Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 28: Square Meals (a.k.a. George Burke Appreciation)

My early, tentative forays into vegan eating were much assisted by the publication of Simply Heavenly! - The Monastery Vegetarian Cookbook by Abbot George Burke. Not only is it a large and comprehensive vegan cookbook, but it also includes lots of information on unfamiliar ingredients and where to find them - which was incredibly valuable in a pre-internet era.

Burke has traced a complicated spiritual pilgrimage, as can be seen in his autobiography. At the time that this cookbook was published, he headed an independent sacramental christian community called the Gnostic Orthodox Church, apparently now defunct. Burke's Hindu influences (esp. Paramahansa Yogananda and Anandamayi Ma) have been important throughout his adult life. He and his community now follow a Hindu path as the Atma Jyoti Ashram. Today, Burke is known as Swami Nirmalananda Giri.

Simply Heavenly! is an unfortunate casualty of the transitions in Burke's community, and has been out of print for some years. It remains one of my favorite cookbooks, and I use it frequently. I have made Burke's recipe for Anadama Bread at least a zillion times. Thanks to Burke, I own (and love) a steam juicer which makes truly excellent broth, among other uses.

When I have leftovers that need repackaging, or random items that need using (tonight: some leftover chicken-style seitan, chopped up in a skillet with a little red bell pepper and bbq sauce), I often turn to his formula for "Square Meals" - an Americanized relative of the pierogi and the calzone. He provides a number of recipes for fillings, but you can use whatever you have. He also gives a separate recipe for a sweet dough, and a number of sweet fillings. As the book is out of print, and used copies are often hard to find and pricey, I will give you the basic recipe for savory square meals:

2 T yeast
1 c. warm water
1 t. unrefined sugar
3 T. vegetable oil
3 c. flour (white or whole wheat or a mixture)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
1/2 t. onion powder
1/4 t. garlic powder

Mix yeast, water, and sugar, and let stand 10 minutes. (I don't find this waiting necessary, and usually proceed with the recipe without waiting for the yeast to proof. Your mileage may vary.) Whisk in the oil. Sift the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the wet. When well-combined, turn the dough out on the counter, and knead for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball. Roll out until approximately 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into 4 inch squares. Moisten all four edges of a square with water, and then put 1/3 cup of your chosen filling in the center. Fold in the corners toward the center (like folding an envelope). Pinch the center and the seams carefully to be sure they are sealed. Place on lightly greased baking sheet (or parchment, as in my photo), seam side down. Prick the top with a fork several times. You can brush the tops with oil or vegan milk if you want. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes. These freeze well and make great work lunches.


Anonymous said...

I need something square in the bread department for a shoot, so if I have the courage, I'll whip a batch of these today. I'm feeling terribly lazy though... but I'm definitely bookmarking this. thanks for sharing it!

JohnP said...

They are a good lazy item, as there is no waiting for them to rise and they still come out nice and puffy.

julie hasson said...

What a great idea. My kids will love these!

Thanks John!

kittee said...

john plummer,

You should start a Simply Heavenly Club. To be in, you have to post a picture of yourself holding your own copy of SH, it can't belong to the library or anyone else. Bonus points if you are bra-less and bed headed, like me in this picture:

Three cheers for MSG!

JohnP said...

I am totally taking a photo of myself with my battered and worn copy of SH tonight.... maybe i should hold my steam juicer at the same time?

For the Love of Guava said...

man... jealous I don't have this book... I'll have to go used bookstore hunting!! Turning Veggie/Vegan has put a serious damper on the sandwich department for me... must try this.. YUM!

Anonymous said...

wow- that sounds really interesting. I want the book! Thanks for the recipe.

sarchan said...

Your posts always introduce me to a cookbook I've never seen before, or a way of looking at veganism that I hadn't really thought of. Thanks.

jAe said...

thanks for mentioning this book - i know i've seen it in my cooking life and been interested in it - but haven't thought of it in years.
another one to go on the wish list.

Veg-In-Training said...

I finally have time to read other blogs now that vegan MOFO is over! I can't wait to try me some square meals. I'm going to keep my eye out for that book.