Amanda Marsalis

Inspired by beer, music, and LA's farmers' markets, Alex Brown and Evan George have been cooking under the Hot Knives moniker since 2005. Their blog of the same name lives on the Portland-based Urban Honking network, where they've spent years documenting their booze- and weed-fueled cooking adventures. They are über hipsters. They like to get fucked up. They write about vegetarian cuisine with a hilariously balls-out, over-the-top swagger. And despite all that, or perhaps because of it, their recipes are as creative and exciting as vegetarian cooking gets.

We tested out a handful of recipes, but just as noteworthy are the ones we haven't gotten to yet: fennel sauerkraut. Kohlrabi latkes. Homemade rooster sauce. Winter lettuce consommé. Salad Daze isn't a perfect cookbook, but it does what the best cookbooks do: Gets home cooks excited about taking new chances in the kitchen. ALISON HALLETT

Onion Soup Sandwich (vegetarian)

The Hot Knivesers have taken five trophies at LA's Grilled Cheese Invitational over the years, including one for this deliciously messy concoction. Their recipe for Belgian Onion Soup (great in its own right, thanks to the use of beer in place of beef stock) is strained of its broth, and the onions are used as a sloppy filling for this Gruyère-based grilled cheese. It is messy. It is in no way good for you. It is possibly the greatest grilled cheese sandwich I have ever eaten. AH

Cast-Iron Mushrooms (vegan)

You can hear the longing in this recipe's language: "If you actually get to forage for wild ones..." Live the dream of these LA boys and make this unapologetically primitive mess o' mushrooms during the thick of chanterelle season, when delegations of your friends are returning from the forests with sacks of them. Simple, quick, and tantalizingly fragrant, the preparation of the mushrooms in cast iron in the oven will expand your mind. Never again will you automatically sauté every mushroom you meet. There is another way, and it's disproportionately tasty considering how low impact the effort is to make it. Special enough to be a side dish as is, throw some of these into pasta sauces and soups while you're at it. MARJORIE SKINNER

Daikon Stew (vegan)

As a longtime convert to the way of the daikon, a wintry soup combining the homely looking root with mushrooms and other simple veggies likes shallots and carrot felt natural to the extent that it seemed slightly silly to be following a recipe. The word "stew" prompted the experiment, since I'm more accustomed to such macrobiotic-friendly combos of ingredients in light broths. I broke one of the Knives' rules by contaminating mine with Better Than Bouillon rather than homemade veggie stock (sorry dudes! No time!), but otherwise followed everything to a T. The result was... a light, brothy soup that, as I suspected, didn't quite merit a "stew" designation, but was nonetheless delicious, Better Than Bouillon notwithstanding. MS

Winter Seitan/Hot Rad Salad (vegan)

Having never made seitan before, I found the prospect kind of daunting: tin foil, wax paper, and an improvised double boiler? Just to bake up a pan full of carbs? But Hot Knives' take on the vegan standby is actually quite simple, and the results are tender, substantial, and flavorful. Seared alongside some winter veggies, this winter seitan loaf wouldn't be out of place at any self-respecting vegan Thanksgiving. I tried it in the Hot Rad Salad, a sophisticated salad of marinated radicchio, onions, and peppers, served warm with blood orange and cornmeal-crusted seitan. Sounds fancy, right? It also looks and tastes fancy, thanks to an interplay of fennel, vinegar, mustard, and orange, but here's the clincher: It's incredibly easy to put together, and probably took about 20 minutes once the seitan was made. This one's going into regular rotation. AH

Kimchee (vegan)

An essential element to the Hot Knives way of kitchenry, Daze makes the at-home production of fermented cabbage, carrots, scallions, and daikon more difficult to shirk by calling for its brine as an ingredient in other recipes. Be warned that the recipe is for a decent-sized batch, and you will need sizable containers and storage for the five or six large Ball jars of brine that will soon take up residence in your fridge. As is Daze's style in general, the plainspoken directions made my first-time kimchee attempt stupid-easy and delicious. Next time I would tear the vegetables into large pieces rather than leaving everything whole as they recommended, avoiding the mild nuisance of huge, dangling bites, and intentionally double the amount of spice (which I did by happy accident, unwittingly creating the perfect level of spice tension). MS

Pumpkin Ale Muffins (vegetarian)

I found the recipe for Pumpkin Ale Muffins somewhat confounding—nothing so serious as to impede my ability to make the buggers, but just confusing enough that I gave up entirely on certain directions. For example, as instructed, I saved the stem from the called-for sugar pumpkin—only to guiltily compost it when no further stem-related instruction materialized. (Did they want me to make a stock? I didn't want to make a stock. I wanted to make muffins.) Any quibbles over phrasing and lost details were put to rest by the muffins themselves: dense, generously flavored with cardamom, not too sweet, and a great use of any leftover pumpkin beer you've got kicking around in the back of the fridge. AH

Beer Candied Apples (vegetarian)

Baked apples are a holiday no-brainer, but the Hot Knives take braises the apples in beer and glops on a layer of coriander crumble. The candy-sweet result is easy enough to make, but has enough grown-up polish to justify smuggling it in to your next dinner party. (Alternately, warmed up alongside a cup of coffee, these gooey apples make a pretty good reason to get out of bed on a rainy winter morning.) AH

KniQuil (vegan)

On the tail end of a very mild cough, I made the KniQuil cocktail/cold and flu reliever without many expectations. Typical ingredients like honey, whiskey, lemon, and mint threatened to clash with more unanticipated items like roasted green chilies, olive oil, and Pastis. Sounds gross, right? But the KniQuil was way more delicious than it should have had a right to be—a slightly spicy, tangy, thick brew. This recipe also prompted me to buy my first-ever bottle of Pastis, which has since proven quite the conversation-starting apéritif around the house. MS