Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftover Samosa Pancakes


Well first of all, I just want to say how happy I am to have completed my third Vegan Mofo! I love being vegan, and having the opportunity to participate in this great event with so many wonderful, creative people makes me even prouder to be a member of this community (nay - dare I say it? - movement). This feeling of pleasure and pride is only exacerbated by my honest amazement at having managed to post - yes! - every single day, in the midst of everything else on my family's agenda, both individual and collective. 

Secondly, I freely admit to being exhausted. Between PhD applications, the first holiday without my mom, one kid in college, another in the school play, my partner's Horrendous Semester From Hell, and all this cooking/blogging, it may be time for a little take-out chez nous. So don't be surprised if I go back to posting only once a week or so as the remainder of The Blessed Holiday Season prepares to grab us all by the throat and beat us into (jolly! merry! joyous!) submission.

But (and thirdly)That doesn't mean I won't be cooking and - when worthy of the gentle reader's attention - sharing some new and interesting food. It just means that we all have other stuff we need to do, too. (Okay, kids?) And so. At the end of a month of traditional, western comfort foods, in the interest of giving you Something Completely Different, I hereby present my solution to a metric fucktonne of leftover mashed potatoes and butternut squash. Bon appetit, happy Vegan MoFo, and God bless us, every one! 

Thanksgiving Leftover Samosa Pancakes


Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tsp. mustard seeds
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 onion, finely chopped
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, curry powder, garam masala, cumin
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1/2 cup frozen peas
~ 2 cups mashed potatoes
~ 1 cup mashed winer squash or sweet potatoes (or more potatoes, depending on your leftovers!)
~ 3/4 cup chickpea flour
~ Oil for cooking


Directions
~ In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook about 3 minutes, until golden.
~ Add the seasonings and the frozen peas and cook about 3 minutes more.
~ Mix in the potatoes and squash, and cook a few minutes, until any liquid has cooked off.
~ Remove from heat, then stir in the chickpea flour, combining thoroughly to make a stiff batter.
~ When the batter is cool enough to handle, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet (cast iron is great). Form the batter into patties about 3" across and fry in barches of four over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side.
~ As each batch is finished, transfer them to the preheated baking sheet to keep warm until you've used up all your batter.
~ Et voila: Thanksgiving leftovers, yet not Thanksgiving leftovers. We had ours with saffron rice, a selection of Indian pickles, and a green salad; the perfect antidote to the impending onslaught of (yet more) Holiday Foods. 
Shantih.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nigella's Back-from-the-(Vegan)-Bar-Snack

This is another Food Network-inspired offering from the Domestic Goddess of Podge, Nigella Lawson. As I've mentioned previously, Ms Lawson inspires in me a heady combination of bewildered astonishment and rapt fascination, and dishes like this one contribute to that response. While we're not supposed to approve of this sort of thing, one can't help admiring the unbridled gusto - liberally laced with doubles entendres - with which she approaches food and drink.

To hear her tell it, she starts each day with a raging hangover, which she treats with elaborate breakfast cocktails and massive plates of carbohydrates and fat, while testing the elasticity of one her innumerable cashmere cardigans. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) According to Nigella, the prototype of today's recipe is the sort of thing she whips up in the small hours after stumbling home from some über-posh watering hole(s) on her Stella McCartney kitten heels.

Of course, her version includes the bits and bodily fluids of all sorts of animals, so I've substituted more compassionate alternatives. She also calls for cooked potatoes, which she suggests one keep always at the ready - something my mother usually did, actually - but I just nuked a few in the microwave, because I am too lazy to plan ahead. The sauce can be made with whatever vegan cheddar you have available; I happened to have Daiya on hand, and my dog eagerly licked out the saucepan, which I consider a clear sign of approval! This dish makes a very substantial breakfast, brunch, or whatever-you-like all on its own, or - if you are louche gluttons like us - it pairs nicely with crusty toast and a Bloody Mary. (You know that Nigella would want it that way.)


Nigella's Back-from-the-(Vegan)-Bar Snack
The Sausagey Bit (PHWOAR!)
Ingredients

~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, roughly chopped
~ 5 mid-sized potatoes, baked, cooled, and cut into chunks
~ 3-4 vegan sausages, sliced into 1" rounds (I used apple & sage Field Roast)
~ 1/2 tsp. each: poultry seasoning, smoked paprika
~ A few grinds of black pepper

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and coat a mid-size casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil, and saute the onions on medium heat about 3 minutes.
~ Gradually add the potatoes and sausages, stirring with each addition, then sprinkle the whole business with the poultry seasoning, paprika, and pepper.
~ Continue cooking for about 15 minutes, flipping with a spatula every few minutes so that things have a chance to get nicely browned on the bottom (Nigella would probably say "on their bottoms," because that's what she's like).
~ Turn off the heat and allow to sit while (Nigella would say "whilst") you make...

The Saucy Bit (know what I mean?)
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil (or other oil)
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, Coleman's dry mustard
~ 3 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk, heated
~ 1 tsp. Marmite (or 2 tsp. HP, Daddy's, vegan Worcestershire, etc.)
~ 2 cups grated vegan cheddar

Directions
~ In a saucepan, heat the oil over low heat, then stir in the flour, salt, and Coleman's mustard to make a roux. Add the Marmite, and a splash of the soy milk and stir until smooth, about a minute.
~ Begin gradually adding the soy milk and cheese in batches, stirring with each addition to prevent lumps.
~ When all the milk and all the cheese has been added and everything is smooth and lovely, cook the sauce a minute or two more, then give one last whisk and turn off the heat.

And now...
~ Tip the potato/sausage mixture into your casserole, and pour the cheezy sauce over the top, making sure that it's evenly distributed.
~ Sprinkle the top with a little extra paprika, then bake at 450 for 20 minutes, until browned and bubbly.
~ Allow to sit about 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simple Stewed Apples



Tsk! Look at this apple. He is so well and truly stewed that I doubt he'll remember any of this in the morning. I propose a more wholesome, family-friendly approach to the stewing of this ubiquitous fall/winter fruit, and it's a particularly nice way to use up apples that are a bit past their prime. (Alas, perhaps that's what's driven this poor fellow to drink; how much better for all concerned had he simply consented to become a lovely side dish! But I digress.) I usually make stewed fruit to accompany breakfast foods like pancakes or French toast; if allowed to cool slightly, it would also be a good topping for ice cream. Unlike most recipes - if this can be called a "recipe" with any justice - mine doesn't add any sugar, so it's not overly sweet, and makes a nice accompaniment to a wintry dinner like chickpea cutlets with mashed potatoes, etc. (In fact, I mixed some leftovers from Thanksgiving brunch in with that evening's roasted vegetables, where they met with a universally positive reception.)

Simple Stewed Apples
Ingredients
~ 6-8 apples, cored and chopped (I never peel them, and neither should you!)
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance, or other vegan margarine
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, salt

Directions
~ In a large skillet, melt the margarine over medium-high heat and add the chopped apples.
~ Add the cinnamon and salt, stir, and then cover the pan.
~ Turn the heat to medium-low, and cook about 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. You want them to have a chance to get just a little brown around the edges, without letting them stick to the pan. If things do get a little sticky, you can add a few tablespoons of water or apple juice to deglaze the pan.
~ Serve hot alongside whatever you like; this is also nice with pears, or in a combination.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Best Mushroom Gravy



Okay, you guys: this is absolutely, hands-down, and without any question whatsoever the best mushroom gravy I have ever tasted. (As an added bonus, it is also idiot simple.) I was getting ready to start the gravy for Thanksgiving dinner, having purchased the necessaries for my mushroom gravy, when it occurred to me that a smooth texture might be nice, as opposed to the somewhat chunkier rendition I usually make. It struck me that - just as many curries begin with a paste of onions, chilis, etc. - making a puree of the vegetables might be the best approach. What can I say? The end result was like the distillation of shroominess; the very essence of rich, earthy, autumnal goodness. Suffice to say that I've found my new go-to recipe. The menu for today's lunch? A mountain of stuffing, surrounded by an ocean of gravy; possibly augmented by a small, offshore island of cranberry sauce. Yum.

Happy (day after) Thanksgiving!

The Best Mushroom Gravy
Ingredients
~ 1 10 oz package mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used babybellas)
~ 1 onion, roughly chopped
~ 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, marjoram, rosemary
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 2 tbsp. Better Than Bouillon "No Chicken" flavor
~ 6 cups strong mushroom broth (commercial, or made by soaking dried mushrooms in 6 cups boiling water for at least an hour, then straining. I did this with black trumpets, and it rocked)

Directions
~ Place the mushrooms, onion, garlic, and seasonings in a food processor, and reduce to a paste.
~ In a large, deep skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil, then add the mushroom puree. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
~ Bring the mushroom broth to a boil, then stir in the bouillon, and mix thoroughly. (If you've made your own mushroom broth, discard the soaked mushrooms, or reserve them for some other use; they won't be needed here.)
~ Add the flour to the mushroom mixture, stir to thicken, then gradually begin adding the mushroom/bouillon broth, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue cooking, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, brown, deliciously mushroomy gravy.
~ Serve hot, on top of everything.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baked Winter Squash



First of all, I have to note that today, November 24th, is not only the 54th anniversary of my partner's parents, Jim and Mary Lou (who remain adorably and inspiringly in love), but the 6th anniversary of our beloved doggie, Lucy, coming to join our family. All in all, an auspicious date, and one with an important connection to today's post, since my middle son - one of Lucy's first and very best friends - loves winter squash. Acorn, pumpkin, butternut...rather like myself with bread stuffing, give him a bowlful, and he's happy to make a meal of it. In fact, there's a family story about him being at my parents' house, aged about six; upon seeing some leftover squash in the refrigerator, he asked if he could have a bowl for an after-school snack. My mom noticed that he was eating it very slowly, and asked if he'd prefer something else, to which he replied, "Oh, no, it's so good; I'm just savoring it!" At various times, I experiment with different preparations - for example, the great recipe for "Hungarian Squash" in the original Laurel's Kitchen, and winter squash in any coconut curry is a match made in heaven - but at the holidays, baked and mashed with the simplest of seasonings is the way to go for us; as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." (As per usual, this makes enough for a family meal, so go ahead and halve it if you like; then again, who ever complained about leftovers? NB that you could also apply the same treatment to pumpkins, or to any other winter squash; we just happen to like butternut!)

Baked Butternut (or other winter) Squash

Ingredients
~ 2 large butternut squashes, halved and seeded
~ 1/4 cup olive oil
~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
~ Salt and pepper to taste
~ Pinch of nutmeg
~ Earth Balance or other vegan margarine

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
~ In a bowl or beaker, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
~ Split the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Score the flesh of the squash, making 1/2-inch deep cuts through it one way and then the other (in a sort of checker-board pattern).
~ Rub the skin side of the squash halves with a little extra olive oil, then rub the insides with the oil/syrup/seasoning mixture.
~ Arrange cut side up on a cookie sheet, then cover with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.
~ Remove the foil, and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
~ When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to gently scoop the flesh from the shells into a large bowl.
~ With a potato masher, mash to a pulp - isn't this fun?! - then add the amount of margarine you see fit. (I know I usually tell people how much of stuff to use, but like mashed potatoes, I see this as a matter of individual taste. We like our squash pretty "buttery" - say 3-4 tbsps. - but you may feel differently. De gustibus non est disputandum, eh?)
~ Taste for seasoning, and serve hot - remembering to savor it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roasted Root Vegetables



Before anything else, I have to mention that today is my oldest son's birthday. As Sandy Denny once asked, "Who knows where the time goes?"; let's just say that I think we're both feeling a lot better today than we were all those years ago, and it is impossible to imagine my life without him. So: happy birthday to the first great love of my life!

Holiday Side Dish Week continues, with a dish that never fails to appear - with minor variations - at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions are a constant, but after that, pretty much anything goes: brussels sprouts, beets, asparagus, cauliflower, fingerling poatoes, parsnips, even (if you happen to roll that way, which we don't) turnips....if it grows underground, chances are it will respond well to being rubbed with oil and spices and then roasted in the oven.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients
~ 1/4 cup olive oil
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, tarragon, rosemary (and/or any other herbs you may prefer)
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 4 large sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
~ 1 lb. carrots, cut into 2' slices on the diagonal
~ 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
~ 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 3" slices (not technically a root, but nice all the same)

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
~ Place the chopped onions, carrots and sweet potatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet or casserole, then pour the oil/seasoning mixture over them.
~ Now (this is the fun part!), get in there with your hands and make sure that everything is well coated.
~ Cover with foil and cook about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Uncover, stir, add the asparagus, and combine thoroughly with the other vegetables. Continue cooking another 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is roasted to autumnal beauteousness. Serve hot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Classic Sage and Onion Stuffing




"Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight...they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!"

This Thursday is, of all the good days in the year, Thanksgiving here in the US. That being the case (and since I'm hosting/cooking), this week's MoFo posts will be largely devoted to dishes that appear on my family's holiday table, year after year. Thanksgiving, as we all know, is a day set aside for the ostensible purpose of expressing our gratitude for the bountiful good fortune with which we have been blessed; this generally translates to the consumption of an enormous meal in the company of family and friends. Of course, it is also associated with genocide and/or cultural imperialism - to say nothing of the systematic slaughter of millions of turkeys, who have very little for which to be thankful - but since my theme is supposed to be traditional foodstuffs, let's just get this party started with a giant pan of baked carbohydrates, shall we?

As the reader is certainly aware, the "it" in the quote above refers not to a Thanksgiving turkey, but to a Christmas goose - which Dickens describes as "the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon," and "the theme of universal admiration" in the Cratchit household - but both are traditionally accompanied by sage and onion stuffing, which gets a fair bit of attention in the text. This is as it should be, since my own favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner was always the stuffing (in our family, Christmas meant roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and horseradish, which is another subject for another post); if left to my own devices, I'd have happily made a meal of it, optimally surrounded by a lake of gravy.

My mother's rendition was a very traditional, old-school recipe, and was always baked separately, since my restaurateur father considered cooking it inside in the bird to be unhygienic (it's also greasy and disgusting). As an adult, I've stuck with essentially the same method; I just substitute margarine for butter, and vegetable broth for the chicken stock my mom would have used. Suffice to say that if you're looking for something sophisticated or adventurous to spice up your Thanksgiving table, this is probably not the recipe for you, but "eked out" by mushroom gravy, this bread stuffing remains one of the tastes of my childhood, and I can still make a meal of it!

Classic Sage and Onion Stuffing
Ingredients
~ One large loaf good bread, lightly toasted and crumbled (a baguette is nice)
~ 3 tbsp. olive oil
~ 3 tbsp. Earth Balance
~ One ginormous onion (or two normal-sized), chopped
~ 4-5 stalks celery, diced fine
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, rosemary
~ Pinch of mace or nutmeg
~ Lots of freshly ground black pepper
~ About 3 cups vegan "chicken" broth; more or less as needed (I swear by Better Than Bouillon)

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the oil and margarine and add the onions. Cook over medium heat until turning golden, about 5 minutes.
~ Add the celery, garlic, and seasonings, and cook 5 minutes more, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant.
~ Stir in the toasted, crumbled bread and mix thoroughly, then add as much of the vegetable broth as you need to get a moist stuffing consistency (you might not need it all, but do bear in mind that it will dry out as it bakes, so it should look a bit mushier than you might imagine it ought to do).
~ Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
~ Raise the heat to 400, remove the foil, baste the top with a little extra broth, and cook another 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden and crispy. Serve hot with all the usual trimmings (gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potato, Tiny Tim, etc.).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scalloped Potatoes and Vegetables


No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
November!

~ Thomas Hood

I find November remarkable for the stripped-down quality of the light, and for its overall spareness: the leaves have fallen from the trees and been (mostly) raked away, the branches and the ground are bare, and everything seems to be waiting for the first snowfall to shift things definitively from fall to winter. There's a stark beauty about this time of year that puts me in a pleasurably moody, Brontë-esque frame of mind; hence the photo of Top Withens, the ruined Yorkshire farmhouse whose windswept situation has long been associated with the setting for Wuthering Heights. As the text tells us, "'Wuthering' being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed, in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there, at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few, stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun." (How awesome is that? Talk about atmosphere!)

So, with the moors on my mind, and winter drawing on apace, it's back to the comfort food chez nous. I made this for an unusually outrageous (even for us) weekend brunch, but it would make an excellent holiday side dish, or a substantial main course for a more ordinary dinner. I hereby issue my standard disclaimer that this is A. seriously, er, "fortifying," and B. makes a lot, but it's also the sort of thing that reheats nicely, so why not make a huge pan of it on Sunday, and feed off it for a few days? With all this vegetabley, potatoey, cheezy goodness going on, it's hard to imagine that even a twisted misanthrope like Heathcliff could have stayed grumpy when presented with a plateful; if only Nelly Dean had left off gossiping long enough to bestir herself in the kitchen, things might have ended differently for him and Cathy!

Scalloped Potatoes and Vegetables
The Filling
Ingredients
~ 1 package tempeh bacon, cooked and crumbled (or a batch of your favorite home-made version)
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: marjoram, tarragon, rosemary
~ Black pepper to taste
~ 1 10 oz. package fresh spinach, chopped
~ 6-7 large baking potatoes, sliced (as Mr Creosote would say) wafer thin

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the onion over medium heat, about 2 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms and seasonings, stir, and cook 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are fragrant and have released most of their liquid.
~ Stir in the chopped spinach by handfuls, mixing with each addition until just wilted, then stir in the crumbled tempeh bacon.
~ Set aside while you make...

The Cheezy Sauce
Ingredients
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ Black pepper
~ Pinch nutmeg
~ 4 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
~ 2 cups grated Daiya cheddar (or other vegan cheese)
~ Paprika for garnish

Directions
~ In a saucepan, melt the Earth Balance over low heat, then add the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook over low heat for a minute or two, stirring to make a roux.
~ Gradually add the soy milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, then add the yogurt and Daiya. Cook, stirring, 5-7 minutes, until thickened and smooth.
~ Reserve 1.5 cups of the sauce, and add the rest to the vegetable mixture, making sure everything is well combined.

The Assembly
~ Arrange 1/3 of the thinly sliced potatoes in the bottom of your greased casserole, making sure there are no gaps.
~ Ladle half the vegetable mixture over the potatoes, then repeat with another layer of potatoes, and the remaining vegetables, ending with a layer of potatoes.
~ Pour the reserved sauce over the potatoes, smoothing and pressing down slightly with a spatula, to make sure the sauce oozes between the layers a bit.
~ Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until bubbling.
~ Remove the foil, sprinkle the top with paprika, then return to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, until browned.
~ Allow to set up (about 10-15 minutes) before serving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hünkar Beğendi



The name of this Turkish eggplant dish is variously translated as "the sultan swooned," "sultan's delight," or even simply, "the sultan liked it," but whatever it means, there is no question that this stuff is delicious. It's traditionally made with stewed lamb ladled over the spiced eggplant puree, but my version is every bit as swoon-worthy, with then bonus of being kind to our frolicking woolly friends. Because really - as the good people at Food Fight put it - what kind of asshole eats a lamb?

Hünkar Beğendi
Ingredients
~ 2 large eggplants
~ 2 tbsp. lemon juice
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 3 tbsp. vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
~ 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. garlic powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: smoked paprika, cinnamon
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 425 fahrenheit.
~ Slice the eggplants in half, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet.
~ Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the skins are blackened and collapsing and the flesh is completely soft. Set aside and allow to cool.
~ Scoop out the pulp and transfer to a saucepan, discarding the skins.
~ Add the lemon juice and salt, and simmer over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.
~ Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the margarine, add the flour, and allow flour to brown, stirring constantly.
~ Add the margarine/flour mixture to the eggplant and combine thoroughly.
~ In the microwave or a small pot, mix the soy milk, garlic powder, paprika, and nutmeg, and bring to almost boiling.
~ Slowly add the milk mixture and continue stirring until you get a thick porridge-like consistency.
~ Stir in the yogurt and cook another minute or two.
~ Serve hot over rice pilaf.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Soy Curl Fajitas



We're three caballeros
Three gay caballeros
They say we are birds of a feather
We're happy amigos
No matter where he goes
The one, two, and three goes
We're always together.


Indeed.

Today I'm breaking out of my recent "traditional comfort food" groove to bring you yet another excellent use for those beloved and muy versatile staples of the vegan larder, soy curls. Fajitas are more exciting than enchiladas or burritos because you make them yourself, and more exciting than tacos (which are also very hands-on), because they sizzle! This can be a really fast and yummy meal if you put the soy curls in to marinate before you take off for whatever you do in your "real" life. Then when you get home, all you have to do is cook them up, saute your veggies, roll everything into tortillas with some salsa and guacamole, and - ¡Ay, caramba! - dinner is served.


The Soy Curls
Ingredients
~ 2 cups Butler soy curls
~ 1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
~ 1/2 cup orange juice
~ Juice of 1 lime
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. each: chili powder, cumin
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, smoked paprika, cilantro
~ 1/2 tsp. cayenne (more or less to taste)
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil

Directions
~ In a beaker, combine the broth and seasonings, then add the soy curls.
~ Cover and bring to a boil in the microwave, or in a pot on the stove top.
~ Allow to sit, covered, for at least an hour (the longer the better), until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
~ Add the soy curls and any remaining marinade, and cook, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has cooked off and they're getting slightly "charred," about 10-15 minutes.

The Vegetables
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, sliced into crescents
~ 1 each: red, green, yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced

Directions
~ Heat the olive oil in a skillet or wok, then saute the onions and peppers over high heat for about 15 minutes, until wilted and just starting to brown.

You also need...
~ Flour tortillas, warmed
~ Guacamole
~ Vegan sour cream
~ Salsa

Assembly!
~ Bring the soy curls and vegetables to a - dare I say it? - sizzle.
~ Now spread some guacamole on a tortilla, top with soy curls, veggies, salsa and sour cream.
~ Roll up the tortilla to enclose the filling and eat!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giving Thanks (Or: Desdemona Does Tofurky)



Looking back on this month's posts, I can't help noticing the preponderance of traditional western "comfort foods" among the recipes: nary a curry or a miso soup in sight. In fact, my partner quipped that in our case, Vegan MoFo might as easily be called MoPo - Vegan Month of Podge - and he's absolutely right (not that he's complaining).

On reflection, I think there are several factors to account for this urge to produce stolid, hearty dishes baked in casseroles and/or amenable to being coated with gravy. The most obvious is the onset of colder weather and earlier sunsets, but there's also the recent loss of my mother, the completion of my MA thesis and degree, the departure of one son for college, and my decision to apply to PhD programs, all of which underscore the transitional nature of this past year.

As an old friend used to say, "we're always going through the changes," and never has that seemed truer than in 2010. My crystal ball has become a snow globe, and while the future is filled with exciting possibilities, the fact remains that it will be awhile before the picture clears, and I have a better sense of how that future will actually look.

So you don't need to be Sigmund Freud to figure out what's going on here, right? Unsettled times lead us to lean more heavily on the elements in our lives that seem most reliable: family, friends, pets, home, hearth, and the things (including food) that we associate with those reassuring touchstones. That this feeling should intensify as the holidays approach is unsurprising, and my hope is that my eldest and youngest sons' birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's - all of which were spent with my mother last year, and from which she will now be conspicuously absent - will have enough pleasant moments to carry us through the more difficult ones, and allow time to reflect thoughtfully on what remains, even as we acknowledge things that have changed.

What does any of this have to do with Tofurky? Well, I've found that many omnivores consider it axiomatic that when "turkey day" comes around, vegetarians and vegans get excited about eating Tofurky; the New Yorker even ran an ad last year (for something wholly unrelated, which I don't remember) featuring a family welcoming their son's herbivorous fiancee into the fold by presenting her with a turkey made of tofu.

Now, I have nothing against Tofurky or other meat analogues, and I like a big plate of ersatz chicken at Grasshopper or the Loving Hut as much as the next girl, but I confess that my approach to vegan holiday meals has just been to cook stuff we like, which generally means all the "usual" stuff, sans the meat. However, during an epic grocery shop with my hilariously funny youngest son - seriously, I should make him come along every time for sheer entertainment value - we spotted a Tofurky in the frozen hippie food section, and somehow the thing wound up in the cart, and from thence (within an hour or two) in the oven.

The whole thing felt a bit silly, but I decided to approach the experience in the spirit of scientific enquiry; I confess that my first thought upon unwrapping the thing was, "What the hell?" For the uninitiated, an uncooked Tofurky resembles nothing so much as a beige, yet-to-be-steamed Christmas pudding, and I feel certain that if Mrs. Bob Cratchit had been with me, she would have recommended we douse it with brandy and set it alight, "like a speckled cannonball...bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top."

Instead, I read the singularly unhelpful directions, and quickly determined to blaze my own Tofurky trail, put together a simple marinade/basting sauce in which to bathe the weirdly spherical object, and popped it into the oven. Between bouts of basting, I made some rice pilaf and old-school green beans almondine from the NY Times Cookbook, heated the gravy, and - since cylindrical condiments seem appropriate for a spherical main course - opened up a can of cranberry sauce; by the time the dinner hour rolled around we had a proper mini-facsimile of a "traditional" holiday dinner.

The verdict? It was actually pretty good, and while I'm sure that owed more than a little to my marinade/basting technique, I wouldn't mind repeating the experience every now and again. That said, Tofurky will not be forming the centerpiece of our meals this (or probably any) holiday season; if there is one point on which my extended family is united, it's an insistence on home-made food, particularly for special occasions.

Although my mother never got used to the absence of turkey (or whoever the "main course" happened to be) on my plate, she was happy to tuck into the roasted root vegetables, bread stuffing, and the rest of the "holiday" foods I produce, year after year. Without question, this year's table will have a big, deep, empty space - much larger than the 5' tall woman who ordinarily inhabited it - but the food will still be made by my hands, and those of her other children (and grandchildren), rather than the good people of Turtle Island Foods.

So, what have we learned? Well, maybe that our culture's atavistic attachment to certain foods at certain times of the year can lead us to eschew a sublime white bean cassoulet for a ridiculous (if somewhat yummy) processed food, simply because it rhymes with "turkey." And that the uncertain feelings provoked by the loss of a loved one can make us want to revisit the foodstuffs that make us feel cherished and cared for, be they noodles, casseroles, muffins, and/or pies.

As this more-than-usually demanding holiday season approaches, it feels important to acknowledge what has brought comfort in the past, while figuring out how to negotiate the brave new world of the future. And if the gentle reader - supposing that s/he still is reading - feels like checking out a Tofurky, I highly recommend that you proceed as follows and let me know what you think. Gobble, gobble; and God bless us, every one!

Desdemona's Wacky Tofurky Experiment
Basting Mixture
~ 1/2 cup olive oil
~ 1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
~ 1 tsp. vegetarian stock concentrate (I use Better Than Bouillon)
~ 1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1/2 tsp. each: sage, marjoram, thyme
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper

Also:
~ 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
~ 2 carrots, cut into 2" pieces
~ 2 stalks celery, chopped into 2" pieces

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
~ Place your unwrapped Tofurky in a casserole, the pour the basting mixture over. Ladle the liquid over the top a few times to coat.
~ Add the chopped vegetables, baste the Tofurky a few more times, then cover tightly and cook at 350 degrees for about 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes to prevent it drying out.
~ After 2 hours, uncover, baste again, and raise the heat to 400. Continue cooking another 15-20 minutes, basting every 5 minutes, until browned. Since this was an experiment, I went the whole hog (so to speak) and used the Tofurky "giblet" gravy. It was perfectly serviceable, but next time I'll make my own; use whatever gravy suits your fancy!
~ Serve cut into slices, accompanied by whatever you consider "traditional": mashed potatoes, stuffing, butternut squash, roasted brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, something that incomprehensibly involves marshmallows and/or canned soup...go crazy, and be thankful!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gingery Mashed Fruit Muffins




As anyone with even a cursory acquaintance with this blog (or blogger) knows, I'm inordinately fond of making muffins. They're fast, easy, endlessly adaptable, notoriously forgiving, make the kitchen smell wonderful, and impart that nice feeling of "Hey, I just baked something!" without a huge investment of time or effort. This recipe is particularly good for using up fruit that's just a little past its prime. The day I typed this up, I just happened to have a rotting banana and some mushy Bosc pears on hand - mmmm! - so in they went, but you could easily substitute whatever superannuated fruit you may have lying around. With the addition of some fresh ginger and chopped apple, these turned out moist, fluffy, and filled with fruity, gingery goodness; the perfect breakfast or snack with peanut butter, jam, or just on their own.

Gingery Mashed Fruit Muffins
Ingredients
~ 3.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose, if you prefer)
~ 1.5 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. baking soda
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, nutmeg
~ 2 apples, chopped into small dice
~ 2 cups mashed, over-ripe fruit (I used a banana and 2 pears)
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
~ 6 oz. plain or vanilla soy yogurt
~ 3/4 cup apple cider (or juice)
~ 2 tbsp. ground flax seed
~ 1-2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger (depending on how gingery you like things)
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and lightly coat two muffin tins with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. When well combined, add the diced apple and toss to coat with the flour mixture.
~ In a separate bowl or beaker, combine the mashed fruit and all remaining ingredients.
~ Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula (don't overmix!).
~ Spoon the muffin batter evenly into your greased muffin tins, and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes two dozen warm, friendly muffins.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Desdemona's Outrageous Layers of Italianate Yum



This ginormous pan of carbtastic goodness happened because I couldn't choose between making eggplant lasagna or penne with mushrooms and spinach. I finally decided to combine the two ideas and see what happened, and the result was like the love-child of lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and creamed spinach. (Please don't vex me with biological minutiae: the ways of foodstuffs are not our ways.)

And what a happy little cherub it is: a layer of pasta tossed in creamy vegetable sauce, topped with slices of baked, roasted - or even fried - eggplant, Veganomicon cashew ricotta, and marinara sauce, then baked in the oven until browned and beauteous. Who wouldn't want to adopt this protégé and...well, eat it? (Okay, I think we've taken this metaphor far enough, but you take my point.)

I realize that this recipe looks like a lot of steps that will keep you in the kitchen all day, but it only took about two hours from start to finish; it was also remarkably un-heavy, considering the number and variety of ingredients. More proof - as if any were needed - of the magical properties of vegan food: did you think it was a coincidence that Strega Nona's enchanted cooking pot is always full of pasta?

Desdemona's Outrageous Layers of Italianate Yum
The Vegetables
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 3 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tbsp. dried basil
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed

Directions
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil and saute the onions over medium heat, about 3 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, mushrooms, and seasoings, and cook about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are giving up their juices.
~ Stir in the thawed spinach and combine thoroughly; cover the skillet and cook 5 minutes, until the spinach is just cooked.
~ Remove from heat while you make...

The Sauce
Ingredients
~ 1 lb. penne pasta
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 3 tbsp. flour
~ 1 cup grated Sheese or other vegan cheese (I used a combination of blue and cheddar flavors, but anything would work)
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk

Directions
~ Cook 1 lb. penne pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
~ In a saucepan, heat the oil over low heat, and stir in the flour to make a roux.
~ Add 1/2 cup of the soy milk, stir until smooth, then add the grated Sheese and mix.
~ Gradually add the remaining soy milk, stirring constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens and there are no lumps remaining, about 3 minutes.
~ Add to the cooked vegetable mixture, then combine with the cooked pasta and set aside while you carry on with...

The Cashew Ricotta
Ingredients
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in boiling water at least 30 minutes
~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu
~ 1/4 cup lemon juice
~ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each salt, basil
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (NB that this is my addition to the original recipe; I have a nooch jones)

Directions~ Drain the cashews, combine with remaining ingredients in a food processor, and blend to a smooth, delicious paste. (Easy, wasn't it?)

You'll also need...
~ 1 big-ass eggplant, cut into slices and baked, roasted, or (gasp!) breaded and fried as you would for eggplant parmesan (I confess that I used 2 packages of those Dominex frozen eggplant slices; highly recommended for taste and convenience)
~ 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or jarred, your call

The Assembly
~ Transfer the pasta/vegetable/sauce mixture to a large, greased casserole dish, then arrange the eggplant slices on top in an even layer.
~ Layer the cashew ricotta over the eggplant, smoothing with a rubber spatula (don't worry about it being super-tidy; we're not frosting a cake here!.
~ Spoon the marinara over the whole business in a thin layer, then cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
~ Raise the heat to 400, remove the foil, and bake another 15-20 minutes, until slightly browned on top.
~ Allow to rest about 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Broccoli Au Gratin



Considering that I grew up to be an insatiably rapacious herbivore, it's funny to look back on my childhood, when I was one of the most tediously picky eaters ever visited upon parents who loved to cook. One of the few ways I'd consent to consume vegetables at all was fried, and/or covered in some sort of sauce that disguised their essential veggieness. Nowadays I'll happily eat pretty much any member of the fruit or vegetable kingdom (turnips and lima beans remain notable exceptions), but sometimes it's nice to revisit those podgy preparations of yesteryear. Casseroles loom especially large in my memory, and this is my take on the baked broccoli in cheese sauce that my mom used to make; my sister still makes a version of it most holidays, but of course her rendition uses copious amounts of cheese, butter, and moo juice, whereas mine is not only considerate of our bovine friends, but (relatively) healthy as well. Best of all, it's delicious: the last time I made this, the leftovers were gone by lunchtime the next day, so if you make a batch (and I can't believe I'm actually typing this) you might want to double it. As the image reminds us, life - and vegetables! - can be wonderful; I mean, look at the joy on that guy's face. You just know that serving dish is full of vegan broccoli au gratin!

Broccoli Au Gratin

Ingredients
~ 2-3 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
~ 3 tbsp. flour
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dry mustard, paprika (plus extra for garnish)
~ 3 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk, heated
~ 1 tbsp. HP or vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (more if you like, but we're going for "cheesy," not "noochy!")
~ Freshly ground black pepper
~ Good pinch of grated nutmeg
~ 2 heads broccoli, tops cut into small florets, and stalks into 1/2" pieces
~ 1 cup grated cheddar Sheese (or other vegan cheese)
~ 1/3 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs

Directions
~ Preheat to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine, and saute the onion over medium heat, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn't brown.
~ Whisk in the flour, salt, paprika, and dry mustard; cook, stirring, for about a minute to make a roux.
~ Gradually add the heated soy milk, HP sauce, nutritional yeast, and nutmeg and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
~ Stir in the grated Sheese and mix thoroughly to avoid any clumps.
~ Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 5-10 minutes.
~ Season with black pepper and remove from the heat.
~ Place your vegetable steamer in a large pot, and bring about an inch of water to a boil over high heat.
~ Put the broccoli in the steamer, sprinkle it with salt, then cover the pot and steam until just bright green.
~ Transfer the broccoli to your prepared baking dish, and pour the sauce on top, making sure all the broccoli is coated.
~ Sprinkle the panko or bread crumbs over the whole business, dust with paprika, and bake uncovered until lightly browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
~ Allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shiny Happy Tofu Scramble



I realize that tofu scramble is pretty much the most prosaic thing one can post on a vegan cooking blog - especially during Vegan MoFo, when people are producing veganized Beef Wellington, Coquilles St Jacques, and lord knows what else - but this humble breakfast staple turned out so well that I was inspired to share. Its particular deliciousness may have had something to do with my having very little in the way of supplies: what there was wound up in the pan. Since all I was really going for was workmanlike sustenance, the fact that it turned out so very yummy was an unlooked-for bonus. Anyway, it made us feel shiny, happy, and full, and I guarantee that it will do the same for you!

Shiny Happy Tofu Scramble

Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 large onion, finely chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 carrots, diced
~ 1/2 large red bell pepper, small dice
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, smoked paprika, marjoram
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and mashed
~ 1/4 -1/3 cup nutritional yeast

Directions
~ In a large skillet, saute the onion and celery in the olive oil over medium heat, about 2 minutes.
~ Add the carrots, bell pepper, and seasonings, and cook another 2-3 minutes.
~ Add the mashed tofu, combine thoroughly, and cook about 5 minutes more, until any liquid has cooked off.
~ Stir in the nutritional yeast, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple minutes or so. You want a crust to just begin to form on the bottom, at which point you mix it all up and let it happen again.
~ Serve hot with toast, home-fries, or whatever else you like for brunch; this also makes great leftovers, if you actually have any!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

John P-Inspired Asparagus & Mushroom Pie



Truer words were never spoken in reference to the magical power of a freshly baked pie. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery/admiration, I can say with perfect sincerity that any recipe made by John Plummer is well worth copying and admiring, especially if it happens to be a savory pie (something that ranks high in my pantheon of food idolatry).

This recipe took its inspiration from John's first post for Vegan Mofo IV, a veganization of an asparagus pie featured in Practical Vegetarian Cookery, circa 1897, by Countess Constance Wachtmeister (whom John tells us was "an early member and ardent supporter of the Theosophical Society, which promoted ethical vegetarianism"). To paraphrase the song, "don't know much about theosophy...but I do know that I love pie," so it was pretty much a given that I'd have a go at this thing. In addition to the asparagus, I had a whole bunch of mushrooms in the refrigerator, so they were sliced up and tossed in as well, and the result was (as Agent Dale Cooper might say) a damned fine pie. Thanks, John - oh, and you, too, Countess!

John P-Inspired Asparagus & Mushroom Pie
Ingredients
~ ¼ cup vegan margarine, divided
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon, parsley
~ ½  tsp. marjoram
~ Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
~ ¼ cup flour, divided
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~ 2 bay leaves
~ Generous pinch of nutmeg
~ Pastry for 2 double-crust pies (home-made or store bought)

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a large, deep skillet, melt 2 tbsp. of the margarine and saute the onion over medium heat about 5 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms, salt, tarragon, parsley, marjoram, and black pepper, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the asparagus, stir well, and cook until just bright green.
~ Stir in 2 tbsp. of the flour, mix thoroughly, and remove from heat.
~ Heat the soy milk, bay leaves, and nutmeg until nearly boiling (about 2 minutes in the microwave).
~ In a saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tbsp. margarine over low heat, then add the remaining 2 tbsp. flour, stirring to make a roux.
~ Gradually add the milk/bay leaf/nutmeg mixture, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Cook about 5 minutes, until thickened.
~ Remove and discard the bay leaves, the pour the sauce over the vegetable mixture and combine.
~ Roll out the pastry dough and line two pie plates, then divide the filling between them.
~ Top the pies with the remaining dough, and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the tops with a little more soy milk, then cut a few small slashes in the crust to let steam escape during baking.
~ Bake uncovered at 375 degrees about 30-35 minutes, or until the crusts are basking in their own browned beauteousness. (Remember that ovens vary, so keep an eye on things and adjust baking time accordingly; mine tends to be slow.)
~ Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. We've been feeling particularly British lately, so had our pie with mashed potatoes and minted mushy peas: highly recommended.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Green Beans with Ginger and Shallots



Remember how I said that yesterday's scallion pancakes were not to be confused with the Asian appetizer of the same name? Well, today's recipe is my at-home rendition of those yummy, sauteed green beans one finds in Chinese restaurants: the garlicky, gingery ones with sticky bits of fried shallots mixed in. Although I've yet to try it, I imagine this treatment would be equally well-suited to broccoli or bok choy, but I'm telling you right now that these beans are so good that if you make them - especially alongside a batch of Terry Hope Romero's Salt & Pepper Tofu, served over steamed, short-grain brown rice - you will be every bit as happy as if you had gone out. And you can eat these in your pajamas!

Green Beans with Ginger and Shallots

Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tsp. hot chili oil
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 cup chopped shallots
~ 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and washed
~ 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
~ 1 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. vegetarian oyster sauce (sub more soy sauce if you don't have any handy)

Directions
~ Wash green beans under cold running water. Cut off the root ends and discard.
~ Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the oils, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir for a minute or so, until it gets fragrant, about 30 seconds.
~ Add the shallots and cook a few minutes more, stirring constantly.
~ Add the green beans and toss a few times to coat everything evenly. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the beans turn bright green and begin to soften a bit.
~ Add the red pepper flakes, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Combine thoroughly and cook another few minutes, until everything gets some caramelization going on, then serve hot.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sheesy Scallion Pancakes



These scallion pancakes are less like the Chinese restaurant appetizer (although I love those, too) than like a savory version of those light, fluffy breakfast pancakes that you find in a really good diner. The inspiration for them arose from a combination of factors: post-academic conference weariness, a weekend pancake jones, and a package of blue Sheese that had been burning a - purely figurative - hole in my refrigerator. The pungency of the "blue" flavor elevated them to airy climes of deliciousness only imagined by their humble IHOP cousins, but I imagine any vegan cheese would work nicely; I'm looking forward to experimenting with various flavor combinations in future batches (of which I feel certain there will be many). I'll offer the by-now standard disclaimer that this recipe produces a lot, so feel free to halve it if you like; on the other hand, they're not at all heavy, and we had only a few left over from three of us. With some sort of piquant sauce drizzled on top, these make a delicious and - dare I say it? - elegant weekend brunch, and would be a nice, light lunch or dinner, with the addition of a green salad. We had ours topped with Remoulade sauce, accompanied by a bracing brunchy cocktail while watching the 1963 film version of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House: ah, Sundays!

Sheesy Scallion Pancakes

Ingredients
~ 2 cups soymilk
~ 1 cup water
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 2 tbsp. egg replacer
~ 2 cups all purpose flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
~ 1.5 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp. each: paprika, parsley
~ Plenty of fresh black pepper
~ 6 large scallions, sliced thin
~ 1 cup grated Sheese (I used the blue flavor)

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, paprika, parsley and pepper.
~ In a separate bowl or beaker, combine the the soymilk, oil, water, and egg replacer.
~ Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then stir in the scallions and the grated Sheese. Allow the batter to rest a few minutes.
~ Coat a large skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium high heat.
~ Add the pancake batter in by 1/4 cup ladlefuls, and cook about 3 minutes, until dry around the edges and bubbles appear in the center (you know, like pancakes). Loosen and flip the pancakes to cook on the other side another minute or so, until golden.
~ As the pancakes finish cooking, transfer them to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
~ Serve warm, on their own or as part of a larger meal. (NB these also keep well in the refrigerator, and reheat nicely in the toaster oven.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pasta with Creamy Roasted Carrot Sauce




Another carrot recipe! I made this last week, on one of those nights before a huge grocery shop, when you seem to be out of almost everything. On this particular occasion, my vegetable crisper literally contained only a pound of carrots, a few sad, languishing cherry tomatoes, and an onion, while the cupboard's most appealing offerings were a box of pasta and a jar of red sauce. Since everyone loves roasted carrots, I decided to start there and then mess around; the outcome was a surprisingly substantial - it's the cashews, they're magical - cheerfully orange, autumnal-tasting sauce that I'll make again, even when I do have other options.

Pasta with Creamy Roasted Carrot Sauce
Ingredients
~ 1/2 cup raw cashews
~ 1 cup boiling water
~ 1 lb. organic carrots, sliced into 1" rounds
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, thyme
~ 1 cup onion, chopped
~ 3 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. basil
~ 1/2 tsp. each: oregano, cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)
~ 1 tsp. hot sauce (optional; more to taste)
~ 1 lb. penne (or other totally tubular pasta, dude), cooked and drained according to package directions
~ 1 cup pasta cooking water

Directions
~ In a bowl or beaker, combine the raw cashews with the boiled water and set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
~ On a large baking sheet, combine the carrots, salt, thyme, and 2 tbsp. of the olive oil. Mix everything together with your hands - it's fun! - making sure the carrots are coated with the oil and seasonings.
~ Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, until carrots are tender, making sure to toss them around a few times during their cooking time. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
~ In a skillet, saute the onions, garlic, basil, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the remaining olive oil, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until beautifully fragrant and golden. (Didn't I sound like Nigella for a second there? "Ooooh, they're so beautifully fragrant and golden!")
~ In a blender or food processor, puree the roasted carrots, onions, and garlic with the drained cashews and the soy milk.
~ Gradually add the marinara, hot sauce (if using), and enough of the pasta water to achieve a creamy sauce-like texture.
~ In a large pot or bowl, combine the hot, cooked pasta with the sauce, making sure everything is evenly coated. This will appear quite "saucy" at first (you minx!), but will thicken a bit as it stands.
~ Taste for seasonings, and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tempting Apple Muffins




Here we have Adam and Eve, doing a little nude produce shopping at the Eden Superette, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the grocery clerk is Satan, seen here in his guise of lizard/kangaroo hybrid with the face of Jack Nicholson. We all know how this story ends - expulsion from Paradise, bringing forth children in pain and sorrow, the whole "mortality" thing, blahblahblah - but I can't help thinking that if Eve had shown a little more creativity, things might have been very different. Instead of just eating the forbidden fruit right there on the spot, she could have whipped up a batch of these sweet, fluffy muffins. That way, when Jehovah dropped in (unannounced, as usual: SIGH), she could have offered Him a nice cup of tea and a snack. A cute apron would have counteracted any newfound nakedness=shame awkwardness, and with the first bite, all that righteous fury would have disappeared. The moral of this story? Not even a wrathful, Old Testament God can stay grouchy when presented with a plate of warm, freshly baked muffins!

Tempting Apple Muffins

Ingredients
~ 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose, if you prefer)
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. baking soda
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, nutmeg
~ 2 apples, chopped into small dice
~ 1 over-ripe banana, mashed
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 2 tbsp. maple syrup
~ 2 tbsp. ground flax seed
~ 1 cup orange juice
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and lightly coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. When well combined, add the diced apple and toss to coat with the flour mixture.
~ In a separate bowl or beaker, combine the mashed banana and all remaining ingredients.
~ Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula (don't overmix!).
~ Spoon the muffin batter evenly into the tins, and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ghoulishly Good Stuffed Squash



Here in New England, a fascinating thing happens on the first of November. Seemingly overnight, there's a shift from late fall to early winter, and before the pumpkins and witches have been properly put away we're reminded of how cold it's going to get, and how nice it is to be inside a warm kitchen. The latter is especially true if there are orange root vegetables involved; lord knows I love my greens, but there's something about this last gasp of autumn that makes a person want to cook foods that match the rapidly-disappearing foliage. Winter squash is just such an ingredient, and there are enough varieties that you can easily use them throughout the cold months, and never run out of things to do. This Halloween, I hit some sort of squash-related multi-tasking sweet spot: spending the afternoon carving jack o' lanterns, and the evening stuffing and roasting some beautiful butternut squash.

I think my first exposure to stuffed squash was probably the "comprehensively stuffed" version in the original Moosewood Cookbook, which - true to that franchise's earthy, crunchy aesthetic - featured raisins, apricots, wheat germ, and various seeds and nuts, in addition to a copious quantity of cheese. It's a good recipe, if a bit of a gut-bomb; this version is a bit lighter, with a sweet curry vibe that's more "Jamaica" than "Ithaca." As it happened, I was fresh out of green leafies the night I made it, but next time I may include some chopped kale, spinach, or collards in the filling to round out the whole orange:green balance thing. As it was, this turned out to be a great main course, and with some red beans and rice on the side, it was a perfect dinner on a blustery All Hallow's Eve (the occasional interruption by ghouls, goblins, and fairy princesses notwithstanding).

Ghoulishly Good Stuffed Squash
Ingredients
~ 1 quite large, or 3 small butternut squash
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 10 oz. package mushrooms, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. Jamaican curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, allspice
~ 1/4 tsp.: mace or nutmeg
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 cup coconut milk
~ 1 tsp. hot sauce (more to taste)
~ 2 cups panko crumbs, divided
~ Paprika for garnish

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
~ Split the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Score the flesh of the squash, making 1/2-inch deep cuts through it one way and then the other (in a checker-board pattern).
~ Arrange the squash halves cut side up on a cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees oven for about 45 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
~ When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to gently scoop the flesh from the shells (reserving the shells; be careful not to break them!). Set aside.
~ While your squash is baking, pour the oil into a large, deep skillet, and saute the onion, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms and dry seasonings, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are beginning to brown.
~ Stir in the walnuts, coconut milk, hot sauce, and cooked squash. Mix until well combined and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.
~ Stir in 1.5 cups of the panko, cook another minute or two, then remove from heat.
~ Place the reserved shells on a greased cookie sheet, and spoon the filling into them.
~ Top the stuffed squash with the remaining 1/2 cup of panko and a sprinkle of parsley and paprika for garnish.
~ Bake at 400 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely browned.
~ Allow to cool slightly before cutting into slices and serving. Serve with rice and (optimally) a pile of leafy greens.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not-Quite-Cornish Pasties




I dearly love a pasty, a 'ot leaky one;
With mayt, turmit and taty, h'onyon and parsley in 'un.
The crus' be made weth suet, shaped like 'alf a moon;
Crinkly h'edges, freshly baked 'e es alway gone too soon!

~ Walter F. Gries

We spend part of every summer in England, fleeing the oppressive heat and humidity of the New World to bask in the pleasures of the "old": family, friends, Real Ale, local cider, medieval architecture, morris dancing, Shakespeare plays, and fields full of sheep as far as the eye can see (not to mention some of the best curries this side of Nirvana). Sigh. Another thing we look forward to is the eating of pasties, which are readily available in a wide variety of fillings, including many that are suitable for vegans. One Sunday, longing for the old sod (and missing England, too), I made these for dinner with a side of mashed potato and braised carrots, and they were all gobbled up within 48 hours; next time I'll double the recipe and see how they freeze.

While nothing can match the warm, fuzzy feeling of munching a warm pasty in the shadow of the second tallest Maypole in England - located in the picturesque village of Welford-on-Avon, Warks., where we stayed a few visits back - after a few pints of local bitter, these provided a nice stopgap, and there's nothing keeping you from whipping up a batch of these beauties and dancing around the kitchen (or indeed a maypole, should you be fortunate enough to have access to one). Please note that this is meant to be a general model for pasty-making, for which the fillings are endlessly adaptable. Cornish pasties traditionally include beef or lamb, which was obviously not going to happen, and turnip/swede; since we're not major turnip fans, I used mushrooms instead, but next time I may do Something Completely Different. The main point is that you should have a nice, podgy filling, encased in a delicious pastry crust that can be eaten by hand: the original "to go" meal!

Not-Quite-Cornish Pasties
The Pastry
Ingredients
~ 4 cups all purpose flour
~ 1 cup coarse wholemeal flour (I used Odlum's)
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 3/4 cup cold vegan margarine or shortening (I used a combination)
~ 1 - 1.5 cups ice water

Directions
~ In a large bowl, sift together the flours and the salt.
~ Cut (or grate, if it's frozen) the margarine and/or shortening, then use your fingers to combine the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
~ Add the ice water about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing with each addition until you get a stiff but workable dough (I needed a total of 1 1/4 cups of water for this batch; however, as this is an inexact science, your mileage may vary).
~ Mix thoroughly and knead for a minute or two until well combined. Form the dough into a ball, cover, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (it's easier to work with when it's cold).
~ Now you can make...

The Filling
~ 2 tbsp. oil
~ 1 cup chopped onion
~ 1/2 cup diced celery
~ 3/4 cup diced carrot
~ 2 potatoes, diced
~ 6 oz. vegan meatballs - about 1/3 of a package - mashed to a pulp (a few crumbled veggie burgers will also work)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. thyme
~ A few generous grinds of pepper
~ 1/2 cup hot water
~ 2 tsp. Marmite
~ 1 tbsp. HP or vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1/2 cup frozen peas

Directions
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil and saute the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
~ Add the potato and and seasonings, and cook an additional 5 minutes.
~ Dissolve the Marmite in the hot water and add to the vegetables along with the HP sauce and the smashed meatballs.
~ Combine thoroughly, then cover and continue cooking another 10 minutes, until the potatoes are softened.
~ Add the peas and cook an additional minute or two.
~ Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

The Assembly
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Roll out the pastry and use a 6" plate to cut out circles of dough (I got 10 good-sized pasties from this recipe).
~ Into the center of each circle, place about 1/3 cup of filling, then crimp the edges of the dough together, using a little water to make it stick, then press the edges with a fork.
~ Place on an oiled baking sheet, and brush the tops with a little melted margarine mixed with soy milk.
~ Bake for 25-30 minutes until nicely browned.
~ Serve hot as a main course, with mashed potatoes, gravy, and cooked veggies, or eat cold or at room temperature as the classic "to go" meal.