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Pies and Tarts with Heart’s parsnip pie

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So you know how I mentioned Jameson’s and my pie fail? Well, we turned that pie frown upside-down and created an overwhelming pie success.

Jameson received a copy of Dynise Balcavage’s fantastic Pies and Tarts with Heart, and gave me three choices: pumpkin, sweet potato, or parsnip pie.

Parsnip? Sounds weird. Heck yeah!

We split the shopping. Jameson still has a little bit of parsnip PTSD from this super chatty chick at the Broadway Farmer’s market who would. not. stop. talking. about parsnips, while I found Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies to be a decent vegan crust option — the recipe calls for vegan gingersnaps, which I could not find, so we added a bit of powdered ginger to increase the spiciness. I bet TJ’s Speculoos cookies would make a delightfully decadent alternative.

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The photography in Pies and Tarts with Heart is beautiful, but I think that this is the first time that my version of the recipe actually looks better than the book’s (the actual pie itself, not my gross blurry yellowy crappy lighting iPhone photos); Dynise’s version is a little chunky, while when smoothly pureed (as we did) the filling is gloriously silky.
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We ruminated on all of the different possibilities that one can take with this pie. Sub out the cookies for saltines and make a savory version with caramelized onions? Add some dried cranberries for color or candied pecans for crunch? The possibilities are endless. The parsnips are constant.

The parsnips add a slight hint of earthiness to an otherwise decadent experience — this pie is the new millionaire who’s still a country boy at heart; you can put some fancy clothes on him and give him the keys to a fancy German car (and I ain’t talking Jetta) and stick him in a luxury condo, but he still enjoys rustic pleasures like Budweiser and cowboy boots and treating a lady right. I’m not entirely sure whether we’re still talking about pie or the 50+ erotic novel that I’m about to write.

Umm, pie. right.

Despite the sweetness radiating from every custardy bite, it’s a health food compared to other pies gracing your autumn table — the filling is mostly parsnips and tofu instead of your traditional egg and condensed milk variety.

The other recipes in the book look equally delicious. I haven’t cooked any of them yet, but I’ve drooled a ton over the cheeseburger pie, the “yo rocky” road pie, frozen grasshopper pie, and so many others. At first, I was all, “how many different pie recipes do you really need?” but Dynise’s variety of crusts, from traditional to exotic potato-based delicacies like hashbrowns, and styles make you want to buy another pie plate (I totally did — thanks, Grocery Outlet!) and eat (n/360)πr2 after (n/360)πr2 (where n is the number of degrees in the central angle of the sector — get it? A wedge?) of pie, glorious pie.

Jameson brought over some fortified wine leftover from another article for us to sip with our pie: a dry Madeira, a sweet Madeira, and a port. I was a newbie to all of them, and found them to be quite drinkable and similar to vermouth: the port and sweet Madeira were sweet and smooth, while the dry Madeira would make a nice compliment to green olives in a Martini glass. Maybe?

But then Daniel forever ruined Madeira by introducing me to the song above that apparently his mother used to sing to him as a kid. Looking back as an adult, he agrees that was a little weird that his mom would sing ditties about date rape to her child.

Have some Madeira, m’dear.

Surprisingly Sweet Parsnip Pie

Thanks to Dynise for letting us publish this!
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 All-Purpose Cookie Crust made with gingersnaps (see below)
  • 2 pounds (908 g) parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks (about 4 cups [520 g]
  • parsnip chunks)
  • 1 (12-ounce, or 336 g) box aseptic-packaged tofu (do not use refrigerated tofu; it is too
  • grainy for this recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Prepare the cookie crust and press into a pan. Refrigerate until the filling is ready.
  2. Boil the parsnips until soft, about 15 minutes. Place in a large bowl and mash until creamy.
  3. Blend the remaining ingredients in a food processor or in a blender until well incorporated, then add the parsnips and process until smooth-ish and well combined. You’ll need to scrape down the processor every now and then.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust, leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) of space to the crust edge. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4) and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pie top is golden. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing.

All-Purpose Cookie Crust
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) crust

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups (150 g) crumbs from dry vegan wafer cookies or graham crackers (try chocolate, gingersnaps, lemon snaps, animal crackers, or just the tops from Oreo-type cookies minus the creamy filling; you’ll need about 3 cups [150 g] cookies or crackers to get 11/2 cups [150 g] crumbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (55 g) margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Whiz the cookies/crackers and salt together in a food processor until very powdery and fine. Add
  2. the margarine and whiz again. Press into your pie pan. That’s it!

If you need to prebake, bake for 10 minutes at 350ºF (180ºC, or gas mark 4).

Bake and Destroy and Riesling

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Natalie Slater of Bake and Destroy is definitely one of my biggest food blogging ladycrushes. She’s beautiful yet tough, has great style, and comes up with the awesomest vegan dishes (Doritos encrusted tofu, anyone?). Plus, she named her son Teno, which rhymes with Zeno, and y’all know how much I love my Zeno. Also, my childhood cat was named Natalie, so there’s that too.

Basically, I love her because she cooks badass food and reminds me of various cats.

CATS.

Anyhow, a while back, my friend Jameson Fink approached me with a proposition (not as shady as that sounds): he had received a copy of Natalie’s new book (also called Bake and Destroy) from the publisher, and suggested that we bring our blogs together for vegan meal paired with wine. Jameson writes Wine Without Worry and hosts the podcast of the same name, and while he is not a vegan, is a general lover of deliciousness, meaty or planty.

Jameson and I met when we were both with Foodista, me as an intern (also not as shady as that sounds) and him as a freelance wine writer. We’re both huge history buffs (he has a masters in it) and adore Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Jameson started to build up his own wine writing business a few years ago and I’m always envious of his travels – we had to postpone our initial cooking session because his flight back from a wine tour of Italy was delayed in Heathrow.

He told me to pick a couple of recipes from the book, one sweet and one savory, and he would find a wine that matched. I went for a circular theme with the green bean casserole pizza (pg. 106 – recipe also on GoodVeg, h/t to Jameson for finding that) and frozen lemonade pie (pg. 20), and he selected a couple of dry rieslings to go with them: Pewsey Vale’s Eden Valley Dry Riesling (Australian) and Weingut Stadt Krems’ Steinterrassen Reisling (Austrian).

You can read his thoughts on the pairing, including probably the best quote on vegan wine I have ever read. And is much better edited than this long and rambling one.

Jameson says of these selections,

Dry Reislings compliment lighter dishes but also have enough liveliness to cut through a rich sauce — like a hot knife through cold vegan margarine. They’re vegetable-loving wines, for sure.

Green bean casserole is my absolute favorite part of Thanksgiving (aside from the family and gratitude, I guess), and this pizza is kinda like when you’re a kid and you make little sandwiches of everything between Grandma’s dinner rolls because food isn’t fun enough on its own.

In the interest of saving time, we subbed out Natalie’s pizza dough recipe for Trader Joe’s (whole wheat, gross, because they were out of the regular type), which worked pretty well. Except don’t use whole wheat pizza dough. You’re already indulging — might as well go for the real deal. It’s pizza, not salad, for crying out loud.

The ridiculousness of the concept aside, this stuff is fantastic and could fool even the most sensitive omnivore palate. My one recommendation is to cut the green beans into bit-sized pieces instead of halving them, like Natalie recommends, which will make it easier to slice and then eat — it’s basically knife-and-fork pizza.

I also can’t follow directions, so we elected to sub out the flour for corn starch, as I neglected to add the flour before the stock. Jameson worked in a bakery when he was in grad school, so he was skeptical of adding a warm sauce to a pizza and we let the sauce cool a little, but it all turned out okay. Perhaps that’s why the directions instruct you to pre-bake the crust? We also debated whether to maaaybe use a little less sauce, but ended up putting all of it on.

So. effin’. good.

Our frozen lemonade pie was a disaster (mea culpa), as I had never used my roommate’s ice cream maker. So, while we weren’t able to taste the finished version, the flavors of the soupy pre-churned filling were wonderfully zesty and creamy, and I bet it would have been awesome. Sigh. We did collaborate on another dessert pie from another vegan cookbook, which I am super excited to tell you about in a separate post.

SOON.

The other recipes in Bake and Destroy, ranging from savory nacho cupcakes to spaghetti pie to falafel waffles (but also including your classic mac and yeast and green smoothie), are fun and unconventional and mostly not the healthiest (with some exceptions).

Bake and Destroy is too weird to be your one and only vegan cookbook (unless maybe you aren’t vegan), but will convince new vegans that plant-based cuisine isn’t boring and is also great for long-time vegans who want to rediscover the magic of cooking. If you have young’uns at home, I bet you’d like this too.

ANYHOW. WINE.

As Jameson said, the dry Riesling cut through the richness of sauce and fried onions like a lightsaber through Luke Skywalker’s wrist. Dry Riesling isn’t that stuff you might have gotten sick off when your idea of class was chugging cheap wine instead of cheap beer (if you’re anything like my roommate Daniel, who paled when I offered him a glass) — it’s more robust than a chardonnay, but with a bit of a bite instead of cloying sweetness. I’m a fan.

Even better, Jameson also confirmed with the distributor that both of these selections are vegan. I don’t know where you would find them in Seattle, but Jameson might. Go over to his blog and ask him.

You can also do a quick Barnivore search to find a vegan dry Riesling — those of us here in Washington State will be please to know that Chateau St. Michelle’s dry Riesling is considered vegan.

So, this is where the post gets a little technical, because I’m going to talk about vegan wine. If you already know about what makes a wine vegan, you can skip this part and scroll to the picture of Zeno wearing a scarf at the end of this post.

If not, read on and educate yourself.

Though wine’s ingredients are all plant-based products, many people (even a lot of winemakers I’ve talked to) are unaware that wine is not always animal-friendly due to how it is fined (the process of removing impurities).

Basically, after you foot-stomp your fruit and leave it to age in barrels, there are a lot of little grapey and yeasty particles floating around in the liquid that need to be removed so that so that the consumer isn’t drinking wine with pulp.

Here is an artist’s rendering of what that looks like:

Traditional fining agents are animal based — gelatin, egg white, or isinglass, made from fish bladders. The vintner throws these into a vat of wine, and they float around eating up particles like Pacman.

Vegan wines use benonite, a clay, to filter out impurities and ensure that a purple stain is the only thing caught in your teeth.

According to Wikipedia, some countries, like Australia and New Zealand, require their wines to list animal-derived fining agents as potential allergens, so if you’re concerned about vegan ingredients, you might start there. (I don’t know if this actually is true in the US. I should ask Jameson.)

So, in conclusion, check out Bake and Destroy and drink more wine.

Here’s that picture of my cat wearing a scarf.

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Have you cooked anything from Bake and Destroy? Do you have a favorite wine? Isn’t my cat the cutest? I’d love to hear your thoughts (especially about how jaunty my cat looks in his scarf).

The Accidental Vegan

Pure Citizen, a flash sale site with a green side, had a few vegan cookbooks available a while back and I bought three of them, including Seattle-based Devra Gartenstein’s The Accidental Vegan. (note: that links to Amazon. It’s not an affiliate link. Just a link.)

Gartenstein runs the Patty Pan Grill, a vendor at farmers markets around Seattle. I love Patty Pan Grill’s tamales and quesadillas, and there are recipes for each in the book.

Some of the instructions are a little vague. For example, when making seitan, Gartenstein says “…break off pieces of gluten about the size of a peanut and drop them into the pot”– shelled peanuts or unshelled?

My stupidity aside, the seitan turned out well.

Praise seitan.

The seitan is a bit squeaky against the teeth after it’s removed from the soy sauce/water bath it’s initially cooked in, but loses that quality once it cooks a second time in an actual recipe. Gartenstein has a number of recipes for her seitan, of which I made the Kung Pao Seitan — mushrooms also add a meaty quality to her version. A bit of starch to thicken the starch might be nice, but it’s a reasonably healthy stir-fry.

I ventured into the dessert section in hopes to bake something sweet for my soccer team. The thumbprint cookies looked good. They did not turn out so.

This is what a thumbprint cookie should look like:

(image by moonlightbulb)

This is what mine looked like:

They basically just spread out, and the portion with the jam disintegrated. Tasty, but not exactly what I expected.

However, I didn’t give up on Gartenstein’s desserts. Since berries are so abundantly in season in early August (yeah, it’s October — I started this post in August… 2011), the crumble seemed like a logical choice. It cooked up beautifully:

Here’s a close up:

My friends and coworkers loved it — and loved me for baking it, which is really why I bake in the first place: to make people like me.

The marinated potato salad (p. 49) is also excellent — the perfect picnic dish. You know, now that it’s fall and all. Because this recipe calls for red wine vinegar, mustard and just a tablespoon of olive oil instead of the traditional mayonnaise, the salad is lighter while still very flavorful — the onions and dill give it a definite punch. It also takes minimal effort (just chop and boil potatoes, then stir some stuff in) and benefits from marinating overnight, so make it the day before you need it.

Another company-pleaser (since two’s company and three’s a crowd) is the spinach and tofu with peanut sauce — it consists of tofu, fried to a crisp, and steamed spinach smothered in a velvetty, savory sauce. If I were making it for myself, I would skip frying the tofu and save some calories, but the fried texture is nice.

The last recipe I’ve made is the tamarind coconut tofu  – the instructions say to just dip the tofu in the sauce and then bake it, though mine turned out very bland. I’m going to try soaking it for a few hours next time, because the marinade is super flavorful.

The Accidental Vegan is a great resource for sauces, pilafs and other grain dishes, curries, and legume-based stews, and while everything looks delicious, nothing stands out as being really phenomenal. It feels like a greatest hits list of the vegan dishes in cuisines across the globe.

Still, the recipes’ simplicity make them ideal for weeknight cooking, and almost every ingredient is readily available at mainstream grocery stores (though a few recipes call for exotic things, like kaffir lime leaves or gluten flour, but these aren’t really that off the beaten path).  I wonder a bit whether their blandness will lead the omnivores who purchase this book (Gartenstein is an omnivore) to think that veganism is boring, but the omni’s in my life have enjoyed everything from it that I’ve fed them.

I’d say that this is a good cookbook for people looking to incorporate more vegan recipes into their diet, though I’m personally going to stick with my vegan-penned standbys.

Appetizers from Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

Let’s see: it’s October 1. Rent’s due (done). Gotta figure out what I’m going as for Halloween (done). Mary’s and my moratorium on September shopping is over (hello, new pants). What else?

OH CRAP! VEGAN MOFO 2012 IS HERE!

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I had some friends over the other night for drinks before dancing (soul night!), and used this as an opportunity to get a teensy bit of a head start by preparing the Provincial chickpea puree (p. 7-8) and eggplant caponata on polenta crostini (p. 17-18) from Donna Klein’s Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.

The chickpea puree is like a lighter hummus — there’s no tahini, just chickpeas, garlic, lemon and a bit of olive oil blended silky-smooth, with parsley stirred in. The caponata is a little tangy-sweet due to vinegar and sugar, and makes a great gluten-free appetizer (though I honestly would just serve it with baguette slices next time).

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I’m not really into Italian food, which is why I’ve been hesitant to open this book up, but there are enough Greek, Spanish, French, and African influenced recipes in the book to make it a well-rounded collection.

Chickpea cutlets with mushroom gravy

Stop eating your pinko commie hippie sprouts and chia seeds — it’s time for something all-American: Veganomicon’s chickpea cutlets topped with Blissful Bites‘ mushroom gravy, brussels sprouts sauteed with shallots and fancy mushrooms, and garlic mashed purple potatoes.

All-American with a hippie vegan twist, I suppose.

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This meal tastes like what your grandma would have eaten, were she vegan. Maybe your grandma was/is vegan. Maybe I’m making judgements.

In full transparency, this post is a copycat of homage to what a couple of other vegan food bloggers have already done: Dawn of Vegan Moxie paired Veganomicon’s chickpea cutlets with brussels sprouts and mashed (sweet) potatoes (virtual kick in the pants to try recipe taken!), and Marti, aka “Tofu Mom,” is doing a mofo of gravy.

The chickpea cutlets and mushroom gravy are brothers from different mothers: hearty, savory and rich, though also pretty healthy. I baked my cutlets for extra health points, and I didn’t notice the lack of fried after smothering them in sauce. They were chewy and dense, in the greatest way possible.

And the gravy. If I suddenly became part of that fringe subculture that entire episodes of popular crime shows are based upon, where skinny people feed chubby people gravy to fulfill sexual gratifications until someone ends up mysteriously murdered (I watched a lot of CSI a few years back), this is the gravy I would demand someone lick off me (or lick off someone), though because there’s hardly any oil in this, they’d need to lick a lot of gravy to really fatten up.

If you haven’t already, you should go over and visit Dawn and Marti’s blogs. Since I have nothing further to say on the subjects of chickpea cutlets, brussels sprouts and gravy that they haven’t already, here is a picture of some dahlias from yesterday’s farmers market.

So much happy.

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