Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holiday Leftover Casserole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Orange-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

When I was a child, I thought that brussels sprouts were the very distillation of evil; along with turnips and lima beans, they formed an unholy triumvirate of vegetables that could reduce me to tears. This prejudice persisted well into adulthood (and I confess that turnips, to me, still taste of disappointment, sadness, and defeat), and it was only when I finally encountered roasted sprouts that the scales fell from my eyes.

Like any member of the brassica family - which also includes cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower - brussels sprouts become nastily pungent when boiled, and since that was the way my British mother invariably prepared them, it's no wonder they struck panic and terror in my infant breast. But where boiling produces a bland, stinky mess, roasting brings out an irresistibly nutty sweetness, and once I discovered this important fact I was hooked, as were my formerly sprout-doubting partner and kids; nowadays the aroma of roasting brussels sprouts brings all the boys to the yard. (Well, it actually brings them to the kitchen, but you take my point.)

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Corn, Chickpea, and Kale Chowder

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

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

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