Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rhubarb Tart with Orange Glaze

1 cup orange juice
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup organic sugar
3/4 lb rhubarb stalks, thinly sliced diagonally (1/8 inch)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (make sure it contains only vegetable oils and no butter or lard)
1/2 tsp grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Stir together orange juice, lime juice and sugar in a bowl. Add rhubarb and let stand, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Roll pastry into an 11 x 7 inch rectangle on floured surface. Dip your finger in water and make a 1/2 inch "frame" around the outer edge of the pastry. Fold over 1/2 inch of pastry and "seal" to form frame. Prick pastry all over with fork.

Strain rhubarb mixture through a sieve set over a small sauce pan to collect liquid. Place rhubarb slices on pastry slightly overlapping.

Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

While pastry is baking boil reserved rhubarb liquid, skimming foam if necessary, until reduced to about 1/2 cup (15 to 18 minutes). Liquid should be slightly thick.

Transfer tart to a rack to cool. Brush rhubarb and pastry with reduced liquid and sprinkle with orange zest.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best Tiramisu EVER (and it’s vegan)!

Tiramisu has always been one of my favourite desserts, but it’s laden with cholesterol and fat from its dairy ingredients. I’ve created a vegan tiramisu that will leave your guests BEGGING for more (and they won’t have a clue it’s vegan).

The secret replacement to the mascarpone cheese and whipped cream and eggs is... Coconut Whipped Cream. Basically you have two portions of whipped coconut (one vanilla, one coffee-rum), your lady fingers (vegan if you can find them; otherwise a vegan recipe follows), and some cocoa to finish.

Coconut Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar to taste
1/4 cup soy or rice milk powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 tbsp strong coffee
1 tsp dark rum (optional)

To acquire the cup of full fat coconut milk, buy two tins of high quality, full fat (not lite) coconut milk. Put it in the fridge or freezer for a half hour. Open the tin and scrape out the thick coconut cream at the top of the tin. If the results from the two tins are greater than 1 cup that's fine. Once you've extracted the cream beat it in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy (approx. 2 minutes).

Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and milk powder. If your coconut cream is already VERY thick (mine was) you can ignore the milk powder altogether and just used the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla extract (or replace it with almond or coconut extract) and blend.

Now divide the whipped coconut into two bowls. Add the coffee and rum to one bowl’s whipped coconut and blend. Store the two whipped toppings in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. If you’re able to find vegan lady finger cookies then use them. I wasn’t able to find any that didn’t include eggs so here is a recipe to make your own:

Ladyfinger Cookies
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup (or agave nectar)
1/2 cup soy, rice, coconut, or almond milk

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside. Cream the margarine and sugar in a bowl using a handheld electric mixer (or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) until fluffy. Stir in the maple syrup. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined, alternating with additions of milk. Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (don’t try to fit all the lady fingers onto 1 baking sheet like I did as these cookies really expand).

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into 1 inch balls; then roll each ball into a 2 inch long stick. Arrange on the the baking sheets, leaving a few inches of room between each ladyfinger. Bake 8-12 minutes, or until cookies are firm and just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets for a couple of minutes (run a knife between any cookies that have become “joined”). When firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Assembling the Tiramisu
I used a small spring form pan and lined its bottom and sides with parchment paper to prevent sticking, but you can use a square glass or non-stick pan.

Arrange a layer of lady fingers on the bottom. Top with 1/2 the whipped coconut/coffee mixture followed by 1/2 the vanilla whipped coconut. Repeat this layering. Holding a fine mesh strainer or sieve over the tiramisu, sprinkle cocoa on top, shaking the strainer to distribute the cocoa (and strain out any cocoa lumps).

Voilà! Chill for at least an hour before serving. I like to put it in the freezer for 1/2 hr just before serving.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I’ve become a Seitan worshipper!

I found the store bought versions of seitan (wheat gluten-based meat substitute) too soft, their flavour too subtle and salty, and their expense too high. I read in some vegan cookbooks that seitan was too difficult and time-consuming to make for one’s self, but I'm here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth!

My first attempts involved the boiled versions of seitan which really didn’t satisfy me with their soft, spongy texture so I’ve modified a recipe where the seitan is baked and produces a dense, sausage-like roll.

Vegan Garlic Sausage (Seitan)
1-1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt (or less)
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
2 tsp minced or crushed garlic (I used already-crushed organic garlic bought at Whole Foods)

3/4 cup water (I use vegetable-based beef stock for more flavour)
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp tamari (or low sodium soy sauce)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a large mixing bowl mix dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients in a smaller mixing bowl, and whisk well until mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well, then knead for two minutes right in the large bowl. Don’t over-knead.

Form into a log (6-8 inches long), wrap tightly in foil, twisting ends. Bake for 90 minutes, flipping once. When finished baking, unwrap and leave out until cool. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate thoroughly.

Because the “log” is very dense, you can use a mandoline to slice it thinly to use on pizza. Thicker slices can be served on crackers with mustard or your favourite toppings, or it can be fried. You can also crumble it for use in lasagne or pasta, or in any recipe calling for ground sausage. You can alter the spices used to create new and interesting flavours of “sausage”.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Little Off-Topic

For some, veganism consists solely of a change in diet, but for others it involves the removal of as many animal-based products from their lives as possible (no more leather shoes, jackets, belts, purses, wool, silk, etc). One area where animal content is hidden is in beauty and health products. Many animals are tortured in the manufacture and testing of cosmetics so I just wanted to pass on my experience with a (99%) animal-free product line called Consonant.
None of their products are tested on animals and only two products in their entire line contain any animals products (beeswax in their Organic Olive Oil Body Soap and dairy in their Goat’s Milk Soap). I can attest that the products feel great and their packaging is beautiful. They have an amazing web site and should be supported. photo by Mike Halwa

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Perogies with two fillings

For me, perogies are the ultimate comfort food. Given the opportunity I can eat 2 dozen at one seating, but they're normally filled with cheese and the dough normally contains dairy products or eggs. I've worked out a recipe for the dough that works quite well. It's probably more akin to a pasta dough than true perogie dough, but it works well. I've included two different filling recipes that I regularly use. One is a rich mushroom duxelles filling and the other a tasty mixture of artichokes and black olives.

The perogies should be filled as soon after the dough is made as possible so make your filling first. If you're going to only make one of the following two fillings, then double the recipe.

Mushroom Duxelles Filling
3 tbs Earth Balance (vegetable-based maragine) or olive oil
2 shallots (or onions), minced
1 lb mushrooms, minced (I shred them in my food processor)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (optional)
1 tbsp cognac or sherry (optional)

Melt the Earth Balance (or oil) in a large, deep skillet on medium heat. Add the shallots (or onions) and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until they have given up most of their liquid, approx. 10 minutes. Add the sherry or cognac (if using). Turn the heat to low and continue to coo, stirring occasionally, until almost all the liquid has evaporated (20-30 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley if using. Set aside to cool.

Artichoke-Olive Filling
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 can of artichoke hearts (approx. 6-8 small hearts), drained, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup black olives, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Transfer the artichokes to a food processor. Add the olives, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pulse until coarsely chopped and blended.
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Perogie dough
1 cup warm water
3 tbsp (or more) melted Earth Balance (vegetable-based maragine) or vegetable oil
2 cups unbleached white flour
3/4 tsp salt

Place your flour and salt in your food processor (or mixing bowl) and pulse to combine. With the motor running add the melted margarine (or oil) followed by the warm water. If the dough appears too wet simply add more flour. If you're using a food processor let it knead for 30 seconds. If mixing by hand, knead the dough for about 10 minutes on a floured surface. Put the dough in a warmed bowl and cover with a damp towel.

Take half the dough and roll out on a floured surface. Roll to about 1/16 of an inch thickness, very thin but not see-through. Use the top of a glass or a cookie cutter or ring mold, approximately 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and cut circles out of the dough. Place the cut-out circles on a floured plate (you may need to flour between layers to keep the circles from sticking). Repeat the other half of the dough and then combine the excess dough and see if you can get a few more wrappers.

Set a tea towel (or clean cloth) on the counter. Take one circle, brush lightly with a pastry brush and water. Fill with a slightly rounded teaspoon of filling and then fold the circle in half and press to seal. Place the sealed perogie on the tea towel. Repeat with all the remaining circles of dough and your fillings until all the circles are filled.

Take a large pot and fill with water and salt. Bring to a boil and drop about a dozen of the perogies into the water at a time. They will rise to the surface quite quickly, but keep them boiling for about 3 minutes. Place strips of wax paper on your counter and place the boiled perogies on the paper to cool. Keep boiling the perogies until they've all been boiled. At this stage the perogies can sit for a few hours or you can begin frying them immediately. Some will also prefer to eat your perogies at this stage.

My preference is to now heat a non-stick frying pan (preferably cast iron) on medium-high and begin frying the boiled perogies. I use a small amount of Earth Balance (vegetable-based maragine) in the pan but you can also use vegetable oil. Fry your perogies (8-12 at a time, depending on the size of your pan) for approximately 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Place in a large bowl and keep warm in your oven.

Serve with your favourite sour cream substitute.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Pumpkin Pie “for dummies”

Growing up on the prairies I was always impressed by my grandmother’s “Impossible Pie”. Milk, eggs, flour, baking powder and coconut (and probably other things) were thrown into a bowl, blended together, poured into a pie plate and baked in the oven. Miraculously what emerged from the oven was a fully-formed pie with a crust, custard filling and firm coconut top. A miracle!
Well I’ve got a recipe for an “Impossible Pumpkin Pie” that is the best I (or others) have tasted and it’s all made in one bowl.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie
1-1/2 cups coconut milk (or soy or almond or whatever, but coconut milk gives it a lot of richness and a great taste)
1 tbsp egg replacer of your choice mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups cooked, mashed, puréed pumpkin (I use canned)
1/2 cup unbleached white flour (or rice flour, but NOT whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar (I use a mixture of organic light and dark sugar)
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch deep dish pie pan (I use a spring form pan) with cooking spray, or coat it with Earth Balance (vegetable-based maragine) or your butter replacer of choice.

Place first five ingredients into a deep bowl and use a hand mixer to blend well. If you have an incredibly powerful blender or food processor you could use them, but I find the hand mixer gives the batter more volume).

Add the 2 cups of pumpkin and purée. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Pour into your pie pan or spring form pan and bake for about 60 minutes. The top and the edges should be brown, but not burnt. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the counter. For best results refrigerate a few hours before consuming. To top this pie see my next recipe for Coconut Whipped Cream Topping (see below).

Coconut Whipped Cream Topping

I’ve always been disappointed with the options for vegan pie toppings, but this one is rich, creamy, tasty and will NOT disappoint!

Coconut Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar to taste
1/4 cup soy or rice milk powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

To acquire the cup of full fat coconut milk, buy a tin or two of high quality, full fat (not lite) coconut milk. Put it in the fridge or freezer for a half hour. Open the tin and scrape out the thick coconut cream at the top of the tin. Depending on the quality of your coconut milk you may be able to get 1 cup from one tin rather than two. Once you've extracted the cream beat it in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and milk powder. If your coconut cream is already VERY thick (mine was) you can ignore the milk powder altogether and just used the powdered sugar.

Add the vanilla extract (or replace it with almond or coconut extract) and blend. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Can be used on any pie or cake. It tastes more of vanilla than coconut, but has the consistency of very rich whipped cream.