Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Reuben Round Up

Yarp!?, a new food cart at the ever-increasingly vegan-friendly food cart hub at SE Hawthorne and 12th, recently announced a vegetarian, mushroom-based reuben. Right now their dressing is not vegan though...but I like the idea of more mushroom-based reubens emerging. According to their blog, they are working at concocting more vegan options, so surely a vegan reuben is on the horizon.

If you find yourself in Minneapolis/St. Paul, check out the Hard Times Cafe, which serves many a vegan and vegetarian sandwich, including a tempeh reuben. See the newspaper from earlier this month here.

Apparently the midwest is rocking the food carts as well. Madison rag "The Daily Page" clues us in on a cart called The Dandelion, which serves up its own mushroom reuben (Portobello, to be exact).

Speaking of portobellos, here is a reuben recipe I stumbled across, though while we may question the use of Swiss cheese and the typographical aptitude of the scribe, might provide some inspiration for a new twist on the classic.

And another article for you, here a Fort Collins journalist waxes ecstatic in his review of Tasty Harmony, a raw and vegan joint that also offers, you guessed it, a tempeh reuben.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Veganization: Nearly Normal's in Corvallis, OR

Though Corvallis is obviously not Portland, it gives me great joy to finally review this reuben, which I have been in pursuit of for at least a year. Orchestrating a successful sampling of course was not that hard -- Nearly Normal's eluded me more than once simply because B. and I typically found ourselves in Corvallis over the weekend and found it difficult to grasp that a place seemingly so appropriate for brunch would be closed on Sundays. Now that we both no longer have strict schedules, we were able to pop in a Thursday morning to try it out. Luckily, Nearly Normal's serves their lunch menu all day, though breakfast stops at 2 pm.

For all its creative menu naming and apparently hippie history, Normal's is not nearly as odd as I was expecting. After ordering at the counter, we sat upstairs in a comfy, well-lit dining room that could have been in any other breakfast establishment. I appreciated that the menu had a little laminated mini menu-guide to let you know what you could eat, or easily modify to order, if you were vegan or gluten-free. This confirmed that the only non-vegan aspect of the tempeh reuben was the cheese. I didn't bother to ask to sub avocado for cheese, as avocado on the menu was $1.95 to add and I noticed a little note posted on the cash register that dictated which substitutions were free -- avocado for cheese was not (though tamari tofu for eggs is, if you ever go in for breakfast, the menu is not explicit about this).

The tempeh reuben at Nearly Normal's is "seasoned tempeh" on a light deli rye with lettuce, tomato, stoneground mustard and kraut. B., who is becoming a bit of a reuben purist, of course was not that happy with the tomato, not to mention the lack of sauce. But he agreed that the bread was good, the tempeh was exceptional, and the kraut was good both in taste and portion size. I agreed on all those three counts, but also found myself not missing the dressing, surprisingly enough. As it was the sandwich was crunchy yet pliable and juicy -- dressing might have made it a bit too messy. The stoneground mustard was pungent and the seasoning which coated the exterior of the tempeh was wonderful. Admittedly, the sandwich was slightly dry. This was assisted by the tomato and lettuce but I think avocado would have made this sandwich a true home run (and probably bumped the rating up a good point). The sandwich came with a copious amount of decent chips, but sadly, no pickle.

Nearly Normal's
109 NW 15th Street, Corvallis, Oregon
Open approximately 8 or 9 am to 8 or 9 pm, except for Sundays (check the website).
Tempeh reuben, no cheese, runs you about $8.

We give it a 3. Though the tempeh was skillfully seasoned, the portions were generous, and the service was friendly and amendable, B. disapproved of the use of mustard instead of dressing, and though it would have be wonderful with avocado to replace the cheese, that undoubtedly would have upped the price quite a bit. I have to admit though, if someone were to ask me to choose between Nearly Normal's tempeh reuben and the one found at nearby Cafe Yumm, I'd be torn. Though Cafe Yumm, with their vegan button on the cash register, yields a better Veganization, Nearly Normal's scores points for the tasty, hefty tempeh portion and kraut. Cafe Yumm does have a delicious, delicious vegan reuben sauce -- if only their tempeh was moister and more flavorful. It's really hard for me to say. You'll have to try them both for yourself!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Update: Papa G's Organic Vegan Deli

Last summer, B. and I reviewed the tempeh reuben at Papa G's, then a relatively new all vegan, all organic restaurant in Southeast. At 5.99, the modest sandwich didn't seem like a great deal, but I appreciate Papa G's dedication to fresh, organic and local ingredients, despite the fact that those often come at a price.

Whereas before the only sandwiches available at Papa G's were found in the deli case, wrapped in plastic, recently the establishment announced hot, made to order sandwiches. Check out their website for an updated menu (and a coupon for 10% off). The tempeh reuben is an option, now 2 bucks more (though the ala carte sandwich is still available for $5.99). The menu says the hot sandwiches come with "gigantic chips" but I can only assume this isn't the only change. Undoubtedly a freshly-made sandwich will taste better, but I hope they also add more kraut and maybe jazz it up in some way, though the description sounds just like the burger-like reuben we tried back then. I encourage folks to stop by and check it out, maybe drop us a comment to let us know what the deal is. Whether in search of a reuben or not, it seems like the expansion definitely merits a visit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daiya Cheese

On vacation, perusing the blogs, I've learned of a new vegan cheese that almost sounds too good to be true. Here's a pic from Vegansaurus' product review.

Daiya apparently has great melty, stretchy texture and cheesy flavor. I don't usually go for fake cheeses, but the fact that this product seems to have very natural ingredients (like cassava) and is not soy-based, makes it pretty attractive. It's produced in Canada, and until recently was only found in Vancouver restaurants such as the Naam. We're headed back to Vancouver in a couple weeks -- even though we've already reviewed the Naam's reuben, might be worth dropping in try it again, as previously the Naam didn't offer vegan cheese (only real cheese, and a non-vegan fake cheese).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tamarind Reubens with Zukay Relish and Avocado Spread

The school year is winding down. I have much more free time, but I'm also anticipating being gone from North Carolina for three full months. So this means packing up all my belongings yet again, and the requisite cleaning out of the fridge and freezer. Ever since I got my Blendtec, I've loved making a quick, easy tamarind sauce from water and wet tamarind for Indian and Mexican-influenced cooking. My wet tamarind lives in the fridge though, along with my ever-ripening tub of miso, so I'm using them both up as quickly as I can. Tamarind is tangy and flavorful, and seems like it could go great with tempeh. Hence, the inspiration for this marinade.

Tamarind Reuben Marinade

2 cups water
3 tablespoons wet tamarind
2 tablespoons miso paste
6 stems of fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon of paprika
several grinds black pepper

I blended all ingredients, except the spices, in my Blendtec until smooth. I ended up adding more water (hence the 2 cups, originally it was only 1/2 cup) because I thought the marinade was too thick. If you don't have a high-powered blender or access to wet tamarind, you can purchase tamarind concentrate or tamarind juice in a well-stocked Asian market. Also, if you lack a strong enough blender, press the garlic and finely chop the cilantro. Stir the spices in last. Cut tempeh in half and carefully slice length-wise as well, to make smaller slabs. Place in a flat pan or Pyrex dish and pour the marinade over the dish. This marinade more than covered all the of the tempeh. Let sit in the fridge at least 24 hours.

I also had some avocado pureed with lime juice in the freezer. Though it's a popular cheese substitute when eating out, I don't often use avocado on reubens at home. However, when I had an overabundance of cheap avocados recently, this seemed like a no-brainer. Though I usually whip up some type of Russian or Thousand Island dressing, being pressed for time, and not wishing to purchase new ingredients, I settled for a stoneground mustard instead.

Next, we have two varieties of Zukay relish to test on our reubens. Zukay graciously sent me both their cucumber relishes as well as a mild and a hot salsa. The first cucumber relish is garlic dill relish, and consists basically just of cucumber, apple cider vinegar, the requisite seasonings and live cultures. There is also a horseradish dill relish. This relish is unique from kraut in that it is "live" and raw. As a fan of raw and cultured vegan foods (such as kombucha and kimchi) I'm excited at the chance to pair these condiments with my favorite sandwich.

In a unique turn of events, this is the first reuben review where B. and I are joined by someone...other than B. and I. We had two pals, one vegan, one not, join us for this meal. Though I didn't plan it this way in advance (I wouldn't normally test a reuben recipe out on folks other than myself and B.) I thought this was fortunate, a chance to inject some new insight into this blog, and especially, to get a survey on a product we were sampling for the first time.

In terms of the Zukay relishes, we were evenly split between favoring the horseradish variety or the garlic. The best thing about both relishes was the fresh, cucumber flavor. Though I loved the taste, I realized I may have been a little misguided in thinking they were great for reubens, because the relish is fairly liquidy, as relishes tend to be. Post-sandwiches, we enjoyed small amounts of the relish alone on bread. I liked the horseradish best, because although the horseradish flavor itself is not noticeable, this relish has a sort of deep, earthy flavor. One other member of our party also liked the horseradish better, but said it was because he likes the cucumber flavor, and it comes through more in the horseradish version. B. and our other friend ranked the garlic higher than horseradish, I think mostly due to the complaint that you couldn't really taste horseradish in that relish.

In terms of the reuben itself, I liked the flavors, especially the creaminess of the avocado spread and the garlicky dill flavor of the relish, but by the time I was done wandering about the house trying to get a good picture despite a paucity of natural light, my bread was soaked through. (For this experiment, we used up the ends of two loaves--both of which I've blogged about in the past. The remnants had lived in my freezer until this opportunity). I couldn't really judge the marinade very well; I felt its flavor was obscured by the generous amount of relish I had applied. B. liked the tamarind flavor ("sort of citrusy") and credited that to the fact he used less relish than I did.

The general consensus that though it was a tasty sandwich, it strayed a little far from a reuben. It lacked both the crispy, chewy texture of the cabbage and the creaminess of the Russian or Thousand Island dressing (the latter of which, I can only blame on my lack of preparedness). B. in particular has been vocal in the past that it is not really a reuben unless it has a creamy dressing; my friend was in agreement, but also in the case of the use of dill relish instead of kraut. He believes kraut, its texture and saltiness, are crucial to a reuben; of course, he was the first to admit that since he doesn't eat vegan reubens regularly, he may be less appreciative of iterations that stray from the traditional. B. did concede that the moistness of tempeh was good, which was probably due to the large amount of marinade that kept the tempeh completely submerged during baking. We wondered if maybe in the future we should try baking the tempeh in a covered pan.

This was the best picture we could get. Sorry. Tamarind tempeh, Zukay relish, avocado spread and stoneground mustard on light deli rye. On the side, a version of this salad from Fat Free Vegan (I used lime juice instead of orange and omitted the nuts and orange segments -- quite tasty, still!).

It wasn't until later that I had the notion that Zukay relish would have been an ideal ingredient in a Thousand Islands dressing. If I'd had ketchup or another tomato base on hand, we could have mixed relish and a few other ingredients with it and had a wonderful dressing. Since B. and I are leaving town shortly, the remainder of the relish got packed up and sent on with one of my friends who was having a vegetarian/vegan grill out the next day. (It received high praise there as well).

Since so many of the foods utilized in this post were stored in the freezer until the opportunity arose to put them to good use, I feel compelled to link to this Bittman article you probably have already seen. I'd also like to let you know about Veggie Thing, which seems like a great new online resource for vegans nationwide.

I'll post again soon, with some dispatches from Portland!

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Round-Up

"...indisputable evidence..."?

...that vegan leprechauns do exist?

Wedding season is coming up, and here's a resource for vegan wedding hors d'oeuvres-- I have to admit, the "Mini Open-Faced Vegan Reubens" sound pretty good, and apparently can be frozen for later.

You, too, can finally enjoy vegan reubens, while camping!

I feel tempeh reubens are a bit over-represented on this blog, so here's another tofu one for you, at My Veggie Kitchen.

Lastly, I was happy to see this inventive and tasty new recipe pop up. Thanks, Rhymes with Vegan!