Photos by JP Bevins

Chef Dan Strong is co-owner of one of New York City’s most sought-after food stands. I’ve waited on many a long line for Chickpea & Olive’s famed Phatty Beet Slider as earlier customers walk by groaning in pleasure. With his partner Danielle Ricciardi, the duo are one of the city’s power couples reshaping the gastronomic landscape.  In this third installment of LÄRABAR’s Healthy Hero series, we spend an afternoon with Chef Strong as he shares an amazing mazemen recipe and features a cherry pie LÄRABAR crusted Zabaglione. We get to hear what inspires this butcher-turned-vegan chef, what frustrates and calls to him, and we even get some insight into what he soon plans to ferment.


Joshua Katcher: I’ve eaten your food and it’s awesome. What is your creative process for developing new foods?
Chef Dan Strong:
Inspiration, procrastination, exasperation, coffee, serve the first draft, and keep adjusting until I have a recipe. Often Danielle and I will find a recipe for something we miss and then I will try to rebuild each piece. For thanksgiving I found a Bon Appetit recipe for cornbread stuffing with pears and banger sausage. So first step, find an authentic cornbread recipe and test it until I have a solid vegan version. Then I turn to the next piece. I imagine it’s like any of the creative processes that I can’t do: draw on inspiration, figure out how to make it authentic, and then adapt it to reflect a noble truth.


JK: Chickpea & Olive has a huge following. What is it like to maintain such a sought-after brand in New York City?
It’s an honor. I go into work everyday and feel obligated to make each dish better than it was the day before. I don’t know if I’m always successful, but I always try. Maybe it’s a little salt on the bread, or the three layers of sauce on our phatty melt, or a little extra sear on the burger. I like to think that those little details get translated to our customers. They might not be able to put their finger on what made their sandwich “so good”, but they have to go tell their friends about it.


JK: The mainstream culinary community seems to look down upon vegan cuisine, yet so many exciting things are happening with it. How do you account for this disconnect?
Change always starts when the artists pick it up. Next, Alinea, Picholine, Gramercy Tavern, Del Posto, Per Se…. Every one of them has a vegan tasting menu. Jean George Vongerichten is opening a plant based restaurant. I see that the food culture is moving in that direction, but I’m still frustrated every time someone looks at our menu and sneers. But hey, the way I see it, the 6th mass extinction is already underway. Why grumble?


JK: Tell us about the food you made today.
We have a buckwheat somen mazemen in miso-shiitake gravy, with pan roasted mushrooms, okra, bokchoy, snow peas, and grilled tempeh in a chili black bean marinade. For dessert we went Italian with a cashew zabaglione, and we used LÄRABAR for the crust.

Buckwheat Mazemen (family size)


• 8 quarts water
• 1 pound dry shiitake mushrooms or 2 pounds mushroom stems
• 1/2c Shiro miso

Tempeh marinade:
• 1/4c spicy black bean paste
• 1/4c stir fry sauce
• 2tbsp soy sauce
• 2tbsp peanut oil

2lb soba noodles

1/2lb each:
• Okra, trimmed and split in half
• bokchoy, cleaned and cut in cross-sections
• snow peas
• tempeh

1/4lb each:
• oyster mushrooms, rough chopped
• shiittake mushrooms, rough chopped

• 1 shallot, diced
• 6 cloves garlic, diced
• 1 inch ginger, diced








1. Bring water to a simmer, and add the miso and the mushroom stems. Toast half of the chopped garlic, shallots, and ginger in a pan with a little oil until caramelized and add to the pot of water. Simmer for 1 hour.

2. cut tempeh into 1 inch cubes and marinate over night, or at least for a few hours. assemble on a lined sheet tray and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.

3. pan roast the mushrooms with oil in batches until golden brown, seasoning each batch with salt. Toast the remaining garlic, ginger, and shallots until caramelized and toss all of the mushrooms back into the pan. Stir until the mushrooms and aromatics are fully incorporated.

4. remove the mushrooms stems from the broth with a spider or strainer and bring the broth to a boil. Blanch the snow peas, the bokchoy and the okra in the broth in batches, removing each ingredient after and running under cold water. This step is especially important for the okra.

5. cook the noodles in the broth for 5-6 minutes and remove a portion to each serving bowl. Return the vegetables to the broth, add the mushrooms and let the pot return to a simmer, then ladle the broth over the noodles. Garnish with the baked tempeh.



JK: You used LÄRABAR to make a really good dessert. What about LÄRABAR do you like? Do you have a favorite flavor?
 LÄRABARs are simple, delicious, and remind me of many of my favorite desserts. I ate the blueberry muffin today, it was excellent, but peanut butter cookie is my favorite.

Larabar-Crusted Cashew Zabaglione


• 1  cup water
• 1/2 cup cashews
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 tbsp marsala
• 1 cherry larabar

1. combine everything but the larabar in a high speed blender and puree until creamy. transfer the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil. set aside.

2. place the larabar in between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out with a rolling pin or a bottle of marsala wine until its about an 8th of an inch thick. line the inside of a ramekin with the larabar roll-up. press into the corners.

3. pour the cashew mixture into the ramekin and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours until the custard sets.

4. garnish with marsala wine reduction or sprinkle with caster sugar and brûlée with a torch.



JK: Where do you get most inspired when buying ingredients?
In my early days I used to wander the markets in Chinatown for inspiration. Nowadays I go mushroom foraging whenever I have a chance. When I don’t have time for all of that I go to union square farmers market. Lani’s farm has an amazing organic selection with all sorts of weird looking root vegetables, and sweet berry mountain farms has something in the order of 6 varieties of heirloom fingerling potatoes. The German butterballs are incredible.


JK: Have you discovered any new foods that you’re excited about using?
Not so much “using” as making. We have started along hummus recently, and that project has gotten me interested in other packaged products. I want to start fermenting pickles and cheeses, and I found a tofu misozuke recipe that I’m excited about. LÄRABAR was fun to use as well. The ingredients like date, cherry and almond, are fantastic for chefs because they’re simple and versatile. They’re great on their own, but in this case it was a convenient way to make a tasty, gluten-free crust.

JK: Aside from gastronomy, what else do you spend time doing?
Binging on NPR, yoga, fantasy novels, and therapy.


JK: What must we all try? (Food or not)
If I had my chance to be a dictator? Everyone would have mandatory therapy. I also think everyone should try a plant based diet. I’m vegan because as I see it veganism is a form of protest. The plant based diet that comes with that protest has made me healthier than I’ve ever been.

JK: What does the future hold for Chickpea & Olive?
Fast casual restaurants, tinned and potted products, packaged dips and spreads. And then I want to diverge and try to do a trattoria, a bistro, and a noodle shop. Danielle wants a juice bar and a raw shop. Maybe also a saprophytic mushroom farm! And a creamery! And a cheese cellar! But I digress.


RECIPE: Lunch Trio


This lunch features Butternut squash with trumpet mushrooms, shallots & tempeh, a Boston lettuce wedge with cheesy horseradish mustard dressing, and a hearts of palm salad w/ tomatoes, capers & olives. Make any one of these, or go for the triple-threat with all three. I used all organic ingredients.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (serves 2):

Squash & Trumpet Tower
• 1 medium-large butternut squash (already baked, or 1 can of puree)
• 3 large king trumpet mushrooms
• 1 large shallot
• 1 cup of tempeh
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• 1 cup of vegetable stock (or one cube unsalted bullion)


1. If your squash is baked, simply scoop out the flesh. If not, use a can of squash puree.
2. Chop the mushrooms, shallots, and tempeh.
3. Bring a large pan to medium heat, and add the mushrooms, shallot and tempeh.
4. Slowly add the vegetable stock, letting it cook off each time. If you run out of stock, simply use water. This deglazes the pan and releases some fantastic flavors due to caramelization.
5. Once the mushrooms, shallots and tempeh have softened and turned golden, add the squash and continue adding water or stock slowly.
6. Add the nutritional yeast which will help  thicken the mixture. Remove from heat.
7. If desired, spoon into a hollow ring or small bowl to mold for presentation.

• 1/2 Head of Boston Lettuce
• tablespoon of horseradish
• 2 tablespoons mustard (I used deli-style)
• 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• Black Pepper to taste


1. Remove the outer leaves of the Boston lettuce, then slice into quarters. Rise clean and rest facing down so water drains.
2. In a small bowl combine the horseradish, mustard and vinegar. This is the dressing.
3. Plate the lettuce. Using a spoon, apply the dressing to the wedges. Top with nutritional yeast and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Palm Salad
• 1 Can of Hearts of Palm
• 1/2 cup small tomatoes (cherry or grape)
• 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
• 1 tablespoon of capers
• 1 tablespoon cashew cream cheese ( I used Dr. Cow, but any vegan cream cheese can be used)


1. Chop the hearts of palm, slice the tomatoes and olives.
2. In a bowl mix everything including the capers and cashew cream cheese.
3. Serve cold.


Red Wine Horseradish Seitan


I love gluten. Praise Seitan and all that. Give me a giant hunk of seitan to work with and I’ll make a tender, marinated, succulent slab of wheat-meat that satisfies. I experimented with Blackbird Foods Seitan recently and made a red-wine and horseradish marinated seitan with caramelized onions over mung bean pasta in a chanterelle red-sauce. Here’s how I made it:

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (serves 2):
• 1/2 lb of Seitan, pulled apart, not cut
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 Tbs horseradish
• 1 cup of any red wine
• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
• 1/2 package of mung bean pasta
• 1 cup chanterelle red sauce
• 1-2 cups vegetable stock


1.  Combine the horseradish with the red wine, and in a bowl, bathe the seitan in the mixture. Let sit for 10 minutes while following the next steps.

2.  Bring a large saute pan (I prefer cast iron) to medium-high heat, and a separate pot of water (for the pasta) to boil.

3.  Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic to the pan and add a little bit of veg stock instead of oil. As the pan dries, continue to add more stock. This will continue to deglaze the pan (turn everything dried back to a savory broth), and keep things lubricated while adding a lot of flavor.

4. Put the mung bean pasta in the water, and cook until desired tenderness is reached. Mung bean pasta has a similar texture and bounce to egg noodles, and it is difficult to overcook them, so feel free to let them get very tender.

5. Once the onions and garlic have begun to turn golden, pour in the seitan/wine/horseradish on top.

6. Bring heat down to medium, and let it simmer, occasionally stirring and flipping the seitan.

7. Once the liquids have evaporated, continue to cook until everything is golden. slowly add the remaining vegetable stock, and deglaze the pan until all liquids have been used up.

8. Strain the pasta, and add the chanterelle sauce.

9. Serve the seitan atop the pasta, add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cups in 4 Steps


Matcha, cinnamon, cracked pepper, salted and plain dark chocolate peanut butter cups in 4 steps:

  1. 1. Double-boil a bag of dark chocolate chips with a teaspoon of coconut oil added.
  2. 2. In a bowl, mix peanut butter with powdered sugar, vanilla and then form into 1.5″ disks in your palm.
  3. 3. Put one tablespoon of the melted chocolate into cupcake papers, then the PB disks, then cover with another tablespoon of chocolate.
  4. 4. Garnish with seasonings or leave plain, and refrigerate until hard. I used green-tea matcha powder, cinnamon, cracked black pepper, pink salt, and cayenne for the PB cups above.

• Try this recipe with any nut butter, and any toppings you can think of! Almond butter cup with dried blueberries? Cashew butter cup with cacao nibs? Sunflower butter cup with granola? Yes please.
Double-boil means put a dry pot with the choc. chips inside a bigger pot with hot water. This prevents the chocolate from burning or drying out.
• You can powder your own sugar, coconut sugar, maple sugar, or any granulated sweetener  but using a coffee-bean grinder or food processor.

What flavor combo will you try? Leave a comment below.

Just in time for the holidays, a vegan Bailey’s recipe!

by Paul Jarvis

This recipe is from my cookbook, Eat Awesome (use the link to get it for 50% off).

I don’t drink, but a lot of my friends do and they love this concoction. It tends to get whipped up and pulled out around Christmas, but really, it can be great for any occasion (Tuesday is a good occasion, for example). I have no idea how long this lasts in the fridge, since it tends to disappear really quickly.

Serve on ice, use in coffee, or keep in your (secret) flask.



  • • Coconut milk
  • • Maple syrup
  • • Vanilla extract
  • • Espresso
  • • Whisky
  • • Cocoa powder


  1. 1. Combine a can of coconut milk with a couple squirts of maple syrup, a few teaspoons of vanilla extract, 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 2-3 shots of espresso (or 1⁄2 a cup of strong coffee). Add in whisky to taste, usually 1-2 cups.
  2. 2. Blend until smooth. Taste to adjust sweetness and alcohol content.
  3. 3. Serve chilled and store in a sealed container in the fridge.