An “Original Vegan” Dish | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Seven

VeganMoFo 2017

Week One: Changing Vegan Perspectives
Original vegan: Vegan meals that aren’t trying to replicate meat/omni ingredients.

I just love this prompt. My tastes tend to be cyclical; I’ll go through periods where I’m all about veg meats and cheeses, then longer stretches of time when I eschew those in favor of more whole foods. While I mused on this prompt, my mind immediately went to elevated dishes involving unusual takes on typical veg ingredients. Curried kasha, cooked in coconut milk and spices?! An elaborate pasta dish with plenty of roasted tomatoes from my still-abundant garden?!

…but then I took a step back and realized this is the perfect opportunity to highlight a super easy, nourishing, healthy veggie meal. The kind that, truth be told, I rely on most weeknights. Especially this time of year, when it’s getting a little chillier out and I don’t mind turning on the oven, I love featuring roasted veggies in my dinners. It’s not unusual for Steven and I to sit down with a bowl of two or three roasted veggies, maybe a grain, and some tofu or beans for protein. Meals don’t need to be a single cohesive dish to be satisfying; sometimes a bowl with a few simple yet tasty components can be remarkably satisfying.

Simple, veggie-rich bowlSo I present to you a vegan dinner that is simple, satisfying, terribly healthy, and quite affordable. It lends itself well to scaling up or down, depending on how many diners you’re serving, and can be augmented with additional roasted veggies depending on what you have wilting in your crisper at the moment. I used delicata squash (the first of the season!), spicy marinated tofu, and steamed kale. Roasted sweet potato would also be lovely here. You can swap out the garam masala (which I’ve used on my delicata rings) for another spice blend of choice, but I like the way the sweet spices works with the kickier harissa-spiced tofu. You could certainly fancy this up with a sauce, but I kind of like the simplicity of enjoying each element’s individual flavors. (Pardon my rough recipe; this is not a meal that requires precise measurements! And pardon the rough phone photo; I was hungry!)

Simple Veggie-full Dinner Bowl

Serves 2

1 lb extra-firm tofu, pressed
1-3 tablespoons Harissa paste, to taste
~1 tsp garlic powder
1 delicata squash
Vegetable or olive oil
1-2 tablespoons garam masala
Dash salt (optional)
3-4 roughly chopped handfuls curly kale
Lemon juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

First, prepare the pressed tofu by slicing it into ~1” cubes. Toss it with harissa paste and garlic powder and set aside to marinate.

Trim the ends off the delicata, then slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, then cut each half into ~3/4” half-moon slices (see photo above). Toss with a little oil, garam masala, and salt, if using. Spread onto a baking sheet and pop in the oven, setting the timer for ~15 minutes. (Note: You can flip your rounds at some point to ensure even cooking, but I don’t always do that. #lazy)

When the squash rounds are nearly done (at about 15 minutes), heat a little vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet or other nonstick pan. Add the tofu cubes to the skillet and cook on medium heat, flipping occasionally, to brown them slightly. When they’re about done and the squash is fork-tender, start boiling water for the kale.

Remove squash from oven and let cool slightly while you steam the kale for ~3 minutes, until bright green and tender but not overdone. You can drizzle the kale with lemon juice at this point if you’d like.

Add a good portion of each component to your bowl and enjoy!

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Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Gratin

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Four: Memories and Traditions

Memories and traditions! An appropriate theme this week. Today I bring you a recipe that’s not quite a tradition, but does hearken back to a dish my family served pretty frequently at holidays: scalloped potatoes. But this version features squash instead of potatoes, and a creamy cashew-based sauce instead of cheese.

Sometimes I think that squash varieties don’t quite match their names. With gorgeous, ethereal names like butternut, delicata, and pattypan, you expect something light and, well, delicate. Instead, you get an oddly thick, bulbous, often warty fruit that is decidedly not delicate. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and squashes lend themselves so well to dozens of applications.

Creamy vegan butternut squash gratin // govegga.com

This savory butternut squash recipe would not be out of place doubled and served as a side for Thanksgiving dinner. Roasting squash brings out its inherent sweetness, and seasonal herbs (sage, thyme) add a complementary savory note. A beautifully simple yet complexly flavorful cashew cream sauce elevates the dish, and a sprinkling of toasted panko adds just a little crunch. Thanks to the coconut milk and cashews in the sauce, this dish is surprisingly filling and nutrient-rich; you might be surprised that you’re full after a small helping! Eat straight out of the oven for optimal deliciousness.

Creamy Butternut Squash Gratin

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

For the squash

1 butternut squash
5-7 fresh sage leaves, rolled and sliced into ribbons
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1.5 – 2 T olive oil (start with less and add more if needed for a larger squash)
2-3 T panko

For the cashew cream sauce

1/2 cup whole raw cashews, either soaked for 6 hours ahead of time or boiled for 15 minutes
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 large clove garlic
2 T nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

Method

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Using a sharp knife, cut each end off the squash, then cut it half both vertically and horizontally. Stand each piece on end and use your knife to cut off the peel, then scoop out the seeds with a fork. Slice the squash into half-moon shapes about 3/4″ thick.

Combine the olive oil, sliced sage, thyme, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to a large mixing bowl, then add the squash slices. Stir to coat evenly, then add the squash to a 9 x 13″ glass casserole dish.

Bake for 20 minutes while you prepare the cream sauce.

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend/process until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. It will be fairly thin — that’s okay. Taste and adjust for salt. Set cream aside while the squash bakes.

At the 20 minutes mark, use a fork to check whether the squash is done. You want it just about tender. Remove from the oven and pour the sauce over the squash; aim to drizzle it and don’t worry about coating each piece.

Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle the panko on top; you want a nice layer. Broil the casserole for 2-3 minutes and remove just as the panko begins to turn golden brown.

Let sit for about 3 minutes, then serve.

 

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With its slightly astringent bite, radicchio isn’t a vegetable I cook with frequently—truth be told, I’ve used it only a handful of times. Recently, though, I stumbled across a method for cooking it that promised to transform it into something much more palatable: roasting! I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself. What vegetable doesn’t benefit from a little olive oil and some time in the oven at high heat? Roasting radicchio brings out its sweetness, especially in the tender inner leaves. The outer leaves retain some of their bite, but those inner leaves practically melt in your mouth.

I served my roasted radicchio alongside a warm lentil dish that features one of my absolute favorite veggies: Brussels sprouts. I also added pomegranates for a textural contrast and a bite of sweet juiciness that plays well with the strongly flavored sprouts, and a sprinkle of pine nuts adds the finishing touch! I flavored my lentil dish with Trader Joe’s orange muscat champagne vinegar, a lovely mild vinegar that even I—a noted vinegar-hater—can’t totally dislike. If you don’t have it, though, feel free to use another light vinegar and a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges
Serves two

For the radicchio:

  • One head radicchio
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced as finely as you can get it (or pressed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper

For the Brussels sprouts:

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For the lentils:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils

For the dressing/salad:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange muscat champagne vinegar (or 1/2 tablespoon your favorite vinegar + 1/2 tablespoon orange juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pine nuts for topping (optional but highly recommended)

Add the water to a medium sauce pot and heat on high. Preheat oven to 425˚. Prepare a short-rimmed baking pan by spraying it with oil or lining it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the radicchio marinade: olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, and salt. Set aside.

Quarter the radicchio by trimming the woody bottom off and cutting the radicchio into four wedges. Using a pastry brush, coat all of the exposed surfaces of each wedge with the olive oil marinade. Place cut-side down on the baking pan and place in the oven while you prep the Brussels sprouts.

If the water’s boiling at this point, add the lentils, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Roughly quarter each Brussels sprout (or halve them if they’re particularly small). You don’t have to use uniform precision; just make sure each piece is roughly the same size. Add to a bowl and toss with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and paprika until well coated. Remove the baking pan with the radicchio from the oven and add the Brussels sprouts to the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the radicchio quarters so the other cut side is down and give the Brussels sprouts a good stir. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts start to crisp up.

While the veggies are roasting, keep an eye on the lentils. When all the water is absorbed, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Uncover it and let it sit, stirring the lentils frequently to cool them a bit.

After the lentils have cooled for about five minutes, drizzle in the dressing ingredients and stir until the lentils are well coated. Allow the mixture to sit while the veggies finish roasting.

Once the Brussels sprouts are crispy and the radicchio has wilted and darkened, remove them from the oven. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the lentils, top with pine nuts, and serve immediately with the radicchio wedges on the side.

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What’s your favorite way to serve radicchio? Brussels sprouts?