Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mushroom Potato Puff Pastry Pizza



On the one hand, this recipe's non-standard combination of mushrooms, potatoes, traditionally "English" herbs, and - GASP - rectangular puff pastry sheets may technically disqualify it as "pizza" for some purists. On the other hand, ask me if I care (spoiler alert: I don't, because it is awesome). For one thing, using puff pastry as a base - as opposed to a yeast-raised crust - is not only faster and easier than the traditional approach, it ensures that all the entree-size pieces are corner pieces, and what right-minded person wouldn't want that? Of course, you could also cut the finished product into smaller slices to serve as a swanky hors d'oeuvre: your call. For another thing, it's equally delicious hot or at room temperature; for yet another, no matter how you slice it the whole enterprise takes about an hour from start to finish, which is about as close to instant gratification as it gets for homemade pizza. So what are you waiting for? Buon appetito! (Or something.)

Mushroom Potato Puff Pastry Pizza
Ingredients
~ Two sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 4 medium sized potatoes, cooked and sliced thinly
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1/2 tsp. salt, ground sage, ground rosemary, marjoram
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 2 cups grated vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya)
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 fahrenheit and lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
~ Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and cook the sliced mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until they have released their liquid and begun to brown slightly. Transfer to  palate and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the sliced potatoes; cook, stirring gently, for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the minced garlic, salt, ground sage, ground rosemary, marjoram, and pepper and cook a few minutes more. Stir in the cooked mushrooms, remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
~ In a saucepan, combine the vegan mozzarella and the soy milk and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat, until the cheese melts, and you have a smooth sauce. Remove from heat.
~ Arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on the prepared baking sheets; gently fold in the edges and crimp to form a rim.
~ Divide the mozzarella mixture evenly between the puff pastry, using a spatula to spread the sauce right to the edges.
~ Divide the mushroom/potato mixture evenly between the tarts and sprinkle with a little extra rosemary.
~ Bake at 375 for about 30-40 minutes, until the pastry has puffed up and everything is golden brown (ovens vary wildly and mine tends to be slow, so keep an eye on it).
~ Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. (NB that in the unlikely event of leftovers, they will reheat nicely in the toaster oven.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Festive Ginger-Garlic Sweet Potatoes




This twist on the ordinary, quotidian mashed sweet potato is almost too simple to be called a "recipe," but too good not to share. In fact, if you're still looking for a holiday side dish, these babies would be perfect; I'm planning to serve them at this year's Christmas dinner along with my tourtière, old-school green beans almondine, and roasties. (NB this picture will also include bread, a big salad, and a lake of gravy.)

Festive Ginger-Garlic Sweet Potatoes
Ingredients
~ 2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 heaping tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ Dash each: nutmeg, cayenne
~ 1 cup "no chicken" broth
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

Directions
~ In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil and sauté the garlic and ginger over medium heat for about a minute, until fragrant. 
~ Add the diced sweet potatoes, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne, and stir to coat. Continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
~ Pour in the broth and the soy milk, cover the pan, raise the heat to high, and bring just to a boil. 
~ Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft. 
~ Remove from heat and mash the sweet potatoes until whole business is smooth. Taste for seasoning, return to heat, and cook for another few minutes before serving hot.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tourtière à la Végétalien


I love having pie for dinner.  

Pastiesquichesshepherd's pies, pot piesvarious vegetable piesonion tarts, mushroom 
tarts, even a two-crust pizza - all are welcome on my table and in my stomach. Which is why I must begin this post by admitting that I've only tasted a traditional French Canadian tourtière once, and that was many years ago.  I never repeated the experience because I found it pretty horrible: greasy, heavy, boringly under-seasoned, and basically not worth the trouble of eating. To my mind, this constitutes a minor tragedy, since A. a savory pie is (or should be) a beautiful and delicious thing, and B. people were misguidedly excited about this nasty mess. 

Years went by, and while casting about for Christmas dinner ideas, it occurred to me that it might be time to revisit this réveillon dish, with the twin goals of making it more interesting, and removing the startling variety of dead animals that occur in the many regional interpretations available on the internet. (I'll spare you the details, but trust me: it ain't pretty.) Taking my usual conflationary approach, I set to work and constructed a "good parts" version, adopting elements I liked from several traditional recipes and blithely ignoring the rest. 

Aside from the sage, the flavor profile is quite different from English-style meat pies featuring marjoram, thyme, rosemary, etc., and I'll admit to being slightly alarmed by the quantity of cloves, allspice, and traditionally "sweet" seasonings called for in many tourtières. But my skepticism was completely ill-founded, because with a few tweaks and the application of a little common sense, the combination of flavors worked beautifully, and the result was a pie that was not only delicious, but passed muster with my Canadian partner.

So I call that a success, and one that has earned its place on our table this December 25th - only this time I'll make two, since it's even better as leftovers. (NB: although tourtière is often served with relish or ketchup, we had ours with a double batch of  two-pepper golden gravy from Vegan Diner, to which I added a dash of sage, and substituted 2 tsp. of "no chicken" bouillon for the soy sauce and salt. I recommend this approach highly, but the gentle reader should obviously do as they think best!)

Tourtière à la Végétalien
Ingredients
~ Pastry for two-crust pie (homemade or store-bought)
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 medium onion, small dice
~ 1 stalk celery, minced
~ 1 carrot, grated
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, celery seed
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon
~ A few generous grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 2 large potatoes, cooked and roughly mashed
~ 1 package veggie meatballs, baked and mashed (I used Nate's)
~ 1.5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ ¼ cup brandy

Directions
 ~ Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a deep pie plate with half the pastry, reserving the other half.
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot for about 10 minutes, until quite soft.
~ Add the garlic and seasonings (salt through black pepper) and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the mashed potatoes and meatballs and stir to combine thoroughly.
~ Heat the "no chicken" broth to almost boiling and stir in the Marmite until it dissolves. Add this liquid to the skillet, mix well, and continue cooking another 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture is fairly smooth and uniform.
~ Begin adding the brandy by tablespoonfuls, stirring with each addition. Continue cooking 5 minutes more, and then remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.
~ Spoon the cooled filling evenly into the prepared pie crust, smoothing with a spatula. Top with the remaining pastry, making sure to crimp the edges tightly to seal.
~ With a sharp knife, make a few small gashes in the top crust so steam can escape as the pie bakes.
~ Bake, uncovered, in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I made this lasagna for our Thanksgiving main dish, and it went beautifully with the usual holiday suspects (in this case mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, stuffing, gravy, etc.) while adding a little extra pizzazz to the mix. It was a bit time-consuming - because I was basically making it up as I went along - but future batches will come together more quickly, thanks to this recipe! As it was, I made and assembled the casserole the day before, refrigerated it overnight, and put it in the oven about an hour before dinner with excellent results, so bear that in mind next time you need something for a holiday meal or potluck, or are just pressed for time while prepping a big, multi-course meal.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Filling
Ingredients
~ 1 lb. no boil lasagna noodles
~ 2 lbs. butternut squash, cut into cubes
~ 1-3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
~ 1 small onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1/2 lb. frozen spinach, thawed
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water at least 30 minutes
~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each salt, basil, oregano
~ A few grinds fresh black pepper
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the cubed squash on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and coat with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. (I just do this with my hands: moisturizing!)
~ Roast at 400 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes, until browned and tender. Remove from oven and set aside.
~ In a skillet, heat a tbsp. of olive oil and sauté the onion over low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 
~ Add the garlic and spinach; stir to combine and continue cooking for about 5 minutes longer, then remove from heat.
~ In a food processor or high-speed blender, combine the remaining ingredients (cashews through nutritional yeast) and blend until smooth.
~ Place the cooked squash in a large mixing bowl and mash until almost-but-not-quite smooth. Add the onion/spinach and cashew/tofu mixtures and mix well to combine.

Sauce
Ingredients
~ 1-2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 4 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
~ 2 cups shredded vegan cheese (I used 50/50 Daiya cheddar and mozzarella)
~ 1/2 cup vegan parmesan 
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, sage, white pepper
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I like Frank's)

Directions
~ Wipe out the skillet you used for the onions and melt the margarine over medium-high heat. 
~ Add the flour and a little of the soy milk to make a roux. Raise the heat to medium and gradually add the remaining milk, shredded cheese, parmesan, and remaining ingredients, stirring with each addition until the cheese melts and you have a smooth sauce.

Assembly
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large, deep casserole with cooking spray.
~ Ladle about a cup of sauce into the bottom of the casserole and spread evenly.
~ Arrange sufficient lasagna noodles to cover the bottom of the casserole (this will probably take 3-4 sheets), and spread half the filling over them, smoothing with a spatula.
~ Pour half the sauce over the filling and top with another layer of lasagna noodles. Add the remaining filling, another layer of noodles, and the remaining sauce, making sure to spread it evenly over the whole business. If you have time, set the assembled lasagna aside to let everything mingle and get to know each other a bit before baking. (NB at this point I covered the casserole with foil and refrigerated it until the next day, which worked fine so bear that in mind if you want to prepare something ahead.)
~ Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes, until bubbling (I put a cookie sheet under my casserole to catch any drips).
~ Raise the oven temperature to 400, remove the foil, and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
~ Remove from oven and allow to sit at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Potato & Mushroom Breakfast Curry



Cornflakes? We don't need no stinking cornflakes!

Actually, cornflakes are all right, but sometimes a girl wants a change, you know? And of course you don't have to eat this curry for breakfast; it would be just as good at lunch, dinner, or in the middle of the night. But if you're looking for some serious morning fuel with a bit of a twist, I can't recommend it highly enough. A few days after Thanksgiving, I woke up craving a departure from the past week's glut of traditional western holiday foods, and a plate of curry sounded perfect. So I headed to the kitchen, surveyed the options, and by incorporating prosaic brunch ingredients like mushrooms, onions, and potatoes with subcontinental seasonings, I came up with a sort of diner-y breakfast hash/masala dosa hybrid. With parathas and spicy pickle on the side, it was everything the most jaded tastebuds could desire, and sufficiently filling to keep us going all afternoon. Best of all: there were even leftovers for the next day!

Potato & Mushroom Breakfast Curry
Ingredients
~ 4 large potatoes, cooked and diced
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin seeds, mustard seeds
~ 1 large yellow onion, diced
~ 1 tbsp. each: grated ginger, minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, garam masala, fenugreek powder, coriander, ground cumin, chili powder
~ Dash each: cinnamon, cayenne
~ 3/4 cup frozen peas
~ 1 cup lite coconut milk
~ 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

Directions
~ Coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat until browned (about 7-8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove from pan and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat; add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for a minute or two, until the seeds begin to sputter and pop. (Don't put your eye out!)
~ Add the onions, ginger, and garlic, and cook 7-10 minutes, until the onions are softened and beginning to brown just a little.
~ Stir in the toasted sesame oil and then add the diced, cooked potatoes. Mix to combine, and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the salt, garam masala, fenugreek powder, coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and cayenne. Stir thoroughly to coat the vegetables with the spices, and continue cooking another 5-7 minutes, until the potatoes are starting to brown a bit. Make sure to stir often to prevent sticking.
~ Add the reserved, cooked mushrooms, frozen peas, and coconut milk. Mix well, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, until the peas are bright green and the mixture thickens slightly.
~ Mix in the chopped, fresh cilantro and serve hot with parathas, naan, or other Indian bread. (And don't forget the pickle!)



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Butternut and Black Bean Enchiladas


Enchiladas of various types are unfailingly well-received around here, and this seasonal interpretation is no exception.  Comforting yet fresh, substantial without being stodgy, this casserole comes together relatively quickly, and is loaded with enough protein and veggies to be a complete meal on its own (although a green salad, fresh salsa, and/or some guacamole never come amiss).

Butternut and Black Bean Enchiladas
The Sauce
Ingredients
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour
~ 1 cup mashed, cooked squash, sweet potato, or pumpkin
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 large, roasted red bell pepper, chopped
~ 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
~ 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. each: garlic powder, chili powder, adobo seasoning, marjoram

Directions
~ In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Set aside.

The Filling
Ingredients
~ 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 medium yellow onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 small bell pepper, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, oregano
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, white pepper, paprika
~ 1 15 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
~ Juice of 1 lime
~ 10 flour tortillas
~ 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the cubed butternut squash on the baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and make sure the cubes are coated with the oil (I do this with my hands).
~ Roast the squash for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender but still intact. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ While your squash is roasting, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. Sauté the onions, garlic, and bell pepper for about 5-7 minutes, until softened.
~ Add the seasonings, cook for about a minute, and stir in the tomatoes. Stir to combine, and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
~ Add the drained black beans and continue cooking 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens.
~ Remove from heat, stir in the lime juice, and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Assembly
~ Coat a large casserole or baking dish with cooking spray, and ladle a cup or so of the sauce into the bottom. (I place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.)
~ Place about 1/3 - 1/2 cup filling in the top third of each tortilla and roll up into a tube.
~ Place the filled tortillas snugly up against each other, seam side down, in your casserole until all of the filling is used up and the dish is full (this took 12 tortillas for my pan).
~ Reserve 1.5 cups of the sauce, and pour the rest over the whole business, making sure to let it ooze down into the filled tortillas, and smoothing the top. If possible, set the assembled casserole aside and allow it to sit for awhile before baking, so all the elements can get better acquainted.
~ Cover with foil, and bake at 375 degrees about 25 minutes, until bubbling.
~ Raise the heat to 400, remove the foil, pour the remaining sauce over the tortillas, and sprinkle the top with the fresh cilantro.
~ Return to oven and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for another 15-20 minutes, until browned and lovely.
~ Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mushroom and Spinach Tart with Walnuts




This ridiculously delicious tart owes its creation to the popularity of the previous night's enchiladas (butternut squash and black beans: watch this space). Which is to say that the leftovers I'd counted on failed to materialize, necessitating a Whole New Dinner. A quick scan of available supplies revealed a plethora of mushrooms, a package of vegan cream cheese, and some frozen puff pastry I'd been meaning to use; the addition of caramelized onions, a bit of spinach, and a handful of walnuts resulted in what I can only describe (albeit immodestly) as a triumph of MacGyver cuisine. My only quibble was that I wished there were twice as much of the stuff; next time I'll remedy that problem by doubling the recipe.

Mushroom and Spinach Tart with Walnuts
Ingredients
~ 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed
~ 1.5 lbs. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, sliced into thin crescents
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ 1/4 cup white wine
~ 1/3 cup chopped, fresh sage
~ 1/2 lb. chopped frozen spinach
~ 1/4 cup each: flour, nutritional yeast
~ 8 oz. vegan cream cheese
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
~ Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and sauté the sliced mushrooms over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have released their liquid and browned. Transfer to a plate.
~ In the same skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until soft and golden.
~ Add the garlic, salt, tarragon, pepper, and cook another minute or so. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom.
~ Add the spinach and fresh sage and continue cooking just until the spinach wilts.
~ Stir in the flour, nutritional yeast, and cream cheese, and continue cooking about 5 minutes more, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the cooked mushrooms, remove from heat, and set the mixture aside to cool at least 10 minutes.
~ Arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on the baking sheets; gently fold in the edges to make a rim and crimp slightly with your fingers.
~ Divide the vegetable mixture equally between the two sheets of puff pastry, smoothing with a spatula to get the filling right to the edges.
~ Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, and then sprinkle the chopped walnuts evenly over the two tarts.
~ Continue baking another 10 minutes, until the crust around the edges is puffed and golden brown and the walnuts are giving off a toasty aroma.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stuffed Shells Redux

Yes, it's more comfort food - that's why Mother Nature invented fall! (And thick, baggy sweaters.) Anyway, it doesn't get much more reassuring than a big pan of shells stuffed with cashew ricotta and baked under a blanket of red sauce.

Today's version is a new twist on an old theme, with mashed sweet potatoes and fresh arugula adding interesting sweet and sharp notes to the filling. I used jarred sauce because A. I got the idea to make this dish late in the day, and B. I was feeling a bit lazy. It turned out great, but if you'd like to use your favorite homemade version, I'm sure it would make this good thing even better.

Stuffed Shells Redux
Ingredients
~ 1 lb. extra large pasta shells
~ 5 cups marinara sauce, jarred or homemade
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water at least an hour
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
~ 2 large sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh arugula (or other leafy greens)
~ 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, basil, adobo seasoning (with pepper)
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a food processor, puree the soaked, drained cashews with the soy milk, olive oil, and lemon juice until smooth.
~ With the food processor running, gradually add the crumbled tofu, sweet potato, arugula, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, garlic, and seasonings. Puree to a smooth paste, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.
~ Prepare and drain the shells according to package directions and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
~ Spread about a cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the greased casserole.
~ Carefully stuff the tofu/cashew mixture into the shells and arrange them in the casserole dish, open side up.
~ Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the reserved 2 tbsp. of nooch and a little extra oregano.
~ Cover tightly with foil, and bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
~ Remove the foil, raise the heat to 400, and cook another 15 minutes until slightly browned.
~ Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mushroom Pie



It's no secret that I lurve me some savory pie, and this one is exactly the kind of mumsy, unapologetically podgy comfort food designed for a cold, gloomy afternoon when the world seems like something to be kept firmly outside. At such times, the most reasonable course of action is to curl up with a big slice of pie, eked out by mashed potatoes (or champ), mushy peas, and maybe some greens and/or carrots to satisfy honor and the vegetable gods. (Pro tip: for maximum effectiveness, such a meal is best eaten in one's pajamas. Now isn't that better?)

Mushroom Pie
Ingredients
~ Crust for two-crust pie (homemade or store bought)
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 large yellow onion, chopped
~ 1 small carrot, diced
~ 1 stalk celery, diced
~ 2 10 oz. pkgs. mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, sage, marjoram
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, vegan Worcestershire sauce, English mustard
~ 1/4 cup each: flour, nutritional yeast
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. corn starch
~ 1/4 cup frozen peas

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Whisk 1/2 cup of the soy milk together with the cornstarch and set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the celery and carrot and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the garlic, mushrooms, and dry seasonings. Stir to combine, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the mushroom are giving up their liquid.
~ Stir in the Marmite, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and peas and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the flour and nutritional yeast, and begin gradually adding the remaining cup of soy milk, stirring constantly.
~ Add the reserved soy milk/cornstarch mixture and combine thoroughly. Continue cooking 5 minutes more, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
~ Fill the bottom pie crust with the vegetable mixture (it will be very full), and top with the remaining crust, being sure to crimp the edges together well to seal.
~ With a sharp knife, make a few small gashes in the top crust, and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. (Bear in mind that ovens vary wildly, so keep an eye on it; go ahead and cover it with foil if it browns too quickly.)
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest about 15 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chickpea Flour Omelets



Chickpea flour - also known as besan, gram flour, and garbanzo bean flour - is the magical fairy dust of the vegan kitchen. Not only is it packed with protein and other good stuff, it has a rich, nutty taste that lends itself to brunchy things like frittataspancakes, French toast sweet and savory, and makes a perfect crispy coating for frying and/or baking stuff.

Today's offering is yet another breakfast/brunch dish - so sue me: I like spending half the morning cooking and the other half eating - but it could easily be served for dinner with some extra veggies on the side. These light but substantial omelets take their inspiration from a recipe that Vegan Richa posted awhile back, to which I've made a few alterations My main changes were to omit the oat flour, add nutritional yeast, change/increase the seasonings, and cook the vegetables separately rather than mix them into the batter raw. I also went for the folded "half moon" effect, which was a bit delicate but turned out beautifully. As you can see, this recipe has a distinctly Indian feel to it, but you could easily change up the filling and seasonings to produce an entirely different vibe if you like; the sky's the limit! I'm thinking that next time I'll replicate the beloved western omelet of my childhood with grilled onions, peppers, vegan cheese (and maybe some mushrooms, because a little fungus make everything better).

Chickpea Flour Omelets
The Batter
Ingredients
~ 4 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 2 cups warm water
~ 1 1/3 cup chickpea flour
~ 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. each: curry powder, kala namak (or kosher salt)
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric
~ A few grinds fresh black pepper

Directions
~ In a large mixing bowl, whisk the ground flaxseed with 1 cup of the warm water until frothy. Set aside to rest for about 5 minutes.
~ In a separate bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except the additional cup of water. Add this dry mix to the wet flaxseed mixture by 1/2 cupfuls, whisking with each addition and adding the remaining cup of water until you have a smooth batter. Set aside while you make...

The Filling
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 small red onion, small dice
~ 1/2 bell pepper, small dice
~ 1 small carrot, small dice
~ 1/2 cup frozen spinach
~ 1/3 cup frozen peas
~ 1/2 cup crumbled coconut bacon (optional)

Directions
~ In a large skillet, saute the onion, pepper, and carrot over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
~ Add the spinach and peas, cover the pan, and cook another few minutes until wilted and bright green respectively. Stir in the coconut bacon (if using), remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl.

And now...
~ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a nonstick baking sheet inside.
~ Wipe out the skillet, coat with a generous shot of cooking spray, and set over medium heat.
~ Ladle about 1/3-1/2 cup of batter into the middle of the pan, allowing it to spread out ever so slightly. ~ After a minute, sprinkle a few spoonfuls of the filling over the batter; cover and cook about 5 minutes, until set around the edges but still a bit moist in the center.
~ Using a thin spatula, very carefully fold one side of the omelet over the other to form that classic half moon shape. Transfer the finished omelet to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
~ Repeat until all the ingredients are used up (this should yield seven or eight omelets).
~ Serve immediately with a dollop of chutney and homefries, toast, or whatever brunchy accompaniments strike your fancy.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Baked Pasta with Squash and Spinach



October is my favorite month. I love its cool temperatures, its bright blue skies, its colorful, crunchy leaves, and the delightful air of mild spookiness that pervades New England as the evenings draw in earlier and Hallowe'en approaches. (Which makes it especially perfect for one of my most beloved activities: tromping around old cemeteries. Hence the photo.) I also love the ubiquity of root vegetables, which come in all sorts of interesting, knobbly shapes, colors, and sizes, and are perfect for roasting, for making soups and stews, and for transforming into comforting, carbohydrate-laden casseroles like today's recipe, which combines baked winter squash, pasta, and spinach in a creamy sauce with a crispy topping. Just the thing for a chilly autumn evening.

Baked Pasta with Squash and Spinach
Ingredients
~ 1 lb. penne (or other sturdy pasta, such as ziti)
~ 1 winter squash (I used butternut)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, sage, marjoram
~ Dash nutmeg
~ Several generous grinds black pepper
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella
~ 3/4 lb. chopped, frozen spinach
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I'm currently addicted to Frank's)
~ 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
~ 2 tbsp. each: wheat germ, nutritional yeast
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, paprika

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large casserole with cooking spray.
~ Split the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the sides. Rub the cut sides with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake (cut side down) for 50-60 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until quite soft. Add the garlic and seasonings and cook another minute or two.
~ Add one cup of the soy milk and the 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast. Stir to combine and begin gradually adding the shredded mozzarella, stirring with each addition until melted.
~ Add the remaining soy milk and continue stirring until you have a smooth sauce. Add the chopped spinach and cook another few minutes until it wilts.
~ Turn the heat to low and scoop the flesh from the cooked squash; discard the skins and mash the squash with a fork. Add to the simmering sauce and combine thoroughly; cook another 5 minutes, stirring often, and remove from heat.
~ Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving one cup of the cooking water.
~ Return the cooked pasta to the cooking pot and add the squash/spinach sauce, making sure everything is happily commingled. If it looks a bit thick, you can add some of the reserved pasta water to get the consistency you want.
~ Transfer the mixture to your waiting casserole and smooth with a spoon or spatula.
~ In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, wheat germ, remaining nutritional yeast, salt, and paprika. Sprinkle evenly over the pasta and cover with foil.
~ Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, and then remove the foil and raise the heat to 400 degrees.
~ Continue cooking another 20 minutes or so, until the topping is golden brown.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Apple and Pear Brown Betty (or something)




Up the apples and pears, and across the Rory O' Moor,
I'm off to see my dear old Trouble and Strife.
On the Cain and Able, you will always see
A pair of Jack the Rippers and a cup of Rosy Lee.
What could be better than this?
A nice old cuddle and kiss,
All beneath the pale moonlight.
Then some Tommy Tucker and off to Uncle Ned.
Oh, What a luverly night tonight.

My mother loved music hall songs like the one quoted above, and I can never think of apples and pears together without turning them into stairs. Although she grew up in Birmingham, far from the sound of Bow bells, my mother always loved Cockney rhyming slang, and learned about a million of these popular songs from her grandfather, who was by all accounts a bit of a lad. My mother would have called this dish a Brown Betty,  and it is in the fine tradition of crumblescobblerscrisps, and other versions of baked fruit with some type of crunchy topping. This one came about because I had an urge to bake, a plethora of apples and pears - doesn't that roll trippingly off the tongue? - but very little else to work with.  Although my mother's version would have used a ton of butter and fine, homemade breadcrumbs (if a jar of wheat germ ever saw the inside of her kitchen cupboard, it could only have been because I was still at home), I think she'd have applauded my ingenuity and thrift in producing a dessert for five people with little more than a handful of slightly overripe fruit. Whatever you choose to call it, this is one of those ridiculously easy dishes that come together quickly and never fail to please. And since it's not too sweet, it's as suitable for breakfast tomorrow as it is for dessert tonight, so Bob's your uncle!


Apple and Pear Brown Betty 
Ingredients
~ 5 large, unpeeled apples, cut into approximately 1" cubes
~ 5 large, unpeeled pears, cut into approximately 1" cubes
~ 1/2 cup each: wheat germ, all purpose flour, finely chopped walnuts
~ 1/4 cup brown sugar
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. each: ginger, nutmeg
~ 1/4 cup very cold Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a mixing bowl, sift together the wheat germ, flour, sugar, and spices. Chop the margarine and add to the dry mixture. Mix together until it forms a texture like soft crumbs (full disclosure: I just get right in there and do this part with my fingers).
~ Place the cubed fruit in the greased casserole and arrange the topping over it evenly.
~ Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake about 20 minutes more, until the fruit is soft and the topping is golden brown.
~ Serve hot with vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or - best of all - custard.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pizza Rustica

For my final post of this year's MoFo, I proudly present my adaptation of a dish I used to make when feeling particularly domestic, ambitious, hungry, and/or pregnant (usually some combination of the above). A quick glance at The Vegetarian Epicure's original recipe reveals a truly colossal gut bomb featuring a pound of ricotta, half a pound of mozzarella, a cup of Parmesan, and five (!) eggs, in addition to the 3/4 cup butter called for by the pie crust. In those days we were young, foolish, and apparently untroubled by and/or impervious to the effects of cholesterol in gigantic quantities and never thought a thing of it, but I should note that a little of this very rich pie went a long way. It also made great leftovers, so one pizza could easily be fed off for a couple of days with something simple like a salad or steamed greens on the side.

I hadn't thought about this recipe in ages, but in planning this year's theme it was one of the first things on my "to do" list; I finally got around to it one cloudy afternoon, when there was a nip in the air and my kitchen fairly cried out for me to bake something. (Since the oven was on, I also made an apple-pear crisp with a wheat germ and walnut topping; watch this space.) For my herbivorous update I replaced the prototype's dairy cheeses with homemade tofu ricotta, and store-bought vegan mozzarella and parmesan. I added sautéed mushrooms because I didn't have olives, upped the quantity of onions, garlic, and other seasonings, and blew off the eggs entirely because let's face it: who needs 'em except hens? I also used frozen pie crusts because I couldn't be arsed to make my own pastry, but if you're inclined to haul out the rolling pin please go right ahead. The end result felt as indulgent as its inspiration, and - just as in the old days - one slice was enough for any reasonably hungry person. To satisfy honor and my personal credo of "eat the rainbow," I also made a green salad with roasted sweet potatoes and maple/tahini dressing, which was really all that was necessary to complete the meal.

On a more personal note, I have to say that of all the things I've cooked this month, this dish probably brought me closest to that fondly remembered sensation of being just grown up enough to have my own kitchen, but still enough of a kid to find that fact a bit giddying. Autumn is proverbially a season of nostalgia, and as this pie baked away in the oven I was reminded of the fall before my first son was born, which I largely spent reading, napping, and puttering around the kitchen and pantry of the lovely second floor apartment we'd moved into the previous summer. It was nice to think of that time, and to reconnect with how I felt about cooking back then. Most of all, it was an enormous pleasure to recreate this recipe and serve it to my (now rather enormous, in both size and number) family. I am so glad to have taken this culinary trip down memory lane, and to have revisited those old, dog-eared, tamari-stained cookbooks for Vegan MoFo; something tells me they might not be returning to the back of the bookshelf just yet.
Peace. 

Pizza Rustica
Ingredients
~ Pastry for a two-crust pie (I used frozen)
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 large bell pepper, julienned
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, basil, marjoram
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 14 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
~ 1/4 cup tomato paste
~ 1 14 oz. package firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 1.5 cups shredded vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya)
~ 1/2 cup vegan parmesan
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, garlic powder
~ 1 cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ Juice of one lemon

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt, transfer to a plate, and set aside.
~ Add the julienned pepper to the skillet and cook over medium-high for 7-10 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until they are softened but not brown. Add the garlic and dried seasonings and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the drained tomatoes and tomato paste, stir to combine, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the cooked mushrooms, and set aside.
~ In a food processor, combine the tofu, vegan mozzarella and parmesan, nutritional yeast, oregano, garlic powder, fresh parsley, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
~ Now we're ready to assemble our pie! 
~ Line one pie crust with half the tofu ricotta mixture and press down firmly with a spatula or the back of a large spoon. Top with half of the tomato sauce and half of the cooked, julienned bell pepper, again pressing down firmly (you really want to pack these layers densely).
~ Repeat these layers and top with the second crust, being sure to seal the edges well. 
~ With a sharp knife, make a couple small gashes in the crust, and bake at 425 degrees fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes (ovens vary wildly, so keep an eye on it; cover with foil if it starts to brown too much).
~ Remove from oven and allow to stand for 30 minutes before slicing.