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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takikomi gohan – brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, shiitake

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This was a spur of the moment meal that I started at 9:00pm Sunday night. I don’t recommend doing that since I added too much liquid to my rice cooker and after two-and-a-half hours, it still hadn’t beeped. I finally checked on it close to midnight and the brown rice was finally done. Learning from my mistakes, what I believe should be a faster recipe is below.

brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, and shiitake

ingredients

  • go of brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 block of tofu, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8-10 shiitake, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
  • water

directions

  1. Put rice in rice cooker and enough water for 2 go according to your rice cooker’s specifications. Add all other ingredients.
  2. If your rice cooker has a brown rice setting, switch it to that, and press start.
  3. When your rice cooker beeps, it’s done! (You may want to check on it after an hour and see how it’s doing, and then every half hour after that. The vegetables will add extra liquid as they cook down, so make sure you don’t make the mistake I did of putting enough water to compensate for all the ingredients.)

mung bean and lentil curry with eggplant and green tomato

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mung bean and lentil curry with eggplant and green tomato

ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried mung beans
  • 1/2 cup dried green lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • half an onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 large green tomato, chopped
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 red chilis, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cups mung bean water* (or vegetable stock or water)
  • ground cumin
  • ground coriander
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • ground chili
  • garam masala
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice

directions

1. Rinse mung beans and bring to a boil in a pot with 3 cups of water. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 1 hour. Rinse lentils and add to the pot after the mung beans have cooked for one hour. (If using split mung beans, cook together with the lentils from the beginning). Add a little more water if necessary. Continue to simmer for 15-30 more minutes until the water has been absorbed and the beans and lentils are tender.  After you add the lentils to the pot, you can begin chopping and slicing your other ingredients.

2. In a large pan, add 1/2 cup of mung bean water (or stock or water) and bring to a boil. Add the onions and cook until water has evaporated. Add another 1/2 cup of mung bean water to deglaze the pan. Add the eggplant and green tomato and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mung bean and lentil mixture to the pan and stir to incorporate with the onions, eggplant, and tomato. Add the grated ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric, curry powder, salt and pepper. I didn’t measure my spices, just added and adjusted to taste. I would suggest starting with approximately 1/2 tsp of each and adjust according to your liking — you really can’t go wrong with these spices (except the chili powder — if you don’t like a lot of heat, start with 1/4 tsp and taste before adding more). Stir to incorporate the spices into the bean mixture and cook for a few minutes. Add 2 more cups of the mung bean water or stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer, continuing to cook for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, add a little bit of oil and toast the coriander seeds for 30 seconds. Add the crushed garlic and red chilis and continue cooking for a few minutes, being careful not to burn them. Add the garlic, chili, and coriander mixture to the beans and lentils and stir in. Continue simmering the bean and lentil mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the beans, stirring occasionally, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust the seasoning as needed throughout. Add a dash of garam masala and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. Top with chopped cilantro and/or yogurt, if desired.

 

*What the heck is mung bean water? It’s the water I soaked my mung beans in. I’m in the process of sprouting my own mung bean sprouts (post to follow in a few days), and one of the first steps is to soak the beans in water for 8-12 hours. The website I’m following for sprouting instructions said that this water could be used for stock since it’s full of nutrients. So there you have it.