Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nostalgic Chicken & Leek Puff Pastry Tarts

Once upon a time, Pepperidge Farm sold these frozen, single serving puff pastry tarts with various savory fillings. I had an absolute passion for those things, but since my parents weren't big on buying frozen or convenience foods, I didn't get them nearly as often as I would have liked. They eventually stopped making them, and a Google search came up empty so I can't even share a photo or an advertisement with you here.

Fast forward to a recent snowy evening (if the reader is getting the impression that it does nothing but $#@*% snow here lately, they would be correct), when the freezer contained not only puff pastry, but my very first package of the much-talked-about Beyond Chicken. Being in the mood for a project, I decided to recreate those frozen treats of yesteryear on a more family-friendly scale, and the happy result is below. Now that I've made the "chicken" version, I am definitely moving on to my personal favorite from back in the day: broccoli and cheddar. So watch this space!

Chicken & Leek Puff Pastry Tart
~ 1/3 cup olive oil
~ 1 package Beyond Chicken (or other vegan poultry analogue), chopped into 1/2" pieces
~ 1 large leek (or 2 medium), cleaned and chopped
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, sage, mustard powder
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ Dash mace
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. "no chicken" bouillon
~ 1 tsp. prepared English mustard
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 cups frozen spinach
~ Two sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
~ Combine the soy milk, bouillon, prepared mustard, and bay leaves. Microwave for about two minutes and mix well.
~ Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
~ When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the cubed Beyond Chicken and fry, turning occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy on all sides.
~ Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate lined with paper towels, and set aside to drain.
~ Remove all but a tbsp. or two of oil from the pan, and return it to medium heat.
~ Add the leeks, carrots, and dried seasonings, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
~ Add the flour, nutritional yeast, and about 1/2 cup of the soy milk mixture; stir to make a roux and continue cooking a minute or so.
~ Remove the bay leaves from the remaining soy milk mixture and begin adding it gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
~ Add the frozen spinach and continue cooking 10 minutes more.
~ Stir in the cooked chicken, mix well, and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
~ Arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on your parchment-lined baking sheet.
~ Remove the bay leaves from the filling and divide it between the two sheets of puff pastry, spreading it evenly along the lefthand third of each sheet.
~ Fold each sheet over the filling to form an envelope, carefully crimping the edges to form a seal.
~ With a sharp knife, cut a couple of gashes in the top of each tart, and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tattie Scones

Tattie scones have been on my "to do" list for awhile now, so when my partner requested them on a recent snow day I was happy to oblige. They're a bit like a hybrid of potato pancakes, flour scones, and American biscuits - in all the podgily pleasing ways that suggests - and as such are the perfect addition to a big, lazy brunch or breakfast. I had leftover mashed potatoes on hand, so this recipe came together very quickly, but even if you're starting from scratch it will be under an hour from start to finish, and well worth the minimum effort required.

We had our scones with fried mushrooms and tofu scramble, but next time, I'll add baked beans, veggie sausages, and fried tomatoes to the mix for the Platonic ideal of a cooked breakfast. (NB traditionally, tattie scones are scored and cut into quarters after cooking. I didn't bother and served them as is, but you can obviously suit yourself. The only non-negotiable part of this picture is a mug of strong, hot tea - and none of your faffie Darjeelings and Earl Greys, either!)

Tattie Scones
~ 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
~ 1 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 2 cups mashed potatoes
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, melted

~ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit and place an oven-safe plate inside.
~ In a large bowl, sift 3/4 cup of the flour with the baking powder, salt, and pepper.
~ Add the mashed potato and melted margarine and mix to make a stiff dough.
~ Sprinkle the remaining flour over your counter or cutting board, and roll the dough out to about 1/4" thickness, sprinkling a little more on top if it seems sticky.
~ Using a biscuit cutter or the floured rim of a large-mouthed glass, cut the dough into rounds, prick the tops with a fork, and place them on a sheet of parchment paper. (I got 10 scones from this recipe, but your mileage may vary.)
~ Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat it with a light film of cooking spray.
~ Cook the scones for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown, transferring them to the plate in your warm oven as they are finished. Once they are all cooked, serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Crêpes

This morning I awoke to the winter wonderland our local weather boffins had been hysterically predicting for the past few days. (The most recent estimate says we have 33 inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground, which makes this snowfall not only meteorological, but Christological!)

That much precipitation - combined with the travel ban and state of emergency declared by the governor - brought with it the absolute certainty that no one was going anywhere, which in my mind is the perfect excuse for an elaborate brunch. I briefly considered the usual suspects: tofu scramble, pancakes, French toast, etc. but wanted to try something new and exciting, so I decided on crêpes.

Now, I freely confess that I had never made crêpes since being vegan, and had only done so once or twice back in the olden times, so I approached the project with a certain degree of trepidation. Fortunately, a Facebook plea yielded several helpful responses, and I ultimately chose the recipe from Vegan Brunch, which is arguably my favorite of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's great (and growing) list of cookbooks.

And very happy I am that I did, because it turned out to be not nearly as difficult or fiddly as I'd feared; the end result was an epic brunch that was exactly what I wanted, and I'm very happy to share it with you here. Moreover, I'm now emboldened to take on the wild mushroom crêpe cake from The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, which is the Moby Dick of my veganization aspirations, and a worthy project for a future snow day. (So watch this space!)

But today, I encourage you to make this restaurant-worthy recipe, which manages to be delicious, filling, easy, and surprisingly quick, while feeling quite fancy for a day spent in one's pajamas.

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Crêpes

~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 small onion, diced small
~ 2 cups chopped, frozen spinach, thawed
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, garlic powder, tarragon
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ Dash each: nutmeg, cayenne
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ 1 batch plain crêpes (I used the Vegan Brunch savory variation)
~ 1 batch "good white sauce," with the addition of 2 tbsp. chopped parsley and 1 tsp. English mustard

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray and cook the sliced mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt and transfer to a bowl.
~ Add the olive oil to the pan and saute the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes.
~ Add the spinach and the seasonings, and cook a few minutes more, until wilted.
~ Stir in the flour, the nutritional yeast, and a bit of the milk and mix well, until then flour and nooch are dissolved.
~ Gradually add the remaining milk, stirring constantly, and cook another 7-10 minutes, until thickened but still creamy. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ Put about 3-4 tbsp. of filling across the top half of each crêpe and roll it up into a tube. Continue until all the crêpes and filling are used up (I had just enough of each).
~ Arrange the filled crêpes in your greased baking dish. Pour about 3/4 cup of your prepared white sauce right down the middle, and sprinkle with a little extra fresh parsley.
~ Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, until heated through, and serve the crêpes immediately, applying the extra sauce to individual servings as desired.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Smoky Kale Cornbread

While I occasionally add chopped scallions to cornbread and/or muffins,  I'd never thought of using leafy greens until I had a pile of extra kale left over from a recent batch of chowder. Since I was already making cornbread to go with the soup, I decided to chop it fine, mix it into the batter, mess around with the spices, and see what happened. The resulting loaf was not only a tasty way to get a little extra veg into the meal, but a delightful, positively Seussian shade of green - and with nary a nasty egg, slice of ham, or pushy Who named Sam in sight.

Smoky Kale Cornbread
~ 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
~ 3/4 cup cornmeal
~ 5 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, smoked paprika
~ ½ tsp. each: thyme, marjoram, white pepper
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed, beaten with 3 tbsp. water
~ 2 tbsp. melted Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 2 cups very finely chopped kale

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a bread pan with cooking spray.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and dry seasonings.
~ Combine the milk, beaten flax/water mixture, melted margarine, and chopped kale.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the wet mixture. Stir until well-combined, but don't overmix.
~ Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes before turning out, and for a few minutes more before slicing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holiday Leftover Casserole

Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The Christmas fake meats
Can boldly furnish forth the next day's table!

The title of today's post is really a misnomer, since I actually conceived of and made this casserole as itself, rather than a way to use up food that had been cooked for another occasion. But it imparts exactly the same feeling as those old-school, retro-housewifey recipes you find on the back of soup cans and packaged stuffing mix, so the name seems like a handy and accurate descriptor of the dish's spirit, if not its literal substance.

Of course, you could make it with leftovers, especially if you have a ton of stuffing - often the case at our house - and/or extra cooked veggies, etc. cluttering up your refrigerator in the days after a big feast. Talking of holidays, I make my own (admittedly delicious) sage and onion stuffing from scratch on such occasions, but packaged stuffing cubes work perfectly well here, and in fact their presence in my cupboard on an ordinary, uninspired evening proved the starting point for the recipe below.

My main caveat when buying stuffing mix is to read the label closely, because animal products lurk in the weirdest places; the Arnold variety in the hyperlink above is fine as of this writing, but companies do change formulas so be careful. I'd also suggest a pretty bare bones preparation of the stuff, since the casserole itself is amply seasoned: just mix with enough broth and fat to suit package directions, and don't worry about adding herbs, onions, etc, as you might do if you were serving it as a side dish.

The end result was trashily delicious in the most satisfactory way, and the whole business only took about an hour from conception to completion (yet more proof - if any were needed - that cooking is preferable to gestation). We had ours with mashed potatoes and leafy greens on the side, but this "leftover" casserole could easily serve as a one-dish meal on a busy weeknight, and it makes excellent leftovers itself, should you be lucky enough to have any.

Holiday Leftover Casserole
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, marjoram, rosemary, white pepper
~ Dash mace
~ 2 tbsp. each: all purpose flour, nutritional yeast
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk, heated and mixed with 2 tsp. no chicken bouillon
~ 1/2 lb. vegan poultry substitute of choice, diced (I used an 8 oz. package of TJ's chickenless strips), or 1 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas
~ 1/2 cup frozen peas
~ 1/2 14 oz. bag stuffing mix, prepared according to package directions (subbing vegetable broth for chicken, margarine for butter, etc., obviously)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep skillet, saute the onion in the oil over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking 5 minutes more, until they begin to soften.
~ Add the garlic, mushrooms, bay leaves, and dried seasonings and cook another 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are giving up some of their liquid.
~ Stir in the cubed "chicken" (or chick peas) and cook another minute or two.
~ Sprinkle in the flour and nutritional yeast and stir to coat. Gradually begin adding the warm milk/bouillon mixture, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken a bit.
~ Add the frozen peas, mix well, and continue cooking over low-medium heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Remove the bay leaves, transfer the mixture to your greased casserole, and distribute the prepared stuffing mix evenly over the filling, making sure it's entirely covered.
~ Drizzle a little melted margarine over the top (or just give it a good shot of cooking spray) and sprinkle on a little paprika and parsley to make it pretty.
~ Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, then raise the heat to 425 and give it another 10-15 minutes, until the topping is crispy and golden-brown (ovens vary wildly, so keep an eye on things to be sure it doesn't burn).
~ Allow to rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Orange-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

When I was a child, I thought that brussels sprouts were the very distillation of evil; along with turnips and lima beans, they formed an unholy triumvirate of vegetables that could reduce me to tears. This prejudice persisted well into adulthood (and I confess that turnips, to me, still taste of disappointment, sadness, and defeat), and it was only when I finally encountered roasted sprouts that the scales fell from my eyes. Like any member of the brassica family - which also includes cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower - brussels sprouts become nastily pungent when boiled, and since that was the way my British mother invariably prepared them, it's no wonder they struck panic and terror in my infant breast. But where boiling produces a bland, stinky mess, roasting brings out an irresistibly nutty sweetness, and once I discovered this important fact I was hooked, as were my formerly sprout-doubting partner and kids; nowadays the aroma of roasting brussels sprouts brings all the boys to the yard. (Well, it actually brings them to the kitchen, but you take my point.)

Which brings me to today's recipe. I made these sprouts for Thanksgiving, and they were so beguilingly delicious that I may never cook the little darlings any other way again. I happened to have some swanky blood orange olive oil in the cupboard, so that's what I used (and highly recommend), but if you don't have/feel like acquiring any, you can use high quality extra virgin stuff and add some freshly grated orange zest for a similar effect. I imagine this approach would also work nicely with lemon-flavored oil, and/or with toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or cashews for the walnuts. One thing is certain: henceforth I will be applying this method to asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and whatever other roasting-friendly vegetables cross my path, and I encourage you to do the same.

Orange-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts
~ 2 lbs. brussels sprouts, halved
~ 3 tbsp. each: soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, blood orange olive oil (or regular extra virgin)
~ 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
~ Grated zest of one large orange (if using regular olive oil)
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

~ Preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Place the brussels sprouts in a large, deep bowl and combine all the remaining ingredients except the walnuts in a separate dish or beaker.
~ Pour the mixture over the sprouts and coat them thoroughly (the best way to do this is to get right in there with your hands). Cover with plastic and set aside for at least an hour to let the flavors soak in.
~ Transfer the sprouts, including any residual marinade, to your prepared baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, making sure to turn them a few times during the process so they roast evenly. (NB my oven is old and tends to be slow, so your sprouts may cook more quickly; keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn!)
~ Stir in the toasted walnuts and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Corn, Chickpea, and Kale Chowder

This chowder is another of those meals-in-a-bowl we are so fond of at this time of year. Thick, filling, and packed with protein and veggies, all it needs alongside it is some crusty bread, and maybe a salad if you're feeling particularly ambitious. I chopped more kale than I needed for the soup, so I added the extra to some cornbread batter with great success; watch this space for details!

Corn, Chickpea, and Kale Chowder
~ 1-2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, including liquid
~ 1 tbsp. Adobo seasoning
~ 2 tsp. dill
~ 1 tsp. each: marjoram, paprika, chili powder, white pepper
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 3 cups corn kernels
~ 2 cans "lite" coconut milk
~ 4 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Frank's)
~ 1 small head kale, washed and chopped small (about 3 cups)

~ In a large, deep pot, melt the coconut oil and cook the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the carrots and celery and cook about 5 minutes more, until softened.
~ Stir in the garlic, cook about minute, then add the chickpeas, dry seasonings, and corn, stirring to coat everything with the spices.
~ Add the coconut and soy milks, cover the pot, and bring the mixture just to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook about 10 minutes.
~ Add the hot sauce and chopped kale, replace the lid, and cook 10-15 minutes more, until the kale is softened but still green.
~ With an immersion blender, partially puree the soup; we're going for a semi-smooth texture without any big chunks of vegetables, but still retaining a bit of chew.
~ Adjust the seasonings to taste, remove the bay leaves, and serve hot.