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Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Happy Hanukkah!

Though I am not Jewish I grew up immersed in the culture and, oftentimes, coveting it. Thus, when an opportunity presents itself, I like to celebrate (and, of course, indulge in one particular rite of passage: prepare traditional foods and enthusiastically enjoy them). Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, has many foods associated with it: latkes, sufganiyot, and dairy. Fried foods are symbolic of the limited supply of oil that lasted for eight days, and dairy is symbolic of Judith (Yehudit) who saved her village from destruction.

For our Hanukkah dinner, I made potato latkes, noodle kugel, challah, and a pear-walnut cake with honey-orange syrup. I felt assured that all would turn out well, but I had my concerns about the kugel. You see, I’ve never actually experienced kugel – I have only heard the tales of woe and horror from my Jewish friends and, as such, steered well clear of any kugel offered to me (a far easier feat once I went vegan). This year, however, I decided to tackle the kugel. According to Wikipedia,Kugels may be sweet or savory. The most common types are made from egg noodles (called lochshen kugels) or potatoes and often contain eggs, but there are recipes in everyday use in modern Jewish kitchens for a great diversity of kugels made with different vegetables, fruit, batters, cheese, and other flavorings and toppings.” I chose a Martha Stewart noodle kugel recipe that is both sweet and savory.

My concerns arose when I looked over the recipe, and the trepidation set in as I began to assemble my ingredients. The combination of flavors appeared to be so unlike any other I have tried – and, more importantly, have enjoyed. This dish was truly jumping into the unknown for me. The other source of concern was how rich the dish must be: the original version called for 2 cups of sour cream, 1 cup of cream cheese, 6 eggs, 1 cup of butter, and 1 cup of sugar – oh my! Not only did I sub in vegan options for the sour cream, cream cheese, butter, and eggs, but I also reduced the quantity of each. Traditional noodle kugel also calls for wide egg noodles, but I used lasagna noodles that I cut into smaller pieces and they worked beautifully.

Personal growth can only occur when we take risks and step outside of our comfort zones; the same can be said about the growth of our culinary prowess. This kugel was delicious, and it was, most definitely, the belle of the ball at our Hanukkah dinner. Sure, the challah received its fair share of praise, and the latkes enjoyed their time in the spotlight, but it was the kugel that had people coming back for more. The bonus? It tasted even better the day.

Happy Hanukkah!

Noodle Kugel
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance or other butter substitute, melted, plus more for dish
Coarse salt
1 pound lasagna noodles
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup (8 ounces) Tofutti sour cream, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) Tofutti cream cheese, room temperature
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1/3 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, Drain noodles; set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a pizza cutter to slice the noodles in half lengthwise and then in thirds widthwise. Put back into pot and set aside.

2. Put oil and sour cream into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed until combined. Mix in 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup Earth Balance, and the cream cheese. Set aside.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons Earth Balance in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar, the cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add apples; gently toss to coat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until soft and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir apples into sour cream mixture; pour over noodles. Add the raisins and toss gently to combine. Pour into prepared dish. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons butter over noodles; sprinkle with remaining sugar.

4. Bake until set and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

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Here I am, almost two month since the last food post, groveling and asking that you rejoin me at our table on our deck, surrounded by our garden of vegetables, herbs and flowers, bask in the setting sun and light Hawaiian trade winds, so that we once again can break bread together.

I do feel that I owe a brief explanation to those of you who have faithfully been checking in and those of you who have been commenting despite the silence. In a nutshell, we have had two very busy months. We started a home improvement project that, of course, dragged on far longer than anticipated. The actual labor was done relatively quickly thanks, in part, to our minimal square footage – painting the walls shades of blue (and bright yellow in the bathroom) and replacing the forlorn carpet with laminate wood flooring in a warm shade of oak to create an effect of a beach side cottage (in reality we live on the side of a volcano and are a three minute drive from the ocean). What took so long was the finishing work (baseboards, caulking, transitions, etc) and dragging everything back into the house, unpacking, reorganizing, and so on and so forth. There was also much going on at work. We had family visit for two weeks. We puddle-hopped over to the Big Island for some R&R with the visiting fam.

Additionally, on a more somber note, we’ve had people close to us facing some serious health issues. My instinct, in addition to offering all manner of support that I can, is to feed people when times get tough, stressful, or scary. Food is love, food is health, and food is nourishing both for our bodies and our souls. But when faced with health issues, people should be fed as well as possible – not the cakes, pies, and cookies loaded with sugar that are my initial instinct to whip up. This has led me to critically consider the way I cook and eat and has made me face the hard reality that I use and consume entirely too much sugar and too much white flour. This amount of sugar can undo the work put into carefully choosing produce and focusing on using all fresh ingredients and whole foods. So, as I happily jump back into the world of cooking and baking, expect to see a focus on the same delicious foods but, in the case of my sweet teeth, expect to also see a focus on natural sweeteners, whole grains, and healthier treats.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
— Virginia Woolf

It’s good to be back. Let’s eat!

White Bean, Mushroom, and Smoked Sundried Tomato Pasta
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups sliced white mushrooms
1 15 oz. can white beans, drained
1/3 cup smoked sundried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water to rehydrate and then cut into small pieces
5 tbs tomato soaking liquid
2 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (I used rosemary, basil, oregano, and parsley from my garden)
Salt, pepper, and hot red pepper flakes to taste
Olive oil for drizzling

Pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat spaghetti)

1. Put a pot of water on for the pasta, and soak the sundried tomatoes in a bowl of hot or boiling water for about 10 minutes or until soft.

2. Meanwhile, Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and sauté the onion for 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 1-2 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Saute for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the beans and tomatoes to the pan and add 5 tbsp of the tomato soaking liquid. Add more if the bean mixture begins to stick. Cook for 5-7 minutes.

4. Add salt, pepper, and hot red pepper flakes to taste. Sprinkle on the herbs and drizzle with olive oil. Serve over pasta.

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An Abundance of Gold

As has been well documented on this blog, I have a very generous, very large yellow pear tomato plant taking over my garden. (Never fear, however – we’ve been busy this week carving our two new garden plots.) The tomato plant has kicked into over drive this past week and I’ve been having trouble keeping up with its productivity. We’ve been eating tomato carpaccio just about every day and tossing tomatoes in every salad, but I had to find new ways of using the things. The first recipe listed below was inspired by a recipe that I have been wanting to try for some time now: the Golden Gazpacho on Freshtopia. I had to adapt it somewhat to accommodate my available ingredients (I did not have a lemon cucumber and the store in town only had sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, which I avoid in favor of the ones that come in packages and need to be re-hydrated in hot water) and to adjust it to my taste, and it turned out really very good.  I would still like to try the recipe as posted on Freshtopia because I think the sundried tomatoes would really make the gazpacho something special. The second recipe listed below- yellow tomato sauce – was one I made up on the spot the other night when Dan requested pasta for dinner. The sauce was delicious, and I served it with steamed vegetables.

Tomorrow we are off for a week of rest, relaxation, and adventuring on Kauai. There are some leftovers in the fridge that you can nibble on while we’re away 🙂 I look forward to catching up with everyone when we get back! Have a wonderful week!

Yellow Gazpacho

2 ½ cups yellow pear tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled
1 clove garlic
½ an avocado
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp agave
4 large basil leaves
Hot sauce, salt & pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar, chopped yellow tomatoes, chopped avocado, and basil leaves to garnish

Mix all ingredients tomatoes through basil in a food processor until your desired consistency is reached.  Taste and season with hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Top serve, garnish with sliced tomatoes, avocado, and basil leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Yellow Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups yellow pear tomatoes
¼ cup chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.    Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.

2.    Use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes a bit.  Add salt and pepper.  Cook the sauce over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring e3very so often, until all of the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce a cooked down and thickened (it won’t thicken too much, but it will transition from watery to saucy consistency).

3.    Pour over the pasta of your choice, add vegetables, and enjoy!

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Asparagus Lasagna

As a vegan, I am about to say something that I would have never expected to say. Ever. You see, this recipe was one that I adapted from Giada De Laurentis, aka the pork and cheese loving force behind the show (and all of the accompanying cookbooks) Everyday Italian. I promise you – I am not kidding!

The other day I had the food network on TV as I was doing some around-the-house tasks. I believe the show that was on was Extreme Cakes (seriously, people- these were some pretty extreme cakes! There were firecrackers, pounds of fondant, and moving parts…) when I left the room … and when I came back, there was Giada, throwing around pancetta, mozarella, parmesean, and ricotta like these are the staples of any healthy, well balanced meal. Believe it or not, as I watched this one-woman-health-crisis go, I thought to myself, “Hmmmm….that dish has potential.” As I went about my day, I had the idea of this dish lodged firmly in the back of my head and eventually, to purge it, I had to make it. With a few adaptations, of course.

For this dish I used whole wheat lasagna noodles for the first time and I was pleased with their chewy texture. I overhauled the recipe to rid it of all animal products, and I subbed in soy cheese and a modified version of Isa Moskowitz’s Tofu Basil Ricotta from Vegan With A Vengeance. The modification that I made was to puree it in a food processor instead of mixing it up by hand. I did this to mimic the smoothness of the melted cheese in Giada’s dish rather than subbing in a crumblier stand-in (which I usually use in my traditional style lasagna). I also made a smaller batch of the lasagna than the original recipe called for because I was only making dinner for two (with leftovers for lunch the next day, of course!).

The beauty of this lasagna is that it is actually fairly easy to make and is ready in less than an hour, but it looks incredibly fancy and it tastes four star. Does it get any better than that?

Asparagus Lasagna
Adapted from Everyday Italian

9 lasagna sheets, fresh or dried, trimmed to fit a 9×9-inch baking pan
1 tsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp, divided
1 package of sundried tomatoes, rehydrated
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup, plus ½ cup, grated Italian style soy cheese, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
24 stems of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 batch of Tofu Basil Ricotta (recipe follows)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta or 2 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta. Drain pasta.
2. While the pasta is cooking, rehydrate the tomatoes in hot water until tender to the touch. In a food processor combine the sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Pulse until the mixture is combined. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded soy cheese. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the tofu ricotta, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9×9-inch baking dish place three lasagna sheets, then half asparagus mixture. Next sprinkle some shredded soy cheese on top. Continue for 1 more layer. Top with lasagna sheets, some sun-dried tomato mixture, and shredded soy cheese. Dot the top with butter. Bake until the ingredients are warm and the soy cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

Tofu Basil Ricotta
From Vegan With A Vengeance

1 pound firm tofu, pressed
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
A dash of black pepper

Crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

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