Comfort food. This is something I thought would be cast to the wayside when I switched to a plant based diet nearly four years ago. Thankfully I stumbled upon a handful of food bloggers at the time that convinced me otherwise, one of which was Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw. Gena’s bright personality and creativity drew me in from the start. This was back before my blogging days, when I was only a reader. A “ghost reader”, as I like to say, because I never left comments or any trace of my time reading over posts of others. But I was there, soaking up what they had to share, and thankful for the time and energy they spent doing so. I feel a bit as if my efforts in this space now are, in a way, giving back to the wonderful community that gave so much to me in my early years as a vegan – wondering what a lentil was and why people bought containers filled with “fish flakes” (a.k.a. nutritional yeast). Choosing Raw was one I visited weekly. Now here I am, able to call Gena a friend, and tell you all why her new cookbook with Food52 is one to cherish. (And you can win a copy too! See later in the post for the details.)
Food52 is a wonderful group of people who, much like you and I, love food. They have created an astounding community of expert foodies and amateurs alike – creating, testing, raving, and craving all the good things edible. Gena is one of the main contributors to the vegan recipes section over on their site, and the pairing of these two recipe geniuses can only mean magical things when it comes to cookbook making. As of last month, this magic came true. Everything that is true to Food52‘s style (thorough, well tested, trustworthy), as well as Gena’s (wholesome, delicious, creative, balanced), is present in this gorgeous, approachable book. I think that is my word of choice when describing this cookbook, approachable. The recipes are beautiful and enticing enough to lure you in, yet simple and approachable enough that even the most amateur cook could navigate and succeed at creating. We’re talking peach crumble coffee cake, smokey tempeh and hummus sandwiches, the perfect pumpkin pie, five minute granola bars, and yes – macaroni and cheese.
This macaroni and cheese is everything I want in comfort food. Full of warm, cheesy vibes thanks to the roasted butternut squash and nutritional yeast. The miso gives it that umami flavor I crave, and there is a rich undertone of smoked paprika. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice gives it a bit of tang, and the crunchy topping brings back memories of when I was growing up and everything that mom made was breaded and golden. I’ve made a handful of vegan macaroni and cheeses since veering down the plant based path, but never have I found one I loved as much as this recipe. This, along with so many others in this cookbook, is one I will be making on repeat for the long haul. Gena eliminates the need for a side by incorporating cooked veggies in the dish, and gives you the thick consistency you crave by having it baked at the end to golden perfection. I went the gluten free route by using a pasta made of quinoa flour, and replaced the breadcrumb topping with one consisting of coarsely ground sunflower seeds. The verdict? AMAZING. I’m pumped to get to share this recipe with you here today, as well as give away a copy of this stellar cookbook! See below the recipe for details on how to enter. HAPPY FALL.
Reprinted with permission from Food52 Vegan, by Gena Hamshaw, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC & CHEESE
From Food52 Vegan, slightly adapted. Serves 6 to 8.
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon refined coconut oil
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups nut milk*
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white miso
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound elbow pasta (I used a GF quinoa variety)
2 cups cooked vegetables (such as steamed spinach, broccoli, or peas)
1/2 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds (or bread crumbs, or panko crumbs)
*The original recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk plus 1/2 cup coconut milk. I used all almond milk and loved it, however both options should work wonderfully.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the top and bottom off of the squash (about an inch from each end) and then carefully slice the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds, and place the two halves cut-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 25-35 minutes (or until a fork is easily inserted, and the squash is cooked through). Remove from the oven and flip the squash cut side up to cool.
While the squash is roasting, heat the tablespoon of refined coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown. Add 1 1/4 cups of the nut milk. Whisk in the nutritional yeast and arrowroot powder. Cook, whisking constantly until nice and thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a large heat-proof bowl and add the remaining 1/2 cup of nut milk, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, lemon juice, and miso. Scoop the cooked butternut out of its skin and into the bowl. Whisk to somewhat combine, and then puree using an immersion blender (if you do not have an immersion blender, puree in smaller batches in a blender or food processor) until nice and creamy.
If using the sunflower seed topping, add the raw seeds to a food processor with a pinch of salt, dash of pepper, and (optional) zest of 1 organic lemon. Process until it reaches your desired consistency (either a fine or coarse meal) and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil (or refined coconut oil) to keep the pasta from sticking. Stir in the pasta and adjust the heat to maintain a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well and let cool briefly.
Add your choice of cooked veggies to the large pot of pasta, then add the sauce and stir gently until thoroughly combined. (If not adding veggies, only use 2 cups of pasta sauce). Spread the mixture evenly in a lightly greased 11×7 baking dish (or similar). Sprinkle the sunflower seed topping (or bread crumbs, or panko crumbs) evenly over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden, and serve right away.