Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Pasta Bake



I made this casserole one night when I was in a baked macaroni and cheese sort of mood but lacked a few crucial ingredients to make that happen. Using the awesome power of my imagination, it occurred to me that a pumpkin-based sauce using similar ingredients might get me to approximately where I wanted to go, and the result was good enough in its own right to deserve making again (and a blog post). NB the sausages were sort of an afterthought because they were just hanging out in my refrigerator, and while they added a nice "something," this dish would be just as good without them.

Pumpkin Pasta Bake
Ingredients
~ 1 lb. pasta (I used fusilli)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2-3 vegan sausages, diced (optional; I used Field Roast)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme
~ 1/2 tsp. each: smoked paprika, white pepper
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 2 tsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ 1 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin (about 2 cups)
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1/2 cup panko crumbs
~ Dash each: salt, pepper, paprika

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large saucepan, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until quite soft but not browned.
~ Add the garlic, sausage (if using), and dry seasonings and cook about 5 minutes more, until fragrant.
~ Stir in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Marmite, then add the pumpkin and mix well.
~ Gradually add the soy milk and the nutritional yeast and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and remove from heat.
~ Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.
~ Combine the cooked pasta with the pumpkin mixture, adding a bit of the pasta water if it seems dry.
~ Transfer the mixture to your waiting casserole and top with panko crumbs, a sprinkle of salt, pepper, paprika, and a good shot of cooking spray.
~ Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Smoky Tofu with Creamed Leeks



This dish was inspired by a post on the PPK forums entitled "What to do with leeks?" While I've never had a problem finding uses for the allium ampeloprasum, this idea got in amongst me, and when I was recently felled by a truly horrendous cold/flu thing, it seemed like just the sort of comfort food this almost-doctor wanted to order (or, in this case, make). Not having any smoked tofu to hand, I marinated and baked some myself, and pretty much winged the rest; the result was creamy, soothing, and delicious, especially spooned over a pile of mashed potatoes. We had ours with some noochy kale on the side, but this could easily be a meal all on its own; either way, I recommend it be eaten while wearing pajamas, in front of the TV and/or a roaring fire.

Smoky Tofu with Creamed Leeks

The Tofu
Ingredients
~ 1 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed 
~ 2 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: olive oil, maple syrup
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, vegan Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke
~ 1/2 tsp. each: garlic powder, smoked paprika
~ A few grinds black pepper

Directions
~ Slice the tofu into 1/2" cubes.
~ Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour into a large, shallow baking dish.
~ Arrange the tofu pieces in the pan, and flip them over to coat them with the marinade. Allow to rest for about an hour (most if not all of the liquid will be absorbed).
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the marinated tofu in the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping them about halfway through. They should be firm and chewy but not quite crispy.

~ Remove from the oven and set aside.

The Creamed Leeks
Ingredients
~ 1 cup raw cashews
~ 1 tbsp. each: olive oil, Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 3 large leeks, whites and light-green parts only, cleaned, halved lengthwise, and cut 1" inch thick crosswise
~ 1/2 tsp. each: sage, thyme, white pepper
~ Dash mace 
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. "no chicken" bouillon ~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric (for color)
~ 1 tsp. English mustard ~ A big batch of your favorite mashed potatoes

Directions
~ Soak the cashews in hot water for at least an hour, until quite soft.
~ In a large,deep skillet, heat the olive oil and margarine over medium-high heat and saute the garlic for about a minute, until fragrant.
~ Add the leeks and the seasonings, stir well to coat, and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
~ Lower the heat, cover the pan, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes or so, until the leeks are very soft (give them the occasional stir and adda  splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking).
~ While that's happening, drain the cashews and puree them in a blender or food processor with the soy milk, bouillon, turmeric, and mustard until completely smooth.
~ Raise the heat on the leeks to medium, and begin adding the cashew mixture gradually to the skillet, stirring constantly.  
~ Continue cooking for about 10 minutes more, until you have a pan of creamy deliciousness.
~ Stir in the baked tofu, cook 5 minutes more, and spoon over mashed potatoes to serve.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Eggplant, Lentil, and Quinoa Chili



This hearty stew is the perfect dinner for a chilly (see what I did there?) fall evening. It came about on the eve of a recent trip, when I needed to use up an eggplant but had little other fresh produce on hand; pantry staples seemed the way to go, so I rooted around in my cupboards et voila! An hour or so later we were sitting down to this thick, fragrant chili, which is not only a delicious nutritional powerhouse (lentils, black beans, and quinoa!), but ridiculously filling as well. I didn't have any fresh herbs in the house, but next time I'll toss in a handful of chopped cilantro, so I've included it in the recipe below. That said, if you're a cilantro hater you can substitute parsley or just skip it and the results will be every bit as great.

Eggplant, Lentil, and Quinoa Chili
Ingredients
~ 1 each: olive oil, coconut oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 1 large carrot diced
~ 4 large cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/2" cubes
~ 2 tsp. each: chili powder, cumin
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, coriander, smoked paprika, oregano, marjoram
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, cayenne
~ Dash nutmeg
~ A few generous grinds fresh black pepper
~ 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
~ 4 tbsp. tomato paste
~ 2 tbsp. maple syrup
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, with liquid
~ 1 cup red lentils
~ 1 cup quinoa
~ 4 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the oils and sauté the onion over medium-high heat for about two minutes; add the celery and carrot and cook another 3-4 minutes.
~ Add the garlic and eggplant and stir for about a minute to combine.
~ Add all the dry seasonings and mix well to coat; continue cooking 5-7 minutes, until the eggplant begins to soften (you can add a splash of water to prevent sticking if necessary).
~ Stir in the tomato paste, maple syrup, black beans, lentils, and quinoa. Mix well and cook for another few minutes, stirring.
~ Pour in the broth, stir, and then cover the pot and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant has broken down and the lentils and quinoa have become one with the whole delicious business.
~ Stir in the fresh cilantro (if using), adjust seasonings to taste, and serve with rice, cornbread, or both.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Black Bean Quesadillas



Apologies for the radio silence - it's been busy around here, and I haven't had much time or culinary ambition. But I did make these excellent quesadillas for dinner on Hallowe'en (the black, orange, and green color scheme was a happy coincidence), inspired by a dish I've eaten several times at Root, a vegan place in Allston. The prototype is filled with sweet potatoes and kale, but it occurred to me that some beans would improve the situation while adding a punch of protein, and so it proved. These came together quickly and were very filling, so you could really get away with just a salad or some simple veggies on the side, in addition to the quesadilla-appropriate condiments of your choice, and still have plenty to share with your enchanted toad friends!

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Black Bean Quesadillas
Ingredients
~ 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, roasted until soft and mashed
~ 1 batch noochtastic kale
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 small onion, diced
~ 1 small bell pepper, diced
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder, Adobo seasoning
~ ½ tsp. each: marjoram, oregano, cayenne
~ ¼ tsp. cinnamon
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 2 tbsp. tomato paste
~ 1 can refried black beans
~ 8-10 flour tortillas

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit and place a large baking sheet inside.
In a large skillet, saute the onion in the olive over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until soft.
~ Add the garlic, bell pepper, and seasonings and cook about 5-7 minutes longer.
~ Stir in the tomato paste and refried beans, mix well, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Lay a tortilla flat and distribute about 1/4 cup each of the mashed sweet potatoes, kale, and bean mixture evenly across the upper half, then fold over to make a crescent. Continue with the remaining tortillas and fillings. (I got 8 large, generously filled quesadillas from this recipe, but your mileage may vary!)
~ Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and cook the quesadillas one at a time, for about 3-5 minutes each side, or until browned and slightly crispy, removing the cooked ones to the oven as they're done.
~ Serve with guacamole, vegan sour cream, salsa, and/or whatever accompaniments you like.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pumpkin-Walnut Cornbread (or Muffins)



With ingredients like pumpkin, cornbread, maple syrup, molasses, and walnuts, it's like: how much more New Englandy could this quick-bread be? And the answer is none: none more New Englandy.

Pumpkin-Walnut Cornbread (or Muffins)
Ingredients
~ 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
~ 1 1/4 cup cornmeal
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: sage, marjoram, baking powder
~ Dash mace
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (scant two cups)
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened almond or soy milk
~ 1/4 cup each: canola oil, maple syrup
~ 1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a loaf pan (or muffin tin) with coking spray.
~ In a large bowl. sift together all of the dry ingredients, adding then walnuts last and tossing them to coat with then flour mixture.
~ In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (pumpkin through molasses).
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the pumpkin mixture. Combine thoroughly, but don't over-mix.
~ Transfer the batter to your greased pan or tin, and bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for circa 45 minutes (20-25 for muffins), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan about 10 minutes before transferring to rack to cool.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spicy Pan-Asian-Inspired Soup



This recipe owes its inception to one of those cold, damp autumn afternoons when the temperature inside the house is nearly identical to that on the outside, but it's too early in the season - and you're too cheap - to turn on the furnace. I decided that soup was probably our best defense in the circumstances, and something complex and spicy suited my agenda better than a more western "comfort" approach like potato-leek or mushroom-barley (also excellent, but not what I was seeking). So I basically dove into the kitchen and deployed a bit of everything from the Asian section of my spice rack: Thai flavors, Indian flavors, Chinese flavors, Vietnamese flavors, you name it. It's all in there, it's all good, and the combination will make your house smell amazing, your tummy feel happy and loved, and your nose run just enough to let you know it's working. So leave that thermostat alone for a little while longer, and warm yourself up from the inside with some soup.

Spicy Pan-Asian-Inspired Soup
Ingredients
~ 2 cans light coconut milk (about 4 cups)
~ 4 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
~ 1 tsp. each: red and green Thai curry pastes
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 carrot, cut into 1/2" matchsticks
~ 1 small red bell pepper, diced
~ 1/2 lb. extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, garam masala, five spice powder
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 6 scallions, thinly sliced
~ 1/2 lb. chopped, frozen spinach, thawed

Directions
~ In a large beaker, combine the coconut milk, broth, bay leaves, saffron, and curry pastes. Microwave on high for a few minutes until hot but not boiling (you can also do this in a pot on the stove, obviously). Cover and set aside to seethe.
~ In a large pot, melt the coconut oil, add the sesame oil, and saute the garlic and ginger over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds.
~ Add the carrots and bell peppers, and cook about two minutes before adding the tofu, soy sauce, hot sauce, and dry seasonings. Stir to coat and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the mushrooms and continue cooking about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until they've given up most of their liquid.
~ Add the sliced scallions, cook for about a minute, and then pour in the coconut milk/broth mixture.
~ Cover the pot, bring just to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
~ Stir in the thawed, frozen spinach and cook about 5 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin, Apple, and Walnut Muffins



My kitchen is full of apples, but not as full as it was about a week ago, when we came home from a local orchard with an enormous quantity of Golden Delicious, Cortlands, Mutsus, and Macouns. In the days since then, I've put them to use in a variety of ways both sweet and savory, including today's maximum-bang-for-your-minimum-buck standby: muffins. This version features a combination of classic seasonal signifiers, and I promise that the mere smell of them baking away in the oven will remove any lingering doubt that decorative gourd season has officially arrived.

Apples and nuts, and pumpkin cut from rind!
Bring through my lips to my awaken'd mouth
The triumph of a bakery! O Fall,
If muffins come, can pie be far behind?

Pumpkin, Apple, and Walnut Muffins
Ingredients
~ 2.5 cups flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 2 small, tart apples, diced
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 cup pureed pumpkin
~ 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk (or a little more)
~ 1/3 cup maple syrup
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 2 tsp. sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and sift well.
~ Add the diced apple and chopped walnuts and mix well to coat them with the flour mixture.
~ In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, almond milk, maple syrup, canola oil, and vanilla extract and stir until smooth.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually add the pumpkin mixture, stirring with each addition until all the ingredients are combined.
~ Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin, and sprinkle the tops with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
~ Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
~ Allow the muffins to rest in the pan about for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.