A Few Fall Favorites: The Vegan Edition

Cafe Drake HRV's newest take on pumpkin soup is our simplest yet, created one evening from a lackluster pantry and fridge, after remembering a previous, felicitous combination of pumpkin and green bell pepper. It's dairy-free as well, which means vegans can partake and the rest of us can use as a respite from some of the season's richer meals. Don't worry, you won't miss the cream; one small potato and the cooked texture of pumpkin combine to make this soup silky smooth when pureed. Basically, heat 1-2 T. olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add in 1 large onion (chopped), 1 green bell pepper (chopped), 2 cloves of garlic (yes, chopped), 1 small potato (peeled and diced) and a pinch of salt. Saute for 7 or 8 minutes or until the veggies are softening but not browned. Pour in 1 quart of vegetable stock and add 1 14-oz. can of pumpkin puree. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a low heat, partially cover the pot and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. After removing the pan from the heat and allowing to cool for a few minutes, puree until smooth in a blender. You'll need to work in batches and be cautious with the hot liquid. Return the velvety smooth soup to the pan and add 1 T. soy sauce or tamari, a pinch of ground cloves, a very large pinch dried thyme leaves and up to 2 t. chipotle chili powder. Simmer very gently for another 10 minutes, season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve hot.

This stuff is kinda salty but it's all-natural, free of any animal products and a very close facsimile of the real thing. Once prepared the gravy will keep, refrigerated in a tightly closed glass jar, for about 3-4 days. Reheats like a dream and totally saves toasted breakfast biscuits and spontaneous sides of mashed potatoes.

Stay with us here . . . as we present our new and improved Brown Rice, Tofu and Oat Loaf. Meatloaf for a New Planet.

Our vegan "meatloaf" was so moist we couldn't cut it in the loaf pan! Instead, we turned it out in one piece on a chopping board and sliced into dense, earthy wedges. Here's how to make it: preheat oven to 350 degrees F. while you mix in a large bowl 2 cups leftover cooked brown rice, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, about 1/2 cup minced onion or scallions, 1 grated or minced carrot (peel first) and a large pinch of celery seed. Next, open and drain 1 package of firm tofu and crumble well with your fingers in to the bowl. Add in 1/2 cup all-natural ketchup, 3 T. tamari or soy sauce and a big dollop of Dijon mustard. Things get fun when you mix it all together with your clean hands! Taste for seasoning and if you need to - you probably won't - add salt to your liking. Transfer the mixture to an oiled loaf pan or small casserole dish and smooth out the top. Spread with a thin layer of ketchup thinned slightly with apple cider vinegar. Bake for 1 hour, uncovered, then remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Our veggie loaf was sliced, drizzled with vegan gravy and sided with pumpkin soup, a green salad and pickled pattypan squash.

Just as good re-heated for lunch the following day, with leftover spicy Kung Pao sweet potatoes.

The southern Italians have a way with braised cabbage, eschewing butter and cream in favor of a slow cook over low heat, with lots of sliced onions, chopped garlic and a couple of chopped tomatoes. We added a cup of white wine and the last surviving branches of oregano from our garden.

An apple cake. What else would it be, in upstate New York, in the autumn? By baking in a wide springform pan, Cafe Drake HRV was able to obtain a chewy, ultra-moist texture. We used THIS RECIPE but did not peel the apples as suggested. For best results chop the apples in to pieces no larger than a raisin. Good enough on its own, the cake is even better topped with whipped cream!

All this delicious but stodgy fall food sometimes screams for a bit of heat and acid to cut through the richness. Above, a jar of picklese, compiled in less than 15 minutes and guaranteed to fire up even the blandest of meals. Grab the recipe for Haiti's beloved hot sauce/relish HERE and get used to always having a jar in the fridge.

A true Feast of Leftovers: Italian Braised Cabbage with Pumpkin Seeds and Crumbled Feta, Vegan Meatloaf,  Stewed Yellow Squash and Pickleez.


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