CELEBRATE A WHITE CHRISTMAS AT THE TABLE

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

A beautiful main dish, this trio features a tasty grain as the base, topped with a hearty serving of vegetables. The final topping is a snowy white, ultra creamy walnut sauce garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and a sprinkle of parsley.

While it looks complicated, it’s really quite manageable with good planning. The bulgur, vegetables, and the sauce can each be made a day ahead and stored in a container that can be gently warmed in the oven. You don’t even have to warm the sauce–just enjoy it at room temperature and it will be delightfully creamy and delicious.

This is a fun dish to serve because it lends itself to inventively creative presentations. Assembling the dish will tap into your innovative notions and allow you go be as expressive as your inner artist allows. If you prefer simplicity, that’s totally OK and your family will still enjoy a luscious and healthy whole grain dish complete with vegetables and a unique, walnut-based sauce that’s white as snow to top off the White Christmas Trio.

To fill out the meal, I would also add legumes, a side vegetable, and a gorgeous salad. Of course, a delicious appetizer makes a great start to the festivities. Perhaps the Yin Yang Thanksgiving Paté. A lighter choice might be the Smoky Garlic Stuffed Endive. I’ve posted some fun choices for your holiday dessert and will let you explore the many recipes by clicking on Desserts.

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Bulgur Wheat

1 1/2 cups coarse bulgur wheat or Basmati brown rice

3 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup raisins

Walnut Sauce

3 cups walnuts

3 cups vanilla soymilk

1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon organic sugar

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Vegetables

2 large carrots, coarsely grated

2 large zucchini squashes, coarsely grated

1 large yellow summer squash, coarsely grated

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, crosswise

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Garnish

1/2 to 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

TO MAKE THE BULGUR WHEAT, combine the bulgur, water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam for 12 to 15 minutes (steam Basmati brown rice 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender).

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to plump them while preparing the remaining ingredients.

TO MAKE THE WALNUT SAUCE, put the walnuts, soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and sugar in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce will thicken when standing. Set aside in a saucepan and warm gently before serving.

TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES, combine the carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, water, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables. Adjust seasonings and add lemon juice to taste.

Drain the water from the reserved raisins and add them to the vegetables and toss well.

TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:

  • Mound the bulgur wheat onto a large serving platter.
  • Spoon some of the walnut sauce over the bulgur, leaving a 1-inch border of the bulgur showing.
  • Form a ring of the cooked vegetables, leaving a 1-inch border of bulgur wheat around the edges.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and parsley over the top.
  • Serve the remainder of the walnut sauce on the side.

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LET’S GET READY FOR A VEGAN THANKSGIVING DINNER

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

Vegan Thanksgiving yearns for a classic signature dish that becomes a cherished must-have for the Thanksgiving main course. Deliciously seasoned with flamboyant flavors, captivatingly aromatic, and visually appealing, this unique torte is a first-rate holiday entrée that delivers plenty of pizzazz. If you favor sauces to dress up the presentation, include the irresistible Roasted Tomato Aioli, an elegant complement to the torte. Both the torte and the aioli can be prepared a day ahead.

I’ve served this main-dish torte at other times during the winter and spring seasons and it’s always a hit. But mostly, I save it for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner–that makes it special, and I change it out with other main dishes so it maintains its special status.

I know the long list of ingredients makes it look scary, but it actually comes together rather well. I’ve even made it two days ahead because it keeps perfectly. And when I bring it to the table, it always gets a few WOWs–feels really nice to hear them.

Although I’ve specified shredded carrots as part of the garnish, sometimes I use sliced persimmons or half slices of oranges. The orange colors set this dish up for an eye-appealing presentation.

Important: Because there are ingredients that require advance preparation, read the recipe thoroughly well in advance of preparing it. That way, you can have the rice cooked and ready, the pistachios roasted and ground, and the frozen peas completely thawed.

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings

Torte

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

1 tablespoon plus 14 teaspoon white vinegar or rice vinegar

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons coarsely ground roasted pistachios

 

2 medium onions, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch cayenne

Freshly ground pepper

 

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 pound frozen peas, thawed

1 medium carrot, shredded, for garnish

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Aioli

1 pound Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika or liquid smoke

TO PREPARE THE PAN, cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper 2 inches larger. Snap the collar back onto the base, and cut away the excess paper with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan, place it on a baking sheet, and set aside.

TO MAKE THE TORTE, pour 1 cup of the water and the cashews into a blender. Process on high speed until smooth and milky. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the vinegar and set aside to sour.

Combine the oats, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup of the ground pistachios.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of water, onions, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, poultry seasoning, fennel seeds, oregano, marjoram, turmeric, cayenne, and pepper in a large skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

Add the cooked vegetables and the cooked rice to the oat mixture and combine well.

Put the peas in a food processor. Process until creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add the peas and the soured cashew milk to the vegetable mixture and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan and spread to the edges, packing the mixture firmly. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of pistachios. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the torte is firm when gently pressed. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

TO MAKE THE AIOLI, put the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and broil about 3 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning twice while broiling, until completely soft.

Meanwhile, put the water, cashews, and garlic in a blender. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Add the broiled tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and paprika to the cashew mixture. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Transfer the sauce to a 1-quart saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, place the springform pan on a large serving platter. To unmold, run a knife around the edge to loosen the torte. Carefully lift off the collar. Garnish the edge of the platter with the shredded carrot and minced parsley. Cut the torte into serving-size wedges and serve with aioli on the side.

POLENTA TURNS MAGICAL AND FESTIVE!!!

Polenta TortePOLENTA HOLIDAY TORTE

This festive, voluptuous polenta dish, with its enticing eye appeal, was created when I was invited to a family holiday dinner and happened to have some Hummus and Basil Butter on hand. It was a natural to combine them with polenta and add the Sun-dried Tomato Pesto as the top layer. Notice that the Basil Butter contains no oil, yet still delivers the delightful undertones of basil.

Below is an array of topping recipes to get you started in making a fun and easy make-ahead polenta dish. Consider these recipes as suggestions that you can adapt in any way. The recipes may even spark a few new ideas for polenta toppings.

I’ve made this dish in a ton of different ways because the polenta makes such a perfect base for almost any topping. And you can have fun garnishing it in myriad ways, too.

In one variation, I assembled it with Hummus, Basil Butter, and Veggie Mountain on thepolentamountain copy top.

At one company dinner, I had put the polenta on a large oven-safe platter and cooled it in the refrigerator. Shortly before dinner, I warmed it briefly in the oven at about 200 degrees F. I served each person a pie-shaped wedge and topped it with a delicious ragout. The finishing touch was a garnish of Homemade Parmesan, giving it a delicious Italian touch.

polenta w:tomato sauceOnce, I substituted the veggie mountain with Easy Tomato Sauce and topped it with Homemade Parmesan.

Feel free to be creative with the topping combinations and you’ll discover that no matter what you choose, you’ll have a great main dish on the table that’s wholesome and attractive.

To make this recipe come together with ease, prepare the toppings of your choice a day or two ahead. That way, the assembly is super-easy and stress-free.

This dish is also a great traveler for short distances. If you’re asked to bring a dish to a potluck or a friend’s for dinner, just place a few toothpicks around the edge and near the center. That way, the covering of plastic wrap won’t spoil your design.

An enjoyable main dish, the polenta can be served any season of the year, gently warmed or at room temperature. Add a heaping tossed salad and the meal is complete.

Polenta TortePOLENTA HOLIDAY TORTE

 Yield: 6 servings

Polenta

4 cups water

1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse cornmeal (polenta)

TO MAKE THE POLENTA, have ready a large, round platter about 15-inches in diameter. In a 4-quart saucepan combine the water, soymilk, and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Watch carefully to prevent a messy boil-over.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the cornmeal. Stir frequently with a wire whip for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the polenta is fully cooked and has thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal. Spoon the polenta onto the platter and set aside in the refrigerator to cool and solidify.

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ASSEMBLING THE DISH: After you’ve prepared the polenta and chosen and prepared the toppings you plan to use, you’ll want to assemble the torte.

Start by spreading a generous portion of the first layer over the cooked and cooled polenta, leaving a 1/2-inch border of polenta visible.

Follow with a second topping, spreading it over the first layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Choose as many or as few toppings as you like. You don’t have to use the entire recipe–sometimes just a few spoonfuls are all you need to enhance the polenta. Put the leftovers in the fridge for a future recipe or to spread over rice, pasta, or baked potatoes.

To serve the Polenta Holiday Torte, cut it into several wedges and serve.

CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE TOPPINGS!

Hummus

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drainedPolenta Torte

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

TO MAKE THE HUMMUS, place the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into the food processor and process until thick and creamy. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Makes 1 3/4 cups hummus.

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Basil Butter

2 cups chopped zucchini

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup raw pine nuts

1/4 cup raw or roasted pistachios or pecans

2 1/2 tablespoons red miso

1 clove garlic

1/8 teaspoon pepper

TO MAKE THE BASIL BUTTER, combine the zucchini, basil leaves, pine nuts, pistachios, miso, garlic, and pepper in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Makes 1 1/2 cups basil butter.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

1 (5-ounce) package unsulphured sun-dried tomatoes (I used the ones from melissas.com)

Boiling water to cover

5 to 6 tablespoons tomato soak water

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

TO MAKE THE SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO, put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Set aside to soften for 7 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Transfer the softened tomatoes to the food processor and add the soak water, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Note: This recipe makes more than you’ll need for the torte. You may want to cut it in half or simply enjoy the leftovers on pasta or baked potatoes.

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Veggie Mountain

1 large zucchini, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

2 Indian or 1 Japanese or Chinese eggplant, diced

1 cup chopped broccolipolentamountain copy

1/2 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

Salt and pepper

1 lemon cut in half (optional)

TO MAKE THE VEGGIE MOUNTAIN, combine the zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, broccoli, onion, and water, and water-sauté over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add small amounts of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning them. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

If using the Veggie Mountain, spoon all of the cooked vegetables over the top, piling them as high as necessary. If desired, add a squeeze of lemon juice over the top. Alternatively, cut a lemon into 6 wedges, arrange the wedges on a small serving plate and serve at the table for anyone who might like to add a splash of tang.

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Homemade Parmesan

1 cup almonds

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

TO MAKE THE HOMEMADE PARMESAN, put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. (Avoid over-processing or it will turn into almond butter.)

Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 month.

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Easy Tomato Sauce

1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, dicedpolenta w:tomato sauce

1/2 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

TO MAKE THE EASY TOMATO SAUCE, put the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and oregano in an open 2-quart saucepan and cook and stir over medium high heat for 3 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked down and somewhat thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Polenta Goes Ragout
1 pound Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large sweet onion, sliced vertically
1 large portabella mushroom, chopped, or 8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce

1 or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 or 2 tablespoons water

1 green onion, sliced, for garnish

1 tablespoon well-drained capers

TO MAKE THE RAGOUT, combine the Brussels sprouts, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, garbanzo beans, wine, water, and soy sauce in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are tender. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning the vegetables.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir well to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the simmering sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until the sauce is thickened to desired consistency.

To serve, cut the polenta into pie-shaped wedges, place a serving on each dish, and spoon a generous portion of the warm Ragout over the polenta. Finish the top of each serving with a sprinkle of sliced green onions and a few capers.

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Leftovers:

Hummus and Basil Butter are the makings of a seductive sandwich. Start by spreading whole grain bread or sprouted wheat bagel with a layer of Hummus. Top with Basil Butter. Then, finish with a thick slice of tomato and greens like spinach or romaine.

MEXICAN FLAG GRACES THE HOLIDAY TABLE WITH PANACHE!

Chiles en NogadaCHILES EN NOGADA

This gorgeous dish was actually created in 1821 in Central Mexico to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, which occurs on September 16, 1810. I came across this recipe when a local library asked me to do a vegan demo on regional Mexican cooking to celebrate Mexican American Heritage month. At first glance, you’ll see the bright colors of the Mexican flag–red, white, and green.

The finished dish is actually stuffed poblano chiles with a sauce made of walnuts.  I think you’ll agree it makes a sensational presentation.

I found the recipe is so appealing and so festive looking, I felt it deserved a place at the holiday table from Thanksgiving through New Years. There’s just one little hitch that’s easily solved. Peaches, which are featured in the recipe, are no longer available in November or December, but sweet fruits like persimmons and pears stand in quite well.

Chiles en NogadaThe other challenge–the original recipe was quite fatty and contained meat, milk, and cheese. No problem–I replaced the meat with beans and created the filling from a composite of several recipes. I’ve added diced zucchini and fresh fruits like diced apples and Fuyu persimmons in place of the candied cactus.

Also, I’ve not battered and fried the stuffed chiles, because I wanted to offer a healthier, less fatty option.

My recipe contains no sugar, but uses the fruits as delicate sweetening. For the Walnut Sauce I use vanilla soymilk and non-dairy cheese made from pea protein to replace the traditional dairy products.

The dish is said to have been created by Puebla nuns for a visiting dignitary, emperor Augustin de Iturbide, a Mexican military chieftain who was instrumental in the Mexican independence movement.

That man didn’t realize how fortunate he was. Chiles en Nogada was not a quick and easy dish to make because it has several components that each require special attention. One recipe I encountered contains 40 different ingredients! Don’t worry, it’s not this one!

In those historic days, there no blenders. To make the creamy Walnut Sauce, they had to use a grinding stone called mano and metate that works like our mortar and pestle.

I’ve created a simplified version of the recipe, but it still involves 3 components–charring the chiles on the stovetop and peeling them, making the filling, and blending the sauce.

Once all the chiles are charred and cleaned and the fruits and vegetables are chopped, the recipe comes together quickly and can be prepared in stages.

For guests who are not fond of chiles, here’s an alternative presentation. Instead of stuffing Chiles en Nogada Nakedthe chiles, I used them as a border surrounding the filling. That way, guests at the buffet table can simply take a helping of filling and side-step the chiles. The topping is slivered almonds.

Don’t side-step the sauce, though. It’s delicious! Just serve it on the side.

 Chiles en Nogada

CHILES EN NOGADA

Yield: 8 servings

8 fresh poblano peppers

FillingChiles en Nogada

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 to 4 tablespoons water

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 medium tomato, diced

1 bay leaf

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground cloves

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium apple, cored, and diced

1 firm fresh peach, persimmon, or pear, cored and diced

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup sliced or slivered toasted almonds

Chiles en NogadaSauce

3 cups vanilla soymilk or plain soymilk with 2 teaspoons organic sugar          added

2 cups walnuts

3/4 cup non-dairy shredded mozzarella

Pinch salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Garnish

8 large romaine lettuce leaves

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds or 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

4 green onions, green part only, chopped

  1. Have ready a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.
  2. TO PREPARE THE CHILES, put the poblano peppers directly over a gas flame, using several burners simultaneously. Working with long-handled tongs, turn the peppers frequently until blistered and blackened on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Put the blackened peppers into a bag or wrap them in a towel and set aside for about 5 to 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Alternatively, plunge the blackened peppers into a bowl of water. Rub off the skins under running water to clean the charred chiles.
  3. Carefully cut a vertical slit in each chile and cut out and discard the core and any stray seeds. Arrange the chiles on the baking sheet and set aside.
  4. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the onion, garlic, and water in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the onions and prevent burning.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes, zucchini, fresh tomato, bay leaf, salt, cinnamon, cumin, and cloves and cook about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the black beans, apple, peach, raisins, and almonds and cook about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the fruits are just softened.
  7. Open the slits in the chiles and spoon a generous portion of filling into each of them, filling them fully. Close the slits, enclosing the filling completely. Put the chiles in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes to warm through.
  8. TO PREPARE THE SAUCE, put the soymilk, walnuts, mozzarella, salt, and pepper in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.
  9. TO SERVE, line each person’s dish with a lettuce leaf. Put one stuffed poblano on each dish and spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the top and sides, coating each one completely. Garnish with a generous sprinkle of pomegranate seeds or chopped red bell pepper and green onions.

 

Portobello Mini Pies–a Vegan for the Holidays Spectacular!

Portobello MinisPORTOBELLO MINI PIES

WITH MEDITERRANEAN RELISH

Portobello mushrooms, with their intense, earthy, and woodsy flavor, claim the limelight to offer a platter of richly flavored mini pies with winning charm that has enough pizazz to stand alone. Top the little pies with Mediterranean Relish and they morph into an eye appealing, elegant, and compellingly delicious main dish for the holiday season.

These little mini pies are ideal for a quiet family meal, but they’re also compelling and sophisticated enough to serve your most discriminating foodie guests for a holiday dinner.

Prepare the mini pies and the relish in advance so after a busy day of holiday shopping you can tuck them into the oven for a quick warming. They’ll be ready in minutes.

Add a salad and a steamed vegetable and dinner is done. Then you’ll have plenty of time to relax and share your shopping finds at the dinner table–unless they’re a surprise!

PORTOBELLO MINI PIES

WITH MEDITERRANEAN RELISH

Makes 10 to 12 mini pies 3-inches in diameter.

 

Mushroom Mini Pies

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

 

2 to 3 giant portobello mushrooms (about 3/4 pound), or 3/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms

 

1 cup cooked brown rice, barley, or buckwheat

1 cup diced onions

1/2 cup almond meal or hazelnut meal

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Mediterranean Relish

1 (14-ounce) can water-packed artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1 1/4 cups diced fresh tomatoes

10 pitted Kalamata olives, diced

6 pitted Spanish olives, diced

1 green onion, minced

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch cayenne

Freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Few sprigs fresh basil

 

  1. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM MINI PIES, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and flaxseed meal. Mix well and set aside to thicken.
  3. Coarsely chop the mushrooms, put them into the food processor in batches, and pulse until finely minced. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl.
  4. Add the cooked brown rice, onions, almond meal, rolled oats, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix well with clean hands to distribute ingredients evenly.
  5. If the reserved flaxseed meal has not thickened, beat it with a fork until it forms a thick slurry or put it into the blender and blend for 1 minute to form the thick slurry, about the texture of cooked oatmeal. Add the slurry to the mushrooms and mix thoroughly to distribute the slurry evenly.
  6. Using your hands, form the mixture into mini pies or patties and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Press lightly on the tops to flatten them slightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the mini pies with a metal spatula and bake 12 to 15 minutes longer until tops are firm.
  7. TO MAKE THE MEDITERRANEAN RELISH, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. TO SERVE, place the mushroom mini pies on a platter and garnish each with a generous dollop of the Mediterranean Relish. Artfully place a basil leaf on each mini pie and bring the remaining relish to the table.

Note: The mini pies and the relish are also the ultimate convenience foods—prepare them a day ahead and chill them separately. Reheat the mini pies at 350 degrees F. for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. The relish will keep for up to 4 days.

Important: If you’ve chosen to use the buckwheat in the in the mini cakes, you may need to add a small amount of water. If the mixture is too dry to hold together when forming the mini pies, add 1 to 3 tablespoons water and mix well with the hands. The mixture should be firm, yet moist but not watery.

Pattycake, Pattycake, Bring Me Some Chestnuts

CHESTNUT PATTYCAKES

Chestnut PattycakesCroquettes and patties fall into that wonderful zone of ordinary comfort foods we tend to rely on when we’ve collected a few leftovers in the fridge. But patties generously packed with bits of chestnuts, carrots, and onions are anything but pedestrian, even with the leftovers. It’s those precious little chestnuts, with their mystical sweetness, that brings these little cakes to life. Save those scanty leftovers of cooked rice and potatoes—they’re just what these little pattycakes need to hold them together.

These irresistible little patties are just right for a small family meal. If you plan on having an extra guest or two, double the recipe so no one will leave hungry.

Because these delicious patties are fried, I consider them an indulgent treat and save them for a special occasion–and there’s always a special occasion during the holidays. Because chestnuts are available for only a short season (October through December or January) they become one of the tasty treasures of the holiday season.

Cooking a peeling fresh chestnuts is a bit time consuming, so if you don’t want to bother cooking and peeling them, you can buy them already cooked and peeled in vacuum-sealed packages or jars. Avoid the ones that come water-packed in cans. They’re simply awful–they’re mushy and tasteless.

I may be a glutton for punishment, but to my mind, there’s nothing that quite takes the place of fresh chestnuts, and I’m a willing sucker for the laborious task. It actually becomes a seasonal ritual I’ve come to love. If you do want to take the time to cook and peel them yourself, you can order fresh chestnuts directly from the grower. Here’s a link to the post that has all the contact information for several growers in the U.S. Go to the websites and ask to be added to the mailing list. That way, they’ll let you know as soon as the fresh chestnuts are harvested and ready for sale in late September or October. Place your order soon, because they may be sold out by Thanksgiving.

One last comment, these little pattycakes are so tasty on their own, they really don’t need any kind of sauce to jazz them up. But if you’re a diehard sauce enthusiast, try a little vegan mayo, a dab of Hoisin, or a dollop of vegan sour cream.

CHESTNUT PATTYCAKES

Yield: 6 pattycakes

1 cup diced cooked and peeled chestnuts

1 medium carrot, coarsely shredded

 

3/4 cup cooked short-grain brown rice

1/2 cup chopped sweet onions

1 medium white or red rose potato, boiled and coarsely chopped

 

2 tablespoons waterChestnut Pattycakes

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

1/2 to 2/3 cup almond meal

1/4 cup canola oil, divided

  1. Combine the chestnuts and carrots in a large mixing bowl and set them aside.
  2. Combine the rice, onions, and potato in the food processor and process until they are completely pureed. You may have to scrape down the sides of the work bowl, redistribute the ingredients, and process again.
  3. Spoon the rice mixture into the bowl with the chestnuts and add the water, salt, and pepper. Stir the mixture thoroughly with a fork to incorporate all the ingredients and distribute them evenly.
  4. Pour the almond meal onto a flat dish. Form the chestnut mixture into 6 patties, two inches in diameter, and dip both sides into the almond meal to coat them completely.
  5. Pour half the canola oil into a 10-inch non-stick skillet over high heat. The oil is ready when a drop of water makes it sizzle. Cook the patties about two minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown, and transfer them to a serving dish lined with a double layer of paper towels to drain.
  6. Transfer the patties to a serving plate and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.

 

Almond Nutloaf, a Gorgeous Holiday Choice

 ALMOND NUTLOAF WITH TOMATO HERB GRAVY

Almond NutloafALMOND NUTLOAF WITH TOMATO HERB GRAVY

Holiday dining in a non-vegan household can often feel like choices are extremely limited. Not so if you bring this scrumptious vegan-to-the-core nutloaf to the table. Even the non-veg family and friends will be tempted to start with a sliver.

My experience in non-veg situations is that the doubting Thomases will take a teeny tiny serving at first and taste it hesitantly, half expecting to not like it. Most are taken by surprise, because the darned nutloaf tastes amazing and they like it enough to head back for a realistic serving size. It’s often the very same experience when non-vegans come to my house for a holiday meal.

Plus, what’s not to like? It looks appealing, has an pleasing nutty, crunchy texture, and has a delicious combination of flavors from the medley of herbs and spices baked into it.

In spite of the long list of ingredients and lengthy directions, the nutloaf is actually a snap to assemble. Even better is that you can make the nutloaf up to two days ahead of the holiday frenzy. I’ve even served it cold, but it’s truly much tastier enjoyed nice and warm.

To reheat the nutloaf, remove it from the refrigerator about 2 hours ahead. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and cover the nutloaf with aluminum foil. Tuck it into the oven for about 15 to 25 minutes, or just until heated through.

It’s even terrific as leftovers! There are many times I’ll actually make an extra-large quantity of several dishes, just so I’ll have leftovers. Those leftovers are a blessing when you have out of town family visiting for the holidays and you’re on the run touring them all over the city. it’s so nice to come home to a meal that simply needs a few minutes to warm.

Almond Nutloaf 3I played with a little different way to garnish the nutloaf. It’s easy to make a tomato rose. All you need is a very sharp paring knife and a small tomato. Start by paring the tomato skin close to the stem end and work your way around and around cutting a thin layer of skin somewhat unevenly to create a more natural look. When you’ve pared the tomato completely, then start rolling the skin into a coil with the inner side facing outward. Secure it with a toothpick or two.

If you’re not up for the Tomato Herb Gravy, that’s OK. You don’t NEED it absolutely, but it’s really nice to have that extra little feature in a meal that adds the finishing touch. And, if you’re serving mashed potatoes, you’ll have the gravy all made.

Don’t have a springform pan? No problem. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with enough parchment to drape over the edge on two opposite sides. When it’s all baked, you can lift the nutloaf by the extended parchment and transfer it to a serving platter.

I hope you’ll make this dish and send me some comments. I’d love to read about your experience.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

1 pound Russet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and coarsely cut into chunks
2 onions, coarsely chopped, divided
3 cloves garlic, coarsely choppedAlmond Nutloaf 3
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
Water

2 cups whole raw almonds

1/3 cup raw walnuts
1/3 cup raw pecans

4 medium, fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup matzoh meal or bread crumbs
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 or 2 pinches cayenne (optional)

1 recipe Tomato Herb Gravy (below)

Garnish

1 or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
Fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and remove the collar of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of with parchment cut 2 inches larger than the pan. Snap the collar back on and lightly oil the sides. Use a scissors to cut away the excess parchment. Place the pan on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  1. Put the potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan and add 1/4 of the onions. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and water to cover. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  1. Meanwhile, put the remaining onions in a food processor and pulse-chop until they are finely minced. Transfer them to a large skillet and add about 1/4 cup of water. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened, adding 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  1. Put the almonds in a food processor and process until they are finely ground, yet slightly textured. Transfer them to a large bowl.
  1. Process the walnuts and pecans in the food processor until finely ground, yet slightly textured. Add them to the bowl with the almonds.
  1. Thoroughly drain the onions and potatoes in a colander. Transfer them to a medium bowl and mash them well. Then, add them to the bowl with the nuts.
  1. Add the tomatoes, matzoh meal, tomato paste, garlic, the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil, thyme, marjoram, pepper, and cayenne, if using. Mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute the seasonings evenly.
  1. Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan, packing it firmly with a spoon or your hands to avoid air pockets.
  1. Arrange the diced tomatoes over the top and press them into the surface lightly. Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until firm when gently pressed. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
  1. To Serve, place the springform pan on a large serving platter. Loosen the edges of the nutloaf with a knife and lift off the springform collar. Garnish the platter with fresh herbs. Use a serrated knife to cut the nutloaf into serving wedges and serve the Tomato Herb Gravy on the side.

Tomato Herb Gravy

3 cups water
3 medium size Roma tomatoes, diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

  1. Combine the water, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, and onion powder in a 2-quart saucepan.
  2. Create a bouquet garni by placing the rosemary, thyme, and sage into the center of a small piece of cheesecloth. Then gather up the ends to enclose the herbs, and tie it securely with a string. Add the bouquet garni to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and simmer about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and discard it. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine the arrowroot and water in a small cup or bowl and stir it well to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the gently simmering tomato gravy a little at a time stirring with a wire whip for about 1 minute, or until the gravy is thickened to desired consistency. Cook one minute longer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3 1/4 cups.