Ever since the year after we were married, Joe and I have enjoyed the annual privilege of hosting Thanksgiving for our respective families.
The venue has changed from our small first house to the roomier home we built 13 years ago as have the number of people gathered around the table, for family members and friends have come and gone through death, divorce, relocation, engagement, or just scheduling conflicts.
Everyone misses Joe’s now deceased parents and, this year, an engagement and a work schedule prevented one of our nieces and our nephew from coming. But, my parents and sister all joined us this year. (Impending knee surgery had kept my sister and mother home last year and my father, especially, felt guilty for coming without them, though they encouraged him.)
Both of Joe’s sister’s, one niece, and his married sister’s husband all were able to come, which made for a convivial group of 9 plus two hungry Great Danes.
I loved having my sister stay at our house, but I also loved visiting our parents at their beachfront hotel, and taking long (like 7 miles long) walks on the boardwalk with Joe’s younger sister from his families’ beachfront hotel.
There were lunches and dinners both in and out, movies, a couple of exciting football games (MS State vs. Ole Miss and Auburn vs. Alabama), dog walks, a bit of shopping with my mom and sister–we had to get Mom something pretty to wear for the holidays and she no longer drives (words I thought I would never utter)–planning for an SPCA fundraiser (more on that later), and lots of conversation, teasing and laughter.
Our tasty dinner–we usually eat around 6 p.m.–consisted of the following vegan dishes:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Shallots
Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Dressing (see below)
Morel Mushroom Gravy (no real recipe)
Pear Chutney (not yet posted)
Everyone seemed to love it all, but the dressing was a particular favorite. I had found a recipe for Double Corn-Cornbread Dressing in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I was excited that it incorporated spinach in a great enough amount that each serving included a healthy serving. So, I basically followed their recipe (substituting a vegan broth for their chicken broth). But, as a child, I loved my mom, Sallie’s, Double Corn Fingers, so I decided to use my veganized version of that recipe in place of the cornbread and it was absolutely scrumptious in this teen-to-adult-pleasing stuffing!
Vegan Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Stuffing
Serves 8-10 (with other side dishes)
1 cup vegan butter, divided
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 1/4 cup self-rising flour
1-15.5 ounce can creamed corn (which is vegan)
3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 large red onion, halved, and cut into thin wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups fresh baby spinach
2 to 2 3/4 cups no-chicken broth or vegetable broth (I think the no-chicken broth has a richer flavor)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place1/2 cup butter in a 9 x 13″ metal baking pan and slide into oven just until butter melts. Remove pan and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium size mixing bowl, combine self-rising flour and cornmeal. Make a well in the center and pour in creamed corn and the melted butter. Stir together with a fork until completely combined. Dough will be a little sticky. Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. (Can be made a day ahead up to this point.)
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 cup butter in large cast iron skillet over medium high. Add corn, onion, and salt, and cook, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes or so, until butter begins to brown and corn and onion begin to caramelize. Stir in pepper. Adjust heat as necessary. Remove from heat.
In a very large bowl, break up cornbread into bite size pieces. Add corn and onion mixture and spinach. Toss to combine well. Drizzle with broth to moisten and lightly toss to combine. Spoon into a greased 3-1uart baking dish and bake, uncovered for 40 minutes or until dressing is heated through and lightly browned on top. Serve warm. (Alternatively, dressing may be made up to to the point of baking, covered, refrigerated for up to a day, placed in a cold oven, and then baked at 325 degrees, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes and uncovered for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Recover if it appears to be browning too fast or drying out.)
Who knew that those pumpkins and squash at the farmers market–with their fanciful forms and all of their beautiful color, strips and spots–were not just for decoration? Many, if not most, are seriously good eats.
As I noted in the original post of this recipe, it was here that my love affair with the humble parsnip began.
And how nice it is to be able to “whip” up a simple dish for a cooking-intensive holiday!
I am THRILLED to be one of a dozen invited contributors to participate in “Let’s Eat,” a new initiative of Eastern Virginia’s public TV and radio station, WHRO!
I had no more created this recipe than I received the invitation.
Since it is sponsored by Whole Foods, VA Beach, and our local chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local, a recipe that featured local produce seemed in order. At the time I submitted it, pattypan squash was in season, but the site was just launched and, alas, pattypan squash is no longer in season, at least not in Coastal Virginia. But the pesto would be luscious on grilled pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and much more. And my basil is still in full bloom!
Stay tuned for more tasty treats ready for their close-up. I will be posting regularly on “Let’s Eat” and will direct you from here to there!
Yield: 2 servings (easily doubles)
This quick, vibrant colored and flavored dish becomes a meal with the addition of tofu or tempeh cubes added during the last two to three minutes of cooking.
It’s my homemade version of one of my favorite dishes in Chinese restaurants. My secret ingredient? Chinese Black Bean Sauce!
1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, lightly salted, and grilled over medium high in a grill pan for about 15 minute, turning periodically, or until lightly charred all over and very tender
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce (I use a “lite” variety for less sodium)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sake (or mirin)
2 tablespoons Chinese Black Bean Sauce (available on international aisle of most grocery stores)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lightly roasted and salted cashews (or halves and pieces) + a few more for garnish
While green beans are grilling, heat oil in a cast iron skillet (or wok) over medium-high. Add ginger, and stir fry for about 1 medium, stirring continually, just to soften and turn slightly more golden. Lower heat if cooking to fast. Add garlic, and stir fry for 30 seconds, still stirring continually. Add remaining ingredients except green beans and cashews and cook, stirring continually until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add green beans and cook another 2 to 3 minutes or until beans are well coated and have absorbed some of the sauce. Avoid over-cooking or the sauce will become too syrupy and tar-like. During the last minute, stir in 1/4 cup cashews. Transfer to a platter or a shallow bowl and serve with additional cashews for garnish. This dish is fun and quite easy to enjoy with chopsticks.
Yield: 4 servings
Our favorite local sushi restaurant (vegan for me!) is Zushi, where Chef Kevin (Asian, despite the name) is not only a master of flavors, but also of exquisite, artful presentation.
We like to choose the Chef’s Tasting Menu and let him delight and surprise us with whatever he is inspired to make from that day’s freshest ingredients. He relishes coming up with vegan dishes for me. One of my favorites is quie traditional: Nasu Dengaku or long, thin Japanese eggplant, split lengthwise and broiled with a sweet miso glaze, as Kevin has a special way even with the tried and true.
My version is a slight twist on tradition, as I add a hint of soy sauce, no mirin (as this rice wine is similar to sake and seems like a duplication of it) and a hint of ginger. My version is not terribly sweet, though you may add a bit more agave if you choose.
Really quick and easy–no chopping is involved and the glaze is made while the epplant broils–this dish is lovely enough for a dinner party in its elegant simplicity, but fast enough for a snack.
2 Japanese eggplant, stem ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons light miso (available in Asian markets)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon agave nectar (you may add up to an addition 2 teaspoons for a sweeter glaze
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (I use a “lite” variety for less sodium)
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (I use a microplan grater to make quick work of this task)
Garnish: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds + 1 green onion, thinly sliced (I use mostly the green part)
Preheat broiler. Place eggplant on a baking sheet or in a cast iron skillet (my preference to collect any glaze that runs over the edges of the eggplant. Make shallow diagonal slits in eggplant about 1-inch apart. Rub eggplant all over with sesame oil and broil 3 minutes on each side. While eggplant broils, heat sake in a small cup or bowl for 30 seconds in microwave. Whisk in miso, agave nectar, soy sauce and ginger until smooth. Taste and whisk in more agave if desired. Remove eggplant from oven, spoon 1 tablespoon of glaze atop each half, spreading to cover surface, and return to broiler for 2 minutes. Remove eggplant to a serving platter and spoon any glaze in the bottom of the skillet over the top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion. Serve immediately or at room temperature. It is even quite tasty cold!
What an honor and a thrill!
Last Thursday, Faye Levy, author of the award-winning International Vegetable Cookbook, along with Yakir, featured The Blooming Platter Cookbook in their Jerusalem Post article on salads made with summer’s gold: corn!
The Jerusalem Post is Israel’s best-selling English daily and most read English website. Wow! Thank you, Faye and Yakir.
An excerpt from their article:
“Small oval tomatoes and a chili-seasoned citrus-cumin dressing flavor the roasted corn and black bean salad made by Betsy DiJulio, author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook. She serves this main-course salad on a bed of baby spinach and tops it with spiced toasted pecans. In another summertime salad, she combines corn with diced tomatoes, blackberries, onion and fresh basil, and dresses the salad with lime juice mixed with pomegranate molasses.
To cook the corn for her salads, DiJulio rubs the husked ears with olive oil, sprinkles them with sea salt and roasts them in a 200°C (400°F) oven until just a few brown spots appear; it takes about 15 minutes.”
This jewel-toned salad is a real gem!
I admit that the color is a bit shocking, courtesy of some beautiful fresh beets, but it looked right at home on the bountiful buffet at this year’s birthday bash for Julia Child.
For the last 4 years, 10 or so of our foodie friends gather to fete the ‘ole gal on the Saturday evening closest to her birthday, making the 2013 iteration of this favorite pot-luck party on August 10.
My contributions were this salad and my new Vegan Luscious Lavender and Creme de Cacao Ice Cream. Ooh-la-la!
Guests are asked to bring a French dish (and something tasty to eat too–hahaha), one inspired by Julia Child, or one made according to her actual recipes. We scarcely do any advance coordination, but the meal is somehow always perfect and so beautifully presented. The group is made up of one vegan (moi), some vegetarians, and some out-and-out carnivores. But the food is almost entirely vegetarian/vegan.
Lovely dishes brought by our guests included:
My Vegan Potato-beet salad, a riff on one of Julia Child’s, was a top favorite among at least two of the guests, though everyone seemed to enjoy it. Be sure to use a neutral tasting mayonnaise, or it will overpower the other flavors. I am a fan of Nayonaise for some dishes, but feel it is too strongly vinegary and spiced for this dish. Vegenaise is a better choice in this case.
4 cups quartered new potatoes (at our local farm market, they are called “creamers”), boiled in salted water, partially covered, until tender, about 20 minutes, and drained
7 beets, peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups), cooked until tender, and drained (save juice for another purpose) [I place them in a bowl, cover them with water, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and microwave for 15 minutes, but avoid a steam burn when removing the wrap!)
1 cup haricot vert (green beans), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, and simmered just until tender, about 7 minutes, then shocked in cold/iced water, and drained
Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/4 cup green herbs, finely chopped (I highly recommend a blend of 2 or more, e.g. basil, chives, tarragon, parsley)
2 cups neutral tasting mayo, prepared or homemade (not too tangy, sweet, etc., I like Vegenaise for this recipe)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large non-reactive (glass or ceramic) bowl, combine all vegetables, drizzle with vinaigrette, toss well, cover, and chill for several hours. Sprinkle with herbs, fold in mayo, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until serving time and garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs.
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (in truth, whatever vinegar you have will be great)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Then whisk in olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified. Season to taste and whisk again. (Or just combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.)
I am still visiting my family in Mississippi, and was reminded that this is another recipe that I hadn’t shared before I left Virginia. Reminded because it calls to mind one of my father’s signature sayings.
I have never been a particular fan of yellow squash. It’s not that I don’t care for it; I just don’t “wake up screaming for it,” as my Papa would say. But it is beautiful in the farmer’s markets right now–or perhaps in your own back yard!–and I wanted to take advantage of it.
I bought one, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it until I remembered my cheesy Zucchini, Onion and Yellow Squash Gratin dish and the Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa I had already made. So, I decided to combine the two notions and take my yellow squash in both a southwestern and a cheesy direction (the latter inspired by, but different from, the Gratin). Boy, am I glad I did, and I hope you will be too!
You won’t believe how creamy, cheesy, tasty and rich this yellow squash filling is! Tucked into a toasty tortilla and topped with my Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa, it is the epitome of summer feasting, southwestern style!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2-8 inch yellow squash, trimmed and grated (I use the grater blade of my food processor for this task; it makes the most perfect firm strands)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat because that is what I keep on hand)
1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk
2 tablespoons light miso (any vegan kind will do, though the darker the flavor, the deeper the flavor)
Freshly cracked black pepper
4-8 inch whole wheat or wheat tortillas (I used Ezekial sprouted grain tortillas, which I loved, but they had so much flavor on their own that I felt they competed just a little)
Topping: Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa (recipe follows)
Garnish: vegan sour cream and lime slices or wedges
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes until softened. Stir in garlic powder and grated squash and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until squash is crisp-tender. Stir in nutritional yeast until well combined, followed by flour. Add soymilk and miso, and cook, stirring frequently, until miso is incorporated, and the mixture is thickened, heated through, and the flour no longer has a raw taste, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Remove filling to a bowl, wipe out skillet, and coat generously with non-stick cookng sprary. Spread half of two tortillas with squash filling, fold tortillas over the filling and toast in skillet for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove quesadillas to serving plates and repeat with remaining filling and tortillas. Serve topped with salsa, vegan sour cream, and lime slices or wedges.
Grilled Green Tomato and Charred Corn Salsa
Yield: 2 cups (easily doubles)
Normally, I would add diced onion and some chopped cilantro to a salsa like this, but it didn’t seem to need it; in fact, I was afraid both the onion and cilantro would overpower the sweet char of the grilled green tomatoes and corn.
1 large green tomato, cut into 1/3-inch slices
2 ears fresh corn, stripped, and broken in half
12 cherry tomatoes (cut smaller if your tomatoes are larger than cherries)
1 banana pepper (mild) or jalapeno (half or whole, depending on your heat tolerance), stemmed, seeded, and very finely chopped (consider wearing gloves to seed jalapeno and wash hands)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Oil a grill pan and heat over medium-high. Lightly salt tomato slices and lay into pan, grilling for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until nice grill marks develop and tomato slices become crisp-tender. Remove to a cutting board and allow to cool while you grill corn. Lightly salt corn and grill about 3 minutes on 4 sides or until lightly charred all over. Cool. Dice tomatoes and place in a medium non-reactive bowl. *Cut corn off cob and add to tomato along with remaining ingredients. Toss to combine and chill, covered. Delicious with chips–of course!–or as a topping over quesadillas, beans, a thick soup, etc.
*Note: the easiest way I have found to cut corn off the cob is to place a short sturdy glass or small bowl upside down in a larger bowl. Working with one half-cob at a time, stand it up on its cut end and run your knife vertically down the cob, allowing the kernels to be captured in the bowl. Voila! Or should I say “Ole!”