I would be remiss

I feel compelled to apologize for the recipe I’m about to share, so I’ll just cut to the chase. It’s messy, and time consuming, and dirties far too many pots and utensils than any one-dish meal should call for.

If an enthusiastic, Dodin Bouffant-wearing seven-year old helps you out? It turns into a scene right out of Shel Silverstein poem.

spaghetti2

Spaghetti, spaghetti, all over the place . . .

But here’s the thing – it’s really good. Also! it’s especially suited to the extreme wintry weather we’ve all been experiencing. Nothing says ‘comfort food’ like a pan full of smooshed spaghetti, right?

What I’m trying to say is that I’d remiss if I didn’t share this with you.

oodles of noodles oodles of noodles

Spaghetti pie

§ § §

This recipe has lots of steps and ingredients because that’s how I unwind when the weather forces me indoors. If you’re in a rush, though, the basic equation for this dish is: 1 box spaghetti + (1/2 C red sauce blended with 1/2 C cashew cream cheese) = spaghetti pie. If you’re using gluten free pasta, you’ll want to cook and drain it just before mixing with the sauce. If you use semolina pasta, you can use leftover or fresh noodles. This calls for cashew cream cheese – plain ol’ cashew cream (super thick) works just as well; store-bought vegan cream cheese would probably work, but I don’t know how it would taste.

§ § §

1/4 cup caramelized onions or, 1 medium onion + a splash of oil
2 handfuls mushrooms, minced
1 large pinch each of dried basil and oregano
3-4 lacinato kale leaves, cleaned, de-stemmed and finely chopped
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
splash of red wine
1/2 cup cashew cream cheese or thick cashew cream
1 box (12-16 ounces) spaghetti
a few pinches turbinado sugar

Lightly oil a baking dish, 8 x 8 inches-square or something approximate to that size.

If you need to caramelize your onions: slice your onion into half-moons, and then slice those into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and toss to coat; add a pinch of salt and toss again. Stir frequently until the onion has first softened, then browned, then turned a deep caramel hue. Scrape your pot as necessary when the onion sticks, and use a couple tablespoons of water or white wine if needed to deglaze your pan while your onions finish caramelizing.

If using pre-caramelized onions (I actually keep jars of 24-hour slow-cooked caramelized onions on hand because I am a food nerd), add them to a cold, heavy-bottomed pot and place over medium heat. Once the onions have warmed through, add the herbs and mushrooms. Stir for a couple of minutes to sweat out most of the moisture, then add the kale. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. If you don’t live with a couple of spice-phobic wimps, add a large pinch of red chili flakes, too. Stir frequently until the kale has softened and everything is starting to stick. Use a big splash (or three) of your favorite red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping as you go. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover partially, leaving the lid ajar to let steam evaporate as the sauce thickens.

While the sauce cooks down, preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C and make your spaghetti. If making gluten free spaghetti, this is what I do to keep it from sticking after it drains. I bring a kettle (or small saucepan) of water to a boil, and then immediately after draining my pasta in a colander, I pour the hot water over it for a second rinse. Works like a charm!

Return your cooked and drained pasta to it’s pot, and toss with a tiny bit of oil if you’re worried about it sticking. Turn the heat off from under your sauce. In a medium bowl combine 1/2 cup red sauce with 1/2 cup cashew cream cheese and stir to combine. Toss this with the pasta until the spaghetti is uniformly coated. If your spaghetti is too dry, add up to 1/2 cup additional red sauce. You only want enough sauce to coat the pasta, though, not to saturate it.

Turn the spaghetti into the oiled baking pan, tucking in any stray noodles so that the top is relatively flat. Add a thin layer of sauce over the top, taking care that every noodle is covered. Unless you like a few wispy crispy edges, which I do – then by all means, leave a few tendrils unsauced! Sprinkle the surface lightly with sugar – just enough to bring out the sweetness of the onions and tomatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes, covering lightly with foil if your sauce starts to brown. Let the pan rest for about five minutes after you remove it from the oven.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Stovetop time: 30 minutes | Oven time: 30 minutes

Grain-based Italian meatballs

I’ve been waiting a long time to share this recipe with you – one month and three days shy of an entire year, to be exact.

grain-based Italian meatballs(1)tossed with a rich marinara and best-quality gluten free spaghetti

I’m a very impatient person – it’s felt like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y.

I think it’s worth it, though, and not just because I’m excited about these grain-based meatballs. You see, my dear friend Kathy just also happens to be a fantastic cookbook author – and she lets me test and develop recipes for her – and this particular recipe is on page 17 of her latest book, Vegan Slow Cooking – For Two – or Just For You.

deciphered for the massesAren’t you glad I didn’t just scan my original notes and make you try to decipher them?

Did I mention this is her third book? You should visit her site to see what she’s been up to, and to check out the other recipes being shared on this tour. Psst – I’m also giving away a copy of this book! Details in the recipe notes…

grain-based Italian meatballs(2)meatballs always taste better with a hunk of focaccia bread

Back to these meatballs. They are vegan, gluten free, made out of wholesome pantry staples, and free of any binders. They come together in less than 10 minutes, bake in 20, and work just as well as links. I prefer meatballs, though, so that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

meatballs in the makingmeatballs in-the-making
grain-based Italian meatballs-preready for the oven
grain-based Italian meatballs-postleftovers, for a repeat meal in 24 hours // the only reason I saved any was to show you how well they hold up // we always gobble these up in one night
grain-based Italian meatballs Day 2gently simmered for 5 minutes on day 2 // I think they held their shape nicely

Grain-based Italian meatballs

§ § §

These don’t have any binders – no ground flax or chia, no psyllium husk, no xanthan or guar gum. Why? Because when I create something new, I always start as simply as possible, and then go from there. I have no idea how they would do if fried, because I don’t like to fry things. I have no idea how they freeze, because I don’t like to freeze this sort of thing. But they’re damned good straight out of the oven. Want to win a copy of this book? Leave me a comment between now and midnight on Sunday, 29 September 2013, and a winner will be randomly selected. Fair Winds Press is letting me give away a print or digital copy, winner’s choice.

§ § §

1/2 cup cooked brown lentils, drained
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold, cooked long grain brown rice
1/2 cup cold, cooked quinoa
3/4 cup almond meal (not flour)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C and place a rack in the center position. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or oil lightly.

In a food processor, puree the first nine ingredients (lentils through black pepper) into a paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In the same food processor (no need to wash between steps), combine the grains, almond meal and nutritional yeast. Pulse until coarsely ground but not pureed.

Add the rice mixture to the lentil mixture and stir until everything is completely incorporated. It will have the texture of veggie loaf. Wet your hands and shape into links or meatballs. Space evenly on the try at least 1 inch apart.

If making links: Bake for 10 minutes, flip over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, leave the tray inside for 10 more minutes, and then remove the tray and allow to cool at room temperature to firm up.

If making meatballs: Bake for 10 minutes, flip over, bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the tray and allow to cool at room temperature to firm up.

Links are great for slicing into coins and reheat nicely in a dry or lightly oiled skillet. They can be layered in a dish a few minutes before serving, but won’t hold up if baked in something like a lasagne. If I’m making a baked pasta dish, I like to nestle them in the top just before the final broil – drizzled with a bit of additional sauce and sprinkled with gluten free breadcrumbs, they heat through but don’t fall apart.

Meatballs (or whole links) hold their shape well and can be gently simmered in a sauce for up to 5 minutes. They also reheat well, as long as you refrigerate any unused meatballs in a covered dish without sauce; the moisture will make them disintegrate.

Yield: 15 – 30 links or meatballs, depending on size; I usually end up with 20 medium-sized meatballs

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

Moonlighting

Something I don’t think I’ve shared on here is that I moonlight in the recipe business, developing and testing recipes for vegan, vegetarian and omni cookbook authors. Sometimes, I conceive and develop original (always vegan/often gluten free) recipes; other times, I join a group of individuals who are testing an author’s own material. For obvious reasons, I don’t post any of the recipes – mine or theirs – before a manuscript is published.

During the development/testing phase, I cull my favorites for easy access into a clearly marked folder with every intention of sharing them when the time is right. It’s a thick folder, the spine wearing thin and papers trying to burst from the confines of the industrial strength rubber band holding it all together. It’s an ignored folder, one that is added to often, pulled down when I want to make a favorite recipe, and then re-shelved on my kitchen bookshelf where it melts back into obscurity.

All that is to say that I’m going to make an effort to share more with you from my recipe testing archive, recipes I’ve made so many times that I usually don’t even need to reach for my disintegrating folder, let alone the actual cookbook.

It’s pumpkin season around here, and since winter squash is one of the few things I don’t actually grow on my own little farm, we get very excited about making the rounds to pumpkin patches, the farmers’ market, our co-op, the farm across the road, and my in-laws garden. That’s a lot of squash, folks. And a lot of squash seeds. And thanks to Dynise, I know exactly what to do with them.

Candied squash seeds
Adapted from Celabrate Vegan by Dynise Balcavage

Seeds from butternut and other winter squash can be used in place of pumpkin seeds, if you have them. This recipe is easily be doubled or tripled, just be sure that your pan is big enough to accommodate the increased volume.

1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon fine grain salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Clean the seeds and pat them dry. Spread them out in a single layer on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and golden.

While the pumpkin seeds are cooling, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet until fragrant, about five minutes. Grind the seeds. In a small bowl, sift together the sugar, ground cumin, minced herbs and salt.

In a deep pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the sugar mixture and pumpkin seeds and stir to combine – it will be clumpy. Increase the heat to medium/high and stir often. Over the next five to seven minutes, the sugar mixture will first take on a sandy appearance, then caramelize, clinging to the seeds. As soon as this happens, turn off the heat and transfer the seeds back to the baking sheet. The candied seeds will harden as they cool.

Yield: One heaping cup