Nine years ago this December, Paul and I got married. After the stress of fabricating the most perfect day in our entire lives, I didn't care where we went on our honeymoon as long as it was warm and we could lounge. We settled on Montreal. In December.
I can't remember precisely how we settled on Montreal. In December. But I had always wanted to go there, and we have an irritating tendency to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing even when they are right.
So we went to Montreal. In December. And everyone there was eating poutine - a snacky, regional specialty of fries slathered in cheese curds and brown sauce. And we wanted in. So on one of our last days in the city, in a movie theater no less, Paul asked the French Canadian in charge, "Could we get an order of poutine without meat or cheese?" With a mixture of French Canadian bewilderment and disdain, the concessionaire told Paul, "It is made of meat. It is meat sauce."
Unsatiated, I've had a niggling desire for poutine for the last nine years... until Bryanna Clark Grogan's new cookbook, World Vegan Feast, arrived on my doorstep in August. Flipping through the roster of international recipes - Spanish Omelet - Saigon Crepes - Serbian Braised Sauerkraut and Seitan - South African Bobotie - Moroccan Bisteeya - Vegan Poutine - I knew where we would begin.
But if you're adverse to the faux food, there's still plenty here for you. The Finnish apple pancake is going into regular rotation in our house - it is so good and easy - I can't wait till Saturday. The Basque Garbanzo Bean Stew is a perfect hearty weeknight dinner - tasty and satisfying with minimal effort. This book is helping me jazz up our routine with recipes that are a little bit different then our usual fare.
And then there's this tart. I just love the simple olive oil crust and the combination of sweet creamy squash and chewy, slightly bitter kale. If you prepare the dough and steam the vegetables ahead of time, you'll have a perfect potluck or company dish in no time. I can totally see you taking this to your family's Thanksgiving dinner. (Make sure you double it.)
It's no secret that I adore Bryanna Clark Grogan. Her cookbooks are so generous. She can pack so much teaching into a collection of recipes. The sidebars and headnotes and introductory chapters are filled with tips and techniques that will make you a better cook. Years before we were married, her book, Nonna's Italian Kitchen, taught me how to make veganism possible.
Oh, and the poutine, are you wondering about the poutine? - it's good. Paul and I sat in the backyard on a late August afternoon with a beer and a heap of crisp oven fries topped with homemade, and eerily dairy-like, fresh cheese curds and a savory brown sauce and were thankful for Bryanna Clark Grogan and her new cookbook that overflows with her characteristic curiosity about the world and all its different foods. I look forward to all the delicious places this book will take me.
From World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan
It's hard to believe that this vegetable filling can taste so "meaty," but it does in this absolute winner of a dish! The crisp olive oil pastry (a traditional, frugal peasant recipe designed to use as little expensive olive oil as possible) is easy to make and low in fat ()about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil per serving). If you want to make a larger tart, double both the filling and the pastry recipes and bake it on a 14-inch pizza pan.
- 1 cup unbleached white flour (do not use pastry flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup ice-cold water
- 4 ounces kale, tough stems removed, washed, drained and sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 to 5 green onions, chopped
- 6 ounces butternut squash (or other "meaty" winter squash), peeled, and cut in 1/2-inch dice
- 3 tablespoons walnut parm or finely chopped toasted walnuts
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Pastry: Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle in the oil and mix with your fingers or a fork. Dribble in the cold water slowly, mixing with a fork as you go. When it holds together, knead it gently into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Filling: Steam the squash until just tender. Steam the kale until tender, then cool it under cold running water, drain it and then squeeze as much water out of it as you can. Chop the kale with a sharp knife.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add both kinds of onions. Stir-fry until tender. Add the kale and squash, Walnut Parm, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375.
4. On a lightly-floured piece of baking parchment, roll the pastry out into a thin 14-inch circle. Carefully transfer the rolled-out dough onto an oiled 10-inch pie pan (see Tip). Pile the filling in the middle of the dough and spread it out evenly. Bring up the edges around the filling to make a "freeform" pie, pleating the dough over the filling and leaving an open circle of filling in the center.
5. Brush the dough with a little olive oil and cover the exposed filling with a circle of foil. Bake the tart for 30 to 45 minutes or until the dough is golden. Cut into wedges to serve. It's good hot, warm, or cold.
Tip: To transfer fragile pastry dough into a pan without tearing, flour the top of the circle lightly and then gently fold it in half and then in half again. Gently lift the pastry into the pie pan, letting the edge of the pastry overhang the edge of the pan. Carefully unfold the dough. Another way is to lightly flour the pastry and roll it up loosely around a rolling pin. Use the rolling pin to transfer the dough to the pan and unroll the pastry over the pan.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
If you have a soy allergy or you have a hard time locating a good commercial vegan parmesan substitute, this is an easy and tasty alternative, either as a topping or as an ingredient. This is just about the right amount to fit into two little shaker bottles, but you can easily double, triple, or quadruple the recipe and keep it refrigerated or frozen. Use a food processor or mini-chopper or clean, dry coffee/spice mill for this recipe, rather than a blender.
- 1 cup chopped raw walnuts
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 teaspoons light miso paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Process the ingredients until as fine as possible. Stir to get rid of any lumps. Transfer to a covered container or shaker and keep refrigerated.
Note: If you prefer a commercial brand, Galaxy Vegan and Parma! are good choices - Parma! is soy-free (walnut-based). Both are available from the vegan stores and online vendors.
(Reprinted with permission from World Vegan Feast: 200 Fabulous Recipes from Over 50 Countries, by Bryanna Clark Grogan, copyright 2011. Published by Vegan Heritage Press.)