Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

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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 »

POTATO SOUP FOR THE QUEEN’S TASTE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 26, 2012

A simple homemade potato soup is a long-time family favorite in my home. But sometimes I just want to step outside the box and explore creative ways to serve the same delicious favorite with a bit of a tweak to give it a fresh lift. With the addition of a few root vegetables and spoonful or two of some lively seasonings, the sleepy little potato wakes up fully refreshed and ready to impress everyone who pokes a curious finger into the soup pot.

And if the Queen wants to step into the kitchen for a taste, I will welcome her with a curtsy and hand her my one and only silver spoon.

Of course, I know that’s not likely to happen, but it was a fun thought to imagine what I might do if a royal figure dropped in while I was cooking up something so tasty it would evoke an enthusiastic response. More likely is that it’s just a great idea to have a flavorful pot of soup on hand during the busy holiday season that’s just ahead. We’re often so busy we don’t have time to spend preparing fussy meals. That’s when a nourishing, flavor-infused, homemade soup is so welcome and so satisfying.

ROOT FOR POTATO SOUP

Yield: 6 servings

2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
1 head garlic, minced or crushed
5 to 7 cups water, divided

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup white miso
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper to taste
Pinch cayenne

Garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts
Ground sumac or paprika

1. Combine the carrots, onions, parsnip, turnip, garlic, and 2 cups of the water in an 8 to 10-quart stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add increments of 1/4 to 1/2 cups water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.

2. Add the potatoes and the remaining 5 cups of water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 1 to 2 cups of the potatoes and vegetables to a small bowl. Using an immersion blender in the stockpot or a regular blender, process the soup until it becomes a smooth, creamy puree. Then, return the chunky vegetables to the soup pot.
4. Add the miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and cayenne and mix well. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and ground sumac.

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MORE TASTY DISHES FOR CANADIAN THANKSGIVING

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on September 26, 2012

Following are two recipes for a delicious Canadian Thanksgiving by guest host Carolyn Scott-Hamilton of The Healthy Voyager website

Carolyn is the author of The Healthy Voyager’s Global Kitchen: 150 Plant-Based Recipes From Around the World. Because Carolyn loves to travel the globe, she has embraced cuisines of the world and has tasted the exotic herbs and spices that make international foods so compelling. Her recipes, foreign foods she has veganized, take the reader to far away places. Call it armchair travel with one hand in the kitchen.

MAPLE CHIPOTLE SWEET POTATO BISQUE

Makes about 4 servings

4-5 small/medium sweet potatoes
1 cup plain soymilk (keep extra on hand if you want to thin out the soup a bit)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
4 tablespoons softened vegan butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and peel sweet potatoes, then cube and boil until fork tender. Add cooked sweet potatoes in a large bowl.

In a food processor or using an immersion blender pulse the soymilk and chipotle together. In a saucepan bring the soymilk and chipotle mixture to a simmer on low. Then add the maple syrup, sour cream, butter and salt and pepper to the milk mixture. Pour the soymilk mixture over the cooked sweet potatoes and again use the immersion blender or a hand mixer to mix the ingredients together.

MUSHROOM WELLINGTON

Makes 6 servings

Filling:
1/4 cup basmati rice
1 lemon, zest only
1 onion, finely chopped
2 1/4 cup brown cap mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pastry:
9 ounces ready-rolled puff pastry
vegan gravy, to serve

Cook the rice and lemon zest in a pan according to packet instructions, until tender. Drain well.

Heat the onion and mushrooms and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the cooked rice, herbs and cranberries until well combined. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

For the pastry, cut an 8-inch x 12-inch rectangle from the puff pastry. Spoon the rice mixture down the centre of the pastry. Bring the sides of the pastry together and seal with oil or melted vegan butter. Chill for 30 minutes.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. To serve, place one slice of the Wellington onto each of six serving plates. Top with gravy.
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Posted in Celebrations, Guest Posts, Holiday Recipes, Main Dishes, Soups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

4 NO-FAIL NUTTY PIE CRUST RECIPES

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 11, 2012

Pie making was always something I feared and completely avoided because I was frightfully intimidated by the finicky nature of traditional flaky pie crust. Getting it right takes some skill and perseverance. Whenever I did venture into pie-crust territory, I could never got it right. The crust was either too wet or too dry to roll properly and the finished pie never looked like it ought to. Quite honestly, I was a pie crust flunk-out and my pies were a flop. My pie crust self-esteem was so low I didn’t touch a pie recipe for years.

Going vegan opened up a whole new world of ingredients and inspired me to use those items inventively.

The solution to overcoming pie phobia was to focus on my new, UN-traditional pantry and experiment with different ingredients that could hold a pie together without the fuss and fear of failure. These recipes work every time. If I can make a successful pie crust, so can you.

The following pie crust recipes are for pies that require only a bottom crust. The complete pie recipes can be found in my just-released cookbook Vegan for the Holidays available on Amazon and at Vegetarians in Paradise.

Dessert lovers can never have too many desserts!
If you’ve made extra desserts for your holiday celebrations, I have no doubt you’ll be happy to store the leftovers and feast again next day. As you probably know, second time around is always better and gives you something sweet, spicy, and holiday-perfect to look forward to.

Here are four unique pie crust recipes–3 are ideal for dessert pies–1 recipe forms the base of a savory, dinner pie.

OATMEAL CRUMB CRUST

This very quick prep featuring walnuts belongs to two tantalizing recipes: Williamsburg Pumpkin Pie and Apples ‘n’ Cream Pie. Both these dessert pies bring the Thanksgiving meal to a delicious and satisfying conclusion. They look appetizing and taste so good you just might want a second helping.

Makes 1 (9 or 10-inch) pie crust

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup walnuts
4 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons organic sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Pour the oats into a food processor. Pulse 12 to 15 times. Add the walnuts, oil, sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and salt. Process until the mixture is a fine, crumbly meal and holds together when pinched. Stop occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water to help it hold together.
2. Spoon the mixture into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Press on the edges to firm. Add your pie filling and bake.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

This simple recipe forms the crust of the Easy Pumpkin Tofu Cheesecake in the dessert section of the Thanksgiving menu. The recipe requires no high-tech culinary skills–only your fingers to press it into the pie pan.

Makes 1 9-inch pie crust or fills the base of a 9-inch springform pan

1/2 cup whole almonds
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil

1. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they form a coarse meal. Add the flour, ground flaxseeds, brown sugar, and salt and process until thoroughly mixed. Add the water and canola oil and process until the mixture becomes a moist, soft dough. Stop occasionally to scrape down the work bowl.
2. Spoon the crust mixture into the prepared pan and use your fingers to press it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If using a springform pan, press the mixture into the bottom and only 1-inch up the sides. Add the filling and bake.

SWEET POTATO NUT CRUST

Makes 1 9-inch pie crust

This very unique crust belongs to a scrumptious, Italian-inspired, savory main dish. Tomato-Pine Nut Pie makes a delicious entrée on the Christmas menu of Vegan for the Holidays. It’s melt-in-the-mouth delicious and decked out with plenty of holiday spirit.

12 ounces sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups whole almonds
2/3 cup well-mashed firm tofu
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly oil a 9-inch pie pan.
2. Put the sweet potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the sweet potatoes well, transfer them to a large bowl and mash them well. Set aside.
3. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground yet still retain a little texture. Add the tofu and salt and process until well incorporated. Stop occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the tofu mixture into the bowl with the sweet potatoes and mix well.
4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to press it onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Build up the sides of the crust 1/2 inch higher than the pie pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes and let cool.

CRANBERRY ALMOND CRUST

Makes 1 (9-inch) crust

This crust recipe is super-easy and belongs to the tangy, deliciously crunchy base of the NO-BAKE Cinnamon-Peanut Butter Torte, an awesome dessert you can prepare in a springform pan two or three days in advance and freeze. Ten minutes before serving, transfer the pan to a platter, and remove the springform collar. Garnish, cut into wedges, and enjoy the compliments. You’ll find the complete recipe for each of these enticing pies in Vegan for the Holidays.

1 1/2 cups whole almonds
1 1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
4 to 5 tablespoons water

1. Cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper 2 inches larger. Snap the collar back onto the base, and cut away the excess parchment with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan and set aside.
2. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they become a coarse, slightly chunky meal.
3. Add the cranberries and water and process until the cranberries are broken down into tiny bits and the mixture holds together when gently pressed. Stop occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture is too dry to hold together. Spoon the crust mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and press the mixture firmly with the back of a spoon to distribute it evenly. Add the filling and freeze until ready to serve.

Posted in almonds, Appetizers, Main Dishes, Nut Recipes, Salads and Salad Dressings, Soups, Uncategorized, Vegan Desserts, Vegan for the Holidays, Vegan Websites, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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