Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Preview

And an appeal. Thanksgiving has a very special place in my heart because it is the holiday most strenuously organized around the meat of one particular bird. Every year, billions of turkeys are slaughtered in factory farms after living dark little lives of deprivation and suffering. I think about them every time someone gobbles over a store intercom or cheerfully yells "Happy Turkey Day," as though the day had anything to do with us actually liking turkeys. If you haven't already, and you can afford to do so, please consider making a holiday donation to Farm Sanctuary. These beautiful people make it their business to rescue and advocate for farm animals in the U.S. Though you can (and should) give them money any old time, they have a special turkey adoption program over the holidays. If you require a degree of anthropomorphizing to get into the giving spirit, you can adopt a specific turkey and have a certificate and picture mailed to you. For example, the cunning guy on the right is named Harley, and he can be your adopted turkey for a mere $30 one time donation. Here's a link to the turkey adoption program at Farm Sanctuary.

On to the food: I'm excited to be hosting my mom and step-dad for Thanksgiving this year. It's my first time getting to actually cook for my family at my own house, and I'm over-planning and freaking out way more than I need to. This is especially the case since I'm not making anything very risky. In future years, I'll probably let myself get a little nuts and serve pasta or pot-pie, but this year is all about the known quantities. My family is already having their first ever vegan Thanksgiving, so the pressure is on to represent. Here's what I'm making:

Seitan Wellington
Stuffed Seitan Roast
Garlicky Mashed Potatoes (though not too garlicky because my mom is committed garlic-phobe)
Caramelized Onion and Miso Gravy
Stuffing (no idea what this is going to be like. Stuffing is exclusively C's territory.)
Steamed Citrusy Green Beans
Cranberries (my stepdad's contribution)
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie

Buckle up, dear readers. Food porn is forthcoming.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Garlicky Roasted Vegetable Soup

This mild and hearty soup is perfect for the slightly chilly evenings we're starting to get here in Northern California. Roasting the vegetables accomplishes two things. First, it reduces and simplifies your total cook time. You can get the vegetables roasting at your convenience, and let them hang in the oven and cool until you're ready to make your soup. Second, roasting vegetables gives them a rounder, sweeter flavor than you can get by simply cooking them in a pot of broth or sauteing them in a pan. I'm tempted to call this soup Garlic and Roasted Vegetable Soup because, being the kamikaze garlic eaters that we are, I put an entire head of roasted garlic into the batch I made last night. I know that many people don't have this kind of devil-may-care attitude toward the stinky rose, so I'm modifying the recipe below for saner pallets. In the meantime, have a pleasant thought for the poor folks who might end up on the treadmill next to mine this morning as a fog of garlic smelling sweat blooms off of me during my run. Hopefully they feel, as I do, that garlic is a perfectly good thing to smell like, but more likely, they do not feel that way.

Garlicky Roasted Vegetable Soup

First, roast your vegetables:
2 c diced winter squash (I used banana squash, which is similar to butternut. I tend to gravitate toward these kinds because you can chop them up, skin and all. I positively loathe peeling squash)
3 medium sized carrots, sliced
2 smallish zucchinis, diced
garlic (I used an entire head because I'm fearless like that. You should use as much as you think you can stand. And then a little bit more.)
oregano and rosemary
salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Combine all veggies on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with herbs, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring every ten or so until the vegetables and garlic are soft and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool if you're not quite ready to make the soup yet.

Assemble the soup:

1 medium sweet onion, diced
roasted vegetables from above
2 c beans (I used a mixture of kidneys and pintos because that's what I had in my freezer.)
2 cubes veggie broth
3 T tomato paste
4 c water
olive oil

Saute the onion in the olive oil over low heat for 20 minutes. The point here is to caramelize them, so you'll be looking for hint of golden color. When you're happy with your onions, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors mingle.

We had this soup with these olive and onion bread rolls from this adorable blog. I highly recommend them. They were easy and really fast, for yeast breads. The combined rising time is less than an hour! I subbed green olives for the kalamatas, but I feel that was a mistake. I think they need the dense saltiness of a more pungent olive to really meet their full potential. I also used a simple egg replacer of 1T cornstarch and 2T water in place of the Ener-G because I'm lazy. It didn't seem to matter at all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

I have a new love, dear readers. It's a funny story, actually. We've known each other for ages. We weren't good friends, or anything, but we would see each other at parties and receptions. I would always say hello, and we'd chat a bit, but I never thought much of her. My eyes were always drawn away to the vibrant oranges, reds, and greens that invariably accompanied her. I figured that she hung out with the more desirable vegetables because she had low self esteem. Clearly, she didn't want anything better for herself or she would DO something about her blandness. Don't get me wrong, I always thought she had a little something special going in the way of texture, but who wears all white every single day of the year? It's kind of creepy when I think about it that way.

Finally, we've had a bit of a breakthrough. When I made a run to the tiny store down the street to pick up some kale for dinner, all they had was one sad, single, solitary head of cauliflower. I groaned, of course, but I would have groaned even more loudly at the prospect of a dinner without vegetables. Basically, she really was the last girl at the bar that night, so I resigned myself to her. I decided to take it as just the next thing in a long line of sad compromises and settlings-for that combine to produce adulthood. Imagine my delight when I discovered that all this sad little cruciferous really needed to shine was a break from the endless parade of crudite platters and mushy, over-steamed medleys. I'm not saying that she's the only one for me. Far from it. There's plenty to go around, ladies. But I'll never again walk by her at a party without winking and telling her she's pretty.

Roasted Cauliflower (the way god would have intended if he existed and cared about such things)

1 head cauliflower (splurge for the organic!)
1/2 c raw pepitas
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Break the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and arrange haphazardly on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and stir about to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Sprinkle with pepitas and return to oven for an additional 10-15 minutes. When it's ready, the cauliflower will be golden and tender, and the pepitas will have puffed admirably, like only pepitas can.

I've messed around with this a bit, adding onions, shallots, fennel, and the like, but I think I prefer it just like this. The only thing that kicks it up just that one additional notch is to squeeze a fresh orange over it immediately before serving.