In 2008, brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, who grew up in New England, founded Wicked Healthy, a website with recipes and videos for making their signature “80 percent healthy, 20 percent wicked” lifestyle. They are “plant pushers, not meat shamers” with years of chef experience in restaurants and global grocery chains.
Derek Sarno, the former senior global executive chef for Whole Foods who is the director of plant-based innovation at the U.K. grocer Tesco, has also farmed and worked at a Buddhist monastery, and Chad Sarno, who is based in Austin and also used to work for Whole Foods, is the VP of culinary at Good Catch Foods, a plant-based seafood line that will launch later this year.
Chad Sarno had previously written a cookbook, “Crazy Sexy Kitchen,” with Kris Carr, but “The Wicked Healthy Cookbook: Free. From. Animals.” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30) is the first Wicked Healthy book. The book is a compilation of somewhat sophisticated recipes for chef-worthy vegan dishes, like king oyster mushroom “scallops” with shaved asparagus or these corn dumplings in a coconut corn broth (recipe below), but the authors and editors tripped up by including “Crack Corn,” an insensitive play on the addictive nature of the infamous drug.
Chad Sarno will be hosting several local book events in the coming weeks, including a cooking demo at the Austin Central Library downtown at 6:30 p.m. May 21, a book signing at BookPeople at 7 p.m. June 5 and a Father’s Day event from 10 to 3 p.m. June 17 at Skull and Cakebones Craft Bakery in Dripping Springs. (Tickets to the Father’s Day event cost $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages 5 to 12.)
Corn Dumplings in Coconut Corn Broth
Dumplings are hands-down my favorite finger food. They’re also perfect as a first course in a small bath of flavorful broth. Save these dumplings for the height of summer when sweet corn is super fresh. Some fresh corn shows up in the creamy filling and some in the corn broth, which you make by simmering the corncobs in coconut milk with lemongrass and other aromatics. When you nestle the dumplings in a small bowl of broth with a few drops of chile oil and some Thai basil leaves, they make a sensual little starter.
A tip: When the corn on the cob is tender, after 10 to 15 minutes of simmering, you could just take the cobs out of the broth and gnaw the corn off the cobs. But you want the naked cobs to go back in the broth for more flavor. So…if it’s all in the family and you don’t mind re-using the gnawed-down cobs, give them a quick rinse, then add them back to the broth. Or simply cut the tender kernels from the cobs as directed and serve the corn as loose kernels. You’ll get about 5 cups corn kernels. You can keep them in the fridge for a few days or cool completely and freeze them for several weeks.
Look for freeze-dried corn in the grain aisle of your market. We’re partial to the taste and texture of Karen’s Naturals freeze-dried corn. If you can’t find it, the recipe works fine without the freeze-dried corn—it’s just a little lighter on corn flavor.
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen sweet corn
3 tablespoons plant-based butter
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup freeze-dried corn (see tip in headnote)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1 teaspoon minced or thinly sliced red chile
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 packages (12 ounces each) round eggless dumpling skins, about 3 1/2-inch diameter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Spray oil for steaming, or cabbage leaves or bamboo leaves
1 1/2 to 2 cups Coconut Corn Broth (see recipe below)
Chile oil, for garnish
Several small Thai basil leaves or more sliced green onions, for garnish
To make the filling, soak the cashews in water to cover at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Drain and rinse. You’ll add these later to the filling.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Set up a bowl of ice water. Drop the fresh or frozen corn in the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds. Use a spider strainer to transfer the corn to the ice water. Let cool for a minute or two, then transfer 2 cups of the corn to a blender (set aside the remaining 1/2 cup kernels).
Add the butter to the blender and blend until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the drained cashews and garlic and blend until smooth. The puree should be nice and thick. Scrape it into a mixing bowl.
Grind the freeze-dried corn in a clean spice mill or coffee grinder to a somewhat-coarse texture, similar to cornmeal. Add to the cashew cream in the mixing bowl along with the reserved corn kernels, green onions, lemongrass, chile, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
To assemble the dumplings, set the bowl of filling, a small cup of water, your dumpling skins, and a baking sheet on a work surface. Scatter some cornstarch over the baking sheet (to help keep the dumplings from sticking to the pan).
For each dumpling, mound about a tablespoon of filling in the center. Dip your finger in the water and moisten the entire edge of the dumpling skin. For a shumai-style fold, bring all the sides up to the top and twist gently to make a small round purse. Pinch just under the top opening of the purse to gently close it. You should have enough filling to make 30 to 40 dumplings.
These dumplings are best steamed: Spray a steamer basket with oil or line with cabbage leaves or bamboo leaves to prevent sticking. Put the dumplings in the steamer in batches, place over simmering water, cover, and steam until the dumplings are tender, about 3 minutes.
Gather 6 to 8 small serving bowls and place 4 or 5 dumplings in the center of each. Pour about ¼ cup broth around the dumplings in each bowl so a little broth comes up the sides of the dumplings. Anoint each bowl with a few drops of chile oil and a couple of basil leaves (or sliced green onions).
Coconut Corn Broth
6 large ears corn, preferably organic and in season, shucked
3 quarts water
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk or coconut cream
1 jalapeño chile, halved lengthwise (remove the seeds for less heat)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup garlic cloves (8 to 12 cloves), crushed with the flat of your knife
10 fresh mint sprigs, stems and all
1 bay leaf
1 star anise, optional
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 lime, juiced
Snap or cut the ears of corn in half. Bring the water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the corn and everything else except the lime juice. Cut the heat to medium, then bring the liquid to a slow simmer. Let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the corncobs and cut the kernels from the cobs (see headnote). Return the naked cobs to the broth along with the lime juice. Continue simmering gently over medium heat for another 30 minutes. The liquid will reduce in volume by about one-fourth, which is fine. Shut off the heat and let everything cool down a bit in the pot. Strain the warm broth through a fine-mesh strainer into quart containers, then use immediately or refrigerate for a week or two before using.
— From “The Wicked Healthy Cookbook: Free. From. Animals.” by Chad Sarno and Derek Sarno (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)