Things You Should Be Reading


Xuan Saigon


I’ve mentioned before that finding a good variety of veggie food can be difficult in Loudoun County, VA.  It gets trickier the further west you go.  Leesburg offers a few restaurants with a few veggie options, but nothing anywhere near an all-vegetarian restaurant.

Thankfully, there’s Xuan Saigon, Leesburg’s only Vietnamese restaurant, located on Fort Evans Road in the same shopping center as Anita’s (which is visible from business Route 7).  Their menu [PDF] [1] has a seemingly small vegetarian section, but there are other veggie options scattered throughout the menu, and all are quite good.

Chef Xuan Nguyen’s daughter-in-law is vegetarian (possibly vegan, I’m not sure) and helped to ensure that these dishes are made and served truly vegetarian.  They’re not made with fish sauce, which is comforting, and if they happen to bring you fish sauce as a side, you can ask that they bring out a tasty veggie sweet and sour sauce instead.

I’ve been to some Vietnamese restaurants that offer a “vegetarian pho,” but when grilled about the broth, they admit to using the same beef stock that they use for their beef pho.  Thankfully, this isn’t the case at Xuan Saigon.  Instead, their broth is a homemade veggie broth that’s simply delicious and compliments the full bowl of rice noodles, veggies, and lightly fried tofu.

The one appetizer that you simply have to try is the Ginger-Lime Tofu.  Every guest we’ve taken to the restaurant–including avowed tofu haters–has been amazed at the ginger-and-onion-topped crispy tofu.  It’s finished off in a nice sour-and-salty fashion with a dip in a lime juice, salt, and pepper mixture.  .  For every two people in your party, order one of these appetizers.

Last night while talking with our server (one of the chef/owner’s sons), he asked if I was vegan.  When I nodded a confirmation, he mentioned that they’ve just worked up a new dish that’s not on the menu, a vegan crepe stuffed with all sorts of veggies.  It sounds like banh xeo, which I’ve had homemade before, but never in a restaurant.  Let’s hope it makes it onto the menu soon.

Beyond the food, though, is the service.  Many of the people you’ll encounter are family members and Chef Xuan often comes out and greets diners during their meal.  She’s a kind, generous woman and it’s heartening to see her vision for a unique Vietnamese restaurant succeeding in Leesburg.

So, next time you’re shopping at the outlets or hanging out in Leesburg for some other reason, schedule some time in for a stop by Xuan Saigon.

[1] The menu on their web site seems to be a little out of date – the latest version of the menu has a few more options listed.

A Double Dose of Dreena


eat_drink_and_be_vegan Eat, Drink & Be Vegan
Dreena Burton
Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007

What I like most about Dreena’s books, in addition to the great food photography, is that she doesn’t rehash the same familiar recipes you find in a lot of other cookbooks.  Plus, while her recipes sometimes call for ingredients you may not have used before, they remain simple to prepare and even unfamiliar ingredients can be found in your local grocery store or co-op.  As with Dreena’s previous books, Eat, Drink & Be Vegan is a wonderful collection of unique recipes that home cooks of all skill levels will enjoy.

We’ve had a lot of success with ED&BV around our house.  Dreena’s always been known for her inventive hummus and this time around, she devoted an entire chapter to the creamy, beany vegan staple.  I loved the Black Bean & Orange Hummus — the orange adds a whole new dimension and combined with the black beans (rather than chickpeas), this one is sure to turn some heads at potlucks.  The Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Hummus is a little more familiar but is the tastiest red pepper hummus I’ve had.  Fresh parsley used for garnish tops it off perfectly.  Other hummuses include a white bean hummus, a peanut-sesame hummus (!), and one geared specifically for kids.

From her soups and stews section, the Mellow Lentil "Sniffle" Soup has already become a go-to dish for us and my wife and I agree that the Sweet Potato Lentil Chili may be the best homemade chili we’ve ever had.

The main dishes we’ve enjoyed include the Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto on Pasta (we substituted cilantro with good results since basil was far out of season), the slightly lemony Quinoa Chickpea Confetti Casserole (which went over well over the Christmas holiday and is simply delicious when drizzled with the Balsamic Maple Sauce), and Sweet & Sour Chipotle Tempeh with Sweet Potatoes.  The Cran-Apple Quinoa recipe was another dish shared over the holiday ("Quinoa?  Is that how you say it?  This is good!").

This may be a first, but I haven’t made any of the desserts.  I am looking forward to trying the Pumpkin Cheese Pie and the Lime Sucker Coconut Pie.

So far, there have only been a couple of recipes that haven’t gone well for us, which isn’t bad considering how many we’ve made.  The Goddess Garbanzos didn’t sit well with me, but I’m also not a big fan of Annie’s Goddess Dressing, which probably explains it.  The Cinnamon-Lime Quinoa with Apricots & Almonds was alright tasting, but consistency was a bit squishy for my liking.

Dreena Burton’s third book, Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, solidifies her as one of my favorite cookbook authors.  Her inventive recipes manage to balance innovation, accessibility, and health in a way few others can.  There’s no doubt you’ll want this one on your shelf if it’s not there already.

ED-DVD-cover175 Everyday Dish (DVD)
featuring Dreena Burton, Bryanna Clarke Grogan, and Julie Hasson
YaYa Productions

When you flip through the channels while Wife Swap is on commercial, you won’t have a tough time finding cooking shows.  Unfortunately, they usually feature Rachael Ray and her damn yummers EVOO (wow, two sentences in and I’m already insulting Rachael Ray).  In fact, when it comes to vegan cooking shows, you’ll come up empty (regional shows excepted, of course).  There have been a few decent vegetarian-themed cooking shows through the years (Regina’s Vegetarian Table and Delicious TV come to mind), but vegans often have to suffer through visits to cheese stores and recipes topped off with feta.

Everyday Dish features three vegan cookbook authors sharing a handful of their favorite recipes in a cooking show format.  First up is Bryanna Clarke Grogan, author of Nonna’s Italian Kitchen and many other classic vegan collections.  I’ve always been a fan of Bryanna’s very open sharing of her creations.  Some cookbook authors are notoriously stingy with their recipes, hunting down anyone that posts one online.  But if you search for vegan recipes online, it’s a sure bet that one of Bryanna’s will show up in the top 10.  She’s the master of the homemade mock meat and that shows with her selections for the DVD.  She serves up gravy, neatballs, chicken cutlets, and an ambitious pork tenderloin.

Dreena Burton, who you may remember from a few paragraphs ago, shows us how to make Chickpea Sensation Patties, assorted hummuses, Lemon Herb Tofu, Sundried Tomato Pesto, and Chocolate Mint Melties.  I’m pretty sure that in a future life, I want to be reincarnated as a Chocolate Mint Meltie.  Dreena has a great blog that gives some real insight into what it’s like trying to put together a cookbook while managing a family.  I’m pretty sure she only sleeps three hours a week.

Julie Hasson, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year at the DVD’s release party in Portland, serves up a simple and tasty-looking Deli Noodle Soup, Diner Loaf, Tacos and Salsa, Chocolate Cake, and Triple Chocolate Pudding (triple!).

All three of the chefs have personalities that lend themselves well to this type of endeavor.  Bryanna has a quiet, understated way of demonstration that makes even complex recipes seem accessible.  Dreena is the person you hope you’d bump into at the grocery store, because she’s so open and willing to share what she knows.  And Julie seems to have boundless energy and enthusiasm, but it’s genuine enthusiasm, not forced Rachael Ray enthusiasm.

In addition to the nearly two hours of cooking footage, the DVD also includes bonus recipes, printable recipes from the demos, and some other extras.

It may seem a little strange to buy a DVD of a cooking show in this age of "hey, it’s on YouTube" and with food blogs-a-plenty everywhere you look, but there is something nice about having a DVD you can lend to friends or show family, particularly those that enjoy watching cooking shows on TV.  And this is a good one to use – the production values are quite good.  About the only constructive criticism that I’d offer for a second edition would be to try and incorporate the use of an overhead camera to provide a bird’s eye view of the food and give some variety to the camera angles.

Be sure to check out all the videos at to get a good idea of what you’ll get on the DVD (and then some).  Julie also has a blog for the site with some great food photos and commentary.

Everyday Dish joins Post-Punk Kitchen and Regina’s Vegetarian Table as my one of my favorite veg cooking shows and is definitely worth checking out on DVD.  I hope there’s a second volume in our future.

Ezekiel 4:9 Bread


Finding bread in a regular grocery store that doesn’t have honey or high fructose corn syrup in it can be a pain. Pretty much every vegan has wandered the bread aisle, frustrated at how difficult it is to find bread that doesn’t have a load of extra junk added to it. I’ve noticed a positive trend recently, though: it’s getting easier thanks to Ezekiel 4:9 bread.

For years, I’d seen Ezekiel bread in the freezer at the health food store, but never bothered to give it a second glance. Now, not only is the bread available in many regular old supermarkets, but so are english muffins, bagels, and even pasta and cereal. I finally gave it a shot recently and you know what? The stuff’s good.

What’s interesting is that the bread’s ingredients are based on a biblical verse:

Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, [according] to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.

Interestingly, when you combine these things, you get (according to Food for Life):

A complete protein is created that closely parallels the protein found in milk and eggs. In fact, the protein quality is so high, that it is 84.3% as efficient as the highest recognized source of protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. There are 18 amino acids present in this unique bread – from all vegetable sources – naturally balanced in nature.

It doesn’t matter much to me where the idea came from, but I am glad that it’s getting so much easier to find a simple, healthy, vegan bread.

I’m also glad that Food for Life decided to bake bread following Ezekiel 4:9 and not one of the other nearby verses (and, in advance, I’m not making these up):

4:10 And thy meat which thou shalt eat [shall be] by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it.

4:12 And thou shalt eat it [as] barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.

4:15 Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.

It should be noted that there are slightly more palatable translations, but still… that’s a lot of dung talk!

[Edited to correct spelling of “Ezekiel.”]