Sunday, November 29, 2009

Autumn Meals

As a little girl, I dreaded turning into my mother. There were a lot of things that bothered me, I'm sure. Among them: her indiscriminate use of praise. The way she approached strangers as if they were casual friends. And her near-obsessive habit of listening so intently and still missing all the jokes. To a shy--and perhaps slightly melodramatic--child, these things were enough to make my sleepy eyes go wide with horror.

I never liked hearing that we resembled eachother, and was determined not to become her as I grew older. What I didn't realize growing up was that I didn't know her very well at all. She's ebullient because she simply loves people. Her outgoing spirit is witness to her own shyness as a kid. And despite a childhood car accident that left her deaf in one ear, she has always been determined to truly hear what people are saying, and to connect with them.

As an adult, it's these same things that I admire so much. Things that, when I see them in myself, made evident in how I hold a teacup or catch myself in the mirror when talking with a friend, I smile and shake my head a little, and am grateful.

Sometimes you become what you never wanted to, and in doing so, realize it's not so bad after all. Which leads me to the main course of my Thanksgiving dinner.

I know. I know. I always said I would never do this, but here it is. I don't understand why vegetarian protein gets shaped like animals, or why we care about approximating wishbones on Thanksgiving. It's ridiculous. But listen: you have to shape it into something. And for a festive dinner, a loaf is just too plain. So this year, my Raw Pecan Sage Loaf took the form of slain poultry.

While I expected this to feel really grim, a reminder of what other Americans are eating this holiday, it wasn't. The silliness of it was pure kitsch, and made the idea of consuming an actual turkey seem even more ridiculous. Carving, however, was a bit disturbing.

Raw Pecan Sage Loaf
8-10 servings
This loaf is perfect any time of year. Vary the spices depending on the occasion.

1 cup raw pecans
1 1/2 cups additional raw pecans, or a combination of raw nuts and seeds (I used brazils, almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds)
1 cup mushrooms
3 stalks celery
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 cloves garlic
1 cup carrot pulp, or carrot processed to a pulp in a food processor, from which you've pressed out the juice
3/4 cup dried cranberries (optional, and usually not raw)
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

In a food processor, grind nuts to a coarse meal. Add mushrooms, 3 stalks celey, sage, salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic, and continue processing until everything is finely ground, but not quite the texture of a pate.

Transfer nut mixture to a large bowl, and stir in carrot pulp, cranberries (if using), diced celery, and parsley. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix and squeeze everything together. Form into a loaf, and dehydrate 4-6 hours, until a crust has formed on top and it's nicely warmed through. The loaf can also be baked or eaten with crudites as a pate if you prefer to skip the dehydrating. Leftovers make excellent sandwich filling.

I love composed salads, in which the ingredients and dressing are all tossed together, then served over greens. They're perfect for making ahead or packing for a picnic, and ensure that your lettuce will stay crisp every time. This one featured grapes, apple, celery, walnuts, and home-dried cranberries (most store bought aren't raw, and contain lots of sugar) with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette.

The simplest Raw Cranberry Orange Relish: 1 cup cranberries, half an orange, and 1-2 tablespoons agave, whizzed up in a food processor

Walnut Herb Stuffed Mushrooms, dancing over a collard leaf like enchanted toadstools. These were topped with dollops of pale green Avocado Aioli (below), for a savory and substantial appetizer.

Avocado Aioli
about 1 1/2 cups
There are lots of vegan mayonnaise recipes that use silken tofu as the main ingredient. This one features nutrient-rich avocado, which blends into a creamy spread with the addition of lemon, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. It's raw, makes an excellent sandwich spread, and can be used anyplace mayonnaise is called for. Add herbs, powdered wasabi, or horseradish as you like.

1 avocado, cut roughly into quarters
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except olive oil until completely smooth. With the machine still running, drizzle in olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

I also served a Vanilla Apple Sparkle, made from fresh pressed apple juice, vanilla beans, stevia, and sparkling water, and Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes (not pictured). And for dessert:

Raw Pumpkin Cheesecake. I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of eating raw squashes (I made raw butternut tortilla the other day, and it was awful), so I wasn't about to create a raw cheesecake containing actual pumpkin. Fortunately, fresh pressed carrot juice is a great stand in, supplying an earthy flavor and autumnal color. Classic pumpkin pie spices complete the dessert.

Raw Pumpkin Cheesecake
15-20 servings

For the crust:
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup dried flaked coconut
3/4 cup dates
generous pinch sea salt

For the filling:
3 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours
3/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/2 cup fresh carrot juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (any consistency is fine)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves
zest of half a lemon
Make the crust:
Line a 9" round pan with plastic wrap, and set aside.

In a food processor, process pecans and coconut until fine but not oily. Add dates and sea salt, and process again, scraping down the sides as necessary. The crust is ready when it holds together when pressed against the side; if necessary, add water by the teaspoon until it does. Tumble mixture into prepared pan, and pat into the bottom, or use the bottom of a glass to press the crust firmly into the pan. Set aside.

Make the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. This may take several minutes. Pour filling onto prepared crust. To release bubbles, tap the bottom against a counter several times, then run a knife through the mixture in a figure-8 pattern. Smooth the top.

Transfer to the freezer, and chill until firm and thoroughly cold. This may take up to several hours.

To serve, gently lift with the plastic overhang and transfer to a platter. Ease out the plastic from underneath. Using a small offset spatula, smooth creases from the sides. Cut with a sharp knife, rinsing it with hot water between servings to ensure perfect slices.

I really hope you'll try these recipes, particularly the Avocado Aioli, which has become a staple in our household. Enjoy!


nora said...

mmm! haha i love that there's no actual pumpkin in the raw pumpkin pie (or did i miss it?)

Joy said...

Nope, none at all!

Gina said...

Mmmm, this looks amazing!!! Saved away for next year!