Thankful


On a recent trip to the country side, it was easy to absorb the surroundings and be thankful for what we have. The warm autumn days have brought with it a tremendous bounty.

While on the road, we were fortunate to experience one of the more remarkable pumpkin patches of recent memory. Flooded by the sea of orange, we washed up by the barn only to be further delighted by the classy heirloom varieties our hosts, the Nauman’s, had so knowledgeably grown over the past 100 days or so.

Beautiful and rarely seen French and Italian heirloom pumpkins soon filled my cart once only destined to carry orange carvers. Pink, red, blue and green classics, fit for a princess’s coach were on their way into my life to nobly, and tastily end theirs.

During the purchase of my great pumpkins, I naturally dreamed of creamy, spiced pies but thoughts shift creatively with vegan visitors and Thanksgiving at your doorstep.

Cracking into my vibrant Rouge Vif D’Etampe, I couldn’t help but imagine it’s outcome. This stunning, old French heirloom is also known as Cinderella’s Carriage, as it was used as the artist’s model in the Disney classic. It’s lovely, dense, creamy orange interior yielded about 5 cups of puréed intention. Ideal for baking, the Rouge Vif is smooth and easy to relieve of any excess liquid. This pumpkin easily puts any Holiday can of pie to shame and is well worth the small, extra effort.


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Eggless Asparagus Quiche


It finally rained – in two ways.
Thankfully the ground is now moist, our tomatoes will grow and the grass might turn away from it’s current shade of tan. Yay!
Yet, unfortunately, during our trip to the farmer’s market yesterday, we were informed that the asparagus must be left to shoot up into it’s destined willowy trees, bringing an end to our supply for the season.
Asparagus is one of my favourite summer vegetables, so I’ll be sure to freeze what I can. The rest inevitably became lunch for today in this vegan version of a classic, light meal.

EGGLESS ASPARAGUS QUICHE

1 Package, Firm Silken Tofu
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Thyme, dried (or a good sprig of fresh, chopped)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Zest of 1/2 Lemon (about 1 Tbsp)

1 Pre-made Pastry Shell, Tenderflake (I know, not me, but they’re such a time saver.)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Bake the pastry shell for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the crust is firm and light golden. Set it aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
Snap the ends and blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about 2 – 3 minutes or until bright green. Rinse in cold water, then trim tips to 3″ and reserve. Trim the ends to 1/2″ pieces.
Drain the tofu and add it to the bowl of a food processor. Blend it to a smooth consistency.
Add the nutritional yeast flakes, salt, pepper and spices, mixing well to incorporate everything.
With the motor running, sprinkle the arrowroot powder through the feed tube, combining well but not over mixing.
Finish with the lemon zest and stir in the 1/2″ asparagus pieces.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry shell and top with the reserved asparagus tips.
Bake uncovered at 350º until set, about 20 -25 minutes.

Great warm or chilled.
Serve with a salad.

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

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup


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VEGAN CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP

2 Tbsp oil
1 Onion diced (red if you can)
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 C Dried porcini or shitake mushrooms
4 C Sliced mushrooms – white, porcini, portabello, shitaki approx. 2 medium portabellos and 6 cremini. (the earthier the mushroom the richer the flavor)
3T Cognac (optional)
1 Potato (peeled and cubed)
2T Flour
1 Sprig of fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp Salt
¼ tsp Freshly ground black pepper
2T Large leaf parsley (finely chopped)
10 C Water
1 C Soy milk
2T Arrowroot powder

Method

In a large bowl cover the dried mushrooms with 6 cups of boiling water. Allow the mushrooms to re-hydrate for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mushrooms with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel to reserve the liquid. Set the mushrooms and the liquid aside.

Prepare the onion and garlic and heat the oil in a large stock pot. Sauté the onions and garlic until they are soft and translucent (about 2 minutes), add the cognac and cook the alcohol down for about 1 minute. Add the raw mushrooms and in batches if necessary not to overcrowd the pot for about another 2 minutes. Listen for a persistent sizzle, stirring occasionally to cook evenly.
Add the re-hydrated mushrooms, salt, pepper and rosemary.
Toss the mushrooms with the flour, stir to coat.
Add the reserved liquid from the mushrooms and the remaining 4 cups of water, scraping any “bits” from the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes and bring the soup to a rolling simmer for about 30 minutes.

Once the potato is soft, remove and discard the rosemary sprig and reserve about 1 cup of the mushrooms, stir in chopped parsley and set aside.

Purée the soup using a immersion blender or in batches with a food processor.
Dissolve the arrowroot powder in the cold soy milk and drizzle mixture into the hot soup.
Adjust seasoning.

Serve garnished with reserved mushrooms and brushed garlic crustini.