Sunday, November 7, 2010

Butternut Squash & Potato Pancakes

Fall is in the air (finally) here in north central Florida, and butternut squash with its deep orange color and nutty flavor lends itself nicely to autumnal dinners. These savory pancakes are definitely dinner fare. The original recipe is from the Vegetarian Times. I added an extra egg and the breadcrumbs. The original recipe calls for frying the pancakes in oil. I am addicted to my Cuisinart Griddler, so a set the panini/grill setting to medium-high, put a schmear of butter on each pancake, and grilled them for about 5 minutes.

2 cups grated butternut squash (about 1 lb)
2 cups grated potatoes (peeled or unpeeled)
1/2 cup red onion, diced
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 large eggS, beaten
3 Tbs unbleached flour
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Ground pepper

Place squash, potatoes, onion and 2 tsp salt in colander. Drain for about 15 minutes, pressing water from vegetables. I highly recommend squeezing the vegetables by hand to remove as much liquid as possible, and maybe even blotting them with a towel.

Preheat panini press or griddle to medium-high.

Transfer vegetables to a mixing bowl and add garlic, sage, nutmeg and egg. Mix well. Add flour, breadcrumbs and pepper, mix again.

Form into patties. They will be a little loose. Place on griddle with a bit of butter on top.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a warm fruit chutney.
Makes about 6 pancakes. (The VT recipe said these quantities would make 20 pancakes. Ours were about 3 inches across.)


Friday, November 5, 2010

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

This is dedicated to my friend Stace, who moved away to California and is now residing in the beautiful state of Colorado, which is where she has wanted to be all along. When we met at a vegan restaurant for our  farewell luncheon, I ordered the Sheep's Pie, a vegan version of the well-known comfort food Shepherd's Pie. It was tasty. There were carrots and broccoli and mashed potatoes, but it lacked the substance of a Shepherd's Pie. My mother was a Brit, and I grew up on this classic comfort fare. Was there really a way to make it vegan and still satisfy that urge for a full bodied casserole that would leave me satisfied?

Add some barley for substance, and lots of mushrooms to replace the meat. We chose white mushrooms  for their mild flavor, and black mushrooms for drama. Julia Child's Brown Sauce  made with a full-flavored mushroom stock  transforms the veggies into a heart-warming, rib-sticking casserole that will conjure visions of British Pubs and roaring fires.

The traditional Shepherd's Pie was a way to use leftovers, so there were plenty of variations. Experiment with different vegetable combinations. If you are grilling or roasting vegetables, make some extra to use in your casserole. Otherwise, Vegan Shepherd's Pie can be too time consuming for a weeknight supper. This Vegan Shepherd's Pie will satisfy the urge for the traditional casserole, but I recommend that some of this be prepared ahead of time so you have it on hand.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mushroom Stock

Mushroom stock provides a savory foundation for many recipes. Because it has a very distinctive flavor, use it in dishes that will benefit from its substantial contribution.It's easy to make in a large quantity, so  you can keep some on hand. Freeze it it you won't use it in a few days.

Asian markets have the most wonderful dried mushroom assortments at very reasonable prices. Adjust spices as you like.

1-2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 shallots cut into several pieces
2 small carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
8 oz white mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 oz dried shitake mushrooms, reconstituted
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs parsley, coarsely chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh sage leaves
9 cups cold water

Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep pot.
Add the onions, shallots, carrots, celery and white mushrooms, stirring frequently, until onions become translucent and mushrooms begin to release moisture.. About 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for two hours. Strain, pressing liquid out of vegetables. Discard vegetables.

Quick Vegan Brown Sauce

Also from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this quick brown sauce is great when time is short. It is really nothing more than stock thickened with cornstarch or arrowroot. As Julia says, it has no culinary interest at all unless the base (stock) is excellent.

You will need
A 4 cup saucepan
A wire whip or whisk

2 T cornstarch or arrowroot
2 cups of excellent stock

Optional: 1/4 cup Madeira, port, or cognac

Blend the cornstarch or arrowroot with 2 tablespoons of cold stock, then beat in the rest of the stock. Simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce has cleared and thickened slightly. Season to taste. If adding wine or cognac, simmer for 2-3 minutes until alcohol has evaporated. This sauce may be set aside and reheated when needed.

Vegan Basic Brown Sauces with Thanks to Julia Child

This is a classic French sauce from Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you don't have two hours to spend making it, skip straight ahead to the Quick Vegan Brown Sauce.

For about 1 quart of Brown Sauce you will need

A heavy-bottomed 2qt saucepan
A wooden spatula or spoon
A wire whip

1/3 cup each: diced celery, carrots, onions
4 T olive or canola oil (reduced from original recipe)

4 T flour

6 cups boiling mushroom stock
2 T tomato paste
A medium herb bouquet: 3 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth

Cook the vegetables slowly in the oil for about 10 minutes.
Blend the flour into the vegetables, stirring constantly over moderately low heat 8-10 minutes or until the flour turns a golden brown. (This is a vegan roux.)

Remove from heat. With a wire whip or whisk, immediately blend in all the boiling liquid at once. Add the herb bouquet.

Simmer slowly, partially covered, for 2 hours or more. Add more liquid if the sauce thickens too much.