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Butternut Mac and Cheese

 

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Cozy comfort food has been on my menus lately, and mac and cheese tops the list this weekend.  I plan to make one of our favorite versions, the Butternut Mac and Cheese from Vegan Without Borders. Butternut squash is the secret ingredient in the creamy rich sauce made with cashews and an arsenal of spices. I will most likely add in some cooked green vegetables, such as roasted asparagus or steamed broccoli to make it a one-dish meal.

This recipe calls for steamed butternut squash but, in fact, I usually put aside some roasted butternut squash when I make it with this recipe in mind.  A cup of canned pumpkin puree also fills in nicely for the squash, if you’re pressed for time.

Butternut Mac and Cheese
Few dishes are more classically American than mac and cheese and this version is one of my favorites.  To make this gluten free, use
gluten-free pasta and bread crumbs. This recipe is also soy-free and oil-free. This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson (c) 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing.

1 cup diced butternut squash
8 ounces elbow macaroni or other bite-size pasta
½ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
2½ cups plain unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup panko bread crumbs

Steam the butternut squash in a steamer pot with a perforated basket over boiling water until tender, about 8 minutes. Set aside. Cook the macaroni in a pot of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch baking dish.
In a high-speed blender, combine the drained cashews and ½ cup of the almond milk and process until smooth. Add the cooked squash, lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper, along with the remaining almond milk and blend until completely smooth and creamy.
Add the sauce mixture to the drained macaroni and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the panko. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Serves 4

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Although I won’t be watching the Super Bowl, that’s no reason not to snack!  This Sunday we’ll be munching on GH Cretors popcorn while we watch Downton Abbey. I was lucky enough to get some samples of this popcorn and it’s really delicious.  I think it tastes as good as fresh-popped!  Best of all, this healthy indulgence is made with non-gmo organic corn and is seasoned with olive oil and/or sea salt.  If you see this popcorn, you might want to give it a try.

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Hummus Soup + Giveaway Winner

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Today’s post is about soup because, well, it’s soup weather!  This time of year, my kitchen usually has a continuing rotation of our favorite bean or lentil soups with lots of vegetables.

Sometimes, however, I just want a quick and easy soup that is also creamy, delicious, and protein-rich.  My recipe for Hummus Soup checks all those boxes and more.

It has all the flavors you love in a good hummus, takes less than 20 minutes to get on the table, and has the added crunch factor with homemade pita croutons. This rich and flavorful soup is from my favorite “quick-fix” book: More Quick-Fix Vegan.  It makes four small servings or two large meal-sized servings.  The recipe doubles easily. (recipe photo by Melissa Chapman)

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Hummus Soup with Pita Croutons
To make it even quicker, garnish with storebought pita chips instead of making your own. This recipe is from More Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson © 2014.
Serves 4

2 pita bread loaves
Olive oil (optional)
Salt
1 1/2 cups home-cooked chickpeas, or 1 (15.5-ounce) can, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons sesame tahini
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley or cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Carefully slice each pita bread into two circles with a serrated knife. Lightly brush olive oil onto the inner side of each circle. Cut the pita circles into 1-inch strips, then stack the strips and cut them into 1-inch squares. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer, oil side up. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Process until finely minced. Add the tahini, lemon juice, and broth, and process until smooth, scraping down as needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If serving at room temperature, transfer the soup to bowls; if serving warm, transfer to a saucepan and heat gently over low heat, stirring, until just hot, then transfer to bowls. Garnish with the pita croutons and parsley.

 

COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY WINNER!!!!    I want to thank everyone who entered my giveaway to win The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by the brilliant Karen Page.  The winner of the giveaway has been chosen at random and it is:  Michelle P.  Congratulations, Michelle! Please email me with your address so the book can be on its way to you!

 

 

 

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I’m very excited to participate in the blog tour for The Vegetarian Flavor Bible with a guest post by Karen Page about one of my favorite food topics: umami.  After you read Karen’s wonderful post, be sure to leave a comment to enter my giveaway to win a copy of this amazing book.

The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

How to Get More Umami Flavor From Plant-Based Ingredients by Karen Page

KarenPageAuthorShotFlowers300dpiWT800 In our 1996 book CULINARY ARTISTRY, my husband Andrew Dornenburg and I were two of the first American culinary authors to mention “umami,” a then-  fledgling concept vying to become known as the “fifth taste.”  The fact that our book became a bestselling classic didn’t hurt umami’s rising profile globally as the Japanese-originated concept of savoriness / deliciousness gained new proponents among our readership of professional chefs.

When we came out with THE FLAVOR BIBLE in 2008 and shared our now infamous “Flavor Equation” that FLAVOR = TASTE + MOUTHFEEL + AROMA + “THE X FACTOR,” the TASTE section featured the four basic tastes of Sweetness, Saltiness, Sourness, and Bitterness, alongside a mention of Umami (Savoriness) with the note, “…There is growing evidence of a fifth taste, umami…It is often described as the savory or meaty ‘mouth-filling’ taste that is noticeable in such ingredients as anchovies, blue cheese, mushrooms, and green tea, and in such flavorings as monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is the primary component of branded seasonings such as Ac’cent.”

By the time we came out with THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE in the fall of 2014, umami had taken its place in the book as one of the five tastes responsible for “every delicious bite you’ve ever tasted…coming together on your taste buds.” Since we started eating a plant-strong diet in May 2012, the concept of umami has taken on even more importance to us we seek its satisfying effects without meat or cheese.

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Where to find umami:  beer, beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, fermented foods (e.g, bean pastes), green peppers, green tea, ketchup, miso paste; mushrooms (dried, e.g., matsutake, shiitake), nutritional yeast, onions (esp. caramelized), peas, potatoes, sauerkraut, sea vegetables (e.g., dried, kombu), soy sauce, spinach, sweet potatoes, tamari, tempeh; tomatoes (e.g., ripe, paste, sauce), truffles, umeboshi plums and plum paste, vinegar (e.g., balsamic, sherry, umeboshi), walnuts, wine (esp. red)

 

It’s easy when it comes to Asian dishes, such as miso soup with shiitakes, tofu, and wakami, which is an umami bomb.

 

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But what about Italian food?  Pastas with tomato sauce and mushrooms seem to cry out for something to take the place of umami-rich Parmesan cheese.  Happily, some of the Parmesan substitutes we’ve tried seem to be getting better (e.g., Parma brand vegan “Parmesan”), as have been the “cashew ricottas” we’ve been served on pasta dishes (including the zucchini pasta pictured here).

The number-one seasoning in our spice cabinet these days is smoked paprika, which gives legumes an irresistable flavor.  Andrew uses it in marinades for portobello mushrooms as well as seasoning his signature split-pea soup.  Kalustyans.com sells porcini powder made from powdered porcini mushrooms, which you can use to coat tofu as well as to season dishes.

Miso’s umami-enhancing properties are so extraordinary that it was a staple in our kitchen long before we started our plant-strong diet.  Japanese fermented soybean paste is available in as many varieties in Japan as there are types of cheese in the U.S., so it’s incredibly diverse.  We use it exactly the same way as we did as omnivores:  rub your choice of ingredients – such as tofu – with miso paste, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  The next day, wipe off the excess paste before throwing the tofu on the grill or baking it.  You’ll be amazed by its extraordinary flavor. You can mix light and dark misos for more complex flavors.  As another tip, you can add miso to mashed or pureed vegetables and use this as a sauce.

Just as importantly, umami can be created through cooking techniques, such as browning, caramelizing, grilling, roasting, and sauteeing.  The most masterful examples can be found at temples of haute cuisine with celebrated veg tasting menus, such as The Inn at Little Washington and Picholine.

 

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During what turned out to be the best vegetarian meal of our lives, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia kicked things off by serving us popcorn with shaved truffles on top – later followed by a “Club Sandwich of Eggplant, Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms and Fried Green Tomato on Charred Onions with Burgundy Wine Sauce.”  At Picholine in New York City, we were wowed by the savory “braised shortrib-esque” qualities of “Grilled and Smoked Eggplant with ‘Chinoise Flavors’ and Tapioca Pearls,” which was served with a crunchy nori tempura accent.

The secret of adding umami to plant-based dishes?  Layering the flavor on, through the right selection of ingredients and application of cooking techniques.  If you’re making risotto, take the time to caramelize the onions and/or butternut squash you add to it.  If you’re making mushroom gravy, add a bit of nutritional yeast – or, better yet, toasted nutritional yeast, to enhance the flavor even further.  Every layer can help you make an even bigger flavor impact!

P.S.  Chef Nathan Lyon developed a recipe for “Vegan Umami Paste” that combines several ingredients renowned for their umami (e.g., balsamic vinegar, molasses, nutritional yeast, porcini powder, soy sauce, tomato paste) that adds wonderful umami flavor to a wide variety of dishes, including the roasted eggplant sandwich featured on his website.

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I have a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible for one person. (U.S. residents only, please.) To enter, leave a comment below telling me what your favorite way to add umami to your food when cooking is. For extra chances to win, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and leave a separate comment for each one to let me know.   This Giveaway ends Wednesday January 14 at midnight, EST.  A winner will be announced on Thursday January 15.

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Pissaladiere

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In keeping with our minimalist theme of this year’s holiday season, I’m taking a break from my usual New Year’s Eve parade of appetizers.  This year I’m only making one dish: a pissaladiere – and a shortcut version at that!
This savory caramelized onion tart hails from Nice in the Provençe region of France. Known for its thick dough and flavorful topping of caramelized onion and luscious Caillette or Niçoise olives, this sophisticated pizza can be enjoyed as an appetizer or main dish.
I’m going to make an adapted version of the pissaladiere recipe from Vegan Without Borders, using a ready-made pizza dough for the crust, instead of making one from scratch.  (I like the dough sold at Trader Joe’s and keep some in my freezer for occasions such as this!)
Here’s my adapted recipe, in case you want to try it for yourself!

Thanks to everyone for making this a great year.  I wish you all a Happy New Year!  See you in 2015!

Short-Cut Pissaladiere
Adapted from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large sweet yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provençe or dried thyme
1 ready-made pizza dough, at room temperature (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
1/3 cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens and turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the herbes de Provence.  Cover and cook 20 minutes longer, or until the onions are soft and caramelized.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.  Set aside to cool.  Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a rectangular baking pan and set aside.
Stretch the dough to fit the baking pan and arrange it on the prepared pan. Spread the onion mixture evenly onto the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border of exposed dough around the edge. Arrange the olives on top of the onions, spacing them evenly.  Bake for about 16 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.   Cut into rectangular pieces (small or large, depending on how you are serving it) and serve.

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I love the idea of the Virtual Vegan Potluck and am excited to participate.  With the holidays around the corner, I thought I’d share my recipe for one of my favorite pick-up foods — so fun to serve at holiday gatherings. Variously known as sigara (cigarette) or kalem (pen) böregi (or börek), these delicious appetizers are believed to have originated in what is now Turkey. These small cylindrical phyllo pastries filled with a savory stuffing are popular throughout the Middle East, as well as the Mediterranean and parts of Eastern Europe. My favorite filling is made with kale and white beans. Wrapped tightly into little phyllo “pens,” they look a bit like crispy spanakopita spring rolls. I hope you enjoy them!

Kale-Stuffed Phyllo “Pens”

This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing. Used with permission.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to brush phyllo
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces kale, tough stems removed, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1½ cups cooked white beans, or 1 (15.5-ounce) can, drained, rinsed, and mashed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 (14 by 18-inch) sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • ¼ cup finely ground walnuts
  • Ajvar (recipe follows), optional

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, dill, mint, and lemon zest. Add the mashed white beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and mix well. Set aside or refrigerate to cool completely before using.

Place a sheet of phyllo dough on a flat work surface. Brush the sheet evenly with olive oil and top it with a second sheet of phyllo. And brush the second sheet with oil. Keep the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel to keep from drying out. Use a sharp knife to cut the phyllo sheets into three strips. With the short side of the phyllo facing you, spoon a line of the filling (about 1-inch diameter) about 1 inch from the bottom edge of a strip of phyllo, about ½ inch from each side. Fold in the side ends of the phyllo toward the center, then use both hands to tightly roll up the phyllo to enclose the filling, evenly and firmly rolling it up into a tight roll, as you would a spring roll.

Transfer the phyllo “pen” to a platter. Repeat the process for the remaining phyllo until the filling is used up. When all of the böregi are assembled, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the böregi on a nonstick baking sheet. Brush the top of the phyllo rolls with any remaining oil and sprinkle with the walnuts. Bake until crisp and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve with ajvar, if using.

Makes 1 dozen

 

Ajvar

This flavorful Balkan condiment made with red peppers can be used as a dip for pita chips or as a sandwich spread with crisp vegetables. It can also be enjoyed as a zesty accompaniment to the Kale-Stuffed Phyllo “Pens.” Ajvar often contains eggplant as well and can be made mild or spicy, according to taste. This recipe is from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson © 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing. Used with permission.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 fresh hot chile, minced or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers (jarred or home-roasted), chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chile and tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the roasted red peppers and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and well blended. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Pulse until the mixture is finely minced and well combined. You can leave a little texture remaining or you can puree it until smooth. Transfer to a bowl to serve. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week.

 

Makes about 1½ cups

 

 

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Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque

Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque

It’s been officially “soup weather” at my house for about a month now, and will be until Spring.  That means that on any given day, you’ll find a “soup of the day” simmering on my stovetop or in a slow cooker. Bean soups are my favorite because they’re satisfying and meal-worthy, so they make an ideal lunch, but I want to make something a little different today so I checked out the soup chapter of More Quick-Fix Vegan – I make the Shortcut Bean Soup from that book all the time and some of the other soups in that chapter have been calling my name recently.

Some favorites are the Hummus Soup with Pita Croutons, the Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup,  and the Guacamole Soup.  I also love the Creamy Tomato Soup, the Lemony Chickpea-Spinach Soup, and the Smoky Corn Chowder, but today my heart belongs to the Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque.  There’s something wonderful about the flavor combination of sweet potatoes and smoky hot chipotles. This vibrant soup is also very satisfying, thanks to the inclusion of white beans.  I usually garnish it with a little parsley or chives for a nice color contrast, but you could also top it with your favorite cooked green vegetable such as chopped spinach or kale. I’m heading to the kitchen to make some right now.  Here’s the recipe, in case you’d like to make it, too.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Bisque

from More Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson  (c) 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing.

1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/4 cup water
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped or shredded (about 3 cups)
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives or parsley

Heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and sweet potatoes.  Cover and cook until softened, 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, white beans, chipotles, and soy sauce.  Add the broth and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot or transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and process until smooth, then return to the pot.  Reheat, if needed.  Serve hot sprinkled with the chives.

IN OTHER NEWS….

There’s a great giveaway going on right now on Vegan.com. They’re giving away five of my cookbooks (including More Quick-Fix Vegan and Vegan Without Borders) to one lucky winner.  Enter now!

I’m also thrilled to announce that Vegan Without Borders made the Top 5 Vegan Cookbooks of 2014 in the OregonianIt also made the Top Vegan Cookbooks of 2014 list on Vegan.com and it was the only vegan cookbook featured in the San Francisco Book Review Gift Guide.

 

 

 

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