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Vegan Food Paradise: Asheville Part 2

chestnut st inn

One of the best things about visiting Asheville, NC is that they speak “vegan.”  In addition to being home to a few all-vegan restaurants, there are also some vegetarian restaurants and many of the restaurants that do serve animal products, also feature clearly marked vegan options.  It is also a joy to stay at a bed and breakfast that can put out a delicious plant-based spread each morning without skipping a beat.  Such was the case at the Chestnut Street Inn (above) where four of us stayed for four nights recently.  The new owners, Emilie and Arturo, are a vibrant couple who made us feel at home in their gorgeous inn which is (strategically, in our case) located just a few blocks from Plant (see previous post), so we had an enjoyable 5 minute walk to dinner on two of the evenings.

Among the delicious meals Emilie prepared for us was a garden scramble over whole-grain toast served with vegan sausage and topped with creamy avocado:

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The next morning we were treated to some of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had topped with a warm apple compote:

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Emilie also prepared her take on a vegan Benedict which was outstanding:

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And on our final morning we had the most amazing waffles that featured berries, coconut yogurt, and a cinnamon-sugar “crunch” on the edges:

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Each breakfast began with a fruit course — my favorite was this pineapple and kiwi plate:

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There were also homemade vegan cookies put out for us each day!  What a treat!

Other culinary highlights of the trip (besides Plant, of course!) included lunch at Bean Vegan Cuisine where we wanted to try everything on the menu but settled on one of the burgers (not shown), the Reuben, the cheese-steak special, and a brunch bowl with carrot bacon:

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Other stops included a visit to Rosetta’s Kitchen where we had dinner with friends (all six of us ordered the “family favorite” featuring Peanut butter baked tofu, sautéed kale, and smashed potatoes and gravy.

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We also had a great meal at Doc Chey’s Noodle House where we feasted on some of the best noodle bowls I’ve ever had including the rice noodles with black bean sauce and vegetable lo-mein with tofu:

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Quite simply, Asheville is a vegan food paradise.

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Plant is Food-tastic: Asheville Part I

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We just returned from what has become an annual pilgrimage to the vegan food mecca of Asheville NC.  We had such a great time traveling with our besties, Elissa and Bill, and enjoying everything that Asheville has to offer.  There is way too much goodness to cover in one blog post, so I’m going to do two separate posts, beginning with the main reason for our yearly trek: to dine at Plant and enjoy the sublime creations of chef-owner, Jason Sellers.

Each time we visit Asheville, Plant is always our first and last dinner destination. During the span of time between visits, I find myself dreaming about the Jerusalem Artichoke appetizer and so this is the first thing we all ordered on our first night. Served on a lemon cream and topped with crispy sweet potato chips and punctuated with an Italian salsa verde, this is one of the most incredibly delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.

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We also couldn’t resist the amazing uttapam, with its soy-ginger syrup, avocado, and sesame-peanut dukka. With three of these rolls to an order, it can easily be a main dish, but we enjoyed it as an appetizer.

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For our entree, Jason graciously agreed to make us another dish of his that I had been craving — seitan with romesco sauce served on a bed of cauliflower mash with grilled asparagus and topped with pickled onion.  Words cannot do justice to the complexity and deliciousness of this dish.  Let’s just call it perfection and leave it at that.

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Even though we were totally full from dinner, we couldn’t pass up dessert.  Jon and I shared this slice of carrot cake (with cream cheese frosting, walnuts, and candied ginger) and it was a sublime way to end the meal.

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Fast forward to our last night in town and our final meal at Plant (for this trip).  While I couldn’t resist another chance to enjoy my favorite appetizer again, Jon got the grilled beets with horseradish mayo and I have to admit they are every bit as amazing as the Jerusalem artichokes. I never before tasted such naturally sweet beets and the grilled finish and creamy sauce elevated this humble root vegetable to a new level. And how gorgeous does this look?

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For an entree, I forced myself to step out of my seitan obsession and ordered the tofu bibimbap.  The flavor layers just keep coming on this beautiful dish!

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Other dishes at our table included the current seitan iteration, a delicious seitan chile con queso, served with a tamale and grilled vegetables:

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And, the fantastic applewood-smoked porto’house with v1 steak sauce — what I call a “portobello mushroom done right” — served with garlicky greens, a seared millet cake, and fennel salad. Wowza.

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This evening’s delicious house-made desserts included a green tea and mint ice cream (perfect after the bibimbap) and this lovely creme brulee.

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Once again Jason and his wonderful staff totally outdid themselves with some of the best food we’ve ever eaten anywhere.  I don’t know how I’ll manage to wait an entire year before returning! If you’ve eaten at Plant, you’ll understand why I am smitten.  If you’ve never been there, all I can say is: what are you waiting for??  Plant is Food-tastic!

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Kapow Tofu for Mother’s Day

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If my cats could cook, I’d want them to make me this Ka-pow Tofu for Mother’s Day.  Since I know that’s not going to happen, and I know I’m not going to drive for an hour to the nearest Thai restaurant on Sunday, I guess I’ll be doing the cooking (as usual).  I’ll let Jon have some, but none for the cats.  They don’t like spicy foods.  Instead my little darlings can let me celebrate Mother’s Day and their birthdays all on the same day.  Since I don’t know any of their actual birthdays, I always celebrate them on Mother’s Day because these fur babies (Gary and Mitzki and Simon and Benny Mae) are the greatest gifts I could ever ask for.

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Now here’s that recipe in case you want to try it — it’s from 100 Best Vegan Recipes.  I hope you enjoy!

“Ka-Pow” Tofu

Serves 4

When I order tofu kaprao in my favorite Thai restaurant, I know it will contain the wonderfully fragrant Thai basil.  I also know it will pack a spicy punch, so I’ve come to call it “ka-pow.”  Serve over jasmine rice.  If the sublime Thai basil is unavailable, there’s no exact substitute, although you could use regular basil or cilantro and still have a tasty meal.  Vegan oyster sauce (sold as vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom soy sauce) is available at Asian markets or online. If you can’t find it, leave it out and add a little extra soy sauce.

1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided

1 sweet yellow onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

3 scallions, chopped

1/2 cup Thai basil leaves

 

Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the cornstarch, and toss to coat.  Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. (The amount of red pepper flakes you use will depend on how hot they are and how spicy you like your food.) Stir well to combine and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the reserved tofu and cook until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet. Add the onion and bell pepper and stir-fry until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the scallion and cook 1 minute longer.  Stir in the reserved tofu, the reserved sauce, and the basil and stir-fry until hot, about 3 minutes.

100 Best Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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Isn’t it amazing how there seems to be a special day for everything? Happily, today is National Coffee Cake Day!  And have I got a coffee cake recipe worth celebrating.  It’s the Sour Cream Coffee Cake from my new book, 100 Best Vegan Recipes.  It really is perfect with a cup of coffee (or tea, if you prefer!) I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. (Thanks to Zsu Dever for the photo of the cake.)

A favor to ask:  If you have 100 Best Vegan Recipes, I’d be most grateful if you would post a brief review of it on Amazon.  Many thanks!

 

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

Serves 8 to 10

A tube pan or Bundt pan will give this cake a classic “coffee cake” look, but you can also bake it in a 9- x 13-inch baking pan if that’s what you’ve got.

Recipe is from 100 Best Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson (c) 2016.

 

3/4 cup chopped walnuts pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 cups sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 (12-ounce) package firm silken tofu

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup vegan butter

 

  1. Grease a pan and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, cinnamon, and 3/4 cup of the sugar and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and set aside.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla, and blend until smooth. 4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, combine the butter with the remaining 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture and the reserved tofu mixture and beat on a low speed until blended. Increase the speed to medium, and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. Spread half of the reserved nut mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread half of the batter in the pan and sprinkle with the remaining half of the nut mixture. Spread the remaining batter evenly over the top of the nut mixture.
  5. Bake until firm, approximately about 60 minutes. When the cake is completely cool, turn it out of the pan and onto a plate.

 

100 Best Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson

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chimichurri asparagus 100 best

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and I make it often the spring when prices are lower.  While I always roast asparagus (because it tastes best that way!), I don’t always serve it the same way.  Often, it is relegated to side dish, lightly seasoned with just a squeeze of lemon as an accompaniment to a seitan or tofu dish.  But I also like to feature it prominently in stir-fries or pasta dishes featuring more assertive flavors such as the chimichurri sauce in this recipe.

Loaded with flavor, chimichurri sauce is a Brazilian condiment made with garlic and parsley.  It’s easy to make but can also be found in jars in most supermarkets if you’re in a hurry.  Either way, this dish pulls together quickly, using cooked or canned white beans.  It’s equally good served over cooked rice or quinoa or tossed with hot cooked pasta. (Thanks to Zsu Dever for the great photo!)

Happy Spring!

CHIMICHURRI WHITE BEANS AND ROASTED ASPARAGUS

Serves 4

This recipe is from my new book, 100 Best Vegan Recipes.

 

1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Pinch of sugar

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pinch of sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup water

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° degrees F. In a bowl, combine the asparagus and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat. Spread the asparagus on a baking pan and roast until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. In a small food processor, combine the garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Process to a paste. Add the vinegar and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Process until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the beans and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until hot. When the asparagus is roasted, transfer it to the saucepan with the beans. Add the reserved sauce and mix gently to combine. Serve hot.

 

100 Best Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson

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Corned Seitan and Cabbage

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Not like you need an excuse, but St Patrick’s Day is always a good reason to make the Corned Seitan and Cabbage from Vegan on the Cheap.  Another good reason to make it is for the great Reuben sandwiches that happen with the leftovers. This year I was so in the mood for the corned seitan that I made it a few days ahead of schedule.  I always make it in a slow cooker because the long slow cooking time makes all the veggies taste great and the seitan cooked in the slow cooker has a wonderful texture.

I previously posted the recipe for Corned Seitan and Cabbage (from my cookbook, Vegan on the Cheap) but this year I made a few minor tweaks to the recipe, so I’m sharing the latest version.  And here’s a pic one of the bonus Reuben sandwiches:

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Corned Seitan and Cabbage

You will need a large oval slow cooker to make this recipe as written. Adapted from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson © 2010.

1 large sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped

2 large carrots, cut diagonally into thin slices

1 small head cabbage, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices, reserving 2 large outer leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups vital wheat gluten

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 1/2 cup vegetable broth, divided

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse brown mustard

3 tablespoons pickled beet juice (optional but recommended)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons pickling spices

1 pound small red potatoes, halved

  1. Lightly oil the insert of a large oval slow cooker or spray it with cooking spray. Arrange the onion, carrots, and sliced cabbage in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the two reserved cabbage leaves on top of the vegetables.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the vital wheat gluten, onion powder, coriander, allspice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Add 1 cup of the broth, the soy sauce, the 1 teaspoon of mustard, beet juice, and vinegar. Mix well, adding more of the broth, a little at a time if the mixture is too dry, then knead for 2 minutes until it is a smooth doughy mass. Shape the seitan to fit inside your cooker. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons mustard and the sugar and stir until well blended, then spread evenly on top of the seitan. Sprinkle the pickling spices on top, pressing them into the mustard mixture to make them adhere.
  4. Carefully place the seitan in the cooker on top of the cabbage leaves. Arrange the potatoes around the seitan. Pour the remaining broth over the potatoes and season them with salt and pepper. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on Low until the seitan is firm and the vegetables are tender, 7 to 8 hours. To serve, allow the seitan to sit for about 10 minutes, then thinly slice with a serrated knife. Serve with the veggies.

 

Note: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can bake it in the oven. If you have a roasting pan large enough to hold everything, arrange everything in there and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until the seitan is firm to the touch and the vegetables are tender. Otherwise, you can use two separate baking pans and bake the seitan separately from the vegetables. Be sure to cover the baking pan with the seitan tightly with foil and pour about 1 inch of the liquid in the bottom of the pan with the seitan to help steam-bake it.

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