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Thanksgiving, Part 1

I never liked Thanksgiving food all that much. Sure, pie is always good, and my grandma could make the hell out of some pie, and I always loved the sweet potatoes (but only because they were simply roasted with butter, none of that marshmallow crap, which sounds truly disgusting to me and I will never try), but nothing else was of much interest. But once I was able to cook the food for myself and realized that this was a holiday (two whole days off of work) completely devoted to food and shopping, I was in. Dan and I usually make Thanksgiving an opportunity to make food that is a bit more complicated than our everyday meals. And I always have to include as many seasonal foods as possible. Squash and cranberries? Yes, please! This year I set out to conquer pie dough once and for all with two pies, one sweet, one savory. But first up was a soup that I made once before a few years ago, Nigella Lawson’s Lentil Chestnut Soup. I was initially amazed that Nigella had any recipes that were even remotely veganizable, so I had to make it. And every year since, I’ve thought of it over and over. But since peeling fresh chestnuts could send me straight to a mental hospital in less than half an hour, it had to wait for a sale on canned chestnuts. But this soup might have made chestnut-peeling insanity worth it. It’s so velvety and packed with flavor, despite its sad, muddy appearance.
The main course was a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. The original recipe had some sort of stinky cheese in it, but it was perfect without. And the dough turned out so flaky. Truly worth all the effort. The Brussles sprouts and golden beets up there, though, not too memorable.
Seeing that beautiful galette crust, you’d never know that earlier in the day I’d had a huge fight with some dough, throwing it against the wall and ripping it to pieces before finally sacrificing it to the trash can. Which is pretty much the experience I’ve had with pie dough for the past eight years or so. And amazingly, it’s because I tried to listen to Martha Stewart. While she’s given me invaluable advice on other things, girl just doesn’t do shortening. When I first learned how to make pie crust, it was from a recipe my mother had given me that came from my pie-making grandma. Years later I discovered that this might have actually come from the side of the Crisco can, but it made some damn flaky and easy to work with crust. But then I saw Martha. Her dough was so beautiful and thick and it never cracked. But of course using margarine did not work at all. So over the years I’ve tried more and more crust recipes, most of them with disastrous results. This time I went for Martha’s “alternate fat” recipe using shortening. And it was HORRIBLE. It didn’t stay together, it was impossible to roll out, it ended up in the trash. So then I went back to my grandma’s recipe. And everything was perfect. No sticking, no cracking, no banging my head against the countertop. The conclusion? A food processor is no place to make pie crust. It has never ever worked for me. And pastry blenders are just fun to use, so why use anything else?
For the filling I went with a Martha recipe that I knew was great: Autumn Havest Pie. I made it a few years ago and it was incredible. This time, not so much. The Granny Smith apples were just too tart, and combined with the cranberries it was a bit much. But the natural remedy for this tartness was a scoop of Temptation vanilla ice cream, which helped achieve a perfect sweet/tart balance.
But the highlight of the day was breakfast. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Holy crap are these things amazing. I never make cinnamon rolls because the idea of waiting for dough to rise in the morning when I could just make scones and by nibbling on breakfast and doing a crossword puzzle in half an hour is crazy to me. But I planned ahead and make these the night before, putting them in the refrigerator for the second rise and baking them in the morning. They were perfectly moist and just incredible. Dan said the only thing that could them better would be cream cheese frosting, but I’m sure that would have me keeled over with the sugar shakes halfway to lunch.

VeganMoFo #7: Love for Isa

I had the best intentions of blogging the hell out of VeganMoFo. But as always, complications arose. First off, my oven broke, making a recent trip to the farmer’s market a new kind of hell where everywhere I looked I saw beautiful fall vegetables just begging to be roasted. But today, thanks to $180 and a man named Ivan, I’ve got an oven again. After nearly three ovenless weeks, what’s a girl to bake? Cookies! I decided that in between making Matilda’s Halloween costume (my first very amateurish adventure in this kind of frightening arena) and finally getting up another blog post, I’d throw together one of my favorite easy cookie recipes, pumpkin oatmeal cookies from Vegan with a Vengence. They have flax seed, walnuts, molasses, and oats in them, so they’re practically health food, right? Well, except maybe for the white flour, sugar, oil, and chocolate chips. But that’s at least a balance of good and bad, so I’m going with it. I can’t wait to eat some tomorrow, as they are way better the next day, nice and chewy.

And while I’m proving that roughly 82% of my culinary repetoire relies on Ms. Isa Moskowitz, I might as well write about last night’s dinner, seitan chops smothered in apples and ginger. I had to saute the apples, since the oven was not yet fixed, but they turned out great. And even though I think I misread the seitan instructions just a bit (I formed the dough into four chops before boiling, meaning I had very thick chops in the end) and had a bit of trouble getting the breading to stick (that never quite works for me), they turned out great. The inside was so tender, a little like a super dense bread. Maybe due to the altered boiling technique, maybe due to the chickpea flour, but this seitan was very different from any other I’ve made, and I loved it. Spongy yet toothsome. It was a nice balance, as were all the flavors in the dish. I took it easy on the ginger, as I’m just getting over a long-held hatred of the stuff, but it came out totally mellow and warm and wonderful. And really, what’s better than getting to eat apples and cranberries for dinner? It was sort of like eating a totally sophisticated version of my oh-so-high-class childhood favorite, pork chops and applesauce.

VeganMoFo #5: Apple-Pear Crepes with Soyatoo and Toasted Hazelnuts


I haven’t done much cooking this week, partly because I’ve been sick for most of it, meaning all I want to eat is toast. If I were less culinarily inclined, I might eat toast twice a day. It’s good food. But also inhibiting my cooking projects this week was the fact that my oven broke. Which I discovered after spending half an hour assembling a Mexican lasagna that now sits in my freezer. But luckily only the oven is out of commission and the stovetop is unaffected. So to make up for the lack of delicious food this week, I spent a ridiculous amount of time making breakfast this morning. Well, that, and to celebrate my first wedding anniversary. OK, that’s probably the only reason I went overboard. It takes the oven being broken to realize that I rely on it heavily for breakfast. Scones, muffins, coffeecake; there’s not much else in my morning repetoire. So today I fancied it up with sweet crepes (from Veganomicon) with sauteed apples and pears, vanilla whipped Soyatoo, and toasted hazelnuts. There was also Chicago Diner style tofu scramble with sunflower and black sesame seeds, but it wasn’t very photogenic. And how can humble tofu stand up next to fancy ass crepes?

Oh, and hazelnuts are delicious and crunchy and all, but it’s much more fun to call them filberts. Especially if you say it in the voice of an eighty-year-old woman. Filberts.

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