Friday, November 30, 2007

Catching Up. Cauliflower-Tofu Bake, Spinach- & Tofu-Stuffed Shells

I have been a very naughty blogger, and now it's the end of the month and I haven't posted anything here in over three weeks! Shame on me!!!! I have no excuse except for having such a good time that cooking something new took second place to life with a capital L. The middle of the month we were in New York to see friends, attend opera and ballet, visit museums, wander around, and visit restaurants. Restaurants? Yes, we especially liked Candle 79 (not to be confused with Candle Cafe) and Franchia (sister restaurant to HanGawi, which we visited last time, but less formal). And I mustn't forget Dawat (not vegan like the others, but vegan-friendly), which belongs to actress, chef, and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey (our kitchen saint).

Since then and even just before then, I have been either raiding the freezer for previously cooked yummies or re-running old menus and recipes. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does mean rather lean pickings for blogging here.

But here are a couple of things you might like.


Here's a simple thing we did with cauliflower the other day. It was easy to partly cook the cauliflower, cut into flowerets, then make a sauce from some silken tofu, flavouring it with sodium-reduced soy, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, white miso, and various kinds of pepper - probably including cayenne ;) I used, for the two of us, about a package and a half of the tofu and thinned it to the right creamy consistency, and half a head of cauliflower. Some chopped onion gives a nice zip. Mix the sauce and the cauliflower together and bake until the top browns. Around half an hour should do it, depending on how much you use and how hot your oven is. I topped mine with some flavoured crumbs - ya know, the old ground-up nuts, crumbs, nutritional yeast, paprika, blah blah blah mix I keep in an airtight jar in the refrigerator all the time. You probably have your own favourite.


I have posted a Stuffed Shells recipe here before, but this one, also in the nature of an experiment, was even more successful. That may have been because I made a few changes to my previous recipe. I did however use the same very nice brand of brown rice shell pasta I used before.

Following the basic idea of my previous attempt, I substituted a couple of big handfuls of fresh baby spinach for the basil. This I chopped and then zapped with the wand blender along with some garlic, the tofu, mushrooms, etc., to which I also added a good squeeze of lemon juice, some herbs (what? Probably thyme or oregano), a little vegan worcestershire sauce, pepper (Cayenne too? Probably - just a dash) and two or three Tbsp nutritional yeast. These additions made for a similar looking but stronger tasting stuffing. If there was something else in there, I forget, but I tasted as I went along and kept going until it tasted right :) Proceding as before, this is what it looked like as plated.

You might want to keep some sauce to pass at the table.

And yes, thanks, we had a lovely time in New York! Here we are in Fort Tryon Park on our way to see The Cloisters for the first time in something like 35 years or so. Lovely day!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cranberry Borscht, Cranberry Bread, Eggplant & Okra Stew, green salad


This recipe is such a hit here that we have made huge batches of it twice now and can see no way of improving it. It comes straight from Finlayson's 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes - with the difference that, for some reason or other, we have always made it on top of the stove instead.

Here you see it, returned to a pan to reheat a portion for the two of us after being blended. So rich and creamy! And that colour!!!!!

What is different and nice about Finlayson's recipe is that instead of cabbage it uses the greens of the beets you use for the soup. No other vegetables, barring garlic, are added, but cranberries, orange and orange zest, etc., instead. Look it up - it's a winner!!!

Oh - I should add that once we didn't have the beet greens to go with the beets ;) so we used chard instead. It was also very good, and okay to remember in a pinch, but the use of beet greens is something I've not run across before (all my borscht recipes have used cabbage) and it's a real treat in this recipe. I haven't found a recipe in here that I haven't loved!


This bread comes from Sarah Kramer's excellent La Dolce Vegan! and is called there 'Jen's Raisin Soda Bread'. The use of cranberries instead of raisins and the addition of orange zest is a suggested variant. Otherwise, it is a standard soda bread (but the best recipe I have tried for it!) with caraway seeds. Absolutely delicious! We've made it twice now and it is absolutely no-fail.


Again this recipe started out to be another one entirely, but really I rarely follow a recipe (except for baking - and not always then) and I like to use what I have in the refrigerator and cupboards - unless of course it's for something special. I had a large eggplant and I had green bell pepper - and some frozen okra, a large can of tomatoes. Sounded like a stew to me, and so it was.

In a hurry as always, I cut the eggplant into smallish pieces and didn't bother with sweating and draining it first.

1 onion, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped into 1-inch or less pieces
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 large can low-sodium tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 Tbsp Annie's vegan Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp crushed dried red chilies
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
1 pkg (10 ounces) frozen okra, thawed and trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, diced

Cook onion in a little wataer until softened in a pot large enough to hold everything. Add all but the last two ingredients and bring back to the boil, reduce heat and cook until nearly done. Be careful not to overcook the eggplant - you don't want mush. Add the okra and bell pepper and cook until just done - these should still give a little resistance to the bite. Taste for seasoning and serve with your favourite grain, alone, or with a crusty bread.

And here's a quick photo of the salad we had too - my little bit of propaganda just in case it converts one more person to eating salads too! ;)

Beet & Apple Salad With Avocado, Red Quinoa & Lentil Medley, Tofu Red & Green Pepper Stirfry


[Edited to correct seasonings, etc.]

This salad was the star of the meal, I think, and appropriately we almost always have our salad first these days. (Okay, we used to always follow our main course with a salad course, and that's how I still stubbornly have pictured them in this blog, but lately, well, we have switched back to the North American custom. But don't hold me to it!!!! LOL

I took the time to slice three or four small cooked beets (we were making soup with the rest) and marinate them in garlic, a mix of vinegars (I think I used rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, but cider vinegar might have been there instead of the red wine - I winged it!), 1 tsp or a little more of Dijon mustard, and some pepper (I generally use a mix of red, black, green which I grind fresh). Then the rest was simple, as you see. Some lovely greens on each plate, a few sliced onion shreds on top of them, and sliced red apple (sprinkled with a little lemon juice to keep them fresh looking) and then the beets arranged with avocado over it all. The marinade from the beets - a lovely thick red mixture - I spooned over the top. Simple and delicious.


To follow, we had a 'medley' of some leftover plain cooked red quinoa (so pretty) plus some leftover lentils (previously cooked with herbs, onion, celery and carrot in the Tuscan style) and a few extra vegetables that were hanging around the crisper - celery, no doubt, onion, crushed dried chilies, etc. (I forget exactly - it was nearly a week ago). The vegetables cooked first in a little water in a skillet, the lentils and quinoa to follow with, I think, a Tbsp low sodium soysauce and/or a Tbsp Annie's Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce. Very pretty, very tasty - and very nutritious too I suppose ;)

And to accompany it -


But of course we don't 'fry' but steam or water-'sautee' the vegetables. The tofu was marinated in a Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger, minced red chilies, then added to the 'stirfry' at the end, just to heat through. (Tofu doesn't need to be 'cooked'.) Celery, onion, ginger root, garlic, red and green pepper, etc., were the vegetables that day. Maybe mushrooms too - I usually do something with mushrooms whenever I find the excuse - just love them and always have a bag of them in the fridge.

Sweet Potato & Carrot Casserole With Apple, Spiced Chickpeas, Salad

Last Sunday lunch was a comedy of errors! I foound this great (I thought - and no doubt it is!) recipe in Finlayson's 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes (a book I highly recommend, by the way.) and thought Why Not! It takes a can of (crushed) pineapple (which we don't use, but all the better reason for trying the recipe), so my dh said he'd run down to the Convenience Store (we have two of them in this block alone) for it. Meanwhile I started on the recipe - tried to give a shout out the door to pick up some carrots too (I said it was a comedy!) since it required six, but he'd already left in the elevator. Never mind, I had a couple of small carrots plus lots of sweet potatoes. I was okay for a chickpea topping, since I tend to keep cooked chickpeas in the freezer. Well, wouldn't you know it: neither shop had pineapple - crushed, sliced, chunked or in any form whatsoever, and there wasn't time to wait for the market to open. Also, of course, no time to use the slowcooker anyway - AND we had an appointment early afternoon so had to have our lunch earlier than usual (I remembered just in time).

So what I did was use sweet potatoes and a little carrot, sliced, mostly cooked in a pan on top of the stove. Deciding to abandon any idea of Finlayson's interesting recipe, I flew by the seat of my pants. I layered the veg in a casserole with three apples (I believe they were galas) sliced but not peeled, sprinkled each layer with nutmeg, cinnamon, the zest of a big orange and heaven knows what else, mixed a little flour with a little sugar and a little orange juice to drizzle through the whole thing and put it in the oven to bake for however long I thought it'd take. When I figured it was nearly ready I put some orange chunks on top and a sprinkle of sesame seeds to add 'interest'.

Didn't have a hope! But it started to smell wonderful and we found it was delicious - and it's worth going back to soon to try to work this recipe out properly. It took a couple of days to get through, but we didn't leave a scrap.

I paired this dish with a spiced chickpea dish (the recipe I couldn't make required a chickpea topping and I'd already thawed them). The Indian spices were a nice match with the fruity taste of the sweet potato and apple dish, if a little unconventional. (Er, just a bit!)

This was quickly thrown together - onion, celery, green pepper, coriander, cummin, cayenne, fenugreek, turmeric, and whatever else my hand lighted on, topped with coriander leaves (cilantro).

We had a salad while we waited for the main course to finish cooking.