Day 13: Vegan Curried Couscous AND Vegan Pear, Walnut and “Blue Cheese” Sandwiches–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Pear, Walnut & Blue Cheese Sandwiches

(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

[Betsy’s Note: the “F” on Kim’s photo is the grade she gave herself for her adlibbed cheese layer of the sandwiches, NOT for the recipe.]

Today I was super ambitious and decided to take on two recipes.

The first one, Curried Couscous, was the easiest one I have made to date. My biggest challenge was the fact that I had no idea what couscous was. My family has never eaten it. So of course I’m standing in the rice aisle at the grocery store searching up and down. I suppose I looked lost because two of the store managers who were in a deep discussion behind me stopped and walked over to see if I needed help. I said I was looking for couscous explaining that I had never used it before and one pointed it out to me and then proceeded to show me all the different kinds. The other manager told him to stop confusing me and just handed me a box of the plain. They were both so kind that I took two and was on my way.

Putting this recipe together was totally uneventful, thus a real confidence builder for me. I’m totally getting the hang of this vegan cooking… until I took on the Pear Walnut and “Blue Cheese” Sandwiches.

Ok I had already decided that my “blue cheese” wasn’t going to have quotation marks around it. I was buzzing on a total confidence high from the couscous. Pears, bread, mustard, and brown sugar? I got this! The assortment of flavors sounded a little strange, but one thing I have learned from cooking The Blooming Platter is to just go with it and it all comes together in the end.

So I now have the sandwiches under the broiler and go to the fridge for my cheater blue cheese dressing and once again…I can’t find any. It’s gone. So now what? The sandwiches are now out of the oven and sitting on top of the stove not looking so appetizing to me (I was really looking forward to the blue cheese). I searched the fridge again hoping it would magically appear. It did not. So I started reading the recipe for the “blue cheese” and I have none of those ingredients. Time to get creative I guess.

I chose pepper jack cheese and cream cheese – I know, don’t judge me – and I layered it on the sandwiches and put them back under the broiler. Then I remembered I forgot to put the walnuts on it so I quickly took it back out and buried them under the cheese. It came out a little burnt around the edges so I cut the crust off and I honestly did eat it for lunch. I have to say it wasn’t bad!

I did not make this for my family because they really don’t like pears for one, and two, they would definitely object to using fruits with mustard and cheese; and my husband hates walnuts as well. I can definitely say I will be making both of these again. The couscous tasted really good! We served it right out of the pot so fast that I did not get a photo of it but it was beautiful. However I regret to say that I did get a photo of the “sandwich” even though I am sure it looks nothing like a pear, walnut and blue cheese sandwich. I promise to do it by the (cook)book next time!

~Kim Howard Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Day 9: Sage-Scented Fettuccine with Butternut Squash–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Butternut Squash Fettucine(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Tonight we were discussing what to make for dinner, and my intention was to go to great lengths to lead my family to choose the butternut squash I had bought but let them think it was totally their decision. This is a skill that most mothers possess and I’m employing it tonight because I really want to make the Sage Scented Fettuccine with Butternut Squash.

Now what follows is a total breakthrough in this journey. I mention butternut squash and my husband says “Oh I saw a recipe for squash the other night that we can do. Where did I see that?” After a bit of thought he says “It was in that book you had out the other night when we had the zucchini.” No way! I swore I had hidden the book so well that night. So I ask innocently “what book?” “That vegetable book,” he says. Oh no!

I get the book out and, without showing him the cover, I turn to the Panko topped zucchini page. He takes the book and immediately checks out the cover and says “This is a VEGAN cookbook?!!!” See what I mean by “vegan phobic”?! So I grabbed the book and said “Oh my gosh, it’s just a book full of really good ways to cook vegetables. Remember the roasted cauliflower? Remember the awesome zucchini? You loved them!” I could see him really struggling with this, so I said “Let’s just find that recipe you saw for squash.” Crisis averted!

After that, we were flipping through the book together checking out different recipes. The one he had seen was for summer squash so we looked at two others for butternut squash and because neither of us wanted to go to the store for a can of black olives, we settled on the recipe I wanted in the first place!

He was more than happy to go watch TV while I cooked although he checked in every now and then. At one point he was looking over the recipe and saw Nutritional Yeast. (Now I had bought that on my last shopping trip so I could use it in this recipe.) “What the heck is Nutritional Yeast?” (ok, I paraphrased there). I admit I still don’t know so I mentioned that I think it’s a substitute for cheese. So he goes and gets cheese out of the fridge and sets it on the counter. Ok I get it. We will use cheese tonight but I will slip it into the next recipe that calls for it.

Now I am not a big risk taker when it comes to spices so I was super hesitant about the sage. I grow it in my herb garden but have never used it. Or so I thought. The minute I put it over the squash I knew where I had tasted it. Thanksgiving! I always buy the prepackaged herb stuffing mix that my mom always bought. That’s it! I love sage but didn’t even know it.

It got a little frantic towards the end pulling this recipe together. I had two frying pans and a pot going at the same time. (We joked later about how much easier cleanup was when we just stuck a veggie in the microwave.)  Finally I got it all put together beautifully in a really pretty bowl and was about to take a picture and my husband points out that I had forgotten to add the cheese. So I scrape it off of the fettuccine and back into the frying pan to add the cheese. Then back onto the noodles. I decided last minute to add some Panko crumbs for garnish and it’s done!

Even though we treated this as a side dish, it truly was the star of the plate. Everyone agreed that it tasted amazing. I feel like tonight was a total breakthrough for me in this challenge. My family is losing some of their phobias about vegan cooking and I am actually enjoying preparing vegetables in a more creative way. Ok so I’m not enjoying the cleanup afterwards but at least my challenge is working and I’m happy.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Vegan Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Browned Sage Butter, Wilted Greens and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

PlatedYield: approximately 32 gnocchi or 4 small-ish servings

 

Quite simply, this is possibly the best version of this type of”dream meal” I have ever tasted, much less prepared.  And, once the squash is roasted, it is surprisingly quick and easy.  I sage in the dough and the sauce, rubbed in the former, fresh in the latter.  But, I didn’t have fresh sage (a frost got mine), so I used a pinch of the rubbed in the sauce and derived plenty of green color from the wilted greens.

*Do ahead: roast butternut squash

 

Vegan Browned Butter

*1 cup roasted butternut squash (I roasted cubes for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees with a little olive oil and sea salt)

1 cup all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat) + another 2 to 3 tablespoons for rolling

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Lightly wilted spinach or your favorite green

Garnishes: Dollop of your favorite creamy nut cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds or other nuts

 

Vegan Browned Butter

2 tablespoons vegan butter

Optional (but recommended): 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast

1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage (or 2 to 3 fresh sage leaves, rolled, and sliced, i.e. chiffonade)

1/8th teaspoon garlic salt

Optional: a few drops of olive oil

In a cast iron skillet over medium-high, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and, stirring frequently, cook until it begins to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in nutritional yeast, if desired, sage, and garlic powder, and stir for about 30 seconds while nooch and garlic powder toasts and sage leaves wilt.  Reduce heat to low and stir in a drop or two of olive oil if a slightly thinner sauce is desired.  Keep warm over low heat.

Vegan Butternut Squash Ravioli

In a medium-large bowl, mash roasted butternut squash with a potato masher or a fork.  Using fingers, gently combine mashed squash with flour, 1/4 cup at a time, just until you achieve a moist but stiff dough, that is very easy to handle.  (Depending on the moisture content of your squash, it may require more or less flour.) Avoid over-mixing.  Divide dough into thirds and, on a lightly floured work surface, roll each third into a rope about 1-inch in diameter.  With a sharp knife, cut ropes into 3/4-inch pieces.  Press tops gently with the tines of a fork.

Cover two of the ropes with a dish towel and simmer the gnocchi cut from the third rope for 2 to 3 minutes or until they rise to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain quickly over pot, and then transfer to skillet with browned butter.  Add the gnocchi cut from one of the other ropes to the simmering water and while they cook, saute the cooked gnocchi a couple of minutes with the browned butter, stirring frequently, until golden brown in spots. Remove to a covered dish to keep warm.  Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocci until all have been simmered and sauteed.  Serve over wilted greens and top with a dab of  nut cheese and a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds.

 

Roll
Roll Gnocchi Dough Into 1-Inch Diameter Ropes
Cut Into 3/4-Inch Pieces and Press with Fork Tines
Simmer Just Until They Rise to the Top, 2 to 3 Minutes
Drain with a Slotted Spoon
Browning in Sauce
Saute in Browned Butter Until Lightly Caramelized
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Vegan Pasta with Smoky Corn Cream Sauce, Lemon, Pine Nuts, and Dulce

Pasta with Corn Cream SauceYield: 4 servings

Ever since my husband suddenly passed away on July 30, friends have thought of the loveliest ways to nurture me, mind, body and soul.

Janie Jacobson Craig, known for her healthy cooking classes once taught out of the Kitchen Barn and now out of her stylish contemporary beach home, wanted me to join her to make this cleaned-up carbonara using corn cream.

I was intrigued, but I asked her if she would come to our house because leaving home some days made me feel untethered in an unplesant way.  So, she loaded up her basket with the ingredients and over she came.

The idea for the “cream” is a sensation; thank you Tim Maslow!  As for the rest of the recipe, which called for bacon and crab, we substituted vegan bacon and pinenuts for their pale color and sweetness.  To suggest a briny hint of the sea, we chose a sprinkling of dulce flakes.

I will definitely be makign this easy, elegant dish again and I hope you will.

1 pound pasta (we used a quinoa variety from Whole Foods)

7 ears corn, uncooked

2 tablespoons vegan butter

1/4 pound vegan bacon, chopped and cooked or crisped according to package directions; set aside

2 shallots, minced

2 large cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Olive oil

1/2 pound pine nuts

approximately 2 teaspoons dulce flakes

In a large stock pot over medium high, heat generously salted water to boiling.  Add pasta, return to a gently boil, lower heat, partially cover, and cook until al dente (time will vary depending on the type of pasta).  Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta water.

Meanwhile, make sauce.  Slice kernels from cobs and place in a food processor.  Run the blade of the knife along the cob over the food processor bowl to remove any remaining milk.  Process corn until smooth and then pass through a seive, pressing on solids. Reserve cream and save pulp for another use.  In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, melt butter.  Add shallot and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and continue sauteeing and stirring for another 30 seconds.  Add cooked pasta, corn “cream,” 1 1/4 cups water, and lemon juice.  Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until creamy and thickened.  Add more of the pasta water if necessary to reach the desired consistency.  Fold in vegan bacon and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve lightly drizzled with olive oil and garnished with pine nuts, lemon zest and dulce flakes.

 

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Vegan Toasted Orzo Risotto (with Asparagus Stock or the stock of your choice)

Toasted Orzo RisottoYield: 4 side dish servings (easily doubles)

Joe and I are headed to NYC today for a dear friend’s wedding.  While, we are mostly excited about the wedding, we haven’t been to New York in far too long, so we are also amped about our POD hotel in East Midtown and the food!

Yesterday afternoon, another good friend who gets to Manhattan every year sent me her list of restaurant recommendations and I found myself starving.  Though, in truth, by 5 p.m. I am always starving.  I rise at 5:30 and teach high school all day, which I love, but which works up quite an appetite.

A handful of roasted peanuts and cashews–even with nutritional yeaste–didn’t do the trick.  So, I was casting about for something to snack on before I meet Joe at 7:30 for date night when I remembered that I had created this orzo risotto dish, but never finished it.  Yum!  Since I won’t be posting until after our weekend in the city, I thought I would go ahead and share now.

The recipe came about after making my Vegan Smokey Grilled Asparagus and White Bean Spread to take to a party.  I hated to waste–even to compost–all of the asparagus trimmings, so I made a stock.  But then I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I thought about a soup, but was craving something sort of creamy, starchy and chewy.  An opened box of orzo in the pantry provided all the inspiration I needed for this delectable Toasted Orzo Risotto that whispers spring with its oh-so-subtle hint of asparagus and bright fresh lemon zest.

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dried orzo

1/8th teaspoon sea salt + more to taste, if desired (to finish the dish)

2 1/2 cups asparagus stock (asparagus trimmings and a pinch of sea salt simmered in 2 cups water for 20 minutes and steeped until cool) OR any vegetable stock, preferably low sodium

1/2 cup dry white wine (I use a pinot grigio)

1/2 cup plain coconut or soy creamer (use unsweetened if you can find it)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Garnish: lemon zest, sprigs of fresh herbs, or the primary vegetabel from stock, if homemade.

In a large cast iron skillet over medium high, heat olive oil, add orzo, stir to coat and toast, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until lighly browned, avoid over-browning, especially toward the end.  Add one-third of  stock and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Repeat with remaining stock, one-third at a time, followed by white wine and creamer, for a total of 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time.  To finish the dish, stir in nutritional yeast, black pepper, and lemon zest.  Check for salt and add more if desired.  Serve garnished as desired.  (I used grilled asparagus spears.)

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Vegan Butternut Squash Orecchiette

Butternut Squash OrecchiettiYield: 4 servings

I know it’s the first day of spring, but if you’ll allow me one more fleeting cold weather recipe, I think you’ll be glad you did!

This is my final taste test and recipe inspired by a bountiful box of vegan cheeses sent to me by the good folks at GO Veggie!  If, like me, you thought all of their products were vegetarian, but not vegan, we were wrong.  Just look for the purple label and consult their store locator on their website.

I had used the GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping in my luscious Vegan Cheesy Artichoke Dip with Greens, Mushrooms, and Water Chestnuts, but there it was mixed with other cheeses.  Here, it is the only cheese, so its flavor had to be exactly right and it was!

A very few other recipe notes:

1)  Use any kind of pasta you choose for this recipe.  I love orecchiette  because each little ear-shaped piece of pasta is like a miniature cup to hold the scrumptious sauce.  But if you have other pasta on hand, you needn’t purchase more.

2)  Butternut squash is creamy, delicious, and helathful, but a whole fresh one can be a bit unweildy to prepare.  I find that a serrated knife can sometimes be more effective than a chef’s knife for removing both ends because the “teeth” really bite in.  And the skin is most efficiently removed with a vegetable peeler rather than a knife.  I cut off the neck of the squash and deal with the neck and bulbous base separately.  For this recipe I used only the neck flesh.  I seeded the bulbous base with a spoon, cut it into wedges, stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and roasted it a few days later for a delectable Coconut-Red Curry with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tofu.

3)  Finally, just remember to save some of the pasta water when you drain the pasta, as that starchy water is the magic sauce thickener/silkener.

Enjoy!

8 ounces orecchiette  (I usually cook the whole 12 ounce box and remove one-third of the cooked pasta for pasta salad)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

Sea salt

1/2 large bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

2 large cloves garlic

1-14 to 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice

1 to 2 ladlesful pasta water

1/4 cup plain nondairy creamer (soy or coconut milk)

2 tablespoons dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)

2 cups firmly packed baby kale leaves

1/4 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping plus extra for topping if desired

Freshly ground black pepper

4 sprigs fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium high.  Add pasta, stir, partially cover, return water to a gentle boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook pasta according to package directions, usually 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove 2 ladlesful (about 1 cup) of pasta water into a heatproof bowl and set aside.  Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add butternut squash and a pinch of salt, toss to coat, and then spread into a single layer.  Cook approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender but still holds its shape and starts to develop a little caramelization, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add bell pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and heat through.  Stir in 1 ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of pasta water and heat mixture until simmering.  Stir in creamer and white wine, heating through.  Thin sauce, if desired, at any point with remaining ladleful of water.  Sprinkle kale on top of mixture and allow it to start to wilt.  Then gently fold it into the sauce along with 1/4 cup GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Parmesan Grated Topping and the drained pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately topped, if desired, with additional parmesan cheese and a sprig of fresh basil.

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Blooming Platter Recipes Posted On GO Veggie! Website: Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread and Vegan Southwest Mac-n-Cheese!

GO Veggie! recently posted to their website two of my newest recipes made with their delicious vegan cheese products. Check out the cheesy goodness:

Vegan Smoky Cheddar Spread

Vegan Southwest Mac-n-Cheese

Go Veggie Smoky Cheddar Spread

 

Southwestern Mac-n-Cheese--horizontal

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Vegan Southwest Mac-n-Cheese (with Go Veggie! cheeses)

Southwestern Mac-n-Cheese--horizontalYield: 6 to 8 servings

(If you want to skip the backstory and product review, just scroll down a little bit to the creamy-cheesy recipe!)

Recently, I received a big box of Go Veggie! vegan products to test.  If your preferred grocery store, like mine, only stocks Go Veggie! vegetarian products (made with casein and such) and you thought it wasn’t the brand for you, I have good news: they make quite a range of vegan cheeses and, so far, I have found them very tasty with beautiful melt-ability.  Look for the purple packaging and click here for a store locator.

Just prior to receiving the bountiful box, I had seen two unrelated shows on the Food Network in which the hosts made mac-n-cheese, so that seemed the perfect dish in which to test several of the products all at once.  Both recipes were made with a veloute sauce instead of a bechamel.   Of this pair of French “mother” sauces, bechamel is a classic white sauce and veloute exactly the same, only made with stock instead of milk or cream.  I liked the idea of a veloute since so much “dairy” is used for mac-n-cheese anyway.  But if you are a non-dairy “Dairy Queen,” then, by all means, substitute your favorite non-dairy milk for the vegetable base/bouillion and water.

So, this morning, having literally not cooked all week–we dined out for dinner a lot with a guest in town, meaning there was also plenty of leftovers for my school lunches–I eagerly woke up  and dove into what turned out to be my very simple and satisfying project.  Since the cheddar-like package of “shreds” I was sent was called “Mexican Flavor,” I decided to nudge my recipe slightly west of  the Missisippi River without making it overpoweringly Mexican.

The award-winning Go Veggie! Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative added just the right amount of body to my veloute, which is definitely a bit thinner than a bechamel, due ot the lack of butterfat.   Their cream cheese has a pleasantly mild flavor and creamy texture, though a little liquid had separated, which may have been due to shipping and really didn’t present a problem, regardless; I simply poured it off before using.

The Go Veggie! Dairy Free Mexican Flavor Shreds melted beautifully, though I could barely detect any Mexican spices in the mix of both Cheddar- and Jack-style shreds, which is probably just as well because that allows the cook to better control the spices and resulting flavor.  I chose a mere half teaspoon of ground cumin and a quarter teaspoon each of chili powder, dried oregano, and smoked paprika, along with onion, garlic and roasted poblano peppers.

For the topping, the Go Veggie! Dairy Free Grated Parmesan Style Cheese was tasty–nutty, pungent and appealingly dry–and browned just perfectly mixed with vegan butter and Panko bread crumbs.  I could have used crushed corn chips, but I was trying to merely suggest the Southwest, not hit anyone over the head with a sombrero!

Speaking of heads, I am head-over-heels for this one, and hope you are too!  My finished dish is just perfect to me: not a thick, “gloppy” cut-it-with-a-knife mac-n-cheese, but pasta noodles bathed in a rich, silky, deeply flavorful and golden sauce with plenty of cheesiness, though far less cheese than many recipes call for.

6 tablespoons vegan butter

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

2 rounded teaspoons powdered vegetable base (or 2-3 bouillion cubes; not the extra large ones for 2 cups of liquid)

Pinch sea salt

2 cups water (or your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk)

1/4 cup Go Veggie! Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative

1-8 ounce package Go Veggie! Dairy Free Mexican Flavor Shreds

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon chili powder (mile or hot, your choice)

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon freshly gound black pepper

2 poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, halved, roasted under the broiler until skin blackens (about 5 minutes), skin removed, and finely diced

8 ounces rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions, drained, rinsed, and drained again

Crunchy Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.   In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onoins are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, and cook and stir for another minute.  Whisk in flour to make a roux, cooking and whisking for a couple of minutes to remove raw flour taste.  Slowly whisk in vegtable base and water.  (Note: you may substitute vegetable stock for vegetable base and water.)  And cook for about 7 or so minutes or until sauce is quite thick.  Add cream cheese alternative and whisk until melted, followed by shreds and all spices.  Check for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.  Stir in poblano peppers and then fold sauce into pasta and spoon lightly into prepared dish.  Sprinkle topping evenly over the surface, covering completely, and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving to allow the sauce to reabsorb back into the pasta.

Crunchy Topping:

1 tablespoon vegan butter

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup Go Veggie! Dairy Free Parmesan Style Grated Cheese

In a small saucepan, melt butter overmedium high.  Remove from heat and stir in crumbs and cheese until all ingredients are well combined.

Southwestern Mac-n-Cheese--vertical

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Vegan Red Zinfandel Pasta with Golden Grape Tomatoes

Red Zinfandel Pasta with Golden Grape TomatoesYield: 4 modest servings (will need a substantial side dish or side salad to make a full meal)

This easy recipe yields pasta that looks like those made from doughs “dyed” with various vegetable dyes (or animal, like squid ink–ick!). But, instead, taking Giada de Laurentiis’s lead, prepared pasta is cooked in red wine and turns this beautiful color.  Clever, no?  Giada also adds a little bit of tomato paste to hers, which you can certainly do.  It will deepen the color for sure.  But I really wasn’t after that rich cooked tomato flavor, so I left it out and my husband and I both loved it.

She serves hers with herbs and goat cheese.  If I had had an of my Homemade Vegan Ricotta Cheese, I would have stirred little pieces of that into it, but we ate that right up!  So, I had some beautiful yellow-orange grape tomatoes from the farmer’s market that I thought looked striking in contrast with the pasta.  And it tasted delicious too.

Feel free to add whatever cooked vegetable you choose (though tomatoes are best added fresh).  You can hardly go wrong unless the color is too close to the pasta color and doesn’t show up.

8  ounces whole wheat pasta (I like a thin vermicelli–not the Asian rice variety–but spaghetti is nice too, just adjust cooking time)

Sea salt

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup finely diced red onion or shallot, red if available (about a medium shallot)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups of dry red wine, like a Zinfandel or whatever you have on hand

16 golden grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup finely chopped basil

Garnish: sprigs of basil and optional nutritional yeast

Bring a large (4 quart) pot of well-salted water to boil over medium-high.  Add pasta and simmer pasta for about half it’s cooking time (about 4 minutes for whole wheat vermicelli); lower heat if necessary.   Meanwhile, in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil.  Add onion and garlic and sauté, stirring continually, until softened and fragrant, about a minute or two.  Add red wine, and bring to a simmer; adjust heat if necessary.  Drain pasta and add to skillet with red wine mixture, or scoop pasta directly into mixture using a slotted spoon.  Cook pasta for its remaining time or a minute or so longer, stirring occasionally.  When almost all of wine has cooked off, add tomatoes and basil, and gently toss until all of the moisture has simmered away.  Serve immediately dusted with nutrition yeast if desired (but not enough to hid the beautiful color), and a sprig of basil.

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