October signals the winding down of tourist season here on the Comstock. Things start to get back to normal, and Friday that means trading tourists for zombies, ghouls and goblins along with a smattering of dignitaries as Virginia City celebrates Halloween and Nevada’s sesquicentennial.
Starting with a statehood parade at 5 p.m., there will be safe trick-or-treating at the downtown merchants, a Halloween Witch’s Delight train running every hour, and a masquerade ball at the Piper’s Opera House to benefit the Historic Preservation Society.
And if you’re up to it, the cemetery at the north end of town, normally closed to visitors, will be open to walk amongst the tombstones until 11 p.m. Scary stuff.
You know what else is scary? The fact I keep trying to push healthy food in the heart of beef country. But after a recent trip to Fort Bragg on the Mendocino coast, I have become increasingly determined, if maybe a little deranged.
One of the highlights of the trip was a place called Living Light. It’s a café with adjacent store and culinary school that promotes healthy eating through vegan, organic, plant-based and for the most part “raw” food. And in order to accomplish this you need to learn a whole new repertoire of ingredients.
Ordinarily, we would return from one of these junkets with souvenir coffee cups and refrigerator magnets. This time it was cookbooks, yakon syrup, and Irish moss. Did you know Irish moss was what kept the Irish alive through the potato famine? Or that organic coconut milk so closely resembles plasma it can be used as such?
Our recipe today utilizes some of what we learned while we were there without requiring you to restock your entire pantry. This pumpkin pie which is fortified with tofu is vegan, gluten free and actually packed with nutrition all the while tasting pretty darn good. It closely resembles a recipe we gave you a couple of months back for a peanut butter pie. Once you’ve tried either or both you’re ready to experiment with other variations on the theme.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not ready to abandon 30 years of cooking with beef and butter to follow a strict vegan diet, but I do feel if you can make a dish that tastes good and is satisfying without a lot of the bad stuff, why not? Then you’ll have more room for pizza.
So, come on up and enjoy Halloween on the hill. It’s going to be a ghost town.
No-bake pumpkin tofu pie
It’s best to make this pie a day before you plan on eating it.
For the crust
3 cups pecans
2 1/2 ounces (by weight) finely chopped dates
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Two big pinches of salt
For the filling
One 15-ounce-can of pure pumpkin
One 12-to-14-ounce block of extra firm tofu, drained*
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup Truvia**
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place the pecans in a food processor and process until fairly chopped. Add the dates, vanilla and salt and process to combine. The mixture should compress and stick together when a little is squeezed in your hand. If it doesn’t, add a little more dates. Press this mixture into a 9-inch glass pie plate.
For the filling, place the drained tofu in a steamer basket, and steam for about 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and place in the food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust, and refrigerate overnight. Store refrigerated for up to three days.
*The weight of a block of tofu varies by brand. A couple of ounces one way or the other will not make a difference.
**We use Truvia sugar substitute, but you could substitute super fine sugar if you back it down to 3/4 cup.
Brian Shaw and his wife, Ardie, own Cafe Del Rio in Virginia City.