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The New Chicago Diner Cookbook by Jo A. Kaucher
with Kat Barry & The Chicago Diner Crew
a fellow vegan or vegetarian learns that I am from Chicago, one of the
first things often mentioned to me is envy, often expressed this way
verbatim: You mean you get to go to The Chicago Diner whenever you
want? I am very fortunate. The Chicago Diner
has been normalizing and innovating indulgent, hearty plant-based meals
ever since 1983, back when Chicago’s reputation as a burly,
meat-and-potatoes city was still pretty entrenched. As a young
vegetarian, I wandered into the location on Halsted Street and felt
like I was in the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s factory for herbivores.
You mean I could order anything on the menu?! Since those early days, I
have acclimated to the idea of The Chicago Diner but I still get to
enjoy watching other people make it to our very own mecca, their eyes
dazzled by just the exterior of this humble-but-famous institution and
the menu in the window, posing for photos in front of the sign out
front, gasping at the food, the desserts, enjoying a leisurely brunch
on the patio in the warm months. It really is an enchanting place.
As with their first Chicago Diner cookbook, now fans of
globally-inspired vegan comfort food can recreate a little bit of the
alchemy at home with their recently published cookbook, The New Chicago Diner Cookbook: Meat-free Recipes from America’s Veggie Diner,
written by Jo A. Kaucher, with Kat Barry and the Chicago Diner crew.
This new cookbook takes it up a notch from the previous with the
breadth and variety of recipes. With their legendary, tantalizing Radical Reuben
on the cover (so close, yet so far away), we are immediately lured in
by the promise of meat-free deliciousness within its pages. Can we
really recreate the magic of The Chicago Diner in our own kitchens? The
book makes no promises but it will take you most of the way there.
Well organized, written with clear instructions and including ample,
beautiful photography by Del Nakamura, Jo, Kat and the rest take us
through a good portion of their most well-loved dishes and they
introduce some new ones as well. The generous cookbook - 175 pages -
offers pantry essentials and many different chapters, from Vegan
Proteins and Fillings to Desserts, including a chapter on Entertaining,
which pairs savory appetizers with cocktails. The whole book is studded
with many of my favorites from over the years: Ginger Coconut Tofu Bites, the Buddha’s Karma Burger, their famous Cheesecake as well as offering many new ones to try, like the Overnight Pickles and Great Lakes Zucchini Bread.
From the beginning to the end, this all-vegan cookbook is like The
Chicago Diner itself, a little more refined but still a scrappy,
heartfelt labor of love to the community and the meatless world at
With accessible ingredients, compelling descriptions and cooks’ notes
to help simplify things even more, the magic of The Chicago Diner
kitchen could be yours, too, whether you are in the city of broad
shoulders or far away. This cookbook is a great gift for the newbie,
the experienced cook, the vegan or the omnivore alike. Anyone who’s
ever fallen in love with enjoying cruelty-free dishes with abundant
flavor and not one iota of sacrifice, will love The New Chicago Diner Cookbook. Please enjoy the Savory Tomato Tartlettes: thanks to the publisher’s for permission to reprint.
Savory Tomato Tartlettes
These delightful tarts are perfect for events with standing room only since there’s no utensils needed.
Yield: 2 dozen tartlettes
For the Crust:
21/2 cups (303 g) unbleached organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (224 g) vegan margarine, very cold and cut into small cubes
1/4–1/2 cup (59–119 mL) ice water
Cooking spray, for greasing
For the Filling:
21/2 pounds (1.13 kg) medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (59 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup (170 g) Tofu Ricotta (recipe follows)
1/2 cup (67 g) pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup (30 g) capers
Fresh thyme, to taste
To make the Crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade,
pulse the flour and salt together. Add the margarine and pulse until
the mixture takes on a coarse consistency (10 seconds).
2. Continue to pulse the food processor while adding 1/4 cup (59 mL)
ice water in a slow and steady stream. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at
a time, as needed until dough just comes together. Remove the dough
from the processor and place in a covered bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour
to 2 days.
3. Lightly grease 2 mini muffin pans with the cooking spray. Roll the
dough into 24 small balls. Drop each ball into a muffin cup. Press the
dough evenly into the sides of the muffin cups, shaping a crust. Go
around the edges of each tartlette with a fork to create an attractive
To Make the Filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, place the tomatoes and onions. Drizzle on the oil and then season with the black pepper. Mix well.
3. Place the tomato and onion mixture on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the tomatoes start to shrivel and the onions
are browned. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl. Set aside and
allow to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). When the
tomatoes and onions have cooled completely, chop them up. Return to the
bowl and set aside.
4. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade,
combine the Tofu Ricotta mixture and pulse a few times. Toss the Tofu
Ricotta with the olives, capers, and thyme. Mix well.
5. Using only half of the Tofu Ricotta
mixture, fill each dough pocket in the muffin pans. Top each pocket
with a portion of the tomato and onion mixture. Using the remaining
half of the Tofu Ricotta mixture, sprinkle some of the mixture over the
top of each pocket.
6. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the top of each crust is golden
brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool in the
muffin pans on wire racks. Remove the
tartlettes from the pans, transfer to a platter and serve.
This is a very useful and versatile recipe to have in your repertoire.
It’s a quick, delicious and healthy homemade cheese substitute that’s
perfect in pasta dishes, as a topping on pizza, as a stuffing for
lasagna and shells, or even as a salad all on it’s own.
Yield: about 4 cups
1 (12-ounce [341-g]) package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
½ cup (76 g) chopped white onion
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 3 cups (60 - 90 g) finely chopped fresh spinach
¼ cup (6 g) finely chopped fresh basil
¼ cup (56 g) nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1. Place the crumbled tofu in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the onion with 1/2 teaspoon of the
salt. Massage the salt into the onion pieces with your hands to “salt
cook” the onion. Add the garlic and massage together again.
2. Add the contents of the small mixing bowl to the large mixing bowl.
Add all the remaining ingredients. With clean hands, mash the mixture
together thoroughly. Use immediately in your favorite recipe or store
in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Cooks’ Note: The consistency of your ricotta should depend on what
you’re using it for. If you need to have a smoother texture, don’t mash
the mixture with your hands; instead, pulse everything except spinach
and basil in a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade until it
is smooth. The add the spinach and bail, pulse a couple more times and
transfer the ricotta to a bowl or into your recipe.
This recipe is also great with kale instead of spinach, especially if
you refrigerate it overnight (this allowing the kale leaves to soften a
with permission from The New Chicago Diner Cookbook: Meat-free Recipes
from America's Veggie Diner by Jo A. Kaucher with Kat Barry & The
Chicago Diner Crew, Agate Midway, December 2013.
Photos: Del Nakamura ©2013 The Chicago Diner, Inc.
2013, 2014, Vegan Street