Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spiced and Sugared Cranberries

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I love making these cranberries during this time of year. The method for creating these transforms their overall texture into something delicate and soft while preserving their tart and tangy quality. A balanced palette of warm spices is infused into the cranberries to achieve a unique feel and aroma, which is perfect for enjoying during the holidays. Although these are simple and easy to make, they require several hours of soaking and drying to produce—but the end result is definitely worth the wait. Adapted from Cooking Light.

3 cups sugar
3 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, bruised
2 pieces of whole star anise
3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup superfine sugar, or regular sugar pulsed in a small food processor

Combine the sugar, water and spices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is totally dissolved. Allow the mixture to come to a full boil, then pour into a separate bowl and immediately add in the fresh cranberries. Cover and place into the refrigerator to soak for about 8 hours.

Drain the cranberries. Line a cookie sheet with paper towels and place the cranberries on them to soak up any excess liquid. Place the remaining cup of sugar in a large bowl and add in the cranberries. Toss gently until well coated. Reline the cookie sheet with fresh paper towels and place the cranberries back on them to dry for about two hours. They may remain drying on the cookie sheet for up to two days.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Lemongrass and Coconut Milk

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To make this soup, I selected and combined a few traditional holiday components which I then infused with some bold thai flavors. Lemongrass and pumpkin pair surprisingly well together here while the coconut milk balances out all of the flavors and gives the soup a soft and silky texture. I haven't had roasted pumpkin seeds since I was a kid, so making these brought back some of those memories I had of smelling and tasting their unique crispy and salty texture for the first time. I drizzled the seeds with a bit of melted Earth Balance and a splash of soy sauce before roasting them in a cast iron pan, but you can also dry roast them and then toss with some seasoning when they come out of the oven.

3 TB Earth Balance
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp galangal root, chopped
2 TB lemongrass hearts, chopped
1 TB sriracha or 1 tsp red curry
2 TB dark brown sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 TB vegan fish sauce
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB mirin
4 cups of roasted pumpkin (about a medium-sized pumpkin)
4-5 cups of homemade broth or Imagine brand No-Chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk

First, roast your pumpkin. Preheat your oven to 375. Using a large serrated knife, slice off the top of the pumpkin and then slice it in half. Remove the stringy insides and seeds. If you'd like to roast the seeds, rinse them off and place on some kitchen towels to dry.

Place each of the pumpkin halves, flesh side down, in a large glass pyrex dish. Add a bit of water to the bottom of the dish and place into the oven to bake for about an hour. The pumpkin is done when it pierces very easily with a fork. Once it is cooled, scoop out the insides and place to the side.

If you'd like to roast the pumpkin seeds to use as a garnish, reduce your oven heat to 300. Toss the seeds in a tablespoon of Earth Balance and a splash of soy sauce and place into the oven to roast until crispy, about 30 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.

To make the soup, melt the Earth Balance in a marge pot over medium heat. Add in the onions and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Add in the garlic, galangal root and lemongrass hearts and saute for about a minute. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in the sriracha or curry, brown sugar, vinegar, vegan fish and soy sauces. Saute and stir until thickened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add in the mirin and stir a bit more.

Reduce the heat back to medium. Add the pumpkin and stock to the pan. Stir until well combined and simmer until it comes to a small boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Blend well with an immersion blender or in a blender in small batches once cooled.

To serve, garnish with the roasted pumpkin seeds, caramelized shallots, chopped basil and/or red pepper flakes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fresh Sage Tea

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During the holidays, I use a ton of fresh and dry rubbed sage. I love the unique woodsy aroma it releases when dropped into a steaming batch of rich mushroom gravy and how it melts beautifully into a pan of rich and doughy stuffing. Sage is also wonderful to infuse into a rich tea, and has a multitude of medicinal benefits to boot. Cut the sage leaves chiffonade and place in very hot (not boiling) water to coax out all of the peppery and savory flavor from its velvety green-grey leaves.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Seitan Roulade with Sage and Sweet Onion Stuffing

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These easy, faux-meaty and versatile seitan roulades are made from combining vital wheat gluten with some simple stock to produce a dough which can flattened out, filled with any kind of sweet or savory components and then rolled up and baked. There are literally hundreds of ways to fill a seitan roulade, but my favorite is using a stuffing laced with plenty of rubbed sage, vegetable broth, Earth Balance and sweet onion for a warm and traditional holiday feel.

for the seitan:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 TB dried rubbed sage
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB olive oil

for the stuffing:
1/2 loaf of sliced stale white bread (leave it out the night before on a baking pan)
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted
3/4-1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3-4 TB dried rubbed sage
salt and pepper
olive oil

Mix the seitan ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add a bit more vegetable broth as needed until the dough is moist and pulls away from the sides of the bowl when mixed. Knead it a few times in your hands and place to the side.

Preheat your oven to 350. Cube the stale bread and place in a large pyrex glass dish. Drizzle the Earth Balance and broth over the top, ensuring that all pieces are well-coated. Toss a few times with your hands. Sprinkle in the onion and sage and toss with your hands again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes.

While your stuffing is baking, flatten out your seitan into a large square shape, getting it as thin as possible. Cut it in half with a knife or pizza cutter.

Remove your stuffing from the oven and give it a good stir. Place it back into the oven without the aluminum foil cover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place one of the flattened-out seitan pieces onto the skillet to achieve a good sear on only one side, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the other piece and place them to the side to cool. Remove your stuffing from the oven to cool.

To assemble the roulades, place one of the seitan pieces seared side down. Spoon a generous amount of the stuffing over the top, pressing it down gently with your fingers. Tightly roll it up and tie off with some baking twine. Brush it all over with a generous amount of olive oil. Place in your 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping the roulades over halfway through the cooking time. Rebrush with oil as needed to keep it moist throughout the cooking time.

Slice and serve the roulades immediately, smothered in a savory mushroom gravy

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tofu Scramble with Seared Shiitake and Caramelized Shallots

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Like every other vegan across the planet, I'm a sucker for a good tofu scramble. Scrambles are awesome because you can add any kind of spice or vegetable to it and the outcome is always delicious. For this scramble, I added some tahini, soy sauce and black salt to some gently sauteed and crumbled tofu before topping it off with caramelized shallots and seared shiitake caps. Served with a side of toast and vegan bacon, this is the perfect breakfast (or dinner) that is filling, cheap and simple.

2 small shallots, sliced
4 large shiitake caps
1/2 block tofu
1 TB tahini
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp black salt
1 tsp dried parsley or 1 TB fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil, for frying
salt and pepper

In a medium-sized skillet, heat a bit of oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and saute until well caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Only stir every 5 minutes or so. Once they are nicely caramelized, remove from the pan to cool.

Increase the heat in the skillet to medium high. Add in the shiitake caps and saute until both sides are nicely seared, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool.

Reduce the heat back to medium. Gently crumble the tofu into the pan and saute until some of the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Whisk together the tahini, soy sauce and black salt in a small bowl. Drop it into the tofu and stir until well-combined.

Chop the shiitake into small pieces and add back into the pan. Saute for another minute and transfer to serving plates. Sprinkle with the caramelized shallots and parsley and salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with toast and vegan bacon. Any leftovers reheat very well microwaved.