Holiday Carrot-Pecan Nutroast*

*Or, A Meal Fit for a King

Show of hands:  who watched the Royal Wedding this morning?  (I won’t tell anyone.)  I had set the PVR for 3:00 AM (Toronto time) just in case I slept through the alarm. . . which, of course, I did.  But even pre-recorded, it was a lovely affair, and Kate did look rather smashing in her Sarah Burton-designed wedding gown, didn’t she? And wasn’t it touching when Wills whispered, “You look lovely–you look beautiful” to her and then when she turned to him in the carriage and said, “Are you happy?” (thanks, lip readers)–because really, what person in their right mind in that situation wouldn’t be deliriously happy–I mean, seriously, people, she is going to be queen.  Oh, and kudos to her for not snorting through her nose when she uttered the “in richer or in poorer” part of the vows.

Although I made this dish for the HH and my Easter dinner, I thought it was perfectly fitting as a tribute to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  In my mind, nut roasts are decidedly British.  Why?  Well, I think it has to do with one of my first cookbooks, bought from the remainder bin at Book City (English cookbooks are always cheap in Toronto, since most people still resist cooking exclusively in grams and millileters).  In fact, most of the nut roast recipes I’ve encountered (except those on blogs, of course) were from UK-based cookbooks–one doesn’t see the term “nut roast” too much in North American tomes.

This particular recipe is a throwback to the 1990s, when I cooked up a what was definitely an American take on the classic loaf, for a very artsy dinner party.  You see, back ithen I had the opportunity to teach English at the acclaimed OCA (later OCAD), or Ontario College of Art and Design, at one time welcoming institution to JEH MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Michael Snow, and many other famous Canadian artists. Situated in the heart of the university district downtown and abutting Chinatown, it is a wellspring of creativity, eccentricity, emotional immaturity and oil paint.

I remember vividly the day of my interview.  I had applied for a one-year replacement position while the regular English teacher was on sabbatical.  Knowing that OCA was an art college and, therefore, the polar opposite of my usual place of employ (where I dealt mostly with computer studies students), I determined to jazz up my typical “interview uniform” consisting of black blazer, black knee-length skirt, black tights, black pumps, gold stud earrings (with black stones) and subdued makeup (black mascara but definitely no black nailpolish). Instead, I donned my one and only patterned suit jacket, a fitted collarless button-down featuring muted floral print in shades of beige, maroon. . . and black.

As I waited outside the boardroom in which a six-member panel interrogated grilled humiliated met with candidates, I could hear muffled chatter of the previous interview in progress. Every now and then, punctuating the murmurs and dull buzz came an eruption of laughter so sharp and so drawn out that I imagined Robin Williams had dropped in for some impromptu entertainment between questions about curriculum.

Finally, the door swung open and the previous candidate sashayed out, her face flush with victory. She barely glanced my way as she strode by, raised her eyebrowns and wrinkled her nose as if to say, “Sorry, sweetie, this one’s in the bag.” Before I could worry too much, I was ushered in to the room  and accosted with a barrage of questions. I walked away feeling as if I’d done my best–but sure my best was not enough. The following day, I received the call–I was hired!

I worked at OCA for two years, during which time I helped to launch the first Writing Center at the college (though I never did find out what happened to that other job applicant). I loved all the unconventional, offbeat students and professors there, with their scraggly hair that hung like tassels to their shoulders, their landscape tatoos, asymmetrical skirts, spiked hair and piercings in noses and eyebrows and lips and various other appendages that seemed just too bizarre at the time. 

I often lunched with one of my colleagues (I’ll just call him “Roman à Clef) when we wanted to escape the maelstrom of the college and have a proper chat.  Everything about Roman was soft and gentle, from his whisper-quiet voice to his pale blue eyes to his salt-and-pepper beard, full and plush like moss on a tree trunk.  Roman was also a vegetarian, a perfect lunch companion. 

Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to throw a dinner party for some of my OCA colleagues, but I still fretted about what I’d serve that could please everyone. I turned to my first (vegetarian) culinary hero, Mollie Katzen, and the original Moosewood Cookbook. In the book, Katzen offers a dish she calls “Carrot-Mushroom Loaf.”  Except it’s not a loaf; it’s baked in a rectangular pan and is more like a kugel, made with something like five eggs.  Nevertheless, I made the recipe and it was a collosal hit, not only with Roman (who wolfed down three pieces–each with a glass of wine–and then remarked, “that was the best vegetarian meal I’ve ever had. . . if I were only twenty years younger, I’d ask you out about now”), but also with all the omnivores as well. 

Naturally, when I sought out a superb nutroast recipe for my submission to Johanna’s A Neb at Nut Roast II event, I returned to the Katzen recipe.  But I’d forgotten about the mushrooms in the loaf (verboten on the ACD); and there seemed no feasible way to replace all those eggs with ground flax.  So I began with the concept of “carrot + loaf” and took it from there.  I added pecans, a beloved but underused nut, and fresh dill, one of my favorite herbs to pair with carrots. For binding, I ground up a bunch of gluten free crackers, well, just to get rid of the broken ones hanging out at the bottom of the box.

I loved this loaf with its decidedly veggie slant.  If you’re expecting a meat analogue, this is not the loaf for you.  Still, even the flesh-loving HH enjoyed his slice with some caramelized onion gravy  and a healthy serving of celeri rémoulade.  Once baked, the slightly sweet carrots meld perfectly with the toasty nuts and herbs; and the slices hold up well the next day, perfect for sandwiches.  The cooked carrots also imbue the loaf with a lovely golden hue that’s rather festive–in fact, one might even say, somewhat royal. 

You’ve still got time to submit your own nutroast creations to the Neb at Nutroast II event–ongoing until May 5th!

Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Challenge Roundup: BEETS

Two Years Ago: Vegetarian Veggie Burgers that are Made from Vegetables

Three Years Ago: Something’s Fishy: Raw Nori Rolls

© Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Comments

  1. Hurrah! Not only am I grateful you are sending a nut roast to my event but I am pleased to see you devising another great nut roast recipe, given that I know that you had been working on one – and I love the idea of grinding up old gf crackers for binding

    Love hearing that your moosewood cookbook was one of your first veg cookbook loves because mollie katzen was one of my first vego heroes – those drawings in the book are so cute aren’t they. I must look up that loaf (5 eggs sounds a lot but mine is a revised edition so maybe it will be a bit lighter on the eggs). And your OCA days sounds great. Glad to have those memories associated with nut roast :-)

    • Glad you like the concept! (whew!) ;) I also think Katzen is just phenomenal–when I found out she also is an artist who did all the drawings in her books, I was blown away (and recently, I found out that Nava Atlas, a vegan cookbook author, also does all the artwork in her books–amazing!). And yes, wonderful memories from OCA!

  2. I didn’t watch any of the wedding yesterday since I have no cable. But I did admire everything I could online! Their wedding seemed so “real” and genuine, not just a huge production. Plus, her dress was just gorgeous!!

    And yum for a nut roast! I’ve really got to find an occasion to make one!

    • I had that feeling about them, too (or as “real” as one can be when they are GOING TO BE KING AND QUEEN!!) ;) I am in love with nutroasts–yes, do make one! No special occasion required. :)

  3. Courtney says:

    I love my original Moosewood cookbook! It is so well loved that the cover has fallen off and there are food spills all over it, lol :-) I haven’t cooked out of it in years, but I will always cherish it…the binding is about to fall apart, actually, so I think I should probably get another copy if I ever want to cook anything out of it again!

    Your nut roast looks delish and that caramelized onion gravy has my mouth watering!

    Courtney

  4. I have had nut loaves and love them – but never one with all of these carrots. Sounds amazing!

  5. I am a royal fanatic. Watched the whole affair twice and am so excited to continue to watch the young royal couple for years to come. Loved that they said the sun literally came out for the first time that day as she entered the Abbey.

    Now, if I could only come through the screen and grab a bite of that nut roast. Yummers! Fit for the royals indeed!

  6. I’ve been using the Cheaters’ Injera recipe from your Good Morning! Breakfast Book for sandwich bread – round sandwiches are perfectly OK by me. This nutroast sounds like an intriguing sandwich filling – now to fit a square filling on to round bread :-)

  7. ooh, this sounds yummy! i was up early friday… but did not watch ;)

    • I realized afterwards that watching was totally unnecessary, as the highlights were blasted everywhere online, on TV, etc. afterward anyway. But fun while it was going on. :)

  8. Your nutroast looks very noble, indeed :)
    plus, that gravy looks like a master piece, I hope ‘anon’ will be a ‘very’ little while. Might become my Pentecost nutroast *hehe*

  9. Your time at OCA sounds really interesting. :) Love the sound of this nut roast. My nut roasts are usually pretty chunky but I love how yours looks more solid.

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