Lust for Leaf

Vegetarian Noshes, Bashes, and Everyday Great Eats -- The Hot Knives Way


By Alex Brown

By Evan George

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 11, 2013. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Isa Moskowitz’s Vegan With a Vengeance and Sarah Kramer’s How It All Vegan! showed the world that plant-based cookbooks don’t have to be full of sanctimonious text and wilted sprouts recipes. But why should vegans have all the fun? Food-blogging duo Alex Brown and Evan George–better known as Hot Knives–have shown their 60,000 monthly readers that vegetarians are “cheeky [and] over-the-top” too and “don’t much care for established notions of propriety” (LA Weekly). This is the only cookbook you’ll find with chapters called “Bro-tein” and “BBQ Mosh Pit,” or filled with recipes for DIY Wieners and Patties, Sauce-y Explosions, Salsas that Hurt, Deep Sea Mushrooms, and Nachos that Cook Themselves. And don’t forget dessert: try Hand-Cranked Cream Dreams and Booze You Can Eat.

Hot Knives bring you vegetarianism with a new set of rules: “Enjoy your food, but party harder. Eat everything with your hands. Drink booze and fruit, not water. Make all of your junk food yourself. Cook at least half of everything you eat on an open fire. Switch to uppers, if possible.”


IT ALWAYS CREEPS UP ON FRIDAY afternoon. You watch the week tick its way to beer o’clock, waiting for the payoff. After the hump (day); humping. After the rain; the rainbow. It’s an itch begging to be scratched. A desire for drunken revelry. A powerful lust for the company of comrades, deep glasses, and full plates.

Yes, we lust after our friends, and we wanna cook for them the morning after—no, not like that. Hardwired in us all is a deep craving for communal consumption, whether that means huddling around a campfire with sticks, nibbling tea sandwiches in Sunday’s best, or letting loose and breaking champagne flutes at a sweaty basement party. We relish our weekends. No, but we literally relish them—we slather minced pickles all over our days of rest and we wipe our hands on our shorts.

We prefer to live every weekend like it’s our frat’s last toga party. But we replace the bongs with tongs, the hand jobs with zipping hot fresh corn, and the beer pong table with a beat-up Weber grill—that’s our idea of a bro-down.

As food blogging, former line cooks who have staked our claim to catering blow-out backyard parties and treating all our friends to drunken brunch experiments, writing a party food cookbook was not a stretch. As long as we’ve been friends, we’ve thrown parties together and treated it like a real job. We’ve been researching Lust for Leaf since before we were legal. On the Hot Knives blog, parties are often the scene of our most brilliant, studied work.

As long as we’ve been friends, we’ve thrown parties together and treated it like a real job. We’ve been researching Lust for Leaf since before we were legal.

Few things are as liberating as approaching a raging outdoor party. The walks up a long flight of stairs while you’re clutching a cold sixpack and still hidden from sight. When you can just listen to laughter coming from a gaggle of friends upon whom you’re about unleash a high-five assault. You enter. Cheers and applause! You drop the sixer and anything else standing between you and kisses and hugs. Someone jabs a charred asparagus spear at your face, then someone else tilts a tequila bottle to your lips. And there you are, joining blissful oblivion.

Parties don’t throw themselves. They require planning, prepping, and, sometimes, praying (for a party). But don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. We are your bearded, mezcal-swilling Marthas.

Garden parties, birthday parties, or seemingly self-starting get-togethers that spring up for no other reason than it’s warm enough to swim in the pool. We need to lose ourselves in the heat of hanging out. It makes perfect sense that this urge comes on hotter in spring and summer. If winter holidays are about giving thanks, self-reflection, and new beginnings, summer sessions are the opposite: living whole hog, no thinking about anything other than whether the fire is hot enough to put cool fucking grill marks on a lamb-sized leek. (We do not condone winter barbecuing in a basement, but hey, do what you got to do.)

But here’s the rub. This communal oblivion we prize is a fragile achievement. It’s not guaranteed and it doesn’t happen on its own. Parties don’t throw themselves. They require planning, prepping, and, sometimes, praying (for a party). But don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. We are your bearded, mezcal-swilling Marthas. Stewarts, we mean. All we ask is that you put our advice to good use. Pamphlet the neighborhood, call up your homies, and invite everyone you love, because before you know, it will be Monday.

Fire Walk With Us

The Thermodynamics of Cool

If you can start a fire, you can do anything: burn down your house, warm your toes, or feed an army of your smelly friends. The essential act of harnessing unbridled energy simultaneously time-warps you back to our nomadic protohuman roots and reifies the totality of civilization in swift, smoky strokes. Because we make fire, we are advanced. Because we can channel it to make things delicious, we are fucking gods.

That said, not everybody is good at starting a cooking fire. Frankly, most people suck at it. We’re certain an image of three to six dudes huddled around a grill or a campfire pit scratching their beards and stabbing at a smoldering pile of lighter fuel–soaked briquettes just came to mind. This common calamity has likely led many away from their Cro-Mag roots toward the shiny and expensive ease of the gas powered “grill,” which surreptitiously robs you, your food, and your guests of 90 percent of the glory and good of outdoor cooking. The ritual of the ages is lost with a twist of the wrist and a neutered electric click, and even though you can “grill” with gas, you can’t ever take it with you into the semi-wild urban outdoors.

So ditch the technological ball and chain and step into the sun, where all you need is a bag of coals, a grill, and few tricks. Armed thusly, there’ll be no party you can’t best. Learning the essentials of taming the untamed element will quickly elevate you to Doctor status, casting you in the bronze of the ages as the one who can control that which cannot be controlled.

Fire Kit Essentials: Three Cs


Find real coals made from wood. Mesquite coals are readily available these days at a random cross section of liquor stores, hardware shops, and bodegas. Seek and ye shall find. It’s worth it. Your fire, your food, and your lungs will be free of chemicals and all their ills. If you need to resort to Kingsford, look for the stuff without lighter fluid. You don’t need it.


a.k.a. the smartest thing ever made. Created in the 1960s by three dudes who were obsessed with a dream they initialized as the “Auto Fire,” this gizmo lets even the most uninitiated outdoor cook show up every Eagle Scout on the block—and it generally costs less than $60. While chimney starters are not exactly compact, they are super light. Take ’em camping, to work, to the streets. But, like, always use them responsibly or whatever.


Getting those grill bars clean is as simple as slicing a lime or lemon and grabbing a set of tongs. After your grill is searing hot, carefully press and rub a halved lime or lemon back and forth and you’ll clear away any detritus that you were too wasted to deal with last summer. Toss the greased half-fruit into the flames as a burnt offering to the gods of clean.


Food Pyramid

Enjoy your food, but party harder. Eat everything with your hands. Drink booze and fruit, not water. Make all of your junk food yourself. Cook at least half of everything you eat on an open fire. Switch to uppers, if possible.

These are just a few of the obscure, codified dietary restrictions that define how we eat on weekends, but really there’s just one rule you should follow: Don’t eat alone. Done correctly, your Sabbaths should be a heat-stroke blur of communal feasts strung together by barbecue tans.

With your health in mind, Hot Knives has performed dietary research more extensive than the Food and Drug Administration (or the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms for that matter). Our findings suggest a steady diet of these seven food groups may lead to a stronger immune system, increased mental prowess, improved sex life, and the general amping up of your lust for life. In each food group, be sure to consume daily servings of the following:

Converting to Metric


To convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 and multiple by .56.

212°F = 100°C
225°F = 110°C
250°F = 120°C
275°F = 135°C
300°F = 150°C
350°F = 180°C
375°F = 190°C
400°F = 200°C
425°F = 220°C


1 teaspoon = 5 milliliters (ml)
1 tablespoon = 15 ml
1 cup = 240 ml
1 quart = .95 liters (l)
1 gallon = 3.8 l


1 ounce = 28 grams
1 pound (lb) = .45 kilograms (kg)
2.2 lbs = 1 kg


¼ inch (in) = .6 centimeters (cm)
½ in = 1.25 cm
1 in = 2.5 cm

NOTE: Hey you, Brits and Euro-users, don’t know what the fuck 2 cups looks like? This is your key to make partying with California produce a Bi-Continental experience!

Taco Zone

WE USED TO WORSHIP THREE NIGHTS A WEEK AT THE TRASH-STREWN ALTER OF LEO’S TACOS, OUR LATE-NIGHT TACO TRUCK. Leo obliged us bleary-eyed kids who ordered the “vegetarian taco, no cheese” with two hot corn silver dollars topped with richly salted pintos and flicks of cilantro and no-joke green chile. One night we watched him swat away a gang-bang brawl with his spatula. His food taught us that feeling bad the next morning should never get in the way of feeling good the night before.

Which is where the proper hot salsa bar comes in. Whether sauce is slapped on your plate or laid out for you in paint buckets like pig troughs, we expect a fiery red, tangy green, pickled chiles, cool knobby radishes, and a crema to soothe all pains.

Call us un-American (please) but we think tacos say Fourth of July because they’re the perfect bootstrap food. So once we’ve iced down a bucket of American beer, and obtained all the fireworks we can carry, we light up our grill in a tricolor rainbow of red, white and green salsa fixings. And we follow another taco truck tenet: we eat it all on the curb.

Verdugo Verde

Makes about 4 cups

5 medium-sized tomatillos (with skins on)

2 yellow wax peppers

1 poblano pepper

1 jalapeño

½ white onion (with peel)

3 scallions

cup lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing

2 large leaves iceberg lettuce

half a fuerte avocado

1 cup cilantro leaves

sea salt to taste


Hey! Don’t leave this sauce to the last minute. For one, mincing radishes is no easy task while pounding beers with guests. And it’s waaay better after sitting.


Green Flash,
West Coast IPA


“Here I Am,”
Al Green

1. Once your grill is hot, brush tomatillos, peppers, and scallions with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of salt. Place ’em on the grill. Toss the half onion on without removing the peel. You want some blackened color so let cook for several minutes before gingerly flipping (remove tomatillos before they burst open and lose their juicy guts).

2. After blackening on both sides, remove all the veggies and let them rest for several minutes so they can cool.

3. Rub off any blackened skin and roughly peel. Roughly chop the veggies. Add them to a blender with 1 cup cilantro, the avocado, and the lime juice. Pulse for 1 minute, drizzling in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the iceberg lettuce while pulsing. Salt to taste. Serve room temperature.

Radish Remoulade

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups veganaise

1 bunch of radishes

cup minced chives

1 tablespoon lime juice

sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon black pepper (or more if desired)




“White Belts,”
the Make Up

1. Pop each radish off from its leafy stem and wash thoroughly in a bowl of water, then strain and pile on your cutting board. Mince the radishes one at a time as thinly as possible: slice lengthwise four times, then set two of the slices aside while stacking the remaining two, then slice this stack lengthwise again, and rotate to slice width-wise. Repeat until you have a pile of tiny radish cubes.

2. Combine the radishes with veganaise, minced chives, and lime juice and stir. Crack more fresh black pepper than seems necessary and salt to taste.

Demon Seeds

Makes about 4 cups

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes

5 dried New Mexico red chiles

3 jalapeños

1 red onion, unpeeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing

sea salt to taste


Eagle Rock,


“Fire in Cairo,”
The Cure

1. Once your grill is hot, brush tomatoes and jalapeños with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt, and place on the grill. Toss on the onion whole, including skin. Turn veggies after several minutes. You want some blackened color on the tomatoes (but remove them before they burst and ejaculate their juice). Once jalapeños are charred remove them too. Rest the veggies for several minutes to let cool. Remove onion once the peel is charred.

2. Rehydrate your dried red chiles by placing them in a long flat-bottomed container and covering with about 2 cups of hot water. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, pressing down to keep covered.

3. Roughly chop the grilled tomatoes and jalapeños. Add them to a blender with 1 clove garlic and the lime juice. Pry out the grilled onion by slicing one of the tips off and applying pressure on the other end. Chop it and add to the blender. Remove your rehydrated chiles from their bath, roughly chop and add to the mix. Pulse for a minute, drizzling with the sesame and olive oil. Taste with a spoon and salt to taste.

4. In a small sauté pan on medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden, being careful to not to burn them. Add to the salsa and give it one more quick pulse to incorprorate.

Jackfruit Carnitas

Serves 12 to 15

“Little meats,” (carnitas, translated into English) sounds perverted but perhaps no more so than “little banana pistons.” When we first tried to make a stewed “pork,” we used fresh banana flowers, and it was a mixed bag: not bad, exactly, but it took so fucking long to pry the flowery rods out of their phallic casings. Brined jackfruit, on the other hand, is black magic in a can: rinse, dry, and cook out some of the soggy brine and replace it with delicious sauce. At the risk of making this magic trick complicated, we smoke the jackfruit over wood chips, then stew it in fiery red chile. It can be made the night before or the morning of your taco party, then simply reheated over a stove, campfire, or grill. It’s always worth the three-hour routine just to watch our friends take a bite and make a face like their brains’ve imploded. Follow these instructions and your friends will worship you too, like they just solved the worlds’ mysteries or saw the Virgin of Guadalupe in a piece of fruit.


2 cups dried red chile powder (California chile)

4 cups vegetable stock

¼ cup orange juice

cup grapeseed oil

1 white onion, chopped

half a head of garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon coffee

1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 chipotle peppers, in adobo



2 handfuls of hickory wood chips

5 cans jackfruit, in brine

¼ cup grapeseed oil

half a head of garlic, minced

1 white onion, chopped




“Hollywood Babylon,”
the Misfits

1. To make the red chile sauce, start by grinding all the spices, plus the coffee, in a clean spice grinder and measuring them out individually so you don’t have to do so while cooking. Have your stock warm on the stove.

2. Heat a large sauce pot on medium-high heat for 30 seconds, add about a third of the oil and sauté the chopped onion for 3 minutes. Turn down to medium, add the minced garlic, and stir with a wooden spoon every 30 seconds until onion becomes slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.

3. Now drizzle another third of the oil to cover the whole cooking surface, followed by half the red chile powder, shake and stir to keep from burning and cook this for 3 minutes. (It should appear dark brown and disturbingly clumpy, that’s fine, just keep stirring lightly.) Toss in ground cumin, sage, turmeric, cinnamon, and coffee while stirring. Chop your canned chipotle and add too. Finally add the rest of the oil and the flour, stirring and cooking another minute. With a ladle add about a cup of vegetable stock and use a whisk to mix while cooking for about 1 minute. Repeat two times. When you have 1 cup of stock left to add, assess whether the sauce is too thick or just about right and add accordingly. Add the orange juice and taste. It should be slightly bitter but balanced with the spices. Add salt to taste. Reserve until use.

4. While you prepare the jackfruit for smoking, soak the wood chips in water for about 20 minutes. Gently remove the jackfruit pieces (whole) from the can and drain over the sink in a colander. Rinse well with water to wash off excess brine and let sit in the sink for several minutes to drip dry. Set aside for grilling.

5. Prepare your outdoor grill (pg. 6). Drain wood chips and let them dry for 5 minutes. Pile the hot coals to one side of the grill then cover this red hot pile with the wood chips. (You want a low to medium heat so you don’t overcook the jackfruit.) Once ready, lay whole jackfruit pieces onto the grill and cover, leaving any vent holes ajar. Cook this way for an hour. Flip jackfruit and cook a second hour. You want a light blackening on some pieces. Remove and let cool.

6. Back in the kitchen…Break up the jackfruit pieces over a bowl by squishing hard between your thumb and forefingers. (They should be dry outside but slightly moist inside.) Place a large skillet on medium-high heat and divide the jackfruit into two batches: sweat half the onion for 3 minutes, add half the jackfruit, and cook like this for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add half the minced garlic and cook for another 3 minutes before removing to a bowl. Repeat with the second batch.

7. Add the jackfruit and onion to a thick-bottomed pot and cover it with the red chile sauce. (You can let cool on the counter then fridge it overnight, or use it right away.) To reheat for serving, throw the pot on the stove or grill, stirring often, until it’s piping hot.


No time to smoke your fruit? Dry it out on trays under low heat in the oven. Bottom line: evaporate that brine.

Aguas Frescas



On Sale
Jun 11, 2013
Page Count
128 pages

Alex Brown

About the Author

Alex Brown currently holds court as the general manager for Gourmet Imports. He’s an expert frequently quoted on cheese by food publications including Imbibe, the LA Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times. When he’s not importing obscure cheeses, sniffing truffles, vetting olive oils, or being a brute, he headbangs in the internationally renowned sludge band Robedoor, and is an avid lover of cycling. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Evan George is an investigative journalist whose coverage of the health insurance industry, homelessness, and the federal court system has won local and national awards- none of which have stemmed from his extensive writing about beer, coffee, and cooking for publications including Los Angeles magazine, Condéast Traveler, and the Los Angeles Times. He has grilled steaks at a Philadelphia bistro, flipped burgers in LA coffee shops, and, most recently, spent three years as a sous chef at the renowned vegetarian hot spot Elf Cafe. He also lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Learn more about this author