Monday, February 28, 2011

Vegan Academy Awards Platter

Confession: we don’t have television. It’s less a confession than it is a conviction – I feel immense pride in not paying for broadcasted TV. Caveat: we do have Netlfix through the Xbox and sit down from time to time to enjoy television series and movies when there isn’t much on the agenda -on days where life actually slows down. I don't miss it, but I do typically "miss out" on award ceremonies celebrating today's top talen. I have increased my movie theater attendance this year and still enjoy a good gossip session about choice celebrity apparel at national televised events as though my feedback (and that of Joan Rivers) actually weighs on stars’ future decisions.

Thus my interest in the Academy Awards this year was slightly elevated and all the food newsletters and emails that flooded my inbox about Oscar Party Menus of course made me think, “what would I serve at an Oscars party? Maybe I should have thrown one…oh wait we don’t have television” Truthfully, I don’t know what I would serve at an Oscars party, because the single platter intended to tide 2 people over last night probably wouldn’t flow well on a larger scale with more people. But it was perfect for picking when only 2 sets of hands were at the plate.

We had assembled a similar plate in Napa a couple of weekends ago when we decided that it would be cheaper and more delicious for us to put together our own canapés or tapas than to spend a bunch of money on something we weren’t certain would be worth the cost. Plus we had our own kitchen and a Whole Foods nearby – so why not? Drink wine, (lots of it without worrying about the drive home), eat finger food, and chat the night away without being rushed to turn a table. I like this setup a lot. So last night when the inevitable “what’s for dinner” question came up – we settled on this and it was delish.

Ok yes – if you’re looking closely at the picture, you are looking at real salmon. Remember I share my life and love with an omnivore. I also respect others’ wishes to eat what they choose as I expect other to respect my own dietary decisions. But I’ve included a few recipes for mock salmon pate here that are fun and interesting. I personally like the first with chickpeas, but feel free to experiment with any funky pate or substitute pate altogether with good ole hummus. These recipes aren’t genius, there is no magic involved, no “aha!” moments, but it’s a fun way to put a meal together without a whole lot of effort.

Vegan Academy Awards Platter
Makes: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the Smoked Salmon
Your favorite “salmon” recipe – here are some suggestions
- Vegan Smoked “Salmon” Spread
- Mock Salmon Pate 1
- Mock Salmon Pate 2

3 medium radishes, grated
3 T. red pepper, minced
2 T. shallots, thinly sliced
2 T. capers, drained
1 T. caper brine + 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Roasted Veggies
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 c. cauliflower flowerets
1 medium turnip
½ small onion
1 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper

For Toasts & Wraps
½ - 1 baguette, sliced ½ to ¾ inch thick
1 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
5-6 collard leaves, stems removed with leaves left whole


Follow your favorite mock salmon recipe if you’re going veg. Otherwise, I don’t want to know what you’re using and you don't have to tell me.

For the relish: mix the radishes, red peppers, shallots and capers in a small bowl. In another small bowl, stir brine and mustard together. Mix into vegetables and set aside.

For the roasted veggies: Preheat oven to 450° F. Combine all vegetables in a mixing bowl. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until veggies are tender. For best result, put oven on broil setting for the last 5-7 minutes to get crispy brown edges. Remove and set aside.

For the toast: Place oven on high broil setting. Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush olive oil on each (one of both sides). Broil toasts for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. If you brushed olive oil on both sides, flip and broil another 2-3 minutes. If you are lazy like me, remove from heat and rub garlic clove onto each slice. Set aside.

To assemble: Arrange food on a large serving platter so that everyone can wrap or assemble their own food. Serve toasts with “salmon” and relish, wrap roasted veggies in the collard leaves. Serve with a glass of wine and unleash all uncensored commentary about Hollywood attire.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Roasted Kabocha Rolls with Teriyaki

I know, I know - what is it with these oddball vegetable recipes being posted lately? Celery root, kabo-what? This is a venture, people. You will see things that are hard to pronounce. The need to cook kabocha arose from sheer curiousity. I had heard of kabocha squash. I had seen it. I knew it was Japanese. That was the extent of my familiarity with kabocha. I had never tasted it (or so I thought), but it comes up from time to time in publications that highlight seasonal cooking and other cooking magazine articles featuring another funny named, mysterious produce stranger. Strolling through the food store, kabocha caught my eye. It was time to see for myself. Of course when it came time to slice it open, I couldn't find much inspiration from the kabocha void online. Many recipes called for butternut or kabocha, but very few that made kabocha seem like it contributes something does it taste the same as every other orange globe? I started to get the feeling that the void was simply because this tastes exactly like your average winter squarsh.

Wrong! Well ok, it has to taste similar otherwise it couldn't be a winter squash. Though I "thought" I had never tasted it,  I hadn't realized in what context I had met kabocha prior to this discovery. Have you ever ordered tempura at a Janapese eatery, taken a huge bite of the orange half-moon shaped piece and thought, "hmmmm, kinda tastes familiar but I'm not sure what it is?" - It's kabocha. A lovely, lovely winter squash that is sweet, silky, starchy and full of indulgence. How has it taken me so long to suck it up and buy one? The name alone is enticing, and now that I'm familiar with the taste, I'm hooked. As I mentioned earlier, there was a shortage of recipes available that could give me some direction as to how to incorporate kabocha into a meal, so I went with the classic roasting approach. This is how I test almost all new foods because there is something about a hot air bath at 450F that brings out the true character of any food.

How I came up with rolling these in chard is a long, internal and not entirely logical thought process. Without elaborating on the actual idea, these were spectacular. Because picking at food before a meal is done runs in my blood, I of course tasted the squash right right out of the oven. I had to physically recover from the sheer pleasure of kabocha mouth - sounds like a contagious disease, but I promise it's nothing of the sort. Though this will be contagious. Wrapped in chard,  the edgy green onions and burst of cilantro gave it added punch and good contrast. The avocado was just a "duh" kind of ingredient. Can't explain it.

Roasted Kabocha Rolls with Teriyaki
Makes 4-5 servings

Prep time: 45 minutes


For the squash
1 small kabocha squash (about 1.5 lbs) seeded, cut into wedges and peeled
1 T. olive oil
pinch of salt

For the teriyaki
1/2 c. soy sauce or tamari
1/4 c. water
4 T. fresh ginger, minced and divided
3 T. vegan or raw sugar
1 T. arrowroot powder or corn starch

For the rolls
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed with whole leaves in tact
1-2 avocado, diced
4-6 green onions, thinly slice
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped


Preheat oven to 450F.

Brush olive oil onto each slice of squash, sprinkle with salt and lay onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Flip pieces over and roast an additional 15 minutes or until squash is brown and tender. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the teriyaki sauce. Combine soy sauce/tamari, water, 3 tablespoons of ginger and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook 5-7 minute or until reduce by 1/3 to 1/2. Mix arrowroot or cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and mix into sauce. Heat until desired thickness is reached (be careful with arrowroot as it overcooks very easily and will become gloppy if it cooks too long). Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble, line of leaves so that the seams where the stem was removed now overlap. Place 2 slices of squash in the center, top with a tablespoon of avocado, a pinch of green onions and another pinch of cilantro. Drizzle the filling with as much teriyaki as desired. Starting from one end of the leaf, roll edge over filling and continue to roll until opposite end is reached.

If you're not a pro at rolling chard leaves, it might look sloppy but it will taste lovely!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Aromatic Mashed Celery Root with Kale

As I was checking out the aesthetics of my blog, which I sometimes do to make sure it looks semi-legible but still maintain the rudimentary "I don't really know what I'm doing" feel, I noticed some of the labels popping out far more assertively than others. ENTREES! HEALTHY! QUICK AND EASY! Maybe I need to come up with more sophisticated labels, because most of what I make falls into these categories and if you click on one, it's not really going to help you find a particular recipe. But I'm lazy so they'll stick for now.

In an attempt to not have to revamp my labels, I'll just make more recipes that fall into some of the others. How about a recipe that's not an entree? Lovely! I make a lot of simple sides that don't appear on the blog because they are just that - so easy they don't really warrant a scribe. But perhaps they are just simple enough for a follower to actually make. And perhaps that are just delicious enough to make in large batches that stand in for dinner when you're too lazy to make a real one (not that I feel like that every Wednesday or so).

"Celeriac" or celery root - ah hem - cough, cough - excuse me, what? The knobby, endearingly ugly root of our "favorite" health food is so much more delicious than it's flossy stalks, I'm not entirely sure why it's not more main stream.  It is admittedly strange to look at, sort of like a balding pineapple that never perked up and developed a minor frown. "No body picks me." It's hairy, bumpy, and beige - not something that would stop many of us in our tracks.

Underneath that thick skin however is a flavor mild like celery with a rich potato-like texture which makes it ideal for mashing. With a high water content, it doesn't need any milk, cream or butter to make the mash smooth. In this recipe, I simmered the celery root as you might do with potatoes before mashing but with some whole spices in the cooking water to give it an aromatic flare. Then I topped it off with some "cheesy" components and a little special kick of white pepper. As stated earlier, I made a double batch and ate it for dinner. When I finished and wanted to make another batch, I knew it was time to write this one down.

Aromatic Mashed Celeriac with Kale 
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooke time: 10 minutes


1 lb Celeriac, peeled and cubed
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cardamom pods
2 c. kale, chopped with ribs removed
1 T. nutritional yeast
1/4 scant tsp garlic powder
1/4 scant tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp white pepper
Salt to taste


Place celeriac, fennel and cardamom in a medium sauce pan and fill with water under celeriac is just covered. Bring pot to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer about 5-7 minutes, or until celeriac starts to become tender (insert a piece with a fork - if it goes through somewhat easily but the veg doesn't fall apart, you're good). Add kale and simmer another 4-5 minutes, or until kale is bright green and celeriac is completely tender. Drain and set aside in a medium bowl. Discard the cardamom pods.

Mix in remaining ingredients and mash mixture with a potato masher or fork. Mash until chunky but not completely smooth (kale will not break apart - that's a good thing). Season with salt to taste.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Primavera

Squash, squash, squash. I love squash. All kinds, all colors, all textures. But I must admit I’ve always wondered what is so special about spaghetti squash that makes people love it so much. The stringy flesh is fun – I get that. But the texture never fully softens like some of the more tender squashes, and the taste isn’t sweet or light like other types. It’s almost bitter with a borderline tasteless flavor. Perhaps I am just not skilled at selecting spaghetti squash. I’ve just never fallen for it as a varietal.

Nevertheless, I purchased one as part of a detox plan and was entirely committed to eating it. I mustered and searched for some crazy, fun idea for how to prepare the stringy structure, but my contemplative quest was fruitless. I stumbled across a vast array of side dish recipes that mainly mix spaghetti squash with herbs or garlic. Nothing stood out as a potential show stopper. It wasn’t until I started delving into pasta ideas that I saw the word “primavera.” Eureka!

Primavera is so easy that it feels weird to even write down a recipe for it. For anyone that has had any exposure to cooking, pasta primavera is about as basic as it gets. It certainly doesn’t seem like it should get special props, but I was amazed by the satisfaction from these simple, fresh flavors and so very please with how they took to spaghetti squash. First you take fresh veggies and garlic, then you splash 'em with a little white wine, and top it off with fresh herbs. You can mix up the veggies and the herbs to your liking - this is a highly customizable dish. Just don't cook the veggies too long, al dente is best here. And always throw the herbs in at the end when you've taken the dish off heat, it keeps their flavors bright and vibrant.

This recipe mad a heaping portion for 2 and as I licked the bottom of my plate, I felt more than satisfied. I felt accomplished! That’s the wonderful thing about primavera. It’s so little work with such fabulous results. You can certainly substitute the squash here for actual pasta, but I would highly recommend going for the squashventure.

Spaghetti Squash Primavera
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 15-20 minutes


1 small spaghetti squash (about 4x7 inches)
1 tsp coconut oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ tsp. salt
½ medium red bell pepper, sliced
12-16 asparagus spears, chopped (tips reserved)
1 ½ c. broccoli, chopped
¼ c. dry white wine
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 T. nutritional yeast
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Fill a medium baking dish with 2 inches of water. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place both halves in baking dish skin side up, flesh side down. Microwave on high 5-6 minutes or until squash is tender. Let sit until cool enough to handle and scoop out flesh. Set aside.

Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook slowly until it starts to brown, stirring constantly to coat in oil for about 1 minute. Add crush red pepper and salt, stirring to blend evenly. Increase heat to medium high and add vegetables. Stir to coat with spices before adding wine. When pan is very hot, pour wine over vegetables and continue to toss in pan. Let cook/steam about 5 minutes or until vegetable become al dente. Add squash, parsley, cilantro and nutritional yeast. Stir to incorporate all ingredients and remove from heat. Season with salt and lots of pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh tomatoes if desired.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

Bring out the mariachis! I’m doin’ a little cha cha in my cucina. We were feeling spicy last night and decided on enchiladas for dinner – something easy, something different, something fun. One of my favorite fillings for enchiladas is butternut squash, because the sweet meshes so well with the spice and the texture blends perfectly with tortillas soaked in sauce. This was actually our main holiday meal this year which was SO much better than the usual surf and turf or roast with potatoes. As my token omnivore had no recollection of this being our Christmas meal despite that being one month ago, I was totally game for remaking the dish and reminding us of the terrific flavors.

Enchiladas are a wonderful, flexible meal because they can be easily customized to your personal preferences or easily made to please a whole crowd. Sometimes I roll them in individual tortillas; in this recipe I layered them as a casserole. It’s really all about the sauce. If you have a good, spicy sauce, then the form in which the enchiladas take is trivial. What I like about casserole style is how the sauce covers everything.

So what makes the sauce so special? I really don’t know. I’ve made a few different kinds of sauce: tomato based, pepper based, and a blend of the two together. I’ve loved them all. The first recipe I tried was incredibly spicy which I loved, but it's not for the faint hearted. The second sauce was concocted by mia bella sorella over Christmas who used tomato sauce and a blend of spices. The recipe here was derived from Veganomicon and uses diced tomatoes with roasted green peppers. I happened to add a little chipotle in adobo sauce which took it up a notch.

I only covered half of the casserole with Daiya cheese, because I actually like it without cheese. But I loves me some cilantro and I highly recommend topping off your slice with a couple of sprigs and a pinch of cayenne. Whether you’re making this for Navidad or when you’ve got a case of the Mondays, it’ll be sure to scratch you where ya itch.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas
Makes: 3-4 servings
Cook time: 1 hour


For the sauce
1-2 poblano, pasilla or anaheim pepper
2 tsp olive or canola oil
½ medium onion, diced
1 T. fresh garlic, minced
1 T. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp marjoram
½ tsp oregano (Mexican)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, roasted or fresh
1 tsp. raw vegan sugar
½ - ¾ c. almond or soy milk
Salt to taste

For the filling
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed, about 2 cups
3 c. spinach, rinsed

For the enchiladas
9-10 corn tortillas
½ - ¾ c. Daiya cheddar cheese
Cayenne pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped


For the sauce: Preheat oven to 450° or high broil setting. Roast whole peppers 15-20 minutes until skin is blackened and blistered, rotating once or twice to ensure all sides are cooked. Remove and set aside in a paper bag to cool before handling.

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions in oil until they begin to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, chipotle peppers, spices/herbs, and a pinch of salt. Stir and let cook another minute before adding tomatoes. Bring sauce to a low boil and reduce heat medium low. Let simmer 15-20 minutes to let flavors blend. Add a small pinch of sugar to balance the acidity and bring out the spice.

Meanwhile, return to peppers. Peel the skins off, remove seeds and discard. Chop peppers coarsely and set aside. When sauce is done, transfer to food processor or blender and puree until smooth, adding almond milk until desired thickness is reached. Transfer sauce back to pan and stir in roasted peppers. Season with additional salt if necessary.

For the filling: While the sauce is simmering, bring another pot of water to boil. Add squash and lower heat to medium. Cook until squash is tender and falls apart easily. Place spinach in a medium mixing bowl in the sink. When you strain the squash, strain the hot water over the spinach to blanch. Set squash aside in a mixing bowl and strain spinach once it is slightly wilted. Mash squash until smooth but slightly chunky and fold in spinach.

To assemble enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350°F. In an 8x8” square pan, coat with cooking spray and spoon sauce to thinly cover the bottom, using about 1/3 cup. Place 3-4 tortillas over sauce and spread half of squash filling over tortillas. Spoon another ½ cup of sauce over squash and lay another 3-4 tortillas. Repeat with the next layer, spooning remainder of squash and another ½ of sauce. Finally, place another layer of tortillas over the top and cover with remaining sauce.

Bake for 20 minutes or until sauce sets. Set oven back to broil (optional), and sprinkle the top with Daiya cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cayenne pepper and cilantro.