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.
Food Blog None Vegan MoFo

#VeganMoFo Day 3: Quick, easy, and delicious

Often my idea of a “easy” meal still requires multiple steps and several pans dirtied. At the very least, I’ll typically use the rice cooker, glass baking dish in the toaster oven, and a skillet on the stove, plus at least a bowl or two for prep and mixing and a smaller container or blender to make dressing. The beauty of this recipe – which I have to admit is the only one that’s made it into my repertoire from Color Me Vegan – is that it’s a mere two pans, and only a handful of ingredients, and it comes together quickly. It’s my go-to on days I work from home and don’t want to take a long break. Plus, it’s not bad to look at.

I’ve made it my own, to a certain extent – I seldom follow recipes to a “T” unless they’re complex (or baked) – but it’s very simple. For two big portions, you’ll need:

  • Pasta of your choice, as much as you want to serve – something ribbon-y works best, a fettuccine or even a looser short pasta like these Baia Pasta corkscrews
  • One small or medium red onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • One small or half a large head of purple cabbage
  • Pinch of dried thyme and red pepper flakes
  • Handful of nuts or seeds of your liking (original recipe uses pinenuts; I often use hemp or pumpkin seeds)
  • Nutritional yeast and basalmic vinegar, to taste
  • Olive oil to cook

Put on a pot of water to cook the pasta and when it boils, cook it according to package directions.

While it’s boiling, prep the vegetables: quarter the onion and slice it thinly, and add it to a hot, oiled skillet to cook down while you shred the cabbage. (If you aren’t handy with a knife, the slicing blade on a food processor might work too; I get perverse pleasure out of slicing cabbage super-duper thinly with a big knife, though, but YMMV) Getting it perfect isn’t the point; it’s going to cook down a bit anyway, so the texture is not critical. Add the cabbage when ready (the onions should be starting to brown by now), along with the red pepper flakes and thyme. When the cabbage has cooked down some, add a little more oil if the pan is dry and add minced garlic (I often use a microplane; it really preserves that garlic punch while dispersing garlic flavor evenly). Add the nuts or seeds after that. If you like, you can toast them a little first, or clear space in the pan to toast them there, as long as you remember not to let it burn.

By the time the pasta is ready, the vegetables should be too. Drain the pasta and reserve a little bit of cooking liquid. Sprinkle the vegetables with nutritional yeast and add the pasta with some cooking liquid and stir to combine. Add more nutritional yeast or vinegar if you like, and eat it.

The same basic idea could be used with other veggies – I’ve done it with shaved brussels sprouts to great effect – or add tasty braised tempeh to bulk it up.