September 25, 2013

Appleberry Pie With Olive Oil Crust

Serves 8

Appleberry Pie

The wee infant hours of autumn are always bittersweet. This pie is a way to savor your summer memories while welcoming the new season in a delicious way. Sweet, tart berries meet lush apples, laced through with some warm spices and all wrapped up in your new favorite pie crust!

Made with pantry-friendly olive oil, this is a fast and convenient all-purpose crust ideal for fruit pies. It became mine and Terry’s go-to as we were writing Vegan Pie In The Sky; olive oil produces a light flaky crust with a surprisingly neutral taste that has just a hint of fruitiness. The secret is to freeze the olive oil before hand, so that it become partially solid. This helps the fat to blend into the dough in little pockets, creating the flakiness you crave.

Pie season is here, everyone! You’ve got plenty of time to practice for the holiday table. But really, who can argue with pie ever?

Recipe Notes

~To prepare the olive oil: About an hour before beginning the recipe, place the olive oil in a plastic container; for best results use a thin light container, like the kind used for take out food. Freeze until it’s opaque and congealed but still somewhat soft, like the consistency of slightly melted sorbet. If it’s over-frozen, that’s ok, just let it thaw a bit so that you can work with it.

~Refrigerate the flour before using. That helps to keep the dough cold while you work with it, which will produce a lighter, flakier crust.

~Keep that crust from burning by using a pie shield half-way through baking. This adjustable one is heaven sent!

For the Olive Oil Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup olive oil, partially frozen (see above note)
4 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For the Pie:
2 cups fresh blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or a mix, fresh or frozen (about 10 oz)
4 cups peeled Granny Smith apples, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Big pinch of ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons cornstarch

For topping:
2 tablespoons almond milk (or preferred non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon sugar

Prepare the pie crust:
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Working quickly so that it stays cold, add the olive oil by the tablespoonful, cutting it into the flour with your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the flour appears pebbly.

In a cup, mix together 4 tablespoons of the ice water with the apple cider vinegar. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the water and vinegar mixture into the flour, and using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir into the dough, adding more water a tablespoon at a time until it holds together to form a soft ball. Take care not to over-knead the dough.

Divide dough in two, roll each half into a ball and press eachh into disk about an inch thick. Place one disk between two 14 inch long pieces of waxed paper. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate rolled dough wrapped in waxed paper for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to use.

Assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Combine the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Fit the bottom crust into the pie plate, pile in the filling, and gently press down to get everything in. Cover with the top crust, pinch the edges together, trim excess dough to about an inch, and crimp. Make five slits in the middle of the pie to let steam escape (a steak knife works great for this).

Brush the top of the pie with almond milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and continue baking 35 to 40 more minutes, or until the filling bubbles up through the edges. Place the pie on a cooling rack and let cool for about 30 minutes before serving.

September 22, 2013

Everyday Pad Thai

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

Everyday Pad Thai
Photo by Vanessa Rees

Here it is: the quintessential sweet and sour Thai noodle. Also, the key to my heart. If I didn’t think it would give me some sort of vitamin deficiency, I’d probably eat Pad Thai for every meal. This recipe introduces my super top secret ingredient. (Um, as usual it’s miso.) It adds a bit of fermented depth that mimics traditional fish sauce. I have a recipe for Pad Thai in Vegan With A Vengeance, but this one is from Isa Does It, which means…it’s much, much, simpler! We’ll get back to the recipe in a sec, but first I have to share my excitement about the new book.

We are exactly a month away from the release of Isa Does It and in many ways, this feels like I’m releasing my first cookbook ever. After all, it is my first full-color, hardcover book! Perfect for gift-giving, coffee tabling, and yeah, even cooking from.

So I’m hoping that you love it as much as I do. And I don’t forget for a second that I couldn’t have written it without you. I am grateful for all of the feedback and support as well as the ideas and inspiration I get from you guys. There’s something so motivating about putting up a recipe and having someone far away prepare it only hours later. It warms my cold, gothic heart.

In addition to saying “thank you”, I’m giving away this cool Isa Does It tote for preodering the book (USA only.) All you have to do is forward your preorder receipt and your mailing address to and boom, the perfect vehicle for hauling your veggies in your hot little hands.

Isa Does It Tote

Full details here. So if you haven’t already, please do preorder, and if you already have, no worries, you can still get the tote. Yay!

And now….back to the Pad Thai.

Usually Pad Thai is made to serve, one order at a time. But if I have no one to impress, I’m not going through the trouble. It isn’t exactly authentic, but it gets the job done with common ingredients and has a great balance of sweet, sour, spice and salty. And if Sriracha and miso are not common ingredients to you, they definitely will be after digging in to this!

Recipe Notes

~Rice noodles come packed in all different quantities and nothing seems to be consistent. I think that 8 oz is just about perfect. If you have a package that is more than that, I would suggest making all of the noodles and using the leftovers in a salad the next day. Perhaps with some Peanut Sauce? But more than 8 oz make it really difficult to stir the noodles properly.

~To get this done in 30 minutes, start the water boiling for the noodles the second you step through the door. Be really careful not to overcook them. Most packages say to boil water, then turn the heat off and soak the noodles for 8 or so minutes. That seems to work perfectly for all brands, no matter what the cooking directions say. Set a timer so that you don’t overcook because they will disintegrate on you. Once cooked, immediately drain them and run under cold water to stop from cooking any further. Follow those steps and you will have perfect noodles every time!

~I prepare this dish all in one pan. While the tofu browns, I prep everything else. Then remove the tofu and prepare the rest. You might save a little time by using 2 pans, but this method has served me well over the years.

~You can follow these directions for perfectly browned tofu, if you’ve had any tofu issues in the past.

8 oz pad thai rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, immediately rinsed with cold water and cooled (see note above)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
14 oz tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 cups brocolli florettes and thinly sliced stems
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups scallion, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
4 oz mung bean sprouts

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari to make this gluten-free)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Sriracha
2 tablespoons mellow white miso
1/4 cup water

To serve:
3/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Extra lime wedges

First make the tofu. You’ll need a large cast iron pan, or something non-stick that can take very high heat. Preheat pan over high heat. Once pan is good and hot, drizzle in 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the cubed tofu and sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. The tofu should immediately sizzle when it hits the hot the pan, otherwise, turn the heat up. Cook for about 7 minutes, tossing often, until it’s nicely browned.

In the meantime, mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce and set aside. The miso may not completely dissolve, but that’s okay, just get it as smooth as possible.

When tofu is browned, transfer it to a plate and cover gently with tin foil to keep warm. In the same pan, cook the broccoli in 2 teaspoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan in between stirring, to get it to cook faster. It should take about 5 minutes, and be lightly charred in some places. Transfer to the same plate as the tofu.

Now we’ll cook the sauce. Lower heat to medium. Cook the garlic in the remaining oil very briefly, about 15 seconds. Add the scallion and cilantro and toss just to get it wilted. Now pour in about half the sauce and get it heated through.

Add the noodles and toss to coat. Then add back the tofu and broccoli, the mung beans and the remaining sauce, and toss to coat.

Serve immediately, topped with peanuts and lime wedges, plus extra cilantro if desired.

September 14, 2013

BLT Mac & Cheeze

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

BLT Mac & Cheeze

I don’t know how this happened, but I guess I’m a tomato farmer. Tomatoes are all I’ve thought about all summer. If I’m traveling, I don’t wonder about my boyfriend and cats, I wonder about my tomatoes. Are they getting enough nutrients? Are they getting the right amount of water? Do they need trimming? Are there any pests pestering them? And, most importantly, do they miss me like I miss them?


After a few snafus this past Spring (who expects snow in May?!) my babies finally got going. And even now in mid-September, most of my plants are still producing juicy orbs of ridiculous deliciousness. So of course I’ve been using them in everything. And, well, one thing led to another and I guess I don’t have to tell you, that this is how BLT Mac & Cheeze was born.

Being late summer, I really wanted this mac to be gardeny. If you have a garden, or a CSA, or just want to use some in-season produce from the grocery, maybe you’ll appreciate that. So I made the “B” out of eggplant (remember: vegans will make bacon out of anything.) For the “L”, arugula is always prolific in the garden, plus I love its muskiness, which goes perfectly with the bright and smoky flavors of the other ingredients.

The “cheeze” sauce is just something I threw together, very similar to the Chipotle Mac, but without the pepperiness and perhaps a little more noochy than usual. It’s just a nice creamy backdrop to the more assertive flavors its tossed with.

And there you have it: BLT Mac & Cheeze. I hope your summer has been as fruitful as mine (literally and figuratively) and I can’t wait to share some fall recipes with you soon!

Recipe Notes

~For time management: Get the oven preheating and the water boiling, then prep the eggplant. Once the eggplant is in the oven and the pasta is boiling, you have plenty of time to prep the tomatoes and puree the sauce.

~I was making this for a friend who is sensitive to garlic (I KNOW!) and so I didn’t use it. If, however, you NEEDS your garlic, throw a clove or two into the sauce while it’s pureeing.

~I used gluten-free noodles here, and actually, I usually do with Mac-N-Cheeze. I just prefer them. They stand up beautifully to the sauce, and tend not to get mushy as leftovers. But you obvs can use whichever noodles you love! I recommend Tinkyada brand. (I used shells, but they have a macaroni, too.)

~If you forgot to soak the cashews, have no fear. You can boil them for the same creamy effect, and still have this on the table in 30 minutes. Just submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain, and proceed.

~Oh and hey, if you’re doing the oil-free thing, you’ll be happy to note that this recipe is completely oil free if you leave the cooking spray off of the eggplant bacon recipe.

8 oz small shell pasta or macaroni (gluten-free, whole wheat, or any type)
4 cups baby arugula
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or chopped regular tomatoes)
1 recipe Eggplant Bacon

For the sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours (see note above)
1 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the sauce: Drain the cashews and place all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend away until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Depending on the strength of your blender this could take from one to five minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind that you want it just a little saltier than you think because it’s going to be poured over all of the other ingredients.

When the macaroni is tender, drain it in a colander. Immediately place it back in the pot you boiled it in and stir in the sauce. Place pot on low heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce is thickened a bit and everything is deliciously creamy. Taste for salt again.

Now toss in the arugula, tomatoes and eggplant bacon, leaving a little extra aside to garnish if you like. Serve!


September 4, 2013

Vegan Challah

Makes 2 really big loaves
Total time: 3 hours || Active time: 45 minutes

Vegan Challah

In some ways, Jewish cuisine is the ultimate comfort food. Even the words can be comfort to my ears; matzoh, babka, cholent. Ahhhh. On the other hand, vegans aren’t exactly clamoring for gefilte fish recipes. But no one will argue with a bowl of matzoh ball soup or some fresh baked challah. I know I wouldn’t!

As a vegan, you get a lot of questions. And most of them I like to answer. Except two. The first being: if you were stuck on a desert island with only a cow, blah blah blah. And the second. Grrr, the second!

“What foods do you miss?”

Nails on a chalkboard! I guess, my main gripe, is that it is so besides the point. Let’s talk about all of the wonderful things we do eat. Sacrifice has never entered the equation for me. In fact, I even have a little rule for myself; if I ever feel like I’m missing something so greatly I can’t stand it, I can go ahead and eat it. And guess what? I’ve never had to use it!

I think there are two reasons. Firstly, being vegan isn’t a diet. Not for me. It’s my belief system. And unless some day I decide that it’s okay to eat my cat, I won’t be eating animals any time soon.

Secondly, let’s have some perspective. Even a vegan in the most rural area of America has about a million more choices than a huge majority of earth’s population. And I don’t mean to get all global about it, but damn I’m a vegan and a Jew and that’s what we do.

So there really isn’t much that I “miss.” I mean, yes, I wish life was more convenient on the road. I wish that I had a gazillion vegan ice cream parlors on my block. (I also wish that Bobby Flay would bring me breakfast in bed every morning.) However, I can’t really say I miss any of that.

But [dramatic blogger pause]

I miss challah.

I miss challah so bad. I’m only human! But it isn’t any old challah, it’s the kind I grew up with. Not fresh baked at home, but from any number of the Jewish bakeries deep in the heart of Brooklyn. My family were not the types to make their own, and why should we; does anyone make better challah than Leon’s Bake Shop in Marine Park? Lines were long, cookies were by the pound, everything was tied together with a humble string in a humble box, because what counted was inside.

And the challah. Oh, the challah!

So fluffy and doughy. So cuddly and perfect that it even looks like a hug. Fun to say, fun to eat and such an inviting golden amber with that gorgeous yolky yellow poking through.

But honestly, even if Leon’s weren’t long gone, I’d still want to create my own vegan version. And this one satisfies every nook and cranny of my memory. The original idea to use bananas was actually from an old user-submitted recipe on the website, but it’s undergone a million alterations in the past decade or so. The end result is..challah! Crusty and toasty on the outside, buttery and soft inside, and, yes, that beautiful yolky yellow.

What gives this challah its, uh, challyness, is a few factors. For the color, a little turmeric does the trick. Don’t worry, you can’t taste it! Coconut oil is the magic that brings butteriness. And bananas add a slight sweetness, as well as standing in for the leavening of the eggs, producing a beautiful puffy loaf. It’s a modern miracle!

I hope you’ll give these loaves a shot! They’re definitely a bit of work for a special occasion, but they are so very worth it, whether you grew up with challah or not. Shana tova, everyone!

Recipe Notes

~ The bananas don’t taste make the challah taste banana-y exactly. They’re really just replacing the eggs for texture. I don’t know why bananas work…but they do. Make sure yours are nice and over-ripe, with plenty of black spots.

~ Making a braid isn’t hard, but definitely youtube “3-strand challah braid” if that part scares you. I know, it’s so lazy for me to tell you to look it up. But really, a video is going to help more than my writing will. I also made this silly little video on Instagram, which is probably not helpful at all.

~ Instead of egg wash, we’re glazing the bread with a mix of maple syrup and non-dairy milk. It’s a little tip I picked up from the fabulous cookbook Voluptuous Vegan. It doesn’t get quite as shiny as an egg wash, but it gets the job done.

~ This works well in a large stand mixer, if you’d prefer!

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup refined coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup warm water
1 additional tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast

2 very overripe bananas

7 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1 tablespoon salt

For brushing:
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons plain non-dairy milk (I used almond)
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Add water and turmeric to a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil. Keep an eye so that it doesn’t boil too long and evaporate. Immediately turn off the heat. Add the coconut oil and 1/2 cup sugar to the pot, and stir to melt coconut oil. You want the mixture to cool so that it isn’t hot to the touch, but is still warm. So let it sit while you work on the rest of the recipe.

In a very large mixing bowl, mix together the warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle in the yeast and set aside to get all yeasty. Note: make sure that the mixing bowl is large enough to hold all of the flour and additional ingredients for this recipe, because this is where you’ll be mixing everything.

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas very well, until they appear pureed. The coconut oil mixture should be cooled enough now, so proceed with the recipe.

Add the mashed banana to the yeast bowl, along with the coconut oil mixture. Give a stir just to combine. Begin adding the flour a cup at a time, adding the salt along with the first cup. Mix after each addition, and begin to knead with your hands when a dough starts to form. Once all 7 cups have been added, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and begin to knead like crazy for 10 minutes or so, or until dough is nice and smooth. Add up to another 1/2 cup of flour as needed, until the dough is no longer tacky. Form dough into a ball.

Clean the mixing bowl, and lightly grease it with some canola oil. Add the ball of dough, spinning it into the bowl to get it lightly coated in oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and set aside to rise for about an hour and a half. It should double in size.

Grease two baking sheets and set them aside. Also, make sure you have plenty of space for rolling out the ropes to create the braids.

When dough has doubled, punch it down, knead lightly and divide in half. Take one half and divide it into thirds. Roll each third into a long rope, 18 inches or so.

Now place the three ropes on the baking sheet the long way, and…braid! Pinch the ends together to form butts.

Ok, now create the second loaf in the same way. Let the loaves rise for about 30 minutes. They should get nice and puffy. No need to cover them for this part.

When loaves have risen, preheat oven to 375 F. Mix together maple syrup and milk in a small container. Brush loaves with the mixture and sprinkle with poppyseeds.

Bake breads on separate racks for about 40 minutes, rotating the pans between racks halfway through. Bread should be browned and golden outside. If you tap them, they should sound hollow.

Let cool for a bit, maybe 30 minutes or so, and then they are ready to slice and serve! I love them warm and doughy like that.

If not using immediately, wrap well in plastic and keep stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

August 29, 2013

Zucchini Noodles With Peanut Sauce

Serves 4
Total time: 20 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes

Zucchini Peanut Noodles

Do you have zucchini coming out of your ears? Well, that is a good look. But here’s a really quick recipe to help you use those veggies up!

If you’re like me, you have genetically perfect jet-black goth hair, you watch too much HGTV and you crave peanut sauces. Seriously crave. Like, would-it-be-weird-to-have-this-for-breakfast type cravings. Not to talk batty, but these zucchini noodles are just as satisfying as a big bowl or stirfried noodles. TRUTH! Totally slurpy, flavorful, filling and just, you know, PEANUTTY.

My summer has been all about simply prepared, flavorful sauces that come together easily, and fresh veggies right from the garden. But the sauces are really key, because once you’ve got that down, any meal is possible. A container of luscious deliciousness chilling (literally and figuratively) in the fridge means that dinner can be on the table in no time. Keep this spicy, gingery peanut sauce on hand for things like baked tofu with quinoa and veggies, or rice noodles, or just for dipping carrot sticks and cucumbers.

Happy zuking, everyone!

Recipe Notes

~ These zucchini were sliced the long way on a mandolin, and then further sliced into strips to make noodles. But you can do it the super easy down and dirty way and just make rustic ribbon noodles, like in this recipe.

~ The dressing doubles, and even triples, really well. So make a boatload and use it on everything throughout the week.

For the dressing:
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon sriracha (less if you’re a spice wuss)
1 tablespoon agave
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

For the salad:
1 1/2 lbs zucchini
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 lb cucumber, sliced into half moons (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 cup fresh herbs, such as: Thai basil, mint, cilantro (or a mix of all three), chopped

Make the dressing:
Place all ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth. That’s it! Keep sealed and refrigerated until ready to use.

Make the salad:
Slice the zucchini lengthwise, on a mandolin or by hand, into 1/8 inch thick slices. Stack those slices and cut them lenghtwise into long noodley strips. (Or see note above about ribbon noodles.)

Toss the noodles with the dressing, reserving some of the dressing for drizzling. Taste for salt.

Top servings with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and peanuts. Drizzle with extra dressing as desired. Finish with fresh herbs and serve!