Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘holiday recipe’

CANADIANS CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING DAY OCTOBER 8!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 24, 2012

Canadian Thanksgiving is coming soon and I wanted to offer our friends to the North some tasty, festive recipes for their celebration of the early harvest. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. This year their celebration falls on Monday, October 8, just two weeks away.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting several delectable recipes for Canadian Thanksgiving from a number of guest contributors, vegan bloggers who really know how to dish up lavish, mouth-watering foods that will make the harvest celebration for our Canadian neighbors just as special as our November holiday.

Following is a very unique main dish from my book, Vegan for the Holidays. The stunning entree borrows its beautiful structure from a traditional Moroccan dish called bistilla.

THANKSGIVING PHYLLO PIE

Stately, delicious, and aromatic, this is the dish that will change the minds of those who snicker at the thought of a vegan thanksgiving dinner. Like a typical Moroccan Bistilla, this delicious entrée is completely encased in phyllo dough. Uniquely different is the plump filling of whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and all the herbs and spices that say Thanksgiving. Prepare the filling a day in advance to make assembly more convenient.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Filling
3 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup raw pecans, coarsely chopped
2 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely shredded
2 stalks celery, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground pepper

Crust
12 sheets phyllo dough, at room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil

Garnishes
Ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely ground roasted pistachios
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint or parsley
1 small tomato, cut into a rose

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. To make the filling, combine 3 1/2 cups of the water, rice, barley, and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt in a 3-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and cook for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the rice and barley are tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.

3. Meanwhile, place the almonds, walnuts, and pecans in a single layer on a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Immediately pour the nuts onto a plate to cool.

4. Put the potatoes in a 1-quart saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon and mash them.

5. Cook and stir the mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, carrots, celery, garlic, sage, cinnamon, allspice, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and the remaining 1/4 cup water in a deep, 10 to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

6. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, raisins, chickpeas, the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and pepper to the skillet, Cook another 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are broken down.

7. Add the rice mixture, toasted nuts, and mashed potatoes to the skillet and mix thoroughly. Adjust the seasonings and set aside.

8. To make the crust, place a dish towel horizontally on your workspace. Unroll the phyllo dough and place it on the dish towel. Cover it with another dish towel to prevent the phyllo from drying out. (Each time you remove a phyllo sheet, cover the dough with the dish towel.) Pour the canola oil into a small bowl and place it nearby. Lightly oil a 10-inch ovenproof skillet.

9. Remove one sheet of phyllo from the stack, and place it into the prepared skillet, allowing the ends to drape over the side of the skillet. Gently brush the phyllo with oil, including the portion that drapes over the side. Repeat with eight more sheets of phyllo, draping each of the sheets in a different direction to form a circle around the skillet.

10. Spoon the filling into the phyllo crust, packing it firmly. Lift up the edges of the draped phyllo sheets and place them over the filling. Place the remaining three sheets of phyllo on top of the pie, one at a time, brushing each with the oil. Tuck the ends of the three sheets down into the sides of the skillet. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the crust is golden.

11. To serve, invert the pie onto a large serving platter or tilt the skillet to slide it onto the platter. Garnish the top with the cinnamon, pistachios, and mint and place the tomato rose in the center if desired. Cut the pie into wedges with a serrated knife and remove each wedge with a pie server.

Posted in Celebrations, Holiday Recipes, Main Dishes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PEELING AND COOKING CHESTNUTS STEP-BY-STEP

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 9, 2011

If you’re a regular NutGourmet visitor, then you’re probably aware I have a passion for chestnuts. Chestnuts are special gems with a very short season. By Christmas they will be a rarity in grocery stores, except for the Asian markets that import Chinese chestnuts.

So many people feel intimidated by chestnuts and haven’t the faintest idea how to cook, peel, and even incorporate them into a recipe. American grown chestnuts have just been harvested for the season, so this is the perfect time to jump in and give these wonderful nuts an opportunity to show their stuff in a delicious dish.

With the step-by-step guide that follows, you’ll see how easy it is to cook and peel chestnuts and store them until you’re ready to add them to a tasty recipe. Chestnuts have totally won me over. Give them a try—I’ll bet you’ll get hooked on them, too.

Step 1: This post shows a criss-cross cut on the chestnuts. I’m updating the technique to one that produces much better results for cooking and peeling the nuts. Using a firm, sharp paring knife, make a horizontal cut completely across the domed or rounded side of each chestnut. If both sides are flat, choose one of the sides for the wide horizontal cut. The cuts allow the chestnut to release steam and prevents it from bursting open during cooking. Hold the chestnut firmly with one hand and make the cuts with the other. Use a very firm paring knife with a 3-inch pointed blade. Don’t be timid. Poke the tip of the knife right into the chestnut, about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch deep.

Step 2: Put the cut chestnuts into a saucepan and add enough water to cover the nuts by about three inches. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the chestnuts for 25 to 35 minutes. Then, turn off the heat. The shorter time will result in firm chestnuts. Longer cooking will make them softer to use in puddings and creamy recipes.

Step 3: Use a slotted spoon to remove only a few chestnuts at a time from the pot and put them into a small bowl. You’ll notice the horizontal cut allowed the shell to pull back, making it much easier to peel. The nuts peel much easier when they are quite warm. Have ready a bowl for the discarded nut shells and another bowl for the peeled chestnuts.

Step 4: Now you’re ready to peel. You can use the firm paring knife or a chestnut knife with the very short, curved blade. Fix yourself a nice cup of tea and prepare for a relaxed peeling session that might take 20 to 30 minutes depending on how many chestnuts you’ve cooked. Poke the point of the knife into the cut and pull up on the peel.

Step 5: Chestnuts have a hard outer shell and an inner soft skin called the pellicle. Sometimes both the outer shell and inner skin will come off together, but occasionally, they’ll have to be peeled away separately.

I hope you’ve rewarded yourself and tasted a few tidbits of broken chestnuts during the peeling session. The cooked and peeled chestnuts are now ready for incorporating into a recipe.

Storing the Chestnuts: If you plan to use the chestnuts within two or three days, cover them with plastic wrap and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For longer storage, put them into a heavy-duty plastic bag and freeze them. Allow several hours to defrost at room temperature before using. Defrosting chestnuts in the refrigerator will result in mushy nuts.

Chestnuts are practically fat free! There’s nothing like them on the planet. Their appearance, flavor, and texture are not like any familiar nuts such as almonds or walnuts, yet they are classified as tree nuts. Chestnuts can be eaten raw but deliver far better flavor and texture with cooking. Once cooked, they are sweet with a creamy texture similar to cooked potatoes.

You can incorporate cooked chestnuts into beverages, soups, salads, stir-fries, casseroles, puddings, pies, and baked goods and desserts of all kinds.

Ready for a delicious chestnut side dish for the Thanksgiving feast?

A stunning dish with rich, complex flavors, this delectable stuffed spinach roll is a winning company entrée with irresistible charm. American grown chestnuts, delightful in texture and flavor, add a delicate sweetness that enriches the creamed stuffing. For optimal success, prepare both the spinach roll and the stuffing a day ahead and store them in the refrigerator separately. To prevent the spinach layer from becoming soggy, assemble the dish and warm it at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes close to serving time. The Roulade can be warming while serving the salad or appetizer course.

CHESTNUT ROULADE FLORENTINE

Yield: 8 servings

Spinach Roll
2 pounds frozen spinach
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered egg replacer
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Chestnut Veggie Stuffing
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 head medium cauliflower, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup quartered cooked chestnuts
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup black raisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened soymilk
1/2 cup cooked whole or coarsely chopped chestnuts
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

Garnish
1 large unpeeled cucumber, sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
Paprika
1 tablespoon minced parsley, chives, or arugula

1. TO MAKE THE SPINACH ROLL, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment and set aside.
2. Place the frozen spinach into a 4-quart saucepan, add 1/2 cup of the water, and cover the pan. Cook over high heat for 2 minutes, reduce the heat to medium, and cook about 3 minutes. Lift the cover, stir the spinach, replace the cover and cook about 6 minutes, or until the spinach is fully cooked.
3. Drain the water and squeeze the spinach through the fingers until it is bone dry. This step will take several minutes but is important to the success of the recipe. When the spinach is completely dry, place it into a large bowl.
4. Combine the powdered egg replacer and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and beat with a fork until thoroughly combined and foamy. Add it to the cooked spinach and mix thoroughly.
5. Add the salt and pepper, mix well, and spoon the spinach mixture onto the prepared jellyroll pan. Use the back of a spoon or a fork to spread the spinach into a rectangle approximately 9 1/2 x 13 inches. Bake the spinach for 20 to 25 minutes, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely. Cover the jellyroll pan entirely with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
6. TO MAKE THE CHESTNUT VEGGIE STUFFING, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the cauliflower, bell pepper, quartered chestnuts, onions, raisins, garlic, and cinnamon. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Reduce the heat to medium.
7. Combine the soymilk and the 1/2 cup whole chestnuts in the blender and process until creamy. Add the creamy mixture to the cooked chestnut-vegetable medley and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the mixture is thoroughly combined and thickened. Season the veggie stuffing with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if using.
8. TO ASSEMBLE THE ROULADE, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the spinach roll from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Place a clean sheet of parchment over the spinach roll, cover with another jellyroll pan, and invert the pan. Carefully remove the top layer of parchment and bake the spinach roll, uncovered, for 5 minutes to remove excess moisture.
9. Set aside 1 cup of the Chestnut Veggie Stuffing and spoon the remainder onto the spinach layer, placing it lengthwise down the center.
10. Lift one side of the parchment and use a knife to release the spinach roll from the parchment, if needed, folding it over the stuffing. Lift the other side of the parchment and fold the spinach over the stuffing. Use your hands to overlap the spinach roll and completely enclose the stuffing.
11. Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes to warm through. While the Roulade is warming, spoon the reserved stuffing into a small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat.
12. Remove the Roulade from the oven and use a flatware knife to carefully slide it toward the edge of the parchment. Lift the parchment, Roulade and all, off the jellyroll pan and onto an oval or rectangular serving platter. Gently push the Roulade completely off the parchment and center it on the platter. Spoon the warmed stuffing over the Roulade lengthwise down the center.
13. TO GARNISH AND SERVE THE ROULADE, line both sides of the Roulade with the cucumber slices, cut side facing inward, and place a cherry tomato half on top of each cucumber half. Lightly sprinkle the top of the Chestnut Veggie Stuffing with paprika and minced herbs. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut the Roulade into serving portions.

Note
I place a high value on fresh chestnuts for the seasonal nuance and the ambrosial quality they bring to a dish. I’ve even attempted to substitute with potatoes or sweet potatoes because of their starchy nature, but neither measures up to the real thing. Nothing quite takes the place of the fresh chestnut. Invite them to dinner and perhaps they’ll become as high on your holiday shopping list as they have on mine.

Posted in chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

CHESTNUTS ARE BACK AND SO AM I!!!!!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 21, 2011

The chestnut harvest is in and ready for cookin’! I’ve just placed my order and will probably be cooking and peeling a heap of the beauties when they arrive in about a week.

This year I ordered from Girolami Farms and Correia Farms but an abundance of the sweet nuts can also be found at Allen Creek Farms, Croft Chestnuts, Washington Chestnut Company, Chestnut Growers, Inc., and Delamarvelous Chestnuts. Don’t wait too long to order. Many of the farms sell out by mid November, though some will have chestnuts through January.

Honestly, I’m not getting a commission for touting the chestnut growers. I’m just very passionate about chestnuts and hope to see more people cooking and enjoying their naturally sweet flavor and delightful soft and creamy texture.

The neat thing is if you’re not inclined to cooking and peeling chestnuts, you can buy them already cooked and peeled. It doesn’t get better than that!

Today, I’m welcoming myself back to fun and utterly delicious nutty blogging. I’ve been absent for good reason. I just turned in the manuscript for my new cookbook. Yea!!!! And Whew!!!!!

While the new book will still have a banquet of nut recipes, it places the focus on killer-delicious vegan recipes for the holidays—from Thanksgiving through the New Year. During the year and especially during this coming holiday season, I’ll be sharing some of the nuttier delicacies from Gone Vegan for the Holidays, starting today.

A year ago I was puttering in the kitchen with my freshly cooked chestnuts and came up with a seductively delicious meal starter I call Tijuana Chestnut Cocktail. No, this cocktail is not a beverage like its name suggests. Instead, it was my effort to create a vegan version of shrimp cocktail—only much tastier with the addition of chestnuts that contribute more complex flavor.

It looks really elegant and is amazingly easy to assemble. The photo says it all.

Initially, I created this recipe to spotlight chestnuts, then replaced them with tofu for its ease of preparation. Either way, it’s a delicious starter. For an exceptional presentation, serve the cocktail in long-stemmed wine glasses or champagne flutes. Put each glass on a dish with a doily underneath and garnish with a slice of fresh lime on the rim. Make the cocktail a day ahead, chill it, and it’s ready to serve.

TIJUANA CHESTNUT COCKTAIL

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled and chopped chestnuts, or cubed firm tofu
1 large avocado, diced
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Combine the diced tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onions, cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir well to distribute evenly. Serve immediately, or chill and serve later.

2. When ready to serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashion glasses, or glass dessert bowls and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime. Serve with spoons.

Posted in chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Companies, Nut Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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