Holiday Nut Roast
My mother-in-law, Jan, has always been especially supportive of Ryan’s and my choice to become vegetarians (and then vegans). One of the first Thanksgivings that we were not eating meat she asked me to send her some recipes ahead of time so that she could plan some special dishes for us. I searched my cookbooks and the Internet for recipes, and one that I found was this Nut Roast. We made it that Thanksgiving and loved it so much that and I’ve made it many times since, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas (thus the “Holiday” Nut Roast title).
As I was making it for this post, a thought struck me. I know that one of the reasons it’s hard for many people to give up meat and dairy is that there are so many memories tied to these foods that most of us were raised on. And I’m the first to admit that I felt like I’d lost something that first vegetarian Thanksgiving. It’s a really big change that can take some getting used to, especially when you’re someone who really cherishes your food traditions.
What I realized this year, though, is that it’s possible to make new food traditions for yourself. I found myself remembering the first time Jan and I made this dish together, and how we were pretty doubtful that the list of ingredients in front of us would make something edible. I tend to be very particular in the kitchen (Ryan is rolling his eyes at my delicate phrasing of what is really me being a psycho control freak in the kitchen), and Jan is super laid back about the cooking process. I remember taking that as a lesson and realizing that it’s better to enjoy yourself and not stress about things. If the dish works out, great. If not, you can always eat something else that night.
As I thought of those memories, and all the other times we’ve enjoyed this meal and shared it with friends, I realized that we had created a new holiday tradition. Instead of feeling I’ve lost something by not partaking in the turkey eating, I realize that I’ve gained something I can really feel good about, and proud to share.
So, on to the recipe! As I mentioned, this seems like a pretty crazy collection of ingredients, or at least it did to Jan and I. I promise that it all comes together to make a delicious, nutty loaf or casserole – the perfect base for your vegan gravy! This recipe isn’t difficult, but it is a little bit fussy. Since it’s a special occasion recipe, though, I thing that’s one of the things that makes it special.
Holiday Nut Roast
(based on Yummy Nut Roast, with minor changes)
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cup finely chopped leeks (about 1 very large, or 2 medium sized leeks)
1 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms (about 6 medium to large mushrooms)
4 large plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup ground cashews
1 cup ground hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups fine breadcrumbs
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh) basil
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh) thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried (or 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh) sage
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 Tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer
3 Tablespoons warm water
3 Tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet and saute the leeks until they are tender, but not brown. Set aside.
To peel the tomatoes, cut an “X” into the bottom of each one and bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes, and remove them when you see the skins splitting – usually less than a minute. Remove them, and set them aside until they’re cool enough to chop. If you feel like it, you can plunge them into an ice bath to speed the cooling, but it’s not necessary.
Combine the leeks, mushrooms, tomatoes, nuts, apple, breadcrumbs and herbs in a large bowl. Mix the Ener-G egg replacer with the warm water, and add to this to the bowl along with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the tamari. Mix everything until it’s thoroughly combined, and all of the ingredients are moistened – I usually toss it around with two wooden spoons until it’s mixed.
Press the mixture into an oiled 9 x 5 loaf pan, or a small to medium casserole pan. (You could also use an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking pan.) It will seem like it’s not going to fit, but just keep packing it down.
You’re going to bake this in a water bath, so once you have it ready to go, grab a larger baking pan to set your loaf or casserole pan in. Put the whole thing in the oven, and then pour water about halfway up the sides of your loaf or casserole pan.
Bake the roast for an hour at 400 degrees, and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 1 1/2 hours. The top will be very brown, but shouldn’t be black. You can serve the loaf in it’s pan, or let it rest for about 5 minutes and turn it out onto a platter.
Notes: Your baking time may vary. I turned the oven down to 350 before an hour had passed, because I saw that the top was getting pretty brown. Just keep checking on it every 20 minutes or so and you can adjust the temperature or cooking time accordingly.
Don’t forget to watch the water bath level! You want to keep it at least halfway up the sides of your pan at all times, so check periodically and add water as needed.
Don’t stress about being exact with this recipe. For example, I didn’t have an hazelnuts on hand this time, so I just used and extra 1/2 each of cashews and almonds. I’ve used assorted fresh herbs before, and also used dry. Both versions turned out well. The original recipe calls for grating the apple, but since it’s a bit of a pain I just finely chop it.
Speaking of that apple, you also don’t have to peel it if you don’t feel like it – and the same goes for the tomatoes. I’ve made this both ways, and the main different is just that you’ll end up with small pieces of peel in the roast if you leave the skins on. It doesn’t really affect the flavor, more the presentation.