A few weeks ago I taught a cooking class at Down to Earth focused on vegan comfort foods. But what is, actually, a comfort food?
To me, comfort foods are recipes that have a bit of nostalgia connected to them, and maybe seem a little rich or decadent. Maybe these types of meals remind you of foods from your childhood, or foods that you might be craving this time of year, or maybe it’s foods that you miss from your pre-vegetarian/vegan days.
Whatever the memories and comfort attached to them, I always like to to share healthier versions of my favorite comfort foods. The recipes I chose for this class meet all my requirements for cozy, delicious comfort: Vegan Macaroni and Cheese, Chickpea Cutlets with Mushroom Gravy, Red Pepper & Pumpkin Soup, and a hearty Autumn Jewels Kale Salad with a creamy tahini dressing.
These recipes are riffs on some long-standing staples in my kitchen, borrowed from cookbooks long ago and adapted and loved over the years. Individual inspo credit is included in each of the recipes below.
Enjoy the coziness, friends. Stay warm with the ones you love.
Roasted Red Pepper & Kabocha Soup
This creamy, dreamy soup is naturally sweet and deeply nourishing. Kabocha is my favorite squash to use here, but butternut, acorn, or kuri squash would be totally delicious too. If you have a ton of time, you can peel the squash, which will create the creamiest soup, but skin on is totally ok (assuming you have a strong blender or food processor).
Creamy Mushroom Gravy
A deliciously creamy gravy for all your Chickpea Cutlets, for mashed potato cravings, and anything else in need of a swirl of earthy gravy. I think this recipe feels really fancy, but it’s really easy to make, and comes together in just about 10 minutes.
Autumn Jewels Salad with Tahini Dressing
During the cooler months, I love adding cooked veggies to my salads for a nice raw/cooked combo. The pretty beets and carrots look like little jewels in the salad, hence the name. And it takes advantage of a often wasted veggie part: the kale stems! The Creamy Tahini Dressing featured is my favorite to use here, but any type of creamy dressing will work. You can also substitute almond butter for the tahini for a different flavor.
See the full recipe (with the addition of kamut, a yummy whole grain) here on Care2.
A hearty main dish option that will satisfy all the vegans and omnivores at your dinner party. This recipe can be made with any type of bean and with any array of flavors you might like (garlic, chilies, lemon zest, dried herbs). Adapted and pared down from the epic vegan cookbook Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
1 (16 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
1 cup plain breadcrumbs 1⁄2 cup vegetable broth or water
1⁄4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or onion powder)
Additional olive oil for pan frying
- In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas together with the oil until no whole chickpeas are left. Alternatively, use a processor to pulse until just broken up (do not blend fully; as Isa says, “We’re not making hummus!”).
- Add the remaining ingredients and knead together into a solid dough for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.
- Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat.
- Divide the cutlet dough into 2 equal pieces. Then divide each of those pieces into 4 separate pieces (so you’ll have 8 all together). To form cutlets, knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each one into a roughly 4×6 inch rectangular cutlet shape.
- Add a few teaspoons of oil to the pan, swirling to coat. Place the cutlets in the pan and cook on each side for 6 to 7 minutes, or until just browned on each side. Add more oil, then flip, cooking another 5 minutes or until browned evenly and warmed thoroughly.
- Remove from pan, layer onto a plate, and let rest a few minutes before serving.
Yield: about 8 cutlets