The V Word: Somebunny to love

Insight from a Bay area chef and recipes for vegan peeps ahead of Easter.

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click to enlarge Making a vegan chocolate bunny is easier than you might think. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
Making a vegan chocolate bunny is easier than you might think.

Sometimes you have to throw expectations to the wind, especially when it comes to ideas about staple Easter spreads — lamb or glazed ham, scalloped potatoes or lasagna, capirotada or...

Johan Everstijn, executive chef for The Cider Press Café, is no stranger to this. Specializing in raw vegan cuisine, his downtown St. Pete eatery, whose Easter brunch is planned for this weekend (see Do This on pg. 5), has to set expectations, such as eggs, aside. Luckily, he isn’t big on “traditional” anyhow, even when cooking for holidays at home.

“If I try something one year, I want to do something new the next,” says Everstijn, who’s been a not-super-strict vegan for around 8 to 10 years. “Most of my family’s gone, so it’s just kinda nice to be here.”

After the holiday, Cider Press will debut its spring menu — made up of lots of floral touches and lighter fare that’s more esoteric, as well as the cafe’s essential plates — in phases. Look for offerings like cooked dishes with rice and quinoa (a first for Cider Press), zucchini puttanesca, and desserts that include caramel apple nachos and chocolate cake with lavender.

Here are three vegan-fied recipes fit for those who are going unconventional during Easter, too.

Spinach and Tofu Scramble
Serves 2; adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts separated
5 packed cups (5 ounces) spinach, chopped
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup basil, chopped

Directions

Combine tofu, turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper in a medium bowl. Toss well to combine and set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallion whites and cook, stirring until soft, about 1 minute.

Incorporate tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until tofu is lightly browned and resembles scrambled eggs.

Add spinach, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then stir until spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and scallion greens, stirring until tomatoes are heated through and begin to soften, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Add basil and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Lentil and Rice Loaf with Mushroom Gravy
Serves 10; adapted from Straight Up Food

Gravy:
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon basil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

Simmer broth and soy sauce in small saucepan. Add mushrooms and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.

Combine cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a cup, or small container. 

When broth reaches a steady simmer, slowly whisk in cornstarch, stirring until the liquid is thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in basil and, if desired, nutritional yeast.

Loaf:
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup lentils (green or brown)
1/2 cup short-grain brown rice 
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning 
1 medium onion, chopped 
5 medium mushrooms
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 tablespoon sage, minced
2 teaspoons thyme, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, minced

In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine water, lentils, rice and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook covered for 45 minutes. When done, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes covered. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard-size loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon water. When water begins to sputter, add onion, mushrooms and celery, and cook while stirring, about 3 minutes (add water as needed to prevent sticking). Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the vegetables soften (add water as needed). Remove from heat.

Combine oats, tomato paste, sage, thyme and rosemary in a large bowl. When the cooked vegetables, rice and lentils have cooled for about 10 minutes, add them in. Stir until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

Place half the mixture into a food processor. Pulse 3 times, then scrape down sides. Pulse another 3 times (mixture should be blended but chunky). Spoon into loaf pan. Place remaining mixture into the food processor and repeat pulsing steps. Add second half to loaf pan. Press down firmly and into corners, then shape the top flat.

Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 40 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until top is browned and edges are crispy-looking.

Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Top with mushroom gravy.

Molded Chocolate Bunny
Makes 1; adapted from Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

1/2 cup cocoa butter or coconut oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt

Directions

Add 2 inches water to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Set a medium glass or ceramic mixing bowl on top to create a double boiler.

To the mixing bowl, add cocoa butter to melt, about 3 minutes. Add maple syrup and use a whisk to stir until fluid and thoroughly combined. Remove bowl and set on flat surface, then turn off stove and set saucepan aside.

Add cocoa powder, vanilla and sea salt, whisking to combine until there are no clumps. Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Pour chocolate into a medium-size bunny mold, or mini cupcake liners.

Transfer chocolate to freezer to set. Enjoy straight from freezer and store leftovers in a well-sealed container in the freezer.

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