19 October 2010

That Time of Year

With a week-and-a-half remaining until Halloween, I am still completely unprepared for any forthcoming ghoulishly-themed festivities.  Mind you, I have no problem with the excuse to partake in costumed fun while indulging in candy and other appropriately-themed edibles.  My current life situation simply is not conducive to the careless frolicking I could have (and often, did) get away with during college, with Halloween becoming one of those subsequently party-less affairs in the last couple years.  That's fine, because the spirit of the season can be celebrated in other ways, and not just on the last day of October.  One of the most accessible ways for me to get into the harvest time swing of things is to incorporate its hallmarks in everyday aspects of my existence--namely, through food.  Deep into October and even deeper into autumn, we find that pumpkins and other winter squash are everywhere, their unmistakable shapes and colors occupying the full range of visual periphery and flavors and textures permeating all forms of ingestible matter.
I myself happened to have a bit of that trademark icon of the Halloween season on hand not too long ago.  I pondered making scones, muffins, pancakes, waffles, or something else along those lines with leftover pumpkin puree, but wasn't too enamored of taking the traditional, sweet route, despite its reliably delicious nature.  Because I have been a bit fixated on 500 Vegan Recipes lately, I thumbed through the book for potential inspiration, recalling what seemed to be a unique and plentiful assortment of recipes to match my specific cooking intentions.  The maneuver not only confirmed that my memory isn't as terrible as I sometimes deem it--a good sign for both the fitness of my brain and future fulfillment of my pumpkin-related needs--but also allowed me to knock another recipe off my to-do list.  The recipe in question was that for Pumpkin Fauxsage, a meat analog of the seitan variety.


The recipe describes a straightforward method for creating a baked version of seitan "sausage," with the perk of incorporating pumpkin puree for a bit of autumnal flair.  I followed the instructions to the letter, but only until the actual baking; there, I divided the dough into four logs, rather than leaving it as a single, gigantic cylinder, then baked them for just over an hour.  My deviation proved nearly flawless, the only aberrations occurring when two of the "sausages" burst through their lazily wrapped foil casings, resulting in a couple aorta-shaped lumps of orange-tinged seitan.  Physical oddities and extra chewiness of the rogue "sausages" aside, the Pumpkin Fauxsages tasted fantastic.  They aren't really pumpkin-flavored--I suspect the mild squash primarily provides moisture and color--but the faint orange hue and seasonal spicing hint at the squash's contribution to the finished product.
While delicious eaten alone, the "sausages" seemed equally suited for incorporating into a proper dish.  Because I still had some pumpkin puree left, I decided to also include it in the dish, both to emphasize the pumpkin presence and to avoid wastefulness.  The puree's smooth texture lends itself well to saucy applications, so it immediately became apparent that I should create something to incorporate that idea, very quickly evolving into a creamy pumpkin pasta dish--Creamy Pumpkin Israeli Couscous, in fact.  Pureed pumpkin and nondairy milk form the basis for the sauce, bolstered by aromatics that echo some of those used for the Pumpkin Fauxsage, and given a cheesy dimension with a touch of nutritional yeast.  The result is something like a cross between a traditional cream-based pasta, cheesy risotto, and nutty couscous--a satisfying, comfort food-type dish.  I'm sure another type of protein would work well in place of the Pumpkin Fauxsage, although it pairs beautifully for obvious reasons; feel free to substitute your choice of meat analog, tofu, or leave it out all together.
Creamy Pumpkin Israeli Couscous (printable recipe)
Yields 4 to 6 servings
1/4 batch Pumpkin Fauxsage from 500 Vegan Recipes (or any vegan sausage or seitan), chopped

1 c whole wheat Israeli couscous
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 c vegetable broth (or 1 1/2 c water + 1 1/2 tsp vegetable bouillon), boiling

Sauce:
1/2 c pumpkin puree
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
1 tsp vegetable bouillon
1/2 c plain, unsweetened almond milk, or other nondairy milk
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp onion powder
Pinch each cayenne, ground nutmeg
2 T nutritional yeast

Cook Israeli couscous according to package directions. (I toasted the dry pasta in the oil over medium flame, added the hot broth, reduced the heat to low, covered the pot, and simmered the couscous for eight minutes, until tender.)  Drain any excess liquid, gently fluff the couscous, and set aside.

In a separate pot, combine all sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until heated through and the sauce thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and add the couscous and vegan sausage, stirring to combine.  Serve hot and enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. Oh, sounds interesting. How did you like it? I have actually been thinking about pumpkin pasta lately because of the season and this have given me some good idea. I saw ortzo pumpkin pasta on Food network the other day and totally wanted to try it!

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  2. Thanks, Carissa. I liked it--the texture was good, and properly seasoned, it tastes pretty good. You can definitely play around with the aromatics. Orzo sounds like it would work well, too! Let me know how that turns out if you try it! :)

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  3. Yum! I pretty much always love Israeli couscous... so that sounds great.

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  4. Yum! I pretty much always love Israeli couscous... so that sounds great.

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)