December 18, 2013

Recipe: Wild Mushroom Bourguignon (Vegan/Vegetarian Beef Bourguignon)

I'm super excited to share the first of ten recipes I'll be creating for Field Roast Grain Meat Co. as their "Urban Foodie" Recipe Developer (more about that here). This Wild Mushroom Bourguignon is my vegan version of the classic Boeuf Bourguignon recipe popularized by Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (and featured on the first episode of her iconic cooking show "The French Chef"). Traditionally, Bourguignon is a beef stew with carrots, pearl onions, and button mushrooms in a rich Burgundy wine sauce. Instead of beef, my vegan Bourguignon uses Field Roast's Wild Mushroom Quarter Loaf, a deeply-flavored seitan packed with earthy mushrooms and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

To keep with the "Urban Foodie" theme of incorporating food trends and fusion cuisine, this recipe is my French-Korean fusion interpretation of Julia's classic Bourguignon. Julia's Bourguignon uses tomato paste as a central component of the sauce, giving it body and ton of rich, caramelized vegetable flavor. My Korean-inspired Bourguignon replaces tomato paste with Gochujang (sometimes spelled Gojuchang), a fermented red pepper paste that makes an appearance in many traditional Korean recipes. Gochujang is becoming a fast favorite in foodie condiment culture, and it's easy to taste why. Gochujang gives the Bourguignon a smoky, savory backbone and a gentle, warming heat that amplify all of the other flavors going on in the stew.

Speaking of those other flavors: Bourguignon is all about building a spectacular sauce, so it is absolutely key that you use the tastiest wine and vegetable broth you can find. Any "off" flavors in those ingredients - bitterness, muddiness, whatever - will be really noticeable in the sauce, so choose a wine and a broth that you really love. I recommend using a Pinot Noir for Bourguignon - not only is it a regional Burgundy wine (Bourguignon's home region), there are also a TON of really great Pinot Noirs out there that don't cost a fortune. Mine was $10 and it was fantastic. For the vegetable broth, I recommend using Better than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base, which has really clean vegetable flavors. It is rather high in sodium, though, so I like using 1/2 teaspoon per cup of water.

I am really proud of this recipe - I think it's one of my best, as a matter of fact. It comes with Daniel's omnivore seal of approval, as well. In his words, "This is I'm-full-and-I-can't-stop-eating-it GOOD". If you've yet to decide what you're making for a holiday meal, I highly recommend this show-stopping Bourguignon. 

Wild Mushroom Bourguignon
Serves: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50-60 minutes

2 cups Pinot Noir wine, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (16 ounce) bag of frozen pearl onions
8 ounces Shitake mushrooms, stems removed, small caps halved and larger caps quartered
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, small caps halved and larger caps quartered
2 tablespoons Gochujang (Korean Fermented Red Pepper Paste)
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces carrots (about 3-4 medium), halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4"-thick pieces
4 cups vegetable broth (I used 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons bouillon paste)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 Field Roast Wild Mushroom Quarter Loaf, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4"-thick pieces
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Kosher Salt
Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Bring large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, then add the pearl onions and 1/8 teaspoon of salt, tossing to coat in the oil. Cook onions for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown in spots (they won't brown evenly, and that's fine). Deglaze pot with 1/4 cup wine, cooking briefly to reduce wine and coat onions in the wine glaze. Transfer onions and glaze to a large bowl and return pot to heat.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot, followed by the shitake mushrooms and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden brown and have released their moisture, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with 1/4 cup wine, cooking briefly to reduce wine and coat mushrooms in the wine glaze. Transfer mushrooms and glaze to the bowl with the onions and return pot to heat. Repeat this cooking process with the cremini mushrooms (add 1 tablespoon oil, cook mushrooms with  1/8 teaspoon salt, deglaze with 1/4 cup wine) and transfer the cremini mushrooms and glaze to the bowl of onions and shitakes.

Return pot to heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, followed by the gochujang, garlic, and thyme. Cook briefly until aromatic, then add the raw carrots along with the cooked onions and mushrooms. Stir to coat with the gojuchang mixture. Add the remaining wine and stir to deglaze the pot. Add the vegetable broth and cover pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, then stir in the sliced Field Roast. Cover pot and simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until carrots are tender and Field Roast is heated through.

Use a slotted spoon to remove all of the Field Roast, onions, mushrooms, and carrots from the pot, leaving the sauce in place (the same bowl you were using earlier for the vegetables is a good spot for them to hang out). Transfer 1/2 cup of the remaining sauce to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until dissolved. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the simmering sauce and stir until thickened, 1 or 2 minutes. Add back the Field Roast, onions, mushrooms, and carrots and stir to combine. Serve immediately with noodles, mashed potatoes, or crusty bread. 

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.

December 13, 2013

10 Vegan Holiday Recipes Sure to Please a Crowd

As the holidays approach, it's likely you'll be playing the part of Party Host or Party Guest at least once. If a holiday party is in your future, you might be looking for some great vegan holiday recipes that will please a roomful of party-goers, vegan or otherwise. And, hey! What's all this? Why, it's 10 Vegan Holiday Recipes, all perfect for a celebratory winter menu! Whether you need vegan recipe ideas for a potluck, formal dinner, hor d'oeurvres party, or Christmas brunch, this list has got you covered.

Bruschetta is always a hit at parties, but the traditional tomato and basil version is virtually impossible to make with the mealy, pale tomatoes that you'll find in the grocery stores this time of year. My sweet-and-sour Sicilian Caponata Bruschetta uses perfectly-ripe canned tomatoes, freeing you of any tomato-related holiday stress. Bonus: it is really freaking delicious.

These Roasted Peppers with Sicilian Tempeh Stuffing make a beautiful entree (full-size peppers) or appetizer (mini peppers) and are a fantastic first introduction to tempeh for unfamiliar family or friends. The stuffing calls for fennel pollen, but if you can't find it (or it's too pricey), replace the onion with a a fennel bulb and leave out the fennel pollen. That said.... splurge on the fennel pollen. It's awesome.

The Creamy White Bean Dip from my tomato tartines is the perfect recipe for those holy-balls-I'm-supposed-to-bring-something-to-this-party-and-I-totally-forgot moments. It has five ingredients and takes five minutes to make, but people will never know because it tastes fantastic. A definite party upgrade from standard hummus. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and serve with crostini, pita, flatbread, or pita chips. DONE.

If you need to blow someone's mind with how delicious vegan food is, make this Pistachio Soup from Yotam Ottolenghi's "Jerusalem". It is heaven in a bowl, and I am barely exaggerating when I say that. Vegan skeptics will be forever silenced with a single spoonful. Serve small bowls of the soup as an appetizer at a formal sit-down dinner or get all top-chef-y and serve little shot glasses of it as a fancy hor d'oeuvres.

My Curried Butternut-Coconut Bisque is another crowd-pleasing holiday soup. Make it the day before to let the coconut/curry/squash/cider flavors marry overnight, then re-heat right before serving. Garnish with roasted butternut squash seeds or croutons.

This Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs from "Jerusalem" is a wonderful side dish with a stuffing-like quality in that carb-y, savory, can't-stop-eating-it kind of way. It's a great choice for a potluck or sit-down dinner. It might be fun to replace the currants with cranberries to add a bit of holiday color. Garnish with a little extra parsley before serving.

Yeah, ok, this Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za'atar  is yet another recipe from "Jerusalem", but it is SO GOOD. The brilliant orange and violet colors of the dish make it a gorgeous addition to a potluck or sit-down dinner. So so pretty. Add the (addictively delicious) tahini-lemon sauce and pine nuts/za'atar right before serving.

My Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Smoked Salt is a simple make-ahead dessert with the illusion of fanciness thanks to a sprinkling of smoked salt. The mousse is very rich, so serve in small portions. I like serving the mousse in clear party cups/shot glasses in the 2-4 ounce range for potlucks or hor d'oeuvres parties.

These Grapefruit Ginger Scones are a lovely addition to a Christmas breakfast or brunch. Candied ginger and grapefruit are an unexpected combination that make these fluffy scones feel winter-y and cheerful. These scones are one of my favorite recipes to date - I'll definitely be making them when I'm home for the holidays.

My Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger have an old-school gingerbread vibe, making them another great option for a holiday breakfast or brunch. People don't stop at one of these muffins. Plan accordingly.

December 6, 2013

Recipe: Celery & Green Apple Soup

It happens every Thanksgiving. To make Thanksgiving stuffing, you start with a mirepoix. To make a mirepoix, you need a few stalks of celery. To obtain a few stalks of celery, you buy an entire head of celery. This chain of events leads to two things: 1) a delicious stuffing and 2) a mostly-intact head of leftover celery. If you're anything like me, that head of celery will sit, forlorn and forgotten, in your fridge until it goes limp. At which point you finally toss it into the compost bin with a feeling of shame. Seriously, you guys, I do this little dance EVERY YEAR. But not this year! This year, I promised myself I would not waste that celery. So, what to do with leftover celery from Thanksgiving? You make Celery and Green Apple Soup.

Celery and Green Apple Soup is one of those "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" recipes. A humble ingredient list of Thanksgiving remnants - that barely-touched head of celery, a stray onion, some sprigs of parsley, a couple apples - becomes a silky soup that somehow manages to taste refreshing and comforting at the same time. Its flavors are clean and bright, the celery-ness unapologetically front and center, with tart green apple and lemony parsley peeking through the background. As if that wasn't reason enough to make this soup, it also happens to pack a ton of healthfulness - vitamins! antioxidants! fiber! - into a measly 100 calories per cup. If you're feeling gluttonous after Thanksgiving's feast, turn to this soup. It's redemption in a bowl! Salvation in a cup! Unless you're eating it alongside a huge piece of baguette, in which case it's just delicious.

Celery & Green Apple Soup
serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large head of celery*, stalks chopped (3 1/2 cups total) and leaves reserved
2 medium tart green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves, lightly packed
4 cups "chicken"-style vegan broth** (I used 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons bouillon paste)
1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

*Give or take a few stalks
** Do be mindful of the sodium level in your broth, as celery has a fair amount of naturally-occurring sodium. Aim for around 450g sodium/cup or so.

Bring a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Once oil is hot, add the chopped celery stalks, apples, and onions and cook for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and celery is beginning to soften. Add the broth, parsley, and celery leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes, or until celery is completely soft.

Puree the soup in a blender, being sure to  remove the center piece of the lid and cover the opening with a towel when pureeing (this allows the steam to escape without covering your kitchen in soup). When pureeing hot soup, it's best to never fill the blender more than half full - I pureed the soup in two batches. Once the soup is extremely smooth, return to the pot and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until cornstarch dissolves, then whisk in the remaining tablespoon of oil. Stir milk mixture into the soup. Simmer, stirring, until soup thickens slightly (about 2 minutes). Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary, then remove soup from heat and serve. Soup will keep in fridge for 5 days.

November 20, 2013

Recipe: Vegan Larb (Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups)

On Monday I announced that I'd won the "Urban Foodie" spot in Field Roast's "Cooks in the Field" recipe contest. Field Roast will be publishing one of my original recipes on their website each month from December 2013 through September 2014, and I am so ridiculously excited about this opportunity. I'll be sharing these recipes on the blog as soon as Field Roast has published them… starting today! Field Roast is sharing all three winners' entry recipes on their website this week: Adam's Mexican Chipotle Mushroom Boomers, Sarah's Linguine alla Checca, and my own recipe (!!!) for Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups (aka "Larb").

For my entry recipe, I decided to highlight the underappreciated cuisine of Laos, Thailand's neighbor to the east. Laotian food is often mis-labeled as Thai due to the cultural cross-over between the two countries, and as such flies under the radar of most foodies. Larb - a minced-meat "salad" often served in lettuce cups or alongside sticky rice - is considered the national dish of Laos. It's a wonderfully flavorful mix of rich meat, tart lime, bright lemongrass and ginger, funky fish sauce, a dash of dried chili, and a healthy amount of fresh mint, cilantro, and scallions. Yum, right?

My vegan Larb uses Field Roast's Classic Meatloaf to create a juicy, savory ground meat alternative - a few pulses in the food processor, and you've got minced meat! The only other necessary twist was replacing the fish sauce with my favorite combo of soy sauce and red miso (a trick from my Vegan Pad Thai). It's a simple dish to make, with a ton of complex flavors and textures. The addition of toasted rice powder - dry-toasted grains of rice that are pulverized in a spice ginder - gives the salad a surprising crunch and nuttiness, so don't be shy in sprinkling it on. You'll be glad you did.

Vegan Larb (Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups)
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon red miso
1 pound Field Roast Classic Meatloaf, roughly chopped
1/4 cup uncooked Thai sticky rice (sweet glutinous rice)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (peanut)
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass or lemongrass paste
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger (I used a microplane)
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water, to deglaze the pan
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts divided
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/3 cup chopped mint, divided
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried

Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, and miso in a small bowl until miso dissolves. Set aside. In a food processor, pulse chopped meatloaf until it has texture of ground meat, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Place a large pan over medium heat and add the uncooked rice. Cook, stirring often, until grains are deeply golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool, then grind into a fine powder with a spice/coffee grinder. Set aside.

Return the large pan to medium-high heat and add oil, swirling to coat pan. Add lemongrass, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook briefly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground meatloaf to the pan and stir to combine with the oil and spices. Add white scallions and cook ground meatloaf for 2-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until hot and slightly browned. While cooking, deglaze the pan as needed by adding a bit of water and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the "brown bits" (you want that flavor inside your larb, not stuck to the pan). When done, remove pan from heat, stir in the sauce, and transfer ground meatloaf to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, stir in the green scallions, 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted rice powder, and 1/4 cup each of the cilantro and mint. To assemble lettuce wraps, place 1/4 cup of the ground meat mixture in each lettuce leaf, then garnish with remaining cilantro, mint, and toasted rice flour. Serve alongside sticky rice.

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.

November 18, 2013

Field Roast "Cooks in the Field" Recipe Contest: I won and stuff!

I am BEYOND excited to announce that I've been chosen by Field Roast Grain Meat Co. to develop ten vegan recipes using their wonderful selection of products! The "Cooks in the Field" Recipe Contest is an amazing opportunity for three different styles of cooks - Grill Master, Urban Foodie, and Healthy Homemaker - to share their recipes with the Field Roast community. I submitted my entry recipe a couple weeks ago, crossed my fingers, and waited for the winners to be announced. When I got the call last week that I had been named "Urban Foodie", I was all:

Seriously, you guys, I was pumped (Sidenote: I'm pretty sure Jennifer Lawrence is my spirit animal). The initial burst of excitement has mellowed to a more manageable level over the weekend. Now I'm mostly:

Which is good, because I have a LOT of cooking to do.

If you're not familiar, Field Roast is an American company located in Seattle that produces insanely delicious vegan "grain meats" (a.k.a. seitan). I have adored them for years, ever since I discovered their Smoked Apple Sage Sausages at the Ann Arbor Whole Foods. Field Roast merges modern European flavors with traditional Asian seitan craftsmanship, and the results are incredible. Which is why I am so honored to be chosen as their "Urban Foodie" recipe developer!

Here's the deal: I will be creating ten original recipes that feature one (or more) of Field Roast's delicious products. One recipe will be published each month on the Field Roast website from December 2013 through September 2014, but I'll also share them here shortly thereafter. As their "Urban Foodie", my goal is to create modern, full-flavored recipes that embrace current food trends in an accessible way. Field Roast will be sending me a box of products to cook with this coming week, and I cannot wait to get started! The first round of recipes will be posted on Field Roast's website and blog around December 15th, but you can read more about the winners and see our entry recipes this week!

I'd like to give a shout out to my fellow "Cooks in the Field" recipe developers, "Grill Master" Adam Rosen of Hold the Pigskin, and "Healthy Homemaker" Sarah Creighton of Veggie Kids. Congratulations, guys!

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such. 

November 8, 2013

Recipe: Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger

Growing up in Michigan, each Fall involved a family trip to our local apple orchard. We'd drive out to the country for an afternoon of apple gathering, freshly-pressed cider, and hot-from-the-fryer pumpkin and apple donuts. It was a tradition that I looked forward to immensely. Then I moved to Washington. Despite producing more than half of the apples in the United States, Washington has surprisingly few "u-pick" orchards. After two years of orchard-less autumns, I was jonesing hard for some apple-picking action. It seems fitting, then, that Jones Creek Farms came to the rescue.

Jones Creek Farms is an hour and a half drive north from Seattle, and worth every minute. What it lacks in fresh donuts, it makes up in its epic groves of nearly 100 varieties of apples and pears. I was familiar with Jones Creek Farms from their stands at the Broadway and University District Farmers' Markets in Seattle, so when I found out they offered "u-pick" in September and October, I called up my friend (and fellow Michigander) Alyssa and made plans to orchard it up. We went in late October, and while many of the trees had been picked clean, we were able to find plenty of late harvest apples and pears. Daniel and I picked over 15 pounds of apples and pears, including Calville Blanc D'Hiver apples, Aerlies apples, Winesap apples, Conference pears, and Bosc pears.

Alyssa with her husband, Brian, and baby, Leah; Me and Daniel

Looking back, it's pretty clear that I was tripping on my two-years-in-the-making orchard high, because 15 pounds of fruit is A LOT of fruit for a household of two. Daniel, level-headed as always, kept saying "Honey, I think we have enough….", but I was too excited to listen to his totally-accurate estimation of our bounty. The amount of fruit we'd picked didn't really sink in until we got home and I saw the mountains of fruit in context. The same fifteen pounds of fruit that appears diminutive on a 34-acre farm is actually MASSIVE in a small craftsman kitchen. Oops.

Me, before realizing I've picked far too many apples

Needless to say, I'll be cooking (and baking) a lot of apple and pear-centric recipes over the next few weeks. Today's recipe - Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger - used the first round of perfectly ripe Conference pears, though you could use any variety of pear you have on hand. The delicate flavor of pears can be a bit challenging to highlight in a recipe, as their quiet "pear-ness" is easily drowned out by other flavors. These muffins are nicely balanced, with floral black pepper, freshly-grated ginger, allspice, and nutmeg providing a warm, spice-cake-y background for jammy pockets of sweet pear.

Don't let the black pepper freak you out - its pleasant, gentle heat and heady aroma are absolutely at home in autumnal baked goods. I was inspired by old-school gingerbread recipes, which often called for black pepper in addition to the requisite ginger. One last note - I'm really happy with the texture of these 100% whole wheat muffins. They have a beautiful, moist crumb and are surprisingly light (the ultimate whole grain baking victory!).

Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger
makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups chopped pears, cored and peeled before chopping (2 or 3 pears, ripe but firm)
1 cup plain non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper (freshly ground is important)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, plus additional 1 tablespoon for sprinkling muffin tops
1/3 cup neutral oil (I used rice bran oil, but canola, grapeseed, or the like will work)
2 tablespoons finely grated/microplaned fresh ginger (a generous 2 inch piece)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a muffin pan and set aside.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the nondairy milk and vinegar and set aside to sour. 

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, soured milk, ginger, and vanilla until sugar has mostly dissolved, about 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir briefly until the batter just comes together.  Gently fold in the chopped pears, being careful not to over-mix. 

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, sprinkle the tops with remaining tablespoon of sugar, and bake for 20 minutes or until a knife placed in a muffin's center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake!  Let muffins rest for 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

November 4, 2013

Cooking the Books: Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za'atar from "Jerusalem"

Oh, Jerusalem. You beautiful, delicious cookbook. I am SO glad I bought you. This past week I cooked my third recipe from Jerusalem, and much like the first two (Pistachio Soup and Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs) it was fantastic. It's possible that I lucked out and chose three exceptional recipes, but based on the popularity of this cookbook, I think it's more likely that the entire book is just that awesome. The recipes and flavors are solid, even if some are a bit labor or time intensive. Thankfully, today's recipe was a breeze.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar is a simple roasted vegetable medley elevated to new heights with a few carefully chosen condiments. Once the squash and onions are roasting away in a hot-as-the-sun oven, you whisk together a quick sauce of tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water, and salt. It's so simple that your expectations of its effect may be low, but the creamy sauce is this dish's secret weapon, balancing out the sweet squash and onions with its lemony tang and slight sesame bitterness. A sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and za'atar (a spice mix of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt) finish off the dish with a nutty, earthy flourish. You can absolutely enjoy this as an entrée as-is, or pair it as a side to some simply-prepared legumes or grains (lentils, chickpeas, bulgur, and farro sound like good options).

My recipe notes:

1.  The tahini sauce was on the thick side for me, so I thinned it out with a little water and some extra lemon juice. Again, this is SO GOOD. Don't be skimpy when drizzling - I used a heavy hand and enjoyed every last bit. I would suggest drizzling right before serving, though - if you mix the sauce in with the vegetables beforehand the texture of the dish gets a little chalky.

2.  When I went shopping for the ingredients I had written down "1 large butternut squash" without noting the pounds called for (2 1/4 pounds). I ended up choosing a monster-sized squash that was over 4 pounds. Oops. No worries, as the rest can be used for another recipe (maybe this Curried Butternut-Coconut Bisque?), but I'd suggest weighing your squash in the store to avoid buying more than you need. One other squash-related note: The recipe asks you to leave the skin on the squash, which weirded me out since I always peel butternut squash. I left the skin on and, what do you know, it's good - similar to delicata squash skin (thin and not at all tough to chew). Lesson learned - butternut squash skin is edible!

3.  Unless you cook a lot of Palestinian food already, you'll likely need to purchase za'atar for this recipe. I couldn't find any at my local co-op, but I did find ground sumac, one of za'atar's star ingredients. I used this recipe from Gourmet to make a quick homemade za'atar with the sumac, some thyme (I used 2 teaspoons of dried), sesame seeds, and salt, and found it to be quite tasty. You can make your own or purchase za'atar at a local Middle Eastern market or spice shop.

4.  The recipe calls for a small amount of pine nuts (less than 1/4 cup), and while I had some In my freezer already, I can understand not wanting to splurge on an expensive ingredient when it's not the focus of the dish. I think you could use a less expensive nut like walnuts or almonds instead, or you could be super thrifty and toast up the seeds of the butternut squash! My squash provided over 1/4 cup of seeds that toasted up into crunchy, roasty bits of goodness that would fit in wonderfully atop this dish. I used the same technique as directed for the pine nuts, pan-toasting the seeds in a teaspoon of oil with a dash of salt until golden brown and fragrant (about 10 minutes on my stovetop). You can see how similar the outcome is below.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za'atar
slightly adapted from Jerusalem
makes 4 entree or 6 side servings

1 butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds), seeds removed and cut into 3/4 inch by 2 1/2 inch wedges
2 red onions, halved and cut into 1 inch-wide wedges
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon za'atar
Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. In a large bowl, add the squash, onions, 3 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a generous amount of black pepper and toss to coat vegetables. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet or two, being careful not to crowd the vegetables (you want them to roast, not steam). Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing halfway through, until vegetables are caramelized and tender. The onions might cook faster than the squash, so keep an eye on them and remove early if necessary. When squash and onions are done, remove from oven and let cool.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the tahini sauce and roast the pine nuts. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, water, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and/or additional water if the sauce seems too thick - you're looking for sauce that's easily drizzle-able (totally a word). Set aside. Bring a skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant, about 2-5 minutes. Transfer nuts and oil to a plate to cool.

When ready to serve, top warm or room temperature vegetables with a generous drizzling of the tahini sauce and sprinkle with the pine nuts and za'atar. 

October 25, 2013

Cooking the Books: Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs from "Jerusalem"

I recently introduced "Cooking the Books", a new monthly series where I'll share three recipes from a cookbook on my shelf. This month I'm cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem, a book that won my heart with last week's astounding Pistachio Soup. Today's recipe, Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs, is featured in Jerusalem's "Grains" chapter. A fragrant pilaf of rice, legumes, and fried onions, the dish feels like the Sephardic equivalent of the Arabic Mujaddara. The flavors are subtle, but complex: cumin and curry-scented chickpeas, sweet currants, caramel-y onions, and a hint of grassy herbs. It's a dish whose textures are as important as its flavors - the toothsome rice, creamy chickpeas, crisp onions, and chewy currants play off one another, making each bite interesting. The dish is a filling, "comfort food" entree, but would also work beautifully as a side dish in smaller portions.

Here are my recipe notes:

1.  The recipe has four separately-cooked components - wild rice, basmati rice, spiced chickpeas, and fried onions - meaning you can go through a lot of pots and pans while making it. I used the same pot for making both kinds of rice and the same pan for making both the chickpeas and the onions to reduce the kitchen clean-up a bit, which worked well.

2.  The recipe calls for white basmati rice, but I chose to use brown basmati rice (it's what I had on hand, and Daniel actually prefers brown rice over white). Either will work, though the extra cooking time for the brown rice does mean a little more time in the kitchen. As expected, brown basmati rice adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture, which both Daniel and I enjoyed in this dish.

3.  The fried onions are supposed to be deep fried in 3/4 cup of oil, which I blatantly ignored. I really hate wasting so much oil for such a small amount of food (throwing all that oil away just kills me). Instead, I used 1 tablespoon of oil and pan-fried them until they developed a deeply golden sear on all sides. Plenty rich-tasting, better for you, cheaper, and easier to clean up. I also used cornstarch instead of wheat flour when dredging the onions, just to keep the dish 100% gluten-free.

Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs
slightly adapted from Jerusalem
serves 6-8

1/3 cup wild rice
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup white or brown basmati rice
2/3 cup dried currants
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas (canned are fine)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped dill
salt and black pepper

Put the wild rice in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 30-40 minutes, until grains beginning to split open and taste fully cooked but firm. Drain and set aside in large bowl.

Return same saucepan to medium heat and add one tablespoon of oil, followed by the basmati rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook the rice for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and toasted. Add water (1 1/2 cups for white rice; a scant 2 cups for brown rice), cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until rice has absorbed all the water (15 minutes for white rice; 30-40 minutes for brown rice). Remove from heat, add currants, and fluff with a fork. Cover with lid and allow rice and currants to steam for 5-10 minutes.

While rice is cooking, make the chickpeas and onions. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and curry powder and cook briefly (30-60 seconds) until sizzling and fragrant. Add the chickpeas and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir to coat in oil and spices, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until heated through. Transfer chickpeas to the bowl of wild rice (be sure to get all that spiced oil out, too… there's good flavor in there!).

In a medium bowl, toss the sliced onions with the cornstarch until evenly coated. Return the large skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. When oil is shimmering, add the onions and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 7-10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until onions are well-seared and tender. You want them to be deeply golden and somewhat crisp but not burned, so keep an eye on things and adjust heat as necessary. Once done, season with a pinch of salt and transfer the onions to the bowl of wild rice and chickpeas.

Add the chopped herbs, basmati rice, and currants to the bowl of wild rice, chickpeas, and onions and toss to combine all ingredients. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Dish is best served warm or at room temperature, and can be kept in the fridge for about 5 days.

October 21, 2013

Recipe: Chinese Beef-less Broccoli Stir-fry

 Last week I was craving Chinese take-out like nobody's business. I was not, however, craving the stomach ache I am often plagued with after consuming its glorious, greasy goodness. I've made a couple "homemade take-out" dishes before (namely Vegan Pad Thai and Kung Pao Tofu) and been really happy with them, so I decided to give another classic take-out dish a go - Beef with Broccoli.

Beef with Broccoli is a stir-fry dish common in Chinese restaurants in the States. It's simple and flavorful - seared strips of beef and tender-crisp broccoli florets are stir-fried in a glossy dark sauce and served over rice. To make a vegan version, I replaced the beef with slices of portobello mushroom caps, which have a juicy, "meaty" chew when seared in a nice hot pan. The sauce is a crazy-simple concoction of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar (standing in for harder-to-find Chinese Black Vinegar) thickened with a traditional cornstarch slurry. A bit of garlic and ginger bring the dish together with their pungent, spicy kick.

The dish takes all of 15 minutes, giving you just enough time to cook up a small pot of white rice or quinoa to serve alongside it. Faster than ordering take-out, just as tasty, and WAY better for you. Weeknight dinner win, yes?

Chinese Beef-less Broccoli Stir-fry
Serves 2-3

2 large portobello mushroom caps
1/2 pound broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons high-heat cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (I use a microplane)

For the Sauce:
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare the mushrooms, pop off the stems and scoop out the gills with a spoon. Slice each mushroom cap in half, then slice each half into 1/2-inch wide strips (see photo above for reference). Set aside for the moment. To make the sauce, add cornstarch and water to a small bowl, stirring to dissolve cornstarch before adding soy sauce, vinegar, and pepper. Stir to combine, then set aside.

Bring a large pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Once hot, add the broccoli and water, cover immediately, and steam for 3 minutes (broccoli will be bright green but crisp). Transfer broccoli to a colander and return empty pan to heat.

Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. When oil is shimmering, add sliced mushrooms in an even layer (trying not to overlap) and cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms have nicely seared. Flip slices, then cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, tossing occassionally, until mushrooms are deeply golden on all sides and tender. Just before the mushrooms are done, add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (30-60 seconds). Return the broccoli to the pan, followed by the sauce. Sauce will thicken almost immediately, so quickly toss to coat the mushrooms and broccoli and promptly remove from heat. Serve with rice or quinoa.

October 18, 2013

Cooking the Books: Pistachio Soup from "Jerusalem"

Today I'd like to introduce a new series of posts called "Cooking the Books", where I'll share three recipes from a single cookbook over the course of each month. It's inspired in part by one of the first food blogs I started reading - Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. Much like Heidi, I found myself with a bookshelf full of cookbooks that I cooked from all too rarely. Browsed for inspiration? Sure. Actually cooked from? Embarrassingly little. So I've decided to start cooking, one book at a time, and share those meals with you.

My cookbook collection includes a broad range of culinary perspectives -  meaning a fair amount of my cookbooks aren't vegan. That said, I'll only be featuring recipes that are naturally vegan or those I've "veganized" with a simple change or two. You might be surprised at how many vegan recipes sneak their way into a "traditional" cookbook!

The first book on my list is the much-acclaimed Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The book is stunning, with beautiful photos and prose that introduce you to the complex culture, history, and people of Jerusalem via the region's ethnically diverse cuisine. It’s as much an anthropological study of the city as it is a cookbook, which only makes me love it more. Jerusalem features 120 recipes, many of which place vegetables, grains, and beans front and center. My first time through, I earmarked 42 recipes that caught my eye.

The first recipe I made ended up being served to a group of twenty-odd strangers at a dinner party! Just as I was beginning to plan this series, I discovered that The Pantry, a local cooking school/community kitchen, was hosting a series of cookbook club potluck dinners. What cookbook was featured in September? Why, Jerusalem, of course! I scoured the cookbook for a unique vegan (or veganizable) recipe to share with the group and landed on page 138 - Pistachio Soup.

The recipe's introduction describes the soup as a traditional Iranian Jewish dish that "reveals its true glory" with the simple addition of fresh orange juice. It's a dish easily made vegan by replacing chicken stock with a light vegetarian stock, so I pulled out my favorite vegan bouillon and got to work. Here are my thoughts:

1.  This recipe is GOLD. It is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious and interesting things I've ever eaten. Pureed pistachios give the soup a decadent, creamy texture that's accented by succulent little ribbons of leek and bits of soft shallot. The pure pistachio flavor - delicate, vaguely floral, nutty - becomes other-worldly when joined by smoky cumin, spicy ginger, and a bright citrus punch from orange and lemon juice. The resulting soup is comforting but exotic - a stand out dish, perfect for a special occasion. 

2.  This recipe is not inexpensive - but that's easily fixed. The original recipe calls for saffron and a half pound of pistachios, which can add up quickly if you don't already have them in your pantry. For the potluck, I made the recipe to spec and included the saffron. While I do think it pumps up the color of the soup, I felt the saffron flavor was lost in the magical combination of pistachio-cumin-ginger-citrus. When I made the soup again, I left out the saffron entirely to no ill effects. Let's save that insanely expensive spice for recipes where it really shines.

3.  The recipe as written is a bit time intensive - but there's a shortcut! The original calls for blanching shelled raw pistachios, removing the papery skins, and then roasting them in the oven. I did all this the first time around, and it's more than a little tedious. The next time I bought pre-shelled, roasted, unsalted pistachios, making life a million times easier. Trader Joe's sells an 8 ounce bag for $4.99, which measures out just a tad shy of the 1 2/3 cups called for (close enough). If you don't have a TJ's nearby, the widely-available Wonderful Pistachios brand sells bags of shelled, roasted pistachios that are salted, so you'll want to give those a thorough rinsing to remove some of the salt and keep a close eye on the sodium levels in your broth to avoid an over-salted soup.

4.  Pistachio soup is RICH. Really, really rich, in fact - making it better enjoyed in smaller servings. If you're serving it as a meal in and of itself, the recipe yields 4 "large" (1 cup) servings. As an appetizer or part of a light lunch, a "small" (2/3 cup) serving is plenty. My adapted recipe reduces the butter called for by half and I didn't notice a difference in richness - the pistachios do the heavy lifting.

Pistachio Soup
adapted from Jerusalem
makes 4 large (1 cup) servings or 6 small (2/3 cup) servings

1 tablespoon nondairy butter or olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 large leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and finely sliced (1 1/4 cups total)
1 ounce fresh ginger, grated on a microplane or peeled and minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cups "chicken"-style vegetable stock (I used 3 cups water plus 2 teaspoons bouillon paste)
1 2/3 cups shelled roasted & unsalted pistachios (about 8 ounces)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (1 very large or 2 small oranges should do)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat and melt butter. Add the shallots, leek, ginger, and cumin, along with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute for 5-10 minutes, keeping the heat low enough to soften the vegetables without turning them golden. Add the stock, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

When the soup is done simmering, grab your blender and a clean dishcloth. Add the pistachios and half of the soup (a scant 2 cups) to the blender. Remove the center piece of the blender's lid, cover hole with the dishcloth, and puree for a good minute or so, until the pistachio mixture is extremely smooth. Add the mixture back to the remaining soup, followed by the orange and lemon juice. Stir to combine and reheat. Adjust seasoning as necessary - I've found that some additional grinds of pepper are a nice finishing touch. You can serve the soup immediately, but it will keep nicely in the fridge for about 5 days. The soup tends to thicken up a bit with time, but adding a teaspoon or so of water when reheating will loosen things up.

September 25, 2013

Recipe: Peach Polenta Upside-Down Cake

As the weather in Seattle begins to cool and the summer fruit harvest comes to a close, I've been savoring the final weeks of peaches, plums, and nectarines at the Farmers' Markets. Stone fruits are some of my favorite ingredients to bake with, so when I found perfectly ripe peaches at last Saturday's market, I grabbed a bunch with one of my favorite sweet recipes in mind - Peach Polenta Upside-Down Cake.

Traditional Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was my Grandpa's birthday cake of choice - a vintage classic of moist yellow cake with a caramelized topping of pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. It's the 1950's in cake form. Despite his commitment to the original recipe, I think my Grandpa would be fond of this modern variation as well. Sliced peaches are briefly cooked in a skillet alongside a bit of sugar and coconut oil, releasing their juices to create a peach-infused caramel. The skillet of caramel-y peaches is topped with a lightly-sweet cornmeal cake batter fragrant with vanilla and (because I can't help myself) more coconut oil. The skillet goes straight into the oven to bake the cake, and after a brief cooling, you invert the cake out of the pan to reveal all of that peach prettiness.

It's a cake just sweet and rich enough for dessert, but not so indulgent to be counted out as a sweet addition to breakfast or brunch. I often enjoy a slice alongside a cup of coffee or tea. It's an "anytime" cake. And really, who can't get behind a treat like that?

Peach Polenta Upside-Down Cake
Inspired by Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Serves 8

This cake is cooked both on the stovetop and in the oven, so you'll need to use an oven-proof skillet. Cast iron is my preference, but any oven-safe skillet will do. I've made the cake in both a 10-inch and 12-inch skillet, and found the 10-inch to work best - the cake turns out a bit thinner than I prefer when baked in the 12-inch skillet (you can see this in the photos above). If you only have a 12-inch skillet, take note that the thinner cake will need a few minutes less in the oven.

For the Batter:
1 cup plain non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon cider or white wine vinegar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal or polenta
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Caramelized Peach Topping:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons natural cane sugar
3 medium peaches, peeled*, pit removed, and sliced into ¼-inch thick slices/wedges

*I peel the peaches with a paring knife, gently tugging the peel away from the flesh. I've had good success with this method (as seen here), but if it seems too tricky (or you just don't want to bother), you can leave the peaches unpeeled. I just happen to prefer the jammy quality of unpeeled peaches.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On your stovetop, bring a 10-inch oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, melt 2 tablespoons coconut oil, using a pastry brush to coat sides of skillet with oil. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons sugar evenly into the skillet. Without stirring the sugar, allow it to melt into the oil for a couple of minutes. Arrange the sliced peaches in the skillet,  forming a circle at the edge of the skillet and filling in the center until the surface of the skillet is covered (feel free to nosh on any leftover peach slices as the cake bakes). Cook the peaches for 8-10 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and the peaches are softened. Immediately remove the skillet from heat and rest on a heat-proof surface to cool slightly.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, add the milk and vinegar, stir, and set aside to sour for a few minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until evenly combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soured milk, coconut oil, applesauce, sugars, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients and stir until a smooth batter forms.

Gently add spoonfuls of cake batter on top of the peaches in the skillet. When I say gently, I mean gently - the peaches are precariously placed on a slippery layer of hot caramel, which makes them prone to moving about. I start with a spoonful in the center, then add spoonfuls of batter around the edge of the skillet, filling in any blank spots a spoonful at a time until an even layer of batter is covering all of the peaches. Once all the batter is in the skillet, carefully transfer skillet to oven and bake cake for 28-32 minutes, or until the center tests clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before inverting cake. 

To invert the cake, run a knife along the edge of the skillet, then place a large plate on top of the pan and quickly - but carefully - flip the skillet and the plate. Tap the bottom of the skillet to loosen the cake, then lift skillet away. If necessary, reposition peaches on top of the cake. It's best served slightly warm or at room temperature.