Sunday, June 15, 2008

Catching Up

Last week, I did a whole mess of cooking for the holiday of Shavuot (Jewish people celebrate being given the bible. It's customary not to eat meat because supposedly meat wasn't eaten until after we received the rules for kosherness in said bible). I was also commissioned to make my boss' birthday cake. I don't have any pictures of the holiday food, but here's the cake (frankly the best part anyway):

I tried to convince my family to go vegan for the holiday (it's only fifty hours), but it didn't work so well. One of the few things my mother actually cooks is a cheese dish that she only makes this time of year and she insisted on making it. Also, someone gave her a baked ziti, so she wanted to serve that. However, it turned out to be crap, so they stuck with her dish. I made the rest of the food for the holiday and it was all vegan.

Blintzes are traditional, so I made the Veganomicon crepes and made some of them into Potato-Mushroom Blintzes. My brother hates mushrooms, so I halved them and made plain potato blintzes as well. I also stuffed some with the Tofu Ricotta, also from Veganomicon. I made the Cherry Compote from Yellow Rose Recipes for dipping.

I love the Veganomicon crepes. I'd been nervous about making crepes because everyone always talks about how delicate and easy to ruin they are, but I had been practicing making them for something else and these are really easy. At first, I was annoyed that the batter had to be refrigerated for an hour before using it, but now I love that I can make the batter the night before I want to make the crepes and just get right down to the cooking when I'm eager to get down to the eating. I don't even have a crepe pan. I use a regular little non-stick pan and it works quite well.

The potato-mushroom filling is amazing. Everyone (except my brother) loved the blintzes. And he said his plain potato ones were some of the best he'd ever had. The filling couldn't be more simple, but it's one of those things that come out tasting very restauranty and people are impressed.

The Tofu Ricotta has the ricotta texture, but definitely not the taste. Everyone liked them, with the "This tastes nothing like cheese" caveat. To me, they taste strongly of nutritional yeast, so I was surprised my family liked them as much as they did (they liked them enough to honestly say they're enjoyable - they don't spare my feelings - but not enough to take seconds).

Making the blintzes themselves takes a bit of practice. I couldn't get a nice shape going, even at the end (I made about fifteen), but only one lost structural integrity and fell apart, so that's not too bad.

The Cherry Compote is very nice. My father has been putting it on everything. It's a bit more sour than I expected it to be, so I probably just used too much lemon juice. It went quite well with the cheese blintzes. I think I'll make it again next time I have a container of vegan ice cream in the house.

My mother requested something with eggplant in it, so I made the Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream, also from Veganomicon. Dudes, that pine nut cream is so rich and awesome and...creamy. I'm always amazed by the ability of nuts to act like dairy. It's so weird. This cream is double great because it doesn't require overnight soaking or anything like some of the other nut "dairy" recipes I've seen. If you don't like eggplant and zucchini and whatnot, just make the cream and put it on...everything. I also got many compliments on the sauce. The shallots make it stand out a bit from jarred stuff. And, of course, there's nothing to not like about eggplant, zucchini and potatoes, so this recipe is a total winner.

I also made Potato Spinach Wedges, a test recipe for Isa Chandra Moskowitz's upcoming brunch book. Isa describes them as knishes without the dough, and that's basically what they are. They're tasty and easy. It's great that you can just throw it in a baking dish and be done, instead of making little, individualized items.

Dessert is the most important part of any holiday and I didn't pull any punches. I made Pain Au Chocolat (another brunch tester), Chocolate Almond Cheezecake with Graham Cracker Crust from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and Strawberry-Rhubarb-Peach Pie from Vegan With a Vengeance.

Everyone went nuts for the Pain Au Chocolat. I stuffed them with raspberries, strawberries and blackberries and served them warm. The chocolate oozed all over everyone's faces and made a wonderful mess. This dessert is wonderful and best eaten 1. warm and 2. with other people. Make them with a few different kinds of fruit, share them around and laugh at the chocolate on each other's faces.

The Chocolate Almond Cheezecake was sort of like a really firm chocolate pudding pie. A really good, a really firm chocolate pudding pie. Serving it with cherries somehow enhanced the almond flavor. It would probably go nicely with a vegan whipped cream, but I haven't mastered one of those yet.

The Strawberry-Rhubarb-Peach Pie was amazing. It really hit the spot, serving it on the first hot days of the season. This was my first time having rhubarb and it really heightened all the other flavors. I love this pie. There have been requests to make it again and I will not hesitate to fill them.

Some of you may remember my birthday cake from last month. If you don't, that's OK because my boss and office manager did. It was Blackout the Forest Cake: a cross between blackout cake and black forest cake. To make it, I adapted parts of Raspberry Blackout Cake with Ganache-y Frosting and Chocolate Chip-Raspberry Blondie Bars from Vegan With a Vengeance. They requested I make the exact same cake for the office celebration of my boss' birthday. Taking advantage of any opportunity to feed people yummy vegan food, I complied. The only change was to the decoration: I halved the cherries and removed the pits so people didn't have to spit while enjoying the cake. I liked how the stems looked like candles on my cake, but I think it was worth sacrificing that for the convenience of a spit-free party. Unfortunately, I made it and carried it to work when the temperature was over eighty degrees. Ganache doesn't like to behave at temperatures like that, so it looked a little funny, but everyone agreed the taste more than made up for it.

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