vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms

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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!

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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!

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corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

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This is a really simple salad to throw together and is great when fresh corn is in season. You could use canned or frozen corn but fresh corn off the cob is simply the best! The flavors and colors are bright, you get a mix of sweet and sour from the corn and peaches versus the lemon and pickled red onion.

corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

ingredients

  • 2 ears of fresh corn (uncooked), removed from the cob (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame
  • 1 peach, diced
  • 2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe below)
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Add the corn through to the red onion to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  2. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the salad, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss again.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and toss again lightly.

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pickled red onion

ingredients

  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly in rings or half moons
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns

directions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle or small saucepan. Place the onions in a colander over the sink and pour the boiling water over them and let them drain.
  2. In a two-cup or other container, place the onions and all other ingredients. Stir to distribute the flavors evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

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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.

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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.

peach, basil and red onion salad

One of my favorite finds of the summer: savory and sweet peach, basil and red onion salad! Very simple to make and sure to impress your guests.

directions

Toss 3 peaches, sliced 1/2 inch thick, with 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced, 1/3 cup fresh basil (leaves torn if large), the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.

Simple and tasty! Can be eaten on its own or as a side with grilled chicken, etc.

corn and zucchini quinoa salad

Tomorrow night is the first rehearsal of the season for the Pittsburgh Camerata. This is a professional choir I sing with in the city. We’re having a “rehearsal camp” this weekend, and one of the great things about this group is that besides being great singers, most everyone is a great cook as well. Anyway, we’re having a potluck before rehearsal tomorrow night and I of course have to bring something with lemons in it, so I’m planning to make a corn and zucchini quinoa salad.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food with some substitutions.  I’m using quinoa instead of orzo because I really enjoy the versatility of quinoa, not to mention it’s a very healthy grain and gluten-free for those who need to worry about such things.

ingredients

  • 6 medium zucchini, diced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound quinoa
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • juice of 3-4 fresh-squeezed lemons
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 cups crumbled feta

directions

  1. Place zucchini in a colander and toss with salt. Place colander in sink and let sit 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare quinoa according to package instructions (I like to throw it in my rice cooker). The general rule of thumb for cooking quinoa is one part quinoa to two parts water. Transfer to a large bowl after cooking.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add to quinoa along with zucchini, 3 tablespoons oil, onion, jalapeño (optional), and lemon zest and juice; season with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and feta. You may want to hold off on adding any salt until after you stir in the feta since it can be pretty salty.