January 12, 2015

Isa Live: A Vegan Life In 4 Courses


The dates are fast approaching. NYC, Nashville, Chicago (sold out, thank you!) and Napa, I am coming to feed you. Because the NYC February 1st date sold out so quickly, we’ve added a second date on February 2nd. I’ll be preparing a 4-course dinner on stage at City Winery, while telling the story of each dish. You’ll be eating a 4-course dinner with wine pairings. Part dinner theater, part pyrotechnic arena rock, part Borscht-belt comedy. All totally delicious.

From my early years in Brooklyn just learning how to make my own tamales and create vegan translation of my favorite foods, to my adulthood as a cookbook author taking over the world with cupcakes, and finally, my current life in Omaha, opening a vegan restaurant – Modern Love – in the heart of cattle country, these recipes will tell the story of my life. Along the way you’ll also learn about the intriguing properties of coconut oil, the secrets to achieving perfect grill-marks, how to make eggs out of anything and the fastest, easiest way to mince a lot of garlic. And don’t worry, no matter where you are sitting you won’t miss a thing, because there will be video screens showing the action on my cutting board.

PS Sorry, there won’t really be any pyrotechnics.

The Menu
Act I
Caesar Salad With Brussels
seared brussel sprouts, grilled tofu, tahini caper dressing, toasted pine nuts

Act II
lentil chorizo, mole rojo, guacamole

Chickpeas & Dumplings
creamy chickpea stew, rosemary biscuits

Act IV
Chocolate Mousse Cupcake
pistachio dust, coconut whip, raspberry caramel

Tickets still available:
February 2nd NYC Buy Tickets
February 4th Nashville Buy Tickets
February 8th Napa Buy Tickets

Hope to see you there! Oh, and here’s a little peek at the first course, Grilled Caesar Salad.

June 6, 2014

Green Lasagna Rolls

Makes 10 rolls
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Active time: 45 minutes

It’s basil season! And spinach season! And, well, let’s just say it’s lasagna roll season, too.

These make a great appetizer if you’re doing a little summer entertaining, or a filling entree if you prefer. Tofu ricotta is elevated with the addition of some Pumpkin Seed Pesto. The mellow flavor of pumpkin seeds really lets the basil shine. The sautéed spinach is really really garlicky, as is the pesto, so this makes the perfect date night meal.

What I really love, besides how flavorful these are, is the texture. Baking the rolls makes the noodles soft but still toothsome, with little crunchy bits on the edges. Smothered in cashew cream and pesto and finished off with a scattering of additional pumpkin seeds, these lasagna rolls will fulfill even the most wild fantasies: creamy, crunchy, velvety, chewy, and hearty all at once. Yes, there are a few components here, but none are too difficult to pull off and also LASAGNA ROLLS.

Serve with Caesar Salad to round out the meal!

PS This is my first blogpost using only iPhone photos, so take a deep breath with me. Sorry $2000 camera, this is just easier. Since I’m not an aspiring photographer, I’m not ashamed to admit that adjusting lighting and apertures and editing in Photoshop is just too labor intensive for me these days. A few adjustments in VSCO cam, a button to upload to Flickr, and my work is done here. You get the picture. Har har.

Recipe Notes

~You don’t need all of the lasagna noodles called for, but go ahead and boil the whole package to account for some breakage. Saute the leftovers and broken ones for dinner the next night.

~The amount of ricotta made is just enough to fill the rolls, so go easy with the taste testing and don’t overfill the rolls, or you might not get ten out of the deal.

~I put the pesto in a little plastic bag with a hole cut out of the corner to pipe it nicely over the rolls. Then just spread it a bit with a spoon and it’s real pretty like.

~I make the white sauce before the pesto to cut down on cleaning a little bit. You can pour the white sauce out and then just rinse the blender without having to do a major cleaning, since who cares if a little bit of cashew cream ends up in your pesto.

12 oz lasagna noodles

For the white sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the pesto:
2 cloves garlic
3 cups fresh basil, loosely packed
1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several dashes fresh black pepper

For the ricotta:
1 14 oz extra firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup pesto
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the spinach:
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz baby spinach

Make the noodles:
Bring a big pot of salted water to boil and cook the noodles al dente, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t stick together. If they seem to be, use metal tongs to gently peel them apart. Once cooked, drain them in a colander and run them under plenty of cold water to make sure they stop cooking and don’t stick together.

Make the white sauce:
Drain cashews. In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until completely smooth. This could take 1 to 5 minutes depending on your blender. Scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula every minute or so to make sure you get everything. Set aside.

Make the pesto:
Place garlic cloves in a blender and pulse a bit to chop. Add basil, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice salt and pepper and blend. It should still have some texure and not be completely smooth. Thin with a few tablespoons of water to get it into a spreadable consistency.

Make the ricotta:
In a medium mixing bowl, mash tofu with your hands or an avocado masher, until it resembles ricotta cheese. Mix in pesto, nutritional yeast, olive oil, lemon juice and salt until well combined. Set aside.

Make the spinach:
Preheat a large heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Assemble and bake:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish with olive oil.

Spread 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each lasagna noodle, leaving a little room around the side edges and 1/2 inch at each end.

Scatter about 3 tablespoons of spinach mixture over the ricotta. Starting at the bottom end, roll noodle up and place, seam side down, in the casserole dish. Continue with all remaining noodles. Pour the white sauce over the rolls in thick ribbons.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and white sauce is thickened. If after 25 minutes the rolls are not browning but the edges are crispy, place under a broiler on low heat for a minute or two, keeping a very close eye so that they don’t burn.

Remove from oven and smother on remaining pesto. Garnish with additional pumpkin seeds and serve!

May 4, 2014

Breakfast Nachos

Serves 8
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 1 hour

Breakfast Nachos

“You got your nachos in my breakfast.” “No, you got your breakfast in my nachos.” OMG, it’s breakfast nachos!

These are loaded with all of the brunchy requirements: scrambled tofu, roasted potatoes, avocado salsa and a creamy, cheesy, cashew sauce. They’re great for sharing with a crowd or for a slightly messy breakfast in bed. It’s definitely “company food.” You don’t want to eat breakfast nachos alone, unless you really really love yourself.

You can make a few huge plates for everyone to share, perhaps as the savory component of a brunch. Because, yes, nachos are a great appetizer before pancakes. Or make little individual servings. Either way, just remember to layer ingredients between the layers of chips. I hate when all of the fun stuff is just dumped on top and you’re left with empty chips at the end. An empty chip is just a crime.

There are a few components here, but it’s very easy to put together. None of them are crazy difficult. While the potatoes roast, you can pretty much prepare everything else, just remember to set a timer because you don’t want to burn the taters. It’s always been my opinion that brunch without potatoes is like going whale watching but seeing no whales. It’s fine, but next time, gimme some whales.

Anyway, dig in! I swear there are some chips under there. Here’s the Instagram pic where you can actually see ’em.
Breakfast Nachos

Recipe Notes

~ If you don’t feel like nachos (who doesn’t feel like nachos?), these make great breakfast tacos as well. Maybe just add some shredded lettuce.

~ If you’d like to make the salsa a day in advance, that’s cool! Just leave the avocado out until ready to serve, because it will brown if you leave it in the salsa. When ready, just dice and fold in.

~ The cheesy sauce is great in advance, too. Although you’ll want to bring it to room temp before serving. You can even just gently heat it up and it’ll be yummy that way.

For the potatoes:
1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, diced 1/2 inch
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the scrambled tofu:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz extra firm tofu
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

For the melty cheezy sauce:
1 cup unroasted cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours, drained
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons mellow white miso
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt to taste

For the avocado salsa:
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced into thin rings
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Pinch salt
1 avocado, diced medium

To assemble:
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (a 15-oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 big bag restaurant style tortilla chips
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Hot sauce for serving

Roast the potatoes:
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

On the prepared baking sheet, toss the potatoes with olive oil and salt. Cook for about 30 minutes, tossing once or twice, until golden and tender. Remove from oven and set on a cooling rack until ready to use.

Make the scrambled tofu:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for 3 minutes, until onion is translucent. Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces, sprinkle with salt, and cook for about 10 minutes. Get under the tofu with a thin metal spatula now and then as it cooks, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is.

Add the cumin and turmeric, with a few splashes of water if it seems dry. Toss to incorporate, and let the turmeric color the tofu – it should be a nice bright yellow. Add the nutritional yeast and lime juice and cook for about 5 more minutes. Taste for salt. Cover with tin foil to keep warm until ready to assemble.

Make the cheezy sauce:
Puree everything in a blender until absolutely smooth, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula occasionally. This could take 2 to 5 minutes, depending on your blender. Remember to give the motor a rest every minute or so.

Make the avocado salsa:
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except for the avocado. Get them really well incorporated and let them sit for 5 minutes or so to get the tomatoes to release some juice and for the flavors to meld. Fold in the avocado.

Whether you’re making big shareable or little individual servings, zig zag a little cheezy sauce on the bottom of the plate. Place a layer of chips on the plate, layer with sauce, tofu, potatoes, beans, and salsa, then add another layer of chips and repeat. Garnish with cilantro and serve!

February 27, 2014

Brussel Sprout Fried Rice

Serves 4
Total time: 30 minutes || Active time: 30 minutes

Brussel Sprout Fried Rice

I know, I know, I put Brussel Sprouts in everything. Well, until someone invents an even more awesome vegetable*, I will continue to overuse them. Even fried rice is not safe from that little cruciferous flavor bomb! Not that anyone is complaining.

This version is fresh and aromatic with the addition of a million herbs and scallions. And pinenuts are a surprisingly tantalizing addition to fried rice! A small handful goes a long way to adding another decadent layer of flavor. You can top with some gingery tofu or something, if you’d like it to be an entree. Or you can toss in some browned tofu. Or simply serve in addition to a bigger Thai-inspired spread. Or just be like “It’s fried rice for dinner/breakfast/elevensies!” and eat the whole darn thing.

*Maybe a more awesome vegetable has been invented? Google “lollipop kale.” OMG.

Recipe Notes

~The rice has to be cold for this recipe to work correctly, otherwise it will get mushy and sticky. Many supermarkets carry frozen bags of rice for reasonable prices. I’ve made this recipe with a standard 20 oz bag of rice in mind (Whole Foods has frozen Jasmine rice, even.) But you can certainly freeze your own! Just steam it up, fluff it and place in a mesh strainer. Just sticks the strainer in the fridge to cool comletely, that way it will cook quickly and evenly. Then place rice in a freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. I always keep a bag at the ready for quick weeknight meals, veggie burgers, what have you. For this recipe, you can just toss the rice into the pan frozen.

~I love the richness of coconut oil here, but if you wanna use another veggie oil, I won’t be mad at you.

~If you’re not feeling the pinenuts, try some roasted cashews!

~The agave is only for the very very slightest hint of sweetness to elevate the flavors. If you don’t have any, dissolve some sugar in the soy sauce and that’ll work just fine!

2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, divided
12 oz Brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
1 cup finely chopped scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
4 cups cooked and cooled jasmine rice [see note]
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon agave

Sriracha to serve

Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Saute the Brussel sprouts and carrots in 1 tablespoon of oil for about 5 minutes, until Brussel sprouts are lightly charred. Toss in the pine nuts and cook for two minutes, tossing often, until toasted. Transfer everything to a large plate and set aside.

Lower heat a bit to medium. In 1 teaspoon oil, saute the basil, cilantro, scallions, garlic and ginger for about a minute. The herbs will wilt and everything will smell aromatic and wonderful. Now add the rice, red pepper flakes and the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and cook for about 5 minutes, tossing often.

Add the Brussels mixture back to the pan, and drizzle in the soy sauce, lime juice and agave. Cook for 3 more minutes or so, until rice is lightly browned. Taste for salt. Serve with plenty of Sriracha!

February 12, 2014

Seitan & Waffles With Pomegranate Syrup

Makes 6 servings
Time (not including making homemade seitan): 1 hour

Seitan And Waffles

Up until yesterday, I didn’t really get chicken waffles. But for Valentine’s Day, I decided to cave to societal pressure, and enjoy a juicy, savory, fried hunk of something over a carby, crispy something, covered in sticky sweetness. Even if it makes no sense! I mean, where is the kale? Where are the lentils? Sigh. OK.

Those thoughts plagued me as I stirred the batter and simmered the seitan, although each component was nice on its own. The waffles were perfectly crisp, and I knew they’d be able to handle the syrup without sogging up. The chicken-style seitan came out really flavorful, with a firm but tender texture. The breading on the seitan was totally delish and I couldn’t help but eat a piece straight out of the cast iron skillet. OK, maybe two pieces.

For the syrup, I wanted a bit of V-tine love, and so pomegranate saves the day! Pomegranate molasses is an easy way to infuse flavor into the maple syrup. Plus, the seeds from whole pomegranates are just as romantic as you can get and they look like they’re from another planet (a very romantic planet, to be sure.) So yeah, everything looked great, but all together? I don’t know. My inner chicken and waffle skeptic still had her arms folded.

I took a triangle of waffle (surely, that’s all I would need to know for sure), tucked a little slice of breaded seitan in there, and dredged it in some of the syrup. Well, needless to say, the angels sang. A marching band appeared out of nowhere. Glitter confetti flew from the ceiling. I think I caught a glimpse of Ryan Seacrest. OMG this was good.

So now I totally get it. A sweet and savory combo that maybe isn’t for everyday, but for a special brunch or a Valentine’s dinner, this is where it’s at.

Recipe Notes

~If you don’t feel like dealing with all the pomegranate stuff, just use straight-up maple syrup. Maybe add a few raspberries for garnishing prettiness.

~To make the recipe less cumbersome, simmer the seitan a day ahead, and remember you have loads of downtime as it simmers.

~You can also totally make the waffles up to a week ahead. Freeze them in a plastic storage bag and simply toast when ready to eat.

~If you’re especially lazy, you can use storebought seitan. But I really really love this seitan recipe so I hope you’ll try it. Especially because then you really have control of the shape of the seitan, plus, it will just taste better!

~The homemade seitan makes double what you’ll need for this recipe, but I figure if you’re making it, why not make some extra for the week? It’s really great grilled for salads or sandwiches.

For the pomegranate syrup:
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

For garnish:
Fresh pomegranate seeds

For the waffles:
2 cups almond milk (vanilla or plain), or your fave non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the chicken:
1/2 batch (1 pound) Chicken Stylee Seitan, or equivalent storebought

3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup water

1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Several dashes fresh black pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Make the syrup:
Just mix the syrup and pomegranate molasses together in a measuring cup, yay!

Make the waffles:
In a 2 cup measuring cup, use a fork to vigorously mix about half the milk with the cornstarch, until fully dissolved. Add the remaining milk and the vinegar and set aside.

In the meantime, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center.

Add the milk mixture to the flour along with water, oil, and vanilla. Mix until the batter is relatively smooth. A few lumps are a-OK.

Preheat waffle iron and let the batter rest. Cook according to waffle iron directions, spraying the waffle iron liberally with oil or cooking spray between each waffle is made.

Make the chicken:
Have ready a few layers of paper towels (or brown paper shopping bags) for absorbing the oil after frying.

We will bread the seitan before starting the oil. This way you don’t have to worry about overheating the oil while you bread. You’ll need to fry in two batches.

Slice each piece of seitan into 4 slices, on a bias, so that you have long wing looking pieces.

You’ll need a big plate for breading and a wide bowl for batter. In the bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch and water. Mix vigorously until thick and smooth. Set aside.

On the plate, mix together the bread crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper.

Now let’s assemble!
Dip each seitan slice into the the wet batter, letting the excess drip off. Transfer to the breadcrumbs bowl and use the other hand to sprinkle a handful of breadcrumbs over the seitan, to coat completely. Make sure you use one hand for the wet batter and the other for the dry batter, or you’ll end up with club hand. Set each piece aside on a big plate, then start your frying oil.

Now let’s fry!
Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, pour in about 1/2 an inch of oil. Wait about a minute. Now test the oil by throwing in a pinch of breadcrumbs. It should sizzle and bubble without smoking, then you know it’s ready. If it burns or smokes quickly, lower the heat. If it just sits there doing not much of anything, raise the heat.

Without overcrowding the pan, fry each piece of seitan for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain the oil, and then do the next batch.

To serve:
Place a few pieces of seitan over the waffle. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve with plenty of syrup. ::SWOON::