After Horizons – A guest post from the owner!

We couldn’t resist asking the creative brains behind the Horizons restaurant ( and their wonderful books) about just where they are with their decision to move on from Horizons to Vedge.  We’re honoured to feature their thoughts here. We think it’s a very special way to wrap-up VeganMoFo 2011.
“After Horizons“. Wow, that title is certainly a dose of reality right now.
When I first heard about the “After Horizons” blog, I was thrilled and flattered. Of course, a bit sad too; at the time of this writing, our new restaurant, Vedge, is not yet open. In fact, I walk past the old Horizons building everyday on the way to Vedge, wishing we hadn’t left when we did so I could have kept cooking just a little longer. But who knew?
Kate and I have spent the last 10 years together building Horizons, and now Vedge. We learned so much during this time, moving from the Willow Grove suburbs to our downtown location. And for as familiar as Vedge will be, there will no doubt be a few signature Horizons touches that will remain only in the memories of our customers and on the pages of the Horizons cookbooks.
So how wonderful it is to have this blog that follows both Horizons cookbooks. It is truly moving for me to scroll through those recipes and remember how each one came together through our restaurant’s culinary evolution. I read back through these stories, the photos, the recipes, and I remember all the hard work it took to bring them together. Days off spent with the photographer, long nights spent editing and re-reading. But it was worth every second, especially when you have the honor of witnessing such results like Liz and Tami’s blog.
I especially love seeing the soups. Back in the Willow Grove days, making soup at Horizons was an everyday occasion for me. From stock, to the chopping and the garnishing – this was my morning routine… And the recipes just started to pile up. In fact, I have so many soup recipes in my head that Kate and I have talked about a future cookbook dedicated to soup alone!
I applaud Liz and Tami’s daily changes, creative liberties and last minute adjustments that make cooking through cookbooks an actual learning experience rather than just the mundane following of step by step instructions.
Kate and I are really inspired, now more than ever, to keep pushing on with our (half completed) third book.
There will indeed be a story in there dedicated to Liz and Tami.
Vedge… opening soon. Hmmmmm. Soon feels like it was a long, long time ago.
It’s frustrating waiting for your new restaurant to open. I’m used to having complete control in my kitchen. Things operate on time, I get my list done, my staff gets their list done, if something goes wrong, we know how to fix it right away, and the plates go out on time and looking great. Contractors don’t operate like Chefs! But about 2 months behind schedule, the space is finally coming together. We have food in the walk-in, coffee beans in the grinder, glasses behind the bar. When we officially open the doors of Vedge for the first time, I will be thrilled to get back to cooking and excited to see how things continue to evolve After Horizons.
Until then…
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October in Review

While most of the dishes I tackled were knock-outs, a couple of them were good, but not great. As I said in those posts, it could be due to substitutions or errors. And personal taste comes into play, too. At the risk of being repetitive, for me, it’s the techniques that make these books stand-out. The methods are wonderfully versatile and can be catered to your own tastes. The recipes also have big flavor profiles, which I love. These home-cooked versions taste like the food did at Horizons! In my experience, restaurant cookbooks don’t always deliver.

My October favorite: Irish Seitan Beef Stew. Jim’s is the Pan-Seared Tofu with Capers, Basil and Tomatoes. It wasn’t easy for either of us to pick.

Besides wonderful food, Horizons also had an amazing vegan wine list. Thanks to Kate for her efforts to bring more vegan wines to the table. We’ve shared some emails and I’ve benefited from her experience. Determining if wines are vegan can be like pulling teeth, only to have to start over with the next vintage. Thank you for for keeping compassionate wine drinkers in mind. We’re excited to check out the menu and wine list at Vedge when the time comes.

I look forward to continuing this project with Liz and expanding my own cooking horizons more.

– Tami

The reason I like cookbook testing so much is that it makes me try recipes I wouldn’t necessarily attempt if I just bought the book. It’s too easy to only make dishes where you know you love the flavours/techniques already. That usually means guaranteed success but doesn’t give you the excitement of unexpected combinations, or loving something more than you thought you would.

Cooking through the Horizons books has been just like that. Before this blog, we’d eaten the immediate stand out dishes, but we’ve now been forced to try new things. We’ve got to know the philosophies and techniques behind the cooking, and how we can apply them to other dishes. If I have one tip, it’s to make the spice blends! (I did think of putting them into beautiful matching jars for the photo, but you get to see how I really work here!). They’re easy to make but having them ready to go turns some of the recipes into easy work night dishes and makes them more approachable.

It’s also been great to see which recipes we both chose to make for October. Tami and I have similar tastebuds in many ways but although we both had some of the same dishes on our initial lists, it was surprising to see some of her choices. We’ve kept to making different dishes for October, but there’s a good chance we’ll be repeating each others favourites as we progress.

I don’t like to play favourites, but if I had to pick mine from the Horizons books, I’d choose the Seitan French Dip. Matthew had to be forced to choose one and he actually went with one we used for Vine and Dine, the Cuban Pan Seared Tofu.

Talking about yourself in the third person feels awkward, but here goes: Liz and Tami are going to keep blogging their Horizons cooking, but it will be more sporadic rather than scheduled as VeganMoFo posting is. October isn’t generally salad weather, so they are hoping to explore those chapters more fully when it starts to warm up a little. To make this blog as complete as possible, if you’ve prepared a dish from one of the Horizons cookbooks, we’d love to link to your post. Just let us know.

In the meantime, we’ve got more surprises in store for you, including an amazing guest post for tomorrow!

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Spicy Jamaican curry seitan stew

I had a moment of madness with the delete button this week, so no photographs of this one I’m afraid.

I knew I’d be late back from a governor’s meeting so I made this the day before, safe in the knowledge that any kind of curried stew can only get better as it sits. I also changed the main ingredient because I didn’t have much seitan and no time to make it. I used a heaped cup of TVP chunks, hydrated, instead, and of course, I used the optional scotch bonnet pepper.

I served this alongside some brown basmati and it was really comforting on a chilly Autumn evening. Even with the scotch bonnet it wasn’t overly hot – just a nice heat that didn’t overpower the rest of the the spices and other ingredients. The TVP was a decent substitution but I suspect the textures would work better with the original suggested seitan. Using TVP made it a very budget friendly dish, and it’s also a great make in advance dish for the chilly months ahead!

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Tofu Rancheros

This is unlike any other ranchero I’ve had. This is one of those dishes that I simply have to order if it’s on a menu, so I’ve tried a fair share of them. This beats what I’ve been served in any restaurant.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing it, but I love the variations on techniques. This one differs from a  usual ‘scramble’ approach. The tofu is crumbled (big crumbles for me, please) and tossed with the Cajun spices before cooking. We didn’t feel it needed soy cheese or butter, so didn’t add those toward the end.  It comes together quickly, as does the sauce. Served with tortillas, scallions and avocado, as suggested, this is hearty and wonderful.

In the beginning of the book, there is a discussion of spice mixes and a few recipes. Make these. They last a long time and add so much flavor. It only takes a few minutes and is well worth the effort.

When we open a vegan bed and breakfast in Vermont, this one will be on the menu, with thanks to Horizons.

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Shredded seitan burrito with chipotle sauce

Given our love of seitan and chipotles, it was a certainty that we’d make this at some point. I’m only surprised we waited so long. As long as you’ve got some premade seitan, this is a snap to put together and yet another Horizons dish that seems like it took far longer to make than it actually did. Previously to this recipe I’ve always made my own chipotle powder by grinding whole chipotles in my spice grinder, but I included some in my order from Cool Chile Co. I can’t say I noticed too much difference but it made the process even speedier.

The method of cooking the seitan in the sauce resulted in a beautifully soft, spicy burrito filling, so I added in some crisp lettuce for contrast. I served it with guacamole, sour cream and the chipotle home fries from Hearty Vegan, which I’ve made many times before and are a spicy crispy buttery delight. (Note: They are far better if you don’t grab curry powder instead of chilli powder because they are in similar pots, but whatever).

I’ve no doubt that we could eat 16 ounces of seitan between us if we tried, but I halved the whole recipe and still got 2 substantial delicious burritos.

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Malaysian Tempeh

Before I go any further, let me say that I have never had a ‘proper’ curry, only those I’ve made from cookbooks. Or start with that, but end up tinkering some. So this one was a gamble, but made me feel justified in getting a new kind of curry powder at Penzey’s.

The idea here is a modified stir fry, which is recommended to be served over pad thai noodles. The tempeh is brushed with a marinade, then baked, or it can be added directly to the stir fry. I opted for just the vegetables to be in the stir fry. Since I used 8 ounces of tempeh (the recipe suggests 12 to 16 ounces, for 2 servings), I also cut the sauce in half but only used 1/4 of the coconut milk called for. I’m just learning to like it.

It’s not the prettiest dish, but it had complex flavors and we liked it.  But the truth is, I don’t think I’m crazy about curry. If you are, this could be your thing. We just didn’t love it. That said, I picked up a new technique for cooking tempeh, and I do love that!

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Grilled Portabello Verde Tacos

This is a horrible photo of a very tasty and super quick dish. I can’t get tomatillos here but I didn’t let that stop me from having this by using jarred tomatillo salsa as suggested in the intro to the recipe. That shortcut gets this dish on table ridiculously quickly for the taste levels. Earthy mushrooms, zingy salsa, corn tortillas, avocado, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, and, from Vegan Substitutions, smoky potato wedges. What on earth could go wrong?

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