When I first came to Austin I had a printed out list of the vegetarian restaurants in town and all those places hold a special place in my heart. Mr. Natural, Bouldin Creek, and the World Beat Cafe were all on the list, and the latter, like so many other restaurants I loved, closed down for the saddest reason ever. The owner and chef, Lawrence Osas Eguakun, had been diagnosed with cancer and not given much of a chance. It would always make me sad whenever I passed the spot where the World Beat was.
When I heard a couple month ago that not only was Lawrence better but he was opening a new vegan friendly west African trailer just south of the river I think I cried. I’m emotional. I was so excited to see the Wasota African Cuisine trailer and Lawrence was nice as ever offering Dan free samples of everything when he couldn’t make up his mind. The thing is the menu is vast and there are so many vegan options that you should just bring all of your indecisive friends are get one of everything. All the vegan food is made separately from the meat so you can use 100 percent of your brain power figuring out what sounds best.Of course, the easiest option is to go for the Wasota platter. Although I really want to try other things on the menu every single bit of the platter is perfect. The chopped spinach was so succulent and delicious, the black-eyed peas were cooked to perfection, and the Jollof Rice could be a meal in itself. Rice and beans and greens are such a perfect meal but it is impossible to pass up the Akara and the plantains. Trust me. Get both of these no matter what you order. I promise you will love it. Even if you are a super healthy raw food quantum level vegan and pass on deep fried stuff, this is the time to get down with the rest of us. You can just eat a bunch of goji berries tomorrow.Everything is smothered in spicy Benin sauce, if you fear the spice though you can get it on the side. Or if you love it you can get more on the side. He’ll ask you regardless and then all you have to do is wait in anticipation.
There are open daily from 11-9 and if it is too hot or too cold to sit outside order ahead and bring it home. Or bring some to me. It can be your good deed for the day.
Oh and just when you think things can’t get better, there is a vegan ice cream trailer called Kat’s in the same trailer park of course then after that you might need a long Thanksgiving style nap.
I think it was about 3 hours between the time I heard from a friend about One Love, the new Caribbean Grille in east Austin, to the time I was there, 5 minutes after it opened for the evening, ready to sample to food. There have been so many new places that are on my list to try but once I saw Ital Tofu Platter and fried plantains One Love got immediately moved to the top of the list. I am a sucker for Caribbean food. One Love is right next to Planet K on Ceaser Chavez after Pleasent Valley and before the highway. I was so excited that I took a horrible photo.
But don’t worry if you can’t make anything out from that grainy photo when you get to Planet K, you can’t miss the giant rasta flag and you will hear the dubstep as you approach the extremely friendly people who work there. Their specials are updated on their facebook page but they have a vegan plate everyday and they are very vegan conscious with a dedicated grill. The drinks are limited to root beer and water but it is byob so next time I will pick something up before we go. And there will definitely be a next time. For just 5 dollars I got the jerk tofu with a ton of rice, a side salad and some fried plantains. The tofu was amazing. It was sliced thin but had a very thick fried crust with lots of savory spices. They know how to make some appetizing bean curd I’ll tell you what. The plantains were also fried with the jerk spices and were very tasty although a little similar to the tofu. I wish every place in the world sold plantains. The rice and the salad were both fairly plain but fresh and well done. I can’t wait to try the curry because it would bring the meal to the next level for sure.
They have a covered seating area right next to the trailer but you can also walk back to the garage area where you get a stunning view of town lake. I know stunning might seem like an exaggeration, especially since I tend to always exaggerate, but this part of town seems so industrial and covered in pavement that I was truly surprised to walk ten feet and see this nature scene with dogs and chickens and things. It looks like maybe they set up extra seating out there because there are lights and platforms but when we went it was just a garage. The whole scene in the garage really reminded me of this place called “the magic buzz” in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica except that there was food and it was really great and filling. In fact, my young man had too much too fast and overdid it. They also have domino nights! Going to One Love made me really want to travel to the Caribbean but at the same time I was really happy that I could get a taste of it right at home. If only I could get them to start serving gallo pinto for brunch it would be perfect but I guess I will have to wait for a Costa Rican place to open for that to happen.
It has been so cold here that people have taken to wearing ski masks. The local news shows people frantically buying earmuffs and warning parents that this is the coldest their children have ever seen. If you live somewhere where it snows we Austinites look pretty ridiculous in the winter. The threat of snowfall consumes news coverage for a week ahead of time and the eventual hint of snow flurries sends children running outside to try to make snowmen.
I have a hard time dealing with the cold. My main problem is that my house was not built with winter in mind. Floor to ceiling, poorly constructed windows make all the walls let cold air in and you can feel a breeze in the living room. The beagles can’t stand it either. They get excited to put on their sweaters and they spend a great part of the day under covers cuddled with each other and us. If you sit down in my house you will have a beagle next to you within a minute, cuddled up. The only way I could get out of my warmer bedroom over the weekend was to remember this time last year when we were in Costa Rica. We would have Gallo Pinto for breakfast every morning, usually with a side of plantains. I usually either bake plantains or cut them into long pieces and pan fry them but this morning I decided to try to make tostones. First you cut the plantains into circles and fry them.Then you smash them flat. I used a tortilla press because I could do several at once.
Then you fry them a second time. They were really good but they didn’t turn out perfect. I am having a lot of trouble with my stove so I am going to blame technical difficulties since I couldn’t get the oil hot enough. They were really yummy.
I was out of coriander so I made the gallo pinto a little different from my usual recipe. I used a little bit of allspice and some ginger and cayenne. It was delicious! I also tried a baked tofu recipe that my friend Wes came up with. I loved the shake & bake method for tofu scramble, it was ridiculously easy and tasty. I think I will make my spice mix next time because there was a little too much cumin for my taste. Finally I made a yogurt cream sauce to go on top of everything. I blended yogurt, cilantro, and lime together then added a little bit of asafetida. I loved it! If you are feeling beaten down by the weather I completely recommend this spread. Caribbean Breakfast makes everything better.Pura Vida!
The word empanada comes from the Spanish empanar which means to wrap or coat in bread. Sometimes, I wish I was wrapped in bread. It sounds very warm and comforting. I made these empandas for a couple of guys who really liked them, in fact one of them said I have a gift. The other gave me chocolate so it was a pretty good deal. The empandas were inspired both by a trip to Costa Rica where everything involves black beans and plantains and one of my favorite cookbooks “A World of Dumplings“. One of my many dreams is to open a food trailer and call it “Sumpling in my Dumpling” where it would be all dumplings all the time. I think this picture kind of looks like the empanada is an oyster at the bottom of a swimming pool. It didn’t taste like that at all, the crust was perfect and flakey and the filling was really tasty with pockets of sweet plantain. They went really good with the green salsa I had.
Black Bean & Plantain Empanadas
4 Cups All-Purpose Four
2 Cup Cornmeal (I used blue but any will work)
1 Cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Combine the dry ingredients. Add the shortening and rub it into the mixture with your fingers. Add water one tablespoon at a time until a dough forms. I used about 1/2 of a cup. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped,
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
14 oz of diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked black beans
1 plantain, chopped
Toast the seeds and then grind up. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and seeds to a hot oiled skillet and saute until onions are starting to brown (5 minutes). Add the tomatoes, syrup, 1/2 cup of water and salt and then blend the mixture. I used an immersion blender but you could also use a potato masher because a little texture is nice. Add the beans and the plantains and cook until plantains are soft, about five minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the dough into 20 pieces and form into 20 balls. Roll each out into a flat disk. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon of filling into the center of the disk and fold in half, seal the edges and then press edges down with a fork to complete. Do this 19 more times. Oil a baking sheet and place the empandas on leaving a space in between. You can brush them with a little oil if you like. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Enjoy with salsa or guacamole.
It was raining in Austin over the weekend which means that the dogs were overcome with sleepiness. I wonder if there is a Spanish word for being wrapped in beagles?
Last year on Cinco de Mayo, I listened to a local radio station lament the fact that people ignorant of Mexican culture don’t know what Cinco de Mayo is all about and yet they still celebrate by knocking back a couple of Cuervos and maybe having some nachos. What was absurd, to me, was that they went on and on about how this was such a travesty and yet they never once mentioned what Cinco de Mayo is all about. For one thing, I don’t even think it is a national holiday in Mexico. According to Wikipedia it is mostly celebrated in the state of Puebla but they fail to mention that it is probably more intensely celebrated in Mexico’s former territory: Texas. The date commemorates the defeat of the French by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín and was also the last time the Americas were invaded by another country. In Texas, and the rest of the US, however, we primarily use the holiday to celebrate Mexican culture which in my mind means eating Mexican inspired food and yes, drinking beer and eating nachos. I thought I would do a round-up of some tacos that I have posted about to inspire some taco ideas other than the standard American version.
I made some tequila sausages based on Isa’s recipe. They came out really good, I love making these sauages, I have been trying to eat less soy so I keep falling back on thinking I need to make seitan even though what I really need to do is eat more vegetables! The problem is that I love making seitan, it is like a science experiment where you get to taste the results. It always leads me to think, next time I will make this or that but really I need to chill out, eat my greens and stop frying everything. I guess that is the problem with being a good cook, you eat all the time!
Despite my complaining I really liked these tacos. We got a fall harvest of tomatoes (take that North!) and I made a simple tomato salsa with them that was really spicy but perfectly complemented the tacos. I also had a plantain that I covered in cornmeal and pan fried. In another pan I sauteed the sausages with a red onion and then, just for good measure, I threw in some broccoli. Broccoli is really becoming one of my favorite things to add to tacos. It is hard to overcook and it really soaks up whatever you are cooking with in a lovely way while still holding up, unlike most of its leafy green friends.
If you already had the sausage made and the salsa ready to go you could easily make this meal in 10 minutes, just chop the onion, sautee it with the sausage & then the broccoli and meanwhile make the plantains.
1/2 Cup Refried Pinto Beans (or cooked pintos mashed)
2/3 Cup Broth
1/3 Cup Tequila
1 TBSP olive oil
7 cloves of garlic
2 tsp fresh sage
1 heaping tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 heaping tsp salt
1 1/4 Cup Vital Wheat Gluetan
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Prepare steaming apparatus, I use a pot of water with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Mix the dry ingredients together and the wet ingredients together. After everything is incorporated well add the wet to the dry and knead for a minute or two. Lay a piece of foil on the work area. Place 1/2 cup of the mix in the bottom third in the middle of the foil. Roll up into link and then tie off like a tootsie roll. Place the links in the steamer for 30 minutes and then refridgerate.
I went to the store today and saw that blood oranges were on sale. I scooped some up knowing that I would probably make some blood orange salsa with onions and cilantro. If you haven’t tried orange salsa before I recommend that you make some, the sweet oranges are the perfect counterpoint to spicy tacos.
I knew I didn’t want to have regular old seitan so I chopped up some peanuts and put them in a ziploc bag, lay the seitan which I had cut into strips on top and covered with more peanuts. Then I used a rolling pin to flatten out the seitan and press the peanuts into it. I sauteed the seitan in a pan and pan fried the plantains seperatly. Topped with spinach and the salsa and on a warm spelt tortilla it was a Caribbean-style taste explosion! Now I want to open a vegan taco stand just so that I can sell a million of them!
First, cut the tops and bottoms off the blood oranges. Then slice the rest of the peels off. Carefully chop the oranges slowly making sure to not squeeze out the juices and remove any seeds and as much white pith as possible. Gently toss the oranges with the onions and cilantro. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes and then try to NOT eat it all before your tacos are done. Enjoy!