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As the winter months settle in, so does our urge to permanently hibernate alongside the biggest and heartiest plate of comfort food we can get our mittened hands on.
And while visions of chicken pot pie and spaghetti and meatballs may have immediately started dancing in your head, comfort food can be just as satisfying in meat-free form - at least if Alyssa Gorelick, the executive chef of Fern, Flavors from the Garden, in Charlotte, North Carolina, has anything to say about it.
Comfort Dishes Where You Won’t Miss The Meat: Alyssa Gorelick
I believe the key to making any great pot pie is that rich, silky broth - starting with a traditional roux from butter and flour. Pack the broth chock-full of farm-fresh vegetables, chickpeas and mushrooms and finish it with fresh herbs, like rosemary, to retain their lustrous color and aroma.
I’m sure if you ask anyone, they’ll say the best part of any pot pie is the buttery croissant topping. For a twist on tradition, place a croissant on the top of the pot pie instead of baking it over the bowl. Not only is this an easier way for home cooks, but keeping the croissant separate lets you showcase the gorgeous colors and textures of the vegetables and have plenty of pastry for dipping into the broth."
2. Tempeh bolognese
Tempeh is one of my favorite ingredients; and in this dish, crumbled tempeh takes on the texture of ground meat and if you can believe it, the flavor.
To give the sauce and tempeh that slow-cooked flavor you love from bolognese, let the sauce cook for a good couple of hours. The acid will break down the tempeh and you will realize the flavors that make this dish a comforting favorite come from the sauce, not the meat. The texture is wonderful and satisfying - just add your favorite pasta and top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese and it could fool any meat-eater.
I love to play around with the different flavors depending on my mood; maybe adding roasted mushrooms for a heartier texture and deeper flavor or smoked spices - a little bit goes a long way!"
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1. In a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, sweat the onions, celery and carrot in the olive oil for approximately five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
3. Vegan bratwurst
The sausage is made from housemade seitan seasoned with sage, coriander seeds, pinto beans and smoked portobello mushrooms. You can use a vegan casing or do what I do - roll the sausage links in a cheese cloth and truss it to steam for about an hour and a half. The sausage actually forms its own skin to give the firm texture you expect in a sausage. To add more flavor you could also smoke the sausage instead of steaming.
Sage is one of my favorite herbs. It is comforting, warm and the aroma brings back the nostalgic feeling of seasonal memories. Serve the sausage as you would with any brat: alongside its perfect pair of homemade sauerkraut and braised local mustard greens (with a touch of apple cider), and finished with a delicious stout mustard. This to me is the perfect example of a dish where you won’t miss the meat. Vegans and vegetarians should never feel deprived!"
2 shallots, finely chopped
1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, sweat the shallots in the canola oil for approximately five minutes. Add the yellow and brown mustard seeds and warm through.
4. Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
One of the secrets to good parm for me is using a fresh pomodoro sauce – it’s a must for me an is so simple to make. The acidic bite from the fresh tomatoes makes the sauce an unbeatable choice. This dish can also be very easily made vegan, just by swapping out the cheese for a vegan variety. When cooking at home I like to use Daiya mozzarella, which you can find easily at any health food store or organic retailer. The texture of the Daiya melts really well and is still packed with that mozzarella flavor you look for."
Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
1. Slice the eggplant, squash and zucchini in 1/2-inch rounds and season with cayenne pepper and salt.
5. "Shrimp" and grits
Marinate the tofu overnight to let the flavors set in and when you are ready to cook, sear the pieces of tofu in a pan to get that prefect texture and char. To complete the dish, serve the 'shrimp' over grits (I love Anson Mills) made with a corn butter.
When you remove the corn kernels from the cobb, there is so much milky goodness left over to be used. To make the corn butter, steep the corn cob and the kernels in butter for about an hour and then strain it. Use this on anything from toast and pancakes or to finish the grits for your dish.
Pair the 'shrimp and grits' with braised greens - a favorite during the winter when you can only eat so many potatoes and root veggies - and the steeped corn, which becomes a salsa, as garnish."
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