Meet Your Makers: Move over bacon, vegetables have arrived

Lukas Volger's vegetarian recipes are full of flavor and crunch. All photos: Spencer Starnes

Lukas Volger’s vegetarian recipes are full of flavor and crunch. All photos: Spencer Starnes

Brooklyn, as well all know by now, is home to an incredibly dynamic food community of adventurous chefs and makers. While the local food scene became known early on for its bacon-infused excess, a new crop of vegetable-driven restaurants and food businesses have bloomed in response to a demand for bright, lively flavors and lighter fare in recent years. We chatted with a few vegetable-obsessed makers whose products are delicious, nutritious and available in Brooklyn, for your snacking pleasure.

It took me more than a year—and hundreds of dirty pans—to come up with our brownie but it was worth it. Now I can eat dessert for breakfast if I want. And I often want to!

Pure Genius Provisions

If your sweet tooth tends to undermine your healthy eating habits, Nancy Kalish can relate. She founded Pure Genius Provisions after developing a chickpea-based recipe for brownies and chocolate chunk blondies, which both succeed in scratching that dessert itch without spiking your blood sugar.

Name: Nancy Kalish, founder and CEO, Pure Genius Provisions

What’s your favorite item that you make? Well, for me, the chocolatier the better. So I have to pick the first product I ever created, our Deep Chocolate Brownie. It doesn’t get more fudgy than that! You’d never know it was vegan and gluten-free.

Choco chickpea going in the oven in Nancy Kalish's Carroll Gardens apartment and test kitchen. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Chocolate chunk blondies go in the oven in Nancy Kalish’s Carroll Gardens apartment and test kitchen. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Where’s your kitchen? I do all my R&D in my home kitchen in Carroll Gardens where I have a multitude of mixers, dozens of baking pans, 50lb bags of chocolate chips, gallons of maple syrup and boxes of products in development. There’s barely any room for anything else. My husband is a saint! Our products are then produced in an gluten-free, allergen-free bakery.

Raw ingredients sit measured and ready to become brownies. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Raw ingredients sit measured and ready to become brownies. Photo: Spencer Starnes

How did you get here? I’m a former health journalist. So I’ve always known what to eat to be healthy. But I have a raging sweet tooth! I could never find a treat that really satisfied me and that I wouldn’t feel terrible about eating. So I got busy in the kitchen. It took me more than a year—and hundreds of dirty pans—to come up with our brownie but it was worth it. Now I can eat dessert for breakfast if I want. And I often want to!

Will you tell us something surprising that we probably don’t know about your sweets? Our brownies and blondies are made from more than 40% chickpeas (we’re talking the whole beans, not flour).

Lukas Volger develops recipes in his kitchen south of Prospect Park. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Lukas Volger develops recipes in his kitchen south of Prospect Park. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Made by Lukas


Lukas Volger is a one-man vegetarian revolution. He’s the author of Bowl, and of two other vegetarian cookbooks, and the mastermind behind Made by Lukas, veggie burger mixes that put those fake meat hockey pucks you probably equate with veggie burgers to shame.

Waffled veggie burgers are insanely good. You can use them as the “bread” of a sandwich this way.

What’s your personal favorite item that you make? It’s usually whatever new thing I’m working on—I love the energy of a new project. For Made by Lukas I’ve been working on a tofu burger, and that’s been more fun than I expected it to be. At a recent Bowl cookbook party we made my summer ramen, which is just so delicious—a corncob-infused vegetarian dashi broth, topped with charred corn, cherry tomatoes, basil, scallions, and then one of those runny-yolked eggs. And right this second I’m obsessed with making iced tea. Current is a cold infusion of fresh mint, chamomile flowers, pink peppercorns, and just a little bit of loose green tea.

Where’s your kitchen? I make my Made by Lukas veggie burgers up in Kingston, N.Y. All prototyping for that, and any recipe development for my books or other writing, happens in my apartment kitchen here in Brooklyn, in Prospect Park South.

Volger slices radishes. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Volger slices radishes. Photo: Spencer Starnes

How did you become a cookbook author and veggie burger maven? In writing my first cookbook, I became very aware of the shortcomings of frozen veggie burger patties. None taste remotely as good as homemade, and so many are engineered to mimic the texture and flavor of meat (a trend that personally doesn’t appeal to me at all). So I spent a few years working on what became Made by Lukas veggie burger mixes—they’re meant to taste like beets, carrots and parsnips, or kale, which are the three flavors available, sold as a mix that allows you to do much more than you could with a frozen patty, and are very whole-foods oriented and healthful. As for how I got into writing cookbooks, I’d worked in book publishing for almost 10 years and had a number of different food jobs growing up and through my twenties, and I just stumbled into the opportunity to write Veggie Burgers Every Which Way. I loved it—I really just love the process of writing and developing recipes, and honing what my food sensibility is. I’m very, very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to keep doing it!

Will you tell us something surprising that we probably don’t know about your veggie burgers? My current favorite ways to cook my veggie burgers are 1) What I call “falafel-style,” which is code for deep-fried, and then topping them with hummus and a bunch of herbs and rolling them up in a fresh flatbread; and 2) Waffled! Waffled veggie burgers are insanely good. You can use them as the “bread” of a sandwich this way.


Ben Franklin Hungryroot

Ben McKean, founder and CEO,  and Franklin Becker, founder and head of culinary at Hungryroot, inspect raw ingredients at the Union Square Greenmarket. Photo: Spencer Starnes

Hungryroot

In this food obsessed city the call of spicy lamb noodles, that new must-have burger or whatever food truck is parked near your office (not to mention our ice cream for lunch summertime problem here at Brooklyn Based), can easily drown out your best efforts to pack a healthy lunch or prep those farmer’s market veggies for dinner. Hungryroot is here to help with insanely delicious, veggie-based noodles, spreads, desserts and snacks. This is how you would cook all the time if you had the patience to peel and prep all those vegetables.

HungryRoot-6Name: Ben McKean, founder and CEO, Hungryroot

What’s your favorite item that you make? Coconut Carrot Cake Bites

Where’s your kitchen: Long Island City, Queens

How did you get here? It’s a combination of really realizing how delicious and satisfying vegetables can be and learning the staggering fact that only 6% of Americans eat the recommended amount of vegetables. I knew there was an opportunity to change that.

Will you tell us something surprising that we probably don’t know about Hungryroot? We use nitrogen gas flushing to maintain freshness without preservatives, a method used by thousands of brands worldwide. This allows us to offer a shelf life of 10+ days on our products despite their being made of fresh vegetables.

HungryRoot-5Name: Franklin Becker, founder and head of culinary, Hungryroot

What your favorite item that you make? Daikon Noodles with Korean Scallion Gochujang

How did you get here? As a type-2 diabetic and father to an autistic son, I’ve become well aware of the positive impact that diets rich in fruits and vegetables have on our health. It’s been a passion of mine to find ways to reinvent comfort foods using vegetables and other nutrient dense ingredients, and Hungryroot has been the perfect way to share this passion of mine with all those looking for ways to eat healthier without sacrificing the indulgent feeling that comes from eating a great meal.

Will you tell us something surprising that we probably don’t know about Hungryroot? We started out with just six veggie noodle meals and now have nearly 40 products just over a year later. Everything we make is vegan, gluten-free, under 500 calories, and ready in seven minutes or less.


Nancy Kalish founded Pure Genius TKTK Photo: Spencer Starnes

Nancy Kalish founded Pure Genius to satisfy her sweet tooth in a healthy way. Photo: Spencer Starnes