An Ode to Candle 79

In American, Beans, Indian, Moroccan, Rice, Vegan, Vegetables on July 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm

To some people, the word “vegan” conjures up feelings of hate, resentment, or misunderstanding.  Or as friends have said to me “being vegan is just weird.”  And you know what?  I was probably guilty of harboring those sentiments myself before adapting a vegan diet 2ish years ago.  I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon it, but back in September of 2010 I came across some of Alicia Silverstone’s recipes from her book The Kind Diet.  Peaking my interest, I checked the book out of the library, and read it cover-to-cover in one day.  Not sequentially, mind you; the pictures and recipes were scanned first.  However, reading all the information about health, environment, animal humanity, and overall well-being that can be attained through a plant-based diet, I just decided to go cold turkey.  Mid-day, Tuesday, October 5th (isn’t it weird that I remember that?).  At the time, I was still dating Nick, and he had been away on a business trip back when he was traveling a lot as a consultant.  I remember being so afraid to tell him my decision, and approached him like I was about to tell him I’m dying of some incurable disease.  To my surprise, he didn’t make fun of me or tell me I was crazy (although I’m sure he thought it).  He was happy to support me in every way, as long as he could still eat his meat and cheese.

Within days, I felt great!  I had tons of energy, no stomach issues, and kept my weight pretty low – eating mostly carbs mind you! (Spoiler alert – none of this is true anymore, as I developed soy intolerance and had to reintroduce dairy back into my life).  I was following a lot of the recipes in The Kind Diet, as well as checking out some other vegan cook books from the library.  However, as even the most seasoned chef knows, cooking every meal for yourself is hard.  And exhausting.  And sometimes boring.  Eating out is challenging enough if you have any dietary restrictions, but I swear if you say to a server “I’m vegan” there will probably be twice as much butter on your sandwich.  On the flip side, I would search high and low for vegan restaurants that had something for my meat-eating husband to enjoy, and he found himself eating the only non-seitan or tofu dish available.  He’d go because he loves me, but he never truly enjoyed it (the same way I’ll go to a steak house to please him and be left to eat mushrooms and steamed broccoli).  But I think I’ve finally find the one:  Candle 79.  I went there with a friend, and I ordered the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake.  As soon as I tasted it, I said, “OMG, Nick would love this.”

My friend had ordered some special with seitan in it, which I would try a different time.

There was even chocolate molten cake.  Our favorite.

Those all look like dishes you could order at any gourmet restaurant.  I have yet to bring Nick there, as it’s all the way on the Upper East side, and he generally doesn’t go above 14th street.  In order to convince him, I decided to try and recreate the chickpea cake.  My brother-in-law got me the Candle 79 Cookbook for xmas this past year, and I finally put it to good use last night!  I’m not sure if the recipe in the book is 100% like the one used in the restaurant, but it was pretty darn close!  That orange sauce is an apricot chutney.  I’m not sure what the green sauce is, but the recipe in the book called for a roasted red pepper curry.  I didn’t have red peppers on hand, so I decided to adapt a recipe from The Kind Diet called Eggplant Chana Masala.  Basically, just like chana masala, but with eggplant in it (duh).  My version deconstructs the masala by placing the Candle Cake on the eggplant.

Some of the ingredients and both cook books.

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake

Adapted from Candle 79 Cookbook

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 tsp EVOO
1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (about 1 can)
1/4 cup reserved chickpea liquid, or vegetable broth
2 tbsp flour (I used chickpea flour)
1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Nonstick olive oil spray

Apricot Chutney

Adapted from Candle 79 Cookbook

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp EVOO
1.5 cups fresh apricots, chopped (about 4)
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp agave nectar
1/4 cup water

Eggplant Masala

Adapted from The Kind Diet

2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp EVOO
1 tbsp each cumin, curry powder, garam masala, and amchor powder (or lemon juice)
1 small eggplant (about 1.5 lbs), chopped into 1/4″ cubes
1 28-oz can tomatoes
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
Salt to taste

I didn’t cook these components in the order listed;  I started with chutney, then eggplant, and then cakes.  The chutney was really simple!  I sauteed the onion for a few minutes, and then added the apricots and garam masala (the recipe calls for fresh ginger, which I didn’t have).

Another minute later, I added everything else to simmer while everything else cooked.  In the end, it turned into this amazing jam-like syrup.

Next was the eggplant.  I like eggplant really well done, hence the tiny chop.  I sauteed the onion (both white and the green ones from my share) with all the spices.  I had actually only started with about 1 tsp each (as the recipe said), but it needed more flavor as I kept adding the other ingredients.  The onions took about 5 minutes

I added the eggplant, sauteing another 5 or so minutes until it was more tender and I could scrape off most of the brown bits.

I then added the tomatoes, broth, and salt.  After reaching a boil, I covered the pot and lowered to medium heat.  The dish needed about 40 minutes to reach the consistency I liked.

While the chutney and masala simmered, I worked on the cakes.  The recipe starts with dry peas, but you could use canned peas if you like.  I had planned on cooking a bunch of chickpeas anyway, so I had started that pot before the chutney.  I used about 1 3/4 cups worth for the patties.  I also sauteed the onion and celery for 5 minutes with a tsp of EVOO. I blended the peas in the food processor, and then combined the veggies, peas, and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Using a spoon, I mixed everything up to create the batter.

I divided the batter into 4 patties, and sauteed in a nonstick pan with EVOO spray for 4 minutes each side.  I probably could have used the several tbsps of oil the recipe called for, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My spatula was running through the dishwasher, so the patties kind of fell apart while flipping.

I served Nick his chickpea cake over the eggplant and some brown rice.

Mine was sans rice.

Even with my adaptations, I thought the cake was spot on.  Nick really liked the cake and chutney, but wasn’t a huge fan of the eggplant.  Next time I’ll try to make that red pepper sauce.  Or I could make a reservation at Candle 79.


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