Saturday, November 30, 2013

Vegan Apple-Cranberry Pie with Crumb Topping

This is the pie that I make every year for Christmas with my in-laws, the one I wouldn't dare show up without. 

I made it this year for Thanksgiving when my oldest son Jonah brought his vegan roommate home for the holiday - but it's one of those recipes that non-vegans don't even notice is vegan, they just notice that it's festive and pretty and delicious.

It could be converted into a gluten-free treat by making a gluten-free crust, or by omitting the crust altogether and making apple-cranberry crumble, using gluten-free oats and oat flour. The filling and topping are amazing, and leftovers make my favorite Boxing Day breakfast.

Vegan Apple-Cranberry Pie with Crumb Topping
adapted from a recipe in Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello

Vegan pie crust for single-crust pie
5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thinly
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 cup cranberries
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup maple sugar, coconut sugar, or unrefined brown sugar, divided
3 tablespoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or substitute maple syrup)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup walnuts or pecans broken into pieces
3/4 cup flour
6 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out pie crust, fit into pie pan, and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Combine sliced apples, lemon zest and juice, cranberries, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup sugar, arrowroot and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix well. Pour into pie crust. Drizzle rice or maple syrup over the top.

Combine oats, walnuts or pecans, flour, remaining salt, remaining cinnamon, and remaining sugar in a food processor. Pulse a few times. Transfer to mixing bowl, and drizzle in melted coconut oil. Stir with a fork to make a crumbly topping.

Spread topping evenly over apples and cranberries, cover pie tightly with foil, and bake covered for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake 25-30 more minutes, until topping is brown and filling bubbles.

Cool at least 2 hours before eating. Excellent with vegan coconut vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nonny Fran's Noodle Kugel

When somebody gives you his grandmother's recipe, you need to first say thank you, vehemently, and you need to then get straight into the kitchen and start cooking. My friend Justin generously sent me this recipe after I expressed bitter envy about his reported late-night snack of noodle kugel, which really showed up my sad rice cake with peanut butter, and now I have a delicious kugel of my very own sitting in the fridge, ready for insomnia or hungry teenagers or snowstorms or whatever the night might bring.

I didn't mess with this recipe much, I just added a cinnamon/almond/butter topping (because what we really need here is more butter!). You could experiment with toppings, or just keep it simple/classic/elegant.

And in case I didn't say it vehemently enough already:  Thank you, Justin!

Nonny Fran's Noodle Kugel

8 ounces extra-wide egg noodles, cooked and drained
8 ounces whipped cream cheese
3/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 eggs
1 cup milk
Extra butter or cooking spray for baking dish

Optional Topping:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter or spray 2-quart baking dish.

Using a wooden spoon or a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add butter and beat to combine well.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs. Add milk and whisk to combine.

Add milk and eggs to cream cheese mixture and whisk well to combine.

Spread cooled noodles evenly in baking dish and carefully pour contents of mixing bowl over noodles, pressing down gently if necessary to submerge noodles as much as possible.

For topping: Combine melted butter, almonds, and cinnamon and spread mixture on top.

Bake uncovered, 40-45 minutes, until solid and golden. Let cool completely at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Best served cold, in my opinion.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Evolving Butternut Squash Pie (Dairy and Gluten-Free)

Now, it all started five Thanksgivings ago. Five years ago, on Thanksgiving.

We were living in England. Thanksgiving, like the 4th of July, is a sort of lonely holiday for Americans living in the old country. We were feeling it. The only remedy was an honest-to-God Thanksgiving feast, and so we would have one, I was determined.

But there was a problem: Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pie was not an option, but canned pumpkin does not exist in England. Prawn flavored potato chips, yes they have those, but cans of pumpkin, no. It was a serious problem.

That's when I started experimenting with butternut squash, and the evolving butternut squash pie was born. It was pretty good that first year, it did the trick for us homesick ex-patriots, and I've been slowly improving it ever since. We're back in the states, where every autumn towers of canned pumpkin spring up in all the grocery stores, but I can't go back - I reach for the butternut squash; we have a new Thanksgiving tradition now.

Here's the current version, with a gingersnap crust since 2012, and gluten-free for 2013. Maybe one year it will finally achieve total perfection, or maybe it will simply evolve forever, an ongoing testament to the surprise silver linings of exile and the rewards of experimentation.

Butternut Squash Pie
Makes one pie
Note: pie MUST be made one day ahead. Seriously.

1 8-ounce bag gluten-free ginger snaps
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1 3-pound butternut squash
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat!!)
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

For the crust:
Break the gingersnaps into pieces and put in a food processor or blender. Process to make crumbs. Pour crumbs into a bowl and use a fork to gently stir in coconut oil. Press mixture evenly into a lightly oiled pie plate and bake for 4 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Roast the squash:
Cut the squash in half (don't remove seeds) and place cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, until squash is soft and bubbling.

After squash is done, increase oven temperature to 425 for baking the pie.

Let squash cool. Scoop out and discard seeds, and then scoop out the flesh into a strainer and drain off any excess liquid for at least 10 minutes.

While squash is draining, whisk together coconut milk, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla. Set aside.

Measure a scant two cups of drained squash flesh into a blender or food processor. Add sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and blend well for about five minutes.

Add coconut milk mixture and blend until smooth and combined, about one minute more.

Pour into cooled crust and bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 50 more minutes. I noticed my crust started to brown a little too much around the edges - if this happens to you, just cover the pie with foil.

Let the pie cool at room temperature completely before refrigerating OVERNIGHT. I must stress this: you can't eat this pie the same day you make it. You will be robbing yourself. It totally transforms in the refrigerator, and it needs at least 8 hours. Honestly.

To have an amazing dairy-free experience, serve the pie with coconut whipped cream. Just put a couple of cans of coconut milk in the freezer until the solids and liquids are very separated, scoop out the solids, and put in a food processor with some sugar and vanilla. It will whip up beautifully and all the people with dairy allergies will worship you.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.