Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cranberry-Fig Relish

It really wouldn't be November without making some sort of cranberry condiment.  I like this relish since it works well on the Thanksgiving table, but need not be confined to the holidays; it is equally great as a sandwich spread any day of the week.

  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup vegan dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped and toasted pecans
1. Combine the orange juice, figs, and wine in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add the sugar, brown sugar, and cranberries.  Continue to cook over medium heat for 10 to 20 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and the cranberries have popped, stirring occasionally.  It's a shame that I only have photos up on this blog, because what you really need for this recipe is the audio - the beautiful sound of cranberries popping like popcorn in the pan.  But here's what they look like at the beginning of the process:

3. Let the mixture cool slightly, then stir in the pecans.  Cover and chill until ready to serve (and don't forget that the relish will continue to thicken as it cools).

Note: if you prefer your pecans crunchy, don't stir them in until the last minute, even though you can prepare the rest of the relish a few days before serving.

As mentioned, the relish is absolutely delicious on sandwiches in place of jam - try it with Tofurky and Tofutti cream cheese:

Or with Tofurky and horseradish:

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1/4 cup), Calories 128 

Tasting Notes:
Easily one of the best cranberry sauces I've ever had, whether store-bought or homemade.  Exactly sweet enough, with delicious elements of surprise from the figs and deep red wine flavor.  And that's just the relish on a spoon by itself.  Add it to a sandwich and oh my goodness.  It was the grown up version of cream cheese-and-jelly sandwiches I used to have as a kid.  With horseradish, you get a wonderful mix of piquant and sweet.  A "4," therefore, for the relish alone, but skyrocketing into "5" territory if you use it as a sandwich spread.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Apple Crumble with Golden Raisins

This little dessert makes just enough for two - the perfect option when you want something sweet at the end of the meal but don't want leftovers.

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apple
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and brown sugar in a small bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces, and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. In a bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, apples, raisins, orange juice, lemon juice, and cinnamon, and toss well.

3. Divide the apple mixture evenly among 2 (6-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with the flour mixture.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes - the tops should be golden brown. 

Nutrition Info:
2 servings (1 crumble), Calories 223 

Tasting Notes:
A tasty and piping hot little crumble.  I would increase the golden raisins, and also would have loved more orange flavor; consider adding more juice and a touch of the rind as well.  I also would have liked the filling to be sweeter, and would use more sugar or a sweet variety of apple, such as Braeburn, next time.  Since the crumbles weren't too sweet, however, I'd consider making them part of a weekend breakfast, rather than dessert, next time.


Vegan Extra:
As a side note,  I kept things simple with dessert tonight because I was eager to try the new line of frozen entrees from vegan restaurant Candle Cafe for dinner.  Although I don't advocate frozen prepared foods as a general rule (too much sodium, and generally a steep price tag), frozen entrees are a convenient indulgence every once in a while.  But more importantly, I was eager to support Candle Cafe's efforts.  Do check out the frozen entrees, and if you live in New York, I highly recommend visiting Candle Cafe or it's fancier counterpart, Candle 79, for the fresh version of their food sometime soon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beef with Mushroom Gravy

Tonight I decided to make the vegan equivalent of meat and potatoes - Match beef paired with mashed potatoes - with a simple mushroom gravy to top it off.

  • Cooking spray
  • 12 ounces thawed Match beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup presliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegan beef broth (prepared from Not Beef bouillon)
  • 1/3 cup vegan sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Divide the Match beef into 4 portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch thick steak.  Sprinkle evenly with the black pepper and salt.  Add the beef to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from the pan.

2. Recoat the pan with cooking spray and add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the beef broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.

3. Place the sour cream in a bowl, and gradually add the mushroom mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk, until blended.  Stir in the parsley.

Serve the gravy over the beef patties, and have mashed potatoes on the side.  You can try my recipe for Basic Mashed Potatoes from this blog, or even use a mashed potato mix (Whole Foods 365 is vegan), if you're in a hurry.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 steak, 1/4 cup gravy), Calories 210

Tasting Notes:
I really enjoyed the savory, salty beef patties, which were liberally smothered in this gravy sauce.  Next time, I would increase the mushrooms, and use a touch more sour cream for an even thicker, creamier gravy.  I would also use more herb flavoring on the beef itself - thyme and rosemary both come to mind.  Adding mashed potatoes on the side rounded out the meal perfectly, especially for soaking up the extra gravy. 


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kale with Lemon-Balsamic Butter

I have to dedicate tonight's recipe to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  If you enjoy my blog, then you will love Colleen's podcast, Food for Thought.  Colleen is one of the most articulate advocates for animal rights and veganism I've ever come across.  She also happens to be kale's number one spokesperson, routinely touting the nutritional benefits of this dark leafy green.  So it seems only appropriate to give a shout out to her on my blog tonight.

Please check out her website as well as her new book, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge (which I currently have left lying around for my husband...)

And now on to those leafy greens.

  • 4 (1 pound) bunches kale
  • 4 quarts water
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Remove the stems and tough center ribs from the kale; wash and dry the leaves.  Coarsely chop the kale - you'll wind up with about 24 cups.  Yes, that is a heck of a lot of kale, but don't forget that leafy greens wilt way down when you cook them.

2. Bring the water to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot.  Add the kale; cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Drain, and place the kale in a bowl.

3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat; once melted, continue to cook for 3 minutes. 

4. Stir in the raisins, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Pour the butter mixture over the kale.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Tonight, I served the kale alongside baked potatoes with gravy, roasted acorn squash, and homemade corn bread adapted from this recipe.  Bring crushed red pepper to the table, and invite people to sprinkle some over their kale if they prefer spicier food.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 151 

Tasting Notes:
A tasty way to eat kale, and easy enough to become a standard in your home (although I recommend making only a third the amount called for if you're not feeding a crowd).  I couldn't decide if there was too much balsamic or just enough; next time I would decrease the balsamic slightly and increase the butter.  The raisins were a delicious sweet addition.  Note that your serving size may vary depending how long you cook the kale - anywhere from closer to 1 cup per serving if you give the leaves just a minute or two in the boiling water, and closer to 1/4 cup if you wilt the kale way down.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Tart with Pecan Crust

Maple syrup gets used in three different ways in this delightful tart - in the crust, in the filling, and for a glaze drizzled on top.  Definitely take the time to cook and mash fresh sweet potatoes, instead of buying the canned version.  Peel and cube the sweet potato, and cook in boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes until very tender, before mashing with a potato masher until smooth.  Make sure to start with enough raw sweet potato - roughly 2 and 1/2 cups to yield the amount needed for this recipe.

For the crust:
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Cooking spray
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 and 1/2 cups mashed and cooked sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup soft silken tofu
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped and peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the syrup:
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
1. To make the crust, lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in the bowl of a food processor with the pecans and salt; process until the pecans are finely ground.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the food processor; pulse about 4 to 8 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal.

2. Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup while the food processor is on, and process until combined (you do not want the dough to form into a ball; it will look more like soft cookie dough at this point).  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 to 5 times.

3. Place the dough in a 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray.  Place plastic wrap over the dough, and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Discard the plastic wrap.

Note: I've never used this method for a crust before, and found it quite fun.  The plastic wrap keeps the dough from sticking to your hands, making for an easy time of evenly dispersing the dough all the way up the sides of the pan.  My husband was so amused he actually filmed the process.

4. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes; cool completely on a wire rack.

5. To prepare the filling, whisk together 1/2 cup maple syrup with the cornstarch.  Combine the maple syrup mixture in a food processor with the mashed sweet potato, tofu, ginger, orange rind, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg; process until smooth.  Spoon the mixture into the cooled crust, spreading evenly to the edges.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes - the filling should be set.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

6. To prepare the syrup, place 1/2 cup maple syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 5 to 6 minutes, during which time it will bubble quite wildly).  Remove from heat and cool completely.  Drizzle over the tart just before serving.

Note: the tart will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days if you make it in advance, and will be best served chilled.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 wedge, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup), Calories 264

Tasting Notes:
One of the best crusts I've ever had - almost like a soft, maple-flavored graham cracker cookie.  The filling was also quite yummy, but surprisingly a touch bland - I would increase the spices next time, although I enjoyed the subtle sweetness of maple syrup as opposed to sugar.  I also wouldn't bother reducing the maple syrup in a saucepan if I made this again, but simply drizzle a teaspoon or so right from the bottle over each wedge just before serving; the reduced maple syrup became stiff once cooled and didn't drizzle well.  To fix the problem rewarm it briefly in the microwave for about 15 seconds.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

Capirotada is an easy bread pudding to prepare, since it requires no water bath.  A traditional Mexican dessert, it features French bread, nuts, and dried fruit drizzled in a cinnamon-sugar syrup - yum.  Although traditionally eaten around Lent and Good Friday, there's no reason not to incorporate it into your winter holiday menus.

  • 1 and 1/4 cups packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed French bread baguette
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds*
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup shredded vegan Monterey Jack cheese (such as Vegan Gourmet)
1. Combine the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon sticks.

2. Cut the butter into small pieces, and combine in a large bowl with the bread cubes, raisins, and almonds.

3. Drizzle with the warm sugar syrup and toss to coat.  Spoon the mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray and sprinkle with the Monterey Jack.  Cover with aluminum foil and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

4. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.  The bread pudding is best served warm, although I also enjoyed leftovers chilled.

*Toast your almonds ahead of time in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan nearly constantly, until golden and fragrant.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 portion), Calories 313 

Tasting Notes:
I gave this a good 3 hours in the fridge for the bread to soak up all of that cinnamon-sugar syrup, and the result was delicious - warm, cinnamon-soaked pieces of bread reminiscent of an overnight-soaked French toast.  The savory pop of the cheese on top was a nice contrast.  My only complaint is that there needs to be more of everything - more almonds, more raisins... and bigger portion sizes.  The recommended serving felt like a super delicious tease.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Pork Medallions with Cranberries and Apples

In-season fresh cranberries get a star turn in this yummy sauce to serve over Match pork. If you already have fresh cranberries in your freezer, don't forget there's no need to thaw them before adding to the recipe.  Just give them a quick wash in a colander.

  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon vegan brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces thawed Match pork
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup thinly sliced and peeled Rome apple
  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries
  • Fresh sage sprigs (optional for garnish)
1. Combine the apple juice, broth, brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, dried sage, and black pepper in a small bowl, and stir well with a whisk; set aside.

2. Cut the Match pork into 8 pieces.  Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and flatten to 3/4-inch thickness.  You can use a meat mallet (yes I have one in my vegan kitchen) or rolling pin for this operation.  Do take care not to pound the pork pieces too thin, or the Match will come apart slightly.  Place the flour in a shallow dish and dredge the pork pieces in the flour.

3. Heat 3 teaspoons of the olive oil in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and cook for 2 and 1/2 minutes on each side; remove the pork from the pan.

4. Heat the final teaspoon olive oil in the pan and add the onion; cover, reduce heat, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown.  Return the pork to the pan, along with the apple juice mixture, apple, and cranberries.  Bring to a simmer; cover and cook a final 3 minutes, until the cranberries pop, stirring occasionally.

Add fresh sage sprigs as garnish for a lovely presentation, if desired.  I served this dish directly over a long-grain and wild rice mix (try the pre-packaged mix from Near East for convenience) with walnuts stirred in.  I added cauliflower on the side for a veggie, and had chocolate snap cookies from Mi-del for dessert.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 pork medallions, 1/3 cup cranberry mixture), Calories 262 

Tasting Notes:
A wonderfully delicate little entree, with thin pieces of pork in a subtle sauce.  The savory onions were a perfect foil to the tart cranberries and sweet apples, and the sage was just beautiful.  Next time I would increase the spices all around for more pronounced flavor, but that's really my only quibble.  I do highly recommend serving over rice; not only did it act as a bed to soak up the sweet apple juice mixture, but it also gave my teeth a bit more to sink into in contrast to the tart cranberries.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sourdough Stuffing with Apples and Ham

Is there anything better than an entire recipe based around toasted bread? Here's a great stuffing recipe to keep in mind over the holidays.  Or check out my New England Sausage Stuffing with Chestnuts from last year, if you prefer.

Please excuse the "poultry seasoning" in the ingredient list below.  What a terrible name for a delicious blend of spices, but that's the label under which it will be sold at your supermarket.

  • 12 cups (1/2-inch cubed) sourdough bread (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 cups vertically sliced red onion
  • 2 cups thinly sliced celery
  • 2 cups chopped vegan ham (such as Lightlife)
  • 2 cups diced and peeled Braeburn apple
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • Cooking spray
1. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, until toasted.  You'll start out with a beautiful fresh loaf of sourdough that whittles down into a big pile of bread cubes - so much better than pre-packaged stuffing.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and celery; saute for 4 minutes.  Add the ham, apple, thyme, poultry seasoning, black pepper, and salt; saute for 2 minutes.

3. Combine the onion mixture with the bread cubes in a bowl, tossing gently.  Definitely use your largest bowl for this operation, and even then it will probably be close to overflowing.  Add the broth and toss gently to combine.  Spoon the mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

4. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 35 minutes, until golden brown.

A couple make ahead tips: you can toast the bread cubes up to 3 days before serving, and store in an airtight container.  Likewise, the onion mixture will keep, covered, in the fridge for 3 days.  So come serving time it's simply a matter of tossing together with the broth and baking. Do note, however, that this stuffing doesn't reheat very well, so you will want to bake just before serving.

No need to wait until Thanksgiving to serve this stuffing; try serving with individual Gardein stuffed turkey with gravy, and green beans on the side.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 179 

Tasting Notes:
Definitely my new favorite stuffing.  Beautifully spiced, and I loved the sweet apples in contrast to the savory elements of the dish.  The broth bound it all together perfectly, so the stuffing was tender in the middle, but crisp on top. The sourdough bread added a pleasant tang in place of more standard French bread.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Butternut Squash and Parsnip Baked Pasta

This homey baked pasta is a grown-up version of mac 'n' cheese, and a great way to sneak more winter vegetables into your diet.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup chopped parsnip
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plain non-dairy milk
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, crushed red pepper, and garlic; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the butternut squash and parsnip; saute for 10 minutes.  Add the sage, parsley, nutmeg, allspice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; remove from heat and set aside.

(Note: if you prefer to cut out some prep work, you can use 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage and 1 teaspoon dried parsley in place of the fresh).

2. Meanwhile, cook the penne according to package directions.  Drain over a bowl, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Combine the squash mixture, pasta, and 1/4 cup of the cheese in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

(Note: try the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods for this recipe, or any other white vegan cheese that mimics Parmesan).

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Add the milk; cook for 5 minutes, still stirring constantly with a whisk.  Gradually add the reserved cooking liquid and cook for a final 2 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 

4. Pour the milk mixture over the pasta mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes - the top should be lightly browned.

Want even more winter veggies with your meal?  Two great sides to pair with this pasta include rutabaga roasted in just a little maple syrup, and wilted kale with a spritz of lemon juice.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 437 

Tasting Notes:
The strong taste of red pepper dominated this dish, to the detriment of absolutely everything else.  It drowned out the sage, the nutmeg, the allspice - all the yummy fall flavors I was anticipating, in sum.  Next time, I would quite simply leave it out, because other than that, the dish was pure comfort food.  A creamy, decadent sauce over the pasta, and wonderfully tender squash and parsnip.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, adult mac 'n' cheese.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Pecan and Date Pie

If you need dessert ideas for Thanksgiving, try this version of pecan pie; dates add fun variety, and are sure to make this pie a crowd-pleaser.

For the crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegan powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (such as Earth Balance)
  • Cooking spray
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup corn syrup (such as Wholesome Sweeteners)
  • 1/2 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Ener-G eggs
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  In one bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the flour with the ice water and lemon juice.  Stir with a whisk until smooth.  This mixture of a solid suspended in liquid is known as a slurry and is the key to a nice tender crust.

2. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup flour in a bowl with the powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is like coarse meal.  Add the slurry and toss with a fork until moist.  Press the mixture into a 4-inch circle on 2 sheets of overlapping plastic wrap (they should extend at least 13 inches end to end).

3. Cover the dough with 2 additional sheet of overlapping plastic wrap, and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle through the plastic.  Freeze for 10 minutes.

4. Remove the top sheets of plastic, and let the dough stand for 1 minute (you want it to become pliable again).  Flip the dough over so the remaining plastic wrap is on top, and fit into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Remove the remaining plastic wrap and press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate, folding the edges under.

4. To prepare the filling, sprinkle the dates and pecans evenly over the bottom of the crust.  (Note: dates are quite sticky and can make for hazardous chopping.  To make the process easy, coat your knife with cooking spray).

5. In a large bowl, combine the corn syrup, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and Ener-G eggs.  Beat with a hand mixer until well blended.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared crust.

6. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes to 1 hour - a knife tip inserted about 1 inch from the edge of the pan should come out clean.  Cool the pie completely on a wire rack.  Don't forget that the filling will continue to set as it cools, so it's okay if it's a little bubbly still on emerging from the oven.

Add a dollop of Soyatoo whipped cream on top for a sweet finish.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 wedge), Calories 321 

Tasting Notes:
A wonderfully sticky, moist interior - the dates add incredible flavor and texture compared to a standard pecan pie.  I would, however, use more pecans next time - probably closer to 1/2 or 2/3 of a cup - to balance the flavor.  I worried about the texture of the crust while I was rolling it out, but need not have fretted - the final product was wonderfully flaky.  My only complaint is that - between 1 cup corn syrup and 1/2 cup brown sugar - this pie was a little too sweet, even for my taste.  I would decrease the brown sugar next time. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Sherried Mushroom Soup

This soup has concentrated flavor, hence the small portion size; a little goes a long way.  It makes a perfect first course, or component of a larger fall-themed dinner.

For the broth:
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pound coarsely chopped shallots
  • 10 and 1/2 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
For the remaining ingredients:
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 3/4 cup dry sherry*
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1. To make the broth, melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the thyme and shallots; cook for 10 minutes, until the shallots are golden brown.  Yes, it's a lot of shallots, but you're never going to actually eat them; as you will see, they get strained out in the next step, after infusing the broth with their scent and flavor.

2. Add the chicken broth and the porcini mushrooms; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered. Strain the mixture through a sieve over a bowl, and discard the solids.

Note: prepare the mushroom broth up to 4 days ahead at this point, and refrigerate.  Because you can make so much of this recipe ahead of time, it's ideally suited to a busy day (Thanksgiving perhaps?) in the kitchen.

3. Return the broth to the pan, and stir in the shiitake mushrooms and sherry.  Cook for 10 minutes over low heat.  Stir in the chives, and serve immediately.

I paired the soup with sweet potatoes, green beans tossed with pine nuts, and Tofurky slices. It would probably also taste great alongside any of the holiday vegan roasts on the shelves this time of year. 

*I couldn't make this dish without my favorite vegan sherry - well, actually, the only vegan sherry I know of.  It's the unfiltered Fino en Rama from Alvear, available at Astor Wines.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (about 1/2 cup), Calories 52 

Tasting Notes:
This is an elegant little bowl of soup, perfect for company.  The wonderfully rich notes of porcini mushroom and sherry made this broth the closest thing to a French onion soup I've had since going veg - feel free to play around and use it for that purpose instead.  Although I know the soup was meant to be mostly broth with a few bits of shiitake floating around, I did wish there was more going on, hence my slightly lower overall rating of the soup. Next time I would stir in slivers of other vegetables, or perhaps cubed tofu.