2013 San Francisco Street Food Festival

Yesterday, I spent the late morning/early afternoon in the Mission, enjoying the mild weather and eating my way through the crowds at the San Francisco Street Food Festival. Five years running, this gathering of 80+ food vendors is put on by La Cocina, a not-for-profit incubator kitchen that offers affordable commercial kitchen space, industry assistance, and market opportunities to small food businesses.

I am a huge fan of the street food scene, and the times I’ve been to Portland I’ve really enjoyed supporting it. I can’t believe that this has been going on for five years a stone’s throw from me and I only learned of it a couple days before the festival. Street eats, BART-friendly, and I get to help folks make a living on their own terms? Sign me up!

The Mission, San Francisco

The Mission, early Saturday afternoon, while sipping on a creamy soy cappuccino. Beautiful.

Because I live in the ‘burbs and parking in the city makes me see red on a good day, my husband and I took public transit into the Mission. We arrived about 30 minutes after the festival started. At this time, the foot traffic was still relatively thin on the street, and it was still fairly easy to get around. The crowd started to grow rather fast, but I was a woman equipped with a list of vegan-friendly foods to try and a good pair of elbows. (I’m kidding about the elbows. I didn’t need to use them! For the most part, the crowd was pretty mellow.) We spent around two hours walking around and visiting different stands until we couldn’t eat another bite.

Vegan eats from SF Street Food Festival

Clockwise from top left: Lusty Lovers taco, Hella Vegan Eats; spicy green kitfo injera rolls, Eji’s Ethiopian; marinated eggplant rice ball wraps, Onigilly; soy cappuccino, Ritual Coffee Roasters; moo shu vegetable taco, Kung Fu Tacos; falafel sandwich, Liba Falafel

My first stop was at Onigilly for a couple rice wraps. These were delicious, and I don’t even like eggplant all that much. I liked THIS eggplant though. It had so much flavor, and you just can’t go wrong with rice and seaweed. I bit into one of them before I remembered to take a photo. Don’t judge me.

Next up was a sandwich from the Liba Falafel truck, served with the falafel piping hot, tucked into a wholemeal pita, and dressed with a fresh herby sauce and tahini. I added the dill/cardamom pickles and pickled red onions from the toppings bar. I also added a swish of the harissa and it gave me that warm and special feeling in my eyeballs (heat lovers, you know what I’m talking about).

While I was waiting on my sandwich, my husband was at the Kung Fu Tacos truck one spot over, and asked about the moo shu veggie taco while he was ordering for himself. As it was vegan, he bought me one. I loved this, and that’s not surprising because I like moo shu vegetables, and I love nearly anything put into a corn tortilla. Some wives like jewelry. Bring me tacos instead.

My next stop was the Hella Vegan Eats booth. The offerings there were a Doughnut Beet Burger and a Lusty Lovers Taco. I was tempted by the doughnut burger, but I like tacos. I mean, I really like tacos. So I asked about it. The person behind the counter started telling me about what was in it, and once she got to the corn flakes, I’m pretty sure I had the What?! Mind. Blown. face going on. Vegan chicken, macaroni and cheese, and chipotle corn flakes, topped with chopped scallions. And I thought I had put everything into a corn tortilla. It was delicious. I tip my hat, Hella Vegan Eats.

My last food stop was at the Eji’s Ethiopian booth. All vegan eats? I’m sure I can find room in my belly somewhere. I ordered the spicy green kitfo injera wrap, which was a whole piece of the bold-flavored 100% teff injera that I so rarely get anymore, topped with a thinly-spread layer of sauteed chopped greens, and then rolled and cut into pieces. It was dressed with what I’m guessing was mitmita paste, because it felt more fiery than berbere, but that’s all to the good. Very tasty!

Alas, I could not bear to eat anything else, but I did stop by the Ritual Coffee Roasters trailer to see if they were steaming soy, and they were indeed. I finished my festival day by sipping a rich soy cappuccino in the afternoon sun before we headed back home. All in all, I had a lovely and delicious day in the Mission and I can’t wait to go again next year.


Lentil and Wild Rice Soup

Lentil and Wild Rice SoupIt’s been a bit breezy here where I live lately, and that kind of weather always puts me in the mood for a big bowl of soup. I also have a pantry full of staples that’s been getting a little out of control. This soup put a good dent in my lentil, dry spice and seed stash, and it was tasty to boot. I served this with some homemade whole wheat biscuits and an arugula salad tossed with toasted hazelnuts and a fig balsamic vinaigrette.

Active prep: 10 minutes
Cooking time: under an hour
Attention needed: Occasional

1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced (include the leaves if you like them)
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced  (2 tsp if using crushed)
4 c vegetable broth + 4 cups water (or 8 cups water + 2 bouillon cubes), warmed
1 1/2 c brown or green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1/2 c wild rice, rinsed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or half a 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes; about 1 cup)
1 tsp dried marjoram (or 1 tbsp leaves if using fresh)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 fat sprig/2 small sprigs of fresh thyme, tossed in with stem)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
Juice from one half of a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil for finishing (optional)

Note: this batch of soup fits perfectly at all stages of cooking in my 4 quart soup pot, which is 8 inches in diameter and 7 inches tall)

Rinse and sort lentils and wild rice and set aside.

Sauté carrots, celery, and onion in olive oil over mediumheat for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions and celery are translucent and beginning to get very lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and stir for an additional minute.

Add the 8 cups of warmed water/stock, stirring enough to loosen any tasty bits on the bottom of the pot. Add lentils, wild rice, tomatoes, marjoram (if dried), thyme, bay leaves, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Let the soup cook gently for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender and the the wild rice has popped open.

If you’re using fresh marjoram, add it to the soup about 30 minutes into the cooking time.

You may need to add more liquid as the cook progresses, depending on the type of lentils you use, the rate of evaporation, and how thin you like your soup. I usually end up adding 2 additional cups of liquid. If you like your soups closer to the consistency of a side dish of lentils, 8 cups may be plenty. You may even prefer 7. 6 cups is about the minimum, in my opinion.

When the soup is finished cooking, add salt and black pepper to taste and the lemon juice. Remove the bay leaves (and fresh thyme sprigs if using), and finish the soup by stirring in an additional tablespoon of olive oil if you wish. Let the soup rest with the lid on for a few minutes, then serve.

Legume-based soups seem to drink up broth during fridge storage, so you’ll probably need to reheat any leftovers with a little additional water.

I’m off to Vida Vegan Con!

vvc-300-x-250I leave for Portland in a few hours to attend Vida Vegan Con 2013. I hear that it’s cold and rainy there, but a few vegan meals full of Soy Curls hopefully will make me forget about the yucky weather.

I should probably start finish packing. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share when I return!

Weekend pizza night

I love pizza. I’ve loved it as an omnivore, a vegetarian, as well as now as a vegan. For many, it’s all about the cheese. Even when I ate dairy cheese, it was always the crust that sold me. I’m particular about a crust with a good flavor and texture, but not so much about the style; I love a hand-tossed pizza just as well as I love a deep-dish pie with that delectable biscuit-like but yeast-raised crust.

When I’m making pizza at home, I rely on 00 flour, a slow rise, the smallest amount of yeast I need, and a really hot oven to maximize flavor. This is especially important when making a Neapolitan-style lean crust without oil or sugar in the dough. Sometimes I mix this kind of dough up the evening before and let it ferment slowly in the refrigerator. If it’s cool in the house, I’ll mix it up in the morning and cut back the yeast to slow things down and leave it to rise for several hours on the counter. You can even freeze the leftovers, though how anyone has pizza dough leftovers when there are garlic knots to be made eaten is simply beyond me.

This past weekend’s pizza was a different kind of treat though. I don’t usually have Chicago-style pizza that often anymore, but I had a craving for that lovely crust with that simple layer of seasoned tomatoes that cook down into a chunky sauce right on top of everything.

deep dish pizza

Pizza! Homemade vegan mozzarella, seasoned TVP, onions, fresh garlic, black olives, more vegan mozzarella, seasoned smashed tomatoes, and a dusting of vegan parmesan.

This pizza dough is quite different from the lean ones I usually make. It’s a short crust, more biscuit-like than bready, but leavened with yeast instead of baking powder. In addition to flour, yeast, salt, and water, this type of crust needs a little sugar and a lot of oil. I used 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) oil to 2 cups of flour, but I’ve seen suggestions of 3 tbsp per cup for the proper texture. Mine tasted pretty rich at the proportions I used, but if you’re feeling decadent, give it a go sometime.

The oil inhibits gluten development in the crust much like shortening or margarine in a biscuit. It also increases the rise time. I think I ended up fermenting this dough for five or six hours. These pies also take longer to cook than thin pizzas (about 30-35 minutes at 450° F/230° C for two pies in 8-inch cast iron skillets), but you have plenty of time for a beer while you wait.

Sweet cookie hangover

So, late last night, this happened.

Cranberry oatmeal cookie

Most folks find themselves ready for sleep at 12:15 am, if not already in bed. I, however, thought that nighttime=cookies, so I turned on the oven and used the remains of an open bag of dried cranberries to whip up a double batch of oatmeal goodness with a twist. I usually do these with raisins and cinnamon/nutmeg, but for these I switched out the raisins for cranberries, added some ginger, and topped it off with a splash of orange extract in addition to the vanilla paste I use in everything. I took my cue from the flavors I generally use when I’m making cranberry sauce from scratch.

I didn’t bother formulating my own recipe for the base cookie dough. The recipe in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar has always been good to me. I make them up with regular rolled oats instead of quick oats because I prefer the texture of the larger flakes. Other than that, I stick to the printed recipe and it hasn’t failed me. Seriously, these are some of the chewiest, tastiest oatmeal cookies I’ve had, vegan or otherwise, as long as you don’t overcook them. Like most cookies, I like to remove them from the oven just when they’re set almost all the way to the center, then leave them on the pan for about five minutes to finish firming up and cooling down.

Don’t let the image fool you. First, I did not make pie plate sized cookies this morning. That is a cocktail plate, and the cookies are about three inches in diameter. These are a bit larger than the original recipe specifies, so I added about three minutes per sheet to the listed cooking times. Second, one cookie is not a plated serving around here. Ahem. Well, maybe an 8-inch cookie.

Also, I didn’t eat one of these for breakfast. That’s my story.

Some days just call for noodles and sauce.

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for marinara and breadsticks. I usually have a freezer full of tomato sauce to pull out and defrost on those days when I just can’t be bothered to think up some dinner, or if I’m in the mood for homemade pizza. My “freezer sauce” is simmered forever until it is a deep red tomato color and reduced. Sometimes I cook it with wine. Occasionally I even put some in the sauce.

Other times, however, I’m in the mood for a lighter, “fresher” sauce, at least as fresh as you can get from a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes. And fresh basil. And homemade noochy breadsticks. And FYH (vegan) ranch dressing. And for heaven’s sake, easy. And it’s just by accident that I’m in the mood for this type of fast sauce when I’m fresh out of freezer sauce. I need to get on that, stat.

marinara and breadsticks

I don’t cook my marinara until it’s tomato-paste burgundy; it’s rather still bright red once it’s done. So it doesn’t involve a whole lot of babysitting. I basically cook it long enough to break down the sautéed onions and to release the aromatics in the garlic and the few stems of fresh thyme that I put in damn near everything. The fresh basil goes in toward the end, along with some salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar if you’re feeling fancy. It all comes together, including a trip through the food mill, in the time it takes for the breadsticks to finish baking in the oven.

Wot, you say?

I had my first Ethiopian food when I was 16. I was a bit skeptical, as the thought of wet stuff sitting on bread just ooged me out. My folks are rice people. Gravy and its associated wetness goes on rice, not on bread. I don’t even like my biscuits wet with gravy! Horrors.

Ethiopian food desertThankfully, my palate’s a bit more sophisticated these days, and I’m always willing to throw down on some stew-soaked injera these days. But unfortunately, I live the Ethiopian food wasteland known as the central San Francisco Bay Peninsula. You see that big, empty space on the land noodle between the two clusters of Yelp pins? That’s my wasteland. Boatloads of wot-free sadness.

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