Gary De Mattei, Holiday Favorites
REAL co-founder, Gary De Mattei joins Caryn Hartglass to talk about favorite vegan holiday recipes.
Hello everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. How are you today? I’m not going to tell you how I am, just yet but you’ll find out soon enough. Anyway, we’re heading towards the end of the year and I thought it would be a good time to go over a lot of the things that we’ve been doing at my non-profit Responsible Eating and Living and some of our wonderful accomplishments. Of course I want to talk about food. This is holiday time and there’s a lot of talk about food all year long but it really gets kind of crazy to a fevered pitch during the holidays. We do a lot of talking about it, a lot of looking at food and certainly a lot of eating of food. To do that, I’m going to bring on my other half, Gary De Mattei. He’s the co-founder of Responsible Eating and Living. He’s also the other half of the Hartglass and De Mattei, The Swingin’ Gourmets. Most of the things you hear me talk about on It’s All About Food I’ve gotten some guidance and support from Gary De Mattei. I’m going to welcome him on, Gary!
Gary: Hi Caryn! Am I speaking too loudly?
Caryn: I hear you perfectly.
Gary: OK, good. How’s it going? Happy holidays. Thanks for having me on your show. It really is an honor. I listen to your show obviously. All I can say is that you really do have quite the list of esteemed guests, authors and doctors, nutritionists and people who fight the good fight to get the message out about the benefits of plant-based eating. I’m just happy to be included in that group. So thank you so much.
Caryn: And thank you for all that you do.
Gary: I know that we’re going to talk a little bit about the work that we do at Responsible Eating and Living. For those people who don’t know, as Caryn mentioned, I’m the other half of the Responsible Eating and Living team. If you were to give me a title I guess you would say that I’m the Creative Director but that’s not to say that Caryn wouldn’t share that title because her creativity is everywhere on the site and with all of the things that we do at Responsible Eating and Living. The acronym for that is REAL. So I’m looking forward to getting REAL with you here today on your fabulous show It’s All About Food and talk about the year in review and some other good stuff.
Caryn: I want to mention all the people that I’ve interviewed on this program in almost seven years now.
Gary: Seven years, wow.
Caryn: You know we do what we do—which is encouraging people to eat more plants. For me it’s because I want to minimize pain and suffering, violence, exploitation, of non-human animals and human animals and the planet. We do it here at Responsible Eating and Living and on this program by promoting healthy, delicious food and bringing the joyful experience to eating plants but it’s very easy to get sad, depressed, about what’s going on. When I talk to all of these people and interview them it continues to inspire me when I hear about all the great things that people are doing all over the world, very inspiring.
Gary: Yes, I agree. It is sad and does get depressing. You’ve been fighting the good fight a whole lot longer than I have. When did you become a vegetarian, at14?
Caryn: It’s hard to remember so long ago but the story I’ve been telling is: I learned about vegetarianism when I was 15. There was a guy in my class who came in and said he was a vegetarian. Then I went home and said, “I’m not eating meat”. Then of course twenty years later I saw him at a high school reunion and told him that he was responsible for starting me on this activist path of veganism and he jolted up and said “Me? I was vegetarian for a week.”
Gary: (laughs) I love that story. That’s great. So you just never know. For me it was—just to recap our story together—we met each other on stage. We’re both—in addition to you being a tremendously gifted activist and everything else that you do, chemical engineer, etc., you are also, for those of you who don’t know, one of the most brilliant singers that I’ve ever worked with and I’ve worked with a lot. You sing it all, including opera. You and I both were both in an opera together back in the early ‘90s in Northern California where you also had a gig in the Silicon Valley inventing something that changed the world. I won’t even get in to that but you know you were in the photomask business and for those of you who don’t know what a photomask is…Google it.
Caryn: That’s right, Google it.
Gary: But that’s what you did. You also just happened to be doing a lot of theatre. So you and I met. We were the leads together in a production of the Beggar’s Opera. Even way back then you were known as the über vegan. You had mentioned to me back then in the early 90’s that this is something you should do because I was overweight. I ignored you and said, “Yeah, yeah, sure I’m going to change the way I eat, yeah right.” You then left for France. You lived in France for several years and then moved back to New York after France. I got bigger and bigger and bigger. I also did more and more theatre. I never forgot the things that you had said. Fast forward to 2006 when I answered an e-mail and put your name in the e-mail hoping that you would write back and you did. So we got talking via e-mail and we haven’t shut up ever since. The point is I finally re-visited your—it wasn’t even that you were preaching, you basically said then the same thing you said in 2006 that is, this is something you should think about. And I did. I thought about it. All of a sudden it made sense. The veil, as many people have said, was lifted. Now I’m about 100 pounds lighter than I was. That’s how we got together and said, let’s start this organization that talks about not only the aspects of saving the animals and the planet but also saving ourselves because I’m not only 100 pounds lighter, I’m the healthiest I’ve been ever and I owe that all to you. If you were to ask me what are you grateful for at the end of the year I would say simply that I’m grateful for you for not giving up on me. I know you have a lot of other people that you are working with. You have your private coaching and all of that. You don’t give up on anybody. I see what you do and you read every single book that’s sent to you and you really do focus on the message, what the author is trying to say before talking to the people on this show. I really just want to say you are, ironically enough, the real deal. You do this because you really do want to make a difference. If I could just keep going on ad nauseum for another minute…
Caryn: No, stop!
Gary: There’s a great quote by Chris Hedges who is now a vegan. He’s talking about fascism and he says, and I’m paraphrasing, “I don’t fight fascism because I think I can win. I fight fascism because it’s fascism.” I think that can easily be adjusted to say, if I may be so bold as to put words in your mouth, you don’t fight to rid the world of eating animals because you think you can win, you fight because we shouldn’t be eating animals. So anyway, I really botched that up good.
Caryn: No, it was beautiful. Thank you and I’m really grateful, obviously for you and your creativity. You’re the creative director for a reason and we’re going to talk in a moment about your creative genius.
Gary: I doubt its genius, but yeah. You’re talking about the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Caryn: What I wanted to say was that I can’t do anything else. I can, I mean there’s a lot of things that I do–hobbies and activities and work. I cannot hold back exposing what is truth to me. That eating animals isn’t right.
Gary: But you’re going to get so many people that are going to say the opposite, which you and other people in the movement come up against on a daily basis, an hourly basis, by the minute. Let me just look at some of the comments that people write on some of these pro-vegan videos on YouTube and sites that promote plant-based living. It’s really…the backlash is unbelievable. You just have to take all of that with a grain of salt in order to be able to keep going forward but it kind of weighs you down after awhile. You have never let it get to you. I’m sure you’ve let it get to you but you certainly don’t show that face when you’re fighting the good fight and talking the good talk. I think, personally, since I’ve been involved, since 2008 here in New York and been a vegan since 2007, I see the change. I lot of folks are going to be having these great holiday celebrations coming up very soon and I would just bet you that if they aren’t vegan and they invite some folks over they are going to have a vegan or two in the house. That’s why some of these recipes that we’re doing for the holidays that we’re going to talk about in a few minutes are really going to give people some great ideas on how they can feed hungry vegans.
Caryn: Let’s start with that. Let’s talk about what we’ve just posted on our website. You’ve come up with something that you’re calling The Feast of Seven Dishes. I want to hear about that.
Gary: Yeah, the Feast of the Seven Dishes. You will probably, if you’re a foodie out there you’ve probably already heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, especially if you’re an Italian American or an Italian. I know this show goes around the world. We might have some listeners in Italy now. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a traditional, in some Italian households, is a tradition on Christmas Eve because Christmas Eve is supposedly a day of abstinence. So what they consider abstaining from is I would imagine red meat and chicken and anything of that nature. What they are allowed to eat is fish and I think that’s why the strangeness of all of that. I’ve sat and thought about and thought that’s still flesh. Fish is flesh is just comes from the sea as opposed to land.
Caryn: It’s not even fasting.
Gary: It’s not fasting.
Caryn: They’re eating a pile of food.
Gary: Right. And seven dishes of anything is certainly not fasting. The point is, if there are traditions out there and people are refusing to break them because of this hard-wired since birth idea that you’re supposed to eat seven fish dishes on Christmas Eve…I know that I came from that same Italian upbringing where food was the way we celebrated the holidays and so I thought about a menu for Christmas Eve for those who celebrate Christmas… And again I state that I’m not a religious person but I’m a vegan and since becoming a vegan the holidays have taken on a deeper meaning than anything I ever felt when I was forced to go to Catholic school and mass and all of that. The hypocrisy behind saying it’s ok to eat fish… you know fish are tortured the same way that land animals are tortured and you’re still eating flesh the same way you’re eating red meat or whatever people call it now. So I thought let’s put together the Feast of the Seven Dishes. Now the reason it’s called the Feast of the Seven Fishes…everywhere you look someone is going to have a different opinion about this. Every Italian family is going to make their pasta sauce a different way. They’re going to make the raviolis a different way. They’re going to make their fish dishes a different way. Some call it the Seven Fishes because of the seven sacraments. Some call it the Feast of the Ten Dishes because of the ten Stations of the Cross. Some call it the Feast of the Thirteen Dishes because of the twelve apostles plus Jesus makes thirteen. Whatever you call it, I’m calling it the Feast of the Seven Dishes because we’ve outlined here a seven-course feast. It’s on our website. We sent it out on our mailing list. If you’re not on our mailing list you should get it on our mailing list. Go to responsibleeatingandliving.com and get on our mailing list and you’ll receive this. If not you’ll just go to the website and look for the Feast of the Seven Dishes. I’ll go down the list with you. So we’ve outlined a seven-course feast. If you really counted it’s more than seven courses but we’ve numbered the actual food courses. It opens with aperitivo. It’s the moment when the guests arrive and you serve them drinks and maybe have some munchies out. We open it with a Bellini and we’ve talked about what a Bellini is. It’s a cocktail. It’s a mixture of Prosecco which is a sparkling white wine and peach purée. This is a great drink to serve people. If you have children over you can still serve it to them but you can put peach purée in the glass and add sparkling water to it and they’ll lap it up because it’s sweet and it’s not a bad drink. You could almost consider it healthy. Make sure you find an organic peach purée. And if you don’t find peach purée you can use…what we used at Thanksgiving was pear purée, pear nectar and it made it just as delicious. So we open with that and we have nuts and olives and sometimes we put out some of our vegan cheeses that we make which you can find recipes for.
Caryn: Can I just add a comment here?
Gary: Please, please.
Caryn: OK, so you mention Prosecco and I’ve brought this up from time to time. People are surprised to hear that alcoholic beverages may not be vegan, not that animal products are specifically added to the beverage but they’re used in the processing. Gelatin or a fish product can be used to settle out the solids and there are some manufacturers that use bentonite which is clay. To find out whether your favorite alcoholic beverages are vegan or not you can go to barnivore.com. Many of them are up there. If they’re not up there then you’ll have to ask the distributor, see what kind of products they use.
Gary: Yeah, it’s a clever name because carnivore, take off the “c” add a “b”, barnivore, so that’s easy to remember, barnivore.com. They do great work there. Now they have an app so you could even download the app.
Caryn: I want to say that your antipasti is so brilliant and I remember when you first started thinking of making this dish and how excited you got. Then you made sure you got the tools and the right material. Talk about this dish.
Gary: The next and first official food course in the Feast of the Seven Dishes is the antipasti. This is after everyone is well-plied with a Bellini or two or if you have an Aunt that has to have a couple of martinis then make sure she gets her couple of martinis because that’s how she rolls, right? After everyone has their little drink if you’re not doing a buffet then you’re going to still everyone down at the table and the first course you’re going to serve them is called the antipasti. What I think my favorite is…this is all based on if you’re transitioning into veganism like I did. I know before I became a vegan one of my favorite things to do was to have a plate of Carpaccio. So I thought finally what I was actually doing sort of repulses me now but…
Caryn: Can you just say what Carpaccio is for some people who may not know?
Gary: Carpaccio is raw beef, raw filet mignon, pounded really thinly, put on a plate. The big deal about Carpaccio was how thin you can get it on the plate. A lot of restaurants it looks like they spray it on the plate. I don’t know how they get it so thin. I came up with this idea to take a sun dried tomato that’s been marinating with a little olive oil and some herbs and some balsamic vinegar. It gets to the point where you can actually put it between two pieces of parchment paper and pound it very thin. Lay it on a plate and then put this great Carpaccio mayonnaise, it’s called the Carpaccio sauce, over it that we have a recipe for that’s made with some of our vegan mayo. Of course we give you the recipe to make your own vegan mayo but there are vegan mayos now out on the market. You basically just add a little vegan Worcestershire sauce, which there is some of that out on the market now. If you can’t find vegan Worcestershire sauce you certainly don’t need it. A little more lemon juice perhaps and some salt and pepper. You pound these sun dried tomato fillets I call them. You pound them really thin and you put them on the plate and you sprinkle them with a few capers and you drizzle some of this Carpaccio mayo over it and you serve it with some of your gluten free breadsticks or any kind of bread that you like and it makes a really lovely antipasti for a nice sit down dinner or it makes a really lovely antipasti for a buffet.
Caryn: Beautiful, it’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anyone do it and you came up with it and just amazing how creative you are.
Gary: Thanks. I think a lot of people probably do it but we were the first on our block to do it.
Caryn: Let’s go to the primo.
Gary: The primo is my personal favorite. It’s the course when the hot food starts coming out to the table. Again this is a sit down dinner and I’m thinking about a sit down dinner for eight people. Make sure if you have eight people you have at least 12 bottles of wine. That’s very important.
Gary: Very important at Christmas time. If you want any recommendations about vegan wine go ahead and email us at email@example.com or you can tweet us your questions and we’ll be glad to answer them about wine. Right off the bat I’m going to say that my personal favorite course is the primo because I love pasta. Don’t listen to anybody when they talk to you about carbs because they’re lying. Carbs are fine, especially if you’re transitioning and wanting to become a vegan. You’re going to need those carbs. They’re going to make you feel like you aren’t depriving yourself of anything. We’ve given you—because Caryn is a big part of this menu—she’s done all of the pastry on the menu, all of the breads, so she would be considered the pastry chef of this menu. We have a Lasagna Al Forno, which we do have a video on how to make it. We have a Risotto Veganese and we have a Polenta Torta. All of them are based on old family recipes that I grew up with. That’s a big part of this menu. You get nostalgic for dishes that you grew up with and these are certainly based on dishes that I grew up with. I never had fish growing up. We had the occasional fish sticks on Friday because, as I mentioned, I was raised Catholic. Once in awhile my Mom would cook halibut but my Dad, God love him, he did not like the smell of fish cooking in the house and none of us really argued about it because if my Dad didn’t like something then we didn’t like it. It wasn’t until later that I learned about fish and how to cook it and all of that. The one thing that is interesting about me is I don’t like mushrooms. This Polenta Torta recipe that I remember when I was growing up my Aunt Bing would make and you took that over because you love mushrooms and you’ve made this beautiful Polenta Torta that’s on the menu, the Feast of the Seven Dishes menu. If anyone in the family likes polenta and likes mushrooms you’re going to love this because it’s a delicious dish that Caryn invented based on what I used to tell her about my Aunt Bing’s Mushroom Dish and how it will be firmly ingrained in my mind because how could anybody eat mushrooms.
Caryn: I love it because it looks like a cake. You make layers like you’d make cake layers only you make polenta and let it firm up and then slice it so that you have round layers like cake layers and in between these polenta layers you make this rich, creamy filling with, we used, cashew cream and all kinds of seasonings and mushrooms. Then you put it all together and it’s stunning and you slice it. I just find that really fun.
Gary: It’s beautiful too, a nice presentation. The important thing about the Polenta Torta I think is getting a good quality mushroom. So what did you use? What were your mushrooms? Did you use the creminis?
Caryn: We used the cremini in this one but if you can get chanterelle, I love those, or mix them. Those are my favorite flavors of mushrooms. Even a Portobello will be fine.
Gary: It really looks good. I’m sure it tastes even better.
Caryn: If you like mushrooms.
Gary: You call the sauce that you put in between it which I love about this you call it a mornay sauce which is a delicious sauce all by itself. You said the base of that is cashew cream which I think is just one of the greatest ingredients you could have in the kitchen. Before being a vegan and also being a chef, the thing a lot of chefs have on hand is manufacturing cream, which is a real heavy-duty cream that reduces very quickly. You use it for a lot of bases for like an Alfredo sauce and a lot of different sauces. Manufacturing cream is no match for cashew cream. It’s good fat. It’s a higher fat content than any animal fat based cream, cashew cream does, and it reduces down just as quickly as any animal based fat cream and it’s just…the results are absolutely the same if not better. We have a recipe for cashew cream on our website and you should introduce yourself to that. It’s really lovely.
Caryn: It’s just blending cashews with water. There really is no trick to it at all. Let’s move on to the Secondi because this is the masterpiece. This is the place where you’ve really outdone yourself.
Gary: Thank you. The Secondi is the third course. In the non-vegan household you’d call this the meat course where the meats start coming out to the table. I’ve given some options here. Again, on our website we have this whole report. First of all talk about soy. We have a report about soy and there are a lot of myths going on about soy. We dispel those myths with a very in-depth report that Caryn has done citing sources from experts in the plant based food movement as well as experts in the non plant based food movement. Again it’s a conspiracy against people who eat soy because they realize that this is just as protein-packed as any animal flesh. What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to keep you eating animals and keep you thinking that you need animals because the first question anybody ever gets, especially if their children come home and say they want to go vegan is “where are you going to get your protein?” I just heard that the other night at dinner with some friends. Their daughter wants to be a vegetarian and the mother is hyper-concerned about where she’s going to get her protein. This is one of the things we all have to deal with. So soy is a really great source of protein and it’s not going to kill you if you eat soy but you’ll need to have sources to back up that statement and if you need them watch the Soy Story that Caryn has done. It’s incredible investigative report and it just basically dispels that myth. So we have two dishes that have a soy base. First of all Tofu Calamari Style Steak. That’s delicious. It’s in a nice lemon blanc sauce. It really does taste like a chewy piece of calamari steak. The other one is a Filet of Soul, spelled s-o-u-l, and that’s a marinated tempeh steak. That’s got more of a softer but dense texture. Probably something that people who eat fish will liken to salmon or halibut. Those are both lovely dishes if you want to re-create some, shall I say, white meat dishes. Then the Osso Vita, which is featured in a cookbook, we’ve got here on our site. It’s a braised seitan chop. Seitan is just basically—it’s not called “satan” it’s called “say-tan”—it’s basically the gluten of the wheat. It’s called wheat-meat. All the starch is washed out and you’re left with nothing but the protein. It takes on flavors very easily and it has a chewy meat-like texture. When it’s done right this seitan chop is also a riff on osso buco for those of you out there who know what osso buco is. We call it osso vita. That should be something that you try when you have the time because it does take some time to prepare.
Caryn: It’s stunning. It’s stunning and I think we even scared some people when they looked at the pictures saying that they liked the vegan recipes but they can’t try the meat recipe. We don’t have any meat recipes.
Gary: We don’t have any meat recipes. We’re 100% vegan here. A lot of our stuff is gluten free. However, the Osso Vita is not gluten free. This is a gluten-based product that we make in-house here. It shouldn’t be served to people who have gluten sensitivity because it is, it’s gluten. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have gluten sensitivity and maybe are transitioning and want to eat something that reminds them of red meat. This is about as close as I think you’re going to get. Even the look, as Caryn mentioned… Someone wrote us today after we sent this e-mail out and said, “I like all your recipes except for that meat dish”. It’s not a meat dish. It looks like it but it’s not. And some people who want to transition need that.
Caryn: Let’s go on to the contorni.
Gary: The contorni is basically side dishes. They’re served alongside the Segundo. These usually are vegetables. There are a wide variety of vegetables out there that you can serve on the side. We’ve given you some options. I had a chef once that said he could sell anything if he served it with mashed potatoes. He could sell an old shoe if he served it with mashed potatoes. You have to include mashed potatoes in any side dish even if you’re having pasta because it wouldn’t be an Italian feast without potatoes and pasta, right? I don’t care where you’re from; you’ve got to have both. It wouldn’t be an Italian feast without raviolis, spaghetti and lasagna. You’ve just got to do all three. We’ve got some excellent sautéed greens and so many more recipes for sautéed greens on our website. We’ve got the garlic mashed potatoes then the Verdura Mista Al Forno is oven-based mixed vegetables. The recipe we have uses summer squash because we did it in the summer but you can also take that summer squash out if you’re doing it in the winter and add another root vegetable to it. The key to this is get a nice hot oven, slice thin like you would a French fry, coat them with a little olive oil and some herbs and put them in a hot oven, give them a little spin after about twenty minutes and you’ve got some amazing roasted potato vegetables that you can serve with… I would serve them with the Calamari Steak or the Filet of Soul. It’d be delicious. I would definitely serve the Osso Vita with the Risotto Veganese.
Caryn: I’m like stuffed just looking at this but we’re not even done yet. How long does a meal like this last?
Gary: Depends on whom you’ve got over. I think one of the important things about any successful holiday gathering is to invite as many interesting people as you can. Sometimes you can’t always do that. Some of your family members, let’s be honest, aren’t so interesting. To keep them interesting that’s why we open with the aperitivo and Bellini’s. If you give them enough Bellini’s or enough of whatever it is they get to feel a little loose, the 12 bottles of wine at the table, depends on how long you go. I would say a meal like this should take about two to three hours to get through. That’s a nice time. If it’s dinner at 8 everybody gets out of there and goes to midnight mass. You know what I’m saying?
Caryn: I see.
Gary: So dinner at 8. Stuffed at 11 with the fasting that you’ve been doing. Then you come home after midnight mass and you cook the Vegan Sausage and Peppers because that’s when the fast apparently ends.
Caryn: Oh my goodness.
Caryn: Let’s finish up the Feast of the Seven Dishes. So we’ve got the salad course next.
Gary: Right. So the salad, if you’re doing the traditional Italian feast, which this is, the salad course would come here. It signifies the end of the savory dishes. We’ve given you three salads to choose from. There’s many more on our site and I’m sure you have your own ideas. When I was growing up the salad would open the meal. That’s more the non-traditional feast. You can certainly open the meal with the salad or end it with salad. Because I’m doing a traditional… we’re re-imagining the traditional feast…I’m doing it were it should go. That’s at the end of the savory dishes.
Caryn: After the salad is the cheese course, and fruit.
Gary: We make our own vegan cheese here at Responsible Eating and Living. So we’ve given you three recipes for vegan cheese. Basically what happens now is the cheese and the fruit come on the table and that’s just to give people something to do. It’s really a big deal, especially if you make the cheese yourself, to sample these homemade vegan cheeses. It’s really… it shouldn’t be overlooked and you shouldn’t think this is just a place card before dessert comes. It really is a nice time to either sample the vegan cheeses that you make at home or sample the vegan cheeses that are now coming out on the market. I know you’ve interviewed a lot of people that make vegan cheese that are now being sold in stores.
Caryn: We’re not talking about the soy-based cheeses that have been in the supermarket for a while now that are disgusting.
Gary: They are pretty bad. The newer cheeses that are out that I’m sure that a lot of you vegans out there that might be listening now have already tried. If you need a list of them e-mail us and we’ll give you a list. One off the top of my head is Kite Hill. Tal Ronnen who Caryn has interviewed on her show has a line of cheese out called Kite Hill. He also has a new restaurant called Crossroads on Melrose. He serves a lot of Kite Hill at his restaurants so if you people listening in LA want to go sample some Kite Hill in a restaurant go see Tal. Caryn has interviewed Miyoko Schinner. She has a line of cheese out called Miyoko’s Kitchen. Fabulous cheeses, we’ve eaten them all. So if you don’t want to make your own cheese those are two right there you can go get and have them for the holidays. This is the part where you can bring out the cheese and have everybody taste it and see how lovely and wonderful it is. I know that the stuff that we make here at home is great. I can’t tell the difference any more.
Caryn: I just want to move to my favorite course, which is the dulce.
Gary: OK, so Caryn, take it over, because you are the pastry chef and I gave you these ideas that gee I’d sure like to re-create some of my favorites and you’re the one that came up with how to do that here. So talk about your cannoli.
Caryn: I remember growing up on Long Island and we were near an Italian neighborhood in Deer Park that had some wonderful Italian bakeries and my favorite was the cannoli. I’ve had a bunch of cannolis that are vegan at the Millennium Restaurant. I remember they filled it with some kind of peanut butter cream. It was pretty good. I’ve had some vegan cannolis that are not very good where the filling is more like a very sugary frosting and not like a rich cream. I wanted to make it. I believe in having treats on occasion and making things decadent but I don’t like them overdone. A cannoli shell is typically fried. I came up with a recipe that not only is gluten free but is baked. I think it makes a great cannoli shell. It’s easy to make. It really is.
Gary: It is so good.
Caryn: It’s not going to take two minutes to do it but it doesn’t require really any skill.
Gary: I just want to interject here. We’re talking about it as if everybody’s going to be able to do this. We know that there’s a lot of you out there that are listening that you’re like “Wait, make the cannoli shell? What are you talking about?” Remember the focus here is the Feast of the Seven Dishes. A lot of that has to do with actually getting in the kitchen, rolling up your sleeves and learning how to do some of this stuff or re-learning how to do some of this stuff and we’re here to help. Responsible Eating and Living is here to give you the truth and tools about plant based living. So if you need to ask us how to do this or you need some extra help with the instructions, let us know.
Caryn: When holidays come, for me, I think some of the fun part is getting together with some family members in the kitchen making some things. Some people take weeks to prepare. You can make, for example, these cannoli shells way in advance and have them ready to fill when you need them.
Gary: Right and it’s a genius recipe and I don’t even know how you did it but you did it.
Caryn: Well you can find out at responsibleeatingandliving.com because we have the recipe.
Gary: So talk about this: This was the one I came to you about a while ago and said “Gosh if you could make this vegan then…”
Caryn: Crostata di Ricotta?
Gary: Yes…the world will be saved.
Caryn: Yeah it was pretty amazing.
Gary: An amazing thing that you did here with an ancient recipe for the Crostata di Ricotta which was in a book, one of the first cookbooks I ever read, an ancient Italian cookbook…there was this Crostata di Ricotta which is a cheese pie or basically a cheese cake made with ricotta. One of the heartbreaks that I thought I was going to endure was not ever being able to have a ricotta again. I was ready to take that step and I did and then because you love me so much, you invented this ricotta that then you turned into this pie. Tell us how you did that.
Caryn: OK. Now this is very time consuming. I’m going to say that right ahead of the game. I get into it like a Zen mode. I probably do more than most people do. To begin with I start with raw almonds that have the brown skin on them. I soak them and then I patiently push the peels off of them, one by one. I know most people aren’t going to do that. OK, that’s fine. You can buy blanched almonds and start there. Frankly, I think it’s worth it because I think the raw almonds that haven’t been blanched or cooked and haven’t been sitting in a bag for you don’t know how long have the best flavor. I just think it’s worth it. When you soak these almonds and take the skins off or take blanched almonds and soak them and then drain them. You can blend them and they don’t get as creamy as cashews do. They make a better ricotta because, if you’ve had ricotta, it has a lumpiness to it. The almonds do that very, very nicely.
Gary: It’s delicious.
Caryn: I guess back in the olden days they didn’t have springform pans. To make a cheese cake like this the crust came up all the way along the sides to hold the cheese. I duplicated the recipe the best I could, substituting for eggs and also substituting for wheat because I like making things gluten-free. It’s a nice recipe if you want to take the time to make it.
Gary: Right. So the pasta frola you’re talking about, the crust, it’s like a pasta that they wrapped it in or that they made a dish out of then poured the cheese into. You can take that pasta frola that you invented with all kinds of great ingredients and you could put that in a lot of different applications. You could…it’s not just for the Crostata di Ricotta. I can’t even wait to figure out all the different uses for it but one in particular is you could sprinkle some sugar and some cinnamon on it, roll it up and bake it just as it is and like my grandmother used to do with extra crust, bake that in the oven and eat it like a …your people would call it rugalah, right?
Caryn: Hmmm, like a cookie.
Gary: Like a cookie, sprinkle some nuts in there so it aerates when it bakes…just a delicious crust all by itself. So that’s a masterstroke of genius there. I know it’s a mutual admiration society here but you really outdid yourself.
Caryn: The last dessert….
Gary: Torta Al Limone, right?
Caryn: I think that was also in the same book.
Gary: Either that or it was something I remembered eating when I lived in San Francisco at a restaurant that’s no longer there on Union Street called Prego. They used to do this Torta Al Limone. I thought “Gosh if we could only re-create that, I know it probably has a thousand eggs in it.” And you did it. It’s genius.
Caryn: What’s nice about it, after such a huge meal, some people might want a sweet taste but nothing really heavy. That lemon gives it a nice clean taste on the palette and it’s lighter than our ricotta cheesecake or the cannoli.
Gary: OK. So our Feast now… the dolce is served and you have to have the café with the dolce so we’re sort of tag teaming those two courses there as well as the digestivo. So while you’re serving dessert you have to serve a very strong, very hot, very wet, beverage of your choice. Traditionally here’s where the espresso gets broken out. In traditional Italian families, I’m told; there is no such thing as a cappuccino at this point in the Feast or a latte. This is just straight up strong, thick—your spoon can stand up in it—coffee and you sip it. You drink it very quickly and you’re going to have more than one cup. Caryn and I, we like tea. So here I would suggest having nice strong cups of tea. Again, no need for any milk but if that’s the way you want to take it, terrific. We also like teeccino, which is an herb kind of coffee.
Caryn: It’s a grain-based caffeine-free coffee-like beverage. And it’s delicious.
Gary: And it’s actually very good for you. I know when Caryn was going through her little cancer story we were introduced to teeccino at the Bloch Center. They had it for their patients there. We’ve loved it ever since. They had it in like a Mr. Coffee kind of a thing; so you can percolate it, brew it, just like you would regular coffee. You can even put it in an espresso maker. It’s really good and it’s really good for you. Whatever you like at this point you can have it. The digestivo, because this is a traditional Feast of the Seven Dishes reinvented by moi, here’s where you could have a nice digestive shot of some sort of lovely Amaretto or Grappa or Limoncello. Something to just polish things off before you go to Mass and then come home and eat vegan sausages. That’s it.
Caryn: Very lovely. Bravo, bravo Gary.
Gary: We’re patting ourselves on the back. Really what I want to say is we couldn’t do any of this without you folks out there who are listening now, so you’re the ones who we’re going to give the standing ovation to. Thank you for being with us. We started this organization and nonprofit organization in 2011 and we’re going on our 5th year in 2016. Download our end of the year report. You’ll see the tremendous progress that we’ve made. None of it would ever be possible without you. So grazie tante mille tante e Buono natale if you celebrate Christmas. If you don’t, have a wonderful Solstice winter, rub yourself with some woad. Go out and worship the moon. Whatever you do to celebrate…
Caryn: Rub yourself with what?
Gary: Woad, it’s a medieval thing.
Gary: Rub yourself with Crostata di Ricotta. Whatever it is that you want to do, do it and do it with gusto. The one thing I’ll say before signing off and letting Caryn finish up is thank you PRN for allowing us the opportunity to spread the message.
Caryn: Absolutely. For everyone, Gary, Noel, all the team at Progressive Radio Network, it’s been such a pleasure bringing this program almost every week for almost seven years. I’ve met so many wonderful people, in person or just their voice or online, by e-mail, whatever. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful community. I’m really honored and glad to be a part of it.
Gary: Caryn, thanks so much. You’ve got seven minutes to wrap it up. I’ll see you in the next room a little later on.
Caryn: You know you don’t have to go just yet if you want to make some comments but I am going to take over here.
Gary: Take over. I’m going to listen in. I’ll still be here but take it away, Caryn.
Caryn: We just have a few minutes left so one of the things we were doing… It’s the end of the year. We’ve put out an end of the year letter. We take the time to look at everything we’ve done for the year. It’s always a big surprise and a delight, actually, because we do work almost all the time. When you reflect on the things that you’ve done you realize, wow, a lot’s happened. This year we’ve started the What Vegans Eat Blog. I’ve been blogging every day about what we eat. The point of it is, as you may know, people ask me, they may ask you, “What do you eat?” because they can’t imagine eating without eating animals and that’s mostly because people don’t even know what’s in their food to know if there are animal products in their food or not. So now we have 314 posts of what vegans eat. Many of them are linked to our recipes because we tend to make a number of favorite foods over and over because we like them and they’re easy and we like to share them with everyone.
Gary: Yes we do.
Caryn: Back in April we had our Annual Happy Earth Review with the Swingin’ Gourmets. We’ve got big plans for the Swingin’ Gourmets. Right now the program that we’ve put together uses a lot of music either in the public domain or popular standards and we want to arrange our own original music and get that going. That’s one of our future plans. We’ve got a lot of things that we are planning.
Gary: The Swingin’ Gourmets want to take the original songs that we’ve written which we have a wonderful melody line for obviously and we want to get them arranged so we’re working towards that. We have a whole show of original tunes and original sketches. It’s referred to basically as our educational component but it’s so much more and the show could stand on its own. That’s it. Check us out on the website.
Caryn: I’ve got about a minute left because of what I’m going to do at the end of the program. It’s something fun. I like to do it every now and then. We’re going to play a song by the Swingin’ Gourmets. That’s appropriate for the end of the year. Before I do I just want to say again this is a great time to think about what you’re happy for and I’m very grateful for Gary and I’m very grateful for all of you out there and you know I love to hear from you and you can always send an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I never get tired of that. We love it when comments come in. Continue to visit us at responsiblelivingandeating.com. This is a giving time and we are having our end of the year giving campaign and would love any support that you can give us. That’s at responsiblelivingandeating.com. How’s that? I think what I want to say now is have a very delicious week and remember to tune in love and with that I leave you with the Swingin’ Gourmets singing “Man With The Bag”. (Music plays.)
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 1/21/2016