Vegan Pastrami Cups with Scallion Mozzarella, Dates and Lemon Zest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThose of us living in the Twin Cities are so fortunate to have the country’s only vegan butcher shop in our vicinity. The Herbivorous Butcher opened in NE Minneapolis a couple months ago and they’ve been cranking out their handmade, small batch, non-GMO, vegan meats and cheeses to crowds ever since, and those crowds aren’t just made up of vegetarians. According to brother and sister owners Kale and Aubry Walch, omnivores are a huge part of their business.

Before the bricks and mortar location opened, the Walch siblings sold their products at farmers’ markets. It was at one of those markets I up picked their holiday ham (complete with yummy glaze) to serve for Thanksgiving and it was delicious! Everything I’ve had so far has been good, but their pastrami, which reviewers absolutely rave about, hasn’t been in the butcher case when I’ve stopped in. That is until last Saturday.

I picked up a pound of the thinly sliced, seasoned “meat,” and, not really sure what one makes with pastrami besides sandwiches, I figured I’d better stock up on good bread. But after a visit with my friends Google and Pinterest, I had lots of other ideas. And from those ideas came these piquant morsels of goodness—spicy, salty, sweet, and citrusy, a happy flavor explosion in your mouth. Plus, they’ll look super pretty on an appetizer platter at your next dinner party.
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For those of you who don’t have the Herbivorous Butcher to provide your vegan meats, not a problem, just use vegan packaged deli slices or pepperoni found at your co-op or supermarket. If vegan mozzarella isn’t available, vegan cream cheese would work or use a regular cheese like fresh mozzarella that’s soft enough to mash and mix with the sweet wine or honey and scallions. Double or triple the recipe for a potluck or large gathering. Enjoy!

Vegan Pastrami Cups with Scallion Mozzarella, Dates and Lemon Zest

Inspired by this Food Network recipe from The Kitchen

12 small slices vegan pastrami (or other vegan “meat”), each about 3” squareish/roundish

3 oz. vegan mozzarella

1 tablespoon sweet white wine, or honey for a non-vegan version

2-3 scallions, thinly sliced, using mainly the green parts, reserving a little for garnish

Pinch of salt, if your cheese isn’t salty

Two medjool dates, pitted and thinly sliced

Zest of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line each cup of a 12-cup mini muffin tin with a pastrami slice, overlapping to fit, if necessary; then top with a second mini muffin tin, pressing the pastrami slices into the cups and compressing them. Turn the muffin tins over and place on a baking sheet upside down. Top with a cast-iron pan for more compression. Bake for about 12 minutes, then remove the cast-iron pan carefully (double up on the hotpads!). Bake for an additional 12 minutes. Remove from oven and lift the top upside down muffin pan off to expose inverted pastrami cups. Let the cups cool completely, then gently remove them to a platter.

Meanwhile crumble cheese into a medium size bowl and mash a bit with a fork. Stir in honey/wine and scallions until smooth. Taste, and add a pinch or two of salt if needed. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (or make a piping bag by cutting the corner off a zip-lock bag). Pipe cheese mixture into pastrami cups. Top each cup with several slices of date and sprinkle with lemon zest. Garnish with remaining scallion slices.

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