Thanksgiving is Almost Here, Bring a Big Salad!

20 11 2011

The Pepitas and Pomegranates Make it Pop!

The big day is almost here. If you have already been testing and planning, you’ve been sampling some festive fare. If you put the whole thing off for the last minute, well, you still have time. We’ve shared (virtually) some Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Sauce, Wild Rice, Apple and Walnut Stuffing, and maple-Dijon Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

Today, it’s time to talk Turkey.

Homemade Mock Turkey Roast with Stuffing

For those of you who miss the turkey on holidays, or just want a home-style vegan meal anytime, this is a good way to mock up a bird. It’s really not much trouble, now that we can use gluten flour to make mock turkey with no kneading required—and lots of tasty, chewy goodness. Serve it with Basic Mushroom Gravy and all the traditional trimmings.

It’s great fun to share your vegan food with family and friends, so go for it. The salad will certainly win some converts. Enjoy!

Mock Turkey

2          tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g minced onion

2          cloves garlic, minced

2          cups/255 g gluten flour

1          cup/115 g chickpea flour

½         cup nutritional yeast

1          tsp salt

6          oz/170 g reduced-fat or regular firm tofu, drained and pressed

1          cup/240 ml vegetable stock

¼         cup/60 ml tamari

½         tsp ground sage

Stuffing

1          cup/55 g cubed bread

1          tsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g chopped onion

¼         cup/60 ml vegetable stock

½         tsp ground sage

½         tsp dried thyme

½         tsp salt

2          tbsp walnuts, chopped

The Mock Turkey in a Wide Loaf Shape

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F/180° C/gas 4. Oil a 3- to 4-cup/720 to 960-ml metal bowl or a small loaf pan. Put a teapot of water on to simmer for the bain marie later.

2. To make the mock turkey: In a small sauté/frying pan, heat the oil, then sauté the onion and garlic until soft and sweet, 5 to 10 minutes. Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until very smooth. Add the stock, tamari, and sageto the tofu and blend. Add the onions and all the oil from the pan and puree. Stir the contents of the blender into the flour mixture until smooth. Scoop about two thirds of the dough into the oiled bowl.

3. To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl. Heat the oil in a small sauté/frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until soft and clear. Add the bread, stock, sage, thyme, and salt and stir until the bread is soft. Stir in the nuts.

4. Press the stuffing into a ball (or if you are using a loaf pan, into an oblong) and press it into the center of the mock turkey dough, then cover it with the remaining dough. Flatten the top, brush it with oil, and cover with foil. Put the bowl in a baking dish and pour in boiling water to make a bain marie. Carefully transfer it to the oven and bake for 2 hours. When the “turkey” is quite firm, take it out of the water bath, then put the bowl on a rack to cool. Run a paring knife around the edge to loosen it, then invert it onto a cutting board or platter. Slice the “turkey” and serve it with gravy and trimmings.

Big Salad with Caramelized Pumpkinseeds, Pears and Pomegranate

From The New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)

Serves 6
This is a great wintertime salad, with the pomegranates that only appear around the holidays and pears and pumpkinseeds. Vegans can just leave out the cheese and enjoy the crunchy spiced seeds instead. To take seeds out of the pomegranate, cut through the skin from stem to tip, dividing the fruit in quarters. Hold it over a bowl and pull apart the sections, then tear apart the pieces, gently freeing the seeds.

Score the skin in quarters, then break open

1 cup pumpkinseeds, raw
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 large bosc pears, sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, optional
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseed oil
1 small pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed

the pith around the arils floats in water....

1. Make the pumpkinseed topping up to a week ahead. Heat the oil for a minute in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the pumpkinseeds and toss in the pan over high heat, until the seeds are popping and browning, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the brown sugar and toss constantly until seeds are coated with melted sugar (careful-it will burn easily). Quickly mix in the spices and salt, then spread on a plate to cool. Cool completely and store in an air tight container until ready to use.
2. Make dressing in processor by mincing garlic and mint. Add pomegranate concentrate, lemon, honey and salt and pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in oil with machine running.
3. Wash and dry romaine, then slice across the leaf in 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange on plates or in bowl. Top with shallots, pears and cheese. Drizzle over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.





Thanksgiving is Coming, Veggie Stuffing to The Rescue

14 11 2011

Wild Rice, Apple and Walnut Stuffing

If you are sharing the holidays with loved ones, chances are that you will be smiling across a table with a big roast turkey in the middle of it. That is part of living in the world we live in, for most of us. It’s really best to focus on the warm feeling of spending time with family and friends, and leave the discussions about food politics to another time.

Not to wimp out, but I’ve never seen much good come from explaining veganism to people with a mouthful of turkey. It’s just impolite.

No, save the explanations of your diet style for those who ask, preferably for another day.

Today, if you have some vegan love to spread, it’s going to have to be through delicious food. The best way to sway hearts and minds at Thanksgiving is to make such mouth-watering meatless sides that people start to see what a great life you are living. There you are, with your tasty wild rice stuffing and roasted brussels sprouts, and you look so healthy and happy. Those roasted sweet potato fries are terrific, and gee, it never occurred to me that they could be good in something with no bacon, cream or butter.

In the catering business, we sometimes refer to “heavy apps.” These are not for your I-phone, but refer to appetizers that are substantial enough to carry people through a party where no other food is served. Vegans can use this concept to add weight to sides, appetizers, or salads that they can share with everyone. Then, if you arrive at a bacon festival, in a pinch you can construct a good meal from them. Making a side or app heavier is just about adding some protein and heft, with things like nuts, beans, seeds, avocadoes, olives, and even whole grains instead of white, to make things satisfying. You can build a salad platter or a dip try to bring along that has lots of plant based proteins, just by adding extras. Just about any veggie or salad is yummy with a sprinkling of nuts.

Then, to rock the buffet table, make my stuffing and brussels sprouts recipes. They are delicious, and they will be devoured, I promise.

The Roasty Golden Bits Are The Best

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

From Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat No Dairy All Delicious (Chronicle Books)

If you don’t like boiled Brussels sprouts, you must try this version. All the sweetness and tenderness is concentrated and amplified by maple and Dijon. This is a great holiday side dish.

Serves 6

1          lb/455 g fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2          small shallots, quartered

1          tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1          tbsp maple syrup

1          tsp Dijon mustard

Salt

Black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F/200° C/gas 6. In a heavy roasting pan/tray or baking pan, toss together the Brussels sprouts, shallots, oil, syrup, and mustard.

2. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir, and roast until the sprouts are tender, about 15-20 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Pouring in Stock

Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffing with Apples

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving when I was growing up was always the sage-laced stuffing. This hearty rendition has chewy wild rice and whole wheat bread, and apples and nuts for even more sensations as you chew. Don’t wait for the holidays to make this dish; it’s a great way to use up stale bread and can be made with bulgur, buckwheat, or any of the rices.

Makes 6 cups, about 6 servings
1 cup water

1/4 cup wild rice
4 cups cubed whole wheat bread (about 5 slices)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance or oil
1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and cook the wild rice in it. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and let them dry out for an hour or so, if you have time.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F In a large Dutch oven or pasta pot, heat the butter or oil and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat until all are tender. Add the apples, stock, pepper, herbs, and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cooked wild rice. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the bread cubes.
3. Scrape the stuffing into a 2-quart casserole or baking dish and top with the chopped walnuts, pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. You can cover and refrigerate the stuffing for up to 4 days at this point. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/widgets/hm_widget_as4.swf(Meatless Mondays Recipes, in case you need more!)





Start Planning Your Sides for Thanksgiving…

7 11 2011

A big Old Gnarly Jewel Yam

The Thanksgiving meal is always a biggie, especially for Vegans and vegetarians. We want to share our love with our families and friends, but not to eat any turkey. You may opt for a turkey free day, or you may be bringing a dish to a shared meal with omnivores. Either way, its all about giving thanks.

This week, I’m getting psyched for making my yams. Sweet potatoes, yams, all the same thing these days, just in case you were wondering. The original yam is a giant, not very sweet tuber that grows in Africa and the tropics, but the sweet potatoes that we grow here have taken on the name. I went to my grocery store and found three common examples, a garnet yam, the darkest red one, a jewel yam, the orange one, and a white sweet potato, the pale one. The garnet is sweetest, the jewel mid-range, and the white one, well, not too sweet at all.

The great thing about the colors is that they do signal the presence of high antioxidants. Of course, sweet potatoes are healthy foods, high in carotenoids and fiber. They are so rich and delicious that they really don’t need much fussing to make them really satisfying.

For a change, I thought I would make roasted yam fries. So, I lopped off a slice from my jewel yam to make it stable to slice, and placed it on the flat cut side. From there, I sliced it and then sliced the slices into French fry shaped strips. Then I preheated the oven to 425 F. I put the yams on sheet pans, being careful not to crowd them, and tossed with olive oil. I wanted all the pieces to have contact with the pan. I roasted them for 20 minutes on the bottom rack, then flipped the slices with a metal spatula. I roasted for 20 more. A sprinkling of coarse salt made them complete.

Slice Carefully into "Fries"

All Those Sugars Brown Up Beautifully

For variety, you can also cut them in spears, just cut the pieces fatter, and then roast them longer.

I ate mine with a dose of Sriracha sauce, but you can go more Thanksgiving-y by tossing them with chopped fresh herbs, like sage and thyme. Get crazy by making a mayo (or vegan mayo) mixed with herbs, smoky chipotle, or garlic for an aioli. Use coconut oil and curry powder for a little Indian flair. Sprinkle with chili powder and lime, and serve with salsa for a Mexican theme. Go for a bit of protein with a Thai or African style peanut dipping sauce.

Break out from your sweet potato casserole rut and give yam-fries a try.

Yam Fries with Thai Peanut Sauce

This may not seem like traditional TG fare, but you will find people devouring it anyway. Our tastebuds fatigue with all that sage and cranberry sauce, we need something spicy to keep us interested. Thai Kitchen curry pastes are fish-free, so look for them to avoid non-vegetarian ingredients. This sauce keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and is great for dipping, stir fries, or even slathering on sandwiches.

1 large sweet potato, cut fry-style

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or other oil

sprinkle of kosher salt

SAUCE

1 teaspoon canola oil

3  shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste (to taste)

1 cup coconut milk (reduced fat is fine)

1/2 cup peanut butter, pure and natural

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 pinch salt

For the fries, toss with olive oil on two sheet pans, then roast at 425F for 20, flip and turn the pans, and then roast for 20 more. Go for some good browning on the bottom. Serve hot with sauce.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and saute the shallots until browned. It’s not alot of oil but the sauce will be really oily if you add more. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the curry paste and work it all together, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk, then work in the peanut butter. Simmer for a minute, then stir in the soy sauce, sweetener and lime. Simmer over low heat until thick, the oil will start to separate when it is done.





The Vegan Cheese You Make at Home

9 10 2011

a Simple Pot of Cashew Cheese

Cheese.

When people hear that I wrote a vegan book, or want to talk about vegan, one topic always comes up. Cheese is often the hardest food for people to imagine giving up. Or maybe it’s ice cream, or yogurt. I hear that alot- people who can’t imagine life without yogurt.

Well, if you are one of those people, I understand. Cheese is delicious, and dangit, it’s really easy to use. A slice of cheese or a schmear of cream cheese makes a simple sandwich or bagel into a meal, and cheese makes pizza and pasta into the most popular food in the world.

So, whether you want to kick it or just cut back, you can make it much easier to do. Of course, you can buy processed cheese substitutes. Plenty of people swear by them, and they are convenient. In a previous post I made nachos with the very popular shredded Daiya cheese, and it was certainly a big improvement on the ones I remember from 10 years ago. Still, if you were eating cheese for protein or calcium, these substitutes may not have them.

The truth is, if you are a DIY kind of whole foods person, you want to keep it home made. That’s why I decided to start keeping a pot of nut cheese in my fridge at all times. I realized that a big part of the way we all eat is to just open that refrigerator door and start looking for some food. If you have dairy based habits, like bagels and cream cheese, cheese sandwiches, or cheesy pizzas, having the nut cheese is step one to making a really great stand in.

Nuts, by the way, are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Good fats, protein, all the good stuff, so you are boosting your nutrition with this move.

I did some experimenting to come up with a good recipe, and there are two in my new book, Big Vegan. But, if you haven’t got the book, you can certainly just improvise something. I’ll talk you through it.

Almonds Are A Fast Way to Cheese

First, just soak some cashews, almonds, or macadamias, or a combo of all three. Use skinless, raw nuts. You can try other nuts, like brazils, or even pistachios, but they will not be white and cheeselike. Just soak the nuts, drain them, reserving the water, and put them in a processor or blender. Blend, puree, and process, scraping down, adding just enough water to make a creamy smooth paste. Once it’s totally creamy, add some salt, lemon, or whatever you want to make it more savory. The nuts are basically sweet and rich, so to make it more cheesy you need an acid, salt, and some fermented flavors, like nutritional yeast or white miso. Or you can keep it simple and season it for each dish.

Creamy Cashew Cheese

Once you have this tasty, nutritious spread, you are on your way to saying “nuts” to cheese. Go ahead, dollop it on a prebaked pizza crust, smeared with pesto or tomato sauce. Build a panini, or toss it in the pan with hot pasta and veggies, adding a little olive oil and non-dairy milk as needed. Or just dip veggies in it, spread it on bagels, or sprinkle it over nachos.

Once you have it made, you have it made.





A Great Vegetarian Dish from the New Southern Latino Table

19 09 2011

A Beautiful New Book

It’s a great big world out there, and as people move around in it, they bring their cultures and cooking with them. Cuisines evolve, living and breathing along with us. New traditions are born. When a talented chef grows up moving between cultures, absorbing and reinterpreting cuisine as she goes, you can bet there will be some tasty results. When that chef is Sandra Gutierrez, the tasty results are the creative recipes, gorgeous photographs, and enticing prose in her new book the New Southern Latino Table (UNC Press).

Sandra Gutierrez has taken a path that started in the US, went to her parents’ homeland of Guatemala, looped up to Canada, and ended up in North Carolina. Along the way, she learned to cook her native dishes at the side of her Aunt, traveled a lot, and learned more about Latin cooking, even as she absorbed the multicultural foods all around her. She also noticed that the South was home to a whole collection of Latinos, from all the countries south of the border, and they were creating a new kind of cuisine in their adopted homeland. From this realization came the New Southern Latino Table. This cuisine is bigger than Sandra’s home cooking, encompassing the evolving food styles of all her Latino brethren. It’s a beautiful book, and Sandra clearly embraces both the food of her origins and of her current home, and composes from their palette thoughtfully and affectionately.

When you take a forkful of any given dish from this book, you might be tasting Guatemala, Mexico, and Mississippi Delta in one bite. Or Peru via New Orleans, or Brazil with a soupcon of Creole. It’s exciting stuff, delicious at face value, but fun to analyze a little bit, to see which influences she’s whisked together this time. That’s why I wanted to share her recipe for Causa Vegetariana, and the thinking that went into its creation.

I asked Sandra to tell me more about the origins of the causa, a Peruvian dish.

“Potatoes are native to Peru and they have dozens and dozens of varieties and colors of potatoes there. You find causas all over Peru and it’s one of their most famous dishes, along with ceviche. There is a Southern element in my causa because I took the elements of a classic Southern potato salad and de-constructed it; then I built it in the shape of a causa.

All causas have these things  in common: first the potato part is always enhanced with lime and chile ( traditionally with the Peruvian aji Amarillo). Second is that they are always stuffed with a mayonnaise based salad which can be made with anything you want: other veggies only, seafood, or meats. But the one I made with egg salad is new and I pulled from southern elements in traditional potato salad. Causas therefore can be vegetarian but many times are not.” Said Gutierrez.

See what I mean, about the thought process that went into building this dish? It’s not the kind of thing most cooks can pull off with such skill and familiarity. That comes from years of crossing and mingling cultures and cuisines, and a rare ability to work both analytically and intuitively. The book is full of recipes like Chile Cheese Biscuits with Avocado Butter, Coconut, Chayote and Corn Bake, and Chile Chocolate Brownies, all of which make mouth-watering use of New Southern combinations.

Since this vegetarian version is a brand new creation, I asked Sandra how vegetarians would fare south of the border, in places like Peru and Guatemala.

“There are many vegetarian dishes in Peruvian cuisine but mostly, each Latin cuisine features a huge array of plant-based dishes. Vegetable Escabeches( pickles), rice and bean based dishes such as Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto, fruit smoothies (sometimes called aguas or batidos), and a wide selection of salads are traditional to Latin American cuisine in general.”

Maybe I need to make a trip to North Carolina, to get a taste of this Nuevo cuisine. Pimento cheese and collards never sounded so appealing!

The Causa, Ready to Slice!

Causa Vegetariana

(Layered Potato and Egg Salad) by Sandra Gutierrez

This is Sandra’s version of the causa. Like a potato-based egg salad sandwich, this causa will definitely wake people up at your next potluck, with its zingy lime-chile potatoes and a generous topping of olives. Vegans can use crumbled tofu instead of eggs for the filling, and with vegan mayonnaise, you can enjoy this creative new party dish!

Serves 12

For the Potato Layers:

4 pounds yellow potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed

½ cup minced white onion

1/3 cup key lime juice (can use standard Persian lime juice)

1 teaspoon aji Amarillo paste (can use hot sauce)

2 teaspoons salt (to taste)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Egg Layer:

9 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped

½ cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives

2 tablespoons minced capers

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch salt

For the Garnish:

1 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

¼ cup finely chopped chives

Spray or oil a 9x13x2 inch casserole. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and onion and stir. In a medium bowl, combine the lime, aji or hot sauce, salt and pepper and whisk, then whisk in the olive oil. Pour over the mashed potato mixture and stir to mix well. Divide the mixture in half and press half in the pan, reserving the rest.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, chopped olives and capers, mustard, pepper and salt. Spread over the potato layer. Cover the eggs with the remaining potatoes and gently spread to an even layer. Garnish with sliced olives and chives, then cover and chill for at least an hour and up to 14 hours.

Have a Bite

If you like the sound of this recipe, check out the other blogs that are participating in the potluck One is not vegetarian, but you can probably mock it up)

Spiced Pepitas, prepared by Meghan Prichard of nestMeg
Chile-Chocolate Brownies, prepared by Dean McCord of VarmintBites.

If you missed out on our first dinner party, here’s what we ate:

Peach Salsa, prepared by Tara Mataraza Desmond of Crumbs on My Keyboard
Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, prepared by Jill Warren Lucas of Eating My Words
Pecan Rum Cake with Figs, prepared by Amy Lewis of The Practical Cook

 





In Defense of the Humble Spud

5 09 2011

Purple, Yellow, Baking and Red Potatoes

Potatoes have been a popular food for centuries, one of those elemental ingredients that can be cheap food for the masses one day, then whipped or turned into an haute gourmet masterpiece the next. These culinary chameleons originally flourished only in Peru, where hundred of varieties are still grown, each enjoying a different climate at a different elevation of the mountainous region.

And like so many good things, Columbus took the potato around the world, and once it made it past suspicions and skepticism, it became ubiquitous. Now the mass produced french fry and potato chip have risen to global dominion.

The potato had a place in every kichen. Then the anti-carb movement came along and insisted that the carbs in the poor tater were fattening us up. Just this year, a widely reported Harvard study found that the one factor that indicated a higher body weight was the number of servings of potatoes that a person ate. Some saw that as a sign that potatoes are driving the obesity crisis- but to my mind, it might well be that eating French fries, potato chips or rich mashed potato dishes is not just a pretty high-calorie, high fat way to eat potatoes, but also usually a sign that you are eating hamburgers, steak, or the other foods that typically go with them. If you actually delved into the info behind that study, though, the weight gain was highest in people eating fries and chips, not boiled potatoes, but the headlines didn’t get that far.

But the tide may be turning- a new study done at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania fed overweight, hypertensive volunteers purple potatoes. These brilliantly colored tubers are rich in colorful polyphenol antioxidants, which protect the body from free radical damage. All the volunteers microwaved the potatoes, and ate about 218 calories worth per day. All had reductions in their blood pressure, and none gained weight.

Peruvian Purple Potatoes

Of course, this was just a small study with 18 subjects, but it does make a point. According to the author of the study, Joe Vinson, the process of deep frying to make fries and chips seems to destroy most of the healthy substances, leaving mainly starch, fat and some minerals. That makes sense, since potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which is destroyed by high heat. They are also a good source of potassium, needed for heart health, and they have lots of fiber, especially if served skin on.

Simply Roasted Purple Potatoes

To celebrate this new finding, I roasted some beautiful purple potatoes. I just cut them in even inch wide chunks, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled on some coarse salt and cracked pepper, and tossed it all in a deep roasting pan. Into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then a shake and stir and 20 minutes more. To honor the Peruvian origins of these potatoes, I served mine with a lime-avocado salsa, but you can also adorn yours with fresh herbs and garlic.

Yum!

Potatoes are back baby, and purple is the way to go!





Grilling Pizzas at the Mill City, So You Can Too!

31 07 2011

"Don't Make Your Pizza Too Thick!"

I had the opportunity to do a cooking demonstration at the fabulous Mill City Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago, and of course, I wanted to grill pizza. Why? Well, for anyone still a little afraid of pizza on the grill, I want to show  how easy it is to make a really good meal from local and seasonal stuff on the grill. I was being selfish, too, I wanted to make something that did not require turning on the stove once in the whole process.

I was lucky to have some locally grown and ground flours from Sunrise Flour Mill:  http://www.sunriseflourmill.com/

I know there are people who think pizzas should be made with white flour dough, and I hope this crust will change some opinions. It’s got a fuller flavor and texture from the overnight slow rise, and I love the nutty taste of the fresh whole wheat flour.

When I arrived, toting my dough, it was raining and the wind was whipping through the market, but we had a feeling that it would clear up. After a few cloudbursts, the sun shone through. Heather Hartman, a fellow whole food teacher and chef runs the cooking stage, and she was going to follow me with a grilled smashed potato demo, so we got to stroll the market and pick out the freshest ingredients.

We picked out everything for the pizzas from the wonderful vendors there, from the huge bunches of basil I used for pesto, to amazing Shepherds Way Cheese for the topping. I grilled the veggies ahead of time in my grill wok, and we were ready for the show.

My Overnight Pizza Dough

PHOTOS BY JAY WALTER

Overnight Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes four or five pizzas

2 cups unbleached bread flour

3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar

3 cups water, room temperature

 

1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix for one minute, to form a coarse, sticky gob of dough. Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute.Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and immediately place in the refrigerator. The dough can be used anywhere from 6 hours to three days after it goes in the fridge.

2. When ready to make the pizzas, pull the dough from the refrigerator three hours prior to when you plan to bake. Divide the dough into four or five pieces. With either oil or flour on your hands, form each piece into a tight dough ball and place on a lightly oiled pan. Mist the dough balls with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan inside a large plastic bag. Give the dough at least 90 minutes before making the pizzas. If you don’t plan to use them all, place the extra dough balls inside of an oiled freezer bag and keep in the refrigerator (for up to three days) or in the freezer (for up to three months).

Stretching By Hand is Best

Each dough ball makes a 10-12 inch pizza, depending on thickness.

Grilled Pizzas: Pesto of the Day, Grilled Veggies, and  Local Cheese

Canola oil for the grill, cornmeal

4 cups of fresh herb- arugala, basil, cilantro

4 cloves garlic

½ cup nuts-pine nuts, toasted pumpkinseeds, pistachios, walnuts

½ cup aged cheese, shredded

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt, to taste

16 cups of veggies to grill: Zucchini, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, mushrooms, etc

Olive oil

1 pound of good cheese, chevre, fresh mozz, etc

Handfuls of fresh spinach or basil

1. Make the pesto, put the herbs, garlic , nuts and cheese in a food processor and process to chop finely. Add the olive oil gradually to make a smooth paste. Add salt and process. Scrape out into a bowl or cup. Cut up the veggies for grilling: if using a wok, cut in bite sized chunks, if not, slice in longer strips that will not fall in the grill. Put in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic, salt to taste.

2. Prepare the grill, preheating it on high. Get a cup and put a couple of tablespoons of canola oil in it, and get a paper towel and tongs for oiling the grate. Put your grill wok on and let it get hot, or brush the grate with oil. Put the veggies on and toss or turn to grill them until soft and ready to eat. Take off the grill and transfer to a bowl.

3. Roll or pat out each dough ball to desired thickness, place on a cutting board or pizza peel coated with cornmeal. Turn the grill to medium. Transfer to the hot oiled grill and quickly close the grill for just a couple of minutes-peek under the dough to see if it is browning. Open it and when the dough is stiff enough, turn the dough with the tongs, then quickly top with pesto, veggies, and cheese. Cover the grill until melted. Use tongs to slide back onto the cutting board and slice to serve immediately.

Just Slide It On The Grill

Spread That Pesto On Quickly

Ready to Slice

Everybody Got a Sample!

Marinated Grilled Veggies





The Upside of a Sad Meal, A Recipe

16 04 2011

A Balm for The Soul

It was a spectacularly bad day.

A close friend died unexpectedly, leaving me alternating between feeling fine and being hit with the realization that I would never see him again. Lightning bolts of grief kept punching a hole in the thin veil of normalcy that came from going through the motions. Life would seem like the day before as I worked along, and then, boom. Never again.

Casting about for some appropriate thing to do at a time like this, we opted to have dinner at a restaurant where we once shared a happy time with him. He was Italian and loved Italian food. He would have urged me to have wine, but honestly, I didn’t feel up to it yet.

Feeling somewhat lost, I looked at the menu boards and just couldn’t think. Just had pizza, too much pizza, something else. I latched onto a pasta al aglio. With a side of salad, it would be comforting, simple. It might just make me feel better.

I should have had the wine.

My pasta came, and I dug in. White spaghetti, drenched in bland oil, barely garlicky to my morose palate. I wanted fruity extra virgin, sweet roasted garlic, or even bitingly fresh crushed garlic to slap me in the mouth.  Sassy, like his humor. Maybe my taste buds were too sad to care, but I just couldn’t taste the things I was hoping for. A few limp basil leaves, some chips of nondescript cheese, and a deep slick of pale oil. Just looking at it I knew it was the canola cut with cheap olive oil that the restaurant supply place used to swear that nobody would detect. Slices of un-toasted white baguette flanked the bowl, offering me a carb-oblivion.

Of course, I ate it all. Every lame bite. My stomach ached for hours after, just from stuffing it so full.Of course, I was eating for comfort, overeating to make myself feel better. And the pang in my belly just reminded me of my folly.

If he had been there, we would have been chatting and laughing, I would hardly have cared about the pasta. I might have gotten something else. Mostly, he would have been there.

Instead of that greasy bowl of noodles.

So there it was, hard reality like a rock in my stomach. I really should have had the wine, then I could have lamented trying to drink my troubles away the next day instead.

I’ll never have the dinner I wanted, because he is gone.

But I did have some time to think about why I as so mad at that damn bowl of pasta. As much as I go out to eat to be inspired, and to taste things I want to make at home, sometimes I have something that makes me want to go home and make the dish I thought I was going to get. Maybe my critique of the pasta was a sign, a sign that I might still be me.

I’m still waiting for something good to emerge from this loss. In my life, I have found that in hindsight, something almost always does. Love is lost, new love comes, a door closes another opens. Of course, it takes time, and hindsight. Right now its just senseless and stupid.

So to make it just a little better, I’ll make the pasta I wish I had had that night. I might have been just as unhappy with it, I might have felt just as sick after stuffing it in. But at least this one has some garlic.

He would have wanted it that way.

Pasta al Aglio for John

John was not vegetarian, but he ate and enjoyed veg food at my house. This is plenty cheesey, vegans can sub 2 tablespoons of toasted and chopped hazelnuts tossed with a few tablespoons of toasted breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt for the cheese.

Serves 4 as a side, 3 for a main course

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 bulb garlic, peeled but whole
1 large carrot, julienned
1 cup snap peas
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more if needed
8 ounces angelhair pasta, whole wheat
3 ounces tangy, aged local cheese or asiago, finely shredded
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
1/2 teaspoon salt
coarsely cracked black pepper

Put on a pot of water for the pasta, salt it liberally, and preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the whole peeled garlic cloves in a small metal bowl or a piece of oil and drizzle with one tbs of olive oil. Cover or wrap and bake for 15-20 minutes, shaking occasionally and testing by piercing the cloves with a paring knife. When they are butter-soft and tender they are done, cool. In a large saute pan, heat 2 Tbs of the remaining olive oil and add the carrots, saute for a minute, then add the peas, pepper flakes and lemon zest and heat. Cook the pasta one minute less than the package says and drain, saving half a cup of pasta water.

In a bowl, mash the garlic with the salt and lemon juice, then add to the saute pan. Toss the hot pasta with the garlic, the saute in the pan, and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, cooking over medium high heat until the sauce has coated the pasta, then add half of the cheese and the basil. Crack pepper and sprinkle with salt, to taste. Serve topped with the remaining shredded cheese.

Garlic





Win Free Peanut Butter For A Year, or $200!

8 04 2011

 

Mmmmm, creamy pb bliss

Vegetarians and peanut butter are a great and timeless love story. We met as little kids, played together, hung out at lunch, and gradually it blossomed into a lifelong relationship. Sure, along the way we might have briefly dated almond butter or flirted with hummus, but when we really needed someone in our corner, it was good old peanut butter.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Peanut butter is marriage material, really. Easy to own, low maintenance, and of course, affordable, peanut butter has a permanent place in 70% of American homes. What other high-protein food is so easy to keep on the shelf, and so easy to eat?

Peanut butter is always perfect for a sandwich, and you probably made your first pbj as soon as you could be trusted with a butter knife. But peanut butter is way more versatile than that. It’s long been a solid staple in places like Africa, where peanut, or “groundnut” stew is a lifesaver for hungry people. Peanuts abound in delicious Asian cuisines, like the spicy peanut sauces of Thai cooking, or Creamy tangy Chinese noodles. Mexican moles often toss in some peanuts, as well, blending the sweet, rich butter with spices for a deliciously complex sauce.

Well, if your mouth waters thinking of peanut butter sauce slathered spring rolls or peanutty mole over rice, you are in luck. The Southern Peanut Growers are running a recipe contest, and the top ten recipes will get you free peanut butter for a year.

Yes, that’s right, you come up with a savory main course, one with fewer than 10 ingredients that takes less than an hour to make, and enter it in the contest. For every recipe entered, they give a jar of peanut butter to someone less fortunate. The people at pblovers.com will select the top ten recipes, and the top three recipes will be prepared, photographed, then rated on facebook, so other peanut lovers will do the voting. If your recipe is in the top 10, you score 12 jars of peanut butter heaven, delivered to your doorstep. If you win, you get a $200 gift card.

Peanut butter is so much more than just sandwiches or cookies. Strut your stuff in the kitchen and help some hungry people get some healthy food, and maybe you will be a winner!

Here are the links to the contest:

http://peanutbutterlovers.com/pbjmyway.htm

http://www.pitchengine.com/southernpeanutgrowers/southern-peanut-growers-extends-pb-my-way-challenge-deadline-to-april-30/136545/

A Link to a previous blog on peanut butter with a Thai Peanut Sauce Recipe and lots of health info:

http://robincooksveg.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/peanut-butter-the-vegetarians-pal/

A recipe for a simple Indonesian Peanut Sauce:

Gado-Gado Sauce





Chain Restaurants Mainstream The Veg Option

3 04 2011

Home of the Balsamic Tomato Bruschetta

Veggie Diners have always had challenges in getting a good meal in a restaurant, especially a mainstream chain restaurant. Things got markedly better when salad bars became popular, if you can remember back that far. My meatless life used to mean choosing between fries or a shake, back in the late 70′s in a small town. Even now, a social event at a chain restaurant may mean politely noshing on a few onion rings or a side salad just to enjoy the company.

But according to Restaurant News, casual dining chains are making the bold move of offering a vegetarian option. Places like the Hard Rock Cafe, Stonefire Grill and California Pizza Kitchen are now putting a few meatless dishes on their menus, in response to customer requests.

We can thank the Meatless Mondays campaign, which has given flexitarian dining a hook.

Many of the chain restaurants cite the Meatless Mondays campaign, and are now offering more meat free dishes for customers who want to have that flexitarian choice. Customers have also made their voices heard by requesting gluten free and lower fat options as well.

It’s high time. Those of us who live in metropolitan areas may forget how hard it is to eat healthfully in the chains and small town restaurants that the other half of America has to choose from. These changes didn’t come about to serve 1% of the population that call themselves vegetarian. These menu items are for the crossover crowd.

It marks a shift in thinking, which has been a hard one to achieve. The idea of going out and not eating meat is really hard to get people to accept. Even people who might not eat it every single meal at home see a trip to a restaurant as a splurge. Triple-stacked burgers with all kinds of bacon, cheese and mayo are way more than most people would make at home, and that is their appeal.

So what are the new menu items, designed to tempt the flexitarians on Mondays? Don’t expect anything less mainstream than the rest of the menu, with veggie burgers, grilled veggies, veggie pizzas and lasagnas and simple tomato bruschetta. Pasta is always easy to make veg friendly. Vegan, well, there is another story. You might be able to get some of these with no cheese, no mayo and see what happens.

Still, it’s a good step in the right direction. Maybe if these things keep selling, we will see some more creative, more vegan-friendly choices in casual dining. And don’t forget, these changes come about because customers ask for them. Ask for whole grains, and meatless options, and who knows, the menu may change for the better.

A Link to the Restaurant News Article:

http://www.nrn.com/article/vegetarian-dishes-crop-menus?utm_source=streamsend&utm_medium=email&utm_content=13619321&utm_campaign=Food%20News%20Wednesday%2C%20March%2023








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