Saturday, December 5, 2009

Manicotti

I was going to do a test run today for Diane's second birthday party next Saturday (yes, she already had one but birthdays are a big deal in our family and your status is so determined by the number of parties you get), which I am hosting and for which I have ambitious plans, but then…I didn't. Will I just wing it? Maybe! Owing to recent distressing events at work, I had to prescribe myself some brain bleach so I headed out to the local library for some easy fiction instead—and to the grocery store for cat food (wet, pate-style) since I am apparently the slave of my own pets, don't even ask. Since we were in the middle of our first winter storm and I had to slog through a foot of snow most of the way, this was also a workout, which was cool with me since I had excess energy to burn. And did I mention that I really, really love my pets?

Then I returned, alive…what to make for supper…flipping through cookbooks I came upon the cannelloni recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen. You know I have some ground up seitan just waiting to be used. But then, on the opposite page to her recipe for cannelloni, in the little sidebar, Bryanna mentions that "Crepes have been made in Italy for centuries with many different types of flours…in southern Italy they are often referred to as manicotti…" Well, I don't have any cannelloni noodles on hand right now, but I was intrigued by the filling and can certainly make crepes. So I did. Good god, if you own this book, turn to page 104 and start cooking. If you don't, then you can do the following:

Manicotti
adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen and Vegan Brunch
Serves 3 (I made just enough for one nice meal as you see in the accompanying photographs, but there is some of everything left over)

1 cup tomato sauce (I have a thing where I don't really like tomato sauce with a lot of powerful herbs, so what I do is heat up 3 tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan, add 2 cloves garlic, minced, and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or from a can, and salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, or longer if the sauce needs to cook down to reach optimum texture. Your preferences may differ, so feel free to add oregano, basil, or any other herb so the sauce tastes good to you.)

Filling:
1/2 lb fresh spinach (or, as it were, bok choy or any other greens you happen to have handy)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups ground seitan (any kind; I used the baked "chicken" type from the Real Food Daily Cookbook)
salt and pepper

1/2 of the crepe recipe from Vegan Brunch (alas, it doesn't seem to be posted anywhere else, so you'll have to buy the book, or else use Bryanna's recipe, which I am sure is totally delicious)
cashew cheese, grated

Make the crepe batter and put it in the refrigerator to cool.

Fry the greens in the water that clings to their leaves after washing until wilted. Drain, cool, squeeze dry, and finely chop.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft; then add the garlic and sauté a few minutes longer. Add the crumbled seitan and the chopped greens and salt and pepper and continue to cook for a few minutes until the mixture is fairly dry. Set aside to cool.

Now make the crepes, using 3 tbsp batter for each crepe and following the directions for whichever recipe you are using. As each crepe is finished, roll it up around about 3 tbsp filling and place it in a small casserole into which a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce have been spread.

You see here five crepes in a cute little casserole dish; as you'll see from the image at the start of this post, I didn't really have side dishes for this meal, so I had no problem eating all five, and there's quite a bit of the batter left over—woo hoo, Sunday brunch, I am so ready for you!

Pour a little more of the tomato sauce over top, and cook in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes. I added some cashew cheese at this point and broiled it for another 2 minutes. The crepes are soft and don't come out of the pan as individual items. Nevertheless, they can be tasted, and the taste is out of this world! This is a dish you can cook just for yourself, as I did tonight (it's that easy), or serve at a dinner party (it's that good, and good looking). The seitan filling seems to sort of melt into everything else, so I wouldn't even hesitate to serve this to omnis. Just make sure you start with good-tasting seitan.

This was a great little meal, and very tweakable according to your own tastes. Go forth, friends, and tweak!

1 comment:

  1. Looks yummy! I've never cooked crepes per se but my mom always made super thin pancakes the full size of the frying pan growing up. Then we would roll them with brown sugar and butter - makes me want some now. I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw "fat" pancakes, 3 to a pan! LOL .. Now you got me searching for an easy vegan crepe -- and I found one - super duper easy -- and I'll file it away for future try-out!
    I'm already tweaking in my mind :) Glad you made it back alive -- I'm sure your little 4-legged friends were happy you did too especially since you went to get their treats.

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