Decadent Brunch for Two

Last night, I found myself once again craving something on the sweet side around dinner time. While I had previously had a small salad as first dinner, I decided to give in and indulge for second dinner. For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself briefly considering pancakes as a breakfast option on a regular basis, before ultimately deciding to go the savory route (usually leftovers), in part due to time constraints. Additionally, I absolutely love corn muffins, but those take even more time, and when my appetite is raging, that’s not a commitment I’m willing to make. In fact, my favorite thing about pancakes is how quickly you can make them, and if they’re just for yourself, you can make some, eat them, and then make the rest (and eat some more).

White chocolate chip studded cornmeal pancakes, topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache

White chocolate chip studded cornmeal pancakes, topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache

These pancakes are based off of a corn muffin, which I jazzed up by adding some white chocolate chips I had on hand. The white chocolate blends perfectly with the slightly sweet corn cake, adding just a tiny burst of extra sweetness and richness throughout the pancake. I topped these off with strawberries and chocolate ganache (which I happened to have on hand…leftover from a cake!) which would make these a perfect Valentine’s Day brunch treat. Since I was just cooking for myself, I ended up with the perfect amount for two people, but the recipe can very easily be doubled if you’re serving more people (or are extra hungry).

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Frying away

Cornmeal White Chocolate chip Pancakes

  • 1/2 c soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp silan (brown sugar, maple syrup, or agave all work too)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c white chocolate chips

Place the soy milk in a medium sized bowl with the lemon juice and set aside for a few minutes. Add the silan, oil, and vanilla to the soy milk mixture and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and white chocolate chips. Add to the soy milk mixture and stir, taking care not to over mix.

Lightly grease a large skillet, and preheat over a medium flame. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter, three or four at a time onto the skillet, and fry until golden on each side.

Top with anything from chopped fruit and chocolate, to margarine (or coconut oil) and maple syrup.

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Warming Winter Soups

As New York is hit with another blizzard, it seems like a good time to share the soup recipes I’ve been saving since Israel was hit with a five day snow/hail/rain storm.  These soups were designed for the days when I knew I wanted a meal chock full of veggies, but it was just to cold to fathom eating a salad.  While most of the winter here has been absolutely lovely (~60F on average, high of 66F/19C today), the week of the storm was quite a nightmare.  Given my Northeastern upbringing, I’ve definitely experienced much colder weather, but the big difference is that it’s expected that winter will be cold in the Northeast, not so much in Israel (I mean some still think it’s cold…)  Here, apartments are built without insulation or even central heat.  I spent the first few days of the storm huddled under my thick duvet (thus justifying the investment) or cooking, since the kitchen was a little warmer than the rest of the apartment with both the oven and stove going.  Towards the end of the week, my roommate figured out how to get heat through our AC units, which at least made our rooms more bearable.  Although having hot, dry air blown at  you out of a machine is not exactly ideal, it was a much better option in my eyes than braving the storm to buy a small radiator (which would actually use about the same amount of energy).  Additionally, the warmest shoes I had were either ripped up converses, or the rubber ballet flats that had served as my work shoes, and I had to go out and buy a jacket just to attempt to keep warm outside.

Hail storm in Central Israel, December 2013

Hail storm in Central Israel, December 2013

Thankfully, that weather has passed now, a friend gave me a pair of boots to borrow for the season, and my new jacket is a perfect medium weight jacket to keep me warm when it cools off at night.  I’m also left with a bunch of warming, hearty, but still healthy soups!  Since the first bit of chill was felt in the air here, my roommates and I have consistently kept the fridge stocked with at least one soup per week, ranging from what I like to call “Clean Out the Fridge Soup” to chili, French Onion soup, and even  a curry lentil soup (or two).

Two weeks after the storm there was still some lingering snow on the Judean hills. December 2013

Two weeks after the storm there was still some lingering snow on the Judean hills. December 2013

The first soup I made this season was a broccoli potato garlic soup, inspired by the Cinnamon Snail.  We don’t have any kind of blender or anything here, so we ate it chunky, but if you do own such technology, I say blend away!  It may even be good with a touch of soy or coconut cream added!  (I for whatever stupid reason, did not take any pictures of this soup).

Broccoli Potato Garlic Soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ~10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped (stalk included)
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • salt
  • coarse ground black pepper
  • water to cover

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil for about a minute.  Add the onions and sauté about 5 minutes more until translucent.  Add the potatoes and broccoli, saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, add the herbs, salt and pepper to taste and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.  Simmer about 30 to 45 minutes, until all the veggies are nice and soft.  Adjust seasonings, and puree if desired.

“Soup”-er easy!  Check back soon for “Clean Out the Fridge Vegetable Soup”(I know, really appetizing name).

Earl Grey Chocolate Buttercream: Made for the Stage!

Earl Grey Chocolate Buttercream: Made for the Stage!

Still from the show as Mary (Mimi Tanaman) carries a chocolate cake to a table

Still from the show as Mary (Mimi Tanaman) carries a chocolate cake to a table

My recipe for Earl Grey chocolate buttercream was featured on the English On Stage facebook page today!  What does cake have to do with theatre you may ask? Well, a frosted chocolate cake was a very important prop for our new musical.  Given the number of gags that precipitate on the cake being real (like licking the frosting and blowing out birthday candles), it was important that we have a real edible cake to use during the show. Of course I volunteered for the task, not only ensuring the cake was beautiful, but also that I could eat it myself afterwards!  It also meant that I could have some secret fun with flavors, while still making it look like plain chocolate.

The cake recipe I used was the regular Earl Grey cake recipe I posted several months ago.  One of the things to remember when baking for the stage is that you have to ensure that your props will not only hold up under the lights, but also won’t go rancid in the amount of time it sits on stage (just another reason to avoid dairy!)  In this case, it’s best to use shortening, rather than a melty margarine like Earth Balance (or ya know the margarine that’s really bad for you).

With another show coming up soon, I’m already planning what cool flavors I can slip into our next chocolate cake.

For more information on Tom’s Diner the Musical, click here!  It’s really a fun new show, featuring all of your favorite music from the 1950s and 60s.

And with that shameless plug, I bid you goodnight (and promise to post some new recipes soon, as well as a post all about being in Israel).

Lapsang Souchong Chocolate Cupcakes

With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, I knew I needed to post some treat that would be appropriate for any New Year’s Eve party, whether it be glamorous or cozy. While I did have a whole host of recipes planned to post during the last days of the holiday season, life got in the way just a little bit, between opening the show, and recovering from the show (which also includes reconnecting with all of the friends I haven’t had a chance to see since all my time was spent in rehearsal). While New Year’s isn’t huge here (though Tel Avivians generally seem to love a good party no matter the occasion), I’m highly considering making these again, even if my plans are to have a quiet night with friends.

Last of the lapsang souchong (or somehow the other photos I took of these didn't save)

Last of the lapsang souchong (or somehow the other photos I took of these didn’t save)

So never fear, Lapsang Souchong Chococolate Cupcakes are here! These cupcakes were invented as part of my original Tipsy Shades concept, which I made for my graduation party in June. I wanted a combination that would be complimentary, but somewhat unexpected, and I also wanted to make some use of food trends (vegan and non), namely: coconut bacon. The cake is a beautiful, rich chocolate cake, with an added complexity from the smokiness of the lapsang souchong tea. What is lapsang souchong you ask? Well, it is a black tea from China that is dried with smoke, which gives it a distinctly smokey aroma (and slightly smokey flavor). Considering how big chocolate covered bacon and the like are these days, I figured the smokiness of the tea would find a nice home within the chocolate cake, and I was right. The cake was then filled with a bourbon spiked caramel filling, topped with bourbon caramel frosting, and sprinkled with coconut bacon.

Scenes from New Years past, Central Park Midnight Run 2012

Scenes from New Years past: with my friend Alex, before the Midnight Run 2012

Now, I’ve had some coconut bacons that were simply toasted large flaked coconut. I also have heard of premade coconut bacon being available for purchase, but since I already had large flake coconut on hand, I figured it would be easy enough to make myself. I mixed together a few tablespoons of tamari, and a teaspoon or two of liquid smoke, and then set the coconut in it to marinate for maybe an hour or so. Sitting that long is the mixture was unplanned, but the results were delicious! I baked the marinated coconut in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for maybe 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flakes had dried out. The results were so good, I was worried that I wouldn’t have any left to actually top the cupcakes with. While I can’t tell you what “real” bacon tastes like, I found the flavor of the coconut bacon to be very similar to Morning Star Farms veggie bacon (not vegan), which is what I grew up on. It sure was nice to find such an easy replacement to a childhood favorite.

Central Park, waiting for midnight

Central Park, waiting for midnight

The bacon was the perfect topping for the cupcake, tying together the smokey notes in the cake, and balancing the sweetness of the caramel frosting. Really, I can’t wait to make these again.

Lapsang Souchong Chocolate Cake (adapted from VCTOTW)

  • 1 c non dairy milk
  • 4 lapsang souchong tea bags, or 2 tbsp loose leaf
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder, (I prefer Cocoa Rouge)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill a muffin pan with liners. Heat non dairy milk in a small saucepan over medium until almost boiling. Add tea bags, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes. When ready, squeeze as much excess milk from the tea as possible. Discard the tea. If there is less than 1 c of tea milk, add a little more to equal 1 full cup. Add the vinegar to the milk and let sit for a minute or so.

Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl. sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few small ones are ok).

Pour into liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

4 miles complete!

4 miles complete!

Bourbon Caramel

  • 1 c sugar
  • 6 tbsp vegan margarine (I prefer Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 c coconut cream
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Melt the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until completely melted using a wooden or metal utensil (plastic will melt and that makes gross caramel). After it is completely melted, stop stirring, and cook until it is a deep caramel color. When it reaches this color, add the margarine and whisk until combined, then add the coconut cream, bourbon and the salt. The caramel may bubble violently when the cream is added, but don’t fear, just stir until the sauce is smooth. Let cool.

Caramel buttercream

  • 1/4 c vegan margarine
  • 1/4 c non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1 3/4 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tbsp Caramel Sauce
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the margarine and shortening together until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until well combined. Add the caramel sauce, bourbon and vanilla, and continue beating until smooth and creamy. If the buttercream is too thick, feel free to add more caramel sauce (or more bourbon if you’re into that sort of thing).

Assembly:

Using your pinky finger or a chopstick, poke a hole into the top of the cupcake, and move it around to make a little space. Using a squeeze bottle or pastry bag, fill the cupcake with caramel sauce. Top with a small dollop of the buttercream, and then sprinkle with coconut bacon. Devour and repeat.

The Perfect Breakfast Muffin

Tower of muffins!

Tower of muffins!

These muffins were created as a twist on my new favorite breakfast: quinoa porridge. For whatever reason, I was never into quinoa porridge in all the years I worked at Peacefood. Not that it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t my thing. When it came to having breakfast there, I generally opted for the tofu scramble with roasted potatoes if I wanted something warm (either that or a fresh baked pastry). In the few weeks since I moved into my new apartment here, however, I’ve been craving something warm for breakfast, and being a little too lazy to go out and get oatmeal, I settled on quinoa as my breakfast grain of choice. Generally, I like to cook it in a combination of water and soy milk, though if I’m out of that, I add a little nut butter to add some richness while it cooks. The real secret I find to good quinoa, is to make sure you add salt while its cooking, regardless of whether you are intending the grain for a sweet or savory application. The salt will remove any lingering bitterness that is sometimes present in quinoa, which is especially important for a sweet application such as this. In keeping with Peacefood Cafe’s quinoa porridge, I also add a touch of coconut oil and cinnamon while it cooks. This is where I deviate, and make my breakfast just a little more Israeli. I top the porridge with a tablespoon or so of silan (date syrup) and tehina, which adds a perfect amount of sweetness, as well as a richness of flavor. It is delicious and perfect for this Israeli winter thing.

Israeli quinoa porridge

Israeli quinoa porridge

The only problem with my porridge is that I do have to have time to cook it in the mornings. As my schedule gets more and more hectic with the approaching premiere of the show I’m working on, I’ve spent an increasing number of mornings stopping for a pita and coffee on my way to work. I needed a way to save time and have breakfast ready in advance, as well as to make it portable, so today I decided to make it into muffins.  These muffins are really hearty, packed with rich rolled oat, crunchy quinoa and soft apple bit.  They’re also wonderfully flavored with the slightest hint of sesame and some caramel undertones from the silan.  They really are the perfect breakfast muffin.

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Quinoa Apple Oat Muffins

  • 1 1/4 c flour (I used all purpose because that’s what I had, but whole wheat or spelt or even a gf mix would be great)
  • 1/2 c quinoa
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 small apple, chopped
  • 3/4 c nondairy milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c silan (date syrup)
  • 1/4 c melted, unrefined coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and fill a muffin tin with liners (or alternatively, grease the muffin tin).

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, including the diced apples.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the non dairy milk and lemon.  Let sit for a minute, then add the flax, whisk again, and set aside again (this is a great time to melt the coconut oil).  Add the remainder of the wet ingredients to the flax mixture.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet mixture to the dry.  Mix until just combined.  The batter will be very thick and lumpy, but that is perfect!  Fill the liners about 3/4 of the way full and bake for about 22 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

The quinoa adds a lot of texture to the muffins, because it stays pretty firm, and slightly crunchy. If you would like it softer, I would recommend soaking the grains in warm water for about 10 minutes, then draining before adding to the batter.

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot with Apple Cranberry Filling

While I really wanted this post to be a Thanksgivukkuh recap of the party last Thursday, I felt like given my time constraints this week—between recovering from Thanksgiving, plus ulpan, and my internship (where we’re getting ready to put up a musical in less than a month)—I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and still get this recipe up before the end of Hanukkah. And, since the end of Hanukkah is imminent, there’s no better time to post a recipe than now (or last week).

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Not that I ever disliked doughnuts, because let’s be honest, there were very few desserts I disliked growing up (except cheesecake. I was always picky about the whole cheese thing), but I feel like I really got into doughnuts when I had amazing, unique doughnuts readily available to me. Aka, when I started working in the city and could get doughnut plant doughnuts on the reg, or when the Cinnamon Snail started parking in my neighborhood on a weekly basis. Surprisingly, vegan doughnuts entered the New York City food scene late in the game. I’d already had the best ice cream ever (from the shop formerly known as Lula’s) and some pretty good vegan cheese, as well as a myriad of other vegan desserts. And yet, the doughnut was fairly elusive. Despite attending the Dun-Well Doughnuts launch party, they weren’t easy to come by, even after they opened their shop (because their shop is pretty much in Bushwick). But once the Cinnamon Snail was in my ‘hood, I found that there was many a Thursday morning, I only got dressed and left the house as early as I did because an artisanal vegan doughnut sounded like a good idea for breakfast. And boy oh boy how I missed doughnuts. Even at work it was a special treat when Kristin made doughnuts.

Peppermint patty and smore's doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail.  NYC, June 2012

Peppermint patty and smore’s doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail. NYC, June 2012

Here in Israel, especially at this time of year, soufganiyot proliferate, but there is nary a vegan one to be found. While doughnut making isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do, as a once a year Hanukkah treat, it’s really not so bad. I was in finals during Hanukkah last year, so I didn’t get a chance to experiment, and oddly enough, though I know I made some the year before, I can’t at all remember what kind they were, or even which recipe I used. Regardless, (as I say every year) this year’s batch was the best to date. Of course, as I’ve written about for the last month or so, I had to up the ante and not only make doughnuts, but make something special to celebrate the convergence of two major holidays. And thus, the sweet potato soufganiyot (aka doughnut) was born. I actually wanted to have two Thanksgiving inspired fillings: cranberry sauce and macadamia nut creme (paying homage to my family’s tradition of macadamia nut pie). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries here, so I settled for making one big batch of cranberry apple sauce for both soufganiyot and latkes, made with a mix of fresh apples, dried cranberries, and a hint of cinnamon. The macadamia nut pudding, I did manage to execute to an extent. It turned out to be an utterly delicious creme with a little brown sugar and some crunchy macadamia nuts; however, for fear of ending up with macadamia nut concrete, I under thickened, and my pudding was a little too runny for filling (especially with my make-shift equipment). In the end, I did what any good housewife would do, and turned it into soufganiyot trifle. It was a hit, and in good form, I finished it for breakfast this morning.

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Now onto the recipe! I combined two recipes I found, one for vegan doughnuts, and one for non-vegan sweet potato doughnuts, originally found here and here. The result was a divinely soft and fluffy doughnut, with the faintest hint of nutmeg, and a little bit of natural sweetness from the sweet potato. It was the perfect compliment to both the creamy pudding and the sweet and tangy apple sauce.

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot:

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 c lukewarm non dairy milk
  • 1/2 c non dairy milk plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 c +2 tbsp brown sugar
  • sweet potato puree (from about 1 medium sweet potato)
  • 4 c flour+ extra for flouring the board
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a least 1 quart of oil for frying

Combine half the warm non dairy milk with the yeast in a small bowl or measuring cup and let sit. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the starch with the 1/2 c milk and cook until thick like pudding, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the margarine and stir to melt. Then incorporate the sugar, and the remaining almond milk. Combine with the yeast mixture, stirring gently.

Add half the flour, salt, and nutmeg and mix in with a wooden spoon (or dough hook if you have one of those fancy contraptions). Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is no longer wet and sticky. You may have to add a little extra because of the sweet potato. Knead the dough until it’s just smooth. You don’t want to over knead, or else you will have bready doughnuts.

Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise about an hour, until doubled in size. I actually made the dough the night before and let it rise fully, then punched it down and let it rise halfway again and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, let the dough come to room temperature. Don’t punch it down, but flour your work space and lightly pat the dough with flour. Roll out until it is 1/2 in to 3/4 in thick. Using a cookie cutter or glass that measures about 3 in in diameter, cut out the doughnuts, then set aside to rise. When you finish cutting out the doughnuts, begin heating the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until the oil reaches 365 degrees. You can test this by pinching off a little piece of dough and dropping it in the oil (if you don’t have a candy thermometer). If the oil bubbles around the dough, and the dough floats to the top, the oil is ready.

Fry the doughnuts 3-4 at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan) several minutes on each side, til both are a beautiful golden brown. Drain on a tray lined with paper towels or brown paper bag and let cool.

Hot tub shot

Hot tub shot with latkes frying in the background

Cranberry Apple Sauce

  • 2 (or more) tart apples (depending on how much you wanna make), peeled and chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 dried cranberries
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring to a bowl, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the apples are completely soft, and pretty much turn to mush just by stirring. The cranberries will have plumped up, and then hopefully broken down a little more. Using a spoon, mash the apple mixture around the pot. Remove from heat when thick and saucy. This apple sauce is on the tart side, but feel free to add some sweetener if you’d like. Let cool.

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

To assemble:

  • small paring knife
  • piping bag
  • powdered sugar

Take doughnuts and use the knife to cut a small opening in the side, making sure you push the knife all the way through, but not breaking out of the other side. Fill the piping bag with the apple sauce, and squeeze into the hole you made in the doughnut, until the doughnut feels significantly heavier. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts. To serve: dust with powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Baked Ziti, Your New Noodle Kugel

My family has never been one to make kugels, noodle, potato or otherwise.  In  fact there’s really only been one noodle kugel I ever liked, which a friend of my parents used to bring to our break fast parties after Yom Kippur.  It was sweet and creamy, absent of devil’s spawn (raisins) and topped with ethereally crunchy shredded coconut.  This was the dish that first turned me on to coconut, though people who know me now will be hard pressed to imagine a time I didn’t like the rich, nutty tropical fruit.  Baked ziti–essentially an Italian version of noodle kugel without all the eggs–was another dish I wasn’t particularly fond of, due to the presence of grainy ricotta cheese.  Going vegan freed me from those terrifying shackles, by presenting me with alternatives to both, namely a sweet and savory, but creamy baked pasta dish.

Pumpkin baked ziti with pecans in the bread crumbs. Cape Cod, November 2009

This recipe comes straight from the ranks of Veganomicon.  I’m including it on my Thanksgivukkuh table this year because it’s an appropriate combination of Thanksgiving flavors, with loose ties to the more traditionally Jewish (ok Ashkenazi) kugel.  It’s also a total crowd pleaser, and can be easily multiplied for a larger number of guests.  Pasta is coated in a creamy mixture of pureed pumpkin and sweet cashew tofu ricotta, delicately spiced with nutmeg and white pepper.  What really makes the dish though, are the caramelized onions that are added to the mix.  Pumpkin and caramelized onions is almost as classic as pumpkin and sage after all, but not to be outdone, sage is featured in the homemade bread crumbs.  The topping also includes crushed walnuts for a nutty finish on top.  I usually use pecans or hazelnuts, since I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts.

Ziti next to pumpkin based challah for post-Thanksgiving Shabbat. Cape Cod, November 2009

Pumpkin Baked Ziti from Veganomicon

  • 3/4 lb uncooked ziti or penne pasta
  • 2 onions, sliced very thinly
  • 1 recipe Cashew Ricotta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • white pepper and cayenne, to taste
  • 2 c pureed pumpkin or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (don’t use pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 c vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in lasagna pan with olive oil (you can also use two smaller pans).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, start the onions.  Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pans (cast-iron is great for this) over medium heat.  Add the oil, then the onions, and saute until the onions are very brown and caramelized.  I like to add some salt, to help release the liquid, and then cover.  Slow caramelized onions do take about 45 minutes to be properly done, but you can speed up the process some by increasing the heat.  Just take care not to burn the onions. Set aside.

Place the Cashew Ricotta (recipe to follow) in a bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth and stir to combine.  Add the onions and pasta, mixing until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Pour into prepared pan, and press lightly with a spatula to distribute it evenly. Top with the sage breadcrumbs (recipe also to follow) and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.  This can also be made in advance and reheated.

Cashew Ricotta

  • 1/2 c raw cashew pieces (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms.  Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches if necessary, until the mixture is thick and well blended.  Blend in basil and salt.

Sage Breadcrumbs

  • 2 1/2 c plain bread crumbs (homemade are great here)
  • 1/3 c pecans or hazelnuts, chopped until resembling coarse crumbs
  • 1/4 c vegan margarine
  • 2 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the margarine in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, nuts, herbs, paprika, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir constantly 3-4 minutes until evenly coated.  Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

I feel like I’ve somehow managed to go overboard on the pumpkin this year, at least recipe-wise, which is funny since the pumpkin craze doesn’t really exist in Israel. All the sensory phenomena associated with pumpkin season in the US are absent here so far. It’s been almost continuously warm and sunny since my arrival in early October (much to my delight), so food cravings tend to be more for things that are light and fresh, rather than warm and comforting, rich with cinnamon, pumpkin, and other warming spices. Nevertheless, I had an idea for a second pumpkin themed cupcake that I was dying to try out. A cupcake spiked with a little bit of the ever popular pumpkin ale. I’m honestly not sure if pumpkin ales can be found here, but I had someone bring me back a bottle from the states for the sole purpose of making these cupcakes.

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Pumpkin ale cupcake, maple frosting and toasted pecans

While these would definitely make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table, I made these for a going away party for a friend who was moving back to Boston. They were a hit among all in attendance, which was more of a pleasant surprise not because I was worried about the combination of flavors, but because in making them in a borrowed kitchen, I lacked even such basic equipment as measuring cups. In the end, I guesstimated using a small disposable plastic cup (on which was writtenThis is 1 Cup), by assuming it was actually equivalent to about 6 oz, and measuring the ingredients from there. Luckily, ratios are really the most important part of baking, so despite my make-shift equipment, everything was in proportion.

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Pumpkin ale batter

Of course, I didn’t see any pumpkin puree in the grocery stores here, so for efficiency, I chose to use mashed sweet potato in the batter, which was equally nice. I also threw in some vegan white chocolate chips, mostly because we had them (and they’re so easy to find here!). The cupcake is topped with a salted maple buttercream and toasted pecans. I used pure maple syrup in the frosting since it was easier to request bottle of maple syrup from the US, rather than maple extract. The salt was added to counterbalance the sweetness of the maple and sugar combination. The pecans provide a buttery crunch that tops the cupcakes off perfectly. I would actually recommend choosing either the frosting or the white chocolate chips, since the chips made the batter a little bit more sweet than I would have liked.

Make shift five shekel muffin pan from the shuk

Make shift five shekel muffin pan from the shuk

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake:

  • 1/2 c canned pumpkin puree (or mashed sweet potato)
  • 3/4 c pumpkin ale
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/2 c vegan white chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners

In a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin, ale, sugar, oil, and and vanilla.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir with a fork until just combined.  Fold in the white chocolate chips if using.

Fill liners 2/3 full and baking for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Cooling cupcakes speckled with white chocolate

Cooling cupcakes speckled with white chocolate

Maple frosting:

  • 1 c vegan margarine ( or 1/2 margarine and 1/2 shortening)
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar

Put the maple syrup in a small saucepan of medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Simmer 5-10 minutes until the syrup has reduced a bunch.  You want it to be 1/4 c or less.  Add a tablespoon or two of the margarine and let cool.  Beat the margarine until fluffy, and add the sugar and salt.  Beat until combined.  Add the vanilla and the maple syrup.  Beat til fluffy, then put in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes.  Beat again before using.

Top cupcakes with maple frosting and toasted pecans.

The Crispiest Vegan Latkes Around

One of the things you hear most frequently about vegan cooking and baking is “but what do you do about eggs?” Generally speaking, especially in pastries, eggs aren’t really necessary and can be easily substituted by making vegan “buttermilk”, where some acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice) is added to nondairy milk, which then reacts with baking soda to create a stable structure. If it’s the richness that eggs bring, using some blended tofu or soy yogurt are easy options. As a last resort, there is always EnerG egg replacer, which is made with a combination of starches, and then, there is flax. When ground and mixed with water, or boiled whole in water, flax releases a viscous, gooey gel, which makes a brilliant egg replacer. The ground flax works particularly nicely in smaller things, like cookies, or in latkes! The boiled gel is a different animal all together, but some wonderfully experimental vegans figured out it can be whipped like egg whites to make foam! (but more on that later).

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Making exceptional vegan versions of the traditional Jewish foods of my childhood has proved to be much more difficult a challenge than vegan baking. The first vegan latke recipe I used, I found to make rather dense latkes, due to its reliance on extra flour as it’s only binder. The were ok, but not exactly what I was looking for in a homemade latke. I was looking for something light and crispy, faintly scented with onion, that was perfectly warming in the dark of December.

Hanukkah out. December 2012

Hanukkah out. December 2012

Enter the latke recipe from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Her recipe included ground flax as a binder, which freed the potato pancake from it’s floury, glutinous density. In fact, these latkes were exactly as I remembered them, light, crispy, and the perfect compliment to a dollop of applesauce. I am sharing her recipe in all it’s glory, so you too can have the perfect vegan latkes this year.

Crispy Latkes (adapted from the Vegan Table)

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c water
  • 4 c peeled and shredded potatoes (about 5 medium sized potatoes)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and shredded
  • 1 tbsp al purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Applesauce for serving

In a food processor or blender (a fork works too honestly), whip the flaxseed and water together, until mixture reaches a thick and creamy, almost gelatinous consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.  Set aside

Spread potatoes on a kitchen towel or cheesecloth, and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.  You may need to do this again with a second towel.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add flax egg to potatoes, along with onions, flour and salt.  Use your hands to combine ingredients.  You want the mixture to be moist, but not too wet.

Heat some oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Using a tablespoon, scoop a large spoonful of potato mixture unto hot oil, pressing down to form a patty.  You are not trying to create dense patties, but the batter should stick together enough to be flipped without falling apart.  Slide a spatula underneath the latkes while they’re cooking to make sure they don’t stick to the pan.  Brown on one side, turn over, and brown on the other side.  You may need more oil as you add more latkes to the pan.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil.  Season with salt, and serve with apple sauce.

Vegan Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

Despite the proliferation of holidays we have to celebrate throughout the year–Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Purim etc.–my family really only makes stuffing twice a year: Thanksgiving and Pesach.  On Pesach, our stuffing of choice is invariably farfel, which is made out of small pieces of matzah, but on Thanksgiving, it somehow became tradition to have cornbread sausage stuffing, even though we’re a bunch of NY Jews through and through.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with all those other bread based stuffings because (real) bread is pretty much always delicious, but cornbread stuffing has always been my favorite.  Maybe it’s the interplay of the sweet cornbread–I like to speckle with a fragrant mix of herbs (usually herbes de Provence) as an homage to the herb flecked bag of croutons one can find in grocery stores–with the contrast of the succulent and savory (vegan) sausage.

Now in my family (well on my mom’s side anyway) we always did several incarnations of stuffing.  The first incarnation was the stuffing actually used “to stuff” (gross), which was fully done up with mushrooms and onions.  Then, there was out of bird run off with sausage (back then it was meat sausage) as well as mushrooms and onions.  There was a version without sausage for my vegetarian cousin (and eventually me, which became my vegan version that I make today!), and the last was what we called “nerd” stuffing, which had sausage, but no mushrooms and onions, for my aunt who didn’t like the vegetation.  Why nerd stuffing? Because when my cousin was a kid she asked why our aunt didn’t eat the regular stuffing, to which her mother responded, “because she’s a nerd.”  And thus, nerd stuffing was born.

Nowadays, I always put mushrooms and onions into my stuffing, because they just add to the depth of flavor, with the mushrooms enhancing the umami flavors in the sausage, and the onions lending a nuanced carmel undertone to complement the cornbread.  Then to top it all off, I save some of the mushrooms, onions, and sausage and make a really tasty gravy.  I will confess, despite my inclusion of mushrooms, I only do it for the flavor it adds…and then I pick them out and leave them on my plate (or now give them to my brother).

The cornbread is really super easy (my dad even started it for me last year) and can be made several days in advance before turning it into stuffing.

Cornbread (adapted from Veganomicon)

  • 2 c non dairy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c cornmeal
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried herbes de Provence
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1/2 c (or one 6 oz container, not scraped) plain, non dairy yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in baking pan.

Combine the non dairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle as you prepare everything else.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and herbs.  Create a well in the center and add the milk mixture, oil, and yogurt.  Use a wooden spoon to mix together until just combined; some lumps are ok. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until a toothpick or slim knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Stuffing

  • 1 recipe cornbread
  • 1 package (of 4 links) vegan sausage, my favorite in the US is Field Roast apple-sage variety
  • 2 c sliced onions (sweet or white is fine)
  • 2 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 c prepared vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté about 5 minutes on each side, until just starting to brown.  Add the onions and salt, and sauté another 5-7 minutes, until they have begun to look translucent. Add the mushrooms and salt and saute until everything has cooked down and begun to look slightly brown.  This will take about 10-15 minutes. Reserve about a 1/2 c of the mushroom, onion, and sausage mixture for gravy.

In a large casserole pan (or even the same 9×13 baking dish) crumble the cornbread, and stir in the mushroom mixture, until fairly evenly distributed.  Begin to slowly add the broth, stirring to evenly coat the cornbread.  Only add as much broth as is necessary to sufficiently saturate the bread, you aren’t making soup.  Bake in a 350 degree oven, about 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown, and the stuffing is no longer super wet.  Serve with mushroom gravy.

Gravy

  • 1/2 c sauteed mushrooms, onions and sausage, reserved from stuffing
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or vegan margarine
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 c vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat (or you can use the same pan you originally cooked them in) and add the mushroom mixture.  Saute for about a minute, then add the flour, stirring until evenly distributed on the veggies, and well mixed with the oil.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to ensure that the flour is adequately dissolved.  Add the broth and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced.  If you like a thicker gravy, feel free to add more flour and reduce more.

This recipe can easily be multiplied if you are feeding more people, but usually I am the only one consuming the gravy, and this is a fairly adequate amount for one person (with plenty of leftovers!)

I’m sorry I somehow have zero pictures of this to share!  I’m actually a little shocked considering how many years I’ve been making this recipe, but I guess stuffing isn’t exactly the most photogenic of foods.  I promise to take plenty when I make stuffing this year (though I am going to attempt to fry it, rather than bake it…wish me luck!) and will update this page after the fact.