Monday, January 23, 2017

Crab Mornay En Croute

Sacre bleu! 

In our current, ever-more-bizarre world, carbohydrates often feel like our best defense. (Regular exercise is also key for this coping strategy to remain effective; resistance needs to be quick on its feet!) I made today's recipe one recent evening - in the mood for something nostalgic and a bit naff - and it absolutely hit the spot. NB that the "crab" mixture has multiple applications: a perfect filling for puff pastry, it's also an excellent stuffing for baked mushrooms, makes a nice dip for crudités, crackers, and/or crusty bread, and would be equally good in a sandwich, or served on English muffins under some melted vegan cheese for brunch.

Crab Mornay En Croute
~ 1 package puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farm is vegan)
~ 2 packages Gardein crabless cakes, cooked and mashed
~ 1 tbsp. each: canola oil, vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 cup chopped scallions, shallots, or a combination
~ 2 cups chopped brown mushrooms
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon, mustard powder
~ ½ tsp. each: white pepper, marjoram, cayenne
~ Dash nutmeg
~ ¼ cup dry sherry
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ Cook the crabless cakes according to package directions; mash and set aside, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ In a large, deep skillet, combine the oil and margarine over medium-high heat and saute the scallions/shallots for about a minute. Add the mushrooms and seasonings and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and started to brown.
~ Pour in the sherry to deglaze the pan, making sure to get any bits that may be sticking. After about a minute, add the flour and a little of the soy milk and mix well until the vegetables are coated.
~ Gradually add the remaining milk and stir well; turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.
~ Stir in the mashed crab cakes, combine thoroughly, and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
~ When the crab mixture is cooled,  arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on a nonstick baking sheet and divide the filling between them, spreading it evenly along the lefthand third of each sheet.
~ Fold each sheet over the filling to form an envelope, carefully crimping the edges to seal.
~ Prick the tops of the pastry several times with a fork, and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown (ovens vary wildly, so check occasionally).
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms

In times like these, with the world getting weirder by the minute, sometimes you just need to shut the door, get into your pajamas, and curl up with a big bowl of soup. I whipped up a pot of this one on a frigid January night and it was exactly what was called for: hearty yet light, earthy yet sweet, a perfect vehicle for crusty bread, and an all-round, comforting hug for body and soul. My only regret is that I didn't make three times as much, because it was so popular (even my once-picky-and-suspicious son declared it "fucking delicious") that there's hardly any left over. Live and learn!

Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 large leeks, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 lbs. parsnips, diced
~ 2 large potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, smoked paprika
~ ½-1 tsp. white pepper, to taste
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne
~ cup dry sherry
~ 7 cups "no chicken" broth (or other good vegan stock)
~ 4 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 lb. brown mushrooms, sliced

~ In a large, deep pot, saute the leeks and the celery over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
~ Add the parsnips, potatoes, and dry seasonings, and mix to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Stir in the sherry to deglaze the pan; cook another minute or so, until some of the alcohol burns off.
~ Pour in the broth and the bay leaves, cover the pot, and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 30 minutes, giving it the occasional stir.
~ After 30 minutes, fish out the bay leaves and puree the soup with an immersion blender until the mixture is completely smooth. Keep the soup hot over low heat.
~ Now get a large, non-stick skillet screaming hot and cook the sliced mushrooms in the remaining tbsp. of olive oil until brown and slightly crispy. Stir the cooked mushrooms into the soup and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Roasted Eggplant & Coconut Milk Curry

Goodness gracious, but it's been a long while since I've posted! As ever when these droughts occur, I've been insanely busy with Other Stuff, which means that even though people at our house are still eating, I tend to fall back on old standbys, and when/if I do conduct an experiment, I lack time and energy to rationalize the quantities, type things up, and post. But today I have something new, to kick off the new year. (Let us pass over the various horrors that have occurred in recent months, avert our attention from those looming on the horizon, and concentrate - at least for a moment - on our stomachs, shall we?)

I present to the gentle reader a simple and delicious curry, concocted on the sort of dark, rainy winter day when a warm kitchen is the only sensible place to be. I served this dish alongside a simple yellow dal (to which I added sautéed mushrooms at the very end), South Indian coconut rice, onion naan, and a shocking variety of chutney and pickle. There are lots of eggplant curries in my repertoire, but usually the vegetable breaks down to become one with the sauce; this recipe calls for roasting the eggplant first, which helps it keep some structural integrity. In fact, this strikes me as the kind of dish that would lend itself to many vegetables; next time I may add roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and/or cauliflower to the mix, so I encourage you to do the same if fancy strikes you that way.

Happy new year, and bon appétit!

Roasted Eggplant & Coconut Milk Curry
~ 1 large eggplant, cut into 2" chunks
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 2 tsp. panch phoran
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: cardamon, turmeric, white pepper
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne (more to taste)
~ 1 14 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
~ ½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Toss the eggplant pieces with the olive oil to coat and spread out on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn them over and roast for 10-15 minutes more, until golden and softened but not falling apart. Set aside to cool.
~ In a large deep skillet or pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat and add the panch phoran; cook for a minute or two, until the seeds begin to crackle.
~ Add the chopped onions, stir well, and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, until quite soft but not brown (add a splash of water if things start getting sticky).
~ Stir in the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings; cook for about a minute, then add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Mix to combine and raise the heat just long enough to bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and allow the sauce to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the roasted eggplant, stir well, and continue cooking over low heat for 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and coated the eggplant.
~ Stir in the fresh cilantro, remove from heat, and serve over basmati rice.