Posts Tagged ‘Vegan MoFo 2013’

Vegan Czech kolaches


My last name is Pitlick (pit-lick), which is Czech for “scrotum.” Yup, hard to believe that it’s even worse in its native tongue.

Technically, it should be spelled Pitlyk (or was it Pytlik?), is pronounced peet-leek, and is the diminutive form of the word “bag” or “sack,” literally translated as “little sack.” Which, of course, colloquially means… scrotum.

Now that we have that out of the way, the only other reminder in my life of my Bohemian heritage are kolaches.

If you’re Czech or Texan, you are well aware of kolaches. Kolaches are sweet buns filled with jam or poppy seeds. Texans make savory versions too. Weirdos.

My dad would bake these every once in a while when I was a kid with jam from our apricot tree. I highly doubt his Czech dad made them for him while he was growing up — he confirmed that the recipe he used come from an aunt.

However, when I asked him for her kolaches, he forwarded me an email from a few-times-removed cousin with a couple of recipes from a cookbook, which I combined to suit my own needs.

This version takes much less time to make than I recall, but time passes differently to a child. My dad would add a streusel stopping to the jam, which is delicious but unnecessary.

Vegan Kolaches


  • 2 cups lukewarm non-dairy milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups flour, divided
  • 1 can poppy seed filling or jam of your choice


  1. Add sugar to lukewarm milk and stir in yeast in a large bowl. Let sit for a few minutes until foamy.
  2. Stir in oil, 3 cups flour, and salt and mix until combined. Stir in remaining 3 cups of flour.
  3. Shape into small balls and place on a greased baking pan about 1 inch apart. Let rise until more or less doubled in size.
  4. Press down centers with your thumb and fill with desired filling.
  5. Let rise again and bake at 350° for 15 – 18 minutes.

Sweet tea vodka


Chai is really big in Russia.

Not the spicy sweet chai that we drink over here — chai  is usually plain ol’ black tea, but it could be green or white or whatever. Chai just means tea.

Russians like tea and Russians like vodka, so why not combine them? Sweet tea vodka ala Firefly is really really easy to make. You just soak 4 or 5 black teabags in vodka for a few hours, remove them, and add 1/4 cup of vegan cane sugar and let that dissolve over a few days. This is easiest in a large mason jar.

BAM — alcoholic Arnold Palmer in no time.

Wild mushrooms


As I’ve written before, mushrooming is a popular pastime in Russia and other Slavic countries.

It’s also a favorite hobby of my new roommate, Steve, an all-American dude from Wisconsin who spends a lot of time on Mt. Rainier for his job.

He returned yesterday from a few days of collecting data with three bags of assorted species of fungi, all of which, he assured me, are edible.

Steve displayed his finds on a plate, educating me on each variety and how comfortable he felt eating them. The chanterelles — two varieties, golden and blue — for sure, the chicken of the woods — probably, the porcini — mosttttt likely.


He invited me in on the tasting, starting with the safest: the chanterelles. He washed a large one (even though you supposedly shouldn’t, as it makes them waterlogged), chopped it, and sauteed it in olive oil with some sea salt, garlic powder, and black pepper until the flesh reached a golden sear. He said that I was under absolutely no obligation to sample it, and he would understand if I didn’t.

With eager trepidation, I took a small piece. It was delicious: buttery, savory, earthy, in a familiar way. Definitely a chanterelle.

We put the others in the fridge, and I don’t think I’m brave enough to try them. Steve has a scientist’s eye and they all resemble the pics of safe mushrooms in his mushroom hunting book (no white gills — “white gills kill“) but I’m going to let him confirm.

Supposedly the most common cause of mushroom sickness is the placebo effect — the stress of thinking you’ve eaten a poisonous mushroom when it’s really the edible variety.

I’d just rather not find out.

Soy-free vegan sour cream


Sour cream — smetana — is a staple in Russian (and presumably other Eastern European) cuisine.

Tofutti’s vegan version is awesome, but not great for people with soy sensitivities. I also worry about eating processed foods, though you wouldn’t know it based on how often I eat them.

While watching football at the Redwood recently, a friend got a little too liberal with malt vinegar — its flavor on french fries reminded me of dairy sour cream. So, I combined 1 cup cashews (soaked overnight), a couple teaspoons of malt vinegar, a pinch of salt, and about 1/3 cup water in my Vitamix for a creamy, soy-free, no-cow alternative.

It’s okay, though I might just stick with a recipe from the pros.

Potato croquettes with mushroom-lentil gravy


“Russian food is heavy and your host mother will want to feed you,” they told me. “If you eat a lot on your first day, she will be offended if you don’t eat that much at other meals. You’re setting a precedent.”

With visions of gaining 25 pounds in a semester*, I tried to restrain myself when my host mother served me a giant plate of fried potato croquettes and mushroom gravy several minutes into my stay, but the hunger of a four-hour train ride and deliciousness of her cooking compelled me to devour the entire plateful, thus sending me on a downward spiral of food consumption that would persist for the next few months.

My attempt to recreate this meal turned out to be similar to large, fried gnocchi, not crisp deep-fried patties like hers were, but I’m not complaining. I’d try to deep fry them more next time, and if you have pointers for how to make them more croquette-like, please share.

Potato croquettes


  • 1 lb potatoes, skinned and boiled
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 small onion, diced and fried until brown
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 TBS water
  • 1 tsp oil


  1. Mash potatoes and stir in all other ingredients.
  2. Fry for a few minutes on each side.

Mushroom-lentil gravy


  • 4 oz. mushrooms
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 cup broth
  • 2 TBS flour
  • salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic until basically cooked.
  2. Add broth, lentils and salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Stir in flour to thicken.

* yeah yeah yeah, body shaming blah blah — I know. I was 20, okay?

Vegan marshmallow vodka

I was going to post this yesterday, but I got all distracted painting transitional housing for AIDS patients as part of United Way’s Day of Caring. Then I was going to take better pictures this morning, but I had to rush off to Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Animals.

I’m just going to take a moment to pat myself on the back and to let you fully grasp what a good person I am.

Okay, that’s enough.

There are a lot of disgusting vodka flavors on the market right now. I don’t know why or how this trend started (FYI — commercially made Strawberry vodka is the grossest stuff ever) but, like Russia’s laws on homosexuality, I’d like to see it go.

However, if you are intrigued by the whipped cream or marshmallow flavors and question whether or not they are vegan, do I have the equally disgusting solution for you: make your own by soaking half a package of Dandies in 750 mL of vodka for a few days and then straining.
The vodka will take on a marshmallowy flavor and a delightful cloudiness, and the Dandies will turn into these weird opaque blobs.

I wish I could better capture the otherworldly jiggle of a vegan marshmallow that has been soaking in vodka for three days, the plop of alcohol-soaked Dandies hitting alcohol-soaked Dandies as they’re poured into a strainer.

Drink it in juice, cocktails, or never.

Pickled Mushrooms ala The Master and Margarita


The Master and Margarita is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a fantastic fantastical satire of Soviet society published in the mid-60s but written during Stalin’s reign.

The idea is that the devil visits Moscow with an entourage and befriends a woman named Margarita, whose lover has been jailed for being a writer. Margarita is a witch, and shenanigans pursue. There’s also a backstory involving Jesus. You should read it if you haven’t.

One of the devil’s entourage is a large talking cat named Behemoth. He carries a gun and a gas stove and is kinda a jerk, as cats tend to be.


Sue was tickled to see this in Ulan Ude. M&M is her fave too.

In one scene, Behemoth eats pickled mushrooms with a fork, and for some reason this image stuck with me, mainly because I’m fond of both cats and mushrooms.

So, I had to make pickled ’shrooms for VeganMoFo — I modified a pickled mushroom recipe from using a mix of white and fancy fungi. They’re super simple to make but look classy enough on an appetizer tray.

Zeno would not comply when I asked him to pose with the pickled mushrooms as a Behemoth stand in, thus again proving that cats are jerks.

What a jerk.


  • 1/4 cup dry white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 oz mushrooms, cut into quarters if they’re big


  1. Combine all ingredients, minus the mushrooms, in a small saucepan. Boil over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms, bring back to a boil, and stir for another minute.
  3. Chill overnight to allow flavors to combine and mushrooms to marinate. Serve cold.

Beet kvass

My job is perfect because the variety of responsibilities both rewards and perpetuates my hummingbird attention span.

I came across a recipe for beet kvass while looking up iron-rich recipes for work — bloody red beets are good for your blood, so it would seem.

With my love of beets and propensity for the culinary oddities, I decided to give it a try, subbing out the whey for salt as recommended.

It basically tastes like salty beet water. Nothing against salty beet water, but I question its health promoting qualities.

Na Zdorov’ye!


Vegan golubtsi


There are two kinds of Soviet buildings: plain depressing projects to remind that you are but one of the masses — a peon, a cog, expendable — and glorious monuments to the expendable peon cogs. My friend Michael lived in the second type.

Michael’s apartment complex probably had some sort of State significance, as it had a lovely neoclassical exterior with a giant Grecian statue and a radio in the kitchen with one channel (the party frequency) that could never be turned off, just all the way down.

Michael’s host mother adored him and was always cooking his favorite Russian dish: golubtsi, meat-and-rice-filled cabbage rolls.


Being vegetarian, I never had the opportunity to taste golubtsi (aka golubtsy, golubzy, golubzi, etc.), but had always been curious about them – they sounded boring but Michael loved them, so they must have been okay, right?

Golubtsi are actually pretty tasty and somewhat time intensive, but relatively simple. And don’t be intimidated by the rolling: blanched cabbage leaves are much sturdier than, say, lumpia or egg roll wrappers.

I’ve used a mixture of lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts to give my golubtsi a hearty texture without relying on soy meat. The sauce does use soy-based sour cream, but I honestly think you could omit it or use cashew-cream if you’re avoiding the soy.

To give my hippie cabbage rolls more authentically Russian flavor, I used Kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) instead of rice — both are used traditionally. The taste/smell of kasha kinda reminds me of wet dog, so you can use rice or millet if you are in this camp. (Kasha is growing on me, I’ll note.)



  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 cup cooked kasha
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • red pepper (optional)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 4 TBS tomato paste
  • 8 TBS vegan sour cream
  • a few TBS water, if needed


  1. Sauté mushrooms, onions, and garlic until mushrooms are soft. Mix them with the lentils, kasha, walnuts, and salt and peppers in a large bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Core the cabbage and boil it in a large pot filled with enough water to completely submerge the head for 3 minutes or until leaves are soft enough to peel away. Remove from water. When leaves are soft enough, remove 15 or so. Chop the rest of the cabbage and line a Dutch oven with it.
  4. Holding a leaf like a cup, add a few spoonfuls (1/4 to 1/2 cup) to the stem side, fold the left and right sides up, and roll it. Place it in the chopped cabbage in the Dutch oven. Do this with all of the leaves and filling.
  5. In a saucepan, make a roux with the flour and oil. Add the tomato paste and sour cream, combine, and then pour/spread over the cabbage rolls.
  6. Cover and bake the rolls for an hour.

Medova z pertsem (“honey” and pepper) vodka


Hyperforeignism is the term for making foreign things more exotic then they’re supposed to be — I credit Ty for teaching me this.

Habanero peppers are a good example. You often see a tilde over the n: habañero. This is incorrect. No ñ. Just a plain ol’ boring n-as-in-Nancy.

Vodka is kinda the same way. Take my friend Vitali here. He’s from St. Louis.

But where is he really from, you might ask.

St. Louis.


classiest grocery run ever

I only use cheap American vodka in my infusions. The Russian vodka we get over here is going to be either far better quality or far more expensive, so I go with the cheapest rotgut possible: the flavor of whatever you’re going to infuse it with will counteract the alcohol flavor anyhow. Just as you don’t put Johnny Walker into Coke, you don’t use nice liquor for infusions.

I’m also supporting the boycott on Russian products because of the country’s policies towards homosexuality (even though the New York Times says this won’t do anything to help Russia’s gays). It may not do anything, but it might, and we really don’t need to be importing goods from Europe anyhow, right?

And, before you go judging someone for drinking vodka, a lot of the vodka you see in stores or bars isn’t actually from Russia. Grey Goose and Cîroc are French, Absolut is Swedish, Belvedere is Polish, and all the crap you buy in plastic bottles with handles is as American as Budweiser.


Anyhow, when I was in Russia, I loved this Ukrainian liquor called gorilka (horilka in Ukranian) with honey and peppers. It was a little spicy and a little sweet, but definitely not vegan.

So, I cut a couple of habanero (sans ñ) peppers in half and let them soak in 750 ml of vodka for a couple of days. I strained it, discarded the peppers, poured it back into the original bottle, and added a TBS of agave to give it that horilka brown.

It’s insanely spicy, which is delicious mixed with fruit juice (like the orange San Peligrino above).

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