half the amount of coconut milk, made the pizza have a sort of cracker and peanut butter effect that just wasn't working to put me in true Pizza Wolf mode. The cauliflower, peppers and chickpeas were the best toppings we could have picked, but if we had lessened the peanut butter and upped the spice of the sauce, I think it all would have worked together better. I'm going to join Allie in her 3.5/5 overall assessment. Considering my less than totally blown away first impression, which happened with the previous two pizzas, and the fact that there were two unclaimed slices left over that I had no desire to go back to later on in the evening I don't think I could justify a higher score. THAT BEING SAID: This was still pizza, and pizza is awesome. 4 ever.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

General Tso's Pizza

For this pizza, we marinated tempeh cubes in a chili sauce left over from a dinner at our favorite Chinese food place in New Haven.  We layered that and broccoli with a simple General Tso sauce recipe we found online, and added sliced scallions at the end.  The dough was adapted from The Vegan Family Cookbook.   

Also ready in about 15 minutes

Allie: This pizza looked and smelled amazing and it completely rocked my taste buds from the first bite.  After 2 pieces I was happy not to eat any more.  We doubled the sauce recipe because it seemed skimpy but the flavor was so intense that it might have been a mistake.  Even Brian couldn't finish it, leaving his "no slice left behind policy" in shambles and truly disappointing us all.  On the plus side, it tasted just like General Tso's, sweet and spicy, and the roasted broccoli was perfect.  I liked the marinated tempeh but it was overwhelmed by the sauce.  The scallions really tied the pizza together.

We're still getting the hang of making pizza dough from scratch, as we had previously bought prepared dough from the supermarket.  We loved the taste of this dough recipe from the Eggs Benny Pizza we made, but it was too sticky.  We tried to remedy this by reducing the amount of oil from 1/4 cup to 1/8 cup, which made the consistency perfect for rolling it out and sliding it onto and off of the pizza peel.  However, we may have kneaded it too much or not let it rise enough, because in the end it was not chewy and bubbly.  It had a cracker-ish texture that was not very appealing to me.  I am rating this pizza 4 out of 5 slices because despite its issues (which could likely be easily fixed), it was still a unique pizza with killer flavors. 

Brian: My first thought on taking a bite of this pizza was "Another 5 slice masterpiece! Oh god, am I going to give everything 5 slices? I probably am, aren't I?" It was a flavor explosion, the spices, the sweetness, the tempeh and the snap of the broccoli was perfect. About 2 slices deep, however, both Allie and I started to have second thoughts. Sometimes explosions can be good, but it is rarely good when things just KEEP EXPLODING (even fireworks need to end sometime.) Talk about being tiring on the taste buds! Granted that didn't stop me from wolfing down 4 slices when I really should have stopped at 3, but I am a creature of habit. As Allie pointed out there is a not so secret shame wrapped in tin foil in the fridge, so I couldn't totally seal the deal. I just couldn't do it. I could see this pizza being great split multiple ways as some sort of appetizer, but for two it was just a little much. One other good note, and this partially applies to the benny pizza as well, is that it was nice to somehow eat pizza and chinese food and not have to drink 6 gallons of water just to not wake up feeling like I was drinking whiskey all night. Overall, I would give it 4.25 out of 5 slices.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Eggs Benny Pizza

This pizza was inspired by a special at the new fancy pizza place down the street from us.  The dough was from The Vegan Family Cookbook.  The hollandaise sauce and "eggs" were adapted from Vegan Brunch and the "chorizo" was leftover from a yummy batch we made last week from Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food.  We made it by layering Hollandaise, tofu scramble, fresh tomatoes and chorizo slices, MORE hollandaise, and Smart Bacon.

The finished masterpiece

Brian: Let me preface this first review by saying I love pizza. I mean, I REALLY love pizza. It is alway the food I want, and my stomach seems to have the strange ability to never be filled by it. I mention this to illustrate that, like Ebert (R.I.P.) in his later years, it's going to be very hard for anything to get less than at least a 4 slices out of 5 (we're doing slices right, Allie?) As long as it is on crust and has technically spent time in an oven, it's ok in my book. 

Bias aside, I can solidly give this pizza 5 slices out of 5. Considering our winter hiatus from using the pizza stone on the grill, we really knocked this one out of the park. I can assure you that Allie made this pizza in to a perfect circle prior to going on the grill, but due to a band practice gone long the liquids from the hollandaise and tomatoes made the dough stickier than it otherwise would have been. This meant that getting it off the peel and on to the stone was more difficult than in the past. On that topic, the importance of corn meal-ing the crap out of everything the pizza is going to touch cannot be understated, as it was the only thing that made the transfer close to possible. Despite the high sauce level and amount of toppings, the crust cooked perfectly and evenly and allowed for a good slice hold and support. The slight spice of the homemade chorizo really set the whole thing off and the entire experience felt like the most decadent thing you could imagine eating (pizza?! and brunch?! and hollandaise sauce?! Oh my!) This decadence made it the first time in a long time there was a slice left I just couldn't bring myself to eat. Somehow, I managed to find the strength about an hour later and munched it down, leaving my "no slice left behind" policy unblemished. I can safely say this pizza will be in rotation for a long time to come. 

Allie: Brunch is my favorite meal, I love eggs benedict, and I love pizza, so it's no surprise that this pizza gets a 5 out of 5-slice rating from me.  I love brunch so much that my cat is named Brunch, and he is a constant disappointment to me in comparison to brunch the meal.  Pizza is great but I don't love it as much as Brian does, because I can't eat cheese and that's an integral part of most pizza.  I don't think either of us missed having cheese on this one though.

We'd never made this dough before and it was one of the best tasting recipes I've tried, although it was a little sticky even before the moisture of the toppings got to it.  I might add a bit more flour next time.  Also, if I'd seeded the tomatoes and drained the tofu more it could have helped.  But in the end it was bubbly, chewy, and nice and crisp on the bottom.  It was thick enough to support the extra-heavy toppings but not doughy like thick pizzas can get.  The hollandaise was the star of this pizza, it was creamy and rich and went great with the fresh tomato and chorizo. The tofu scramble was sort of overwhelmed by the other toppings but every once in awhile I sort of felt like it was eggy in a nice way.  I don't think I got much Smart Bacon on my slices because Brian was totally picking all the pieces off and snacking on them. [Ed. Note: WAS NOT]  It was incredibly filling, I was stuffed after 2 smallish slices.  And it's definitely the first time we had any pizza left over (not for long!).

Yo dawg, I heard you like pizza...

Pizza is the best food in the whole world!  Sadly, there are not that many exciting options for vegetarians at most Italian restaurants, and even fewer for vegans.  We created the following menu of pizza recipes that are all 100% vegan.  We are going to make them on the pizza stone in the new grill, both for added crispiness and because the landlord just installed a new (vintage?) oven that is effectively just a really grimy cabinet that beeps a lot.

Best week ever!  Pizzas of the world!