Sunday, July 29, 2012

Creamed Kale

A simple but remarkably tasty dish.  3 out of 4 kids freaked out just at the sight of the kale.  The other one ate 3 servings.

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, chopped (around 4 cups)
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1 1/4 cups cashew cream (more if needed)
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large pot over med heat.  Saute onion and garlic for a few mins, until translucent, being careful not to burn.
2. Add kale and a bit of salt and sauté for a few mins, until vibrant green and slightly wilted.
3. Add wine and cook, uncovered, for about 5-7 mins, until liquid is reduced and kale is tender.
4. Add cashew cream and mix well.  Cook for 2-3 mins until cream is thickened.  Add more if you want creamier kale.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Birthdays and Cake

Throughout the year I post several pictures of the cakes I make for the kids' birthdays, and throughout the year many of you lament that you wish you could decorate cakes just as well.  The truth is: you can!    Decorating cakes (at least the ones I do) takes a bit of skill, but it's mainly about having a steady hand and an almost infinite amount of patience.  While I prefer designing my own cakes, more often than not I end up using a Wilton cake pan.  You can rent them from our local bulk food stores, or sign them out of the library.  These pans are really made for the home baker, so decorating them is pretty easy (and you can download .pdf instructions from the link above).  Basically, you just need the time to do hundreds of little icing stars, usually with the #16 tip.  Above is the cake that Son #1 made me for my birthday yesterday.

So, what about recipes for cake?  And icing?  Although it's not perfect (a little too dense, I think) I have had the best results using Isa's cupcake recipe (chocolate or vanilla).   I have also used this recipe, but find the end result to be rather tough and chewy.  Also, the measurements are annoying when doubling or tripling (or I just hate math).  A double to triple batch will work in the shaped pans, and 40-50 mins baking time.  Just make sure to follow the instructions re: preparing the pan.

On to the icing.  I use buttercream frosting which is made exactly the same way as its non-vegan counterpart with the exception of subbing margarine (Earth Balance) for butter.  I usually use half the liquid and make a stiffer icing that will keep its shape even in the hot days of summer.  I colour the icing with Wilton Icing Colours.  The company assures me that their "icing colors are plant based and vegan."  I like the gels because they are concentrated (a little goes a long way) and they don't thin down your icing.  Here is the Hello Kitty cake I made for Vegan Daughter's birthday.

For birthday dinner I signed The Conscious Cook out of the library and made the Summer Chopped Salad
and Pine Nut and Basil Seared "Chicken" with Lobster Mushroom Beurre Blanc, Braised Kale and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.
I loved the salad, especially the peppery bite of the arugula with the creaminess of the avocado.  I usually don't eat a slab of veggie meat like this (you could just as easily use tofu), but the recipe looked really good.  I think I pulsed the pine nuts too much for the breading, and my sauce broke (as you can see) but overall everyone loved the dish.  The sauce together with the kale and potato was delightful.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Tart

 Summer has once again blessed us with her bounty.  The backyard has yielded an abundance of raspberries, and strawberry picking is winding down after a great season.  Vegan Son #1 and I collaborated on this dessert.  He helped make the pastry cream and designed the layout of the fruit for the top of the tart.  I made the dough.  The trick with the pastry dough is to be patient and gentle when bringing it together.  Only use as much water as is necessary--too much will make for a harder final product. 

Tart Dough
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine (1 baking stick)
- 200g (1.25 cups) cake and pastry flour (or all purpose)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp vegan cream cheese
- 3 tbsp ice cold water (more if needed)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place margarine in the freezer for 30 mins.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour and sugar in a medium bowl.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together cream cheese, water, and vanilla until smooth.  Place in fridge until needed.
3. Grate cold margarine into the flour and gently work with your fingers until it resembles coarse bread crumbs (it should not take too long).  Add cream cheese mixture and use a fork to bring together into a dough.  Add a few drops of water if needed.
4. Immediately roll out into a 12 inch circle on a floured surface and transfer to a 9.5 inch tart pan.  Gently press dough into the bottom of the pan and trim to allow 1/2 inch overhang.  Fold overhang back into the pan and press into the sides.  Refrigerate until firm (30 mins).
5. While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Cover dough with foil and half fill with dried beans.
6. Bake for 20 mins, then lift up foil to see if crust is light golden and no longer wet.  Return to oven for a few mins if it is not.  When crust if light golden and dry, remove foil and beans and bake for another 5-10 mins, or until golden.  Allow to fully cool on a wire rack.

Summer Tart
- 1 tart shell (above)
- 1 recipe pastry cream, cold
- summer fruit of your choice (halved strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries is what I used)
- 1/3 cup apricot jam

1. Remove tart shell from pan and place on a serving dish.  Fill with pasty cream and smooth.  Top with fruit.
2. Heat apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium heat until runny.  Strain out chunks then brush fruit with the jam to glaze.  If jam gets too sticky, just return to heat until it is runny again. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Strawberry Pie

Sorry for the lack of posts, kids, I have been very busy with research and writing this summer.  I had great success at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and am getting ready for a conference in Baltimore (do any SHEAR members read this blog?) and a stint at the Library of Congress.  I am glad that I was back home for the last week of strawberry season.  Of course, that meant strawberry pie!  Last year I made a Glazed Strawberry Pie with Shortbread Crust (which is fabulous), but this year I wanted to try my hand at a more traditional pie.  I would like to improve my pastry skills, so this was an experiment in ingredients and method to produce a flaky crust and a gooey but not runny filling.

Pie Dough (makes two crusts)
- 2.5 cups (400g) all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
- 6-8 tbsp ice cold water

- scant 5 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
- 2 tbsp instant tapioca
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup sugar

1. Place shortening and margarine in the freezer for 30 mins.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.  Prepare the filling by whisking together tapioca, cornstarch, and sugar, and then gently tossing with the strawberries to coat.
3. Grate shortening and margarine into the flour.  Gently work into the flour with your fingers until it resembles coarse bread crumbs (it should not take long).
4. Mix in enough water with a fork to bring together into a dough.  Don't over mix.
5. Divide dough in half and shape into two discs.  Immediately roll one out on a floured surface into at least a 12 inch circle and transfer into a 9" pie pan, trimming it to leave 3/4" of overhang.  Add filling and shape into a dome.
6. Roll out top crust on a floured surface and lay over top, trimming to leave 1" overhang.   Fold top crust overhang under bottom crust overhang and press to seal.  Crimp or flute the edge as you see fit.  Cut designs into the top crust to allow steam to escape, refrigerate the pie for about 30 mins, or until the crust has firmed up.
7.  While pie is chilling, heat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until crust is golden both top and bottom and the filling is bubbling.  Let cool before serving.