Sunday, March 27, 2011

EASY DELICIOUS VEGAN | Udon with Edamame, Mint and Toasted Almond Pesto

Spring has officially sprung in NYC, which means we're up to our eyeballs in cold, miserable weather. But the spirit of spring is still in the air, so I wanted to start thinking ahead to the bright, warmer weather with a light and simple pure veg meal inspired by Eric Grower's The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen: Udon with Edamame, Mint and Toasted Almond Pesto. Really, it is just so simple and ridiculously fast to prepare. The photo doesn't show it but during seconds, I decided to garnish my helping with some lightly-salted, cooked edamame that hadn't made it into the pesto. Yum!

A side note: This recipe serves 3. If you're only making it for yourself, I recommend boiling 1/3 of the noodles and saving the remaining uncooked noodles and 2/3 of the pesto for another time, rather than making it all and trying to save the leftovers.


8 lbs udon noodles
1 1/2 cups shelled and cooked edamame
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons each of shredded mint and parsley
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
A pinch of finely ground sea salt or kosher salt

To start: Boil udon noodles in a large pot over medium-high heat according to manufacturer’s instructions, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime: While noodles are cooking, combine all other ingredients in a food processor and blend into a fine paste, pouring oils in last.

When noodles are finished cooking, drain then return to the hot cooking pot and add pesto. Toss until noodles are completely coated.

Serve immediately in bowls and eat with chopsticks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

EASY DELICIOUS VEGAN | Orecchiette with Cannellini Beans and Lemon Caper Cream Sauce

Yes, eating a pure vegetarian diet means eliminating dairy; but that doesn't have to mean giving up creamy, delicious sauces. This weekend I made a hearty, creamy pasta dish with a marriage of lemon caper sauce and a traditional cream sauce that tasted so fab, I couldn't wait to share the recipe.

You can build this sauce in just a few minutes and have the entire meal on your table in less than 30. I chose orecchiette because I just love the bite and how these little ear-shaped pasta hold sauce so perfectly, but fettuccine would be another wonderful choice.

Before I post the recipe; for those who have been wondering about March's meetup of the Recipe Trail Club, the verdict on my carrot cake, and where to get the recipe: The verdict was two thumbs up — super moist and delicious. Unfortunately, I'm not able to give out the recipe on KLB — this cake is being tested as a part of my Sweeties brand (you can read about it here). But I'll keep you posted on any new developments in getting Sweeties back out to the public.


1 box orecchiette pasta
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (recommended: Soy Free)
3 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup thick cashew cream (recipe follows)
1/2 cup Silk soy creamer, original (plain) flavor
Juice of one large lemon
1/2 of a 3.5 fl oz jar of capers, plus a teaspoon of the liquid they're in
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Kosher or sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To start: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt the water with two tablespoons of kosher salt or sea salt and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 11 minutes. Drain and return to the pot you cooked it in.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cream sauce: Melt Earth Balance in a small saucepan over low heat. Add flour and stir until completely combined. Add cashew cream and Silk creamer, and continue stirring for 1 minute. Add lemon juice, capers and liquid, and white pepper. Continue to stir and cook until sauce thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Prepare the pasta: Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta you've already returned to the cooking pot. Stir and toss to coat. Add the cannellini beans, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and stir and toss to mix in. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SNEAK PREVIEW | Sweeties Carrot Cake

One of the first recipes I developed on my own after making the switch to a pure vegetarian diet was a veganized version of my mother's famous carrot cake, in cupcake form. Since then, my carrot cake cupcakes have been a constant hit with friends and family. But I've always wanted to try my hand at turning my classic cupcakes into a real cake. For this month's meet-up of the Recipe Trial Club at my place, I finally baked that cake.

Turning the cupcake recipe into a layer cake was much simpler than I'd expected — you never know what might happen when you double a recipe and bake it differently. My only mistake was frosting the cake before it was entirely cooled.

So what the hell is Sweeties? In March of 2010, prompted by the interest of a popular local restaurant in adding my little carrot cakes to their menu, I made the decision to pursue making a small business out of selling them, and founded Sweeties New York Pastry Co.

Sweeties is a Brooklyn wholesale, home-based bakery with plans to grow into a brick and mortar store one day. Sweeties cupcakes come in Mini and Jumbo sizes, and two flavors: Carrot with "Cream Cheese" Frosting and Banana with Peanut Butter Frosting. Seasonal Spiced Pumpkin with Maple Bourbon Buttercream Frosting are available throughout the fall months; and basic, super-moist vegan chocolate and vanilla cupcakes are also available upon request. Fingers crossed, eventually Sweeties will become a full-fledged pure veg bakery.

Sweeties cupcakes were available monthly at the Greenpoint Food Market in my neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn until the market's untimely demise in July of 2010. For now Sweeties are no longer available for sale to the public. A review of Sweeties cupcakes can be seen on SuperVegan.

And for a meet-up recap plus the RTC verdict on my Carrot Cake layer cake, check back here soon!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

INSPIRED BY | Chef Cody Utzman


Award-winning chef and restaurateur
Brooklyn, NY

Best known for his two-time champion status on Food Network's Chopped, this talented chef has opened four restaurants in his Greenpoint, Brooklyn neighborhood and is active in three of them on a daily basis. I caught up with Utzman to find out what prompted him to offer vegan options among the standard fare in each of his establishments, how important eating and sourcing food locally is, and how winning a nationally-televised cooking show (and some simple advice from your father) can help to change your life.

Kitchen La Boheme: You currently have four restaurants — three that you’re active in on a daily basis — in Greenpoint: Brooklyn Label, Papacitos, Brooklyn Standard and Cafe Royal; none are vegan, yet all include vegan options on the menu. Why did you choose to include vegan dishes?

Cody Utzman: The vegan menu options are a result of demand. I ate this way for many years but it wasn't a lifestyle choice for me. I see a need and know how to fill it, it’s that simple. Plus I love making vegans say, “OMFG!” They usually have to deal with such BS options on menus, like rice and bean tacos or steamed veggies with brown rice. I love making people happy, and there are a lot of starving vegans in Brooklyn who want to be happy when they go out to eat!

KLB: You're very passionate about what you do. How did you get your start as a chef?

CU: I got my first job in a restaurant when I was fired from a Gas station in Corvallis, Oregon — I was the dishwasher and a shrimp peeler at a Chinese restaurant. From there I moved on to fast food joints and eventually landed a job at a diner called Shari's. I was 17 years old and working the graveyard shift. Diners are a racket, I learned fast, and Shari's showed me that I was a natural in the kitchen.

Fast forward through culinary school, fishing boats in Alaska, hotels in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Yellowstone… Next thing I knew, I was twenty-one and I took a private chef job in Boston, MA.

I moved to NYC in 2004, and when I did, I sought out the typical jobs at high-end restaurants. The reality of these kitchens was far different from what I expected and it was quickly determined that I was totally unemployable. Five years as a private chef was looked down upon by these types of restaurants. In addition, the pay was a fraction of what I was used to. For the next two years I took random catering, film production and private chef jobs, and traveled extensively, the whole time constantly seeking a location within my neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn to open a restaurant. After six failed lease-signing attempts and multiple investors giving the green light only to pull the plug at the last minute, one finally stuck. That was Brooklyn Label, my first restaurant.

KLB: You were the winning chef on Food Network's Chopped — twice. How has that experience affected you and your work?

CU: Each win was $10K, so that was nice. Even though I have multiple locations I really don’t make more then the average chef. The winnings where mine, and I was able to use the money to do some nice things for my family. Being on the show also connected me to a network of chefs and industry people that I was sheltered from by being exclusive to Greenpoint. I now have connections and fellow industry colleagues all operating within NYC.

I was extremely flattered by the fan base that developed from my appearances on the show, and even Facebook has allowed me to connect with people that I otherwise wouldn't have had the pleasure of getting to know. One afternoon last summer I was cashiering at the Standard; three people came in and proceeded to tell me about how they had been to each of my other locations that day in search of me. They had traveled from Mexico City, brought me gifts and wanted pictures and autographs. I was ridiculously flattered and accommodated every wish they had. The power of a nationally televised TV show is amazing.

KLB: Which of your dishes are you most proud of?

CU: Right now I'm most proud of my last dish I made; it was Spaghetti Alfredo that I made at 3 a.m. for my roommate and I. I took an hour to do it, blazed but focused as can be. I built the mother sauce, béchamel, and finished the dish with organic bright yellow egg yokes to thicken it up. It was perfect. I wish everybody could have tasted it.

KLB: You source local ingredients and products, and I've read that you even compost at Brooklyn Standard. What can you tell us about sustainability and eating locally?

CU: The model for Brooklyn Standard was all about sustainability. Before we even opened, the New York Times was there questioning how I was going to re-define the local bodega. The idea that I work with is that local, organic, and green should be the standard, not the alternative. You shouldn’t have to go to Whole Foods or a once-a-week farmers market to get what you want to eat. People should have access to local, organic and green food every day like it’s normal. I hate that in order to get food and groceries that are healthy and good for you and the planet, you have to pay more for them and go to further lengths to get them. The Standard is about bringing items that other stores market as specialty to a street level. That's why we sell a small cup of Stumptown [coffee] for $1 — just like all corner stores do, but our coffee comes from a supply change that you can be proud of. An egg on a roll is $2 just like every other bodega or food cart in NYC but our eggs are from a farm Upstate — organic and fresh.

KLB: Word is, you have a fourth restaurant on the way. Will you tell us a bit about what's to come? Will there be any vegan dishes?


But I’ve put this on hold — on Oct 25th my family and I experienced the sudden passing of my father. I took a 6-week trip through India and on my return, chose to re-center and focus on what’s already on my plate. The idea of Cobra Kai is still very energizing, the concept is strong and the recipes are being perfected. But at this point after re-prioritizing, I'm not yet ready for another new opening. Cobra Kai will live, it’s just a matter of when I am personally and professionally ready, and whether or not Manhattan Avenue [in Greenpoint, Brooklyn] is ready for it.

KLB: What's the best advice you've ever been given?

CU: When I was barely a teenager, I’d caused some trouble and had to spend the night in the County jail in Corvallis. My dad came to pick me up early the next morning. While I waited for his truck to pull into the lot, I was just sick with anxiety and remorse. Then, there he was. He pulled up, stopped his truck right in front of where I was standing, and surprisingly he didn't get mad. He didn't explode. He wasn't angry. He just looked right at me, the most sincere I'd ever seen him, and he said: "You have to get passionate about something. It doesn't matter what it is, you just have to." So I did.

KLB: If you weren't a chef and restaurateur, what would you be doing?

CU: This will come as a shock to most people but I would be a Cop. I'm fascinated with criminal justice. The only problem is that I don’t have the mustard to be a street cop riding around giving traffic tickets, but I would make a great detective — homicide unit, SVU type shit. I've truly thought that if I ever decided to give up the NYC dream, I would return to Oregon and be a local cop in my hometown.

To learn more about Cody and his current and future projects, check out his blog. Brooklyn Label, Papacitos, Brooklyn Standard and Cafe Royal (pictured) are all located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and offer fantastic vegan options.