Contributing Monkie Aria Alpert
Published on October 30, 2011
Photographer V Blak
Merry merry jolly jolly to you all! Almost time to celebrate. The tree trimming, the lights sparkling, the festive decorations hanging, the fireplaces crackling, the soups simmering, the stews slowly brewing, the spiced apple cider steaming, the rich hot chocolate warming, the bread baking…mmmmmm I could go on and on….love the holiday season. Always have. And I especially love love love to bake, to brew, to stew and to create something new everyday in my warm toasty kitchen.
When I was a vegan (yes, I said ‘was’) I decided to take the 6 month chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in NYC to learn how to cook vegan style. The focus was on cooking with whole foods and how important it is, especially if you are vegetarian, vegan or RAW to learn about how to eat a balanced diet. For example, when I was RAW for over a year I felt great for awhile but then I became totally imbalanced, tired and even lost my period. I was eating a tremendous amount of dried and fresh fruits or raw desserts to try and gain energy. I later learned it was a sign my body was craving protein. It took me a bit to get over my militant RAW food obsessions and transition out of that diet but when I did, I immediately felt better. I just did. I didn’t want to admit that eating a little organic animal protein balanced me out but it did. And it still does. So now, I like to call myself a Flexatarian — which is roughly translated to mostly vegan sprinkled with raw goat dairy, some organic meats and eggs. But I am getting off on a tangent now, so back to the holiday meal! Jeeezzzzzzz….. :)
One of my teachers at the Natural Gourmet was chef and cookbook author Myra Kornfeld. She wrote one of my favorite vegan cookbooks “The Voluptuous Vegan” A cookbook I always seem to go back to time and time again. I bring Myra and her book up because truth be told, this recipe is heavily inspired by a recipe of hers, which I have made many times over the years, for my family and friends. Not only does it look beautiful but it tastes incredible.
All of your guests (vegan or not) will be unbelievably nourished and satisfied. I am not a fan of serving up a veggie meal ladened with all those fake processed vegan meats. Tempeh is a whole food yes, but tofu is not and who the heck knows what’s in those vegan sausages and that damn Tofurky, right? If ya ask me, it’s a bunch of man made crap that will cause much unfortunate digestive upset… ;)
So….try this recipe out for a delicious whole food holiday meal alternative. Believe me, your vegan, vegetarian, and yes, even carnivore friends will be feeling the delicious holiday spirit and will leave your table very jolly!
For the Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash
2 sweet dumpling squashes, washed
1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup dried chestnuts, soaked overnight and then drained
2 cups red onion, small diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried sage
¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 medium carrots, small dice
2 celery stalks, finely diced
½ cup baby bella mushrooms, stemmed and finely sliced
1 cup brussel sprouts, blanched, stemmed and quartered
1 TB tamari or nama shoyu (otherwise known as soy sauce)
dash of cayenne pepper
For the Red Bean Gravy
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, small dice
¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 cup dried red kidney beans, soaked 6 hours or overnight and then drained
3 cups filtered water
chestnut cooking liquid
8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
1 TB fresh lemon juice
For the Amaranth-Studded Cornbread
¼ cup amaranth
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup whole grain spelt flour
½ cup chestnut flour (if you don’t have you can sub just another cup of spelt)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 TB extra-virgin olive oil or safflower oil
¼ cup agave or maple syrup
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
¾ cup apple juice
½ tsp sea salt
Instructions For Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash
Sweet dumpling squashes vary in size, so pick accordingly to appetites of you and your guests.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place whole squashes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the squash is a bit soft to the touch. Take then out and allow them to cook enough to handle then, carefully slice the top part of the squash off with a sharp knife keeping the “hat” in tacked and scoop out and discard the seeds. Lightly rub the entire squash with oil, rubbing with it with your hands. Place the squash, cut side down in a baking dish with ½ inch of water and bake about 30 minutes or until squashes are tender. Set aside.
3. Place chestnuts in a small pot with 4 cups filtered water. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer, partially cover for about an hour or until chestnuts are soft. Make sure the chestnuts are covered with liquid; you may need to add more water if necessary. Drain the liquid, reserving for the red bean gravy. Break the chestnuts into quarters. Set aside.
4. Boil a pot of water with a nice dash of sea salt and add brussel sprouts, blanching them for about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
5. Warm the TB of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and dash of sea salt and sauté over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes then add garlic, dried thyme, smoked paprika, carrots, jalapeño, celery, brussel sprouts and cook about 10 minutes, or until vegetable are softened.
6. Stir in the chestnuts, dried thyme, dried sage, the TB tamari and a dash of cayenne pepper. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
7. Tightly pack the cooked squash with the vegetable sauté, mounding it slightly in each.
8. Place the stuffed squashes in the baking dish with a little water, cover with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 10 minutes. Turn on the broiler and take off the cover or foil and broil for 5 minutes, or until slightly browned on top.
Instructions For Red Bean Gravy
After you ladle the gravy onto the plates to serve the squash, make sure you put the extra in a bowl and pass around at the table.
1. Warm oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté onions over medium-low flame for about 10 minutes or until the onions are just starting to brown. Add red pepper flakes, cumin and chipotle and sauté a few more minutes more.
2. Add the beans, 3 cups water, chestnut cooking liquid, garlic, bay leaf and fresh herbs. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Check the cooking liquid level and you may need to add more water to keep the beans from drying out.
3. Stir in 1 tsp sea salt. Remove the bay leaf and herbs. Puree the beans in the blender, adding more water if necessary to achieve gravy like consistency.
4. Put pureed beans back into the saucepan and simmer on low heat, adding the lemon juice and more salt if necessary.
5. Turn off heat and cover until use.
Instructions For Amaranth-Studded Cornbread
This is one of my favorite cornbread recipes. The moist cornbread also makes a wonderful accompaniment to soups and stews and is very tasty toasted with jam. The bread will keep for awhile so you can make this a few days in advance of your holiday dinner.
1. Preheat oven 350. Oil a 9 X 11inch glass baking dish.
2. Place amaranth in a skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly, toast just until the grains start to pop, about 2 minutes.
3. Immediately transfer to bowl and add cornmeal, flours, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well.
4. In another bowl, whisk the oil, syrup, soy milk, apple juice and sea salt, until blended.
5. Pour wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just until the dry ingredients are completely moistened. Pour batter in to the prepared baking dish and bake in the middle of the rack of the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cornbread is firm to touch and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
6. Let cool before slicing.
Serving Instructions: Stuffed Squashes
Ladle some gravy onto each plate, then place the stuffed squash in the center of the gravy. I like to cut up the cornbread into bite size pieces, then toast them like croutons and during plating, placing them around the squash. But you can serve it in thick toasted slices. Either way it’s gonna be delish…
After you finished dressing your plate, gently lean the squash top on the plate, leaning up against the side of your stuffed squash. (see photos)
Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds all around the plate. Serve along side a nice big crisp green salad and some cranberry sauce.