STUFFED EGGPLANT IN GRAND HOLIDAY STYLE

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

An elegant dish for the festive occasion, these stuffed eggplants not only make an attractive presentation but they also bring delicious pleasure to the lucky guests who have come for holiday dinner. If the guests are eggplant lovers–even better!

To save time during the busy holiday season, you can make this dish a day ahead and cover it in plastic wrap before baking. Then, next day bring the eggplants to room temperature and bake them shortly before serving.

To determine which size eggplants to buy, it helps to be a little familiar with your guests appetites. Very hearty eaters will be able to handle one-half of the large 1-pound eggplant. Once it’s stuffed, it’s pretty impressive in size.

Those with more average appetites will be very satisfied with one-half of a 1/2-pound eggplant. Keep in mind that the mushrooms, carrots, and the brown rice mixed with the eggplant make even this size a robust serving.

I’ve chosen pecans for the crusty topping because of their natural sweetness, but chopped cashews or walnuts would also make excellent choices to give the topping a pleasing crunch.

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

 Yield: 8 average servings or 4 very hearty servings

Eggplant Stuffing

4 small eggplants, about 1/2 pound each for average servings or 2 large eggplants (1 pound each), for very hearty eater

1/2 pound fresh button, mushrooms halved and thinly sliced

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 medium carrots, diced

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup cooked short grain brown rice

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 or 2 pinches cayenne

Topping

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely ground in a nut mill

1 tablespoon white miso

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a serrated grapefruit knife or paring knife scoop out the eggplant flesh, chop it into bite-size pieces, and set it aside in a medium bowl.

Brush the shells inside and out lightly with oil, put the shells on the baking sheet, and put them under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, until the flesh is soft and golden brown. Remove and cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the chopped eggplant flesh to a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, garlic, carrots, water, and oil and cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice and cook another 1 or 2 minutes. Add the rice, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and cayenne. Adjust seasoning if needed. Mix well and stuff the mixture into the eggplant shells, filling them to the rim. Store extra stuffing in the refrigerator and see note for leftover suggestion.

Put the topping ingredients in a small bowl and use the fingers to mix it well. Spoon the topping over the eggplant and press gently to secure it. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and serve.

Note: Extra eggplant stuffing is delicious as an appetizer spread that can be spooned onto toasted pita wedges or crackers. These handy leftovers bring a delicious appetizer to the table quickly.

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A PANFORTE TO DAZZLE CHOCOLATE LOVERS!

Chocolate Panforte

Panforte

CHOCOLATE PANFORTE

For those unfamiliar with this very special holiday treat, panforte is a divinely rich confection packed with dried fruits, nuts, and spices, baked in a 7-or 8-inch slab, and coated with confectioner’s sugar. The traditional Italian recipe contains glazed fruits, but I much prefer the sweet, tangy flavor dried fruits contribute to the recipe. When chocolate and lots of spice is added to the mixture, each bite becomes pure nirvana, delivering a delicious melt-in-the-mouth medley of fruit, nut, spice, and chocolate flavors all at once. In other words, all those heavenly flavors and textures you could possibly desire in a holiday candy.

This recipe is ideal for plan-ahead kitchen wizards who love to make their cookies and confections well-ahead of the holiday and freeze or refrigerate them. Then, when they need them, they can easily reach into the fridge or freezer and the muss and fuss is well behind.

Chocolate PanforteDuring the autumn season, I make several batches of panforte, wrap them in double layers of plastic wrap, and tuck them into the fridge. Knowing I’ll be entertaining and going to several parties during the holiday season, my early prep serves me quite well.

A homemade panforte also makes an fabulous gift that can be safely shipped to friends and family across the country without spoilage. Once they taste, the lucky recipients will send you messages filled with OMGs!

Panforte

Entertaining at home during the holidays, I like to serve the panforte as an extra treat. Several hours before dessert time, I remove the panforte from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for best flavor. Then, I unwrap a slab and put it on a colorful plate garnished with real or plastic holly. If the panforte is the only dessert, I’ll cut it into thin wedges like a pie. When serving it along with other desserts, I cut it into bite-size pieces, about 1-inch square. Because it’s quite rich, a little goes a long way.

Panforte makes an impressive homemade gift. Before gifting, tie a holiday ribbon over the plastic wrap, make a large bow, and present the panforte with a happy holiday wish. I like to add a touch of holly to the wrapping–it does such a great job of conveying the holiday message and makes an attractive addition to the presentation.

Here’s the process: Line the pie pans with parchment. Roast the nuts. Cut the fruits, Combine the fruits. Add spices and nuts. Make syrup and add to mixture. Spoon and press into parchment-lined pans. Bake. Cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Ready to wrap.

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

 

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

Chocolate PanforteChocolate Panforte

Chocolate PanforteCHOCOLATE PANFORTE

Yield: four 8-inch round slabs

Panforte

2 cups pecansChocolate Panforte

1 3/4 cups walnuts

1 1/4 cups almonds

1 cup dried dried apricots, diced (i used Melissa’s)

1 cup flour (oat, all purpose, or whole wheat pastry flour)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I used Melissa’s from melissas.com)

Zest of 1 lemon or orange

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmegChocolate Panforte

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Chocolate Syrup

1 cup organic sugar

1 cup agave nectar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into several pieces

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready 2 large rimmed baking sheets and four 8-inch pie pans or cake pans lined with enough parchment to drape generously over the sides. Place 2 pans on each baking sheet. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE PANFORTE, spread the pecans, walnuts, and almonds on one of the baking sheets and toast them in the oven for 9 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a large platter to cool and turn off the oven.

In an extra large bowl, combine the apricots, flour, sugar, raisins, dates, cranberries, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and pepper.

When the nuts are cool, add them to the bowl and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE SYRUP, combine the sugar and agave nectar in a 2 to 3-quart saucepan and mix well. Put the chocolate in a bowl and place it near the stove-top. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and place the pan over medium-high heat. Boil until the temperature reaches 225 degrees F., approximately 5 minutes. This can happen very quickly. Do not stir during the boiling.

Turn off the heat as soon as the mixture reaches 225 degrees F. and stir in the chocolate. Continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted.

Pour the chocolate syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and use a heavy-duty wooden spoon to stir and coat the ingredients completely. The mixture quickly becomes quite stiff and you’ll need to apply muscle power to combine the syrup and fruit-nut mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Use a metal spoon to distribute the mixture equally among the prepared pans, a heaping spoonful at a time, packing it down before adding another. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely for several hours before removing the panforte slabs from the pans.

Then, carefully, remove the parchment from each slab and dust each heavily with the powdered sugar on both sides, using your hands to coat them completely.

TO SERVE THE PANFORTE, use a sharp, heavy-duty knife to cut the panforte into very thin wedges or into 1-inch pieces. If not serving right away, double-wrap each panforte in plastic wrap. The panforte will keep for a month or two at room temperature or for 1 year in the refrigerator.

Panforte

TASTE THE OMG PIE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

Apricot Date Hazelnut Sticky Pie 1APRICOT, DATE, AND HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

Everyone has a favorite dessert they love to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. For some, it’s good, old-fashioned apple pie with plenty of cinnamon, for others it a rich, crunchy pecan pie. Some cling to cheesecake, while others just love a moist, two-layer dark chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting.

For me, the OMG dessert of the season (actually, there are several) is this awesome creation I assembled and served several years ago. Everyone loved it–said it was a keeper, their favorite dessert, the best dessert they ever tasted, couldn’t get enough of it, etc.! Reviews don’t get much better than that! So, naturally, I kept it and am excited about sharing it.

Something new I can add to the list of compliments is that this dessert won 1st place in a dessert contest at Melissas.com. Actually, it was a 3-way tie for 1st place and I was one of the top three.

Sticky Pie side

For that even when I needed 30 servings, I doubled the recipe and prepared it in a 9 x 13-inch pan. I pressed only one recipe of the crust  mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Sticky Pie close up 2

So what’s the big deal–why all the fuss? It’s just simply a great tasting pie with an exceptionally appealing texture and encompasses all the good stuff the holiday season has to offer.

And, really, any time you join together dried fruit, like raisins, dates, cranberries, and apricots, you’ve combined the seductive elements of an exceptional sweet treat. But, then, mingle the merry makings of those four fruits with the crunchy, roasted, chunky nuts, spice them up, bind them with a magical medley of sweeteners, and voila!–a stunning pie for the festive holiday!

The pleasantly chewy texture of the pie is reminiscent of nougat, so be sure to use a firm, serrated knife to cut into servings. You’ll need to apply a little muscle when cutting into the pie because of its very firm, and rather sticky nature. It’s quite sweet and rich, so thin slices are best–and that makes the dessert go a little farther.

I’ve actually gotten 12 serving from this pie for several reasons. First, after a large meal, the guests are too full for big servings. Second, because the pie is super sweet, small servings are very satisfying. And, third, so many people are watching the waistlines, they’re happy to be served a small piece.

It’s also the perfect make-ahead dessert that keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. This is one dessert that’s a dinner host’s dream because there’s no last minute fuss and everyone loves it. For the best results, bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

For best results, make the pie a day or two ahead, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. Then, bring the pie to room temperature several hours before serving. Refrigerating the pie adds a touch of needed moisture, while bringing it to room temperature makes it easier to cut.

 Apricot Date Hazelnut Sticky Pie pieceAPRICOT, DATE, AND HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

 Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie; 8 to 12 servings

1 recipe Oatmeal Crumb Crust (recipe below)

1 1/2 cups blanched hazelnuts (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)Apricot, Date, and Hazelnut Sticky Pie 2

3/4 cup toasted pecans (I used Melissa’s pecans)

 

1 cup golden raisins (I used Melissa’s)

3/4 cup diced dates

2/3 cup diced dried apricots (I used Melissa’s)

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I used Melissa’s)

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon minced orange or lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

1 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

 

Prepare the Oatmeal Crumb Crust and set aside.

To make the filling, pour the blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break the nuts into coarse pieces. Transfer the hazelnuts to a large bowl. Break the pecans into pieces and add them to the hazelnuts.

Add the raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt to the nuts and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the brown rice syrup, organic sugar, and maple syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the tapioca flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the moisture.

Bring the syrup mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the lime juice and maple extract into the syrup mixture and mix well.

Pour the syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and stir and mix thoroughly to coat all the ingredients. (The mixture will be very thick and sticky, and combining it completely will likely take the place of your daily workout.)

Spoon the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 4 to 6 hours to set completely. To store, cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

Oatmeal Crumb Crust

 Yield: Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup walnuts

4 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons organic sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

Pour the oats into a food processor. Pulse 15 to 20 times. Add the walnuts, oil, sugar, syrup, lemon juice, and salt. Process until the mixture becomes a fine, crumbly meal and holds together when pinched. Scrape down the workbowl as needed. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water to help the mixture hold together.

Spoon the mixture into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Press on the edges to firm.

Sticky Pie Melissa's

 

SOUTHERN PECAN PIE–PERFECT FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Pecan Pie copyDOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Pecans are native to the American South, and you can bet those creative Southerners put them on the menu every chance they could find. Those delicious little pecans even made the South famous for its pecan pie, an irresistible dessert that makes ex-pat Southerns very homesick.

Many Southern families have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even some handed down from grandma’s or great-grandma’s secret recipe. Years ago, family recipes were so cherished many were kept secret.

I have great respect for those delicious heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holidays. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. But I must admit that veganizing the recipe was one heck of a challenge.

My first 8 attempts–yes, it actually took 9 tries to get it right–came out too runny or totally soupy. It was maddening and totally frustrating, but I was one determined gal. The goal was to find a way to thicken and bind the ingredients, as eggs would do in the traditional recipe. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly, and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no! As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.

NutGourmet cover copyTaking the place of the eggs in my successful recipe is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture. The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal. The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

There are many ways to arrange the pecans on the top. Some people simply sprinkle broken pieces over the filling, but I wanted a pecan pie that was pretty darned eye appealing. If you have the time, start by sorting out beautiful pecan halves of similar sizes for the topping. Then arrange them side-by-side in concentric rings beginning in the center of the pie.

At serving time, make way for those wild and crazy pecan lovers. There’s bound to be a mad scramble for a piece of pie!

DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flourPecan Pie copy
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons cold water

Pecan Filling
1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine
1 1/2 cups light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup regular soymilk
1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

5 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 1/4 cups pecan halves

  1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.
  4. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.
  5. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  6. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.
  7. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.
  8. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

TARTS FOR DESSERT? YOU BET!!!

Raw Gingerbread Tartlet1 LR 1500px RAW GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE TARTS

oliverioPlant-fueled since 2011, Annie Oliverio writes, runs, and cooks in the heart of Cattle Country. An enthusiastic “home chef,” Annie started her blog, An Unrefined Vegan, to share her passion for creating cruelty-free, unprocessed, whole food recipes that are delicious, healthful, and simple to prepare. Annie’s dishes contain little or no oil and her desserts are sweetened with fruit, dates, or stevia. It’s all about nurturing body, brain, and conscience.

Through her project, Virtual Vegan Potluck, she invites both vegan and non-vegan bloggers to share a twice-yearly online potluck, demonstrating how food can bring people together. Annie is currently writing and photographing her first cookbook, crave/eat/heal.

She has been fortunate to have as participants, cookbook authors Kathy Hester, Robin Robertson, Natalie Slater, Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Bryanna Clark Grogan. Read more about that event on her website, Virtual Vegan Potluck. Annie is also a recipe contributor to One Green Planet and a featured chef on Raw Food Recipes.

 RAW GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE TARTS

 Makes 9

Crust:
1/2 cup pecans

1 tbsp. crystallized ginger
1 tbsp. cacao or cocoa powderRaw Gingerbread Tartlet3 750px LR
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 dates, chopped
1 tsp. dried ginger
1 tbsp. water

Chocolate layer:
4 tbsp. low-fat coconut milk
1 tbsp. cacao or cocoa powder
1 tsp. agave nectar
4 tbsp. vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

Filling:
1 banana, cut into chunks
1 cup cashews, soaked for a few hours, drained & rinsed
1/8 cup molasses
3 tbsp. low-fat coconut milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
pinch ground cloves

~18 thin strips of crystallized ginger, for decoration
9 whole pecans, for decoration

Make the crust:
Have a 12-cup muffin pan at the ready.

In a food processor, combine the pecans, ginger, cacao powder, chia seeds, coconut flakes, dates, and dried ginger. Process until the nuts and dates are broken down into very small pieces. Add the water and process until the mixture starts to come together. The mixture should stick together when pinched.

Put 1 tbsp. of the mixture into each of 9 muffin cups. (You could probably eke out 10…) Press the crust firmly and uniformly down into each tin. Set aside while you prepare the chocolate layer.

Make the chocolate layer:
In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and melt over medium heat. This does not take long – so watch carefully so you don’t burn the chocolate. Whisk to thoroughly combine, then remove from the heat. Carefully pour the chocolate over the crust. Tap and tip the pan so that the chocolate completely coats the crusts. Place pan in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

Make the filling:
In a high-speed blender, combine the banana, cashews, molasses, coconut milk, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and spices and process until very smooth. You’ll need to tamp it down a few times to get a really smooth mixture. You want it silky with no little chunks of cashews. You can do this in a food processor, but it takes a long time and you won’t get that silky smoothness.

Once the filling is smooth, scrape it into a small bowl. This just makes working with it a little easier. Remove the muffin pan from the freezer and divide the filling between the cups. Place two strips of crystallized ginger on each tart and gently press in one pecan per tart. Refrigerate for several hours.

Pecan Lovers Scramble for a Piece of Pie!

DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Because pecans are native to the American South, they frequently turn up as pecan pie on Southern dessert menus in homes and restaurants. And many home cooks have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even one handed down from grandma’s cherished blend of pecans, sugar, and spices. pecan downhomeI have great respect for those heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holiday season. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. Taking the place of the eggs that usually bind the saucy ingredients together is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture.

The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal.

So when is it the perfect time to serve pecan pie? All throughout the holiday season and any time you can buy gorgeous pecans. The new crop of nuts are harvested in early autumn, around September, so they’re fresh and flavorful. My family tradition is bringing a pecan pie to the Thanksgiving table along with the traditional pumpkin pie.

Converting a conventional recipe to a vegan version can often be an easy swap-out of ingredients. Sometimes, though, it’s just a bear of a task. Pecan pie was my biggest challenge and it took 9 tries with different methods to get the pie to bind together. Many of the versions ended up as too soupy. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no. As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.NGcover8 copy 2

The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

You can also create an irresistible, love-at-first-glance pecan pie by taking the time to sort out beautiful pecan halves for the topping and then arranging them side-by-side in concentric rings.

Down Home Pecan Pie

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

 

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup almond meal

2 tablespoons organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1/2 cup organic canola oil

2 tablespoons cold water

 

Pecan Filling

1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

 

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine

1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

1/2 cup regular soymilk

1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

 

5 tablespoons flaxseeds

1 1/4 cups pecan halves

 

  1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  1. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.
  1. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.
  1. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.
  1. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  1. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.
  1. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.
  1. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.

Here Comes the Thanksgiving Centerpiece!

THANKSGIVING TORTE

Thanksgiving Torte2_edited-1 copyVegans looking for that exceptional main-dish centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table need look no further!

Standing a full three inches tall and garnished to the max, this elegant and very robust torte is the ideal choice. The torte features all the pleasing qualities one might crave in an autumn dish that will take the place of that greasy Standard Thanksgiving favorite that unfortunately graces American tables across the country.

We vegans prefer a kinder, gentler, and far more earth-friendly main dish for which we can truly give thanks on this special occasion.

This sumptuous, finger-lickin’ torte evolved over a period of several years as I NGcover8 copy 2tweaked it just a tad each year, gave it more sage one year, enhanced it with liquid smoke  another year, and finally developed the Mushroom gravy to give it the finishing touch. The recipe is from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

One year my daughter asked how I ever came up with this  dish. After giving it a moment’s thought, I focused on the specific flavors that bring us pleasure during the autumn and long winter season.

This time of year we seek the intense flavor of dried herbs more than the lighter fresh herbs. We need robust ingredients that stick to the ribs like nuts and whole grains–winter foods to bring us warmth and satisfaction.

Thanks Torte 5So I added a generous amount of poultry seasoning, a seasoning blend that contains a fair amount of sage, and turned to wild rice, potatoes, mushrooms, pecans, walnuts, and a package of fat-free vegan sausage.

Because Thanksgiving can be a busy time with extra family and friends coming for dinner, I cook the wild rice two days ahead. Then it’s ready to just toss into the mix. I also make the Mushroom Gravy ahead and simply warm it on the stovetop just before serving time.

I always make this dish the day before Thanksgiving simply because it tastes so much better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to do their dance together. I pack it into a springform pan and tuck it into the oven. After cooling, it goes into the fridge until next day.

About 2 hours before Thanksgiving dinner, I take the torte out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then, I warm it for 20 to 25 minutes before serving. Served with a robust mushroom sauce on the side, it makes an impressive presentation perched on a footed cake plate.

Thanksgiving Torte MichaelTHANKSGIVING TORTE

Yield: 8 to 10 servingsThanks Torte 4

3 1/3 cups water, divided

2/3 cup  wild rice

2 1/8 teaspoons salt, divided

 

3/4 pound red or white rose potatoes, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch cubes

 

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces

 

1 (14-ounce) package vegan ground sausage

3/4 pound  portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 4 large mushrooms)

1 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oilthanksgiving torte copy

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

1/2 teaspoon hickory liquid smokeThanks Torte 3

 

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

Fresh herbs (dill, sage, parsley, basil, or mint)

 

Mushroom Gravy

1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms

1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, dividedThanksgiving Torte2_edited-1 copy

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

  1. TO MAKE THE TORTE, lightly oil the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Remove the collar and line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup). Snap the collar back on and set aside.
  2. Combine 2 cups of the water, wild rice, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat  to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain any excess liquid and set the rice aside.
  3. Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup of the water, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the pecans and walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast them for 9 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.
  5. Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms, onion, the remaining 1/3 cup water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and hickory liquid smoke to the sausage mixture and mix well.
  6. Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan, spreading evenly to the edges and pressing firmly to avoid air pockets. Arrange the tomato slices over the top and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
  1. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM GRAVY, combine the mushrooms, 1 3/4 cups of the water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency. Serve the gravy on the side.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, run a clean flatware knife around the edge of the springform pan, release the springform collar, and set the torte on a large serving platter or footed cake plate. Garnish the platter with herbs.

Prep Ahead 1: To ease the feast-day preparations, make the torte the day before, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it at 350 degrees F. for about 20 to 25 minutes just before serving.

Prep Ahead 2: The recipe comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte, preferably even a day ahead. Make the Mushroom Gravy up to two days ahead and warm it shortly before serving.

Add a gourmet touch by serving the torte on a footed cake plate and garnish the edges with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange or Fuyu persimmon slices.