Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pastitsio

Here in the US we've just survived Thanksgiving, that first blast of the trumpet heralding the holiday season's monstrous regiment. This big family gathering (pictured above, and on pretty good behavior for a change) traditionally happens at my house, and this year I wanted to shake things up a little. So alongside the roasted root vegetables, sage and onion stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc., we had a big pan of pastitsio, a Greek casserole sort of halfway between moussaka and lasagna.

My mother's pastitsio was a childhood favorite I'd been vaguely meaning to veganize for years, but it wasn't until one of my culinary heroes posted about an elaborate Greek dinner that I finally got around to doing it. I started with his recipe as a basic model, but I did make a few significant changes. (NB I was able to procure #2 pastitsio macaroni from our local Greek market, but if you can't lay hands on some, bucatini or even linguine work just as well.)

The one caveat I would offer to those unfamiliar with Greek food is don't be weirded out by the cinnamon and/or nutmeg in this recipe! I realize they may seem incongruous in a savory dish, but once it's all baked and sliced and you're eating a huge slab of it, you'll be saying "Mmmmmm, it tastes so Greek." To which I (standing in the spirit at your elbow) will reply, "I told you so!"(Also please note that I was cooking for a big, holiday dinner, so feel free to halve the recipe accordingly; on the other hand, this dish makes great leftovers, which is always a fine thing.)

Pastitsio
The Filling
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh parsley
~ 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 packages TJ's veggie meatballs, mashed (or Nate’s, Gimme Lean, or other ground meat substitute)
~ 1 bay leaf
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, cinnamon, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: nutmeg, oregano
~ 1/2 cup dry red wine
~ 1 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, including liquid
~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ Fresh black pepper to taste

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400.
~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat oil, and sauté the onion over medium-high heat until golden, about 5 minutes.
~ Add the parsley and garlic, and cook for a few seconds before adding the mashed “meatballs" and seasonings.
~ Continue cooking about 5 minutes, then add the wine and cook till it evaporates.
~ Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick (you can add a splash of water if necessary).

The Sauce
Ingredients
~ 1 cup raw cashews
~ 3.5 cups warm, unsweetened nondairy milk
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine (e.g., Earth Balance)
~ 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ Black pepper to taste
~ Dash of nutmeg

~ 1/4 cup vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
~ 1/2 cup cold soy milk, mixed with 2 tsps. cornstarch

Directions
~ In a beaker, microwave the milk, the cashews, and the bay leaves until nearly boiling. Allow to soak for at least an hour (the longer the better).
~ Remove the bay leaves, and puree the milk/cashew mixture until completely smooth.
~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine over low heat and whisk in the flour to make a roux.
~ Continue cooking for a few minutes, then gradually add the milk/cashew puree, whisking constantly.
~ Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and parm or nooch; stir thoroughly to combine.
~ Add the cold soy milk/corn starch mixture and whisk thoroughly.
~ Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 5-7 minutes).

Also
~ 1 lb. #2 pasta (bucatini or linguine, if you can't find it), cooked and drained according to package directions, and then mixed with 2-3 tbsp. olive oil to prevent sticking.
~ A little extra paprika and parsley, for garnish.

The Assembly
~ Spread the pasta evenly in the bottom of a large, greased casserole.
~ Cover with the filling, and pour the sauce over the top, smoothing with a spatula.
~ Sprinkle the top with a little extra paprika and parsley to make things pretty.
~ Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes, until golden and bubbly; if you like, raise the heat to 450 for the last 5 minutes to brown it a bit more.
~ Allow to sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Pamela's Polenta," from Uneeda Rest Dinner


Today's post is a truly collaborative effort between Desdemona and myself - let's just call me "Robert," shall we (since that is in fact my name)? - in which the contextual setup is mine, and the recipe adaptation and cooking directions are hers. So now that we've cleared up the question of authorial voice, let's get on with tonight's dinner, which is the veganized interpretation of an old family favorite - oops, favourite. Various branches of my family in the Old Country (in my case, Canada) used to run summer hotels on Sparrow Lake, in Ontario’s cottage country. Most of them have disappeared now, but fifty or sixty years ago, there were a passle of them, serving plain but hearty country fare, offering a great spirit of camaraderie among the guests - many of them Americans who would come year after year from places as far afield as Ohio and Pennsylvania - and consisting of sometimes fairly basic accommodations (people of my father’s generation still remember the phenomenon of the Eaton’s department store catalog serving as toilet paper in the outhouses).

The most "Northern Gothic" of them all was Uneeda Rest (pictured above), run by a branch of my grandmother’s family, the Clipshams. The name comes from one of the hotel’s earliest guests, a salesman for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), one of whose products was called “Uneeda Biscuit” [Okay, sorry for sticking my oar in here, but this name never fails to remind me of the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, who continually presses unusually dry, tasteless morsels on poor Alice, insisting that it is exactly what she needs to cure the thirst incurred by a long run. Sorry, I'll stop now.- D.] The hotel closed in the early 1960s, but the building remains, a haunting ruin on the rocky north shore of the lake, a portion of which which one of my Clipsham cousins and his partner have renovated as their home. In 1999, these cousins (Robert and Pamela) threw a big party to celebrate the centenary of its opening, and plenty of clan members attended, wandering the faded, crumbling hallways and marveling at the ancient fixtures and appliances, all pretty much untouched since the closing.

At this point the reader could be forgiven for asking, "what possible connection could any of this have to polenta?" Well, my parents still see a fair bit of the Clipsham cousins, and it was the eponymous Pamela who devised this splendid and infinitely adaptable recipe, which my mother duly copied out and gave to me on a yellow recipe card (now more of an ochre color after years of loving kitchen stains). My mother’s letters, cards, diary entries, and recipes all share a highly characteristic style, rich in memory, anecdote, asides, and UPPER CASE INSTRUCTIONS for emphasis. She’s especially good at attributing recipes and recalling the specific occasions when she and Dad enjoyed a delicious meal in happy company. This is a classic of the genre, the “Uneeda Rest Dinner” in the title referring to the time they enjoyed it in a friendly corner of that starkly comfortable old lodge. Veganizing it proved an easy matter of substituting olive oil for the butter and vegan cheese for the mascarpone and parmesan called for in the original. We used the olives, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts recommended on that well-worn index card, but the beauty of this dish is that you can really use any topping you happen to fancy and/or have on hand (next time, we're planning on chopped portobellos, a ton of garlic and fresh basil, which can't possibly be bad). So head into the kitchen, see what's handy, then make a big pan and dig in, eh?

Pamela's Polenta
Ingredients
~ 6 cups vegetable broth or water
~ 1.5 coarse cornmeal (I use Bob's Red Mill polenta)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. dried basil
~ 1.5 cup grated Blue Sheese (optional, but highly recommended; if, however, you decide to skip it, add 1 tsp. salt to the broth/olive oil mixture along with the cornmeal)
~ 1/4 cup each: chopped black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts
~ A few grinds of black pepper and some extra basil for garnish

Directions
~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a large pot, bring the vegetable broth and olive oil to a rapid boil.
~ Stir in the cornmeal and - according to Mary Lou's index card directions - "WHISK LIKE MAD." Cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened but still soft.
~ Add 1 cup of the grated Sheese (if using), stirring well to combine and make sure that it melts. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ Coat a 9 x 13" casserole or baking dish with cooking spray, and spoon in the polenta, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
~ Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Sheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts over the top of the polenta, finishing off with a few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of dried basil.
~ Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
~ Remove the foil and contune cooking another 15-20 minutes, until the polenta is setting up and the top is getting browned (not too browned!)
~ Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. (Be aware that this is really filling, and a little goes a long way. A green salad and a glass of red wine is all you need to make this A Proper Meal, although it's so delicious that you'll probably want seconds anyway!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Potato Onion Mushroom Tart Thing


This extravaganza of wanton yumminess was inspired by a post for Welsh Onion Cake over at The Great Vegan Conspiracy (http://thegvc.wordpress.com), which - if you've yet to have the pleasure - is a terrific blog that seeks to recreate the sorts of cozy, podgy British food I grew up on, in a way that is incredibly evocative of childhood comfort food while remaining completely vegan: a noble goal if ever there was one! Anyway, midway through a bright, sunny, but proto-wintry November Sunday morning, I was feeling extremely hungry but uncertain what to do about it when - AHA! - inspiration struck, and I remembered this recipe. As hath ever been my wont, I decided to tinker with it and see what happened; there were some mushrooms in the fridge, in danger of passing their prime unloved and uneaten, and since I figured that their presence in a dish consisting primarily of potatoes, onions and fat couldn't possibly come amiss, they were duly sliced up and thrown in. With the addition of a few extra herbs, this not only made the kitchen smell incredible, but turned out to be both beautiful and delicious: a dish that will surely be making reappearances on our table in the upcoming months. As we were feeling a bit nostalgic for the old sod - bless 'im! - we put on our favorite Magpie Lane CD, The Oxford Ramble, and sauteed a couple cans of old-school Heinz baked beans with some sage, smoked yeast, a chopped onion and the rest of those mushrooms to go alongside. In short: the perfect way to start the day at the crack of noon!

Potato, Onion, and Mushroom Tart Thing

Ingredients
~ 4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (I used Yukon Gold)
~ 1 large onion, sliced into thin crescents, then sliced again (quarter crescents!)
~ 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (about a dozen good-sized 'shrooms)
~ Salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram, tarragon
~ 2 tbsp. each: melted vegan margarine, olive oil (or could use 4 tbsp. of either, I just like a combination)
~ Paprika for garnish

Directions

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Coat a deep-dish pie dish with cooking spray (I used a straight-sided quiche pan).
~ Cover the bottom of the pie dish with an overlapping layer of about 1/3 of the sliced potatoes, followed by a layer of half the onions, then half the sliced mushrooms.
~ Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, marjoram, and tarragon, topping with about 1/3 of the margarine/oil mixture.
~ Repeat the layering process (including spices, oil mixture), then end with a - neatly overlapping, if you can manage it! - layer of potatoes.
~ Top with the remaining oil mixture, a few grinds of salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of paprika for garnish.
~ Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
~ Remove foil, raise the heat to 425, and bake another 20 minutes, until beauteously browned and beginning to get crispy.
~ Allow to set up about 10 minutes before cutting into slices and serving (since it was brunch and we were feeling a bit British, we had some baked beans on the side, but this would - and certainly will, in our house - make a great supper dish with a salad or some other veggie dish on the side).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chickpeas In A (Magically) Toasty, Nutty Sauce


In this, my third guest post, I hereby declare my most characteristic trait as a cook: although highly recipe-dependent and generally fearful of experimentation, I’m also prone to inattentive reading of a given recipe, resulting in subsequent disaster or near-disaster, and - finally - a neat save (or, alternatively, hideous crap that has to be politely accommodated by family and friends, or thrown into the bin). The night this dish was born was just such an occasion, as I had a chickpea craving and got all enthusiastic about scouring our numerous Indian cookbooks for some satisfying, semi-spicy dish on a cold, late autumn evening. I consulted the index to Yamuna Devi’s biblical Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, and settled on "Chickpea, Almond, Sesame Sauce." Wow, that sounds great, doesn’t it? How could chickpeas, almonds, and sesame seeds be bad? It couldn’t! Let’s launch into it, then. Toasted sesame, cumin, and mustard seeds? Check! Toasted almonds? Check! OK, let’s….oh wait. Put it in a food processor along with the chickpeas? What? That sounds like it’s going to be a…oh. Sauce. Right.

You can see what I mean by “inattentive reading.” What to do now? To intensify the situation, the eponymous Elizavegan called in the middle of the whole crisis to say she’d be home earlier than expected for dinner. I felt like Samantha Stephens, having to whip up something spectacular when Darren calls to say that Mr. and Mrs. Brewster are coming for dinner (honey), and the big account needs saving because Larry Tate is really riding his ass...well, okay; whatever Derwood would have said when he really meant "ass." Well, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of bullshitting, and in the absence of magical powers or an intervention by Dr. Bombay, a rethink was clearly called for. In the end, I decided that everything in the “sauce” up to that point was bound to be awesome, so I just reconceived it as a glazed-tomato chickpea dish with the nutty sauce thrown in and - hey presto! - with a big pile of garlicky collard greens on the side, it all worked out fine. So: I hereby present to you this (succesfully) improvised reinvention of yet another Ayurvedic classic.

Chickpeas In A (Magically) Toasty, Nutty Sauce

Ingredients
~¼ cup sesame seeds
~1 teaspoon cumin seeds
~½ black mustard seeds
~¼ cup chopped almonds
~¼ cup raw cashews (optional but awesome)
~1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
~3 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
~Juice of 3 limes
~1 tablespoon brown sugar
~½ teaspoon asafoetida
~2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
~1 teaspoon salt
~ ½-1 cup water

Directions
~Combine the sesame seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and nuts in a large, heavy-bottomed frypan over medium-low heat and toast until the sesame seeds turn golden brown and it smells really good.
~Empty into a food processor and blend for 30 seconds or until coarsely powdered.
~Heat olive or sesame oil in the same pan over medium heat, then add diced tomatoes. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and sensuous (sounding a bit more like Nigella Lawson than Elizabeth Montgomery there!)
~Add the seed/nut mixture and stir until blended.
~Add the lime juice, sugar, asafoetida, chickpeas, and salt. Continue cooking over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, adding water as needed to prevent sticking and make a rich, saucy consistency.
~Serve over basmati rice with some hot Indian pickle, and you'll have the Brewster account in the bag before Endora can show up, get everyone drunk, flirt with Mr. Brewster, and turn his wife into a teapot!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Split Pea Soup with Dumplings



Each year, on the day after Halloween, something remarkable occurs: November arrives!

I realize that this may not seem like an especially perceptive observation, but the change I refer to involves a great deal more than the simple turn of a calendar page. The difference between October and November is the difference between the warm colors of autumn and the spare, wintry aesthetic of bare branches and grey skies. The sun gives less heat, the evenings draw in earlier - see you next year, Daylight Savings Time - and the alarm clock wakes us up to ever colder mornings. In some ways, this all sounds very bleak, but there's a certain stripped-down beauty to this time of year, as the earth prepares to take a break and get a few months' rest.

Another bonus to cooler weather is soup. On a chilly afternoon, when the air turns sharp and the sun is dipping below the trees by 5 o'clock, few things are more comforting than coming home to a warm, bright kitchen and a big pot simmering on the stove. Today's recipe is a classic winter soup featuring split peas, lots of veggies, and big, fluffy dumplings. So settle in, pour a glass of red wine, ladle out a big bowlful, and forget the darkness outside."If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Split Pea Soup with Dumplings
The Soup
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 cups onion, chopped
~ 1 cup celery, diced
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 cup carrot, diced
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt (more or less, depending on the saltiness of your stock)
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, parsley, marjoram, tarragon
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 cups split peas, picked over, rinsed and soaked at least an hour (the longer you soak them, the faster they'll cook!)
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2-3 tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ 8 cups vegetable stock

Directions
~ In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions and celery over medium heat about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, carrots and dry seasonings and cook about 5 minutes more.
~ Stir in the (drained!) split peas, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and Liquid Smoke. Stir to coat and cook another few minutes.
~ Raise the heat to high, add the vegetable broth, cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer about 45 minutes.

The Dumplings
Ingredients
~ 1.5 cups flour
~ 1/4 cup cold vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, sage
~ 1/2-3/4 cup cold soy (or other non-dairy) milk

Directions
~ In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and seasonings.
~ Add the margarine and mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.
~ Add the soy milk, and mix with a fork until you have a soft dough.
~ Remove the bay leaves from the soup, then drop the dough by tablespoonfuls into the pot.
~ Cover the soup pot tightly and cook another 15-20 minutes.
~ Pour into bowls and serve hot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Shady" Fake Chicken & Eggplant Stir-Fry



Fake meat. What is it? In what way is it "fake?" In what way - if any - is it "meat," beyond that word's original definition: "food, as nourishment for people and fodder for animals"? For those of us who don’t eat animal flesh, what is it about "meat" that we sometimes feel the urge to replicate? Jonathan Safran Foer reflects on the value, significance, history, and ethics of the foods we grow up with in his current memoir/manifesto Eating Animals (which is getting a lot of buzz), taking the WWII-era experiences of his European Jewish grandmother as a starting point. In a recent excerpt published in the New York Times, he wrote: “The story of her relationship to food holds all of the other stories that could be told about her. Food, for her, is not food. It is terror, dignity, gratitude, vengeance, joy, humiliation, religion, history and, of course, love.”

Foer goes on to mention that one of the intra-familial cultural ramifications of raising his own children vegetarian is that they "will never eat their great-grandmother’s singular dish [chicken with carrots]....and never receive that unique and most direct expression of her love." Of course, he recognizes that there are greater issues at stake, and later reveals that the same grandmother has gone to the effort of making vegetarian chopped liver especially for him. (For my own part I've found that, with thought and creativity, animal-free analogues of emotionally resonant dishes can be recreated, and everything tastes better when eaten with a clear conscience.)

All of which raises the question: what's actually so important about the foods we associate with childhood or adolescence? How much of it is a texture that was pleasing to our young mouths (and heaven knows there are many things that are intolerable to childish palates)? How much of it is the visceral memories of particular favorite meals: Mom making spanakopita for Greek Easter, Dad making Welsh rabbit on a Sunday night before Disney, bacon and cheese squares for a special - yet pretty frequent - Saturday lunch? How much of it is in the blood, the clan, the immigrant transformation (whether one generation back or four), and preservation, of identity and experience? And after we’ve done with all that, and factored in our later, more educated reflections and interventions on behalf of animals, health, and the environment, is there some irreducible core of meatiness that remains impervious to all these speculations? If there is, then that must be what carnivores embrace and vegetarians refuse: the point is that a choice is involved.

A number of veg-curious people (and there are an increasing number of these), observe that the whole fake-meat phenomenon is a bit “shady.” I suppose that's hard to argue with from an omnivorous perspective, and yet the most suspicious thing about the best of of it is when it’s sufficiently convincing to make you check the package - or interrogate the waitstaff when dining out - to be sure some evil flesh-mongering cabal isn’t foisting actual meat on to (in to) unsuspecting herbivores, in the hope of re-addicting or re-acculturating them to a carnivorous lifestyle.

This past weekend, we attended the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, and among the many other delights of Middle Eastern, South Asian, East Asian, Caribbean, and Anglo-American comfort foods, we happened upon a minimally labeled but wildly popular booth selling about 17 different varieties of mock meat, from barbecue beef to saucy salmon to chicken nuggets. Now, the fact is that we aren't actually all that into "mock meat" (a term which invariably evokes the Mock Turtle's Song from Alice in Wonderland: "Beautiful soup, so rich and green, waiting in a hot tureen!”), but once in a while you taste something that makes you say, "Aha! With this I could perfectly recreate [insert favorite pregan dish] without chomping down on the carcass of a fellow creature!"

Well, this past Sunday was one of those occasions, and the next time you're in the mood to mock some meat, we can recommend this stuff pretty highly. I used a package of their Vegetarian Goong Bao Chicken in that evening's dinner, and the result was a basil-infused stir-fry worthy of any Chinese restaurant I've patronized, omni or veg (that includes you, Grasshopper). So I guess what I'm saying is that "fake" meat is easily procured and can taste remarkably like its animal prototypes, without the misery that attends actual animals' short, sad journey from horrible factory farm to fork. In the final analysis, some people might feel that "ersatz" meat may is shady, but it's better than the "real thing," which is cruel, exploitative, and just plain cagy. Or, as Jonathan Safran Foer's grandmother put it, relating how she refused to eat pork  to save her own life as a starving, homeless refugee in flight from the Nazis: "If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”

Shady Fake Chicken & Eggplant Stir-Fry
Ingredients
~2 tbsp. peanut oil
~1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~1 tsp. hot chili oil
~2 small eggplants, cubed (about 6 cups)
~1 tbsp. minced ginger
~2 tbsp. minced garlic
~1 small red bell pepper, diced (3/4 cup)
~8 large scallions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
~12 oz. shady fake chicken (or pressed, cubed firm tofu)
~2 cups fresh basil, chopped

Also
~1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, brown sugar, Chinese garlic sauce (I used Dai Day: http://www.alliedoldenglish.com/daiday.php), whisked together
~1/4 cup cold water, 2 tsp. corn starch, whisked together
~An extra shot or two of hot sauce to taste (optional)

Directions
~In a wok, saute the eggplant over medium-high heat in the combined oils for 5-10 minutes, until softened.
~Add the ginger and garlic and cook another few minutes.
~Add the bell pepper and scallions; continue cooking 5 minutes more.
~Stir in the "chicken" (or tofu) and the soy sauce/brown sugar/garlic sauce mixture.
~Cook another 5 minutes until heated through, stir in the chopped basil and hot sauce (if using), and serve over steamed short-grain brown rice.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Moosewood Russian Carrot Pie, Veganized!


I've written previously about my affection for Mollie Katzen's earliest tomes of vegetarian cookery, The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It would not be an overstatement to say that these books, along with Anna Thomas' The Vegetarian Epicure, quite literally taught me how to cook, and I have many fond memories of spending an afternoon or evening chopping, stirring, tasting and ultimately eating something like Broccoli Mushroom Noodle Casserole or Lentil-Walnut Burgers. Most particularly, though, I have to give Mollie credit for inspiring my life-long passion for savory pies; growing up, I was familiar with things like shepherd's pie or chicken pot pie, but the likelihood of a quiche or some groovy vegetable tart showing up on the dinner table was pretty remote. But those early Moosewood books were big on pie for dinner, which was a huge revelation to me: I mean, it's pie! And it's dinner! How can this possibly be bad, right?!

Mollie was also into distinctly Eastern-European flavor combinations, so her recipes often included lots of dill, paprika and mushrooms; of course, they were also filled with cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and butter. On a more hippieish note, wheat germ often figured prominently, and back in the day, my refrigerator always held a big ol' jar of the stuff because it seemed like all my cookbooks demanded its presence in more things than not. The original version of this recipe features nearly all of these things--she skipped the sour cream this time--but mine has none of them except the carrots, onions and seasonings. (Oh, and a crust.) Isa's quiche formula from Vegan Brunch turns out to be an ideal substitute for all that cottage cheese, and I lightened up the fat a little on the veggies, while upping the spices and using panko in place of the ubiquitous wheat germ.

And yet. Despite these emendations, I swear that when I tasted the filling before spooning it into the pie crusts, the years melted away and I was right back in that teensy-weensy first apartment, home from my job at the health food store and feeling like a Real Grown Up, with a glass of wine and a boyfriend on his way home and everything. (NB the circa 1987 Jerry Garcia Band show playing in the background did nothing to dispel this illusion). In short, these pies were absolutely delicious, and I am now inspired to revise and revisit more old favorites; watch this space, because that Whole Wheat Macaroni, Russian Style is gonna get veganized, and soon!

Moosewood Russian Carrot Pie, Veganized
The Cheesy Part
Ingredients
~1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
~3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least an hour
~2 tbsp. oil (I used canola)
~1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, dill
~Pinch of nutmeg
~A few grinds of fresh black pepper

Directions
~Combine all of the above ingredients and puree thoroughly in a a food processor (wasn't that easy?)
~Set aside while you make...

The Carroty Part
Ingredients
~1 tbsp. Earth Balance (Mollie wanted 3 tbsp. butter: oy!)
~1 cup finely chopped onions
~1 lb. carrots, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
~1 tsp. each: salt, paprika
~2 tsp. dill
~Fresh black pepper, to taste
~3 tbsp. flour

Also
~2 single pie crusts; I used store bought, but if you prefer home-made, go for it (in fact, Mollie recommends an "eagerly awaiting nut crust," make of that what you will)!
~1/2 cup panko crumbs
~1 tbsp. melted Earth Balance
~1/2 tsp. each: dill and paprika, for garnish

Directions
~Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~In a large skillet or wok, melt the Earth Balance and saute the onions until soft, about 10 minutes.
~Add the sliced carrots, salt, paprika, dill and black pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes more, until the carrots are soft but not mushy.
~Stir in the flour to coat the vegetables, and remove from heat.
~Add the tofu mixture to the vegetables and combine thoroughly. Spoon the filling into your (eagerly awaiting) pie crusts.
~In a small bowl, combine the panko, melted EB, dill and paprika, then sprinkle half the mixture over each pie. Cover with foil, and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
~After 15 minutes, raise the heat to 400 degrees, remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes, keeping an eye on things to make sure the topping doesn't burn.
~Remove from oven and allow to set up for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing. We ate our carrot pie with a green salad topped with toasted walnuts, fresh basil, and Annie's Organic Goddess Dressing (because we're still kinda hippies).