Neither godlike nor debaucherous, this meal’s half comfort food and half wholesomeness. It’s a perfectly simple meal, good for a weeknight, and surprisingly quick despite the many parts. If you’re making the seitan from scratch, it will need an hour and a half cooking time but the active time is minimal. I used the first hour to cozy up and read the paper – the meal prep only requires the last half hour of cooking time. This dish is inspired by a recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.
Adapted from a recipe from my good friends LJ and Nora
This recipe is baked in the oven with the rolled-out seitan pieces in a roasting pan swimming in broth, most of which is absorbed during cooking.
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbspchickpea flour
2 tbsp soy flour
1 clove garlic, minced
a few dashes of garlic powder
a few twists of freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable broth
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
a few dashes onion powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven to 300˚.
For seitan dough, combine all dry ingredients and garlic in a bowl. Mix well, then create a well in the middle of the bowl. Pout the broth and oil in the well, then mix to combine. Knead a few times with your hands, then divide dough into four balls. Roll out each ball to about 1/4 inch thick. No need for perfect rounds.
Mix together all cooking broth ingredients in an 8×8″ pan, then arrange four cutlets in the pan. They can touch, and even slightly overlap if needed.
Bake for 1 hour, covered in foil. Remove from oven and let sit in foil for half an hour or so until you’re ready to sauté.
Increase the oven temperature to 450˚. Depending on the type of tomatoes you’re using, either keep whole or cut in half. I used campari tomatoes and cut them in half, but cherry or grape tomatoes would work too. Drizzle olive oil over top as well as some coarse sea salt and pepper. Bake until starting to soften, then broil briefly. If the rest of the dish isn’t ready, turn off the oven and let the tomatoes sit inside.
3 cloves garlic, slivered lengthwise into rounds
2 shallots, cut lengthwise to create some slivers and some rounds
1 head broccoli, chopped
2 seitan cutlets (you will have 2 cutlets leftover if using recipe above) – cut into cubes
handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped
handful of cilantro
olive oil for frying
It’s best if you can use a cast-iron or non-stick pan for this, otherwise the seitan might stick. With olive oil in the bottom of the pan and heat on medium, fry cubes of seitan on two sides, allowing it to brown. When fried, place in a bowl but do not cover (otherwise the cubes will lose their crispiness).
With the pan still hot, add a bit of oil if needed, and sauté the shallots and garlic until starting to soften. Add the broccoli and cook with lid on, stirring often, until the broccoli is soft. Add the seitan cubes and stir for about a minute to reheat.
To serve, add roasted tomatoes, cilantro, walnuts, and a few sprinkles of sea salt.
This is a very adaptable dish and any kind of seasoning can be added, though in my opinion, it’s not needed. If using as a side dish to accompany other items, you can flavour it to match. It would be good with turmeric and cumin, or with thyme and lemon zest.
In early August, I had my first experience of Plum, the fabulous Seattle vegan restaurant. I had never heard of Plum until some Amazon browsing brought me to their new cookbook. I was so excited about the look of the cookbook and the food that I bought the cookbook before ever visiting the restaurant. Now having eaten at Plum and cooked from the book, I can fully vouch for both.
Anyone who knows Plum also knows their classic dish: Mac’n'Yease (a vegan macaroni and cheese). I am not one of these in-the-know folks, but luckily I had my friend LJ there to fill me in on its infamy. In fact, it’s such a well-known Plum specialty that they don’t even give away the recipe in the cookbook…which led to this weekend’s culinary adventure. LJ and I, who had brainstormed the recipe together, made it as a special treat for our double-header movie night. But I’m a Cheerleader and D.E.B.S with Mac’n'Yease – paradise!
To try to replicate the Mac’n'Yease, we focused on three foundations: method of cooking (pan seared), spices and flavours (thyme, oregano, coriander, white pepper), and base. The flavours bit was the most fun: four of us at the dinner table brainstormed flavours in the restaurant as we were splitting the dish. Hélène was super helpful in negative flavour identification: she helped us eliminate a few ideas (like tarragon) because she dislikes the flavours so much she said she would have tasted them for sure!
Having the Plum cookbook was hugely helpful for the base element: because this is a restaurant cookbook, many of the recipes rely on bases that the restaurant clearly prepares in advance and uses in many of their recipes. One of these bases was savoury cream, an emulsion of non-dairy milk and oil, thickened/curdled with apple cider vinegar. Its consistency was perfect in our replication, even if we can never verify the ‘true’ Mac’n'Yease method.
Regardless of whether or not you know the original, this vegan mac is a lovely dish that’s equal parts interesting flavours and textures, and plain old comfort food.
Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
Based on Plum Bistro’s Mac’n'Yease
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (we used almond)
1 cup oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Pour the milk into a blender or food processor. With the mixture running, slowly pour in the oil so it emulsifies. Once combined, pour mixture into a bowl, stir in the apple cider vinegar and let sit. The mixture will thicken slightly. Mix in the minced garlic and set aside. If the mixture starts to separate, whisk again to recombine.
1/2 white onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 package (~8 oz) soft tofu
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
8-10 white peppercorns, crushed into a fine powder
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Puree the onion and garlic in a food processor until the pieces are quite small. Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a pan on medium heat and add pureed mixture once the oil is hot. Watch carefully and stir often – the onion pieces should soften but not brown. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the remainder of the ingredients and taste. The flavour should be strong (to compensate for the addition of the savoury cream) but the balance should be to your taste.
Boil 1 1/2 cups of macaroni, allowing the pasta to cook through. Strain, then transfer to a bowl. Combine tofu mixture, macaroni, and 1/2 to 1 cup of savoury cream. Heat the largest pan you have on medium-high heat and when drops of water spit and evaporate in the pan, pour the entire macaroni and cheese mixture in, spreading it out in the pan to maximize surface area. Do not stir! Every couple of minutes, check a small section with a spatula – once the macaroni has seared on the bottom and become quite brown without burning, the dish is ready. Use a hard spatula to remove the pasta from the pan to preserve the delicious browned bits.
This almond tart is gorgeous, with flaky puff pastry and just-crackling browned almond filling. But it has a “heart of darkness” secret: dark chocolate and raspberry! It has a lot of parts but isn’t as complicated as it seems. The only pieces of special equipment I used were silicone muffin cups (to make removing the tarts easier) and two sizes of cookie cutters with ruffled edges.
3 cups (15 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
1½ cups (24 tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
½ cup plus 1 tbsp. ice water
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup almond powder
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp almond extract
Lightly beaten egg white
You can buy prepared puff pastry, but I’ve been a little disappointed lately. I think (obnoxiously) it’s because of my puff pastry experience in France – they have cheap all-butter puff pastry with no additives at every grocery store. Here, I haven’t really been able to find the same thing, especially for a good price. So I’ve been making my own from a recipe from Annie’s Eats. It uses a food processor and has helpful instructions for folding the dough to create the flaky puff pastry layers. The link is here. I make a whole recipe and freeze half.
In a food processor, blend almond powder, sugar and butter until combined. Divide the lightly beaten egg white in half – save or discard one half and add almond extract to the other half. Add this half to the almond mixture and pulse a few times.
Roll out puff pastry to 1/4 inch thick. Using 3.5″ and 1″ cookie cutters, cut out 4-6 rounds of each, depending on how many tarts you want. Lightly press the larger rounds into silicone muffin cups.
In the centre, drop in one large dollop of chocolate sauce then one large dollop of jam, ensuring that your fillings won’t overflow the edges.
Scoop out a heaping tbsp of almond paste and shape into a flat round the size of the inner circle of the puff pastry. Place gently over top of the jam, making sure the almond paste round touches or nearly touches the puff pastry sides – it will expand and puff a bit when baked.
Press one whole almond into each of the small rounds of puff pastry (do this on your hard surface so you can make sure the almond will stick) then place the small round on top of the almond paste.
Bake at 375˚ until the almond paste begins to brown and the puff pastry looks flaky, about 15-20 minutes.
The centre fillings are quite gooey and drippy when warm, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I’m strange, and like all my baked goods cool so I waited about an hour before eating.
This salad is crunchy and fresh with creamy avocado and tahini dressing for balance. It used mostly CSA ingredients, with the avocado for a treat! The tahini dressing is from the River Cottage Veg cookbook – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall uses the dressing on a salad with green beans and zucchini, which is also delicious. I’ve been making big jars of that dressing and putting it on almost everything!
One bunch of kale
A large wedge of a purple cabbage
One large apple
Adapted from River Cottage Veg
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp tahini
zest and juice 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Cut the stalks out of the kale leaves, then finely ribbon the kale. Very finely chop the cabbage, with pieces about 3 inches long (cut the long strips in half if they’re much too long). Quarter the apple, then cut into thin pieces. For the avocado, cut in half, then make a line in each half lengthwise. Then make many cuts perpendicularly and scoop out each half.
In a small jar, combine all ingredients for the dressing then shake vigorously. Or, combine garlic, honey and 1 tbsp oil in a bowl, whisk with a fork until combined, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then toss with the tahini dressing. This salad can sit for up to an hour in the fridge before serving, and actually gets a little better after at least 20 minutes.
Ever since Hélène got me a KitchenAid ice cream attachment, I have been making a ton of ice cream and using a ton of egg yolks. My freezer is already full enough with ice cream and now it’s been increasingly piling up with small tupperwares of egg whites! #problems
I got a bit ambitious and thought I’d make five egg whites’ worth of meringues. OH MAN that’s a lot. I really recommend three at most, unless you’re feeding a baseball team, which I resorted too after I ended up with the most meringues ever. Luckily, Hélène’s parents were also visiting and were happy to help with the extras. It did help that I made three kinds, so it felt like I was mixing it up a little.
Meringues: Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Violet
Egg whites (as many as you think you can handle)
1/4 cup sugar per egg white
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cocoa powder per egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder per egg white
1/8 tsp violet extract per egg white
Beat the egg whites with whisk or in a stand mixer until frothy. Add a pinch of salt then continue to beat until very soft peaks form. Add a third of the sugar, beat until incorporated, then add the other two thirds separately, beating to mix in thoroughly. Continue to beat the egg whites until you have very stiff peaks. The egg whites should look glossy. I tend to go until I think they might be ready and then do another 30 seconds at least, since I always underestimate!
Divide the meringues into as many bowls as you want flavours, then add whatever you like to each bowl. Incorporate by whisking and make sure the stiff peaks remain.
Preheat oven to 175˚. You can either make large meringues by dolloping spoonfuls onto a pan with parchment paper, or use a pastry bag/tool to pipe small rounds. I did a combination of both, because it was TOO MUCH piping five egg whites of meringues.
The meringues will need to bake for about an hour and a half, the smaller ones possibly for less time. It really depends on whether the temperature in your oven is constant and accurate. I have a gas oven, so mine was neither, but it was pretty easy to tell when the meringues were ready – I employed the tasting method! They will brown very slightly but should not brown much. The goal is essentially to dry them out.
Enjoy as a dessert with tea, as a snack with berries, or on the baseball field after a crushing loss! I enjoyed them in all three of these contexts.
Mint should be the easiest thing to grow and I always see these giant bushes of it all over Vancouver. My mint is seriously sad in comparison but I managed to harvest just enough for a pint of mint ice cream for Hélène’s birthday. That actually is pretty impressive given that at the beginning of this season, I took some years-old scraggly mint springs, pulled them out by the roots and replanted them with hardly any root system intact. Mint is as hardy as everyone else’s gardens suggest but I think that even though my mint did a pretty good bounce-back, I might just start fresh next year… and then make ALL THE MINT ICE CREAM.
Mint Ice Cream with Stracciatella
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
1 cup whole cream
1/2 cup homo milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh mint
pinch of salt
2 ounces chocolate
In a saucepan, heat 1/2 cup cream, milk, salt, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add mint leaves and let rest for an hour or more.
Lightly beat egg yolks in a large bowl. Strain, then rewarm milk/cream/sugar mixture then slowly pour into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
Add this new mixture back into the saucepan and heat on medium until the mixture thickens and coats a spoon. Add the remaining 1/2 cup cream and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold.
Pour into an ice cream churner and mix until it has the consistency of soft serve. Melt chocolate on the stove on very low heat. With ice cream still churning (if possible), drizzle melted chocolate in a thin stream into the ice cream mixture. It will crackle into tiny hard pieces. If you can’t do this, and honestly, I haven’t perfected it, you can pour the chocolate in and mix with a metal spoon. Or, you can put about a third of the ice cream into the container, drizzle a third of the chocolate on top in vertical and horizontal lines. Repeat two more times, finishing with drizzled chocolate on top. Beautiful presentation!
We served the mint ice cream with one square of mint chocolate from Theo, an organic chocolate company that we visited in Seattle last week. The chocolate is DELICIOUS and is now being sold in Whole Foods in Vancouver, though thanks to Hélène’s expert chocolate shopping at Theo’s shop, we won’t have to worry about acquiring more anytime soon!
This weekend, I briefly entertained the idea of quitting nursing and starting a small buttery. St. Malo, a small town in Brittany, France, has a fabulous artisan butter shop called Le Beurre Bordier. They make plain and flavoured butters and sell cheese. So perfect! Erin and I, who made this butter together, dream of our own version: Urban Churn in the heart of Vancouver! Unfortunately, it would really just be two KitchenAids secretly running in the back and perhaps not as romanticized as the name suggests. Nursing it is, for now.
Whatever your profession though, or your commitment level to homemade goods, this butter is easily achievable (mostly if you or a friend has a KitchenAid). It’s super delicious and you get buttermilk out of it as well! We made biscuits “from extra scratch” using the buttermilk and butter and they were delightful, especially spread with more of the homemade butter! It may all seem like overkill at first, but you won’t be saying that once you taste these beauties. And the pride!! Erin and I have been talking about our butter for days with everyone we come across.
Adapted from The Guardian’s butter recipe, makes about 1.5 pounds of butter and 1 litre of buttermilk
2 litres whole cream (whipping cream)
Special Equipment: KitchenAid with whisk attachment
Pour cream into the KitchenAid and whisk on medium (we did speed 6) for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it: it will bulk up a bit as it turns into whipped cream, then as you continue to mix the fat will start to separate out and the cream will look kind of “chunky”. It’s gross. Go a little further until you see little bits of butter floating in a milky liquid. I sincerely hope you have a splash screen. I knew that my mixture was ready when a giant splash of liquidy butter globules came flying out onto my fridge.
Prepare a sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth over a very large pot or bowl. Pour your entire mixture through the cheesecloth, reserving the butter and allowing the buttermilk to drain into the bowl. Squeeze the cheesecloth to get out more of the buttermilk. If you still feel you have a lot of buttermilk in there, you can put the butter back in the KitchenAid, mix for about 30 seconds, and then put it back in the cheesecloth. We did this and it basically achieved nothing, since Erin’s squeezing was so effective. So you can go straight to the next step.
Clean your mixing bowl, then fill a few inches deep with VERY cold water – we even added some ice, because our butter was getting a bit soft. Make sure the water can just cover your butter mound. Put your butter in the cold water, let sit for about 30 seconds, then knead/squish the butter with your hands just above the bowl. You’ll see beads of cloudy water emerging from the fat of the butter – this is extra buttermilk that you don’t want in your butter! It will make it spoil faster. When the butter gets too soft, put back in the cold water for 30 seconds. Change your water often so it stays cold. During this stage, you’re also checking the water (both in the bowl and the water emerging from the butter) to see how cloudy it is. Once the water starts to look clear, you’re ready. We didn’t do perfectly in this stage, but we forged ahead anyway (and froze the butter we weren’t going to use immediately).
At this point, unless you’re more expert than us, your butter will probably be quite soft. Place the whole mound on parchment paper and get ready with a spatula for scraping up what sticks. Divide the butter into 4-6 pieces and wrap in wax paper or parchment paper. We weren’t actually able to wrap at this stage, so we put the butter mounds in the fridge for half an hour to harden.
Using whatever you have – wooden spoons, hands, etc, shape the butter however you like – we attempted rectangles, like american butter sticks, and got sort of rounded oval-ish pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It’s all in the taste.
Refrigerate and/or freeze the butter, as well as the buttermilk.
Buttermilk Biscuits, Two Ways
Erin and I made these biscuits during a break between softball games in our weekend-long finals tournament. They REALLY hit the spot and would be perfect for any meal: breakfast, lunch with a cheese plate, or as a side at dinner. We made half with cheddar and green onions, and the other half with freshly picked blackberries (which are officially a weed in Vancouver – best! city! ever!). We joked that these biscuits really are “from extra scratch” and we could basically only one-up this situation by grinding our own flour…it’s a slippery slope from KitchenAid butter to Vitamix flour!
Recipe adapted from Southern Buttermilk Biscuits on food.com
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
85 grams (or 6 tbsp) butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely grated aged cheddar cheese (we used the small grater)
1/2 cup blackberries, mixed with 1 tbsp sugar (let sit for 5-10 minutes)
You can do this in the food processor, or by hand with a pastry cutter (or two knives held together). Mix the dry ingredients together. Add 1-inch squares of butter, cutting them in until you get pea-sized butter pieces and an overall crumbly mix. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined (don’t over mix – you want the biscuits to be light).
At this point, divide the mixture into two bowls, if you plan on making both types of biscuits. In one bowl, add the scallions and cheese and give a few stirs to combine. In the other bowl, add the blackberries (minus the juice at the bottom of the bowl). The blackberry mixture will seem like a bit of a mess – very watery/juicy and not very well combined. My advice is to not try too hard to mix in the berries. It’s best if some of the dough is left as is/plain so that it keeps its flakiness and lightness. It will all sort itself out in the oven.
The dough will be quite sticky so generously sprinkle your countertop with flour, then sprinkle more flour on top of your dough. Roll out to about 3/4 inch thick, then cut into squares or use a glass to make circles for the classic look! Bake at 450˚ for about 10 minutes.
The cheddar scallion ones will rise beautifully and beg to be pulled apart and spread with your homemade butter. The blackberry ones will look a little more like round scones but be just as delicious. They’re amazing with brie.