The New Vegan Cuisine
As the restaurant world has shown unparalleled variety and sophistication over the past decade, most strictly-vegan eateries have languished as “health food” relics. Meanwhile, vegan diners have more options than ever at “normal” restaurants, with their vegetable-driven menus, “Meatless Mondays,” and foraged ingredients.
Now, however, a new array of modern-minded vegan restaurants are attracting vegetarians and meat eaters alike, with wines as varied as the produce on display.
“I never understood the craze for fake meats when we have such beautiful vegetables to eat,” says Ravi DeRossi, owner of New York City’s Avant Garden, the first vegan entry in DeRossi’s restaurant-and-bar empire. “Until recently, no one was putting in the energy and creativity to turn out complex and beautifully composed vegetable dishes, but as the collective conscious of the world evolves, so does our love for food that is healthy, humane and good for our environment.”
The ever-changing prix-fixe menu at Farm Spirit in Portland, Oregon features dishes like baby purple carrots and crushed minted fava beans with beet kombucha and coriander-spiced hazelnut “yogurt”.
“We’re convincing people every service that a plant-based restaurant can be as sophisticated as an omnivorous restaurant,” says Aaron Adams, owner and chef at Farm Spirit. “At least once a week, we hear from someone who was on the fence and decided abstaining from meat is a definite possibility for them.”
Moby, the famed recording artist, has been a vegan since 1987 and opened Little Pine last fall in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.
“In addition to it being in keeping with my personal beliefs, I also think vegan food is really creatively inspiring,” Moby says. “Meat and dairy seem very heavy and kind of antiquated to me. Vegan food has so much potential in terms of aesthetics and flavor and range.”
And that means that whites aren’t the only wines that pair well with vegan dishes.
Farm Spirit’s Wine Director, Beverly McKenzie, says that the misconception that wine is impossible to pair with vegetables like asparagus, dandelion or artichokes was started in the last century.
“But that was also a time when fewer lesser-known varietal [wines] were available to play with,” says McKenzie. “We live in a time and climate where there is an incredible palette of wine to showcase all kinds of flavors, textures and spices.”
Courtesy Scott Winegard, culinary director, Plant Food + Wine, Venice, California
- ½ cup black olives
- 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
- 4 medium-sized zucchini
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ cup pitted green olives
- ½ cup green olive brine (from jar)
- 1 cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, loosely packed
- 2 cups large handfuls arugula
- 1 cup sunflower sprouts, for garnish
- Nasturtium leaves and flowers, for garnish
Dehydrate black olives at 155˚F for 12 hours. Mince and set aside. (You can substitute with ¼ cup minced black olives.)
In bowl, submerge sunflower seeds in water. Cover, and let soak 8 hours. Drain and set aside.
Julienne zucchini lengthwise (preferably using mandoline) to make spaghetti-sized “noodles.” Place in bowl and toss with olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside 20–30 minutes.
In blender, purée sunflower seeds, lemon juice, yeast, peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt with ¾ cup water until smooth and creamy. Set aside. Purée green olives, brine and parsley in blender or food processor. Set aside.
To assemble, drain zucchini and place in large mixing bowl. Add arugula and 1 cup black pepper cream, then toss gently (don’t break zucchini). Splash green olive purée on each plate. Place zucchini noodles on top. Sprinkle black olives on top of noodles. Garnish with sunflower sprouts, nasturtium leaves and flowers. Serves 2–4.
Plant Food + Wine’s Wine Director Joey Repice suggests pairing this white with the zucchini because “the bold, earthy flavors of this raw dish are wonderfully highlighted by this crisp and light—but intensely aromatic—wine.”
Courtesy Kristyne Starling, chef, Little Pine, Silver Lake, California
- 1 medium cauliflower (including stalk)
- ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons margarine or olive oil
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- Black pepper, to taste
Cut cauliflower into 1-inch chunks.
Preheat oven to 400˚F. In large bowl, toss cauliflower, onion and garlic with salt and extra-virgin olive oil. Spread on sheet pan in single layer. Roast, stirring once or twice, until cauliflower is tender and browned, about 1 hour. Purée vegetables in food processor with margarine or olive oil and almond milk. Blend until creamy. (Adjust almond milk, depending on how creamy you want the mash.) Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serves 4.
Thanks to the dish’s roasty flavors from the cauliflower and rich nuttiness from the almond milk, it begs for a lush, toasty California Chardonnay to match. This wine will hit the mark, with notes of honeyed apple, toasted almond and oak that match the flavors of the mash.
While these aren’t exclusively vegan, all feature plenty of vegan recipes and are top cookbooks in any category.
Crossroads by Tal Ronnen (Artisan, 2015)
Along with Philadelphia’s Vedge, Crossroads in Los Angeles helped pioneer the new wave of upscale vegan when it opened in 2013.
My New Roots by Sarah Britton (Clarkson Potter, 2015)
These recipes from a hugely popular Copenhagen-based blogger are as lovely as they are luscious.
Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ten Speed Press, 2014)
This beloved vegetable-loving (but meat-eating) chef’s follow-up to 2011’s Plenty may be his best cookbook yet.
Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Da Capo Press, 2007)
The more than 250 accessible, global recipes in this book showcase the range of vegan cuisine.
The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison (Grub Street, 1987)
A classic from San Francisco’s Greens Restaurant that expanded the possibilities of vegetarian cuisine.
Adapted from Andrew d’Ambrosi, founding chef, Avant Garden, New York City
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 cups farro
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon chili oil
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sage pesto (recipe below)
- Fried sage leaves, for garnish
- Sage Pesto:
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup whole sage leaves (lightly packed)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Peel and seed squash. Cut into 2-inch pieces. Set aside. Toast farro on sheet tray for 10 minutes. Transfer to medium saucepan. Add 8 cups water. Boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook farro until soft, about 25 minutes. Drain well and set aside, reserving liquid.
Boil 4 cups salted water in large saucepan. Add squash. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to food processor or blender. Add syrup, garlic and chili oil. Purée until smooth. Set aside.
When ready to serve, combine 2 cups cooked farro, ¾ cup butternut squash purée, ½ cup reserved farro cooking liquid, 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan. Salt to taste. Over medium heat, stir until it has the consistency of slightly loose porridge. (If necessary, add cooking liquid or farro.) Spoon into warm shallow bowl. Add dollop of sage pesto on top (recipe below) and garnish with fried sage leaves. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
For Sage Pesto:
In small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat vegetable oil to 325˚F. Fry sage leaves in batches until just crisp, about 30 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Reserve several leaves for garnish. Pulse remaining leaves and other ingredients in a food processor until well blended, but with some texture.
Château Ollieux Romanis 2014 Cuvée Classique (Corbières)
The ripe red-fruit aromas and flavors of this red wine from the Languedoc region in southern France complement the sweetness of the squash, while its terroir-driven herbal notes of garrigue harmonize with the earthy vegetable, sage and farro flavors.
Courtesy Aaron Adams, chef/owner, Farm Spirit, Portland, Oregon
Pierre Gimonnet et Fils NV Sélection Belles Années Blanc de Blancs Brut Chardonnay (Champagne)
- 8 large parsnips, trimmed and peeled
- 2 bunches fresh thyme, leaves picked from stems
- 5 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
- Salt, to taste
- 2 cups applesauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350˚F. With mandoline or a U-shaped vegetable peeler, slice parsnips into paper-thin strips lengthwise. Lay strips in one layer on cookie sheet. Salt well, then layer more parsnips on top, continuing until all parsnips are stacked. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Fill large bowl with water. Add parsnip slices. Agitate strips to remove excess salt. Remove from water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Lay slice of parsnip on a cutting board. Sprinkle with thyme, and roll into tight cylinder. Add slices to spiral by laying slice down, sprinkle with thyme, then continue where previous slice ended. Continue until you have 8 spirals, about 2.5 inches in diameter.
Carefully tie each parcel around circumference with kitchen twine, cinching lightly to keep together. They should look like flowers or pinwheels.
Grease a small casserole dish with 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil. Ladle in some applesauce. Add parsnips in single layer, adding additional applesauce (if needed) so sauce comes about halfway up sides. Brush spirals gently with olive oil. Sprinkle with any remaining thyme.
Wrap casserole pan in foil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until parsnips are tender. Remove foil, and cook until lightly browned, about 5–10 minutes. Serve parsnips on platter, spooning some of the applesauce around, or in baking dish. Serves 4.
The subtle sweetness of roasted parsnip partnered with the applesauce will call for a cleansing wine that lifts the dish’s baked flavors. Consider a blanc de blancs Champagne like this one, with zesty citrus and green-apple flavors, subtle toastiness and a pleasant minerality that will marry with the pinwheels.
- 1Zucchini Cacio e Pepe
- 2Roasted Cauliflower Mash
- 35 Must-Buy Vegetarian Cookbooks
- 4Butternut Farro Risotto
- 5Roast Parsnip Pinwheels