Real winner in Durham vegan challenge? Your taste buds

A tossed, chilled, four-bean salad from Parker & Otis

Fifteen local chefs are facing off in a challenge to create the best vegan dish for the Bull City Vegan Challenge.

The contestants' goal is to create a new plant-based dish and put it on their menus for the month of April.

Check out the challenge dishes and a sampling of recipes below.

Eleni Vlachos, one of the volunteer co-organizers said the Challenge hopes to make it easier for non-vegans to try a high-quality meatless meal. It also gives restaurants the opportunity to see how the plant-based options work for their business, and allows vegan diners extra options.

"We've found that the Challenge is important not only to those following a vegan lifestyle, but to omnivores who crave and seek out creative plant-based dishes beyond the typical imagined fare of salad or hummus," Vlachos said.

"You don't have to be vegan to eat vegan -- all are welcome to dine and participate," co-organizer Kaitlin Grady said.

The challenge began April 1 and runs through the 30th. You can participate by trying the competing dishes for yourself and voting for your favorites here.

Bull City Vegan Challenge is also offering prizes for those who participate on social media. It asks people to share a photo of the contest dish using the hashtags "#planetprotein" and "#bcvc2016." Read more about that here.

This is the fourth year for the challenge and Vlachos said she's already seen it make a difference.

"In the past, restaurants like Beyu and Dos Perros have retained their vegan challenge items and continue to explore adding more to their menus," she said.

"We hope that the Challenge normalizes the idea of eating plant-based foods, while drawing on the health, environmental, and taste-bud benefits," she added.

Check out the contest dishes here:


Beyu Caffe
335 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701

"Pulled Un-Pork" sandwich with slow cooked jackfruit and Red & White slaw on a multigrain Kaiser roll, served with a chia, melon citrus salad of cantaloupe, honeydew and jicama.







Vegan blueberry cheesecake made with cashews and coconut. (Recipe below)









Durham Co-Op Market
1111 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701

Vegan BBQ Seitan sandwich served with a side of vegan coleslaw and vegan mac'n'cheese.








Chocolate or vanilla vegan shakes.









Dos Perros
200 N Mangum St, Durham, NC 27701

Empanadas made of taco dough, stuffed with asparagus, mushrooms and jalapeno, served over poblano salsa.








Crispy corn tostada on a bed of chunky pineapple Pico De Gall, over traditional black beans, all topped with jackfruit pibil and pickled red onions. (Recipe below)








Avocado-based chocolate mousse served with fresh berries. (Recipe below)








Geer Street Garden
644 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701



Lentil soup with marined spring veggies topped with parsley pesto.







Gocciolina
3314 Guess Rd, Durham, NC 27705

Potato dumplings stuffed with spicy seitan, chickpeas and spinach, and vegan cheese.








Guglhupf
2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707

Tempeh Meatballs with macadamia cream, capers and faux anchovies, served with a side of roasted potatoes topped with wood sorrel pesto.







Happy + Hale
443 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

An "incredibowl" made up of kale, black bean, quinoa, avocado, pumpkin seeds, mint, roasted beets, and butternut squash, topped with lemon tahini dressing and fresh lime juice.








Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas
112 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701

Quinoa and peita arepas served with braised jackfruit encocado, and charred broccoli.








Parker & Otis
112 S Duke St, Durham, NC 27701

A tossed, chilled, four-bean salad.











Parts & Labor
723 Rigsbee Ave Suite A, Durham, NC 27701

Tacos with crispy, tikka masala style tofu and eggplant.










Rise
401 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701
Vegan biscuit with sandwich with meatless sausage and a spicy tomato and pepper jam.









Saltbox
608 N Mangum St, Durham, NC 27701

Smoked mushroom chowder in a cashew-based cream topped with a spring veggie garnish and lime oil








The Federal
914 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701

Meatless chili bowl topped with avocados and green-onion.









Seitan and roasted saffron-flavored cauliflower with maitake, sundried tomatoes, shallots, golden raisins, purple potatoes, spiced fried chickpeas, and beet juice over butternut squash bisque.








Layered chocolate and walnut tort served with a side of milk-less ice cream.








The Cupcake Bar
101 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701


A no-egg, no-milk cupcake with dulce de leche frosting and strawberries on top.








The Parlour
117 Market St, Durham, NC 27701

Toffee pudding with baked-in dates and candied ginger topped with warm toffee sauce








Try some of the recipes yourself


No bake Blueberry Cheesecake
By Beyu Caffe Chef, Destiny Dove
Serves 4 (depending on what container you use)

INGREDIENTS
CRUST
1/2 cup pitted dates (use chopped dates, trust me your food processor will thank you)
1/2 cup almonds
pinch of salt

FILLING
3/4 cup cashew nuts, soaked in water overnight then drained*
2 tbsp lemon juice
Zest from 1 small lemon
Zest from 1 orange
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup coconut milk (full fat)
1-3 tbsp maple syrup (NOT Pancake Syrup) (to taste)
1/4 cup fresh or frozen (but thawed) blueberries (I prefer fresh)

TOPPING
15 oz can of coconut milk
cup of powdered sugar

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Place a mixing bowl in the freezer and the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator until finished with the next 3 steps.
2. Soak the dates in warm water for 15 minutes then drain. Put almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the dates and salt and pulse until a paste forms. Add more almonds if too sticky.
3. Press mixture into a mini pie tin or whatever container you'd like. Put the pan in the freezer while you work on the filling.
4. Put all ingredients for the filling in a blender (I use the Vitamix and it makes for the perfect creaminess) and blend until mixture is the consistency of yogurt. Pour the filling into the crust, cover and let set in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
5. Take the frozen mixing bowl and the cold coconut milk and whisk together with powdered sugar until thick like whipped cream.
6. Put a dollop of coconut cream on cheesecake with a few blueberries to garnish.

***This recipe can vary using strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. The lemon juice and zest can also be swapped out for orange.
***This recipe also doubles and triples perfectly

This recipe was adapted from Sift & Whisk with a few changes by Chef Destiny Dove

Vegan Chocolate Mousse
By Dos Perros chef, Michael Barnes

4 ripe avocados
cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
tsp cinnamon powder
cup warm water

Place all but avocados in food processor and pulse a few times. Add the chopped avocado and process until smooth. Scoop into glasses and let set for 2 hours.

Jackfruit Pibil Tostada
By Dos Perros chef, Michael Barnes

Jackfruit pibil tostada with blackbean puree, pinaeapple pico, pickled red onions, and avocado.
Jackfruit Pibil
2 oranges juiced
1 lime juiced
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper ground
Salt to taste
6 guajillo chiles rehydrated
1-2 chipotle chiles rehydrated
4 cloves garlic
of a 3.5 oz achiote bar
Water to puree

Place all in blender and add enough water to get it moving. Puree until smooth. Strain out the seeds. Add to the mixture 2 cans of green jack fruit (17oz cans). Cook in pot until jackfruit is tender. Once jackfruit has cooled, shred the fruit and season with salt.

Black Beans
1 cup dried black beans
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 arbol chile
Salt

Bring to a boil then simmer until soft.

Pineapple Pico
1 cup pineapple diced
cup tomato diced
cup onion diced
2 jalapeno peppers diced
4 limes juiced
bunch cilantro chopped
Salt

Mix all well.

Pickled Onions
1 red onion julienned
2 limes juiced
habanero minced
1 tsp dried oregano

Mix well wearing gloves. Let sit for 20-30 min.

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