When you want something different from the traditional bread stuffing on Thanksgiving, wild rice stuffing is a great alternative. Wild rice has an earthy appeal that is so well suited for fall and winter meals. It is generously filled with complementary fall flavors with grains, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and toasted nuts. To liven up these woodsy fall notes I added dried cranberries for a sweet and tangy zing and lots of fresh herbs. It is everything you expect in a stuffing recipe minus the bread.
I love wild rice and have always wanted to make wild rice stuffing, yet it has taken me all these years to finally do so. Tradition has a strong hold on what I make for our holiday meal. If it were only up to me, I would experiment and try new recipes every year. Yet, tradition overrules. Everyone has their favorite food that must be on the menu because Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without it. For my sons, that special holiday dish is pineapple stuffing, for me, it is all of the side dishes, but I particularly like my favorite stuffing recipe and pumpkin pie.
Wild Rice Stuffing
In the past, I sampled wild rice stuffing made with all wild rice and aromatics. As much as I like wild rice, I prefer it in a blend with long grain white or brown rice. The rice blend flavor is less overpowering and doesn’t compete with the other foods. Within this recipe layers of flavor builds from slowly caramelizing the onions then sautéing the mushrooms in the same pan. These flavors take time to develop, so be patient and cook the onions slowly until they turn golden and sweet. I promise it is worth it.
I adapted this recipe from an old Thanksgiving Menu article in Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms. My cookbook collection is filled with binders of old food magazine articles I read since the early 1990’s. At the time, any recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard to part with as I was dreaming of the day when it will be my turn to host a family holiday meal. I own binders full of recipes from old food magazines that still hold my interest 20 years later.
You have two choices for finishing the stuffing. One, stuff the turkey with the wild rice stuffing. Or, bake the stuffing in a baking dish. Both options have their advantages. If you stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, the stuffing absorbs the flavors of your turkey and gets very moist. The opposite happens, if you bake the stuffing. The stuffing stays moist, but the top gets crispy. The crunchy bits are Joe’s favorite part of the stuffing.
If you choose to stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, you must cook the stuffing until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) because it is cooked inside a raw turkey. Often, the turkey finishes cooking before the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If that is the case, remove the stuffing and finish it in a baking dish covered with foil in a 350°F (176°C) oven, until it reaches the proper temperature.
Stuffing or Pilaf?
You can prepare this recipe with two options. First, prepare the wild rice stuffing as directed using the two-stage cooking process. However, if you want to make this for a regular dinner, as a side with a roast pork or chicken, serve the rice after it finishes cooking on the stove. The rice is plenty done plus it saves you 40 minutes if you skip the baking. For extra flavor toast the wild rice and white rice in butter and make this recipe as a pilaf.
Dietary Challenges Creating a Holiday Menu
When I make a holiday meal for my family, there are many types of diets I must take into consideration. Generally speaking, my meal needs to satisfy an omnivore diet, plus vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Sometimes dairy-free, low salt restrictions, and nut free restrictions need consideration. Satisfying everyone in the family requires some thoughtful planning.
Fortunately, wild rice stuffing is one of those side dishes that easily fits into all my dietary considerations. It is in the one size fits all category. First, it is gluten-free, so you can check consideration off your list. Second, cook the rice in vegetable stock and bake it in the oven for a plant-based meal. You get bonus points with your vegetarian and vegan friends because combining wild rice, white rice, and nuts create a meal with complementary proteins. Low or no salt store-bought stocks are good options, but homemade stock is even better for keeping salt intake down.
Fortunately, when I host a holiday meal, I do not have to make it all by myself. People enjoy contributing to a portion of the dinner. It makes them feel connected to the event and not burden the host with all the work and expense. Recruit as much help as you need and don’t be shy about it.
Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries
Wild rice stuffing is a great alternative to bread stuffing. It has all the flavors you love in stuffing from the caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms, and toasted walnuts with an added boost from dried cranberries and fresh herbs. This is a great gluten-free stuffing alternative that all will enjoy.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms, I believe dating back to 2000.
You can prepare the wild rice stuffing a day or two in advance kept covered in the refrigerator then bake in the oven when needed. This recipe is easily scaled up or down as needed.
- 4-5 onions around 2- 2 ½ lbs (1 kg
- 1 cup (3 oz / 87 g) walnuts
- 8 TB (113 g) butter, divided one stick
- 1 ¼ lb (575 g) assorted wild mushrooms like crimini and shiitake stemmed and sliced
- 3 TB chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 2 TB (30 ml) Brandy or Dry Sherry optional
- 5 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tsp fresh sage minced
- 1 1/3 cup (226 g / 8 oz) wild rice
- 1 ¼ cup (245 g / 8.5 oz) long grain white rice
- 1 cup (123 g) dried cranberries
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
- 6 -8 large sprigs of Italian Parsley
Peel and slice the onions in half lengthwise then thinly slice each half in half-moons. Set aside.
Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat, to just before smoking hot. Toast the walnuts in the hot skillet. Keep the walnuts moving and jumping around the skillet so they do not brown and burn. The walnuts are toasted when you get a nutty aroma and the skillet seems shinier from the oils released from the walnuts, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and tip the walnuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
Melt 4 TB (56 g) butter in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops sizzling, add the onions slices and turn down the heat to medium-low. Stir to coat the onions with butter and cook the onions until caramelized about 30 minutes or longer. It is important to caramelize the onions slowly otherwise they will burn. Stir the onions every now and then to make sure the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. The browner you let the onions get the more flavor they bring to the wild rice stuffing. Add in a pinch of Kosher salt.
Once the onions are caramelized, scrape them into a bowl and set aside. Place the pot or sauté pan back on the stove with the heat up to medium-high.
Melt the remaining 4 TB (56 g) butter then add the mushrooms, pinch of the Kosher salt, and 1 tsp minced thyme. Stir to coat the mushrooms with butter, then sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid and cooked all the way through. There are too many mushrooms in on pot for them to brown, but if you get some browning on the mushroom all the better as it adds flavor. Add the brandy or sherry (optional), and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.
Meanwhile, while the onions and mushrooms are cooking, heat up the stock with 2 tsp minced sage and 1 TB thyme and remaining Kosher salt in a large Dutch Oven with at least a 5 qt capacity to a boil. Add the wild rice and bring back to a boil, then cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes.
Mix in the white rice and cover. Simmer until the white rice is just getting tender and most of the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes.
Stir in the caramelized onions, mushrooms, cranberries, walnuts with the remaining tablespoon of thyme, 1 tsp minced sage, and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
Finish by stuffing the turkey with the wild rice stuffing or bake the stuffing in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dish.
To bake stuffing in the turkey:
Chop 4 of the parsley sprigs and add to the wild rice stuffing. Stir to combine. Loosely fill the neck and main cavities of the turkey with the stuffing. Loosely sew the skin flap over the neck area to secure the rice in place. Truss the legs of the turkey together. Add the remaining stuffing to a buttered baking dish large enough to hold the leftovers. Cover with buttered foil and bake in the oven with the turkey, until heated through about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing then bake until the top of the stuffing is slightly crisp.
Bake the stuffing in the turkey until the turkey is done, and remove the stuffing while the turkey rests. Immediately check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing is done when it reaches 165°F (74°C). If the internal temperature is lower than 165°F (74°C) remove the stuffing from the cavities and place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Continue to bake the stuffing until the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C)
Remove the stuffing from the cavities and spoon into a serving bowl. Mince the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Keep warm until time to serve. Serve hot.
To bake stuffing in a baking dish:
Butter a 9 – 13- 2-inch baking dish. Add half of the minced parsley to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. Tip the rice stuffing into the baking dish then cover with a buttered piece of foil, butter side down. Bake in a 350°F (176°C) for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil and bake until it starts to crisp on top, another 20 minutes or so. You do not have to concern yourself with the internal temperature reaching 165°F (74°C) because it was not cooked inside a turkey. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Serve hot.
I believe the wild rice stuffing is delicious and ready to serve just after cooking on the stove. If you do not want to go through the extra step of baking it, however, this extra step gives you a crispy top, feel free to do so. Wild rice with mushrooms and cranberries makes a great rice side dish. This is a hearty flavored rice meal and will work well with oven roasted or grilled meats, and fish like sea bass, tuna, salmon or swordfish.
You can substitute the long grain white rice with long grain brown rice. Cooking times will vary and take longer with brown rice.
Extra mushroom flavor
For extra wild mushroom flavor, add 1 tablespoon of porcini mushroom powder to the stock. You can also reconstitute some dried wild mushrooms like porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, then chop them up. Add them to the sautéed mushrooms.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
This is the only vegetable stock recipe you need to know. I usually do not make blanket statements like this, but when it comes to vegetable stock, this one is the only one worth using. The technique used to pull out as much flavor from the vegetables is so genius and obvious, I often wish I thought of it myself. What makes this stock so wonderful and puts all other vegetable stock recipes to shame? The brilliant idea of roasting the vegetables before you simmer them in water.
This is Mark Bittman’s recipe for vegetable stock from, How to Cook Everything. In his cookbook, Mark Bittman writes about his technique of roasting the vegetables before simmering them in the stockpot as the one step he always does when making vegetable stock. He has the talent for paring down a recipe to include only the essential techniques to get the most amount of flavor. Yet, for making vegetable stock, he adds an extra step and it is essential. Because Mark Bittman is often so nonchalant about things, that when he says, “This is the one thing to do when making vegetable stock,” I do not question his wisdom. I follow.
Building Extra Flavor
Once you roast the vegetables then simmer them for stock, you will see how important this step is. When vegetables roast in the oven, their flavor concentrates and browning occurs. This browning adds extra body and flavor on top of the flavor you get from roasting. If Emeril Lagasse was making this recipe he would shout out, “Bam,” and with a flick of his wrist, like its a magic wand, present this vegetable stock masterpiece.
Honestly, there are two extra steps because you must deglaze the pan after roasting the vegetables then add all that extra flavor into the stock.
Another bonus with deglazing the pan is, it helps with the cleanup later on. All the baked on goodness, (I know you are looking at the photo and thinking clean-up is going to be a bitch) dissolves into the warm water as you scrape it off the bottom of the pan. Voila, half the clean up is done before you finish the stock.
Vegetables for Vegetable Stock
“Vegetable for Vegetable Stock” sounds like a political campaign slogan. Though I am not on a political crusade, I am on a homemade vegetable stock crusade. The essential vegetables for making stock are celery, carrots, onions, and leeks. Use the onion skins because they add great color to the stock. Feel free to use the whole plant, roots and all. Carrot tops and celery leaves I add later to the simmering stock with the herbs, But everything else roasts together in one roasting pan.
Other vegetables depend on what you are making and have on hand. What is important to keep in mind is, whatever vegetable you use will influence the flavor of the stock. If you use broccoli stems, the stock will taste like broccoli. If you use asparagus ends, the stock will taste like asparagus and have a khaki green glow. Sometimes bitter vegetables get more bitter when roasted or cooked. So, keep in mind what you are making with the vegetable stock and add extra vegetables to complement the meal. If you are making vegetable stock for broccoli soup, then broccoli stems are perfect in the stock. If you are making mushroom risotto, then using broccoli is not the best choice, but reconstituted mushrooms and fresh mushrooms are along with the essential vegetables.
For my vegetable stock I generally use, celery, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic cloves, parsnip, turnip, and mushrooms with fresh herbs. Sometimes I add fennel stalks, but not too many.
Potatoes are common vegetables in stock, but I have yet to use them. Instead of potatoes, I like to use parsnips and turnips. What concerns me about using potatoes is I do not want the stock to get cloudy and I believe the starches in potatoes will cause that to happen. Also, I do not want my stock to taste like potatoes.
Cutting Back on Food Waste and Make Stock
To cut back on food waste, I keep a stash of vegetable scraps in my freezer specifically to use in chicken and vegetable stock. It is great to save on food items you frequently cook with, like mushrooms stems and the dark green parts of cleaned leeks instead of throwing them away. Fennel scraps get thrown in there as well. Recently I froze a bunch of swiss chard stalks from my Savory Tart of Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash and used them in my vegetable stock. Whatever vegetable scraps I do not use I compost even though I do not have a vegetable garden. Composting your kitchen scraps help reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Read here for more information about Food Waste
For the first time, make the vegetable stock using the recommended vegetables and discover the vegetable flavor developed from the recipe. Once you get familiar with making stock, you can experiment with using different vegetables and come up with your own varieties.
Mark Bittman lists white wine as one of the ingredients in the stock. If I have a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio on hand I use it. If not, I don’t. The wine does make the flavors brighter but is not so important that you need to make a special trip to the liquor store.
Discovering this vegetable stock recipe was a life changer for me. Up until then, store-bought vegetable stock tasted meh and the flavor unreliable. Any homemade version tasted just a step up from water. I like using vegetable stock in meals like risotto and vegetable stews because chicken stock sometimes is too strong a flavor. Sure, you can use chicken stock in all these foods, especially if you are not cooking for a person eating a plant-based diet, but it makes everything taste like chicken soup. As much as I love chicken soup, I do not want everything to taste like it. Having a good vegetable stock recipe is a necessity.
Use vegetable stock in these recipes:
Roasted Vegetable Stock
You can use most vegetables for making stock, just keep in mind that the stock will taste like the vegetables you made it with. The essential vegetable stock ingredients are celery, onion, carrots, and leeks. Any additional vegetables are bonuses. I happen to love the flavor of parsnips and turnips in stocks and use them often. Parsnips have a distinct and sweet flavor, that I believe gives vegetable stock a unique flavor.
This recipe is from, How to Cook Everything By Mark Bittman.
Makes 3 quarts
- 2 washed leeks cut in half or 2 onions quartered with the peel intact.
- 3 carrots peeled and cut in half
- 3 celery stalks cut in half, add some celery leaves during the simmer
- 2 parsnips peeled and cut in half optional
- 2 white turnips peeled and quartered optional
- 2 potatoes peeled or well washed and quartered optional and use if you do not use parsnips or turnips
- 1 cup (250 ml) mushrooms or mushroom stems. Or ¼ cup (60 ml) reconstituted dried mushrooms with soaking liquid)
- 6 garlic cloves still in its papery skin or shallots
- 4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 sprigs parsley
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- ¼ cup 60 ml dry white wine
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 quarts (2 liters) water, plus 4 cups (1 liter) of water for deglazing
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan. Do not add reconstituted mushrooms or fresh herbs at this time. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Use two sheet or roasting pans if necessary. Drizzle the vegetables with the extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt. Toss the vegetables with your clean hands to evenly coat.
Roast the vegetables in the oven until they are browned and soft. Check the vegetables every twenty minutes and turn them around with a thin metal spatula. The vegetables should take around 45 minutes to finish roasting.
Remove the vegetables from the roasting pan and place all the ingredients in a large stockpot. Add the remaining vegetables, fresh herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns, wine, and 2 quarts of water. Turn on the heat to high.
Place the roasting pan over two burners and pour in the remaining water. Begin with 2 cups (500 ml) of water as it is easier to pour back into the stock pot from the roasting pan. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Use a wooden spoon and scrape off the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the liquid into the stockpot with the vegetables and add remaining water. It is awkward handling a large sheet pan or roasting pan filled with water, so be careful.
Bring the stock to a just about a boil, turn down the heat and cover the pot with a lid part way. Maintain the temperature at a low simmer. You should see a few bubbles reaching the surface at a time. Cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender. This can take from 30 -45 minutes. Taste.
Place a colander over a large bowl big enough to hold 3 quarts. Pour out the vegetables into the colander and drain the stock in the bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much stock as possible without pressing in any solids into the stock. Taste and adjust for salt if needed.
Refrigerate and chill for a couple of hours then skim off any hardened fat floating on the surface if you like. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for a couple of months.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Last week I was making a vegan plum crisp for my brother-in-law and while shopping for some plums I spied ripe Forelle pears. It may seem a bit too early for pears, but Forelle pears are now ripe and ready at my local farm stand. I love the way Forelle pears look, they are so adorable in its petit form looking like a baby Bartlett pear with rosy cheeks. I find them hard to resist and are the perfect size for an afternoon snack. Change of plans, my plum crisp just got a makeover and turned into a vegan plum and pear crisp with lots of fresh ginger and a hint of nutmeg.
What Is A Crisp?
Crumble or crisp? I have confused the names of these two desserts for so many years. It is just that the actual name of each dessert is opposite to what my backward brain believes it should be. Essentially aren’t they the same dessert after all? Yes and no. Both the crumble and crisp are baked fruit desserts with a crusty topping. However, one has rolled oats in the topping and the other does not.
A fruit crisp has the rolled oats and flour topping and is so named because the rolled oats make the rough and tumble topping crispy like an oatmeal cookie. A fruit crumble is made with all-purpose flour, butter, sugar and gets all soft and crumbly while baking and soaking up the fruit juices.
Plum and Pear Crisp
This is one of the easiest desserts you can make, and it is one that is so satisfying. Essentially it is baked fruit with a giant cookie topping like two desserts in one. Top it off with some vanilla ice cream and you have 3 dessert indulgences on your plate.
The recipe is a basic formula for all fruit crisps. Usually, crips have around 6 cups (1.5 Liters) of fruit filling for the standard amount. This formula works with any type of fruit like plums, pears, apples or other stone fruit. This amount of fruit filling fills a nine-inch (23 cm) pie plate or 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish.
The topping generally has equal parts of rolled oats to all-purpose flour with butter and sugar. For this recipe, I wanted to make a vegan dessert so, I used a vegan butter substitute. I have success using Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread. (Not an ad.) The flavor is pleasant and tastes natural, unlike some kinds of margarine. FYI, not all margarine is vegan. It is one of the easiest desserts to convert to a vegan option because the butter is the only animal product to find a substitute for.
Keys to Success
The key to a perfectly baked plum and pear crisp lies in the fruit selection. The type of pear or plum is not as important, but how ripe they are is. Your fruit must be ripe. Ideally just ripe or a smidgen off ripe. Overripe plums and pears will dissolve into a sauce and not keep their shape. Unripe plums and pears will never get soft no matter how long you bake them. It is just not their time. Plus, they do not have any flavor.
I used a combination of black plums and European plums, like a Moyer plum. The European plum has a longer and oval shape compared to the roundness of black plums. Any type of plum will taste great as long as they are ripe.
For the pears, I used only Forelle, because they were ripe. Bosc pears work very well in a crisp or pie because they keep its shape. I did not peel the Forelle pears, but if I used Bosc pears I would peel them as the skin is rougher and thicker than Forelle pears.
I have made this plum and pear dessert many times, yet as you can see in my photographs, this time around I went a little overboard with the fruit filling. Ideally, you want a level surface of fruit filling for the buttery topping to spread over. The fruit cooks evenly when it is not piled up so high and the rolled oats in the topping won’t burn before the crisp is done.
My problem is the result of a shallow baking dish, that I chose because it would photograph better than my trusty Pyrex deep dish pie pan. My vanity resulted in a delicious plum and pear crisp, but one that did not bake as evenly as it should. I say this, so you can learn from my mistake and not feel you must make your crisp overflowing with fruit like I did.
Mix It Up
Use any fruit for the filling. Apples, pears, plums, nectarines or other stone fruit. I added some blackberries with the plums and pears in my crisp just for fun. If you want to make a mixed berry crisp, mix the berries with a type of fruit that retains its shape like nectarines, plums, or Bosc pears. Otherwise, it will look saucy without any distinctive fruit shapes.
Change the spices. I love fresh ginger with fruit and use it often. Other good spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or ground clove. Lemon zest and lemon juice brighten up the fruit and the juice prevents apples and pears from browning. Lemon zest is also a nice accent flavor mixed in the topping.
Add dried fruit like chopped dried apricots or cranberries. They add a tart concentrated flavor to the fruit filling and help absorb some of the fruit juices. Add about a half a cup (125 ml) at the most. Dried fruit should be an accent flavor, not a featured one.
Add nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes to the topping. Pecans, walnuts or almonds give the topping some extra crunch. If you add unsweetened coconut flakes, add a 1/2 a cup (125 ml), and remove equal amounts of rolled oats and all-purpose flour (1/4 cup, 60 ml, each).
P.S. Yes, I do see the reflection of the chandelier in the spoon. I could not get the darn clone stamp to work in Photoshop so I gave up and included the photo anyway. To all the Photoshop experts out there, how do you get rid of reflections in shiny objects like a silver spoon?
Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp
Fruit crisp has a basic formula that is suitable for any seasonal fruit. This basic formula makes it easy to personalize your crisp using the fruit and spices you love. I love using fresh ginger with fruit as it adds some bite and compliments most fruits like pears, plums and apples. However, ground ginger does not taste as bright as fresh ginger in baked desserts.
Often, I need a vegan dessert and I find fruit crisps are an easy vegan dessert option. There are no eggs or dairy products to maintain the structure of a crisp so all you need to substitute is a plant-based butter-like spread. In this recipe, you can use equal amounts of vegan butter spread or real butter. When selecting a vegan butter spread, read the ingredients list carefully to make sure there are no dairy or other animal-based ingredients in the mix.
- 6 cups (1.5 L) prepared fruit. Depending on the type and size of plums you will need 5- 6 plums. And, 4-6 Forelle pears or 3-4 Bosc pears
- 6 oz (170 g) blackberries optional
- 1 ½ inch (14 g) knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2/3 cup 113 g packed brown sugar
- ¾ cup 75 g rolled oats ( not quick rolled oats)
- ¾ cup 100g all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup 27 g toasted nuts, like pecans, almonds or walnuts, chopped
- 5 TB 86 g straight out of the refrigerator vegan butter substitute or butter
- Pinch 1/8 tsp of Kosher salt
Set the oven rack into the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly butter a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan or 8-inch (20 cm) square pan. Set aside.
Slice open the plums and remove the pits then slice the plums into wedges. Add the plums into a large mixing bowl.
Slice each pear in half and remove the core. Then cut each pear into chunks about 1/2 -3/4 of an inch (1 cm - 1.5 cm). Add the pears into the bowl with the plums. The skin on Forelle pears is very thin and tender so I do not peel them. However, if you are using Bosc pears, you might want to peel the skin.
Add the minced ginger and grated nutmeg to the bowl with the fruit along with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Mix together until the sugar and spices are thoroughly mixed through the fruit. Set aside.
In another bowl add the sugar, rolled oats, all-purpose flour, toasted nuts and a pinch of Kosher salt. Mix together with your clean hands until the butter and all ingredients are evenly incorporated and forming soft clumps of dough.
Pour the fruit into your prepared baking pan then sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top of the fruit. Place your baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, then slide into the oven. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is evenly browned and the juices are bubbly.
Cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve hot or room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, loosely covered in aluminum foil.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.
Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.
While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.
Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos
This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.
If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.
To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”
The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.
Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos
The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.
Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.
Toppings for Black Bean Tacos
As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese. The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.
If you do not eat dairy, add pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.
The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.
I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.
I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52. For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash
- 1 1 lb 12 oz / 788 g winter squash like butternut or kabocha
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¾ Kosher salt
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 6 oz 102 g white onion, minced (about half an onion)
- 2 large cloves of garlic peeled, green germ removed and minced
- 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote crumbled
- 1 lb 500 g drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
- Kosher salt to taste
Assemble the Tacos
- 8 corn tortillas
- Roasted winter squash
- Black bean spread
- 1 avocado sliced thin
- Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
- Creme fraiche optional
- Small handful of cilantro minced
- ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
- 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
- Salsa verde
Roast the winter squash
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.
While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.
Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.
Assemble the tacos
Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.