Saturday, November 26, 2011

the Feast - Part I

This Thanksgiving was my first attempt at a major vegan spread. I spent three days shopping and cooking, so I took my time and prepped everything I could the day before the big meal. I had a fridge full of ziplock bags stuffed with chopped vegetables, and even went as far as to measure and bag the dry ingredients for the biscuits and cobbler. I knew I'd be distracted with family and friends in the kitchen, and wanted to be sure I could keep my place. I also have a big spiral notebook I write all my "working" recipes in. It's full of scribbles, notes, and changes. Without it, I'd never remember what I made last night, let alone a month ago. I wrote out the entire menu, and then gave each recipe a page of its own. It worked beautifully, and it never occurred to me as I planned all this that I might be taking on more than my kitchen could handle. I probably was, and even though I had a very good assistant, for a few minutes there I wondered how it was all going to come together. Then, in the last few minutes, the Kitchen Angels arrived, aprons on and hands washed, and miraculously, everything was ready to serve, all at the same time. I'm still kind of amazed.

Here's the menu for our Vegan Thanksgiving 2011:
Nut Crusted Tofu - marinated tofu, baked with a cashew-coconut crust
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms - marinated in a red wine sauce, and grilled on the stovetop
Quinoa-Corn Stuffing - quinoa and polenta, baked with traditional stuffing seasonings
Mashed Cauliflower - simply whipped with vegan butter
Mushroom Red Wine Gravy
Chipotle-Orange Cranberries
Spinach Salad - baby spinach with raw beets, carrots, and jicama in smoky-sweet vinaigrette
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Apple-Cherry Cobbler with Vanilla Rice Dream Ice Cream

Where did all this come from? I'm not really sure, and I can't really take the credit. It all sort of came to me last week, while I was soaking in the hot springs. The stuffing idea was Rick's, and the tofu is my simplified version of Mark Reinfeld's award winning recipe. We brainstormed a lot that day while I made notes and soaked my bones. I guess relaxation is a good thing!

And now I'm going to share all of with you here. There's no need to make all this at once. Try a recipe here and there. They were all big hits at my table, and we all had a hard time deciding what our favorites were. Keep in mind that I was cooking for 5 people, and had lots of leftovers, so you can adjust quantities as you need to. Also, I was cooking my brains out, so didn't get as many pictures as I wanted to. My helpers took a few for me, and I think you'll get the idea. Here we go!

Nut Crusted Tofu

2 blocks of extra firm tofu, each sliced into 8 pieces
Marinate several hours, or over night, in:
          1/2 cup tamari
          1/2 cup maple syrup
          apple juice to cover the tofu

Bake marinated tofu on a shallow baking sheet for 30 minutes at 350ยบ

While tofu bakes, mix a little nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, tahini) with some of the marinade, and set aside. Make the Nut Crust.

Nut Crust

Pulse in food processor until crumbly:
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 inches fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Remove tofu from oven and flip the slices over. Spoon on a little of the nut butter mixed with marinade, and spread to the edges of the tofu. Bake 20 minutes more.

Top tofu with Nut Crust and bake 10-15 minutes more.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms & Mushroom Red Wine Gravy

I made these as "steaks" recently. This time I cut the mushrooms into thick slices for grilling. Then I turned the extra marinade into gravy, adding the chopped mushroom stems, thickening it with quinoa flour, and adding some almond milk for richness. It makes more of a wine reduction sauce than a traditional gravy. Here's the recipe from a previous blog.

Quinoa-Corn Stuffing

This recipe make s a vat of stuffing. You might want to cut it down for a normal family dinner...

Boil 6 cups vegetable broth in a large pot.
Add 1/2 cup polenta, and boil gently for 20-30 minutes, till tender.
Add 2 cups rinsed quinoa.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15-20 minutes more, stirring once or twice, until the broth is absorbed.

1 chopped onion and 6 stalks celery in olive oil until they begin to soften.
Add 1 chopped apple and 1 cup frozen corn. Cook until hot, and season with salt & pepper, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Stir the saute into the quinoa-polenta, and add more seasonings to taste. Place in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes to an hour, until it's lightly browned in top, and hot all the way through.

Okay - Let's stop here for today. This is going to be a three part blog, so I don't overwhelm anybody, including myself. Here's a picture of the entire meal. There's more to look forward to, so I'll see you back here in a day or two!

the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III


Texan Zombie Goddess said...

It all looks so amazing!

Katherine said...

Wowwww!! Wish I'd been there!! It all looks and sounds amazing!!

Teri said...

The meal looks good, you look very happy and healthy, the vege diet is a good thing.

M-E said...

What a heavenly meal! I can see why the conversation was focused on food!! :) And the photos of you look like perfect evidence that you are in your element when you're creating tasty dishes for people you love. Thanks for sharing all of the recipes - I can hardly wait to try them!!