Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Weekly Vegan: Grit Cakes with Wilted Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

The Weekly Vegan has been a bit of a misnomer lately as this is sadly my first vegan dish of the month (but fear not, vegan faithful, I already have Potato Gnocchi with Vegan Vodka Sauce planned for this week).  This Friday I returned to the world of vegan cuisine with a wonderful two course meal of sweet potato soup and grit cakes with wilted kale to get my weekend started right. Most importantly, I made it with the power of love (or at least the power of the heart-shaped cookie cutter I had from Valentine's Day).

Grit Cakes with Wilted Kale
Adapted from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food by A. Simpson
Servings: 4
Time: 60 minutes

1 cup quick grits
1:1 soy milk to water for the grits liquid
1/2 cup shredded Daiya cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1 heart shaped cookie cutter

Wilted Kale
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white onion, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large bunch of kale, torn
4 cups vegetable stock
Pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste

Some cayenne to spice up the grits

Oh, kale, you wilt with the best of 'em
  1. Start with the kale because it's going to take a while. Sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil until the onion begins to get soft and translucent (3-5 minutes).
  2. Add the kale, pepper and red chili and stir well. Then pour in the veggie stock and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 35-45 minutes.
  4. Make the grits while the kale is cooking. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  5. Make a 1:1 mixture of soy milk and water to meet the package directions for the required liquid for 1 cup of grits. Bring to a boil.
  6. Whisk in the grits and cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Remove from heat then stir in the cayenne, salt and vegan cheese until melted.
  8. Pour into a 9" round glass dish and cook for 10 minutes in the oven to make crispier grits.
  9. Cut the grits into delightful heart shapes and plate.
  10. Drain the kale then either place on top of the grits or create a bed for the grits (the bed looks prettier).

I've mentioned my love of grits before, so I was pretty stoked to get a chance to try a vegan grits dish. Despite my excitement, I was also fairly concerned. Normally you make grits flavorful with lots of butter and heavy cream, which aren't really options anymore. Instead, I used some soy milk to help out the the consistency and add a little flavor and richness. This worked nicely, and the Daiya cheese really added to that richness, while the cayenne helped instill some much needed kick. The kale provided a nice earthiness to the dish (with a little heat thanks to the red pepper flakes) and continued to challenge spinach for green leafy supremacy. Crisping the grits in the oven was key, so that there wasn't just one giant mushy mess on the plate. This was a fantastic main course, but, like with most of these vegan recipes, I still found myself missing some fake protein. Kevin makes a fantastic steak with wilted spinach and risotto that this kind of reminds me of, so I think using some Gardein meatless tips would really bring this all together to complete the meal.

Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food by A. Simpson
Servings: 4
Time: 60 minutes

1 1/2 cups baked sweet potato (about one sweet potato)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup soy milk

  1. Bake the sweet potato in the oven at 450 F for 45 minutes until the sugars start to come out. Cut it open and scoop out the 1 1/2 cups needed.
  2. Make a little mini roux. Whisk the flour and oil together over medium heat. Then stir constantly until it turns a light caramel color.
  3. Whisk in the stock and brown sugar and bring to a boil.
  4. Add in the sweet potato, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 5 minutes.
  6. Puree the soup in a blender then return to the pot and add the soy milk. Keep warm over low to medium-low heat until ready to serve.
A nice refreshing and sweet soup to start the meal.
It had been a little chilly this week, so I was looking forward to a nice soup. Unfortunately, it warmed up by Friday, so I just had to employ the air conditioner (electric bill be damned!) to simulate the cold. The soup was pitch perfect with a subtle sweetness and amazing hints of cinnamon. I realized my grits were getting cold because I was too busy scooping this into my mouth as rapidly as possible (I somehow refrained from just slurping it straight from the bowl). To me, this was the highlight of the night and would be a perfect addition to any autumn meal (Which is obviously why I'm using it in February. I'm used to Los Angeles where there aren't actual seasons.).

The most important tool in a chef's kit.
It felt good to be back to some nice wholesome vegan cooking (especially after the health scare that was the 3 desserts for Valentine's Day).  This week will only get more vegany as I'll hopefully have the gnocchi up later and a special vegan addendum to the beer battered fish tacos compliments of Courtney (hooray people using my blog!).

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