Friday, December 27, 2013

The 1960's Housewife Paradox

When I first became vegan, I discovered the 1960’s Housewife Paradox: processed foods, despite their implications of butter and cream, are often vegan. Take Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. The advertising copy is all about how buttery, flaky, and melt-in-your-mouth tender they are. But, there’s no butter in them. Cool Whip is notorious for being vegan in a previous formulation. Movie theater popcorn is often doused in coconut and canola oil, and proffered as “butter.” Fortuitously, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is also one of these vegan secrets.

I am always delighted to discover a simple ingredient like puff pastry that can be a vehicle for a huge range of dishes, sweet and savory. In the past, puff pastry would have supported meat, cheese, and even seafood in my kitchen, but the richness of buttery puff pastry is balanced well by earthy vegetables and bright sauces. My first effort is this Harvest Vegetable Square. We enjoyed it on Christmas Day with wild rice pilaf, maple glazed carrots, and a simple herb mushroom gravy. I am already plotting ways to adorn the second package of puff pastry living in my freezer…maybe chocolate and caramel…maybe roasted tomatoes and cashew ricotta…mmm.

Last Christmas with mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts

Harvest Vegetable Squares
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, November 2012

1 large head cauliflower, small florets
1 head garlic
¼ cup vegetable stock
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup water
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
15 Brussels sprouts, halved
15 baby carrots, halved
15 button mushrooms, halved
2 shallots, peeled and sliced finely
1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 425º. Line a rimmed baking sheet or oven proof dish with foil. Spread cauliflower in a single layer, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slice off the top of the head of garlic, and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the pan with the cauliflower. Roast for 35-45 minutes until the cauliflower and garlic is tender. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts, carrots, shallots, thyme, and mushrooms. Sauté until fork tender, about 15 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the white wine, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and water. Add this to the sautéed vegetables, and continue cooking for 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats all the vegetables. Remove from heat, and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cauliflower, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and vegetable stock. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves and add to the food processor. Pulse until relatively smooth and well-mixed. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425º. On a well-floured surface, roll each sheet of puff pastry into a 12” x 12” square. Cut each square into 4 equal pieces. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and place four squares of puff pastry on each sheet. If the puff pastry feels very sticky, you can put it in the fridge for a few minutes. Spread 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cauliflower puree in the center of each square. Top this with ½ cup of the sautéed vegetables. Bring the two opposing corners together of the square into the middle, and press to seal. Repeat with the other two corners. Place the squares in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the trays front to back, and top to bottom, and bake for 10 more minutes. The squares are ready when the top and bottom is golden and crisp. Serve piping hot with a drizzle of herb and mushroom gravy. 

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