Grilled Vegetable Streudel



I had been gearing up to post about what I call Market Mystery. This is either the new or unexpected produce that turns up at the market or in your CSA box that you would never dream of buying out of your regular habits. Turns out, this event coincided perfectly when I invited my neighbour over for dinner.

I had thrown together some basic menu ideas and headed out to the grocery store to pick up some last minute things – shamefully the same things I seem to grab every time I’m out. Yes, staples are one things but redundant patterns are another. I began to think I should practice what I was about to preach.

Passing through the produce aisle, I realized I was about to ignore the fennel the same way I have done about one thousand trips before. Looking at the round white bulb and the bright green feathery fronds, I realized I’d never even tasted it. I actually think I might have been a bit intimidated on what to do with it exactly. I took the plunge, altered my menu plans and picked one out. Once I’d returned home with my fennel, I wanted to see what I could find out about my new vegetable. I knew the basics already, the other name of Anise gave away it’s licorice like flavour undertones. I’d previously seen it in salads, thinly sliced, usually served with orange segments but when I tasted it I thought I might go for the alternative of a roasted flavour. All around the fennel bulb is a combination of licorice, cabbage and celery flavours but the licorice tends to mellow when it’s cooked.

Since it’s summer, I opted for grilling instead of roasting. Not only did I want to keep the extra heat out of my house, I thought the smokiness might be a nice addition. Fennel, as intimidating as I first thought, is very simply to prepare. The bottom root end, the stalks and fronds need to be removed, but not discarded – I ended up using practically everything here and there. I sliced the bulb down the centre and tossed over the marinade.

Other than the time taken to grill, this recipe was a snap. My guests were impressed and I have become a fennel convert.

Now onward to Jerusalem artichokes, golden beets and kohlrabi. Which are the vegetables, you’ve eyed, but not tried?

GRILLED VEGETABLE STRUDEL

1 Bulb Fennel
1 Zucchini
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Orange Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Vermouth (optional)
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped (optional)
Crack of Black Pepper
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry*

Heat the grill to medium.
Remove the top fennel fronds and reserve.
Cut the base from the fennel, slice down the center.
Remove the ends from the zucchini, slice lengthwise.
Slice the onion into 1/4″ rounds.
Toss the fennel, zucchini and onion in the balsamic, oil, vermouth and pepper.
Add the vegetables, along with the pepper to the bbq and grill, turning regularly, until the vegetables have even grill marks and have softened.
Place the pepper into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam.
Remove the skin and pull the stem from the pepper to remove the seeds.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Roll out the puff pastry to a 10″x10″ square.
Chop the vegetables roughly.
Add garlic, parsley and reserved fennel fronds, if using, salt to taste and add pepper if necessary.
Spoon and evenly distribute the grilled vegetable mixture to the center of the pastry to form a line.
Pull the first side of the pastry over the vegetables, roll the pastry and vegetables over into the remaining pastry. Dot the end with water to seal. Flip the pastry so the seal is on the bottom.
Transfer the strudel to a non-stick baking dish or cookie sheet. Score the top.
Bake on the center rack for about 25-30 minutes. Remove once the pastry is golden and crisp.

* As to date, Tenderflake in Canada and Pepperidge Farms brands of puff pastry are vegan.
However, As with any prepared food you should be prepared to read the label.

Serve with a drizzling of Roasted Red Pepper Purée.

Serves 4-6

Herbed Ricotta Ravioli


What almost began as a left over night ended with a delicate, satisfying meal with four happy diners.
Very simple to make, the fresh summer herbs are left to take center stage. My herb garden is just beginning to flourish with billowing basil and flowering chives. So light and delicious, I never would have thought this would be a mid-June Presto-Pasta entry. I’d always thought of ravioli as a heavier, cooler weather meal but sometimes, only sometimes, I am thankfully quite wrong.

HERBED RICOTTA RAVIOLI

1/2 Package Firm Tofu
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon thyme, dried
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes, optional
2 Cloves Garlic or 1 teaspoon, minced
4 – 5 Fresh Basil Leaves, finely chopped
Small Sprig of Oregano (about 6 leaves), finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives, finely chopped,
2 Chive Blossoms
3 – 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus a little extra for serving
Grind of Black pepper
1 Package Wonton Wrappers (Read the label. Eggless varieties can be found in Asian grocers otherwise gyoza wrappers may be substituted)

To make the tofu ricotta, mash the tofu with your fingers or a fork until it is small and evenly crumbled. To it, add the dried herbs, spices and garlic.
Rinse the fresh herbs and chop the chives to about 1/8″ lengths.
Fold the oregano into the basil and finely chop them together.
Add the herbs to the tofu mixture and combine well.
Drizzle over enough of the olive oil to make the mixture come and hold together when held or pressed with a fork.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, with salt and pepper.
Reserve a few tablespoons of the ricotta for serving.
Prepare some counter space and a small cup of fresh water.
Lay out about 3 wonton wrappers in a row and add about 1 teaspoon to the center or each, leaving about a 1/4″ boarder.
Draw water along the edge of the dough with your finger, then cover with another wonton wrapper. (If one side of the wrapper has more flour, lay that down as it will make it stick better.)
Working from the top, seal the ravioli. Try to prevent any air bubbles as this could cause the pasta to come apart in the water, during cooking.
Lay the finished ravioli out on a plate or tray in a single layer while you finish the remaining pasta. There should be enough ricotta to fill 24 – 28 wrappers.
Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a large stock pot.
Cook the ravioli for 5 – 7 minutes or until they continuously float.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a crack of pepper, chopped chive blossoms and reserved ricotta.

Serves 4

Zesty Avocado Bucatini


I’ve been realizing the eerie amount of macaroni and cheese that is actually consumed in my house. Thankfully it’s not always of the boxed variety, so someday I will be sure to share my version of the almighty classic for Presto Pasta Night.

However, through the dusty orange haze of the boxed nightmare, a grown up lunch was very much in order.
Buccatini is a fun favourite. Long – but so much better, it resembles macaroni with it’s tubular shape, which could be why the kids like this too. Either that, or it could be the avocado.

It’s taken me about forever to figure out what to do with an avocado beyond eating it straight up, sprinkled with a dash of salt, pepper and garlic, in a sandwich or in guacamole. I always assumed they turn brown easily, how could I do much else?

These were the old days. Then I had lunch with a friend a few years back. She and her sister owned a Niagara B&B and always had a few fresh suggestions up her sleeve. She had prepared a two minute salad, haphazardly chopping up this and that, then casually tossing half of of the diced green, omega rich flesh onto the salad bowl. The result was a creamy, texture happy meal of greens. If I remember correctly, I hoarded that bowl when it came for seconds. What was a simple addition, took the lunch to a whole new level.

Which is what I found for this last pasta dish I made.
I’d intended on a little heat balanced by citrus for a quick lunch. A glug of olive oil, a crack of pepper…. it was good.
But it became great with a quick toss of the diced avocado.

This will be made again.

ZESTY AVOCADO BUCATINI

450g Bucatini
2-3 Tablespoons Good Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Chili Flakes, 2 Small Pods, pounded with a mortar pestal)
Zest of One Lemon
1 Avocado, diced

Bring a large stock pot 3/4 full of water to a boil and cook the bucatinias to its package directons, about 8 minutes.
Zest the lemon and reserve.
Slice the avocado lengthwise, twist and separate. Remove the pit and cut the flesh within the skin into about 1/2″cubes.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain and return to the pot.
Pour over the oil and toss to coat.
Add the chili flakes and lemon zest, combining well to distribute evenly.
Remove the avocado from the skin with a spoon and add it to the bucatini.
Toss and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Vegan Crêpes With Bananas Flambé


A gift of the French culinary experience, it is said that these thin pancakes originated from a lack of wheat to bake bread.
Also of French cooking tradition, it’s believed that it is difficult to make. I thought so myself for quite sometime as there are only three main ingredients, eggs, milk and flour. Not exactly vegan.

I’ve wanted to serve these for many brunches as the batter rests well or the crêpes themselves may be made ahead.
Crêpes are come in two varieties, sweet and savory and match wonderfully with guests. Served as an appetizer, a dessert or for breakfast, with a bit of practice, crêpes may be made large or small and stuffed with a variety of fillings.

So pretty, formal, but really quite easy to make. Try them at your next brunch.

VEGAN CRÊPES

Recipe makes six to eight 8″ crêpes

1/2 Cup Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Cups Soy Milk
Replacer for One Egg
pinch salt
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1-2 Tablespoons Margarine or spray oil as needed, for cooking

Combine the flour. salt and egg replacer in a large bowl or blender. Whisk to sift.
Add the milk and oil. Whisk just to combine.
Do not over blend.
Refrigerate while you prepare your filling, or over night.
Preheat an 8, non-stick pan to a medium high heat.
Once a drop of water spatters, spray to coat the pan or add 1/2 teaspoon of melted margarine.
Ladle in about 2 Tablespoons of the batter. Swirl the batter across the pan to form a thin, round layer.
Flip the crêpe over once it begins to appear dry on the top. The other side will be done when you see some light browning on the edges.

For Todays Filling:
While the batter was cooling, I opted for the ripening bananas on my counter top.

BANANAS FLAMBÉ

2 Bananas
2 Tablespoons Margarine
3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Brandy
1 Match (These last two are optional for breakfast, but make a blast of an impression for dessert.)

Peel and slice the two bananas on the diagonal, about a 1/4″ thickness.
Heat a large skillet to medium high, melt the margarine then add the bananas.
Toss to coat and cook to soften slightly, about 1 – 2 minutes.
Add the syrup, covering the bananas evenly.
If using, pour over the brandy, stand back and touch a flame to the edge of a soaked banana. This is best done with an audience, and a lid for the skillet close by.

To wrap, add a few spoonfuls of the filling to the center of each crêpe.
Fold over opposite sides toward the middle then roll upward from the bottom.

Eggless Rapini & Roasted Red Pepper Strata


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A strata is traditionally an egg custard/bread pudding casserole served up savoury and scrumptious for brunch.
It makes a perfect brunch centrepiece since it’s quick to prepare and can be made the night before. In fact, doing so will make it more custardy and delicious.
I suppose, for some, the issue here would be that eggs are the main ingredient but not a problem. I’d almost go on a limb to state this is a better version than the “Original”, not to mention healthier.

After trying to feed Rapini to my kids, I couldn’t help but have a bit left over. Quite alright as I already had my sights set on what to do with it. With any holiday weekend, let alone Sunday, brunch is definitely in order.

Serve it for your next Sunday brunch, or as a lighter dinner fare along with a salad.
Fear tofu no more.

RAPINI & ROASTED RED PEPPER STRATA
1 Package Medium-Firm Tofu
1 1/2 Cups Soy Milk
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Mustard Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
Dash of Cayenne Powder
Dash of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chives, Chopped
1 teaspoon (4-5 leaves) Fresh Basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Oregano, chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Cup Steamed Rapini, chopped
1 Roasted Red Pepper, diced
1/2 Cup diced Tomatoes
1/2 Loaf Day Old, Rustic Farmer’s Bread, about 6 Cups, 1″ cubes (I used Olive Bread)

With a food processor combine the tofu, soy milk, arrowroot powder, salt and spices.
Once smooth, combine the chopped herbs and lemon zest, then add the rapini, red pepper and tomato.
Lightly spray a shallow baking dish with oil.
Add half of the bread and half of the tofu and vegetable mixture.
Grind a small amount of black pepper and repeat with another layer of bread, filling in any gaps, finishing with the tofu.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours and up to over night.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Let strata stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I found the Tuesday Night Leftovers challenge over at Project Foodie This is a must list to bookmark!

 

Asparagus Portobello Lasagna


On my quest to veganization, I’ve discovered that one of the most common and easiest meals to make that satisfies the herbivores and non a like, is pasta.

Here’s the thing though, you can only make spaghetti so many times and pasta just goes so well with cheese. Making satiating pasta to please vegan company is a bit more challenging.
…And we all know how I love a challenge.
I was reading Ruth’s Presto Pasta Nights over at Once Upon A Feast. There have been some great submissions from the pasta nights of past so it got me thinking… what could I do with the bunch of fresh asparagus I just picked up from the market?

ASPARAGUS PORTOBELLA LASAGNA

1 Bunch Asparagus
1 Portobello Mushroom
2 Tablespoons Margarine
3 Tablespoons Unbleached All Purpose Flour
11/2 Cups Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Mustard Powder
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
8 – 10 Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast Flakes (optional)

Brush any dirt from the mushroom trim and slice it into 1/8″ thick slices.
Wash and snap the ends from the asparagus.
Steam until just fork tender and rinse in cold water. Trim to 3″ lengths and set aside.
Boil the noodles as to their package direction and drain when al denté. Drizzle lightly with oil.
In a large saucepan, melt the margarine on a medium heat. Stir in the flour, remove from the heat and whisk in the soy milk.
Return and reduce heat to low. Add the salt, garlic, mustard, cayenne and black pepper, stirring occasionally to incorporate and thicken the sauce.
Adjust seasoning as necessary and remove from the heat. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Assembly

This will make 8 – 10 individual lasagna pieces.
In a 9×12 glass baking dish, lay about 3″ of one noodle in the top corner, allowing the remainder to hang over the outer edge.
Spoon some of the sauce evenly to cover the bottom of the noodle.
Place 2 slices of the mushroom followed by 3 pieces of asparagus.
Bring the noodle over to cover, spoon more sauce followed by 3 more asparagus pieces.
Flip the last of the noodle over the asparagus, creating an “S” shape.
Spoon another dollop of sauce on the top of the noodle.
Repeat until no room remains or the noodles have run out.
Sprinkle everything with the nutritional yeast flakes.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 3o minutes.
Remove foil and return to oven to brown the top for an additional 10 minutes, or 2 minutes under the broiler, watching carefully.