Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Celebrations require effort

In my family, holiday celebration planning primarily consists of menu creation. Beyond working around everyone’s dietary requirements at any given time, we love to try new things, get creative, and sometimes even experiment. Making things from scratch we wouldn’t normally is a must. For example, a few years ago, for Thanksgiving, we made gnocchi, sweet potato gnocchi, AND ravioli. From scratch. For, like, five of us. It was a bit over the top, sure, but at least those things freeze well.

I don’t make fresh pasta all the time. It’s a project. Not as difficult as some, but more time-consuming than an everyday meal. When I do, I like to experiment a bit with colors and flavors. Once I made the dough with pureed nettles, resulting in intensely green hand-cut noodles (probably akin to papardelle). For today’s prompt, I decided to experiment with using beets to color my pasta, using a simple homemade broth.

Above: Beet broth in progress with porcini mushroom and kombu seaweed. It’s, like, blood red.

I haven’t had the “proper” flour for making pasta in ages–shit’s expensive, and the goddamn pantry moths get into it–so I did a 50/50 split of all-purpose and whole wheat flour with a ratio of 3:1 of flour to broth. I let the food processor do most of the work, just kneading it for a bit at the end to make sure it was reasonably smooth before cranking it through the pasta roller. The texture was solid enough that letting the machine give me fettuccine strips was effortless. (If the dough is too sticky, it can get stuck in the rollers.) The end result was beautifully rich pinky-magenta pasta like I’ve never seen.

Above: Uncooked beet fettuccine, tossed with flour to prevent sticking.

The other tricky thing about fresh pasta is how to sauce it. A heavy marinara or rich cashew cream base would drown out the flavor; basil pesto didn’t seem quite right, visually or taste-wise, for beet pasta. I landed on caramelized onion with sauteed cherry tomatoes for a pop of sweetness and olive oil-y richness, a handful of torn basil for contrast, and toasted pepitas for crunch.

Above: Gotta love the height of tomato season.

The broth did give the pasta a subtle depth of flavor, and the whole thing was just…pretty. Complementary reds on the plate and delicious tastes in the mouth, mmm. Homemade pasta is never regrettable.

Above: It seemed like too much. It wasn’t.
Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo Day 19: Hot Borscht Autumn

Hey it’s a meme no one will remember by the time this posts!

Anyway, today is Fall Colors day, and that means yellow squash, orange sweet potato, or red beets. I made borscht because I don’t think I have before and it’s very, very red.

Above: Chunky.

Like, very red. The red that turns everything it touches red, including the potato and carrot also in this soup. But I did use a stick blender to make the broth a bit thicker. I didn’t puree everything, just some of it.

Above: Less chunky. Also dill.

Oh, also, there’s some cannellini in there because it makes it more of a meal, I guess? But so does a nice swirl of almond yogurt, a sprinkle of fresh dill, and a slice of seeded rye.

Above: Priyatnogo Appetita!

Food Blog Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 23: What, Exactly, Distinguishes “Fancy Food” From Everyday Food?

My guesses? 1. Ingredient quality, and 2. Presentation.

But I went ahead and looked for something showy from the Crossroads cookbook anyway.


This beet salad with apple, Kite Hill ricotta, walnuts, microgreens, and balsamic vinegar is super pretty and super tasty. I did NOT make it as sweet (or complicated) as their recipe: toasted walnuts instead of candied; plain balsamic vinegar instead of an agave-sweetened reduction. I don’t care for salads that are too sweet, and the textures and flavors of the base ingredients offered plenty on their own. And they’re all fancypants organic, locally grown, blah blah blah. (I suppose the vinegar could’ve been a fancier kind, but it’s our go-to not-too-cheap balsamic anyway.)


I did like their method of cooking the beets: in a sort of light brine with peppercorns, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and a little vinegar. The aroma and the taste are really nice and mellow.

Food Blog Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 20: Deconstructing the Stuffed Pepper

The cauliflower puree is roasted cauliflower blended with a little porcini broth, garlic, olive oil, nooch, and salt and pepper. I think roasting it made it come out more brown than white, which is less visually appealing, but oh well! Roasted cauliflower tastes good!

To meet today’s “deconstruction” challenge, I needed to think of a dish that was “constructed” enough in the first place to recognize… and, ideally, not merely “deconstruct” into a bowl. And also not copying a restaurant dish I like with “deconstructed” in its actual name.

So I thought on it and landed on the stuffed pepper. Now, I don’t have any particular affinity for a stuffed pepper – they seem difficult to eat and look very ‘70s kitsch – but it’s a format that would be easy to play with. I needed the bell pepper, a filling, and maybe a sauce. (Hello, the name of the blog is Vegans Need Sauce, after all.) I decided to simply grill slabs of bell pepper and use it as the serving medium for some kind of vegan ball.


Enter: the beet ball.

It’s got beets, nuts, chickpeas, porcini mushrooms, and plenty of herbs and spices. It’s baked. It’s easy. Perfect.

Then the cooking liquid from the dried mushrooms became the base of both the sauce and an element of the roasted cauliflower puree I made to go on the side. (It’s the swoosh. I got fancy.)

I tried to make the sauce green – to balance out the red balls and yellow pepper, natch – by pureeing porcini broth with parsley, fresh thyme, garlic, and the leftover chickpeas, but it cooked out more beige. Oh well. Fresh chopped parsley to the photographic rescue! The sauce was simmer with sherry, red wine vinegar, a little cornstarch, and nooch to thicken and season it.

The cauliflower puree is roasted cauliflower blended with a little porcini broth, garlic, olive oil, nooch, and salt and pepper. I think roasting it made it come out more brown than white, which is less visually appealing, but oh well! Roasted cauliflower tastes good!

Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 22: Dish using all seasonal produce

This is basically how I cook every day – I shop at the farmers’ market like it’s a religion – but living in Northern California means so much great stuff is in season for a long time, even during this drought. Still, things do come and go. The end of summer tends to have beautiful tomatoes and squash, along with lovely greens, onions, and root vegetables, and all of these are among my favorite things.

To shake things up a little, I wanted to try some new things:

  • Wild fried rice with roasted delicata squash and beets (+ onion, shallot, cilantro, red pepper flakes)
  • Cherry tomato chutney (with shallots and apple cider vinegar) over baked tofu
  • Steamed kale, because greens are a requirement

I’ll have to make the chutney again–it was easy and delicious.