HEALTHY HERO: CHEF DAN STRONG

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0750
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.

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0608

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.

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0777BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0599

JK: Chickpea & Olive has a huge following. What is it like to maintain such a sought-after brand in New York City?
DS:
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.

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0659

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?
DS:
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?

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0680

JK: Tell us about the food you made today.
DS:
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)

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0890

Broth:
• 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

Aromatics:
• 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.

 

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0709

JK: You used LÄRABAR to make a really good dessert. What about LÄRABAR do you like? Do you have a favorite flavor?
DS:
 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


BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0906

• 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.

 

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0867

JK: Where do you get most inspired when buying ingredients?
DS:
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.

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0918

JK: Have you discovered any new foods that you’re excited about using?
DS:
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?
DS:
Binging on NPR, yoga, fantasy novels, and therapy.

BraveGentleman_Lara_20141114_0823

JK: What must we all try? (Food or not)
DS:
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?
DS:
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.

 

White Bean Pasta with Garlicky White Wine Sauce

WhiteBeanPasta

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (serves 4):

  • 2 cups brown rice pasta (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup green kale
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 16oz. cans white beans
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbs olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Begin Bringing a large oiled skillet to medium heat, using the olive oil.
  2. Begin Bringing a medium pot of water to a boil, using 1tsp of salt.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the onion and dice the garlic
  4. Put the onion and garlic in the skillet until golden and tender.
  5. While the onion and garlic are cooking, add your pasta to the water, and let boil until al dente, then drain.
  6. Once the onion and garlic  have become golden, add the white beans, salt, nutritional yeast and italian seasoning to the skillet.
  7. Pour the white wine into the hot skillet and let it reduce over medium heat for about 5 – 8 minutes.
  8. Once the pasta is tender, drain and add to the skillet, gently stirring the ingredients together.
  9. Dice the kale, and add to the mixture.
  10. Serve hot, add salt & pepper to taste.

Pumpkin Pockets with Smoky Seitan, Mushroom Mousse, & Braised Apple

I tested this recipe out for thanksgiving, and it was a huge hit! It’s savory, handsome, and sophisticated. It will please vegans and non-vegans alike! Try it out at your Chrismahanukwanzarammada table!

Make these now!    ©TheDiscerningBrute.com

Make these now! ©TheDiscerningBrute.com

Continue reading below for the recipe! Read more…

Savory Summer

I am in heaven. The farmers’ markets in New York are starting to offer some of the northeast’s most amazing harvests. I picked up some local, naturally grown strawberries. I had no idea that ‘organic’ labeling was so prohibitive and damaging to small farmers (even if their products are considered ‘organic’). I spoke with some of the farmers whose produce I purchased and was appalled (but not surprised) to find out why USDA hates small farmers. Click here!

New York State Strawberries

VEGAN CHEESE PLATE

Just Like Honey Gluten-Free Rice NectarBelow, I made lunch for a few friends. The starter was a Cheese Plate featuring Dr. Cows raw, vegan, crystal manna blue cheese, toasted local sourdough bread, local strawberries, walnuts, and a Sweet & Sarah vegan coconut-crusted marshmallow. I drizzled some ‘Just Like Honey‘ which is an indistinguishable alternative to real bee vomit! Cheese plates are finally doable with Dr.Cow – for your own spin on this, try doing cheese & chocolate, cheese & veggies, or cheese & fruit! There usually is no way to go wrong with good cheese.

Cheeseplate

CHIVE BLOSSOM SALAD

chive blossom salad

Joshua\'s salad

I had no idea that a) chives even blossomed or b) you can eat the flowers that c) taste like spicy chives! Yum! Not only is this salad visually delicious, but the hearty mixed greens, NYS apples, powerful sliced radishes and hearty radish greens made an amazingly filling and tongue-invigorating dish. As for dressing, I made a simply apple-cider vinegar with coconut oil and black sesame dressing.

PICKLED RADISH & STEAMED VITAMIN GREENS

In this dish, I sliced some local radish and put them in my pickle jar along side Rick’s Picks ‘bee ‘n’ bees‘ pickles overnight. I steamed some local ‘vitamin greens’ and kale, drizzled a touch of sesame oil on top, and was good to go. Lesson here? Never throw out old pickle juice!

radish and vitamin greens

Fresh Friday Finds

1. Watch Ellen today. Yesterday she confronted John MCcain(who couldn’t even make eye-contact with her)and rumor has it she may reveal something quite excting (watch out Oprah…)! Special guest and friend of DB, Rory Freedman (Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch) will be her guest.

Ellen DeGeneres Logo

2. For those that missed it, Oprah is vegan (for at least 3 weeks). All I have to say is wow…

3. Sign this petition to help call for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, and help end whaling!

Stop Whaling - A Better World for Animals and People

3. Don’t Teese Yourself! Ok, fine – Teese yourself. It melts!Teese Vegan Mozzarella Cheese

4. DB reader, MOR is a former employee of Whole Foods. He calls attention to Wholefoods’ not-so-socially-progressive policies. Read Wholefoods Breaks Their Promise.

.

5. Fujimori is being tried for Human Rights Violations in Peru. He is the first head of state to be extradited to his home country to stand trial for human rights violations. Praxis Institute for Social Justice invites you to visit their bilingual liveblog and follow current developments in the ongoing human rights trial of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

“Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori served from 1990-2000 and is suspected of committing innumerable human rights violations during his decade in office. These allegations have been documented by the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in its Final Report, published in 2003, and the trial against the former president marks the fulfillment of one of the TRC’s most important recommendations for preventing future human rights violations by the state.”

For more info:

6. Non-leather belts can be more than a hemp braid – thank god.

City Belt by Vegetarian Shoes - Black

.

.

.

7. On Tuesday, the USDA made it official, implementing a no-downer policy for cattle in the United States. Read the article HERE. ‘Downers’ are animals too sick or injured to walk or stand, and are typically left to suffer – as veterinary care and euthanasia cost more than most farmers will make on the body of the animal – making it economically undesirable, and ethically disgusting.

http://www.chooseveg.com/LargePhotos/DownedCow.jpg

7. Cruelty-free, vegan colognes (thanks Peta2):

Abercrombie & Fitch and Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch
Mesmerize Cologne Spray by Avon
California North for Men and O2XYGEN for Men by California North
Number Six by Caswell-Massey
Eau Dynamisante and Eau Tranquility by Clarins
Chemistry by Clinique
360° for Men and Perry Ellis m by Perry Ellis
Tommy for Men by Tommy Hilfiger
Aramis and Lauder Intuition for Men Cologne Spray by Estée Lauder
OP Juice by OP
REGENCY™Cologne by Merle Norman

8. RECIPE!

Joshua’s Vegan Baked Mac & Jeeeeze Casserole

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Block Silken Tofu
  • 1 Block “Follow your Heart” Cheddar style vegan cheese (or Teese!)
  • 2 Tbs “Earth Balance” or other vegan margerine
  • 3 Tbs Nutritional yeast (more to taste if desired)
  • 1 Tbs sugar or other sweetner
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan milk (soy, almond, rice, etc make sure it’s plain and not “vanilla” falvored)
  • 1/2 cup Bread crumbs (make your own by putting crisp toast in a blender)
  • 1 – 2 cups of elbow pasta

Directions:
Boil pasta. Combine all ingredients aside from bread crumbs and pasta in a blender or food processor. Mix the “cheese sauce” with the boiled pasta. place in casserole dish, and top with breadcrumbs. Bake on 350 for 15 – 20 minutes.

Tip - for a cheesier dish, shred additional vegan cheese over the bread crumbs before baking.