Thursday, January 5, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Soup



This is a great way to eat black-eyed peas. Even folks who think they hate black-eyes like it. Serve it with cornbread, for a New Year's meal.

BLACK-EYED PEA SOUP

1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen black-eyed peas (or fresh)
1 med. onion, cut into 1/16ths
1 lg. carrot, diagonally sliced, 1/8”
6 cups water
2 cups tomato juice (or 15 oz. tomato sauce)
2 tsp. salt (more to taste)
2 tsp. dried thyme
10 shakes Tabasco sauce
2 lg. tomatoes, diced (or 15 oz. can)

In a large soup pot, Combine ingredients, except fresh tomatoes, and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender (about 30-40 minutes).

Turn off heat, add fresh tomatoes, and cover until ready to serve.

Serves 8

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cornbread



Everybody loves this cornbread. After about 10 years of trying various recipes, I found one that was good enough to stick with. It's a moist, sweet cornbread like my grandmother used to bake. When we gave up eggs, I developed this eggless version of Fanny Farmer's "Rich Corn Cake." It's great served with chili, or with black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.

CORNBREAD

1 cup yellow cornmal
1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. egg replacer
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream (milk can be substituted)
2/3 cup milk
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Butter a 9”x9” pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk.

In another bowl, mix the melted butter into the sour cream. Blend in the milk. Pour the sour cream mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, mixing quickly. Spread into the buttered pan.

Bake until browned on top, about 30-40 minutes.

Serves 6 - 8

Note: to make cornbread crumbs for stuffing, bake in a 10” x 15” jelly roll pan for 15-20 minutes, or until browned on top. It yields about 8 cups of crumbs.

Adapted from Fanny Farmer's Rich Corn Cake recipe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stir-Fried Spinach



This is an easy veggie for a holiday meal. Grinding the sesame seeds is optional, but it does make the seeds' nutrients more accessible when eaten.

STIR-FRIED SPINACH

spinach leaves, well-washed
olive oil
sesame seeds
salt

(use amounts needed for your guests)

Using a mortar and pestle, lightly grind the sesame seeds (about 1/2 tsp. per serving).

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil (about 1/2 tsp. per serving) on med-low heat. Add the spinach and sesame seeds, and shake in some salt. Stir-fry until the spinach wilts a bit.

Serve immediately.

Vegetarian Mince Pie



There's no mincemeat in this pie! It's basically a highly spiced pear and raisin pie, which tastes great with whipped cream or ice cream.

Here's what a friend of mine has to say about mincemeat pie:

"We always had mincemeat pie at Christmas, but my father sort of spoiled it by telling me that mince were fuzzy little critters that lived in burrows along streams. Although Mother indignantly denied that, I was a little less fond of the pie for awhile."

MINCE PIE

1-1/2 lb. ripe pears (about 3 med.) peeled, cored, & diced
6 oz. raisins
2 oz. sweetened dried cranberries (or golden raisins, etc.)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. flour (as a thickener)
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. gr. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. gr. allspice
3/4 tsp. gr. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. gr. cloves

2 unbaked pie crusts, 10” circles
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In a large pot, bring all filling ingredients to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 25 - 30 minutes, or until pears have released their juice and the liquid has cooked down a bit and thickened, continuing to stir frequently throughout. Remove from heat and cool while preparing the crusts.

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a deep dish pie pan. Do not trim edges. Use a cookie cutter to make a decorative pattern in the central 6” of the top pie crust dough.

Pour the filling into the lower crust in the pie pan. Carefully place the top crust over the filling and fold edges under. Pinch the upper and lower crusts together around the edge of the pan, and fold inward if needed.

Bake until crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Makes 1 pie

* Note: you can use underripe pears, and they will taste fine. But the filling must be cooked longer to release the fruit’s juice, and then cooked down. If you don’t do this in the cooking pot, it will happen in the oven, and the pie will be runny.

Adapted from a recipe in Southern Living, Nov. 1998.

Click here for an alternate top crust design.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stuffed Cheese & Walnut Loaf



This is hands-down, my best vegetarian main dish. It blows everyone away when I put a crust on it, en croute. (The photos show the loaf without crust.) Non-vegetarians say they can't tell it's not meat, and the leftovers slice and freeze like a dream. The stuffing is a nice surprise in the middle, too. Serve it with sage gravy, and your guests will be glad they came to your house for dinner!

STUFFED CHEESE AND WALNUT LOAF

1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups chopped walnuts (pecans, cashews, almonds, or mix is okay)
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
1 med. onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. rubbed or dried sage
1 tsp. dried marjoram
4 oz. cream cheese, cut in chunks
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
8 oz. mild cheese, chopped (cheddar or jack)
1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, cut in 1/2” horizontal strips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 unbaked pie crust, 10-inch circle, optional

Place nuts in a large pan, toast on medium-low heat. Add the butter and black pepper. When butter is melted, add mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt, and herbs, and cook for a few minutes until the water coming out of the mushrooms is cooked down. Turn off heat.

Add the cream cheese and cover. Let sit a few minutes to soften and melt in the pan, then stir. Remove from burner and add the rice, parsley, and cheese. Toss to coat well.

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan (approx. 8-1/2” x 4-1/2”). Place 1/3 of the loaf mixture into bottom of pan. Lay the spinach on top, then sprinkle with cranberries. Pull spinach and berry stuffing away from the sides of the pan. Place more loaf mixture along the sides of the pan, to contain the stuffing by about 1/2 inch all the way around. Add remaining loaf mixture on top, and pat down gently.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove from oven, and cool in the pan for at least 1 hour. Turn out onto a platter or baking sheet if adding outer crust.


To encase in pastry:

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Drape a 10” unbaked pie crust over loaf, pinch corners, and cut off excess or fold across the ends. Be sure the seams are pinched shut. Garnish the top with shapes cut out of any excess crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 30 minutes--the longer, the better for slicing.

Serves 8. Slice with a bread knife, and serve with sage gravy.


Chestnut Soup



This soup has such a wonderful flavor. It's always a hit at our house. If you can't find bottled chestnuts in your local stores, they can be ordered online. It's definitely worth the trouble. One year, I started with chestnuts in the shells--roasting, peeling, and chopping--but the soup didn't come out nearly as well, and the preparation was much more difficult.

Since we're not alcohol drinkers, I keep bottles of cooking wine and sherry in the 'fridge for recipes like this one. This dish can easily be converted from vegetarian to vegan by substituting olive oil for the butter and rice milk for the regular milk.

UPDATE: I'm adding a  nonalcoholic alternative to sherry.  Tried it this year, and it turned out as well as or better than actual sherry.


CHESTNUT SOUP

7 oz. bottled chestnuts (200g), chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 lg. carrot, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried chervil
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk (non-dairy is okay)
2 Tbsp. sherry
      OR 1 Tbsp. apple juice, 1 Tbsp. coffee, pinch vanilla powder*

Melt butter with pepper in a stockpot over med. heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, salt, and herbs. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 min.

Add wine and stock. Stir in chestnuts. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

Remove from heat and stir in milk and sherry or juice, coffee, and vanilla. Purée in batches.** Return to pot for re-heating. Just before serving, heat soup to desired temperature, covered.

Serves 4 - 8 (4 for main dish, 8 cups for appetizer)

* Ground vanilla beans can be bought online.
** For a smooth soup, purée with a food processor. Use an immersion blender for a chunkier texture.

Adapted from a recipe in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins.