virtual vegan potluck: pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

vvpLOGO-1

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Virtual Vegan Potluck! I’m so excited to be a part of this fun event! I hope you have enjoyed all the amazing recipes you’ve seen so far. This is my first time participating and I am honored to take my place in the lineup. This fall’s potluck has a new twist — a featured ingredient — the glorious beet! I wanted to come up with something that was a little out of the ordinary. We’ve all seen or heard of beet salads, pickled beets, brownies with beets, beet ice cream, beet soup, and the like. I wanted something a little bit different.

20131102-220010.jpg

I used to despise beets. My mom would serve canned beets at dinner when I was growing up and I couldn’t stand them. I quickly learned that if I didn’t put a few on my plate, my mother would give me a huge spoonful and I would have to eat them all. It was easier to choke down a few than the giant spoonful! Once I left home for college, beets never came across my plate again until a few summers ago. My CSA boxes started arriving with bunches and bunches of beets. The first few weeks, I either gave them away to a friend, or ashamedly threw them away. It was a waste. I finally decided that I had to force myself to like them.

It turns out that fresh beets are much more flavorful than the horrible canned things. Roasted and drizzled with balsamic and maple syrup, served over greens with walnuts, dried cranberries, and avocado, I finally began to appreciate them. I found initially that I preferred golden or chiogga beets better than the standard red ones because the flavor isn’t as “beet-y” but I can now definitely eat them and actually enjoy my meal without feeling tortured!

So what to make for the potluck? I initially planned to make a recipe I stumbled across in a meal plan I subscribe to on my iPad. It was for beetroot, lentil, and brown rice patties, topped with sliced tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and smashed avocado. It looked interesting, but each time I set about to make it, I never really felt inspired and ended up making other things instead. Then all of a sudden, a few weekends ago while I was blog surfing, I happened upon a picture of a bowl of vibrant pink pasta. I knew instantly that this was the start of what I would make for the potluck.

20131102-215944.jpg

I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. Google) and finally settled upon this recipe for beet pesto, but I needed to find a substitute for the goat cheese. One of the many beet recipes I looked at mentioned topping the pasta with ricotta cheese so I decided to see if I could find a simple recipe for making tofu ricotta. I decided upon this recipe because I find the combination of miso and tahini so intriguing — it’s a flavorful collision of two vastly different world cuisines, two worlds that are both so integral in my food story. (This ricotta recipe, by the way, was so delicious on its own that I could have kept eating it by the spoonful. I’m anxious to see what other dishes I can come up with incorporating this ricotta).

20131102-220023.jpg

The end result? For starters, this was not a difficult dish to make at all. The ricotta takes about five minutes to measure, chop, and mash everything up. The beets need to roast for an hour, but after that, it’s the time needed to cook the pasta, and a few minutes of food processor magic. (And making sure you don’t turn your clothes and kitchen pink in the process). For something relatively simple to make, this was crazy delicious. I was actually surprised how little beet taste there was in it — I was expecting to be smacked in the face with beet flavor, but the garlic and walnuts must have mellowed it out. It is stunning to look at — I did very little to edit these photos. That really truly is the color of the dish. It is guaranteed to make your dinner guests ooh and ahh when you place this in front of them at the table! It might even make your children eat beets without realizing it — my sister’s kids love pasta with basil pesto, so if they’re already used to green garlicky pasta, I imagine they might be inclined to try bright pink pasta, too.

20131102-215957.jpg

pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

ingredients

for the pesto

  • 3 to 4 medium-sized red beets, scrubbed clean
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup tofu ricotta (see below)

for the tofu ricotta (makes approx. 2 cups)

  • 1 block extra firm tofu (14 oz), drained and pressed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp miso paste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound pasta of choice

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Drizzle beets lightly with olive oil. Wrap the beets (individually) and garlic cloves (together) tightly with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast 1 hour, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tofu ricotta. In a medium bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands. Add the remaining ricotta ingredients to the bowl and mash with a spoon. Set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and drizzle lightly with olive oil to keep from sticking and set aside.
  4. After removing beets and garlic from oven, remove foil and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, use a spoon to peel skin off beets and coarsely chop. Squeeze roasted garlic out of the peel.
  5. In a food processor, combine roasted beets, roasted garlic, two tablespoons olive oil, and toasted walnuts. Pulse until smooth and creamy, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Add 1/2 cup tofu ricotta and pulse until combined. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Toss pasta and beet mixture until well combined. Top with more tofu ricotta, if desired.

20131102-220053.jpg

I hope you have enjoyed my dish in the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Please use the image below to visit the next dish in the lineup!

go_bck-300x257go_forward-300x243

thanks2-300x176

20131102-220034.jpg

Advertisements

vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms

20130916-200445.jpg

I’m pretty sure I broke just about every rule in Italian cooking tonight. I made vegan vodka sauce and I used heirloom tomatoes, almond milk, and nutritional yeast to do it. Not only that, I put eggplants and mushrooms in the sauce. I can just hear all the Italian grandmas rolling over in their graves! But since I’m not Italian (I’m American-Cypriot), I’m not going to worry about it, and I’ll just enjoy my pasta!

My kitchen counter was overflowing today with tomatoes from my garden. I have a few san marzanos, a ton of heirlooms, and even more little yellow pear tomatoes. I knew that I needed to do something about this situation pretty quickly before the tomatoes went bad. I’ve already given away so many that people run away from me when they see me coming… I initially decided to make a tomato sauce that I could freeze for later, but as I started looking up recipes, I started thinking about vodka sauce. I’m not a huge fan of tomato and marinara sauces, but I do love a good vodka sauce! If I order pasta with sauce at a restaurant, it is almost always vodka sauce. I love the creamy, tomato-y (is that a word?) taste and for whatever reason, it doesn’t give me heartburn the way any other tomato sauce does.

A lot of the vegan vodka sauce recipes I googled called for using a jar of spaghetti sauce (seriously?) or needed cashew cream, soy creamer, mashed beans, etc. , things I wasn’t interested in getting involved in tonight. I finally found a recipe that called for almond milk and nutritional yeast as a substitute for heavy cream. Did I mention that I already had the onions, eggplant, mushroom, and tomatoes cooking in the pan before I decided to switch to vodka sauce? Yeah, after spending all that time trying to find vegan vodka sauce, I decided to give up and make plain old tomato sauce. Then halfway through, I grabbed my bottle of vodka, dumped it into the sauce and then I didn’t have a choice! Shockingly, it turned out quite well. It was creamy and tomato-y and I loved it with the eggplant and mushrooms. I will definitely be making this again!

20130916-201238.jpg

vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms

adapted from Tomato Vodka Sauce on about.com

ingredients

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (or two small ones), diced
  • 10 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8-10 fresh heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 basil leaves, torn by hand
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and have an ice bath standing nearby. Score an X into the bottom of each tomato. Gently lower the tomatoes into the boiling water. Boil for 30-60 seconds until skin begins to peel away. Remove and place in ice bath. When tomatoes have cooled, peel off the skin — you can use a paring knife for the hard to remove bits. Dice and seed the tomatoes and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic and continue to sauté until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Add the fresh tomatoes and torn basil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Add vodka and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Sauce will continue to thicken. Stir in maple syrup and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add almond milk and nutritional yeast and stir well to combine. Simmer for another 5 minutes until sauce thickens to your desired consistency, adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Serve hot over pasta of choice and enjoy!

20130916-200458.jpg

 

shiitake and scallion japchae

20130810-214426.jpg

Japchae is a Korean noodle dish that you can make as simple or as complicated as you want. I chose to go simple last night and used shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and bean sprouts as my accompaniment to the bean threads. Bean threads are also known as Chinese vermicelli, glass noodles, cellophane noodles, crystal noodles and more. They are sold in a dry form and then boiled to reconstitute them to use in stir fries, soups, or spring rolls. When cooked, they become almost clear, glass-like. They don’t have any taste on their own, but they absorb the flavors of the other ingredients. Continue reading

farm fresh summer pasta ii

Farm fresh grab bag, take two! The purpose of tonight’s dinner was to make use of the big yellow pear tomato harvest from my garden. I thought they would be really good over my leftover pasta, so it evolved from there.

20120904-184146.jpg

Ingredients from:

  • my garden – yellow pear tomatoes, Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes, basil, and parsley
  • my CSA – green onion, white onion, corn
  • farmer’s market – garlic
  • my pantry/fridge – kalamata olives, mushrooms, anari (cheese from Cyprus), leftover pasta

Saute the garlic and white onion in olive oil, add the corn. After a few minutes, add the tomatoes, mushrooms, green onion and olives.  Add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste, and the juice of one lemon. Saute a few more minutes until the tomatoes begin to burst from their skins. I used leftover pasta so I threw it in the pan with everything else to warm it up. If you’re using freshly cooked pasta, turn the heat off after you add the pasta. Top with grated cheese, fresh parsley and basil.

farm fresh summer pasta

Tonight’s dinner is brought to you by the farm fresh grab bag. Garlic scapes and onion from my co-op Harvest Co-op Beaver Falls; peaches, green tomatoes, and summer squash from the Beaver Farmer’s Market. Sautéed together with olive oil, red pepper flakes, cumin, and the juice of one lime. Served over pasta with grated pecorino Romano and a handful of fresh cilantro and basil from my garden.

20120716-201524.jpg

Not the usual pairings of ingredients, but quite tasty, nonetheless, and everything but the pasta and spices were locally grown! It would probably make more sense over quinoa or couscous, but the dish evolved as I was cooking, so there you have it.