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VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS GIVE-AWAY!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 1, 2013

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HOW THE VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS COOKBOOK WAS BORN

Many years ago I remember being bummed out when one of our kids brought a vegan friend over the house for dinner. At that time, it was a big deal because I had no idea of what to fix for them.

Now that I’ve been vegan for 24 years, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. Though things have changed considerably over the years, and many people have become pretty darned savvy about what’s vegan and what’s not, there are still some big gaps and big humps for vegans to overcome.

One of the major humps still plaguing vegans is the traditional holiday dinner, when the whole family comes together for the festivities. The lone vegan in a non-vegan family may be one of the lucky ones to have a vegan-savvy family that knows just what to cook to satisfy all tastes.

For the vegan whose family cooks the Standard American dishes for those big holidays like Thanksgiving, the struggle goes on.

That’s mainly why I created the Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook, but it was for me, too. I thought it would be fun to have a whole bevvy of holiday dishes in my repertoire that I could count on year after year and not have to struggle to come up with something special for the occasion.

I figured I wasn’t the only vegan who faced the quandary of what to cook for those special holiday meals–dishes that really stand apart from stuff I cook the rest of the year.

A FEW DISHES FROM VEGAN FOR THE HOLIDAYS

I also wanted to be able to share those special dishes that make the holiday dinners so divinely delicious and so very memorable. Here are a few dishes to stir your curiosity:

carrotwreath copyAlmond Thumbprint CookiesNew Year LogSanta's Favorite Panforte

There’s nothing like a tasty teaser to spark even more curiosity, so I want to share one of my favorite appetizers that appears in the Christmas section of Vegan for the Holidays. Truth is that this recipe is so versatile, it doesn’t have to wait for the holidays to arrive.

Because the ingredients are available year round, Tofu Tijuana Cocktail is a delight even in the middle of July. Actually, it’s a fabulous starter in July when avocados are in abundance and reasonably priced.

Another point of versatility is the inter-play between tofu and chestnuts. When chestnuts are in season, generally from October through December and sometimes January, they ought to be the featured item in this starter. And, if you’ve never ventured into the land of cooking and peeling chestnuts, check out the step-by-step Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts details that appeared in an earlier post Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts.

The thing about chestnuts is their ultra sweet flavor and soft and pleasing potato-like texture. Chestnuts are not like any other nut, yet they are still considered a tree nut, like walnuts or almonds. What makes them so different? For starters, they have a soft and starchy texture rather than a crunchy nature like other nuts. They are extremely low in fat–about 2% rather than the usual 50% to 80% fat in most other nuts. Chestnuts are starchier than other nuts with about 27% carbohydrates, while other nuts range in carbs from 12% to 32%.

When chestnuts are not in season, replace them with chunks of firm tofu and enjoy a delicious starter that looks elegant served in long-stemmed wine glasses or champagne flutes.

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TIJUANA TOFU COCKTAIL

Colorful and inviting, this zesty appetizer comes alive with bright colors, bold flavors, and a glamorous presentation. I created this recipe to spotlight fresh chestnuts, then replaced them with tofu for its ease of preparation. Either way, this is a delicious starter. If you enjoy chestnuts as much as I do, go ahead and substitute them for the tofu and you’ll find they add a pleasant sweet balance to the savory and spicy flavors.

Yield: 6 to 8 servingsTijuana Tofu Cocktail 2copy

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

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

1. Combine the canned and fresh tomatoes, tofu, avocado, onion, cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

2. To serve, spoon the cocktail into long-stemmed wine glasses, old-fashioned glasses, or glass dessert bowls and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro and a wedge of fresh lime perched on the rim. Serve with spoons. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve later.

Posted in Appetizers, Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Holiday Recipes, Vegan for the Holidays, Zel's Cookbooks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF CHESTNUTS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 13, 2012

Once you’ve tasted fresh chestnuts, you’ll agree they have no equal. Chestnuts stand apart from any other nut, yet they are part of the same family of tree nuts as almonds and walnuts. From their natural sweetness to their soft, potato-like texture, these treasures of the autumn season enhance all dishes with unmatched flavor richness.

What makes them so extra special is their limited availability. Chestnuts grown in the U.S. are available only from October through January, though some growers sell out earlier.

Asian markets that import fresh chestnuts from China and other Asian regions have them available throughout the spring.

For instructions on cooking and peeling chestnuts, see these earlier post at:

Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts

Peeling and Cooking Chestnuts Step-by-Step

Here are some handy, time-saving chestnut measurements:

A 15-ounce jar of cooked, peeled chestnuts contains about 2 1/2 cups.

One pound of fresh chestnuts in the shell will make about 2 1/2 cups peeled cooked chestnuts.

SEE ONLINE CHESTNUT RESOURCES BELOW.

Following are some delectable chestnut recipes for the festive holidays ahead. The recipes are from my new cookbook Vegan for the Holidays. The last recipe. Fresh Chestnut Soup, is from my first cookbook, The Nut Gourmet.

GARLICKY CHESTNUT BUTTER

With the addition of a bit of kitchen sorcery and a whirl in the food processor, naturally sweet and starchy chestnuts become transformed into an irresistible creamy spread that stands out on any variety of bread, bagel, or cracker. Consider this buttery spread as a tasty accompaniment to any savory dish, and use as you would a relish or a spread on your favorite bread or rolls.

Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup water, divided
1 1/4 cups cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 sprig parsley, for garnish

1. Cook and stir the onion, garlic, thyme, and 1/4 cup of the water in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the chestnuts, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Process for 1 or 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the parsley if desired.

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CHESTNUT-SMOTHERED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Brussels sprouts and chestnuts may seem like the ultimate cliché of trendy holiday foods, but not so this tasty version that turns Brussels sprouts haters into devoted converts. The plan-ahead host may want to blanch the Brussels sprouts the day before for convenience.

Yield: 12 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup diced red bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
24 cooked and peeled chestnuts, diced, or 1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
6 pimiento-stuffed green olives, minced
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 green onion, sliced, for garnish

1. Combine the Brussels sprouts, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes over high heat, or until the onions are very soft and the tomatoes begin to break down. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
2. Add the chestnuts, garlic powder, onion powder, and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes to heat through. Spoon into a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the green onion if desired.

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UPBEET CHESTNUTTY POTATO SALAD

What makes this salad a delightful departure from standard potato salad is the medley of sweet yams, sweet chestnuts, and sweet beets laced with a tart touch of lemon juice and vinegar. For convenience, purchase the jarred or vacuum-packed cooked, peeled chestnuts. If you’re not a fan of chestnuts, you can eliminate them or substitute with one cup of lightly steamed sliced carrots and still enjoy this delicious salad.

Yield: 6 servings

4 medium white or red Rose potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 large sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 large beets, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

1 cup cooked and peeled chestnuts, quartered, or lightly steamed sliced carrots
4 green onions, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Fresh sprigs herbs for garnish

1. Put the potatoes, yams, and beets in separate saucepans and add enough water to cover them. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high and cook until the potatoes and beets are just tender when pierced with a fork. The potatoes will cook in about 5 to 7 minutes. The beets will take about 25 to 35 minutes.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Line a plate with three layers of paper towels and transfer the beets to the plate. Use extra paper towels to pat the beets dry.
3. Add the beets, chestnuts, green onions, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the potatoes and toss well. Transfer the salad to an attractive serving dish and garnish with a few sprigs of herbs, if desired.

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WILD RICE AND CHESTNUT PILAF

Chestnuts are the definitive sweet infusion that makes this earthy pilaf so special, while exotic spices help transform it into a vibrant side dish.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

3 1/4 cups water
1 cup wild rice
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 cup chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or coarsely chopped raw or roasted
walnuts
1 green onion, sliced, for garnish
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Combine 3 cups of the water, wild rice, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, combine the onion, tomatoes, the remaining 1/4 cup water, curry powder to taste, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and garam masala in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the onion and tomatoes are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
3. Drain any excess liquid from the rice and add the rice and chestnuts to the tomato mixture. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spoon the pilaf into a serving bowl and garnish with the green onion and parsley if desired.

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SAVORY CHESTNUT AND FRUIT STUFFING

This sumptuous stuffing, replete with chestnuts, is so fruity and ravishing, it makes a delicious meal by itself. Enjoy it as a side dish or use it to stuff acorn, butternut, or delicata squash.

Yield: 12 to 15 hearty servings

2 cups water
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

8 cups whole wheat bread cubes
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3 large sweet onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped

2 large apples, cored and chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or pecans, or walnuts
1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (preferably Turkish)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons white miso

Garnishes
1/4 bunch parsley
3 tangerine wedges or Fuyu persimmon slices
3 fresh cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine the water, barley, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the barley is tender and all the water is absorbed.

3. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes on a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry. Transfer the bread cubes to an extra-large bowl.

4. Add the vegetable broth to the bread cubes and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the bread cubes are broken down into a coarse meal. Set aside.

5. Combine the onion and celery in a large, deep skillet and add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Cook and stir for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the bread cubes.

6. Add the apples, chestnuts, raisins, cranberries, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and mix well.

7. Thin the miso with about 3 tablespoons of water, add it to the stuffing mixture and combine well to distribute it evenly. Adjust the seasonings.

8. Spoon the stuffing into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a light crust forms on the top.

9. To serve, garnish one corner of the pan with parsley and artfully nestle the tangerine wedges and cranberries into the parsley if desired.

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FRESH CHESTNUT SOUP

While this unique, tantalizing soup is cooking, it sends waves of beckoning aromas so irresistible it just may become a holiday tradition at your house. For the best flavor, prepare the soup a day ahead, giving it plenty of time for the seasonings to fully develop. To reheat the soup, warm it gently over medium heat and stir frequently to avoid burning.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

3 1/4 cups water
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 serrano or jalapeno chile, minced

2 quarts unsweetened soymilk
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 pounds fresh chestnuts in the shall, cooked and peeled or 1 (15-ounce) jar cooked
chestnuts

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the water with the carrots, onion, celery, and chile in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Set aside.

2. Combine the soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, nutmeg, and tarragon in a large stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.

3. Combine 1/4 cup of the water with the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir to make a thin paste. Add to the simmering soymilk and stir for 1 minute until it is well dissolved and the soup is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.

4. Combine three-quarters of the cooked vegetable mixture, three-quarters of the prepared chestnuts, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups water in the food processor and process until smooth. Add to the soup along with the remaining cooked vegetables.

5. Chop the remaining chestnuts and add them to the soup. Heat gently to warm through and blend the flavors. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of the chives and serve.

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Chestnut Resources

Allen Creek Farm Chestnuts

Correia Chestnut Farm

Empire Chestnut Company

Girolami Farms Chestnuts

Posted in Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Holiday Recipes, Salads and Salad Dressings, Side Dishes, Soups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

GARLICKY CHESTNUT BUTTER #2

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

It must be in my genes to tinker with a recipe. It frustrates my sweet, perplexed husband who tells me the recipe is perfect just the way it is. Still, I tinker, either to improve the flavor, the texture, or the health benefits.

In this case, my effort was to see if I could eliminate the olive oil from the previous posting of Garlicky Chestnut Butter and reduce the fat and calories. My concern was whether the chestnut butter would still retain its awesome flavor?

Mission accomplished with success! In this second version, the process is the same but the oil is gone and replaced by water. The result is a lighter, creamier chestnut butter with wonderful flavor. Of course, the fresh chestnuts I used are naturally sweet. I ordered them from two chestnut growers: Girolami Farms and Correia Chestnut Farm, both located in Northern California.

The recipe is super easy and shows off fresh chestnuts at their best. The chestnut season is very short. Most groceries won’t have them available beyond Christmas or New Years. Next trip to the market, buy some fresh chestnuts, cook them using the step-by-step directions below the chestnut butter recipe, and enjoy a luscious, sweet, buttery spread.

Garlicky Chestnut Butter #2

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1/3 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small sprig parsley

1. Combine the onions, garlic, thyme, and 1/4 cup of the water in a skillet and cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add a few tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

2. Transfer the mixture to the food processor, add the chestnuts, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and process for 1 or 2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Spoon the Garlicky Chestnut Butter into an attractive serving bowl, garnish with the parsley, and provide a spreading knife.

Posted in Celebrations, chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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: , , , , , , , , | 9 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 »

CHESTNUTS! CHESTNUTS! IT’S RAINING CHESTNUTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 13, 2009

Well, chestnut season is here at last and I couldn’t be happier—I love them passionately and hope to pass on a few gems that might help you fall in love with chestnuts, too. I must confess, though, that cooking and peeling them could be considered a labor of love.

Because they’re somewhat labor intensive, they tend to discourage frequent use. All it takes is a little fortitude and a spirit of adventure to plunge right in and decide you’ll give these awesome delicacies a try. With the boiling method, cooking takes about 25 to 35 minutes. Peeling might take about the same time, too.

If you’ve never eaten a chestnut, you’re in for a treat. While they’re considered nuts, they are totally different in texture, flavor, and nutritional quality from other nuts like almonds and walnuts. Chestnuts can be eaten raw, but they taste much better cooked. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are starchy and have a texture closer to a potato than to a nut. They also have a natural delicate sweetness that could be compared to the sweetness of a Japanese yellow sweet potato.

Buy a couple of pounds of chestnuts next time you’re at the grocery store or order them from Allen Creek Farms, Empire Chestnut Company, or Girolami Farms all listed in the Blogroll. And check out the instructions for Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts on a previous posting of this blog.

Ever taste a dish that had such a pleasing blend of flavors you just wanted to keep on eating and eating? This irresistible risotto is worth waiting a whole year for fresh chestnuts to appear in the markets. The ultra seasonal creation is blessed with the creamy sweetness of chestnuts and paired with the earthy flavors of a trio of herbs that make the shiitake and cremini mushrooms melt in the mouth. Rather than using the familiar Arborio rice, I prefer the healthier brown rice. Just make sure to buy the SHORT GRAIN brown rice, sometimes labeled “sweet brown rice.”

chestnutrisotto

CHESTNUT AND WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Yield: 6 servings

3 large tomatoes, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup diced carrots
1 stalk celery, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced, stems discarded
(or use cremini mushrooms, sliced)
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 to 1 1/4 cups short grain brown rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups water

1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts, quartered
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley or chives

1. Combine the tomatoes and minced garlic in a large saucepan or skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes until the tomatoes have begun to break down. Set them aside to add at the end.
2. Combine the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, water, and olive oil in a large, deep skillet or 8 to 10-quart stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.
3. Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, and rosemary and cook about 2 minutes more, adding as much as a cup of water if needed.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the brown rice, salt, and 1 cup of the water. Keep the pan simmering and add the water, 1/2 cup at a time, as the liquid is absorbed. The process of cooking down and adding water may take 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice for tenderness after 30 minutes. You may not need to use all of the water.
5. When the rice is tender, add the cooked tomatoes and the chestnuts and cook 3 to 5 minutes longer to create a pleasing flavor union. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To finish, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with a pinch or two of herbs.

Note: For a delicious Wild Rice, Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto, substitute 1 cup of wild rice for the brown rice, but plan on at least 20 minutes longer cooking to soften the wild rice.

Posted in chestnuts, Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts, Nut Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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