Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Orzo with Home-Made Vegan Chicken Apple Sausage, Asparagus , Baby Tomatoes and Home-Made Vegan Ricotta Salata in a White Tomato Sauce

Ok. It's time for one of my Kvetch Korners. I want to preface this story with the fact that both Jane and I are very grateful for all of our wedding gifts. Writing this even makes me feel a little bit Jew Guilty, but I'll just let it slide for humor's sake. So here's what happened...

We received two gifts via mail from Best Buy, both of which we already owned. Both gifts contained gift receipts, leading us to believe that we could easily return the items and receive a gift card to the store. WRONG. We walk up to the customer service register. It goes a little something like this:

Me: We'd like to return these gifts in exchange for a store credit.

Clerk: I'm sorry. We cannot process a return on these items. All we can do is credit the original card on which the purchase was made.

Me: But then the person will know we didn't like their gift. What kind of return policy is that? I have a gift receipt!

Clerk: I'm sorry. It's just our policy.

Me: The store still gets the money if you issue me a gift card, and the gift giver doesn't get offended. No one gets hurt. Is it really that big of a deal?

Clerk: I'm sorry. It's just our policy.

At this point, I'm ready to go Jew on their asses. I ask for the manager, explain in the calmest voice I can muster that "it's just common sense that a gift card should be issued", and finally get my way. I know, I know. I can be a bit of a brat. But for fuck's sake, isn't that the most ridiculous policy you've ever heard of? All I know is that I'll never buy anyone a gift from Best Buy unless I can assure they'll like it. At least I got my damn gift card.

Enough whining for one day. I feel much better after letting off some steam. On to the food. This recipe is a little complex with the sausage making, so feel free to just buy some pre-made vegan sausages to simplify the process. It'll be (almost) as delicious. You can also just use a more simple tofu ricotta instead of doing the whole cheese making process.


Orzo with Home-Made Vegan Chicken Apple Sausage, Asparagus , Baby Tomatoes and Home-Made Vegan Ricotta Salata
in a White Tomato Sauce

For the Home Made Sausage...
  • 1 batch of Chicken Style Seitan, drained well and cut into small (1-2 inch) pieces
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Gala Apples, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 White Onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP Canola Oil
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • 3 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 3 1/2 cups White Rice cooked in No Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Chef's Note: There are many variations to making the sausages if you lack all the equipment in the recipe. See the bottom of the recipe for alternative instructions. There are also some alternative methods included throughout the recipe, so read carefully to find your best option.

After all the seitan and vegetables are prepped, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, and saute 30 seconds. Add the onions plus a pinch of salt and pepper, then saute until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown.

Add the "chicken", apples, Worcestershire, ground ginger and a splash of lemon juice to the pan. Cook until the apples are beginning to soften.

Add the rice cooked in no chicken broth, and stir well to combine. Cook until the rice has completely warmed through. Remove from heat.

Using a meat grinder or food processor (see photo below), grind the mixture to the texture of ground beef.

Using a sausage maker attachment for a kitchenaid or other sausage maker, take vegetarian sausage casings and fill each link, twisting off after each links is about 6-7 inches long. Your sausage maker should have specific instructions as to how to make the links, so directions may vary depending on what product you use.

If you lack any of the equipment listed above, shape the sausages by hand by rolling them out on a flat surface, then steam in a steamer basket over boiling water for 35 minutes prior to using as directed below.

For the Orzo...
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 1 lb Orzo Pasta
  • 3 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon's No Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 TBSP Kosher Salt, plus more for sprinkling on Asparagus
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil, plus more for roasting Asparagus
  • 2 links of Vegan Chicken Apple Sausage (see recipe above) or prepared Vegan Sausage*
  • 1 batch of White Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Baby Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP Chervil, finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 batch of Vegan Ricotta Salata (recipe follows) or Tofu Ricotta

*Chef's Note: Depending on the type of Vegan sausage casing you use, the cooking methods the casing will allow may vary. Check the casing instructions first to be sure they can endure high heat. If not OR if you're using pre-made sausages, slide the uncooked sausage out of the casing, slice and fry as the recipe indicates below.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.

Bake the Chicken Apple sausages for 1/2 hour, then up the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 1/2 hour. until firm. Remove the sausages from the oven, leaving the oven on, and set aside to cool. Once cool, slice into bite-size pieces.

Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, then lay the asparagus out evenly. Brush each spear lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast in your oven for 10-15 minutes, until soft, shaking the roasting pan once or twice throughout the roasting process. Once the stalks begin to brown, remove from your oven and set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, bring the No Chicken Broth, water and kosher salt to a boil. Add the orzo, and cool until al dente (still a bit firm to the bite). While the pasta is cooking...

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add and saute the sausage until cooked through and browning, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and asparagus, and cook for 2-3 minutes until all heated through.

Drain the orzo well. Place the drained orzo in a large bowl, then toss with cherry tomatoes, sausage mixture, White Tomato Sauce, chervil and parsley. Taste for salt and pepper. Crumble and top with Vegan Ricotta Salata and serve.

White Tomato Sauce...
  • 3 large or 4 small White Heirloom Tomatoes (or Yellow)
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup White Onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup White Wine
  • 1 dried Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes, reserving their juices.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices, and stir/mash the tomatoes as you go along. If you have an immersion blender, use it now to puree almost all of the tomatoes. If you don't, just smash with a potato masher or good wooden spatula.

Once the tomatoes are warmed through and smashed, add the white wine, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes and a touch of salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a fast simmer.

Allow the sauce to simmer until it has reduced by 1/2, about an hour.

Taste for salt and pepper. The sauce shouldn't be overly salty as White Tomatoes tend to have a sweeter taste.

For the Vegan Ricotta Salata...
  • 2 gallons soy milk, at 90F
7 tablespoons cultured Coconut Milk Kefir

  • 6 tablespoons Soy Yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp liquid vegetable rennet dissolved in about 1 cup Cold water
  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar

Bring and hold the soy milk at 90 degrees F over low heat. Mix the Kefir and yogurt separately with a little of the soy milk to remove lumps, then blend into the rest of the soy milk. Add the rennet solution and mix completely. Let sit until the curds set for about 20 to 30 minutes, maintaining the temperature at 90 degrees F.
Increase the heat to 180 degrees F, stirring constantly.

Once the temperature hits 180, slowly whisk in the white vinegar. The mixture should curdle heavily. Continue whisking while maintaining the 180 degree temperature for about 15 minutes. Then let the mixture sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.

Prepare a cheese-cloth lined colander in the sink. Have some pieces of string handy to tie up the cheese cloth and hang the cheese to dry.
Slowly pour the mixture over the cheese-cloth-lined colander, and allow the curds to cool for 20 minutes.

Tie up the four corners of the cheese cloth together, then hand it by a wooden spoon or stick so that it drains...about 5-7 hours.
You have a few options as to what you can do with the cheese at this point. You can unwrap the cheese from the cheesecloth and:

A) Salt or leave unsalted and use immediately in a recipe as plain Ricotta

B) Salt (or leave unsalted) and press the cheese into a mold using about 10lbs of pressure, then place the molded cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator and allow it to age and become "Ricotta Salata"

Use as you would ricotta salata, ricotta or cotija in your favorite recipe.