easy winter squash sauce, two ways

Yes, more squash. I like to think of my current fixation on it as dedication to efficiency, not lack of imagination. It’s not even in my top-5 favourite vegetables. But cutting a squash in half and sticking it in the oven for an hour to get 8-10 servings of veg is a pretty good prep-to-payoff ratio. I can easily kill an hour processing vegetables for a dinner with friends. Bypassing some of that nonsense is kinder to my hands.  It’s also 76 cents a pound right now, and moving is expensive, folks. So, winning all around.

This recipe only requires cutting your squash in half or quarters. Most recipes require quite a bit more prep, however, and that can be a daunting prospect. Peeling and chopping squash objectively sucks, I highly recommend you just don’t do it. But how else am I supposed to get to that delicious squashy goodness, you may ask. Well, here you go:

  1. Buy it pre-chopped and peeled, either frozen or fresh, if you can afford to.
  2. Pick a softer, hollower squash that doesn’t require peeling, like Delicata. Acorn is fine but unwieldy and getting it out of the skin, even when roasted whole, is obnoxious.
  3. Invite someone who is trying to impress you over for dinner and get them to do it.
  4. Pick a squash whose narrowest part is smaller than your biggest knife. Never make a cut longer than the length of your knife unless you know what you are doing, you have recently sharpened your knife, and you are extremely confident in your grip strength as it pertains to deadly weapons.
  5. Smashing a squash against the sidewalk is a totally legit way to crack it open. Just rinse it off after. The sidewalk, and the squash.
  6. Use a sharp peeler that pulls vertically, not horizontally. You want to use your larger muscle groups in cooking as much as possible to avoid strain.
  7. If you can afford it, use tinned pureed pumpkin or butternut squash. It’s perfectly fine for these recipes.
  8. Roast your squash cut side down in a couple inches of water in a deep baking tray, or cut side up and rubbed in a bit of oil. Either way, generously line your pan with foil so you don’t have to wash it. I usually do a 400 degree oven and start checking for doneness at the 45 minute mark. You want to bake it until your butter knife slides through the thickest part of the squash like… butter. Let it cool for a bit before scooping the squash out of the skin so you don’t burn your sweet self.

Keeping with the theme of flavour groupings, these two recipes start with a roasted squash that you puree into a sauce, but they taste wildly different. They both have miso, and a wine of sorts. But while the pasta sauce is creamy, cheesy and delicately herbed, the soba noodle sauce is gingery-sweet with mirin and a lot more miso to balance the heat. One baked butternut squash is enough for both sauces, so while your blender is out, go ahead and make both. Freeze one, or use them both over different meals in the same week.

squash

Miso Ginger Butternut sauce with broad rice noodles and grilled asparagus. It is way tastier than it looks, I promise.

Butternut Alfredo Sauce
Inspired by Isa Does It, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
1/2 c cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours (or 2 tbsp cashew butter (preferably raw) blended into 1/3 c water)
1 1/2 c strong vegetable broth (I like a leek-heavy one for this)
1 1/2 c roasted winter squash
2 tbsp white miso
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 smallish clove of garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp dried sage and/or thyme and/or tarragon
White pepper, if you have it. If not, use whatever. If you’re feeling French, grate in the tiniest smidge of fresh nutmeg.
1/4 c dry white wine (I like a dry, oaky chardonnay for this)

Blend the cashews/ cashew butter into the broth. If your blender sucks, start with less broth and add slowly. It is easier to blend smoothly into the least amount of liquid possible. Scrape down the sides as needed. Don’t stress, you got this. Add all the other ingredients and blend away until perfectly smooth or you get tired of fighting with your blender, whichever comes first. Ta da. No need to cook really, if you’re serving this with pasta or gnocchi just toss it back into the pot after you’ve drained it and stir in the sauce. The residual heat will be enough to warm the sauce for serving. Probably eat a green vegetable, while you’re at it. A side of garlicky sauteed chard is nice.

Miso/ Ginger Butternut Sauce

2 c roasted winter squash
1/3-1/2 c white miso
1/4 c good, strong mirin
1/4 c olive oil
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1.5 tbps grated fresh ginger
1 clove pressed garlic
Optional: if you’re digging the dragon sauce vibes here and want a typical dragon sauce with a squash base, add a tbsp each tahini and maple syrup, and 3 tbsp nutritional yeast. Should be about perfect.

Blend everything in the blender. It should be easy peasy. Toss with hot soba or rice noodles. I served it with grilled asparagus, sesame seeds, and some sliced cilantro and scallion. But whatever, it can carry it’s own weight on the plate. Steamed bok choy in lemon and tamari would be good, too.

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soup weather

Autumn came suddenly the day of our move. It had been 25+ degrees of sweltering, humid July weather up until then. A violent storm took out the last of summer and it has been scarves and boots weather since- perfect for nesting.

My new roomie comes with a 9-month-old sourdough starter, and nothing inspires soup like some good, fresh bread to go with it. So when she suggested we try this butternut squash and fennel soup with miso (from Kale & Caramel), it was an easy sell. I had a hard time imagining how fennel and miso would taste together. They are two key ingredients I work with all the time, but in very different cuisines. Fennel is for salads and crunch, subtle sweetness and green, herbaceous notes that cut through salty, fatty, smoky things. Miso is for adding a tang of fermentation and umami depth to more neutral grains and beans, complementing earthy mushrooms and offsetting sticky-sweet glazes. They both have such strong personalities that they make unlikely bedfellows.

But it was her turn to cook, and I haven’t met a squash I didn’t like. So we gave it a whirl. Together, I discovered, miso and fennel offer a unique balance of flavours that make the sometimes unctuousness of butternut squash sing. Instead of cloying, as squash soups with sweeter flavours from apple and cinnamon sometimes are, this one is purely savoury. Try it on your squash-hating friends, you can blame me if they don’t like it.

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Fennel Butternut Squash Miso Soup With Toasted Seeds
Serves 3-4
from Lily Diamond’s Kale & Caramel

For the soup:
3 cups roasted or steamed butternut squash (canned is also fine)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, washed and sliced, plus
¼ cup minced fennel fronds for garnish
¼ cup olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for garnish
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons miso paste

For the seeds:
1 teaspoon raw virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
Flaky sea salt
Coconut milk or plain yogurt, for drizzling
MAKE THE SOUP
Puree the squash in a food processor or blender until completely smooth. Set aside.

Place the onion and sliced fennel in a stockpot or large saucepan with the oil, salt,cayenne, and coriander. Sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently,then reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel soften and begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the squash and cook for another 5 minutes.Then add the coconut milk and broth and stir to incorporate fully, increasing the heat to medium. Put on the lid and cook for another 5 minutes, then scoop 1 cup of the liquid (not the onion and fennel) into a bowl.Whisk in the miso, until most clumps are gone. Return the mixture to the pot, reduce the heat to low, and stir to combine. Replace the lid and cook for another 5 minutes.

Transfer to a blender and blend at medium speed until the soup is mostly pureed, with some texture left. Return the soup to the pot and cover.

MAKE THE TOASTED SEEDS
Place the coconut oil in a small frying pan and melt over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan. Add the sesame and fennel seeds and a sprinkle of salt. Use a spatula to coat the seeds with the oil and let them toast for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. If they start to brown too quickly, remove from the heat. Transfer to a small bowl.

SERVE THE SOUP
Top the soup with a drizzle of coconut milk, the minced fennel fronds, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, and cayenne and salt to taste.

hello.

I have sometimes used this place for cataloguing recipes, mostly for the purpose of sharing them with friends. I am going to be doing a bit more of that, but also just sharing things I eat and interesting food stuff generally. It’s Thanksgiving month here in Canada, which is a pretty excellent holiday for food. There will be a bit of that, a bit of everyday life in Montreal, and then some vegan-in-Amsterdam adventures later in the month.

I just moved to a new apartment with a new roommate in the Plateau area of Montreal. It’s a gorgeous, century-old home, and accidental-landlord/ astrophysicist who lives downstairs used to run it as a B&B. Like, a real one. So, the kitchen is quite serviceable for an older building.

I am still figuring out where the best fruiteries and boulangeries are, but I found a solid grocer nearby who has an excellent selection of vegan staples. We went for our first shop on Sunday and picked up ingredients for Mapo Tofu. This was our first proper meal and we cooked while unpacking the kitchen. By the time we sat down to eat we were wiped. Moving is hard, folks.

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Mapo Tofu

This recipe was introduced to me via a scrawled note in an ancient folder that I discovered at work. I have no idea if it is anything like other Mapo Tofu but it’s delicious either way. At its most basic level, Mapo Tofu is firm tofu and ground round/ veggie crumbles in a savoury sauce with the fermented tang of douchi and garlic chili paste. If you don’t have douchi, try the darkest miso you can find. Serve it over nice fat rice noodles or a short grain rice. This version includes veggies, because I care about your micronutrient intake. ❤

Serves 6. Prep time: 30 mins

1 block extra firm tofu, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 package of veggie ground round
1 big yellow onion, chopped
1 small pack of mushrooms, sliced
1 medium head of bok choy, sliced in 1-inch strips
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, shredded
neutral oil for cooking

For the sauce:
2-3 tbsp douchi, soaked 20 mins, rinsed, and chopped
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp garlic chili paste
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup of water

  • Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook til just starting to turn golden.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook a few more minutes until they are a bit drier and starting to sear.
  • Add all the remaining vegetables, mixing thoroughly. Cook til the bok choy is just starting to wilt.
  • Whisk together the sauce, adding it all at once. Cook for about 1 minute, until hot and bubbly. Add more water if it’s not saucy enough (more sauce= more better).
  • Serve over hot rice or noodles with extra chili sauce on the side. Bon appetit!

 

Taking in strays/Kimchi part 1

It’s been a whole week since I’ve written, and I feel pretty crappy about it. But I have the best excuses. Plus, I have several legitimately exciting food stories to share over the next few days, so that makes up for some of it, right? Well, you be the judge,

The first reason I was away last week is that we took in a stray kitten. If you’ve ever done this before, you know how those adorable fluffballs can just eat up any spare time you might have. This little one was part of a feral colony, but decided she wanted to adventure off on her own and consort with humans. She cried and cried outside my guy’s back door til we were finally able to trap her and get her spayed and dewormed and all those good things. She’d 4.5 months old and doesn’t know how to do anything other than snuggle and hide. But that’s ok. The rest will come with time.

World, meet Betty Boop (Boop for short, or sometimes Bloop, or McBlooperson)

World, meet Betty Boop (Boop for short, or sometimes Bloop, or McBlooperson)

The second reason I’ve been busy is that I have taken in a stray tourist from Japan! A friend of a friend’s lodging arrangements fell through just a couple of days before she was scheduled to fly to Montreal. Rather than cancel her trip, I gave her my room and am staying with my guy for the next couple of weeks. Needless to say, the sudden nature of this made things a bit hectic for a few days there- lots of scrubbing and packing and laundering happened. But now Tomoko is happily doing her thing out of my tiny little Plateau pad, and life is somewhat returned to normal.

In the midst of all this upheaval, I have managed to find some time for cooking, too. Mostly because if I didn’t, I’d go mad. Last Sunday, I had a fermenting/pickling day with a few lovely friends. We made kimchi and dill pickles. I won’t share all the deets until I get to taste the final product, but I’ll woo you with some pictures in the meantime.

Ladies at work

Ladies at work

It was actually a lot of fun, putting together all the little jars and stirring up big bowls of veggies with chili sauce for the kimchi. It would have been more fun had we made it through the day without one of us cutting herself and another squirting ginger juice in her eyes (that was me!) but, you know. The hostess graciously provided us with wine and baguette, which helped immensely.

Dividing the dill and garlic for the jars

The little countertop that could! Dividing the dill and garlic for the jars, grating turnip, carrots and ginger for the kimchi.

Pretty little jars all in a row, ready for their brine.

Pretty little jars all in a row, ready for their brine. Can’t forget the wine. Not for the pickles, for the pickle-makers.

I will report back with the finished results in a couple of weeks. I hope it will be delicious. I am sure it will be.

Vegan Mushroom Soup

Vegan Mushroom Soup

This just randomly appeared at the Irish pub I frequent one day. The same Irish pub that refuses to make any accomodations whatsoever to its menu to allow vegans to have a decent meal. Bam. Out of nowhere. Accidentally vegan mushroom soup. How do you make it? In hot olive oil cook a couple of big leeks with a pinch of nutmeg, finely chopped and seasoned with salt. Add 4 pints of mushrooms that have been very finely chopped in a food processor and a few cloves of crushed garlic. Cook until the water is released and then evaporates. Add a a couple of potatoes, chopped, a splash of chardonnay, a teaspoon or two of thyme and enough veg stock to cover. Simmer, puree just enough to make the potatoes creamy, and serve. Let me tell you, when all you were expecting to be able to eat is French fries and a Bloody Mary, this is the best thing on the planet.

Listen.

This is what my BFF, aka Vegan Soulmate, says when you’re sassing her. Which is most of the time, if you are me. She says it mostly as a short-form for whatever obvious rebuttal we both know she has, as well as to indicate that I should keep sassing, cause it makes her feel loved. I think. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Jackie and I cook things. It is kind of magical. We meet in a kitchen, wine is drunk, a mess is made, deliciousness ensues. We share a love of food and a certain mental synergy that replaces the need for talk, or else replaces normal language with some special BFF-speak that outsiders can’t quite make sense of. That is, I think, how love usually works.

This year my soulmate and I are MoFo-ing together, across two countries, a gazillion miles, busy schedules, Oxford commas, and terrible procrastination problems. There’s no real ongoing theme aside from vegan food. But we will have theme days! Happyfuntimes are on the menu.

Considering what to brunch on, the last time I saw her in the flesh. Austin 2012.

Perfect Vegan Pumpkin Pie

This really is the perfect pumpkin pie. It comes together quickly, it has perfect pumpkin pie flavour, the texture is firm and silky, and there’s no soy aftertaste. I couldn’t ask for a better pie. You might want a more spicy pie, so add a bit more of the spices- it tastes pretty much the same raw or cooked, so make sure it tastes good to you before filling your crust.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1/2 cup Silk coffee creamer, other brands might work too.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups canned pumpkin- I used an organic brand that was very dry and firm- it needed to be spooned out of the can, it wouldn’t come out on its own. You want your pumpkin to be this dry, so consider straining it in cheesecloth.
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg, salt
1/4 tsp cloves

You will need a 9″ pastry crust that has not been blind baked- stick it in the freezer for at least 30 mins before your bake time. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and place your rack in the middle. In a food processor blend first the tofu and creamer until smooth, then blend in the sugar and corn starch until smooth, then all the remaining ingredients. Fill frozen pastry crust and wrap the crust edges with strips of tinfoil to prevent burning. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for another hour, checking every so often to ensure the crusts aren’t burning and the filling is setting. Let cool on a rack, then transfer to the fridge over night to set completely. If you can wait that long. I decorated mine with pretty pastry stars, but you probably aren’t as nerdy as me, so a dollop of cashew cream will do fine for garnish. Or a cup of coffee, if you are like me and think pie=breakfast food.