Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Daring Baker's Challenge--The Pudding's the Thing!

Dear patient blog readers, please forgive my silly English lit nerd title. I was searching around in vain for some pithy title that would mention the subject of this post while also referencing the rich culinary tradition from which it issues. That last part is only partially sarcastic. While I've never been to England, or any part of the UK, C--who has and is therefore the resident expert on all things British, except gothic novels, which are mine all mine--assures me that it lacks something in both taste and diversity. He tells me, for example, that the Brits boil or steam everything. Of course, I can't testify either to the veracity or mean-spiritedness of this assertion, but I can tell you that this month's Daring Bakers challenge does something to confirm that this is the case. With that said, however, I must say that my experience with this particular challenge, an English pudding, was quite positive.

In the US, we really only have one thing that we call a pudding, though it varies in both flavor and texture. In England, as it turns out, a pudding is primarily one of two things. Either it is essentially meat in sauce, encased in a pastry, and steamed, or it is a sort of cake, which is also steamed. The two major points of similarity are 1) obviously, the steaming, and 2) both recipes traditionally call for suet. Lucky you if you don't know what suet is. Let me just say that it's unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans alike: think "organs." A vegetarian suet is available in some markets, though not anywhere around here, and in most of the pictures I've seen the stuff most closely resembles styrofoam pellets. Most websites with information about puddings acknowledge that suet may be replaced by vegetable suet, cold butter, or shortening, but that it just "won't be the same." Not to be put off or daunted by this subtle lamentation on behalf of the suffering herbivores of the world, I plunged ahead, opting to sub non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening for the not-again-to-be-mentioned substance, which is most commonly acquired from your friendly neighborhood butcher.

 I made two puddings from what is called, I shit you not, the Wikipudia. People are serious about their pudding. I was really curious about a pudding called the Sussex Pond because it seemed rather and outlier, even among puddings. The Sussex Pond is made by sealing a whole lemon inside the pastry crust, along with some sugar and butter. The juice from the lemon combines with the butter and sugar during a very protracted steaming process--during which the aspiring pudding-maker must be very vigilant indeed about the water level in the pot or risk filling her kitchen with the smell of burning teflon-- and it forms a sauce that then spills out onto the plate when it's sliced. Thus producing the titular "Sussex Pond." The ponds in Sussex are either repulsive or delicious. I'll have to ask C about it.

The other pudding was called Very Chocolate Pudding, and I'm not going to include a picture of it because it was beyond unsightly. I have some theories about what happened to it. The directions indicated that it should be steamed for just under half the time required for the Sussex Pond pudding, so an hour and a half before the latter was finished, I put the chocolate in the pot along with it. When the cooking time was up, the Sussex Pond pudding had a tender, flaky crust encasing a sweet pond of lemony goodness, and the chocolate still resembled something between chocolate frosting and brownie batter. It was unholy, and I wish I could tell you that I didn't eat it anyway (I totally did). I imagine it would be out of this world if it were steamed correctly and not by a pudding novice and ne'er-do-well like me.

I don't know that a pudding is something I would seek out, or even necessarily make again, but I enjoyed the challenge. If you're pretty convinced that pudding isn't your thing, aren't you the least bit curious about what it would be like to eat a pastry steamed with an entire citrus fruit? Crazy, right? This is the essence of the Daring Bakers experience. I went to so much trouble converting the recipes from grams and mililiters to ounces, and then from ounces to cups and teaspoons or tablespoons, that I'll include my conversions below. Note, I also reduced each recipe by half. I only had two appropriately shaped bowls for making these puddings, AND I didn't want to end up with a ton of pudding for just C and I. I'm also mystified by how a single lemon could be big enough for a larger Sussex Pond pudding, though this is what all the recipes I looked at specify. Are lemons way bigger in England? I used a small Meyer lemon since a thin skin is supposed to be one of the keys to success with this pudding. It is true what they say, by the way. The lemon peel and pulp come out tasting rather like marmelade in the sweet, buttery sauce. Combine this with the tender, slightly salty pastry, and you have something special.

Below, I give you the Sussex Pond pudding tutorial that you never realized you wanted. You're very welcome.

This should give you a basic idea of the size of the bowl and the lemon and all that. After taking this photo, I added the rest of the butter and sugar then topped it off with the pastry crust. I covered the whole thing in aluminum foil, tied it with twine, and dropped it in the steamer basket.

This next photo on the left is the pudding after steaming. I inverted it onto this plate and felt very self-satisfied with how well it stayed together. The proof, however, in the pudding didn't emerge until the picture on the right. Slicing a thick wedge from the pudding did, indeed, produce the promised pond.

Finally, before I include the recipe, let me just assure you that these photos represent the end of pictures from my cell phone. I hope. I made this challenge right after the fated event involving the digital camera, a sunny day in Dolores Park, some awesome friends, and C's imperfectly sealed water bottle.

Sussex Pond Pudding

½ c self-raising flour
¼ c butter
Pinch salt
¼ c brown sugar
¼ c vegetable shortening
1 lemon
1/3 c soy milk and water mixed

Mix four and salt in a small bowl, then cut in shortening. Add the soy milk and water mixture until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough and roll out to line a small bowl suitable for pudding. Put half the butter and sugar in the bottom of the pastry shell. Pierce the lemon all over with a fork or knife, then place it in the shell. Top the lemon with the remaining butter and sugar. Make a lid with the remaining pastry and seal all edges as well as you can. Cover the whole thing in aluminum foil and tie tightly with twine or cooking string. Steam for 3-3 1/2 hours. If your lemon has a thicker skin, definitely err on the side of overcooking. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sturm und Drang und Three Sisters Enchiladas

It has been a time of much turmoil here in Vegan Squared land, nearly all of it revolving in some way around my capacity for traveling. Much drama, beaurocracy, and a very near collision with an unsuspecting cow. Because this is a food blog, and not my old rant-about-stuff blog, I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, from out of this dark time of turmoil and uncertainty comes at least one recipe and one exciting new development. The latter should be fairly obvious. After muddling through for a while with the camera on my not particularly spectacular little cell phone, C and I ponied up the cash for a new digital camera. It's pretty sweet. The pictures are much clearer and much easier to take, which is particularly important considering my poor skill level when it comes to such things. I'm on my learning curve. While I'm sure to barrage my facebook page with my amateur floral photography, I'll stick to food for this particular venue.

Enchiladas are one of my favorite things to make, largely because of how amazingly flexible they are as a dish. Though I've been assured on more than one occasion that what I think of as enchiladas are nothing like the authentic Mexican dish, I'm pretty happy with my culinary inauthenticity. I like to switch up the sauces. Sometimes I'm into the smokiness of a chipotle-laced red sauce. Other times, I like the tanginess of the verde. Rather like lasagna and other ubiqitous casseroles of various stripes, everyone has their own way of making these. (Ignore the pronoun-antecedent problem. I do, usually.) My mom likes to make them with cabbage and whatever else she has kicking around. I tend to go for a more three sisters type approach: squash, beans, and corn. The enchiladas I made the other night when we had my brother over for dinner represented all three only if you count the corn tortillas, which I'm totally going to. They come together really quickly if you make the sauce in advance, and they freeze really well.

Three Sisters Verde Enchiladas

1 recipe verde sauce (below)
1 recipe enchilada filling (also below)
12 corn tortillas (do yourself a favor and get the ones without lots of incredients--just corn, salt, and lime)
1/2 c Daiya (can I get a promotion deal from them already? Seriously.)

Preheat oven to 350. Put about 1/2 cup of the verde sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. This not only seasons the bottoms of the enchiladas but prevents them from sticking to the pan. Awesome, right? Heat the tortillas slightly on the stove. If you take the time to do this step, they won't crack on you and create an embarrassingly unruly pan of enchiladas (ahem, like mine). Fill each tortilla with a good spoonful of enchilada filling, roll it up, and set it seam-side down in the pan. I can usually get two rows of five with two in the middle. If you wind up with some extra filling, just tuck it down in the creases between the tortillas. No big. If you find that you overfilled your tortillas and run out of filling too soon...well, that sucks for you. Be more careful next time.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas, taking care to cover as much of the exposed tortillas as you can. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle the top with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes more, then remove from oven. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before attempting to serve. As with all such saucy dishes, this holds up even better the next day. I like to serve these with grapefruit and avocado salad and brown rice. 

Verde Enchilada Sauce

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, diced
1/2 large sweet onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 jalapeno (or more, depending on your palate and how hot the pepper is)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 limes
2 T flour
1 bunch chopped cilantro (unless you're one of those people who think it tastes like soap)

In a medium saucepan, saute garlic and onion in a bit of olive oil just until they start to soften. Add tomatillos and jalapeno and stir well. Cook on medium heat for about three minutes. Add the broth and cook an additional 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well as it cooks. You want the sauce to thicken up a bit. Remove from heat. Add cilantro and juice from limes. Season to taste. Puree, in batches if necessary, in a blender or food processor.

Three Sisters Enchilda Filling

1 small squash, cubed (I used butternut both because it's available almost all year long and you don't have     to peel it. Delicata or carnivale squashes are also easy and delicious. Acorn would be fine if you have a year to deal with it.
1 large can pinto beans (or whatever kind of bean you prefer)
1 bunch dark, leafy greens
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
chili powder

Saute the onion over medium to low heat for about 3 minutes. Add squash and cook until soft. Add beans and greens and season to taste. I used about 2 T of chili powder and 1 T cumin. Again, this is one of those things that changes pretty dramatically depending on how fresh and spicy your herbs are, as well as how resilient your palate is.

We also had dessert, of course. I made chocolate chip strawberry shortcake with coconut whipped cream. My brother ate the amount you see in this picture twice, if you can believe it. I made the scone recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, and added chocolate chips. The whipped cream didn't have as long in the fridge as I would have liked to achieve a more solid consistency, but nobody complained.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fennel and Artichoke Quiche

Before I can get to the serious business of blogging, I have two points of order. First and foremost, please bear with some my pics which are, obviously, even worse than usual. C had an incident with the digital camera, and I'm forced to document food with the camera in my phone. On the bright side, we just bought a new digital camera, so as soon as I master its idiosyncrasies, vegan squared should be better than ever. Secondly, the gorgeous and vivacious Bianca over at Vegan Crunk is giving away two copies of American Vegan Kitchen. Leave her a comment about your favorite comfort food, and she'll enter you in the drawing. Find it here.

The inspiration for this quiche was generated by a perfect storm of too much tofu lying around (because I got a little too enthusiastic when I saw it on sale) and a can of artichoke hearts that had been languishing in the cupboard. I suppose I'm also still coming off my frittata high. Though the frittata and the quiche are very similar animals, I tend to treat them quite differently in terms of fillings. There is also that matter of the deliciously carby crust that tenderly holds the seasoned tofu with the quiche. I'm also a big fan of meals that, once prepared, last at least two nights. With fatties like C and I around, that's really the most we can hope for out of even the most generously-sized recipes. To my horror and shame, there's a pot pie recipe in the Veganomicon that is supposed to serve 6, but which we devour in a single sitting with a consistency both terrifying and slightly nauseating. You, dear reader, exercise more restraint, I'm sure of it.

Should you find yourself similarly situated, with a bit too much tofu and some odd ingredients, try a quiche. The seasonings are very flexible, of course. The following recipe is the result of years of tweaking to one on vegweb. I probably should, but am not going to, comb through the quiche recipes for the one most similar. Suffice it to say that how I make it now is substantially different. And aren't all new recipes basically riffs on other, existing recipes? I feel like there must be some rule of thumb to determine how much you have to change a recipe before it spontaneously becomes new again. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter if you're willing to share them.

Also, please note that the way we pronounce this isn't actually keesh, but quitch. That's the way my adorable niece used to say it, and that's the way I still say it. Her cuteness conquers correctness.

Fennel and Artichoke Quiche

First, make the crust:

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c water

Preheat oven to 400. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Mix the wet ingredients separately, then add to the flour. Stir to combine, but be careful not to over mix. Turn into a pie pan and press into place. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes.

While the crust is baking, prepare your filling:

1 lb firm or extra firm tofu
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1/2 c non-dairy milk
1 t turmeric
black pepper
black salt
1 medium head of fennel, sliced
1 can artichoke hearts
olive oil

Transfer the fennel to a baking sheet, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Roast at 400 for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes and watching for burning.

In a large bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands. Then, using a strong fork, combine the tofu with the milk, yeast, and turmeric. Add a bit more turmeric if needed to achieve the desired degree of yellowness. If you really just don't care whether your quiche is yellow or closer to white, feel free to leave the turmeric out altogether. Mostly likely, nobody will care. Fold in the artichoke hearts and roasted fennel.

Press the filling into the baked pie crust. It will be quite full, so you'll want to create a sort of mounded look. Don't worry, it will cook just fine. Bake in a 350 oven for 45 minutes.

As with the frittata, a quiche will perform much better if you make it ahead of time, allow it cool, and then reheat it. Performance, when it comes to such things, is really just a matter of holding it together. You don't want your quiche quiching all over the plate. You want it to stand up and be proud of it's quicheness. It's not just for girls, after all. We were having a late dinner, so I baked my quiche, let it sit for a few hours, then topped it with some Daiya cheese and slid it under the broiler for just a few minutes to warm up and melt the cheese. I suggest you do the same.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Raw and the Cooked

I'm so into dinner salads right now. Really into them. Again, I credit this largely to the more abundant produce in our new home. There is also the matter of our farmbox, which every week seems to contain a substantial amount of field greens. Also, ever since we moved here, I haven't been able to eat enough of two things: oranges and avocados. Both are so much cheaper and plentiful here, and I swear they even taste better. We almost never bought avocados in Buffalo, where they cost $2-3 each. Here, organic avocados are .89 and totally delicious. While C is into the avocados, I suspect he's less enthusiastic about the oranges, which have been making their way into just about everything. I've been reassuring him that my obsession will fade with the season. We can get local strawberries right now, but they've been by turns excellent and unimpressive. I'm excited to see the summer produce season unfold before our eyes. This will, undoubtedly, occasion the creation of many more salads in the vein of the one I present to you today. 
Dinner salads really are marvelous, particularly after a day of unhealthy eating. They're refreshing, filling, and extremely flexible. My recent obsession has been playing around with the ratio of cooked ingredients to raw. No flaccid iceberg lettuce salad, this. This salad combines savory and tangy baked tempeh cubes with roasted root vegetables, juicy mandarin oranges, and creamy avocado. It also comes together very quickly--not counting marinating time, and if you coordinated your baking, you might only need one pan.

Orange Tempeh Dinner Salad

1 pkg tempeh
3 T Braggs
2 T orange marmelade
1 T stoneground mustard
1/2 t liquid smoke

Cube the tempeh. Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl and add to tempeh. Stir to coat and allow to marinate for half an hour or so. Then bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10.

Roasted Roots

3 small-medium beets, sliced into medalions
3 small-medium carrots, sliced
2 T olive oil
1 t sea salt
1-2 T balsamic vinegar

Mix all ingredients together and roast in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10.

Everything Else

1/2 avocado
1 roma tomato
2 mandarin oranges
field greens

Assemble the salads as desired. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and a bit more balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Frittata and Rugelach Rolls

Yesterday morning we attended a pot luck going away celebration brunch in honor of one of C's new friends/acquaintances. In such circumstances, as C was initially consulting me about what we could bring to this brunch, I always feel a lot of pressure. Not in a bad way. The pressure I feel comes from the high likelihood that we'll be bringing vegan dishes to a otherwise all-omni affair. Under such circumstances, we need to consider two things. First, it is possible that, with the exception of some fruit salad, the dishes we bring will be the only thing we can eat. Second, and this is more important, vegans need to represent. I know it sounds silly to say that, but I truly believe it. A lot of omnis, even after they've eaten delicious vegan food, will profess that they have no idea what's involved in vegan cuisine. As though it's something truly alien and far afield. Raw toona salad not withstanding, of course this is not the case. Thus, I always want to bring something delicious and rich to such gatherings. Something to pique the most dedicated omni's tastebuds. Also, keeping both of the above points in mind, I decided that we should bring not one, but two dishes. C wanted to bring a frittata, and I thought I'd kick in some cinnamon rolls. Sweet rolls are show stoppers, and the frittata would balance them out with some protein and vegetables.

The brunch was a lot of fun, and our contributions went over well. Both the frittata and the sweet rolls were the result of tweaking recipes from Vegan Brunch, one of my favorite books ever. The fritatta was filled with vibrant red chard, shallot, and dill. I changed the recipe enough that I feel okay including it here. These changes and manipulations are most definitely not Isa approved.

Chard and Dill Frittata

2 pkgs water-packed extra firm tofu
1 bunch red chard
3 shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced (I almost never have the patience to mince anything."
2 T olive oil
2 T dried dill
1/2 -1 t black salt
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 T stoneground mustard
1 T Bragg's
1/3-1/2 c daiya italian style cheese

Preheat your oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9 inch springform pan. In a largish bowl, combine the drained tofu, mustard, nutritional yeast, Braggs, dill, and black salt. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and shallots. Rinse and de-vein the chard. Chop the stems and add them to the garlic and shallots. Cook just until the shallots and stems are softening, then chop and add the rest of the chard. At this point you may find that you need just a tiny bit of water. Do it if you need to, but exercise restraint. You don't want your frittata fillings swimming in their own private pool. Cook until the chard leaves are just wilted.

Let the fillings cool for a few minutes, then add them to tofu mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly. Dump the whole mess into your prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the center feels firmish. It shouldn't be jiggly. Allow the frittata to cool. Ideally, you've made your frittata the day before you actually need it as it tastes best at room temperature the next day. A few minutes before you want to serve it, sprinkle the top with cheese and then pop it under the broiler for just a few minutes. Broiling requires diligence. Don't slide your frittata under the red hot coils of your oven and go check your facebook page. Consider yourself on standby. As soon the cheese is melted, remove the frittata from the oven. Loosen the sides by running a knife around them, and remove the sides of the pan. Slide it onto a plate, slice, and serve.

Rugelach Inspired Cinnamon Rolls

I followed Isa's instructions on these pretty closely. I found the recipe for these rolls posted here. I include it below, as found over there, with my changes.

Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra-Moskowitz)

2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 c sugar + 1 tsp sugar
1/2 c lukewarm water
3/4 c soy milk, room temperature
1/3 c canola oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 1/4 - 4 c flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 Tb ground cinnamon
2 Tb flour
To roll
1/4 c Earth Balance (soy margarine, non-hydrogenated)

1 c powdered sugar
1-1/2 - 2 Tb almond (or soy) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Prime yeast by putting yeast into half the lukewarm water with the 1 tsp of sugar. Let sit, make sure it bubbles so you know your yeasties are alive. Mix the rest of the dough ingredients together, add yeast mix. Knead for 5 minutes. Let rise 1 hour. Punch the dough. Let rest 10 more minutes.

Make the filling (mix together ingredients above for filling).

Roll out dough to 12" x18" on a floured cookie sheet or other clean, flat surface. Sprinkle on filling evenly, dot with small chunks of the Earth Balance. You can do this by hand if easier.

Roll from the long side. Go slowly and get it as tight as possible.

Oil or spray 11" x 13" pan, cut the roll into 12 pieces (cut off and throw away the ends if they're not covered in filling). To cut into 12, cut the roll in half, then half again, then into thirds.

Cover with towel, let rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm location. I usually put it on the stove, above the pilot lights.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 18-22 minutes. Make icing while it bakes.

When, it comes out of the oven, drizzle with icing ASAP.

This version is pretty much the same as the one in Vegan Brunch. The changes I made were as follows: To the dough I added the zest of one lemon and omitted the cinnamon. To the filling I added 1/3 c ground pistachios. I made a lemon glaze with powdered sugar, soy milk, lemon juice, and just a tiny bit of vanilla. I also sprinkled the buns with whole pistachios before serving. I thought there might be something clarifying about that. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Kale and Tofu Spring Stir-Fry on Spaghetti Squash

Now that's a sensical title for a blog post. Am I right? I'm realizing I need to reign myself in a bit from my penchant for cutesy titles, yet another vestigial reminder of my years and years of grad school. Either I need to simplify, making the titles of the posts clearly reflect the recipe content therein, or I need to let my freak flag fly. I, like most of the people I know who are products of too much humanities education, adore a long title. The best ones involve semi-colons. After those, the second tier have colons. If neither a semi-colon nor a colon is present, then the title must contain a gerund. If the title fails each of these three, then it's probably coherent and (more or less) to the point. For today, I'll let that suffice for my musings about the way that grad school inflects my current, decidedly non-academic, existence.

The most important word in this particular title is also the single preposition: on. I envisioned this dish as taking maximum advantage of the spaghetti squash, yet another one of those foods that manages to function like a complex carb without actually being one. As I look forward to the summer, and all the lighter clothing I hope to wear, I'm really into these kinds of things right now. If you know of any, please please don't hold back. The comment button is there for a reason. Use it. I've already written about using mushrooms for pizza crusts. And then there was the live onion bread. And the cabbage leaf rawco shells. While this recipe doesn't involve any kind of surprising use of the spaghetti squash, it does use it to maximum advantage.

Usually, when I make spaghetti squash, I make it place of actual spaghetti. I'll brew up a batch of garlicy marinara with mushrooms and some bean balls from the Veganomicon, and we'll eat the whole mess together with a heady sprinkling of nutritional yeast. And I'm way into eating spaghetti squash like that. For the meal about to describe, however, the spaghetti squash was actually a sort of last minute addition. I had some Russian kale, one of the new and fabulous things about our new home, and some carrots. I knew I was going to make a stir-fry with these vegetables, lightly cooked and seasoned, along with chunks of tofu and maybe nuts of some variety. Beyond that, I didn't have many ideas. As I slugged my way around the produce section (feeling very lethargic), I passed the squashes twice before circling back. This roundabout process produced the dish that is the subject of this post.

I've been very into simple stir-fries with simple seasonings lately. I get turned off by stir-fry recipes that involve a ton of different spices and sauces: vegetarian fish sauce, oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce, chili paste, different oils, etc. All of that gets really expensive, rich, and sort of ridiculous if you think about it. Instead, I've been experimenting with different combinations of fresh produce--raw and cooked--and seasoning with just a bit of olive oil, Bragg's, and fresh citrus juices. C hasn't been complaining.

I'm just a tiny bit ashamed to tell you that C and I ate the whole thing, a fact that will probably shock you if you follow the recipe with the suggested amounts. Until you do so, please imagine that this makes a very reasonable amount of food for two healthy adults. You're very kind.

Kale and Tofu Spring Stir-Fry ON Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb firm or extra firm tofu
olive oil
sea salt
2 carrots
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 mandarin oranges
Bragg's liquid aminos

Preheat your oven to 375. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet.

Here I should just pause to tell you that there are many schools of thought when it comes to cooking spaghetti squash. Some people like to microwave it. Others say you have to bake it in several inches of water. Some prick the squash with a knife; others do not. Personally, I try not to microwave much. I also find that baking the squash in a lot of water, when the squash is already ~mostly~ water, yields some seriously watery squash. I really dislike the feeling of eating my food out of a puddle of water. But maybe that's just me. I used to bake the squash in the water--because I thought I had to--and then put it in a strainer for as long as I could before eating. That solved part of the problem, but then the squash was cold, which necessitated the microwave, which I try not to use, and it was, truth be told, still pretty damned watery. This is how I do it now. I put just a bit of water on the baking sheet. The sheet can only hold a bit of water and still be safely transported from the counter to the oven without having it slop out all over the place. I place my unpricked squash on the sheet, as I've described, face down in a bit of water. Then I bake it for about 30 minutes. Please note that the time varies a lot from squash to squash. If your squash is bigger, obviously plan to increase your cooking time and vice versa for the small ones. Just plan to keep an eye on it. You can check your squash in two ways: First, if you can easily prick the squash through the peel as it sits face down on the sheet, it might be done. Flip it over slightly and test to see if you can scrape the squash out of the skin with a fork. When the squash has been properly baked, it will come out of the peel easily in spaghetti-like strands. If you can do all of this without burning yourself, you are twice the woman I am. Bravo. If you end up yelling about your scorched fingers to your next-room-over grumbling partner, then we are two peas in a pod.

Start baking your squash. Then get your tofu and cut it into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes, depending on your predilections. Transfer the tofu to a second baking sheet. Drizzle it with a bit of oil and sprinkle lightly with the sea salt. Stir it around gently to coat. Put the tofu in the oven with the squash. Plan to check both and give them a stir or a poke once every 10 minutes or so until your tofu is lightly browned and the squash is finished. When this has been accomplished, remove the pans and set them aside to cool slightly.

Heat a bit of oil in a medium frying pan. Add the onions and carrots and cook until they're just softening and the onions are golden. Add the kale and stir. At this point, if the pan seems dry, add a bit of water to deglaze and help steam the kale. Turn the pan off. Add the walnuts and Bragg's to taste. Peel two of the oranges and add the segments. Add the tofu that has been nicely browned and is chilling on your counter. Toss the whole lot together.

To assemble, scrape a portion of spaghetti squash onto a plate. Cut the remaining mandarin orange in half, and squeeze the juice onto the servings of squash. I used half an orange on two servings. Top the seasoned squash with the stir-fry.