Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pepitas

DSC08735Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce adds a spicy and smoky kick to this velvety pumpkin soup. For timid palates, the chipotle pepper can be replaced with a mild chili powder.

Ingredients:
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 and ¾ cup roasted and mashed pumpkin* or 1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin
or 1 and ¾ cup roasted and mashed butternut squash
• 4 cups (1 quart) vegan no-chicken broth or vegetable broth
• 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or 2 if you want to break a sweat; for timid palates omit the chipotle pepper and add 2 tsp mild chili powder)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• sea salt or kosher salt to taste
• ¼ cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
• cilantro for garnish (optional)

*For fresh roasted pumpkin, cut a sugar pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings and place the halves face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and then scoop out the flesh. Freeze any remainder for other recipes. Butternut squash can also be used in this recipe as an alternate to pumpkin. Simply follow the same roasting technique.

Technique:
In a dry skillet, toast the pepitas over medium heat. Stir the seeds frequently to evenly toast and prevent scorching. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to the skillet and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to a blender.

Add the pumpkin, 2 cups of stock or broth, the chipotle pepper and the cumin and coriander; process until completely smooth. Transfer to a large cooking pot and add the remaining stock/broth. Bring to simmer, partially cover and cook for 30 minutes; season with salt to taste. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with the toasted pepitas and optional cilantro.

Serve with warm flour tortillas if desired. To warm the tortillas, roll them up securely in foil and place in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Charred Brussels Sprout Slaw with Shallots and Toasted Pine Nuts

DSC08706-003This dish is very easy to make and may just win over dinner guests who never cared much for Brussels sprouts before. Any cold leftovers make a unique and delicious Spring roll filling.

Ingredients:
• fresh Brussels sprouts, about 1 lb.
• ¼ cup pine nuts
• 2 T non-dairy butter, margarine or mild olive oil (plus more as desired)
• 2 shallots, thinly sliced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Technique:
Remove the tough stems from the Brussels sprouts and discard. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged or wilted. Shred the sprouts using the shredding blade in a food processor. Set aside.

In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat. Stir the nuts frequently to evenly toast and prevent scorching. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, melt the butter or margarine (or heat the oil) over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and a pinch or two of salt. Sweat the shallots and garlic, about 10 minutes. You should hear a faint sizzle – if the sizzle is loud, reduce the heat a bit. The goal is to draw out flavor without browning the shallots or garlic.

Add the slaw and a pinch or two of salt. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the mixture occasionally. The goal is to slightly char or caramelize the vegetables just a bit. If the vegetables seem dry, add another tablespoon or two of non-dairy butter, margarine or olive oil, if desired. Cook until the slaw is tender crisp. Season the slaw with black pepper to taste and add additional salt as desired. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and serve immediately.

Chimichurri Sauce

DSC08339Chimichurri is an aromatic herb sauce that originated in Argentina and is traditionally used for grilled meat. In vegan gastronomy, it can be used as a sauce for grilled seitan, tofu, tempeh, portabella mushrooms or cauliflower “steak”. It’s also wonderful as a dip for crusty bread or for marinating cooked beans.

Ingredients:
• ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
• 2 T red wine vinegar
• 2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
• ½ cup roasted red pepper, skin removed plus additional for garnish if desired
• ¼ cup fresh chopped oregano, loosely packed or 4 tsp dried oregano
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tsp minced habanero or jalapeno pepper
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp sweet paprika
• ¼ tsp ground cumin
• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Technique:
Process all ingredients in a food processor but leave little bit of texture. Add salt as needed to taste. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use; shake well to re-emulsify before using.

Olive Salad Spread

DSC08727This recipe is my version of the mixed olive tapenade served on the famous New Orleans Muffuletta sandwich. Its bold Mediterranean flavors also pair well with hummus and baba ghannouj on crackers and crusty bread. Or try it on grilled eggplant sandwiches. Ideally it should be made a day in advance to give the flavors time to blend. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this spread will last for months.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup small pimento-stuffed olives, drained
• ½ cup small pitted Kalamata olives, drained
• ½ cup coarsely chopped Giardiniera (see recipe on this blog), or commercial equivalent
• 2 pepperoncini, stems removed
• 1 T capers, drained
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 3 T olive oil
• 1 T red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper

Technique:
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Refrigerate to blend flavors before using.

Lemon Meringue Drop Cookies

DSC08656-002Crispy and light as air, these lemony drop cookies melt away on your tongue. A stand mixer with a balloon whip attachment is recommended for this recipe; however, an electric hand-held mixer will work if that is your only option. Do not use an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor, as the mixture needs to be whipped. This recipe yields about 48 one-inch diameter meringue drops.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup organic sugar
• 1 T Versawhip 600K™ (available from ModernistPantry.com)
• ½ tsp guar gum
• ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• ¼ tsp fine sea salt

Technique:
Add the sugar to a DRY blender and process into a fine powder. Set aside in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Into the bottom of the mixer’s mixing bowl, stir together the Versawhip 600K™ with the guar gum, salt and approximately ⅓ of the finely powdered sugar. Add the water and lemon juice and turn on the mixer, gradually increasing the speed to high. Whip the mixture until stiff peaks begin to form, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off the mixer and sprinkle in ½ of the remaining powdered sugar. Resume whipping for another 2 minutes. Turn off the mixer and add the remaining sugar. Resume whipping again for another 2 minutes.

Drop the meringue by teaspoonful, about 1-inch in diameter, onto a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (e.g., Silpat™). Alternately, the mixture can be decoratively piped onto the baking sheet using a pastry bag. Don’t spread the drops too far apart or you won’t be able to fit 24 onto a single sheet. Repeat on the second baking sheet.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 1 and ½ hours. After baking, let the meringue drops cool at room temperature for 1 hour on the baking sheet. This will ensure that the drops are sufficiently dry before storing in a covered container at room temperature. Do not attempt to touch them or move them until they have completely cooled.

Whole Grain French Toast

Whole grain French toast Polynesian-style. Topped with caramelized bananas, warm coconut syrup and roasted, crushed macadamia nuts.

Whole grain French toast Polynesian-style. Topped with caramelized bananas, warm coconut syrup and roasted, crushed macadamia nuts.

Sliced whole grain bread is dipped in an eggless egg mixture, pan-fried until golden brown and garnished with toppings of your choice.

You will need:
• 4 to 6 slices whole grain bread*
• cooking oil
• toppings of your choice, such as real maple syrup, coconut syrup, fruit syrup or jam; or top with fruit compote and dust with organic powdered sugar

*Old bread is best (but not stale); or leave fresh bread out overnight exposed to the air. Whole grain bread has a heartier texture than white bread and is better for you too. There should be sufficient batter to make 6 slices of French toast.

And for the batter, process the following ingredients in a blender until smooth:
• ½ carton (6 oz) extra-firm silken tofu, drained
• ¾ cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
• 3 T unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot flour
• 1 T nutritional yeast
• 1 T cooking oil
• 1 T organic sugar, maple syrup or brown rice syrup
• 1 tsp real vanilla extract
• pinch of sea salt
• optional: ½ tsp cinnamon (or try pumpkin pie spice)
Technique:
Pour the blender ingredients into a pie plate or wide, shallow dish.

In a non-stick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Crumple a paper towel and wipe the oil around in the skillet (reserve the oily paper towel to re-wipe the skillet in between batches of French toast).

Dip a bread slice briefly into the batter. Coat both sides but do not soak. Gently slide the slice of bread between your fingers to remove the excess batter. Add the bread slice to the skillet and repeat with another slice.

Fry until golden brown on each side. Test each piece in the center with the tip of the spatula or your finger to make sure the batter is cooked through and toast has firmed up. Set on a plate and place in a warm oven while you repeat the process with additional slices. Re-wipe the skillet with the oily paper towel as necessary before adding more battered bread.

Serve hot with a dab of vegan butter or margarine and the toppings of your choice.

Chile Relleno Chimichangas

DSC08602-001This dish is an original creation and is based upon the classic Chile Relleno; but rather than stuff the Poblano or Anaheim peppers with cheese and then batter them, the peppers are roasted and wrapped in soft tortillas with melted non-dairy Monterey Jack and flash-fried in a small amount of cooking oil (rather than deep-frying in a large amount of oil). The results are delicious and so much less greasy than the traditional dish. I chose the cheese melt over shredded block cheese since the chimichanga is flash-fried very quickly, which wouldn’t give the shredded cheese enough time to melt. The cheese melt is quick and easy to make too! (recipe follows)

Ingredients:
• 4 large Poblano or Anaheim chilies
• 4 whole wheat or white tortillas (burrito size)
• 1 cup Monterey Jack Melt (recipe follows)
• Chunky Garden Vegetable Salsa (recipe follows) or salsa of your choice
• toppings and garnishing of your choice, such as diced avocado or guacamole, chopped cilantro and/or non-dairy sour cream

Items needed:
• 8 toothpicks for securing
• large skillet with ¼-inch of cooking oil

Technique:
Prepare the salsa first since it requires about 45 minutes of cooking time. If using pre-prepared salsa, skip to the next step.

Roast the chilies on a hot grill or under a broiler. Turn them occasionally until the skins are blackened and charred. When the skins of the chilies have sufficiently charred and blistered, place them on a plate and cover with foil until cool. The residual heat will steam the peppers under the foil and fully cook them through. When cool, peel the skin from the chilies (they will remove easily) and blot them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Cut the peppers into strips (you will need the strips of 1 pepper per tortilla); set aside.

Prepare the cheese melt according to the directions and keep warm over low heat until ready to assemble the dish.

Next, place a tortilla directly on the stove burner set to low heat. Flip after about 15 seconds and repeat as necessary until the tortilla is heated through and is soft and pliable.*

*An alternate method for heating the tortillas is to preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm them in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. The tortillas can also be wrapped in a damp towel and warmed in the microwave for about 15 seconds; or they can be misted with a spritz of water and heated briefly in a hot non-stick or cast iron skillet.

Place a tortilla on a work surface and place the pepper strips on top. Spread ¼ cup of the melted cheese over the peppers. Begin rolling the tortilla over the pepper/cheese mixture and fold in the sides as you roll (like wrapping a burrito or spring roll). Secure the seam of the tortilla with 2 toothpicks and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Place the skillet with the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the chimichangas until golden brown, turning with a pair of kitchen tongs. They will brown quickly, so turn frequently (it is advisable to only cook 1 or 2 at a time since they brown so quickly). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Remove the toothpicks.

To serve, place on a serving plate and garnish as desired. Serve with the salsa.

Chunky Garden Vegetable Salsa
Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”. This is a cooked salsa which is served hot and is wonderful for topping a variety of Tex-Mex inspired dishes such as chimichangas, burritos and Tex-Mex tofu scrambles. Despite the inclusion of fresh jalapeno pepper, the sauce is relatively mild. To spice it up add a little chipotle chili powder or minced habanero pepper, to taste.

Ingredients:
• 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 ribs celery, diced
• 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp ancho chili powder or other mild chili powder
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Technique:
Drain the excess juice from the tomatoes (reserve for other uses) and pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until puréed but still chunky. Set aside.

Add the oil to a cooking pot and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Now add the onions, celery, jalapeno and a couple pinches of salt and sauté until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté an additional minute.

Add the tomatoes and the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Season with black pepper as desired and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the carrots are very tender, stirring occasionally. Season the salsa with salt as needed and keep warm until ready to serve.

Monterey Jack Cheese Melt
This popular, mild white cheese can be used for a variety of Spanish and Mexican inspired dishes and is excellent as a spread for grilled cheese sandwiches. This recipe yields about 1 cup of melted cheese.

Ingredients:
• ¾ cup pure soymilk
• ¼ cup mild vegetable oil
• 3 T tapioca flour
• 1 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
• ½ tsp plus a pinch of fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ⅛ tsp lactic acid powder or ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
• ¼ tsp guar gum, sodium alginate or xanthan gum

Technique:
In a small saucepan, vigorously whisk together the ingredients until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and continually with a flexible spatula.
As the mixture thickens and curdles (forms lumps), begin stirring vigorously until the curds disappear and the cheese becomes very thick, smooth and glossy. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to use. For a spreadable consistency, remove from the heat and allow the melt to thicken.

Chickpea Creole Gumbo

DSC08352-003Gumbo is a heavily seasoned stew-like dish that originated in southern Louisiana from the Louisiana Creole people during the 18th century. The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw. Creole Gumbo interacts between all class barriers and ethnicities in the south especially in New Orleans, appearing on the tables of the poor as well as the wealthy. Gumbo traditionally contains spicy meat sausage, chicken and seafood; however for my plant-based version, all meat proteins were replaced with nutritious and satisfying chickpeas. Kelp powder can be added to impart a subtle seafood taste, if desired. Gumbo is traditionally served with rice.

Note: Gumbo filé, which is dried and ground sassafras leaves, is an ingredient sometimes added to gumbo (but I did not include in this recipe). It imparts an earthy flavor and is also used to thicken the gumbo. After consulting a chef colleague from New Orleans who specializes in Cajun cuisine, she informed me that the filé is purely an optional ingredient. In restaurants it is often contained in a shaker on the table which gives the diner the option to use it as desired. For the cook, filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season.

Ingredients:
• ¼ cup cooking oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• ¼ cup vegan butter or margarine
• ½ cup all-purpose flour (or rice flour for gluten-free)
• 8 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 cups water
• ⅓ cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
(use wheat-free tamari or Bragg’s for gluten-free)
• ¼ cup vegan Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tsp browning liquid (optional; to enrich color)
• 1 tsp liquid smoke, or more to taste
• 1 can (14 to 15 oz) diced tomatoes with juice or 2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
• 3 cups frozen sliced okra
• 2 cans (15 oz each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 3 and ½ cups cooked chickpeas
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp kelp powder (optional)
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
• 1 bay leaf
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste
• 4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts
• ½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley plus chopped leaves for garnish

Technique:
Prepare your mise en place (assemble and measure all ingredients).

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Add the butter or margarine and stir until melted. Sprinkle in the flour, stir to combine and cook until the flour emits a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes.

Incorporate the water in increments while stirring vigorously. Stir in the tamari, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, tomatoes with liquid, okra, chickpeas, thyme, optional kelp powder, cayenne and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat; partially cover and simmer for a minimum of 1 hour. While the gumbo is cooking, prepare white or brown rice, your choice, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Five minutes before serving, stir the green onions and parsley into the gumbo (reserve a little for garnishing). Add salt, black pepper or additional cayenne, kelp powder and/or liquid smoke as desired to taste. To serve, place a scoop of white or brown rice into serving bowls and ladle in the gumbo. Garnish with green onions and parsley.

Seasoned Tofu Chikun Strips

Stir Fry featuring Asian-Style Soy Chikun Strips

Stir Fry featuring Asian-Style Soy Chikun Strips

South of the Border Salad featuring Tex-Mex Soy Chikun Strips

South of the Border Salad featuring Tex-Mex Soy Chikun Strips

These soy-based chikun strips are incredibly easy to make and remarkably resemble grilled strips of seasoned chicken. The ingredients are simple: tofu and a seasoning marinade. The secret is all in the preparation technique. A tofu press is recommended in order to compress the tofu properly and remove as much water as possible. However, the traditional plate and heavy weight method will work too, but the texture may not be as dense.

Each block of tofu will yield 8 ounces of prepared chikun. Most households do not possess more than 1 tofu press, so if you wish to prepare additional chikun strips, press the first block and then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container while additional blocks are pressed. For additional blocks, simply double or triple the water and seasonings in the recipe.

IMPORTANT! DO NOT use a toaster oven for baking the tofu!

Ingredients:
• 1 block (14 oz) extra-firm water-packed tofu (not silken tofu)
• ⅓ cup water
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
• ¼ tsp garlic powder

Technique:
Press the tofu until thoroughly compressed and as much water has been removed as possible (keep stored in the refrigerator while pressing). This will take a minimum of several hours (overnight being ideal). Blot the tofu with a paper towel.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a stainless steel cooking rack on a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Place the block of tofu on the parchment paper and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The tofu will develop a firm golden crust while baking. Let the block cool completely after baking.

Trim the crust from the block of tofu and discard. Traces of crust may remain – that’s okay. For chikun strips, simply slice the tofu into strips. For shredded chikun, use the tines of a fork to tear off bite-size pieces. Place the strips or shreds into a zip-lock bag.

Now, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. The dry seasoning powders may take a moment to dissolve, so keep whisking until blended. Pour the seasoning marinade over the tofu in the bag. Press as much air out of the bag as possible; seal and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).

Note: Other herbs and spices can be added to the marinade to accommodate specific ethnic food flavors.

For a Tex-Mex variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe and add 1 tsp mild chili powder, an additional ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp ground cumin, an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder and ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder.

For an Asian Stir Fry variation, marinate and sauté the chikun as directed and add a dash or two of tamari while sautéing. Toss with a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce just before removing from the skillet.

For a Mediterranean variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe but reduce the water to ¼ cup. Add 1 T lemon juice, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, an additional ½ tsp onion powder and an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder. Finish with fresh ground black pepper.

The strips or shreds are now ready to be pan-grilled or sautéed. This step is necessary to prepare the chikun for serving or using in recipes. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the chikun including any residual marinade.

Sauté until the excess liquid has evaporated and the chikun is golden. Use a gentle touch while sautéing; the chikun is firm but can break apart excessively if stirred roughly. Use immediately in your favorite hot recipe or chill for use in cold recipes (wraps, salads, etc.) For soups, add the chikun the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time to avoid becoming too soft.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.

 

Fresh Fruit Ice Cream (Cashew Cream Base)

fruitcashewicecream
Heavy cashew cream and puréed fruit form the base for this delightful frozen treat. An ice cream maker is required for this recipe.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup (5 oz. by weight) whole raw cashews
• 2 cups non-dairy milk of your choice
• ¾ cup organic sugar
• ½ tsp guar gum
• 2 cups chilled fruit purée, smooth or semi-chunky

Technique:
Place the cashews and milk into a container with a lid, seal and place in the refrigerator to soak for a minimum of 8 hours. After soaking, place the ingredients in a high-powered blender and process on high speed for 2 full minutes.

The cream will now need to be strained to remove the solids. To do this, wash your hands thoroughly and pour the cream into the nut milk bag over a large bowl or pitcher.

While holding the top of the bag with one hand, gently knead the bag to help the cream pass through the ultra-fine mesh – avoid forcing the cream through. Discard or compost the solids in the bag.

Optionally, the cream can be poured (in increments) into a strainer lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Stir the cream gently with a spoon to help it pass through the cheesecloth.

Pour the heavy cream into a blender and add the sugar and guar gum; process until smooth. Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate until very cold (or place in the freezer for about 30 minutes).

When well chilled, pour the cream mixture into your ice cream maker and add the chilled fruit purée. Process the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.