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January 1, 2014

A Healthy Feast For the Gods (or Goddesses, or Regular People): A Big Vegan Celebration.

Well, it’s officially 2014.

If you’re vegan, you’ve probably spent the end of 2013 dancing around uncomfortable conversations about why you’re passing on that prime rib and what that icky face you just made when you saw the turkey being stuffed was for.

After all the brouhaha, I like to ring in the new year with a festive get together at my own place, with my own vegan menu and let the chips fall where they may. I do not make any concessions to my carnivorous guests at this particular meal. My non-vegan husband is always astonished at the enthusiasm with which the food is received.

Last night, I proved to him, once again, that vegan cooking is lush, celebratory, and decadent while also being kind, healthy and most important, nom nom.

This is what I served.

Appetizers

Warm Olives with Rosemary

Simplest appetizer ever (I think I stole this from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa); just buy some good olives—I like big Italian boys with the pits still in—put them in a small roasting pan with their oil, sprinkle fresh chopped rosemary on top, and heat though in the oven.

Seeded Boule With Olive Oil and Dukkha (a spice mixture the name of which also means “suffering” in Sanskrit. Ironic because, believe me, no one who is eating this is suffering in the least)

I don’t actually cook the boule or make the dukkha, but only because there are so many other things on the menu. For this meal, I buy both at Trader Joe’s. I toast the bread and put out dishes of olive oil with a couple tablespoons of dukkha tossed in.

Tyrolian Mushroom Tartar

Easy, exotic, raw and quick; your guests will be talking about this unusual starter for years to come.

12 shitake mushroom caps

1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted or raw

2 t/l fresh parsley

1/2 tsp fresh ginger

2 tbl tamari

Place all ingredients except tamari in food processor and pulse lightly. Put on a plate and drizzle with tamari. Serve with any kind of crackers or bread.

Spiced Peaches

My grandmother’s recipe. This is simple and classic, and you can (and should) make it up to a month ahead of the meal. The longer these peaches sit in their bath of cloves and cinnamon, the deeper and more succulent the flavor becomes.

2 cans cling peach halves

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

4 three inch sticks of cinnamon

2 tsp whole cloves

Strain peaches and save syrup. Put syrup, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon and cloves in a large saucepan and bring to boiling. Lower to simmer, stir occasionally for 10 minutes. Put peaches in syrup and let them cool. When cool, put peaches in airtight container with more cinnamon sticks and cloves and store in the fridge at least overnight and up to one month.

Moroccan Stew with Toasted Pita Bread

This is a really versatile stew, into which you can incorporate just about any old vegetable you have laying around your crisper. The important piece is the broth, which is homey and unique all at the same time with it’s combination of cumin, cinnamon and smoked paprika.

The spices here echo the spices in the peaches and the butternut squash, tying everything together beautifully. Also, you can make it a day or two in advance—just leave out any quick cooking veggies and add them at the last minute— which keeps you from running around like a lunatic when you really should be putting on some lipstick.

I buy the pita bread from a Greek produce store, but you can find it anywhere. I cut it into triangles and set it for one minute a side on the open flame of my stove until the edges burn a bit.

Following is my favorite way to pull this together.

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 lbs shitake mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in 1 t/l olive oil with a dash of salt until juices release, 5 minutes

3-4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 cups peas, either frozen or English green peas

2 cans chick peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

6 cups any kind of baby green; spinach, kale or collard are all good

6 parsnips, peeled and chopped

4-10 cups veggie broth, depending on how broth you like it. Add more if desired.

2 tbl veggie bouillon (optional; I like Better Than Bouillon)

2 bay leaves

4 tsp paprika

4 tsp cumin

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tbl olive oil

Saute celery, onion and garlic with a dash of salt in olive oil until soft, 5 minutes or so. Add spices (except bay leaves) and sauté one more minute. Add broth, bouillon, and bay leaves and stir well, bringing up to a boil. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, apricots and chick peas bring back to boil and simmer 15 minutes or until veggies are soft. Add peas and greens and cook 3-4 more minutes until peas are bright green and greens are wilted. Serve topped with fresh cilantro and Srircha hot sauce if desired.

Apple and Beet Salad with Fennel Seed

2 lbs. beets, prepared (Cut off tops and bottoms of beets and put in boiling water until fork tender, half an hour to 45 minutes depending on size of beets)

1 apple, any kind, peeled and chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 tsp fennel seeds

1 tbl balsamic vinegar

1 tbl honey

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well and chill for at least an hour. Can make one day in advance.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash With Smoked Paprika

1 large or two small butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces.

2 tbl olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbl smoked paprika

Place squash on baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over squash and massage in. Top with seasonings. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1/2 hour or until soft with brown edges, turning squash every 10 minutes or so.

 

Haricot Vert with Pecans

1 cup pecans, toasted. (To toast, heat a dry pan and toss pecans in, stirring constantly until fragrant, just a few minutes.)

1 lbs haricot vert, ends snipped is desired

6 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)

1 tbl olive oil

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Put beans and garlic in a roasting pan in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and massage. Add seasonings and pecans. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

 

Sister’s Avocado Dream Pie

This simple, raw recipe was handed over to me by my sister; a brave and creative soul in the kitchen. It’s so unusual, so chock full of nutrition and so delicious, you’ll wonder why you ever baked a pie.

For crust:

5 large dates, soaked for at least an hour up to overnight, then drained

1/2 banana

1 cup walnuts or pecans

1/4 cup raw coconut

Puree all ingredients and pat firmly into a greased pie plate.

For filling:

3 ripe avocados

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

4 tsp coconut oil

Process all ingredients until smooth. Pour into crust and top with fresh fruit, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or slivered chocolate. Place in fridge at least 2 hours until it firms up.

 

Chia Seed Pudding with Nutmeg and Fresh Raspberries

Chia seed pudding has a similar texture to tapioca pudding, but without the butter and cow’s milk. I fancy it up by topping with fresh raspberries, a drizzle of honey and an extra sprinkle of nutmeg.

4 cups sweetened almond or coconut milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg + more for topping

8 tbl chia seeds

2 tbl + more to taste honey if desired

fresh raspberries or any fruit you like for topping

Mix all ingredients in an airtight container, close and shake well. Shake every 10 minutes very well for one hour. Refrigerate for 6 -24 hours and up to 1 week.

 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

 

 

 

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