Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for November, 2009

THANKSGIVING TORTE—GRAND DIVA ON THE HOLIDAY TABLE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 23, 2009

I don’t know if Thanksgiving is wild and crazy to the max at your house, but it sure is in mine–in a good way, that is. It’s our family reunion time, so I have family flying in from all parts of the globe for this nutty feast. All the bedrooms are full and the kitchen is in a constant state of activity. It’s been our thing for years so we really look forward to Thanksgiving week—a time that’s filled with lots of cooking going on, great aromas drifting through the house, lots of eating, and lots of laughing.

On Thanksgiving day the frenzy picks up and we’re all in high gear to get everything ready for that special dinner when we literally pile a ton of colorful, fabulous tasting dishes onto the buffet table that I describe as the groaning board. And we attack with fervor!

Front and center on the table is the totally nutty vegan Thanksgiving Torte, our annual feast specialty that I want to share with all who aim for a kind and gentle Thanksgiving.
The recipe is from my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet and is pretty darned impressive looking—even if I have to say so myself. It’s a real good looker, especially when I serve it on a footed cake plate and garnish the heck out of it with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange slices.

The Torte makes the ideal vegan Thanksgiving dish with its varied textures and savory flavors from the combination of wild rice, mushrooms, nuts, and sage. Served with a robust Mushroom Gravy on the side, the Torte makes a very hearty main dish and goes well with all the typical side dishes like cranberries, gravy, sweet potatoes, chestnut stuffing, and a few veggie combinations. For dessert, its pumpkin and apple pies, of course. To ease the feast-day preparations, I usually make the Torte the day before, store it in the fridge, and reheat it at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

One little hint, the Torte preparation comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte or even the day before.

THANKSGIVING TORTE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 cups water
2/3 cups wild rice
3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 pound red or white rose potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces

1 (14-ounce) package vegan Lightlife GimmeLean Sausage
3/4 pound portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 4 large)
1 large onion, diced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
1 1/4 teaspoons salt or to taste

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

Mushroom Gravy
1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms
1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water
1/4 soy sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

1. TO MAKE THE TORTE, lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan, line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup), and set it aside. Combine the 2 cups water, wild rice, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain off the excess liquid and set the rice aside.

2. Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pecans and walnuts in a 10-inch skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.

4. Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms, onion, the 1/3 cup water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or paddle to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the salt and hickory liquid smoke to the sausage mixture and mix well.

5. Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.

6. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared springform pan, and attractively arrange the tomato slices over the top, covering most of the surface. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

7. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM GRAVY, prepare it while the torte is baking. Combine the mushrooms, water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes.

8. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling gravy, a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until the gravy has thickened to the desired consistency.

Posted in Celebrations, Nut Recipes, pecans, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

THANK YOU BIANCA!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 17, 2009

Bianca, the Vegan Crunk was thumbing through my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, and chose to make my recipe for Nutty Oatcakes. She took some mouth-watering photos of the finished oatcakes and even made me ravenously hungry for them. As a topping to go with the oatcakes she also made the Apricot Cashew Butter, but decided to use peaches in place of the apricots—great idea!

Thank you Bianca for making those little treats look so delicious in the photos on your latest blog. The enthusiastic comments that followed prompted me to share the two recipes with my NutGourmet readers. I love these for breakfast, but discovered they also make one terrific snack.

From The Nut Gourmet:
These little flat breads are especially pleasing with fruit butters or sweetened tofu spreads, such as Date ‘n’ Raisin Tofu Spread (page 174) or Apricot Cashew Butter (page 169). All varieties of nut butters, jams, and jellies are also ideal toppings. For a complete breakfast, serve these crisp breakfast gems with fresh fruit or a fruit salad and a cup of herbal tea. These tasty oatcakes offer an added bonus. Since they require no refrigeration and keep for at least two weeks at room temperature, they make excellent travel food.

NUTTY OATCAKES

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
5 to 6 tablespoons water
1/3 cup coarsely ground walnuts
1 tablespoon organic canola oil
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a dry baking sheet. Blend 1 cup of the rolled oats into a fine meal in two batches in the blender at high speed. Transfer the meal to a medium bowl.
2. Add the water, walnuts, canola oil, baking powder, and salt, and stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. If the dough is too dry, add an additional tablespoon of water to make a firm dough that holds together well enough to form a ball.
3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the rolled oats on a board or countertop. Press the dough down to flatten it slightly and sprinkle the remaining oats over the top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place them on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Turn the pieces over and bake another 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the oven door open until the oatcakes cool, about 5 minutes. Serve them immediately, or cool completely and store them in a zipper-lock plastic bag at room temperature. For longer storage, pack them into heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags and freeze for up to three months.

APRICOT CASHEW BUTTER

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 cup dried apricots
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup cashews

1. 1 Combine the apricots and 1/2 cup of the water in a 1-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and steam for 10 minutes.
2. While the apricots are steaming, cover the raisins with warm water and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until they are plump. Drain the raisins and put them into the food processor. Grind the cashews into a fine meal in an electric mini-chipper/grinder or coffee grinder. Add the meal to the food processor.
3. Transfer the cooked apricots and their liquid to the food processor along with the remaining 1/4 cup water. Process until completely smooth. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, Apricot Cashew Butter will keep for about two weeks.

Posted in cashews, Nut Recipes, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I’M HAVING AN AFFAIR– WITH CHESTNUTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 7, 2009

I love the versatility of chestnuts. No other tree nut can charm me with its sweetness and its unique potato-like texture that makes a dish like these tasty patties so compelling. Throughout the holiday season, I plan to have a supply of fresh chestnuts on hand. Once cooked and peeled, chestnuts will keep well in fridge for a whole week so I can have them ready to use when I need them for a recipe.

Buying Fresh Chestnuts
One of the neat chestnut growers on the West Coast, Ladd Hill Orchards Organic Chestnuts from Oregon, sells them fresh and dried. They also have a good supply of chestnut flour for anyone who enjoys baking for the holidays ahead. Another item they have available is a chestnut knife that comes in very handy for peeling the chestnuts. I’ve been cooking chestnut dishes for many years and bought my first and only chestnut knife this year. I sure don’t know how I managed without it—well, yes, actually I do. I always ended up with very sore fingers from peeling two or three pounds of cooked chestnuts in one sitting with nothing but a simple paring knife.

Because chestnuts are gaining popularity, some growers have already sold out. Here are other U.S. growers that sell chestnuts harvested from their own orchards: Empire Chestnut Company, Allen Creek Farm, and Girolami Farms Chestnuts.

Awesome Nutrition
Chestnuts totally rock because they’re very low in fat. You’ll never have to worry about gaining weight by eating chestnuts with a total fat content of 0.76 grams for 3 1/2 ounces cooked. That is low, low, low fat for a tree nut. And because chestnuts are about 14% fiber, they help to lower cholesterol.

Calorie wise, that 3 1/2 ounces will deliver 153 calories—not really too bad. At the same time, you’ll benefit from 2.9 grams of protein, 306 mg of potassium, and a good supply of B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate.

Chestnuts are the only nut that contains vitamin C—how about 24.7 mg along with some trace minerals like iron, zinc, and copper, all essential for good health.

Now, let’s get down to some serious cooking. If you’re one who adores cooking and spends a bit of time at it, you probably keep a few things on hand that work into great leftovers. I like to keep cooked grains like pearl barley or short-grain brown rice in the fridge for those spontaneous moments when I feel like composing something unique.

These sweet little patties make a great side dish and can even be the centerpiece of the meal. Serve them with a hearty tossed salad, a steamed vegetable, and a bean dish and you’ve got a fabulously satisfying meal. In keeping with the low fat content of the chestnuts, I’ve also kept the recipe low fat by water sautéing the veggies rather than cooking them the traditional way in oil or some other fat. It didn’t hurt the flavor of the patties one bit—these little babies are very flavorful and retain the natural sweetness of the chestnuts.

chestnutpatties

CHESTNUT PATTIES WITH VEGGIE CONFETTI

Yield: 12 patties

1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

7 ounces firm tofu, rinsed and drained
1 cup coarsely chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne

1 cup cooked pearl barley or short-grain brown rice

Garnish
Fresh dill or basil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a large jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper.
2. In a large, deep skillet combine the carrot, bell pepper, and onion and 1/2 cup water. Water sauté the vegetables over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent. Add small amounts of additional water as needed to prevent the vegetables from burning.
3. While the vegetables are cooking, combine the tofu, chestnuts, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
4. Add the cooked vegetables, along with the cooked barley, and pulse chop carefully to combine the ingredients well, yet still retain the appearance of some of the diced vegetables.
5. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, forming 12 patties. Bake for 35 minutes, then, use a spatula to transfer the patties to an attractive serving dish. Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy.

References:
“Nutrients in Chestnuts” Sandra L. Anagnostakis and Peter Devin. Northern Nut Growers Annual Report, 1999.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Posted in chestnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Companies, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CRANBERRIES—THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL MEET WALNUTS—THE OMEGA 3 CHAMPS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 5, 2009

If you’re like many people who are starting to plan a Thanksgiving menu, the mention of cranberries brings to mind the standard cranberry sauce that clings to its traditional place on the Thanksgiving table. In many households, that’s where cranberries begin and end their existence—simply as cranberry sauce. Quite often, the convenient can of jellied cranberry sauce is the only association to cranberries people have ever had. I know, it’s easy—just open the can and plop the deep red blob into a bowl and pass it around the table at Thanksgiving—and maybe the canned cranberry sauce will even make a reappearance at Christmas, and maybe not.

But quite honestly, cranberries have a treasured place in my heart because they’re the darlings of the holiday season. In my house, they show up as Spiced Chestnut and Cranberry Nog, Tangy Cranberry Soup, Cranberry Fruit Salad, Spiced Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry Pomegranate Salad Dressing, Cranberry Spread, Hot Cranberry Punch, Cranberry Oat Muffins, and a ton of cranberry desserts like the one I’m sharing below. Putting it bluntly—they’ve got piss and vinegar! That’s verve and pizzazz to the less daring!

Cranberry Health Benefits
Healthwise, cranberries are packed with antioxidants. According to The Cranberry Institute, the antioxidant activity of flavonoids and polyphenols in cranberries works to prevent heart disease by preventing oxidation in the arteries. Those antioxidants protect the body from damaging molecules known as free radicals. Brain cells, too, receive that same protection. Aside from their beauty and versatility, cranberries add awesome health benefits during this winter season, when you want to chase away the sniffles, coughs, and flu.

Walnut Omega 3 Benefits
And when you pair the cranberries with nuts, like walnuts, which are another fabulous harvest delight, you get a double benefit. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. In turn, walnuts help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because they lower cholesterol, especially the LDL bad cholesterol.

The Omega 3 in walnuts also helps to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Omega 3 works to boost the function of the brain, helping people to perform on a high level, maintain good concentration, and keep the memory sharp. Those who suffer from mild depression may find the Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts a gentle way to bring relief.

This Thanksgiving, consider adding another dessert to the menu–one that will sit proudly beside the venerable Pumpkin Pie and promise to send quivers of anticipation among the awaiting diners. This exquisite pie from The Nut Gourmet cookbook is beautiful, emits a wonderful aroma, and knocks the socks off with its assertive sweet and tart full-throttle tang.

cranwalnutpie

Toss showy red cranberries, walnuts, and raisins into a pie crust and the result is a stunning dessert that features a zippy sweet-and-tart flavor. This tantalizing treat is an ideal, easy-to-prepare, make-ahead holiday dessert. Cranberries have arrived at the market and will be available throughout the holiday season. Buy several packages and enjoy combining them with walnuts and sweet or dried fruits to temper their tartness. Convenient, ready-to-eat shelled walnuts freshly harvested this fall await your tender touch.

CRANBERRY WALNUT PIE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 recipe Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)

Filling
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, divided

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a 9-inch metal pie pan.
2. Put the walnuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Sort the cranberries and discard any spoiled ones. Wash the cranberries in a strainer and drain them well.
4. Place 1 cup of the cranberries into the food processor and pulse-chop them coarsely. Transfer them to the bowl with the walnuts and add the remaining whole cranberries.
5. Add the raisins, organic sugar, brown sugar, and almond extract and toss well.
6. Combine the cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl or cup, and stir to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the cranberry mixture and stir thoroughly.
7. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

****************************
The Crust of the Matter
Truthfully, pastry making is a bitch! Some people whip out a pie crust as easy as making smoothies—but not me! It has been such a challenge that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s as easy as that.

You can even use this recipe to make pre-baked pie crust when preparing a no-bake pie. Just spread it into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a thick layer of dried beans and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake.

Note:
For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Celebrations, Nut Desserts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Uses, Nuts and Health, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,503 other followers

%d bloggers like this: