Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday leftovers

This winter holiday offered up many blessings, and one of my favorites is a new recipe which complements the traditional flavors of the season. I've wanted to create a dish using Maine-grown pumpkin seeds since this summer and have been mulling over possible concoctions in my head for a number of weeks. With time off from work and a Winter Solstice desire to hunker down in my kitchen, I finally started playing with the pumpkin seeds. The result? Pumpkin Seed Croquettes.

I baked a batch for Christmas Eve dinner at my house and and another for Christmas day dinner at my in-laws. And today, I reheated a leftover croquette, piled it onto pan toasted Standard Baking Company bread, dressed it with mushroom gravy and slathered on homemade cranberry sauce. It was Christmas dinner on a sandwich. It was delicious.

By using a ton of fresh sage and liberal amounts of celery seed and garlic, the taste becomes reminiscent of stuffing and mashed potatoes. The batter and uncooked croquettes will be a funny shade of green, but, as you can see from these pics, a little basting and time in the oven turn the croquettes a nutty brown hue. Serve them with cranberry sauce and gravy, and you'll please any palate.

Pumpkin Seed Croquettes

3 cups cooked organic small grained brown rice
2 cups salted organic pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves organic garlic
1 Tbsp. organic soy sauce
1 tsp. organic toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water
3 cups organic carrots, grated
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp. dried organic celery seed
1 tsp. dried organic basil

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Add pumpkin seeds to food processor and pulse a few times. Then add olive oil, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix until it has a creamy texture. Add pumpkin seed mixture to bowl with brown rice, carrots and seasonings. Mix until well blended. Saute onion until caramelized and add to pumpkin seed mixture.

Oil a baking pan. Take roughly a cup full of the mixture into your hands and form a ball. Then roll it into an oblong croquette. Press the croquettes onto the oiled baking pan. Once the pan is full, whisk the baste ingredients together and brush it over each croquette. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. Baste the croquettes after 20 minutes. Serve with mushroom gravy and cranberry sauce. Makes 20.

Mushroom Gravy

1 medium organic onion, diced
3 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
2 cups organic shiitake mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup organic soy sauce
1 cup organic hemp milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. fresh organic sage, chopped
1 tsp. organic garlic powder
1 tsp. organic onion powder
1 tsp. organic dried thyme
1 tsp. organic dried basil
1/4 cup organic rye flour

Saute onions until they begin to brown. Then add mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add soy sauce, hemp milk and water. Stir. Add seasonings and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Slowly add flour until the gravy is thick and doesn't easily run off a spoon. Serve warm.

Tangy Cranberry Sauce

6 cups fresh, Maine organic cranberries
2 cups organic Maine maple syrup
1 tsp. Maine sea salt
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Combine cranberries, maple syrup and sea salt in a sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir the mixture for a minute or so, then reduce the heat to low. Allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring on occasion. Continue cooking until the cranberries skins have all burst. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Serve hot or cold.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Drinking the taste of Christmas

I recently asked Switch readers for their favorite holiday recipes, and the best of the bunch were selected for a story featuring cocktail party recipes in the current edition of the magazine. As we were putting the story together, my editor asked me to submit one of my own recipes.

I knew I wanted to do a cocktail recipe, but which one? I love Bloody Marys at this time of year (as anyone who was at our Halloween party probably figured out), but that's not very original. For my dad's big 60th birthday bash last year, I had the bartender mix up Candy Canes (made from peppermint schnapps, creme de cacao and 7-Up) which were a huge hit. But I was never quite happy with them because of the high fructose corn syrup in the 7-Up, so I didn't want to go that route. I'm also a fan of Cape Cods during the holidays, but, again, that seemed pretty boring.

The solution: get out my cocktail shaker and start experimenting. At first I was pretty fixated on using brandy, because of its traditional association with Christmas and because I have a great bottle of Cognac in the bar. I also knew I wanted to do something with cranberries, since I have a stock of fresh Maine cranberries. But all my experiements with the brandy proved too sweet.

That's when I spotted the bottle of gin winking at me from the shelf. Now, normally I'm not a huge gin fan. This can all be blamed on the fact that as kids my cousins and I used to sample the juniper berries each fall, when the dusty blue fruits appeared on the low-lying shrubs in the horse pasture. These taste tests always ended with us spitting the berries out in disgust. Fast forward a few years, and I was completely floored the first time I tasted a gin and tonic and realized that gin tastes exactly like juniper berries (obviously not a shocker to anyone who knows that gin is flavored with juniper berries).

But as a standin for the piney scent of balsam that infuses most of my Christmas memories, I knew gin was what I needed. I mixed it with a combination of sweet, sour, tart and salty tastes and came up with a drink that captures the flavors of the season.

Cranberry Christmas

3 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. creme de cacao
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
2 oz. water
pinch of sea salt
lime wedge
fresh cranberries, sliced

Add cranberry juice, gin, Grand Marnier, creme de cocao, lime juice, water and sea salt to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a margarita or other cocktail glass. Slice cranberries into disks. Float a handful on the surface of the drink. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pumpkin pie birthday

My dad loves pie, so it was no surprise he requested one for his birthday party on Sunday night. He asked for pumpkin, one of his favorites, and I was happy to make it since I have a simple vegan recipe that has a taste traditionalists love. My mom placed a ring of candles in the center, and the pie served its purpose well.

After the singing, we sliced it up and paired it with a selection of frozen treats. I ate mine with a scoop of the Purely Decadent Coconut Milk ice cream that I'm absolutely in love with.

Pumpkin Tofu Pie

12 oz. silken extra firm tofu
2/3 cup Maine honey
1 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 cups cooked or canned organic pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. ground organic cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground organic ginger
1/4 tsp. ground organic nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground organic cloves
1 unbaked pie crust or graham cracker crust

Preaheat oven to 400. Blend tofu, honey and vanilla in a food processor until smooth. Add pumpkin and spices and blend well. Pour into crust of choice and bake for roughly 1 hour. When it's done, a bit of pumpkin will still cling to an inserted toothpick. Allow to cool and then serve. Refrigerate if serving later.