Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Crisp

This is the final recipe from last week's Community Green dinner. Served with a scoop of vegan ice cream, it's heaven on a plate. Go out of your way to seek out fantastic apples for this recipe. New Jersey grows over 30 varieties, so you shouldn't have a problem doing so. My favorite variety, the Winesap, has been grown in New Jersey since the 1700s. When I have time to get out of the area and visit my favorite orchard in New Paltz, I make this with a combination of Ida Red and Northern Spy apples, and nothing tastes better. Experiment and find your own favorite - see my note below for suggested varieties.

For apple filling:
3 lbs. mixed seasonal apples*, peeled, cored and sliced
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour

For crisp topping:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ cups brown sugar
2 ¼ cup rolled oats
3 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
12 oz. Earth Balance butter substitute, well-chilled

Prepare apple filling: Toss peeled, cored and sliced apples with lemon juice, brown sugar and flour. Set aside.

Prepare crisp topping:
Combine flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and sea salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add the Earth Balance all at once in small pieces. Rub mixture together with your hands until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Place apple filling in a well-greased 9x11” baking dish. Top with crisp topping. Bake at 325 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, until filling is bubbly and crisp topping is golden.

Serve warm with ice cream.

*Suggested apple varieties: A mixture of any of the following: Winesap, Stayman, Ida Red, Northern Spy, Empire, Jonagold, Jonathan.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Roasted Beet Carpaccio with Toasted Walnuts, Microgreens and Lemon Vinaigrette

Here is another fancy little number from our Community Green dinner. This one looks simply ravishing on the plate, and, in my humble little opinion, blows the raw beef version right out of the water. If you want to go nuts with it, a little shaved fennel would not be amiss here in place of or in addition to the microgreens. Most of your time will be spent slicing the beets, so if you're making this for a crowd, set aside a little extra time. For a family supper, you can skip this step and just use your knife, but I recommend trying it my way if you have the time. Sometimes beauty is worth the price.

Serves Eight.
Beet Carpaccio:
4 large beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup microgreens

Lemon Vinaigrette:
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely minced
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finest-quality extra virgin olive oil

Scrub beets but do not peel. Remove the very top and bottom of each beet. Place in a double thickness of aluminum foil, top with olive oil, and wrap tightly. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until tender when pricked with a fork but not soft. Set aside to cool.

While beets are roasting, chop walnuts and roast for 10 minutes in the oven with the beets. Set aside to cool.

Prepare lemon vinaigrette: Combine lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, shallot, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Whisk in olive oil, drop by drop, using all. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. You want a very bright, acidic flavor to counter the sweetness of the beets and the toasty flavor of the almonds. Set aside.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel carefully, then slice very thinly using a mandoline slicer. Aim for slices thin enough to see through. Unless you want pink fingers for a few days, you may wish to wear gloves.

To plate: Toss microgreens with a teaspoon of dressing. Lay beets down center of plate, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Top with microgreens, and drizzle each plate with a little dressing.

Celery Root and Potato Soup with Chestnut Foam and Parsley Croutons

This recipe continues those served at last weekend's Community Green dinner. I meant to get them up sooner, but with Mom (and our beloved family dog Chloe) here recovering from surgery (just Mom, not our Dear Chloe), I haven't had a minute to breathe, let alone write! Now that she's doing great and I've packed her off to her own home, I can get back to business.

This is a grand special occasion soup, although none of the components take very long to prepare. You can make the stock and soup in advance, and prepare the chestnut foam up to the point where it comes out of the blender. Then just finish your foam, reheat the soup, and make the croutons. It would make a lovely first course for Thanksgiving, and is the perfect cool-weather weekend supper with some good bread, a salad, and a fresh fruit dessert.

You will need a whip with CO2 chargers to make the foam. If you don't have one, you can skip the foam and it will be simpler but still quite yummy, but if you are up to the investment, it's a great little product that will also make all kinds of cool dessert items.

Serves six to eight as a first course, or four heartier portions .
For Light Vegetable Stock:
8 cups water
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
3 shallots, halved, skin left on
Peels from 4 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 bouquet garni: 1 bay leaf, 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, 8 black peppercorns, 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley

For Soup:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled and diced
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups light vegetable stock 1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Cayenne pepper hot sauce, to taste

For Chestnut Foam:
1 cup peeled, roasted chestnuts
1 cup light vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon agar agar

For Parsley Croutons:
2 cups crusty French bread, cut into ½” cubes
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Earth Balance spread, melted
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare vegetable stock: Add all ingredients to a medium sauce pan. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare soup and foam ingredients and Parsley Croutons.

Prepare Chestnut Foam:
Roast, peel and chop chestnuts (make an “x” in the bottom of each chestnut with a sharp knife. Roast at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until peels begin to come away. Bottled unsweetened chestnuts may be substituted if necessary.) Combine chestnuts and 1 cup vegetable stock. Simmer for 25 minutes. Puree mixture in a blender on high setting. Strain with a fine mesh strainer, and return to sauce pan. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Heat to a boil, add agar agar, and whisk to combine thoroughly. Chill mixture completely. Set aside in refrigerator. When ready to serve soup, add to a whip fitted with a CO2 charger to make foam.

Prepare soup:
Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat; add leeks and a pinch of sea salt. Cook leeks for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute more. Add celery root, potatoes, vegetable stock and remaining salt. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until ingredients are soft. Run soup through a food mill into a large bowl. Wipe sauce pan clean and return to the pot. Add almond milk, white wine and a liberal grinding of fresh pepper. Simmer for five minutes. Taste, and adjust acidity and flavor with fresh lemon juice and hot sauce. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Prepare Parsley Croutons:
Combine all ingredients. Spread on a heavy sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees, stirring frequently, until golden and crispy. Keep warm.

To serve soup:

Plate each individual portion. Top with chestnut foam and parsley croutons. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vanilla-Ginger Chip Ice Cream

This ice cream, based on Priscilla Feral's Vanilla Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from The Best of Vegan Cooking, is simply delicious. I made a few small changes to the recipe, but the technique remains the same - soy creamer is sweetened with agave nectar, flavored, thickened with cornstarch, and enriched with coconut milk. If you haven't tried vegan ice cream, or if you have only tasted the commercially prepared stuff, this luscious frozen treat will make a believer out of you.

I served this ice cream at this past Saturday's vegan dinner fundraiser for Community Green, with a warm apple crisp (recipe to follow). Although I love to introduce vegan and vegetarian cuisine to those who have never tried it before, cooking for a group of environmentalists, animal rights activists, and other like-minded people energizes and inspires me. Sometimes it's fun to skip the "why" of fabulous vegan cuisine, and and just teach delicious food and advanced techniques to people who don't need to be convinced. Thanks to all who came to eat and learn, and for those who didn't, try the recipes at home and join us next time!

You will need an ice cream maker. I used a Cuisinart, which does a fine job, but any kind will do - just make sure your mixture is well-chilled before you begin churning to ensure a smooth and creamy consistency.

2 cups French Vanilla soy creamer
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup organic candied ginger bits

In a medium sauce pan, heat soy creamer and salt over medium-high heat. Cut vanilla bean in half and scrape the pulp into the pan as well. Reserve vanilla bean pod for another use. Whisk mixture frequently, and bring to a boil.

Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water; whisk until smooth.

Add cornstarch mixture and agave nectar to sauce pan and reduce heat to medium. Whisk constantly until slightly thickened, about four minutes. Stir in coconut milk.

Make an ice bath: Fill a large bowl with ice and a little cold water. Transfer ice cream mixture to a slightly smaller bowl. Set bowl in the ice bath to cool the mixture rapidly, stirring frequently. When it has cooled, transfer ice cream bowl to refrigerator and chill until very cold, about another hour.

Process in an ice cream machine (mine took about 25 minutes), adding ginger chips during the last five minutes of churning. Transfer to a container and freeze.