In a city that is synonymous with meat-stuffed pizzas and sports fans devoutly double-fisting sausages, the prim and trim culture of vegetarian dining seems decidedly off-brand. But don't let tired clichés fool you—while perhaps not a hotbed for vegan and vegetarian cuisine, Chicago is hardly negligent of its meat-averse denizens. Whether nestled quietly in the frenzied streets of Wrigleyville or perched in a cozy corner of Wicker Park, restaurants run by some of Chicago's top culinary talents have set out to change the Second City's gastronomic reputation.Read More
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This June, vegan chef Terry Hope Romero releases her seventh cookbook, Salad Samurai. It is a compilation of 100 whole-meal salads for every season that are hearty enough to sate even the barbecue-loving crowd. I recently spoke with Romero about her ideal salad recipe to serve dads on Father’s Day. Below, Romero shares some little-known salad-based facts about herself, including her favorite breakfast salad, and what she feeds people who hate salad (hint: it’s salad). GROUPON: How did you come up with the name Salad Samurai? TERRY HOPE ROMERO: I really wanted to call it Salad Ninja, but my publisher wouldn’t let me [laughs]. I am kind of a whimsical person and nerdy, and I just wanted my book to sound fun and have an edge to it. For people to become a master of salad by embracing it this way. G: What is your system in the kitchen for creating new recipes? THR: Every author is different. Usually I have an idea in mind and write the recipe first. I write out the ingredients and how much I think is needed and I write out the full instructions. As I start cutting and measuring things, I make adjustments. Then I work it a few times. G: Are there any ingredients you don’t consider a salad item? THR: Honestly, after this book, no. I put everything you can think of [into the recipes.] G: What are some of the most surprising/unique ingredients you have used in a salad? THR: Every kind of nut imaginable, fruits, a lot of stir-fried items, coconut bacon (turning dried coconut into bacon), sauerkraut for the vegan version of a reuben salad, black rice, kimchi, and sweet-potato chips as a garnish. G: Anything we won’t find in your cookbook? THR: There is no fake cheese in this book. And really no fake meats. I use tofu, tempeh, and homemade seitan, but no vegan hot dogs. G: What type of salad would you eat for breakfast? THR: A smoothie bowl. It’s a very thick smoothie that is spoon-able. I take frozen bananas and berries and protein powder and blend it until it’s creamy and add some almond milk and granola or berries on it. I eat that two to three times a week. G: What is the weirdest place you have eaten a salad? THR: I have had a lot of weird outdoor New York picnics. Maybe sitting outside on 42nd Street waiting for someone. And airports are always weird. G: Which of your salads would you recommend to someone who hates salad? THR: The Man Salads, if you want to call them that. [The one] with barbecue tofu, or the tempeh Reubenesque sauerkraut salad. I have five or six different caesar salads. Everyone loves caesar salads with a creamy cashew-based dressing. And a big salad of hot and cold combinations, because it takes someone away from the fact that it’s a salad. G: What would you say to people who think salads aren’t filling enough to make a whole meal? THR: Get with the program! It’s 2014. People love eating salads for lunch, and getting big salads. That is the inspiration for me. I really had a lot of fun making salads for every season. Shop Groupon for deals on vegetarian restaurants. Chef photo by John Stavropoulos.Read More
Not all seaweed salad has to come from Japan. Mendocino, California–based Rising Tide Sea Vegetables is one of a growing number of companies that harvest edible seaweed in US waters, making it possible to buy kombu and sea lettuce that’s as local as a farmer’s market’s kale. Even as demand expands, owner Larry Knowles remains committed to the practice of wildcrafting—a kind of systematic foraging that yields a sizable harvest while leaving local ecosystems intact. We caught up with him to ask about his sustainable-food philosophy and whether or not it’s a good idea to chow down on that random frond of seaweed you found at the beach. See our guide to edible seaweeds, with commentary from Knowles, here. What is wildcrafting? “The idea would be that…we’re taking out little enough biomass that it’s not affecting that species’ function in the ecosystem. And we’re taking it out in such a way that it’s going to reproduce in a really healthy way next year. Recruitment has to be good—there has to be a good, thick bed of kombu showing up the next year, and the next year.” How do you define sustainability? “My definition of ‘sustainable’ is different from that of the forest-products industry. They say, ‘There’s just as many trees out there as there were 100 years ago.’ But that’s not really an ecosystem—it’s more of a monoculture tree farm. To me, it’s the viability of an ecosystem that has to remain intact for it to be sustainable.” What kind of ecosystems are you protecting? “The last harvest we did, we were harvesting kombu [a type of kelp common in Japanese cooking –Ed.]. We were out in a sort of outer bay where it’s still directly in contact with the open ocean. It’s a very diverse ecosystem; there are a lot of seaweeds that grow there. In the case of kombu, it’s seaweed that is providing a certain amount of cover for all sorts of invertebrates and fish, and it provides a nursery for a lot of different baby organisms.” Should people try to pick their own seaweed? “I can’t speak for Maine, but the cool thing about California is that there isn’t any highly toxic seaweed out here. Unlike mushrooms, where you have to be so careful, there isn’t anything that’s highly toxic. There’s one that has huge amounts of sulfur in it. It’s not a highly toxic element, and it tastes awful. You’d have a bite and you’d be like, that’s awful. You’d have to be mentally not okay to keep eating it.” So I can just pick some up off the beach? “No, we don’t pick it off the beach! We’re harvesting out in these ecosystems where there are these vibrant, healthy—for lack of a better word, since lots of people call them this—plants. We’re not picking up off the beach because it’s hard to tell where it’s from.” Shop Groupon for deals on vegetarian restaurants in your city. Photo courtesy of Rising Tide Sea Vegetables.Read More