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March 2005
Candle’s Secrets Revealed
Cookbook Review by Livia Alexander

Candle Cafe Cookbook

The Candle Café Cookbook: More Than 150 Enlightened Recipes from New York’s Renowned Vegan Restaurant by Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza with Barbara Scott-Goodman (New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2003). $18 paperback. 230 pages.

Have you ever really enjoyed a certain dish at a favorite restaurant and wished you could make it over and over again for dinner at your place? For many of us, the Candle Café is one such restaurant—a New York cornerstone of excellent vegan food, comforting to the soul as it is to the body, combined with the great hospitality of owners Bart and Joy. So when The Candle Café Cookbook came out recently, needless to say, I was very happy, immediately looking for the secret to their Paradise Casserole or for pastry chef Jorge Pineda’s wonderful Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies.

Many of the recipes in the book were absolutely delicious. The Spinach Salad with Warm Mushrooms, Pine Nuts and Balsamic Vinegar is great: fresh spinach, earthy pine nuts, red onions and a dressing made of sautéed mushrooms, garlic, kalamata olives, capers, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. The Roasted Vegetable Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing is a very simple dish of vegetables baked in olive oil, taken up a notch by tossing them in a lovely dressing infused with perfectly roasted garlic and fresh herbs. The Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries is a nourishing variation to a familiar dish, with added sunflower seeds and a touch of orange zest.

The Candle Café creations span the globe in the variety of flavors and recipes offered. The Curried Coconut Beggars’ Purses was a favorite—a dish that offers a surprising combination of flavors of Asian and French cuisines. Pockets of phyllo dough stuffed with seitan and a medley of vegetables in a delectable creamy sauce made with coconut milk and white wine, and flavored with chives, curry powder, basil and cilantro leaves. For those among you who are willing to delve into making your own seitan, The Candle Café Cookbook offers a variety of recipes that use seitan in new and fresh ways—in a lemony piccata sauce, pecan-crusted, and as steaks barbequed on the grill. The Indian Sampler, which includes an Indian chickpea stew, an eggplant curry, rice pilaf, date chutney and a tofu-based raita, offers a satisfying meal inspired by another part of the world.

For those who enjoy Candle Café’s vegan brunches, now you can wow your friends and loved ones with their Vanilla-Cinnamon French Toast, pancakes and Tofu Scramble with Yokon Gold and Sweet Potato Home Fries. And for fans of Candle’s beloved Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting, the secret is at last revealed.

One of the greatest challenges of putting out a restaurant-based cookbook is converting large volume recipes to meet the much smaller quantities needed by the home cook. This is where the book becomes uneven. The Velvety Carrot and Ginger Soup calls for so much ginger, it cleared my nasal passages in seconds; the Creamy Broccoli Soup was thick enough that adding the 1⁄2 cup of corn flour called for by the recipe would have made it into a broccoli pudding. Some of the salads call for using two tablespoons of vinaigrette, but the recipe that follows makes two cups and one is left with a whole lot of dressing in the refrigerator. Savory Vegetable Potpie had a wonderful vegetable and tofu filling, but the crust was a total flop. Two cups of flour and one cup of oil did not add up to anything that resembled a dough.

A great number of the recipes in The Candle Café Cookbook heavily rely on tofu, tempeh and other soybean products. From main dishes and sandwiches where tofu and tempeh constitute the entrée to sauces and desserts made with soymilk as their basis, they indicate the growing role of these products in today’s vegetarian and vegan diet. The Candle Café Cookbook is certainly a good source for people looking for soy-based recipes, but it would have benefited from offering other alternatives, such as more bean-based recipes and the use of nut milks to create a nutritiously more rounded book.

Still, with the easy-to-follow presentation of recipes, section of full-color photographs of select dishes, and handy glossary of ingredients and resource guide at the end, The Candle Café Cookbook has quickly become a household favorite.

Livia Alexander
holds a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern and Cinema Studies. She is a co-founder of ArteEast, a nonprofit organization that exhibits the works of artists and filmmakers from the Middle East and its diaspora (



Recipes from The Candle Café Cookbook
By Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza

Chef Mark Felix from the Plaza Hotel created this dish as an appetizer. We like it so much that we’ve adapted the recipe and serve it as an entrée at our restaurant.

Curried Coconut Beggars’ Purses

2 T. Sesame Oil
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 T. Ginger, finely chopped
4 Scallions, finely chopped
1⁄2 C. Carrots, finely diced
1⁄2 C. Green Bell Pepper, finely diced
1⁄2 C. Red Bell Pepper, finely diced
1 Bay Leaf
1 Pound of Seitan, cut into small strips
1 C. White Wine
One 14 oz. Can Coconut Milk
1⁄2 C. Cilantro, chopped
4 Fresh Basil Leaves, finely chopped
1 t. Sea Salt
1 t. Curry Powder
1⁄4 C. Fresh Chives, finely chopped
8 Sheets of Phyllo Dough, thawed
Pinch of Cayenne
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, for brushing

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the sesame oil. Cook the garlic, ginger, scallions, carrots, peppers, and bay leaf over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the seitan strips, white wine, and coconut milk to the mixture and cook for 5 to 6 more minutes. Add the cilantro, basil, salt, cayenne, curry powder, and chives and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and set aside to cool.

3. Take 1 sheet of phyllo dough and fold it in half length-wise. Brush it with a bit of olive oil. Place 1⁄2 cup of the filling into the center of the phyllo sheet. Twist the dough so that it gathers to make a bundle, or “purse.” Repeat with the remaining dough, oil, and filling to make 6 to 8 purses.

4. Place the purses on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve at once.

Serves six to eight.

Paradise Casserole has been one of the most popular dishes we’ve served at the restaurant over the years. It is a delicious combination of cinnamon-scented sweet potatoes layered with black beans and millet. This is wonderfully hearty, loaded with complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and protein.

Paradise Casserole
4 Sweet Potatoes
1 T. Sweet White Miso
1 t. Umeboshi Vinegar
2 t. Ground Cinnamon
1 C. Black Beans, soaked overnight with a 1” piece of Kombu, drained
2 t. Garlic, minced
1⁄2 C. White Onion, finely chopped
1 t. Cumin
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
Pince of Sea Salt
1 1⁄2 C. Millet
1 T. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Bake the sweet potatoes for 1 hour, or until fork-tender. When cool enough to handle, remove the cooked potatoes from their skins, place in a large mixing bowl, and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Combine the miso, vinegar, and cinnamon with the potatoes.

3. Meanwhile, put the beans in a large stockpot and add water to cover by 2”. Add the garlic, onion, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the beans for 45-60 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

4. While the beans are cooking, put the millet and 4 C. of salted water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Set aside.

5. Lightly oil a large baking pan or casserole. Spread the millet over the bottom of the pan, then spread the black beans in an even layer over the millet. Top with the sweet potato mixture over the black beans in an even layer.

6. Bake the casserole for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before serving.

Serves six to eight.

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