Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

Happiness and Peace to All Beings in 2010!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Celebration Dinner Agnolotti

This year, I made some angolotti for our celebration dinner. For variety, I did two kinds: a mixed mushroom version and winter squash version. The advantage of angolotti over ravioli in my mind is that 1) They are easier to make, and 2) They can hold more filling w/o the risk of falling apart.

For the dough,  Vegan Dad's recipe is my newly found go-to fresh pasta recipe. (thanks, Vegan  Dad!).

When the dough comes together, remove from blender, knead  into a ball, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 1/2 hour. The dough should not be at all sticky at this point.

After the dough has rested, cut the dough in half (less dough is easier to roll out) and, preferably using a pastry board, roll the dough out to about 1/16 of an inch thick. Use semolina flour to coat the pastry board and prevent sticking. When the dough is rolled out to desired thickness, use biscuit cutters to cut out rounds...mine were about 4 inches in diameter.

Now, all that is left is to fill them. Place the filling in the center of the dough and fold the dough to make a half moon. Use a mixture of flour and water as the 'glue', brushing it around the edges before folding the dough. Once the dough is folded, press the dough together firmly with your fingers.

When I had all the agnolotti filled and folded, I arranged them on a tray and froze them. This made them easier to work with the next day.  Alternately, you could cook them right after making them, or let them air dry a little.

To cook them, I just dumped the frozen agnolotti into gently boiling salted water. When they rise to the top they should be done, ~ 5- 6 minutes.

Squash Filling (enough for 24-36 agnolotti, depending on size)

I didn't write down the exact measurements, but here's my approximation of what I put into the squash filling:

2 cups roasted squash mash (I used a combo of Butternut and Delicata)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon melted Earth Balance ( or more for richer flavor)
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts (lightly toasted before grinding)
1 cup fresh sprouted grain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped  marjoram (or to taste)

Blend all ingredients together well and use for filling.

Mushroom Filling (enough for 24 - 36 agnolotti)
Again, this is an approximation:
1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped fine ( I used crimini, shitake, and king oyster)
1 cup fresh sprouted grain bread crumbs
1/2 cup ground walnuts ( lightly toasted before grinding)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium - large shallot, very finely diced
1/2 tablespoon walnut oil
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
good handful of fresh chopped parsely
white wine
salt and pepper to taste
fresh tarragon (optional)

Saute the garlic and shallot in the walnut and olive oil until tender, toss in the chopped mushrooms and saute for 1 more minute, deglaze with about 1/4  cup white wine. Toss in a good handful of chopped parsley, and some chopped fresh tarragon (optional, omit if you're not fond of tarragon). Combine the mushroom/garlic mixture with the bread crumbs/chopped nut mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

We ate the angolotti with mom's homemade red sauce...any sauce that suits your fancy would be good.

Bon Appétit!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stephen's Day

Happy St. Stephen's Day Everyone!
St. Stephen's Day is a traditional christian holiday celebrated in many countries on the 26th of December. My husband is Irish ( from Ireland) and seeing as how we lived there for several years, St. Stephen's Day became one of my favorite holidays.

In Ireland, Stephen's Day is a national holiday, which is also sometimes called Wren's Day, because of a tradition called "Hunting the Wren" (wren often pronounced as 'ran').

I've a horrible inkling that actual wrens were involved in the past. But gladly, it doesn't involve any poor little wrens today. What it does involve is good fun! The old tradition was to dress up in costume and go from house to house singing at the door, with the hopes of getting a handout...preferably in coin.

Nowadays, the tradition involves going from pub to pub. Groups of friends dress up, often as a theme, and go around  playing music and singing songs while passing around a hat for tips. Many people donate the money to charities...others use it for drink...but either way it makes for a good solid fun-filled day after Christmas. One of my favorite group costumes one year was a bunch of guys going around dressed up as Diana Ross and The Supremes.

When we lived in Ireland, a typical Stephen's day for us would comprise a long walk in the woods outside the town--regardless of how bad the weather was. Then, we'd head into town and hit the pubs to enjoy the fun and have a pint, which goes down a treat after a couple hours out walking in the cold winter weather.
Carey's Castle, Co. Tipperary, Ireland (in Summer)

Although it's not nearly as fun here in the USA, today we're still celbrating with a nice glass of 2° Below, which is delicious and vegan friendly.

Here's wishing all the best of the season!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hot & Sour Mushroom Soup with Bok Choy and Sweet Corn

This was dinner the other night. Of course the sweetcorn sank to the bottom for the picture, but I promise it was all there and pretty tasty too.

I used homemade veggie broth, which at my house, usually turns out kind of dark. The broth was lightly salted before adding it to the recipe, so depending on how much salt you like and/or how saltly the veggie broth you use is, you may want to adjust the amount of soy sauce you add.

Hot & Sour Mushroom Soup

6 cups veggie broth
1 stalk lemon grass
1/2 tablespoon of hot red chili flakes (or to taste)
1/2 inch fresh ginger (or to taste)
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large bunch of enoki mushrooms
 1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 large carrot, sliced in 1/4 inch peices (or as desired)
3 small (baby) bok choy, leaves separated
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or adjusted to saltiness of veggie broth)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or more to taste if you like it really sour)
1 teaspoon agave
1 teaspoon sesame oil ( I used toasted)
cilantro for finishing

Remove the tough outer leaves of the lemon grass and slice the stalk into very thin little rounds, and shred the ginger medium to fine with a grater. In a large pot, add the veggie broth, sliced lemon grass, shredded ginger, and the chili flakes, bring it to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Add the carrot, shitake, sweet corn, soy sauce, agave, and sesame oil, and allow to simmer for another 15-20 minutes. About 5 minutes before serving, add the lime juice and vinegar and toss in the bok choy.

To serve, put some enoki and cilantro in each bowl and ladle the hot soup over it. Garnish with more enoki and cilantro.

The enoki make a tender and delicious addition; to me, they taste kind of like soy bean sprouts.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tofu Happy Friday

Happy! Friday!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Eggplant Roulades with Mushroom, Spinach and Rutabaga Risotto over Lentils

This was dinner on Sunday night, and you can't see it this photo, but the eggplant rolls are sitting on a bed of Puy lentils...the rice sort of covered them up.

Puy lentils are my favorite kind of lentil, they may take slightly longer to cook than green lentils, but they hold their shape and cook up so nicely into stew, and they are very tasty and satisfying.

For the lentils, I didn't write down exactly what I did at the time...but suffice it to say that I sauteed some celery, onion, garlic with a bay leaf and some oregano in some olive oil. Then, I tossed in some tomato paste, and let it brown a bit. When all this had cooked up into a nice base, I added the lentils, several cups of water & veggie stock, parsley, salt and pepper and let it simmer until cooked...a splash of red wine near the end adds a nice dimension. Here's a similar rendition I posted a while back.

You can see the lentils in this shot:

For the rice, I made it risotto-style, rather than a pure risotto. I didn't have any arborio rice, so I used paella rice instead. (I called it risotto in the title because it just sounds so fancy and yummy.) I'm convinced most short grain rice would work. Ideally, I would have used short grain brown rice, but was out of that as well. Again, no real recipe, but that's ok, this is really more of a guide or idea.

I wanted a really savory, earthy flavor from the rice, so I began by sauteing 1 medium rutabaga that was chopped into 1/2-inch chunks, then added 1 finely chopped onion, and 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic. When the rutabaga, onion, and garlic were all getting tender, I tossed in about 2 cups of medium-chopped crimini mushrooms and let it all saute for another minute. Then, I tossed in a generous cup of dry paella rice, stirred it through the mixture, and added 1 cup of dry white wine and 1 cup of water and let it come to a simmer.

As the rice cooked down, I added warm mushroom stock in 1/2 cup increments. I didn't stir it constantly, but rather added liquid, stirred, let it cook down, then added more liquid, stirred, and let it cook down, etc., until the rice was al dente...paella rice works nicely this way at any rate. Towards the end, I added 2 generous handfuls of julienned raw spinach. The whole rice process took about 30 minutes.

While the rice and lentils cooked, I oven-roasted some thinly sliced eggplant. To put it together, I rolled some rice into each eggplant slice, set them on a bed of lentils and more rice and sprinkled with more fresh spinach.

All in all, it was a hearty dinner with a satisfying panorama of autumn flavors and toothy textures. To finish it off, a lovely balsamic reduction would have been lovely, but somehow, that part didn't happen in this instance. It was delicious nonetheless.

And on a completely different note, meet Francine. Here she is playing in a tomato plant that is still lingering on my sun porch. To me, she looks like she's saying in her best New York accent:  "Hey, what's the big idea?":

Francine is the cat we're fostering from our local animal shelter. She's recovering from an upper respiratory infection and staying with us until she's infection-free. She's pretty you can see her playfulness and energy are in good form.

Francine is energetic, fun, mischievous, and such a snuggle-bunny. After playing in the tomato tree, she then proceeded to nap in a pot. I wanted to get a shot of her napping, but of course she had to wake up when I came up to snap the photo:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cashew Crusted Butternut, Cannellini Bean, and Leek Stacks

These stacks were our vegan main dish for Thanksgiving dinner. They take a bit of prep, but once that's done, they're easy to put together and bake off in about 20 -25 minutes.

Open-ended baking molds work well for individual-size portions, or you can use spring-form pans to make larger stacks.

The bottom layer is a herbed cashew crust, followed by a layer of butternut squash...any sturdy winter squash should work...then a layer of cannellini beans and porcini mushrooms, topped with thick rounds of  leek.

Squash Layer

Note: I was a little disappointed with the squash layer; I found it a bit bland. Next time, I think I'd make a squash mash instead and incorporate more flavors into it, but this is how I did it this time, so I'll post it as such.

Slow roast the squash in a preheated 325 F oven:

Peel and slice a large butternut squash lengthwise into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme, drizzle with olive oil and allow to roast slowly until just tender--about 40 minutes in a 325 oven.

When the squash is tender, remove from oven and allow to cool. If you're using individual-sized molds, use them to cut out mold-size peices of squash after it has cooled. If you run out of full-sized peices for the cut outs, just slice and dice as needed.

While the squash is roasting, you'll have time to prep the rest of the ingredients.

Cashew Crust
(Makes enough to fill the bottom of two 8-inch spring-form pans)

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon Earth Balance
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups fresh, sprouted grain bread, made into coarse crumbs
( I blitzed about 3 slices of fresh Genesis Bread  in the food processor)
1 cup raw cashews, chopped medium
fresh chives ~ 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped (to taste)
fresh parsley ~ 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste.

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil and Earth balance until tender. In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients with the sauted garlic/onion mixture until well incorporated. It should look something like this:

Bean Layer

Note: I didn't measure the amounts when I put the bean layer together, so this is just an estimation of what I remember doing. I recommend using this as a guide and subbing any flavors or proportions  according to tastes.

3 cups cooked cannellini beans
1.5 cups porcini mushrooms, chopped medium (I used  reconstitued dried ones)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, finely chopped (~ 1/2 cup chopped)
splash of sherry vinegar,  ~ 1-2 tablespoons (depending on how much acid you like)
fresh thyme to taste
fresh oregano to taste
any other herb of preference  to taste
salt and pepper to taste

If you're using dried mushrooms, reconstitute them in some warm water or warm white wine. Saute the celery, shallot and garlic in the olive oil until tender, toss in the mushrooms and saute for another 2-3 minutes. (If you use reconstitued mushrooms, be sure that the mushrooms are well drained and aren't harboring too much liquid. ) Add the beans and the rest of the ingredients and saute for another minute or so, stirring well to mix in all flavors. Remove from heat and set aside. It would be a good idea to taste the bean mixture at this point  and adjust flavorings as necessary.

pictured above: reconstituted porcini mushrooms

Leek Layer
2 large, fat leeks, sliced into 1-inch rounds
olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 cup veggie broth
1/4 cup dry sherry

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pan, and heat to medium-high, lay leek flat in the pan and allow to sear off for about a minute. Keeping heat on med-high add 1/4 cup of the veggie broth, and allow to simmer vigorously for 10-15 minutes, until the leek is just tender, adding more broth as necessary. After 10-15 minutes, you want all the cooking liquid to be evaporated, so don't add too much broth. When leeks are just tender, but still holding shape, and all the broth is evaporated, deglaze the pan with the sherry. Remove from heat and set aside.


Line a baking tray (if using molds) or spring-form pans with parchment paper. Set the molds on the baking tray and spoon in the cashew crust patting it in gently to make a 1/2 - 3/4 inch crust. Stack the squash layer on top of the crust, followed by the beans, then the leeks.

When the molds/pans are filled, bake in a 375 F oven for 25-30 minutes. You want the crust to bake off and get nice and crunchy. After removing from the oven, allow to set for a few minutes before serving.

The molds were easy to handle; I was able to pick them off the parchment in one peice and put them on the plate before removing the molds.

Individual molds assembled, before baking:

Spring form pan assembled, before baking:

Out of the oven:

Roseann LaPonte
Rosanne Tobin

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanks for Dinner

Just a long post about our meal the other night (Thanksgiving). We went to my mom's place and while she did the starters and all the side dishes, I brought the dessert and the main course.

Here's what we had:


For an appetizer, mom made this fabulous crostini with roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers and capers, splashed with a bit of salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil...Pure Magic.

She served it with a tray of pickled peppers and olives. She made these pickled peppers from some of the miniature ones I grew in my garden this year:

These were served in the living room, and we tarried over them for quite some time, chatting and drinking wine.


I did the main course, which was a squash and bean stack with leeks and a cashew crumble crust. It was tasty, but I still have to tweak the flavors; I was a little disappointed in the squash layer being slightly bland. I'll do a separate post on how I put this together.

It did look nice though and went nicely with traditional sides, which brings me to the side dishes and overall effect:


The star of the side dishes was my mom's sweet and sour red cabbage...I could eat this stuff every day and never tire of it.

I decided to be merciful and not post individual pictures of all the sides, so here they all are: a golden beetroot and baby spinach salad with red onion, roast sweet potato (no sugary stuff), cranberry orange sauce, mashed potato, and a bread stuffing with walnuts and cranberries.

Here's the table laid out...what a spread!

Here's what it looked like moments before being devoured:

Afters are posted about here--we had vegan pie.

After all that, we looked through some old photo albums. Check out the glamor, here's my mom circa 1945:

And here are my mom and dad on their wedding day in 1945:

Taking a break from the glamor for a moment, here's a pic of my gooney brothers sometime back in the early 70's:

Finally, my maternal grandmother, circa 1912. She was a seamstress and sowed the clothes she's wearing in the photo, which has always "wowed" me.

We do have a lot to be thankful for, indeed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pie Post_ Pumpkin and Walnut Raisin Pies

Just wanted to post a Thanksgiving update, starting with desserts. I brought the pie to our celebration: vegan pumpkin pie, and vegan apple walnut pie. I decided to do 4-inch tarts rather full size pies, because small desserts are just cuter than big ones.

I made simple short crust pastry: 1:1 flour to shortening with a pinch of salt. I used 1.5 cups flour to 3/4 cup Earth Balance, with ~ .5 teaspoon salt...(I'm not sure exactly how much, as I just eye-balled it.) I think the key to good pastry is ensuring that the fat is very cold and remains so throughout the mixing process.

I found recipes online for vegan pumpkin pie with tofu, but that didn't appeal to me, so here's what I used instead:

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Filling
2 cups organic pumpkin puree
1 cup rice milk
1/3 cup turbinado sugar (this is nice, because it retains some of the molasses flavor)
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each: nutmeg, allspice, and ginger

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well incorporated and smooth. Fill the pastry with the filling and bake in a 425 degree (F) oven for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 and continue baking until the filling is set, approximately 30-40 minutes.

The filling came out smooth, pumpkiny, and nicely husband liked it and he usually doesn't eat anything with cinnamon in the flavors were subtle, but well balanced.

As good as the pumpkin pie was, I have to say, that the walnut raisin was my favorite. For this one, I used Bryanna Clark-Grogan's New and Improved Reliabe Vegan Pecan Pie recipe, but used walnuts and raisins instead of pecans. In the recipe, she gives a couple variations for the sweetener; I went with maple syrup option and it came out lovely and mapley. If anyone makes this pie, I definitely recommend going with the maple syrup option.

And one last note that I have to preface with saying: my mom was a stay-at-home mom, excellent cook, and everything we grew up eating was made from a spray can of whipping cream would have never come within miles of our house....

But all that aside, my mom (whose not vegan, but was totally cool about eating a 100% vegan Thanksgiving dinner) found a can of vegan rice whip at WholeFoods and bought it to go with the vegan pie. I normally wouldn't buy anything like this, nor would she, but given the circumstances, I had to commend her efforts.

We used this stuff on the pie, and it really wasn't bad, but I was a little scared to read the ingredient list. It's basically rice milk and rice syrup packed in nitrous oxide. It's made in Germany.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Meet Rhonda

"Let there be music, let there be light, but please don't make a turkey your holiday delight!"

(I live at the New York Shelter)

Thanksgiving in the US is nearly upon us, and as every year, I'm growing weary of hearing people talk about "Turkey Day," saying things like "Gobble, Gobble," and just generally going on about their unenlightened food customs. I realize omnis eat meat all year round, but rarely are they so vocal and annoying as this time of year.

Rhonda is the turkey I sponsored this year through Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-a-Turkey Project.

Here's to a Happy ThanksLiving!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Isfahani Green Bean and Tomato Braise

Well almost...I used broccoli and aubergine instead because I didn't have any green beans.

Dinner last night included this recipe from Silk Road Cooking, A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij--the newest addition to my cookbook collection. It's a gorgeous book focused on traditional cuisines found along the historic silk-trading route or "Silk Road," running from Genoa, Italy all the way to Shanghai, China dipping into a multitude of destinations in between. It has beautiful and captivating photos of people and places you might find along the way, as well as a cultural and historical narration.

I don't want to promote Amazon--I rarely buy books from them as I prefer to support my local, independently-owned bookseller (which is where I bought this book)--but if you click on the book title link above you can search inside the book and get an idea what I'm talking about.

I haven't had time to fully peruse this book, much less read it yet, but I still highly recommend it. It is vegetarian--not entirely vegan, but that scarcely matters as vegans are masters of creativity and adaptation, and can easily find a work-around for any non-vegan ingredients.

The recipe is in a section of the book entitled Fruit and Vegetable Braises, which includes other intriguing recipes such as Gilani Jujube, Walnut, and Pomegranate Braise and Persian Eggplant Braise with Unripe Grapes. As you can tell, the book is full of alluring recipes with striking ingredients to satisfy a sense of adventure in the kitchen

The braise was simple, but delicious... I did overcook the broccoli a bit (note to self for next time). According to the book, this dish is popular in Iran and the South of India

I served it with a tabouleh-style salad made with red quinoa (instead of bulghur), spinach, parsely, tomato and red onion; some manzanilla olives; humus; and spinach naan. It was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.

I'm really looking forward to delving further into this cookbook.

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