virtual vegan potluck: pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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miso udon with tofu, spinach, and shiitake

20130921-223659.jpgIt rained most of the day yesterday. A little on the chilly side, but not cold enough to light the fireplace yet. I’m looking forward to those days — not the colder temperatures so much, but the coziness of sitting in front of my fire curled up in a blanket with a glass of wine. And my cat plastered to my side, no doubt.

It was still a miserable enough afternoon that some comfort food was in order. I had a lot of spinach to use up and a fresh batch of home-sprouted mung bean sprouts so I thought I would make a vegetarian version of miso chanko-nabe. Chanko-nabe is a one-pot meal that the sumo wrestlers in Japan eat. It’s a hearty meal that consists of broth, vegetables and meat or seafood. There are really no rules to making chanko-nabe. You can put in whatever you want, make the broth however you like.

When we lived in Japan, we would often eat this in the winter months. My mom would cook it on the stove in the kitchen and then transfer it to a pot over a gas burner placed in the middle of the dining room table. Then we could serve ourselves and refill our bowls as needed throughout the meal. There are a lot of Japanese meals that are served in this way, a method of keeping warm in the winter months since most houses are without central heating. Many families sit under a kotatsu together in the evenings for food, television, games, and conversation. A kotatsu is a table covered with a futon, or heavy blanket, with a heat source underneath or built into the table itself. I think this table played a big factor in the creation of much of Japan’s cold-weather cuisine.

For my version of chanko-nabe, I used individually packaged, pre-cooked udon noodles — the kind that cook in 3 minutes. I find mine in the Asian section of my grocery store. If you can only find the dried noodles, you will need to cook them separately before putting them in the pot. Also, if you have leftovers, I recommend storing the noodles separately from the broth, otherwise they will absorb all of the liquid and become very mushy.

I sprinkled some shichimi togarashi over my bowl when serving. Shichimi is a Japanese seasoning blend that literally means “seven flavor chili pepper”. The brand I use contains orange peel, black and white toasted sesame seeds, cayenne, ginger, Szechuan pepper and nori (seaweed). It can be found in most Asian food stores. If you can’t find it, you could probably make your own mix, or just sprinkle a bit of cayenne on top.

Update: I’ve shared this post on Pure Ella’s Comfort Food Potluck Party http://pureella.com/potluck-party-comfort-food-recipes/. Won’t you join in the fun, too?

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miso udon with tofu, spinach, and shiitake

ingredients

  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 packages instant udon noodles, seasoning packets discarded
  • 1 package firm tofu cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 2 leeks, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 8-10 shiitake, sliced
  • handful of snow peas, trimmed
  • 3 green onions, the whites sliced into 1 1/-2-inch pieces, the green tops sliced thinly
  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2-4 tbsp miso paste
  • dash of shichimi togarashi
  1. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the ginger and garlic. Add the leeks, snow peas, tofu and shiitake and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green onions, spinach and bean sprouts.
  3. Place the miso in a medium bowl and add a ladleful of hot broth. Whisk until the miso is completely dissolved, then stir the mixture back into the soup. I like a strong miso flavor, so I used 4 tablespoons. Start with 2 and taste the broth after you pour the miso back into the pot, and adjust as desired.
  4. Cook for a few minutes and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi, if desired. Serve piping hot.

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fall harvest meal ii

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One of my friends recently moved to the neighborhood and last night we decided to cook a meal together. Her kitchen is teeny tiny and she also has the tiniest stovetop I’ve ever seen, so naturally we cooked at my house. When I invited her over to cook, I really had no idea what we would make. I started brainstorming based on what I had in my fridge and pantry and came up with a menu. And then I came up with a second menu that began to sound really amazing to me. Even though it was in the 90s yesterday, I just couldn’t put aside the thought of this second menu, so we decided to brave the heat and roast away in the kitchen. Here’s what we made: miso-ginger chicken thighs*, roasted asparagus, orange-balsamic glazed acorn squash, smashed crispy red potatoes, and stir fried shiitake. It was quite a sight to behold, all those trays lined up in the oven, roasting away right along with us.

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I’m still a little surprised we managed to fit everything in. The two recipes completely new to me were the miso-ginger chicken and the orange-balsamic acorn squash. They were both amazing. The chicken is quite possibly the best chicken I have ever eaten. As we were feasting away, I couldn’t help but comment over and over how amazing the chicken tasted. It was spicy and tangy, with the flavors from the miso and ginger melding together creating something quite wonderful. You really need to try this! The acorn squash was sweet and creamy and the citrus added a brightness to the flavor. I’m pretty sure I will be making everything on this menu many times again in the future. Having company over, not to mention a second set of hands in the kitchen, made all of this possible — I never would have gone to all the trouble for just myself. I need to have company more often so I can eat lots of yummy food!

*for vegan followers of my blog – everything on this menu is vegan except for the chicken. I am working on a tofu version of this recipe that I will post when I’ve perfected it.

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miso-ginger chicken thighs

from Guiding Stars

ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zest and half of the juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red chili paste

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor, combine everything but the chicken into a paste. Toss over the chicken to coat. (You can marinate it overnight in the fridge, or cook right away — the flavor is very intense even without marinating).
  3. Place the chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once after 15 minutes.

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orange-balsamic roasted acorn squash

from Miss Kitchen Witch

ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 an orange, sliced thinly
  • salt to taste

directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the squash rings evenly.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oil, and orange juice. Brush the squash with 3/4 of the mix and top with the orange slices. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Flip the squash and pour the rest of the vinegar mix on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Allow to cool slightly, but serve hot with a little orange zest if desired.

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smashed crispy red potatoes

ingredients

  • 8-10 small red potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender — approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Do not rinse. Using a towel or pot holder, take each potato and smash it flat with your hand onto a baking sheet. You can use a fork or potato masher if you want, just make sure they don’t completely fall apart.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If you choose, you can add chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
  4. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. They should be brown and crispy on the edges. Roast longer if necessary to get the desired crunch.

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roasted asparagus

ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands or tongs to coat the asparagus completely in the seasonings.
  4. Roast for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus and your desired degree of doneness. I like mine to still have a bite to it and I don’t like it too charred.

stir-fried shiitake

ingredients

  • 8-10 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and ends trimmed
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, dress the shiitake with approximately 1-2 tbsp each of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir to coat evenly.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the shiitake for 5 to 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to wilt.

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