Archive | February 2013

Creamed Cabbage and Fennel & Smoked Apple Sage Sausages

Creamed Fennel & Cabbage

This post is as much about the creamed cabbage and fennel as it is about the vegan sausages.

I grew up in a family that made its own homemade Italian sausages, so never entertained the thought of trying vegan substitutes. That homemade taste is not replicable, besides, I don’t like things to taste like meat.

Recently, I came across Artisan Field Roast vegan products on a food blog and since they were highly recommended, I decided to give them a try. Though I eat very little processed food, something in the list of ingredients convinced me that these had potential.

I cooked only one for me (John had the real thing) and besides being a little dry on the outside (probably my fault – I used to over cook my meat too), the smoked apple sage sausage was incredibly delicious, not meaty tasting, and easy to digest. Their producers call them “a savory combination of apples and sage anchored with yukon gold potatoes with a subtle hint of hickory smoke”. It’s a new way of looking at vegan sausages – not meant to replicate, but celebrate vegetables employing an old tradition.

Sausages and cabbage are a very classic combination. This time, I decided to cream it up – my way. I added a thinly sliced onion and bulb of fennel, which does a very good job of accompanying the cabbage without hijacking the dish. I created a cabbage soup a few years ago and discovered the delights of combining fresh sage and dried marjoram. On their own, sage and marjoram are quite floral, but together they make a bouquet.

There’s something very satiny about cabbage, which when lightly enveloped by the cream, infused with the bouquet of herbs, makes the ordinary, extraordinary. I use cream sparingly in my cooking and quite often it’s 5 or 10 percent cream. I achieved the full fat effect by incorporating just a little bit of cornstarch. Really, it works!

Each spoonful of cabbage feels like silk on the tongue – extremely sensual, even luxurious, and combined with the smoked apple sage sausage makes this a perfect match.

In terms of weeknight meals, it doesn’t get any easier or quicker.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Olive oil  5 tbsp
 Onion, small  1
 Marjoram, dried  1 tsp
 Fennel, bulb, sliced thinly  1
 Cabbage, sliced thinly  1.5 lbs
 Salt
 Black pepper
 Cream, light  1.5 cups
 Sage, leaves, fresh, chopped  13
 Nutmeg
 Cornstarch  1 tbsp
 Water  2 tbp

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil.
  2. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add marjoram and fennel and cook 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add cabbage and cook 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add cream, salt, black pepper, sage, and nutmeg and stir until well combined and the cream is heated through.
  6. Combine cornstarch and water and add to the cabbage and cream; combine well.
  7. Heat until the cream has thickened to desired consistency and cabbage is cooked to your liking. In my dish, the cabbage and fennel both had a slight crunch.

Braised Tofu Napa Nabe

Braised Tofu

People assume that because I am a vegetarian, I must like tofu. Well, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, I don’t love tofu, except fried, of course. Predominantly, there are two reasons for this: 1) contrary to popular belief, tofu is not bland. I detect a very subtle taste that kicks in at the very end that I absolutely detest. This aftertaste is not detectable when fried, which is why I love fried tofu. 2) As North Americans, most of us don’t know how to cook tofu in a way that brings out its best. We add tofu as is, often not even marinated, to our familiar dishes and expect it to taste great.

A number of years ago, I was shopping at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market and discovered Ying Ying Soy Foods. I decided to give their tofu a try and was shocked to discover that with very little preparatory work, I was able to not only eat the tofu, but enjoy it. The next time I visited Toronto, I brought my cooler along and stocked up. I expressed to the woman behind the counter that I have had issues with tofu for the longest time, but for some reason, I was really enjoying her product. She was not surprised to hear this at all. Besides the fact that her product is organic, she explained that they use a type of coagulant used traditionally for centuries that made the difference in their product. I have been hooked ever since and use nothing else.

I’m not sure what to call this dish. Canadian Living calls it braised tofu napa nabe. Sure, I’ll go with that, but it’s so much more.

In a previous post, I talked about how “in the wintertime, we love to eat hot comfort food. We turn to dishes that warm our bellies, melt our hearts, and insulate us from the cold. We look forward to dishes like roasted root vegetables, steaming soups and stews and baked casseroles like macaroni and cheese. There are reasons for this; Canadian winters can be mighty cold!”

That’s what this dish screamed to me: comfort food, comfort vegetarian food, new comfort vegetarian food. In spite of all the cabbage and shiitakes, the broth tastes neither like cabbage, nor like shiitakes, but a beautiful blend of both that combine with the vegetable broth, mirin, and tamari to produce an insanely delicate, extremely flavourful (but not overpowering), and smooth broth. Even though the list of ingredients for this dish is not exhaustive, there’s enough variety to make every bite intriguing, forcing you to go back for more. I dug in with both a fork and a spoon and my husband followed suit. Swimming alongside those hearty chunks of cabbage and shiitakes were those perfectly cooked grains of basmati brown rice, not only adding texture, but substance. Then of course, the tofu, which dipped in the ponzu sauce, had a hint of saltiness that delighted the tongue and revealed with that first bite the secret known to centuries of tofu eaters, that if cooked properly, tofu could be and definitely was exciting.

I made some minor changes to the recipe, which I believe are true enhancements, namely: using a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil to slightly caramelize the onions and garlic (of course I added garlic), deglazed the entire thing with the mirin, replaced the soy with tamari, upped the mushrooms and used only vegetable broth, omitting the water. I cooked up some brown rice and served a generous ladle in each bowl before topping it with the broth, veggies, and tofu.

This is quick, easy, weeknight comfort food.

Serves 5

Ingredients:

Oil, peanut 2 tbsp
Onions, small, sliced  2
Garlic, cloves, minced  2
Mirin  1/4 cup
Broth, vegetable  6 cups
Cabbage, napa, small, chopped in big pieces  1.5 lbs
Mushrooms, shiitake, slice larger mushrooms in half, remove and discard stems  12 oz
Tofu, soft or medium, drained and cubed 3/4 lb
Tamari 1/4 cup
Onion, green, chopped 1 (for garnish)
Ponzu sauce for dipping tofu
Rice, brown  1.5 cups (uncooked)

Directions:

  1. Prepare rice as directed on package (my brand of rice cooks in approximately 40 minutes).
  2. In a medium pot, heat peanut oil.
  3. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to caramelize.
  4. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  5. Deglaze with mirin. Allow to reduce for 2 minutes.
  6. Add cabbage, mushrooms, and broth. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add tofu and tamari; simmer until tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. To serve, place a ladle of cooked rice in each bowl. Top with two ladles of vegetables, tofu and broth. Garnish with  green onion.
  10. Serve with ponzu sauce for dipping tofu.

Perogies with Pumpkin Seed Paste and Roasted Cauliflower

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John loves perogies and I guess I love them too. However, for those of us who use cooking as a creative outlet, unless you are making your own perogies, it’s not very challenging to boil them and serve them as they are. Let’s face it, making perogies from scratch isn’t exactly a weeknight meal. I do have a recipe that I have been wanting to try , but I’m saving it for an afternoon in the kitchen with my mom. The problem is that when she visits, most of our time goes to making gnocchi and tagliatelli and we never seem to get to the perogies.

In my household, we have rules about perogies. We buy a good quality perogy that never goes undressed and is always served with a vegetable. Hence the pumpkin seed paste! Totally unnecessary, but oh so good. With minimal effort, it takes the everyday to gourmet allowing you to add your own signature touch. This paste is extremely flavourful, versatile, deceivingly creamy, and packs a protein punch. Enough pumpkin seed pesto is added to just kiss the perogies, providing a nice shiny coat. I love the vivid lime colour, which tricks you into thinking you are eating pistachios (another good option).

Little paste remained, but I have frozen the extras for use as a spread in a roasted vegetable wrap or a quick dressing for steamed vegetables.

A big plate full of carbs is rarely an option around here. That’s why we eat perogies with an equal serving of veggies. In this case, roasted cauliflower. If you haven’t tried it, you absolutely must! There is no cooking method that does cauliflower more justice than roasting. There truly is nothing sweeter; the flavour of the cauliflower becomes concentrated in the oven, so much so that each floret tastes like candy. It’s so good, it requires no additional flavour enhancers.

Around here, perogies have met sautéed mushrooms, garlic and onions where there were almost as many mushrooms as perogies on the plate, and garlic scape pesto served with roasted asparagus. Though my husband used to complain about this obsessive need (it’s not an obsession, more like a game) to dress perogies up, he fully appreciates the embellishments now. That’s just what they are: perogies, just a little more exciting.

This is a quick, easy, and extremely satisfying weeknight meal.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Perogies (of your choice)  24
 Roasted Cauliflower:
 Cauliflower, heads, cut into florets  2
 Olive oil
 Salt
 Black pepper
 Pumpkin Seed Paste:
 Pumpkin seeds  6 oz
 Canola oil  5 tbsp
 Pumpkin seed oil  1/4 tsp
 Salt  1.5 turns
 Black pepper  1.5 turns
 Zest, lemon  1/3 lemon
 Juice, lemon  3 tsp
Sage, leaf, fresh  1
Garlic, cloves, roasted 2

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large baking dish, combine cauliflower florets, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Place in oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes , until cauliflower florets are golden and caramelized, turning once half way through.
  4. Cook perogies as per package instructions. Once I get the cauliflower in the oven, I get a large pot of water started on the stove for the perogies.
  5. Meanwhile, combine all the pumkin seed paste ingredients in the small attachment of your food processor. Puree until absolutely smooth and no chunks remain. This takes a few minutes, so be patient.
  6. 5 minutes before the cauliflower is ready to be removed from the oven, add perogies to the boiling water.
  7. Place 2/3 of the pumpkin seed paste in a large bowl.
  8. When the perogies are done cooking, drain and add to the bowl with the paste. Stir well until adequately coated. If you need to add a little more paste, do so at this time.
  9. Serve 6 perogies per plate topped with the roasted cauliflower.