Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saint Valentine's Lemon Bars

LinkI have been craving a lemony dessert for a while so when I was trying to figure out what kind of tasty treat I could whip up for Valentine's Day that would be good and easy, I set out on the search for the perfect lemon bar recipe. The Veganomicon recipe was a bit involved with its call for both agar agar and arrowroot powder, so I opted to use the version in The Joy of Vegan Baking.

This is a wonderfully simple recipe. The crust is a simple shortbread made with vegan margarine, powdered sugar, and flour. The filling is simply lemon, silken tofu, sugar, flour, and cornstarch. This was my first time using silken tofu and I'm not sure I used it the correct way. After I had blended all the filling ingredients, the mixture was surprisingly runny. Sure enough, I had to add 12 minutes on to the suggested 20 minute baking time to get the filling to set and not be a runny mess. I am assuming this means I was supposed to drain the tofu first? That had occurred to me before I started but I didn't see any mention of draining the tofu in the recipe nor was it explained in any other part of the book, so I thought that you just must not have to drain silken tofu. Can anyone advise me on this? I'd like to try a silken tofu chocolate mousse next but if it will be runny like this filling was before I baked it, I won't even bother. If you are indeed supposed to drain it, how do you do it? It's very fragile so I can't imagine it holding up well being pressed between paper towels.
The only baking dish I had that was an appropriate size was this round one, so I guess these are more like lemon bar pie slices than lemon bars. I added about 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric to give the filling the yellow hue of traditional lemon bars. I used Twizzler's Pull 'N' Peels (yup, they're vegan!) to form little hearts for a garnish. I didn't really believe the recipe when it said that the powdered sugar on top would sink into the filling, but it's true. After about twenty minutes the powdered sugar had disappeared, so make sure you do that step just right before your about to serve these babies up.

Even with the hardened crust that came with the extra baking time I tacked on, these lemon slices were deeeeelish and the recipe was easy enough for me to whip it up quickly after work. Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flore: Keeping me well fed since 2008

No one in their right mind would ever tell you that I have the world's best apartment. But there are two reasons why I will be staying here for quite a while. One reason is that I have managed to find the one living space in all of Los Angeles county where my dog can bark her heart out all day long if she chooses and no one cares. The other is that I am oh-so conveniently located to my favorite restaurant: Flore.

You would think that with Flore being my fave and all, I would have blogged about it by now. But for whatever reason I never got around to it, and it's really not right of me to not share Flore's wonderful treats with all of yous. So here is a sampling of some of the meals I have had at the little Silver Lake side walk cafe over the past few months:

Let's start with my favorite item "The Flore Burger."
This picture doesn't exactly demonstrate quite how big this baby is. When you take a bite you really have to wrap your mouth around that sucker. This definitely wins for my favorite vegan burger in town. Some people have said it tastes a lot like Veganomicon's black bean burger--I'll have to test that hypothesis some day. Flore's thousand island dressing, which is similar to Pure Luck's special sauce (although admittedly it's not quite as magical as PL's) comes with the dish but I highly recommend doling out an extra dollar for the cashew cheese. It is utterly creamy and lightly cheese-y. It is the perfect topping for this perfect burger. I've had to stop ordering it recently though because, with the cashew cheese, this meal has to be at least 1300 calories. So I tend to save it for special occasions.

A classic staple at every veg restaurant is the Club Sandwich. Again, Flore does a great job.
From the menu: "Battered baked tofu, tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, daikon sprouts, and eggless mayonnaise on toasted organic sourdough bread." They've got the proportion of ingredients here just right. Fresh, light, delish. What more is there to say?

Here is the Burrito Flore:
It's got all the fixin's of your average well-made vegan burrito: rice, beans, tomato, and avocado. But then it is Flore-ified with tempeh bacon, cilantro cream, and the always delectable cashew cheese. With these ingredients, it's pretty much impossible to go wrong. And as always you can see it comes with a vibrant side salad.

Flore doesn't just do wraps and sandwiches well. Their salads are also wonderful. Here is the Mediterranean Salad.
Normally this comes with a heap of hummus but I ordered it without at the time. The salads are huge and super fresh. I consider myself to be a bit of an expert on all types of tabouli and the quinoa version that comes in this dish was perfectly seasoned and not over oily (as many restaurant taboulis tend to be). If you are looking for a healthy but filling meal, you've got to check out one of Flore's salads.

In the back of the picture above you can see the Portabella Panini. Served with a really good soy mozzarella and Flore's creamy dill dressing (which actually may rival Pure Luck's special sauce), this panini is not the thin, greasy stuff of most restaurant paninis but is light and scrumptious.

Now on to what Flore does best: breakfast! Here is a crappy cell phone shot of the Tomato Basil Omelet.
The key to the deliciousness of this wheat and gluten free dish is the abundance of fresh dill. I opted for a side of Flore's roasted potatoes which are fluffy, well seasoned, and not at all greasy.

Here is the Veggie Fritatta (not to be confused with Frittata Flore which is served during weekend brunch).
Slightly nutty and cheesy in flavor, this smallish slice will leave you very full. Here you can see how fresh the fruit is that they serve at Flore. And they are always happy to remove all the melon for me (blech). A big bowl of pineapple is the perfect breakfast dessert after this scrumptious quiche.

Here is another view of the fruit where my friend ordered it with his tofu burrito (another yummy treat).

Flore is basically a dream come true for me. It is a vegan establishment in my neighborhood that embraces my own philosophy of what good vegan food should be. It isn't focused on having meat analogues or knock-offs of traditionally meat-based dishes. Instead it is just good meals made from good ole fashioned whole foods. Sitting at one of the sidewalk tables for brunch at Flore is one of my favorite things to do. And you never know who you might run into, like the other morning when I caught my boss and his son wreaking havoc on their bicycle:

Good ole Flore, what would I do without you???

3818 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026