October 19th, 2009

V'Con Pumpkin Baked Ziti

I'm having some people over for dinner next week and wanted to make the pumpkin baked ziti from V'Con because I've got tons of pumpkin to use up and it seemed like a nice seasonal dish, especially given the weather we're having. However, I've never made it before because I just got V'Con and had a couple of questions.

1. Is this something I can make ahead in the morning and stick in the fridge, throwing it in the oven once they get here or would it be best to assemble it once they were here or at least close?

2. Is the tofu taste prevelent or does it get masked by the other flavors? The only reason I'm asking is because I'm cooking for omni's and I'm fairly certain none of them have ever eaten tofu before and think of it as one of those weird health foods that I eat.

Thanks

White Acorn Squash & Apple Soup

I got a white acorn squash at the farmer's market almost two weeks ago. It was definitely an impulse buy; but in my defense; one of the farmer's had various hard squashes for a dollar each-regardless of size or weight. I hope that means you can understand how I ended up with butternut, spaghetti, white acorn, delicata and red kuri squashes sitting on my counter. Oh, and a pie pumpkin too.

I've always loved the combination of squash and apples in soups; so I had to make my own variation of the squash-apple combo.

Ingredients:

1 large white acorn squash (about 1.25-1.5 lbs)

2 small or one large ginger gold apple(s), cored & chopped

1/2 c chopped onion

2 1/2 c vegetable stock

2/3 c sweet white wine (I used Riesling and I highly recommend it) I used this brand.

2 T fresh chopped ginger

salt/pepper (optional)


Cut acorn squash in half, de-seed, and steam cut side down for 10-12 minutes. While the squash cools enough to work with; core and chop your apples and chop your onion. Heat onion and apples in 1/2 c vegetable stock for about 12 minutes. While these things heat and fill your house with the smell of Thanksgiving, scoop the squash out of it's peeling and set aside. Once your apples and onions are soft, add squash, ginger, wine and the remainder of your stock. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

At this point you have two options: the lazy delicious option, or the 'company is going to eat this' option. If the soup is for you, I suggest eating it as is, chunky and delicious. If the soup is for company; I suggest strainging out the apple peels and using an immersion blender to puree the soup. Personally- I love the chunks of apples and onions in the soup, but if I was trying to persuade someone to eat my "evil" vegan soup; I'd puree it and make it pretty, then serve the soup with plain yogurt and a couple small pieces of raw apple for garnish.

This is the first pot of soup I've made in a while and it was the perfect amount for 4 people to have a normal sized bowl of soup. I generally find that I make way more soup than can be consumed before it's bad-but not with this recipe.

I want my (u)mami

So, for nearly four months I've been cooking and eating vegan. I'm mostly happy with my options, but there's one stumbling block I haven't gotten over and that's the tendency of vegan recipes and foods to be sweeter than I want them to be. I like a dessert now and then, I live for sweet potatoes in the fall, I sweeten my oatmeal in the morning, and fruit is part of my diet, but my favorite flavor is salty and/or umami and I'd rather not have a meal without one or both. And I'm worried about burning out on soy. When my stomach pouts at the thought of another cup of miso or more tempeh, I'm inclined to listen. I've been particularly disappointed by the taste of cooked soy sauce/Bragg's.

So this post is a two-part request:
  1. Tell me your favorite vegan umami foods and/or ingredients that don't involve soy, and how you use them; tips for using nooch and seaweeds are particularly welcome.
  2. What is your favorite vegan broth, from scratch or from powder (I live in the US), that's not sweet? I used some Trader Joe's vegetarian broth concentrate over the weekend and it tasted awful to me, like watered-down molasses. I've been wanting to experiment with making stock out of mushrooms, celery, and other non-root vegetables, but I'd be grateful for any tips from someone who has gone that way before.
Thanks in advance!