Friday, June 29, 2012

Vanilla-Roasted Strawberries

June strawberries are a like a little gift from Mother Nature, and this recipe is one way to let them steal the spotlight. If you have perfect summer strawberries and high quality balsamic vinegar, then skip the recipe and just drizzle a few drops of the balsamic over the berries, for an even simpler dessert.

  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 24 strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegan dry red wine
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Place 2 tablespoons butter in a 9-inch baking dish, and place in the oven at 400 degrees just until melted.  (Note: it will only take a couple of minutes.  Turn on the oven light so you can peak through the door and see when the butter melts).

2. Remove from the oven.  Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the melted butter. 

3. Cut the tops from the strawberries and place, cut sides down, in the pan.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Tuck the vanilla bean halves among the berries.

4. Return to the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Let cool for 20 minutes.

5. Remove the berries from the pan and transfer to a platter.  Transfer the remaining pan juices to a small skillet, and add the red wine and balsamic vinegar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

6. Remove from heat. Cut the final tablespoon butter into small pieces, and whisk into the wine mixture.  Drizzle the sauce over the berries, at which point this decadent little concoction is best served immediately.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (6 strawberries, 2 tablespoons sauce), Calories 135

Tasting Notes:
I had no idea strawberries could be this tender, and yet still retain their shape - they are almost melt-in-your mouth.  The sauce was decadent - buttery and silky, with hints of vanilla.  Think of the way warm strawberry jam and melted butter taste over toast - but don't bother with the toast! - and you'll have a rough approximation of this dessert.  I would use a touch more brown sugar or a touch less balsamic (either way) to make the dessert a little sweeter, but other than that, fantastic.  You might consider a splash of vanilla extract to increase the vanilla flavor.  I confess to scraping up the last bits of sauce with a finger.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Buttered Rum-Raisin Cream Pie

Because you know you want to make one more cream pie before the month ends, here is another filling for my Piecrust recipe.  Bacardi Gold is a good choice for the dark rum, since all Bacardi products are vegan-friendly, according to Barnivore.  You can use up to 1/3 cup rum, but I used a slightly more judicious amount.  You can also substitute light rum, but the dark rum works particularly well with the (Earth Balance) buttery custard and the raisins.

For the crust:
For the filling:
  • 2 cups golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 3 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whipped Soyatoo whippable topping*
1. Prepare and bake the Piecrust according to recipe directions, except use a standard 9-inch pie plate, rather than a deep-dish plate.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Meanwhile, combine the raisins and rum in a glass bowl; microwave for 1 minute - the raisins should be soft and plump.  Set aside.

Note: I recommend Hunza naturally-golden raisins, rather than those treated with sulfur dioxide.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and Ener-G eggs; set aside.

4. Place the milk in a small, heavy saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat until a thermometer reaches about 160 degrees - you should see bubbles forming around the edge, but the milk shouldn't be at a boil.

5. Gradually add the hot milk to the sugar mixture, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbly.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

6. Spoon the custard into a clean bowl, and place in a larger bowl filled with ice.  Let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooled to room temperature.  Remove from the bowl of ice and stir in the raisin mixture and vanilla extract.  Spoon into the prepared piecrust.

7. Gently spoon the whipped topping over the top of the pie.  Cover loosely and chill for at least 8 hours - the custard should be firm.   

*Do not substitute Soyatoo's whipped cream from a spray can for this recipe; it will not hold it's shape.  The whippable topping is sold refrigerated in a box, in liquid form.  Beat with a hand mixer for about 3 to 4 minutes, until thick, and spread over the pie.  It will hold its shape and texture even after 8 hours of chilling (and beyond).  I recommend placing the custard-filled piecrust in the fridge while you whip up the Soyatoo - it will allow the custard to cool down just a touch more, so there's no risk of warm custard deflating all your whipping efforts.  If your local grocery store doesn't carry Soyatoo, try

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 wedge), Calories 309 

Tasting Notes:
It's been a long long time since I last had rum-raisin ice cream, so one bite of this filling transported me waaay back, in a good way.  I would use fewer raisins next time, because the rum-infused custard is so darn good.  That's really my only complaint; the whipped cream on top is a lovey touch; feel free to pile on even more.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Braised Lentils

They can sound cliched or boring, but don't forget to eat your lentils; with 12 grams of protein per serving and chalk full of iron, they're undeniably a vegan superfood.  If you're looking for a great way to pack lentils with flavor, look no further.  A clove-studded onion is just the start of this lentil dish.

  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 small peeled onion
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups petite green lentils*
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons sherry**
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced and peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1. Insert the cloves into the peeled onion.

2. Combine the onion in a large saucepan with the water, lentils, green onions, sherry, olive oil, ginger, black pepper, garlic, bay leaf, and broth.

3. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minuets - the lentils should be tender from the braising.  Remove the onion and bay leaf with a slotted spoon and discard.

4. Stir in the salt and cook for a final 2 minutes.

If you prefer, double the suggested serving size and make this your main course instead of a side dish.  Incidentally, the lentils pair wonderfully with the Sauteed Escarole with Pine Nuts and Raisins I made last night for this blog.

*Petite green lentils might also be labeled "French" lentils at the store.

**My go-to vegan sherry is the Fino en Rama from Alvear.  Because it is unfiltered, there's no need to worry about non-vegan filtration methods.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 215 

Tasting Notes:
Petite lentils like this hold their shape even after cooking, so the end result was tender but with a nice chewiness.  A savory blend of sherry, onion, garlic, and bay, but I was hoping for more clove flavor.  I'd stir in about 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves next time, instead of simmering the whole cloves in the studded onion and then discarding.  It also felt like a waste to discard the onion, so I'd chop it up and add back to the pot next time.  Try those changes to make this even better.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sauteed Escarole with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Escarole is a slightly bitter green (though not as much so as its cousin, endive), but a quick saute and a few extra ingredients are all you need to transform it into a delicious side dish. 

  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 pound coarsely chopped escarole
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 lemon wedges
1 Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the raisins, pine nuts, crushed red pepper, and garlic; saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  The pine nuts should be golden brown.

2. Add the vegetable broth and escarole.  Cook for a final 3 to 4 minutes, until the escarole wilts.  The pan will be very full until the greens wilt down, so be careful when stirring or tossing with tongs.  Stir in the salt at the end, and serve with the lemon wedges.

Try pairing this dish with a hearty rice or multi-grain pilaf and additional vegetable sides for a play on a "Blue Plate Special."

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (about 3/4 cup escarole, 1 lemon wedge), Calories 98 

Tasting Notes:
Even if you're an escarole skeptic, I guarantee you'll enjoy this recipe.  Warm, tender, wilted greens with plump sweetness from the raisins and subtle heat from the crushed red pepper in every bite.  The addition of pine nuts makes this elegant enough to serve to company, although I recommend more than 2 tablespoons.  Really nice with a spritz of lemon on top.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Roasted Pork with Agave Grape Sauce

Having enjoyed grapes in chutney, salad, and salsa, I wanted to try one more recipe, this time with the grapes pureed into a rich sauce.  Red grapes are your best bet; green ones will work, but you won't wind up with as rich or pretty a final product.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped seedless red grapes
  • 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • Dash of five-spice powder
  • 12 ounces Match pork, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. To prepare the sauce, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the grapes, soy sauce, agave, ginger, and five-spice powder.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a blender and process until smooth.  Set aside.

2. To prepare the pork, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the pork evenly with the salt and black pepper and add to the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes, turning over halfway through.

3. Transfer the pork to the oven and bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes, turning over halfway through.  Cut into slices and serve with the grape sauce.

Excellent summer side dishes to pair with this dish include couscous and simple asparagus with feta: arrange 1 pound trimmed asparagus in an 11x7-inch baking dish.  Top with 1/4 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Veg Cuisine), 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme.  Place in the oven while you bake the pork, at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

If you take one look at the fact that this recipe needs a 450 degree oven and decide to make it in the fall or winter instead, try roasted red onion and mashed sweet potato on the side.

*Tamari soy sauce is richer and thicker than regular soy sauce, which is why I've called for it here.  I've had several waiters in Japanese restaurants tell me that I can't have tamari soy sauce, upon learning I'm vegan. This comment has always perplexed me since I can find no reason in my online research why it is unsuitable for a vegan diet.  Certainly, looking at the ingredient list from a trusted company like Eden Foods, it seems safe to me.  If anyone has more light to shed on the matter, please do let me know in the comments, and in which case, substitute regular soy sauce instead.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (3 ounces pork, 1/4 cup sauce), Calories 263 

Tasting Notes:
The moment I plated this dish, it looked like the classic pork-and-applesauce duo.  One bite of the grape sauce, though, and it puts any applesauce to shame - of a similar consistency and silkiness, but with an amazing savory touch from the soy sauce, and just the right hint of sweetness from the agave.  Complex and delicious, not just over the pork, but also spooned into the couscous I served on the side.  I'd play up the grape flavor more next time, in which case this would easily shift into "4" or "5" territory in my rating system.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Arugula Salad with Shrimp and Grapes

You'll get a double dose of grapes in this fun summer salad - pureed into the dressing, and sprinkled fresh on top too.  If you don't have Champagne vinegar, you can substitute white wine vinegar in a pinch.

For the dressing:
  • 1/3 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of white pepper
For the salad:
  • 9 ounces Sophie's Kitchen shrimp, thawed
  • 1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
  • 5 cups trimmed arugula
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
  • 1 cup halved seedless green grapes
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled vegan blue cheese (such as Veg Cuisine)
  • 1 tablespoon lightly toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts*
1. To prepare the dressing, combine 1/3 cup green grapes in a blender with the Champagne vinegar, olive oil, mustard, sweet onion, salt, and white pepper; process until smooth.

2. To prepare the salad bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the shrimp; cook for 1 minute.  Add the celery; cook for 1 minute.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.

3. Combine the shrimp and celery in a large bowl with the arugula, 1 cup red grapes, 1 cup green grapes, and basil.  Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently.  Top with the blue cheese and walnuts.

*Lightly toast the walnuts for about 3 to 4 minutes in a skillet over medium heat before adding to the salad.

Try pairing this dish with a green, slightly fruity white wine like Sauvignon Blanc.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 163 

Tasting Notes:
A delicious blend of flavors.  To be honest, you could skip the shrimp entirely if you don't have any in your freezer, because my favorite flavors here were the sweet grapes, super fresh basil, toasted walnuts, and peppery arugula.  It was hard to taste the grapes in the dressing, by the time it was drizzled over everything, but it had a light and refreshing taste, and was a beautiful shade of pastel green.  I would definitely add more walnuts and blue cheese on top next time.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Cold Cucumber Soup with Cherry Tomato Confetti

Here's a perfect chilled summer soup - really not much more than pureed cucumbers with fresh tomatoes on top.   I recommend a crusty baguette and salad to round out the meal.

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup vegan buttermilk*
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds cucumber (about 4 or 5)
  • 1 halved and seeded jalapeno pepper
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1. Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, seed, and coarsely chop.

2. Combine the cucumbers in a food processor with all the remaining ingredients except the cherry tomatoes.  Process until smooth.

3. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls, and top each serving with 1/4 cup tomatoes.  I recommend a mix of yellow and red for the prettiest presentation. 

*To prepare the buttermilk, place 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.  Fill with plain non-dairy milk to equal 1/4 cup.  Let stand for 5 minutes, so the mixture can clabber (sour), then add to the recipe as directed.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup soup, 1/4 cup tomatoes), Calories 74

Tasting Notes:
At first bite, I thought this was too salty.  But then at second bite - and third, and fourth, and so on - I thought it was perfect, especially once the fresh cherry tomatoes were on my spoon.  It's what I imagine eating cucumber gelato might be like, thanks to the richness from the sour cream. There was just the right spice from the jalapeno.  This would get a 5 except, okay, it was saltier than I know is good for me, and I shouldn't let my taste buds get used to it.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Pasta with Basil, Arugula, and Walnut Pesto

Sometimes the simplest things are truly the best, and pasta tossed with fresh summer pesto is a perfect example.  Peppery arugula gives a nice twist to this pesto, but if you prefer a more classic version, see my recipe for Classic Pesto.

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 2 cups arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese*
  • 1/3 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 cups hot cooked linguine
1.  In a food processor, combine the basil, arugula, parsley, walnuts, olive oil, and garlic.  Pulse 7 to 8 times, until you have a smooth paste.

2. Add the cheese, chicken broth, salt, and black pepper; pulse until combined.

3. Meanwhile, cook the linguine according to package directions (you'll want to start with about 1 pound uncooked pasta to end up with 8 cups cooked).  Combine the pasta and pesto in a large bowl and toss to coat.

Serve with a (vegan!) dry white wine, which will pair well with this dish's herbal and vegetable flavors.  Pinot grigio is a good mainstay, or if you can find it, Fruilano from northern Italy is dry, slightly peppery, and perfect here.

*Use any hard, sharp vegan cheese that grates like Parmesan for this recipe - the strong cheddar from Sheese is one of my favorites.  Or try nutritional yeast if you prefer.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 and 1/3 cups), Calories 356 

Tasting Notes:
One of the most decadently, oil-coated recipes I've eaten in a quite a long time - almost too much so, but in an indulgent, once-in-a-while kind of way.  Between the olive oil and broth coating the pasta, this was creamy and delicious.  I'd use smaller garlic cloves (or simply fewer) next time, since the peppery bite from the arugula is enough without adding the bite of raw garlic.  I also would add cherry or grape tomatoes to freshen the pasta up a bit.  But wonderfully, indulgently yummy.  As I mentioned, a sip of dry white wine pairs so well here I almost couldn't stand it.  Wine + recipe = 5, recipe alone gets slightly lower marks for the reasons stated above.


Vegan Extra:
Pesto is just one use for the fresh basil at your market from now until the end of summer.  Here are a few more of my other favorite ways to enjoy it.

Try it in the French condiment known as pistou. This paste goes particularly well with vegan fish fillets.

Sprinkle a chiffonade of basil over a bowl of soup, particular tomato-based soups.

You can't go wrong, of course, with the classic trio of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella (such as Vegan Gourmet).

And finally, if you're going to stick with pesto, try it in unexpected ways. I love dipping French fries into pesto instead of the more-standard ketchup.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grape Chutney with Grilled Chicken

This chutney makes great use of the juicy fresh grapes at the market this time of year.  Here are some fun grape facts to inspire you: 1 cup of grapes has almost as much fiber as a slice of whole wheat toast, as well as potassium and phytonutrients.  The latter may help prevent cancers and heart disease.  Here, you get a double-dose since resveratrol is found in both the grapes and the red wine in the chutney.  I imagine this chutney would be delicious over other vegan meats like Match pork or beef, but tonight I chose Gardein chicken.

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegan dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried figs
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup halved seedless green grapes
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
  • 4 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. To prepare the chutney, combine the onion, red wine vinegar, red wine, figs, sugar, paprika, ginger, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil; continue to cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in the green and red grapes; reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until thickened to desired consistency - the grapes will still retain some of their shape, but should be tender.  Discard the cinnamon stick at the end.

2. Meanwhile, coat the chicken pieces evenly with the canola oil, and sprinkle evenly with the salt and black pepper.  Grill on an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan for 5 minutes on each side.  Serve with the chutney.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 chicken breast, 1/4 cup chutney), Calories 271 

Tasting Notes:
A wonderful juxtaposition of flavors, between the spicy-sweet chutney and savory grilled chicken.  This chutney is fantastic, much lighter and brighter than many sugary store-bought varieties. The tender sweet grapes were great next to the richness of the dried figs.  The chutney could be even better with a bit more spice (coriander? black peppercorns?) and a bit more savory (perhaps a touch of garlic in addition to the onion).  I'd also use brown sugar instead of regular sugar.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie

It's time to make a filling for the piecrust I prepared on this blog.  In a pinch, use a pre-made frozen pieshell instead (Whole Foods and Wholly Wholesome are two vegan brands to try).  Don't forget this pie will need at least 8 hours to chill, if you're planning to make it for an event.

For the crust:
For the filling:
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the meringue:
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted flaked coconut*
1. Bake the Piecrust according to recipe directions in a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a bowl with the sugar, salt, and 2 Ener-G eggs, stirring with a whisk.

3. Combine the milk and coconut milk in a small, heavy saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat just until bubbles form around the edges, but before the mixture boils.  A candy thermometer is your best bet for accuracy; it should read about 160 degrees.

4. Gradually add the hot milk mixture to the sugar mixture, whisking constantly.  Return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly; it will be very thick and bubbly by the end, and will look much like vanilla pudding at this stage.

5. Spoon the custard into a bowl, and place in a larger bowl filled with ice.  Let stand for about 10 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the bowl of ice, and stir in the coconut and vanilla extracts.

6. Spoon the custard into the chilled pie crust; cover and chill for at least 8 hours, until the filling is firm.

7. Soon before serving, make 3 Ener-G eggs in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer for 12 minutes until stiff peaks form like egg whites.  At the 6 minute mark, gradually add 2/3 cup vegan sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to beat.

8. Spread the meringue over the chilled pie filling, and sprinkle with the coconut. 

9. Transfer the pie to the oven and broil for 1 minute - the meringue topping should be just lightly browned.  Let cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack, at which point the pie is best served immediately.

*Toast the coconut ahead of time in a small skillet over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 wedge), Calories 281 

Tasting Notes:
One taste of this and you will be transported to a tropical island - coconut coconut coconut.  The custard was utterly perfect: exactly the right consistency (like the soy pudding cups I buy at the grocery store), and full of coconut flavor.  The sugary-sweet crust (sweeter than most versions) fits this creamy pie to a T.  The meringue on top was like a big puffy cloud, but I would definitely add more flaked coconut on top, and broil a minute or two longer next time.

My difficulty tonight came not through any fault with this recipe, but because I made the fatal mistake of whipping Ener-G egg replacer on a humid day - and as every meringue chef knows, you quite simply can't whip up egg whites (or fake ones!) on a humid day.  The reason is that most of what you are creating is air, and if the air is wet and heavy, well.... deflation.  I was so dismayed - with a perfect coconut custard chilled and ready to go in my pie crust - to realize the humid evening air wasn't going to cooperate with the recipe as written.  To fix the problem, I whipped up 4 Ener-G eggs instead of 3 for extra volume, and I only used half the sugar called for.  That did the trick, but is the reason the texture of my meringue was not quite as I hoped.  I intend to try this pie again on a nice dry day, and will keep you updated. Oddly enough though, the meringue did seem perfectly sweet enough, so if you are making this on a dry day, you still might want to taste as you go and add anywhere between 1/3 cup and 2/3 cup sugar to taste.


Monday, June 11, 2012


Last year, I had grand plans to make several types of cream pie, but only ended up making one (see my post for Praline Cream Pie).  Boy do I wish I'd forged ahead with others, since the Madagascar vanilla wafers I extolled from Back to Nature for cookie-crumb crusts now no longer appear to be vegan.  The company has switched from evaporated cane juice to cane sugar as a sweetener, and the ever-suspicious 'natural flavoring' has made its way into the ingredients, which I strongly suspect might be butter or milk derived.  I'm awaiting confirmation from the company, but in the meantime, it's summer and I want to make more cream pies.

Enter this piecrust - it's a light, flaky version thanks to the combination of butter and shortening (I use Earth Balance for both), making it just right for a chilled, creamy filling.  Of course, you could use it for fruit pies in the winter too.  Often considered intimidating, pie dough is nothing more than flour, sugar, fat, and ice water, and it takes under half an hour of active time.  So skip the store-bought, and stay tuned because I'll be giving you a cream pie filling (or two) for this crust next.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • Cooking spray
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a bowl with the sugar and salt.

2. Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender, until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Sprinkle with the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, while tossing with a fork.  The mixture should still be somewhat crumbly - you don't want to form a ball.

3. Gently press the dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill for 15 minutes.

4. Place 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap on a slightly damp work surface (making sure the plastic extends at least 14 inches in all directions).  Unwrap the chilled dough and place on the plastic; cover with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap.  Roll, through the plastic, into a 13-inch circle and freeze for 5 minutes.

5. Remove the top sheets of plastic from the dough, and flip over so the remaining plastic is on top.  Fit into a deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Remove the remaining plastic wrap; fold the edges of the crust under, and flute.

Note: I'm still honing my fluting technique, essentially a pinching motion with your fingers around the rim.  Here's a lovely short video explaining it better than I can in words.  Your fluting doesn't need to be perfect, but do make time for this step; rather than being merely decorative, it helps hold the crust up while it bakes.

6. Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

If you're not up for making pie filling, I can think of a few other fun summer-y things to do with this pie crust.  Crumble over vegan vanilla ice cream and sauteed apples for an "apple pie" sundae perhaps.  Or slather with jam and peanut butter for the best snack time pb+j ever.  

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1/10 of the crust), Calories 113 

Tasting Notes:
Pretty much perfect - flaky and tender and nicely buttery.  Just the right hint of sugar made this taste more like a shortbread than a crust, in fact, especially when I topped it with jam.  So good you could practically eat it on its own, but do stay tuned for pie fillings.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grilled Corn and Vidalia Onion Salsa

Nothing says summer quite like fresh corn on the cob; just the sight of it brings me back to the days my mom would send my sister and I outside with a brown paper bag to shuck away the husks and silky strands on the back porch.  You can't go wrong eating straight from the cob of course, but for a little variety, try this salsa.  I grill on my countertop Griddler (some day I'll have a back patio and grill...) but you could also broil the corn for the same amount of time.

  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 Vidalia onion
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 and 1/4 cups seeded and chopped yellow tomato
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Grill (or broil) the corn for 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so until lightly browned on all sides.  Let cool, then cut the kernels away from the cobs.

Note: Fresh corn can vary greatly in size of course, but the 4 ears should work out to about 3 cups of kernels.

2. Cut the onion into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Coat the grill with cooking spray and add the onion slices; cook for 5 minutes on each side.  Let cool and chop.

3. Combine the corn kernels and onion in a bowl with all the remaining ingredients.  You can make this salsa ahead in a pinch.  Serve with homemade tortilla chips (cut fresh tortillas into wedges and bake).  Or for a great summer dinner, try it over the vegan fish fillets from Sophie's Kitchen.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup), Calories 102 

Tasting Notes:
Fresh as can be.  The corn, onion, and cilantro flavors were strongest, so I wished there was more yellow tomato, but that's pretty much my only complaint.  A nice bit of tang from the rice vinegar. The salsa is not at all spicy, so you might consider adding 1 jalapeno pepper.