Victoria Vegan Pasta Sauces: The Vegan Alfredo-Lover’s Dream! »
The lovely family over at Victoria Vegan recently sent me a variety of their pasta sauces for review, and so review them I happily will!
They sent me their Arugula Pesto Alfredo, Artichoke Alfredo, Vodka sauce, Roasted Bell Pepper Alfredo and Original Alfredo to try. I invited my sister over for the fun, as pasta is her favorite food. We called it our “Marinara Tasting Party”, though our party was dominated mostly by Alfredo sauces!
Clockwise from top left: My plate, my sister’s plate, sautéed spinach with vegan bac’un bits and my niece Audrey enjoying the Original Alfredo sauce with pasta! I made my sister and I the garlic bread and spinach (veganized), because those were staples on pasta night when we were growing up.
I had tried the Roasted Bell Pepper sauce a little while ago, so I already knew I was a fan of this brand! It was exciting to be able to sample so many varieties, and though I really enjoyed them all, my personal favorite was the Arugula Pesto. The Artichoke Alfredo definitely came in at a close second. They were so interesting and full of flavor; I thought the creaminess of the Alfredo complimented both the Arugula Pesto and Artichoke so well! My sister’s favorite was the Vodka sauce, so I sent her home with it. (She’s always open to trying vegan food, and it feels like such a victory when we find things she likes.) Audrey just had her 18 month check-up earlier that day, in which she was given the okay to finally introduce nuts in her diet. That was a good thing because Victoria Vegan Alfredo sauces are cashew based (it’s more of a fruit, I know, but you can never be too careful with nut allergies)! The sauces are also non-GMO and gluten-free! REJOICE! Sometimes they are soy-free as well, but be sure to check the labels on that.
After my sister left, I had four open, full jars of sauce to figure out what to do with! Things got creative over here. I had some jumbo shells I was waiting to do something special with, and having the Arugula Pesto sauce was the perfect reason to finally make them!
I filled my shells with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, onions and kale. I also added pinches of nutritional yeast, bac’un bits and salt. I was quite pleased with the results!
By this time I was getting tired of eating pasta, and was racking my brain for something fun to make. I thought fried mac and cheese sounded good, but not quite what I was in the mood for. So instead, inspired by this recipe, I fashioned baskets out of phyllo dough. It’s not as hard as it sounds, I swear! I made mac’n cheese with sautéed onions, mushrooms and spinach, again with a pinch of bac’un bits and nooch. I used the Orginal Alfredo for these, but any of the white sauces would be perfection! [Ed. note: DAMN GIRL GIMME THAT!]
Phyllo dough is not impossible or overly intimidating to work with, I swear! My mom’s secret is to keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out, but with a dry towel instead of a wet one. I greased a muffin tin, and then stuffed one folded sheet of dough into each hole. I then filled the dough with a spoonful or two of mac’n cheese, brushed the edges of the dough with olive oil and baked it at 350 until the edges were lightly browned. EASY, SEE?
All in all, I am a big fan of Victoria Vegan Alfredo sauces! If you see the Arugula Pesto, I’m telling you, pick it up! You can’t go wrong with any of the varieties and seriously, don’t be afraid to dress them up a little when you make them! I don’t live near a Whole Foods right now, but I was daydreaming combining any of the sauces with these ravioli (I can almost taste it!).
Full Disclosure: Victoria Fine Foods sent me these jars of sauces, free of charge, to review. All opinions stated above are solely my own.
Pasta with kale pesto from Love & Lemons! I been trying to get more into kale because apparently it’s like the best thing for you ever. But I don’t like plan old steamed greens! But THIS I could get down with. I love pesto! Basil is the greatest thing ever but I could go for kale to mix it up sometimes. What do you think? Genius or a waste of pine nuts?
Polenta Agnolotti with corn corn corn! »
One of my favorite vegan chefs and friend of Vegansaurus, Mark Tinkleman, has started a food blog!: Semolina and Sauce. Recently, he posted about this Polenta Agnolotti (Wikipedia: “Agnolotti is a kind of ravioli typical of the Piedmont Region, made with small pieces of flattened pasta dough, folded over with a roast beef meat and vegetable stuffing.” Roast beef smost beef! Not this time, buddy!) with porcinis, quince, and frisee.
If the title isn’t enough to attract you, Mark also offers a sort of corn manifesto sure to intrigue! I knew corn was messed up but Mark proclaims, “corn is a weapon of US imperialism.” Damn, son! My only critique for this recipe is MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! Now, go make me polenta.
Our final Vegan MoFo of 2011: Easy Artichoke Pasta »
I learned today’s amazing secret super-speedy dinner from my mother. Thanks mom! I made this for dinner this week and my husband liked it so much he got sad when the leftovers were gone. Best part? Nearly zero effort.
Pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti this week, but anything goes)
A jar of marinated artichoke hearts (make sure they’re the kind packed in oil)
Cook and drain your noodles just like the package says.
Chop up the artichoke hearts into smaller pieces, maybe like 3/4 inch cubes or so.
Mix the artichokes and the oil in which they were packed into the pasta.
Smother in nutritional yeast.
Devour while congratulating yourself on how easy dinner was.
And thus concludes our Vegan MoFo for 2011. It was the most fun ever, and we can’t wait for next year so we can gorge ourselves with even more deliciousness!
[Photo from Yumsugar, where you can learn to marinate your own artichoke hearts if you want to get crazy like that]
Vegan MoFo: AvoKale Noodles! »
I’m not sure this recipe counts as super-fast, but it’s weeknight-fast and SO good I just HAD to share it with you. My awesome vegan husband Danny invented it, because he does lots of the cooking ‘round our place. Also Isa kind of invented it—it’s a modified version of the Pasta della California in Veganomicon.
Ok let’s get to it!
2+ Tbsp. garlic, chopped
red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 cup white wine
1 can white beans
2 avocados, cubed
salt and pepper
nutritional yeast for garnish/topping
Cook some whole-wheat spaghetti, or noodles of your choice.
Boil some kale in a small amount of water for like 20 minutes until it’s soft. Probably chop it up first.
Meanwhile, saute some garlic, red pepper flakes (depends on how much you like), and the lemon zest in some olive oil for about 5 minutes. USE THE ZEST! It makes a huge difference in the tastiness factor.
Squeeze in the juice from that naked lemon, add white wine. Cook a little longer.
Drain and rinse a can of white beans (or cook them from dried in a pressure cooker) and throw in with the garlic saucy stuff to warm up.
In a big bowl, mix together the noodles, the kale, the avocado, and the saucy beans.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with nooch on top.
Seriously, this is really good. I was gonna blog about something else but then Danny went and cooked this and I was like shit, I gotta pull out my camera now because dinner is just THAT GOOD tonight. It sucked, I swear — the camera was all the way in the other room and everything.
Product review: Rising Moon Stuffed Shells! »
This new store, Ivy Garden, opened in Park Slope (Gowanus?) and it’s my new favorite place on earth. They have so much vegan food! AND it’s right off my subway stop (stop stalking me!). One thing they have that I hadn’t tried before is Rising Moon Stuffed Shells. Jeez louise, guys! These are SO GOOD! I love them. The ricotta is totally great. I don’t remember if it’s exactly like dairy ricotta but it’s hella good.
That’s kind of all I wanted to say. If you see this stuff somewhere, totally try it.
Guest recipe: Gnocchi with morels, peas, sorrel oil, pine nuts, and miso broth »
When I run the world (fingers crossed), New Year’s will be on May 1 and we’ll all have off to celebrate the first farmer’s market of the year and the international struggle for a communist world. Just think about the spring greens—dandelion, stinging nettles, pea tendrils, baby mustard greens, sorrel. I know some crazy carnies (and I mean carnivores) that can just stand and chew on some fresh-cut baby kale stems and be super-happy about it. It’s an awesome time of year. We’d celebrate the whole month. While you might be sick of potatoes after winter’s doldrums, new white-fleshed potatoes can make awesome gnocchi, so here’s a very springy gnocchi recipe with a slight twist that really works. One thing to note: if you’re using frozen gnocchi, you will not boil them; instead, à la Jonathan Waxman, you’ll put them straight from the freezer into the frying pan and season with salt.
Gnocchi with morels, peas, sorrel oil, pine nuts, and miso broth
serves four to six
2 lbs. white fleshed potatoes, new or old
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 small onion, cut in half
1 rib celery
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
4 cups water
1 Tbsp. white or yellow miso
1 bunch sorrel
¼ cup water
1 ½ cups olive oil
1 bunch early spring greens, rinsed and stemmed
4 to 12 fresh morels, cut in half (the more the merrier, although if you can’t find morels, other mushrooms work OK, like the dehydrated porcinis in the picture)
½ cup peas, shelled
½ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Put the onion, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a pot with the water. Simmer for 30 minutes while you make the dough. Strain.
In a small bowl, place the miso. Whisk ½ cup of the stock into the miso. Taste. Add more stock in small quantities until the flavor is still pretty strong but balanced and it has a brothy consistency.
Boil the potatoes, skin-on, in heavily salted water. When they’re done, you should be able to stick a knife into the center of the potato without resistance. Try to test as few as possible and disturb the skin as little as possible. Remove the potatoes when done.
Let the potatoes cool just enough to handle. Rub the skins off. Use a tammy/strainer or a ricer to thoroughly puree the potatoes.
Mix with ¾ cup of the flour and the salt. Work the dough with your hands into a manageable ball and knead altogether for two to three minutes. As the potatoes cool they will get stickier, so move pretty fast. If the dough sticks to your fingers, work a little more flour in until it stops doing that. It shouldn’t be firm like pasta dough but it should be firm enough to hold its basic shape when you pinch off a piece.
It is a learned skill to make gnocchi dough correctly and there’s no substitute for experience in this regard. This is an approximate ratio I’ve provided, but I do suggest before you start rolling and cutting that you test one out first by dropping a piece of the dough into simmering water. If it falls apart, you need more flour in the dough.
You’ve made the dough! Pinch off jawbreaker-size pieces and roll them out into ½-inch wide snakes on a floured surface, trying not to taper the ends too much.
Line these up next to each other and with a big knife or a bench scraper cut them all into gnocchi-sized pieces. If you want to dimple or tine them, now is the time. Sprinkle them with flour and let them rest for 5 minutes. If it’s not dinnertime yet spread them out on a sheet-tray, wrap the tray in plastic and put them in the freezer.
When you’re ready to eat, put up a large pot of salted water (unless using frozen gnocchi).
Tear up the sorrel, separating it from its stems. Put all the sorrel, ¼ cup water, and olive oil into a blender and puree for a good two minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the blender every 30 seconds or so. Season with salt and strain.
Schav is a sorrel soup that was a springtime staple for immigrants in the early 1900s. At its most basic, it was sorrel, water and salt, but it still was so delicious that people drank it out of mugs. I could drink this sorrel oil straight, but for a good schav just reverse the oil/water ratio here. Sorrel oxidizes super-quick after it’s chopped up or pureed, turning from bright springy green to army green to gray-green. It still tastes just as good but if you want to be classy just make this oil right before you put everything together.
The final countdown
Warm the broth in a small pot. Make sure everything for the final dish is prepped and handy. If, like me, the largest pan you have is about 10 inches, you’re going to have to finish this dish one serving at a time, so divide up your mis en place accordingly.
Drop the gnocchi into the boiling salted water. Heat a pan with oil. When the gnocchi float in the pot, put the garlic and morels into the hot pan and season them with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 seconds and then add the gnocchi to the pan, trying to spread them out so as to have one even layer. Disturb the pan as little as possible until the gnocchi start to brown on the bottom.
When the gnocchi are browning add the peas, pine nuts and greens and season them with salt and pepper as well. Toss together. Add more oil if you don’t see any on the floor of the pan. Cook for another solid minute, tossing every 15 seconds or so.
Put in the center of plates. Pour or spoon broth over the top so that it pools around the gnocchi. Drizzle the sorrel oil around the plate.
Mark Tinkleman is committed to a radically better future for all of humanity. He is a cook by profession, was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has worked at award-winning vegan and omni restaurants in New York and Philadelphia. He lives with his beautiful partner and their cat in Philadelphia. Go Philly!
Guest recipe: Fresh pasta handkerchiefs with mushroom sauce and really good beans »
There are three parts to this recipe: the beans, the pasta, the mushroom sauce. Any one of them can be plucked out and used in other dishes. The beans must be started at least one day in advance. This recipe is for two people so you can adjust accordingly, but you may have extra of both the pasta dough and the beans at the end. They both keep very well. Lastly, this is largely a pantry dish but the fresh ingredients—mushrooms, rosemary, greens, onion and garlic—come through so clearly that it still feels springy. I do suggest seasoning to taste and that’s how the recipe is written, but if you‘re meticulous or don‘t know what you‘re doing, a general standard is to salt at .5 percent the weight of the ingredient.
1 cup large dried beans (I use scarlet runners)
½ bunch rosemary
4 cloves garlic
Approximately 2 cups olive oil
6 large crimini mushrooms (about 200g)
2 to 4 grams Dried porcini mushrooms
1 small onion
2 Tbsp. white wine, not a sweet one (get a box or a four-pack of those smaller bottles—you‘re not going to use that much so this way it keeps)
1 Tbsp. any kind of wheat flour
½ cup white wine vinegar
12 oz semolina flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill mainly ‘cause Bob seems like such a nice guy)
½ bunch greens, stemmed if necessary (I like kale or sorrel for this)
This is a bean confit—in French confit generally means to preserve, more specifically to cook something at a low temperature covered in fat and leave it in the fat in which it was cooked. Most traditionally this method is used for dead duck cooked in the fat of all its friends and family, but more recently it’s been applied to lots of things, from artichokes to tomatoes to garlic to beans to cabbage. You may have leftover beans, and you can eat them at 2 a.m. with a spoon in the light of the refrigerator. Or on a salad, or in another pasta, or on a sandwich.
Soak your beans overnight with a bunch of salt. You cannot over salt them in this state so just put in a handful. The salt will reduce cooking time even further than just plain soaking.
The next day drain the beans and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them by about three inches and add 2 Tbps. of salt. Simmer until the beans are cooked—it could be anywhere from a half hour to an hour. Start tasting at about a half hour.
Drain the beans when they feel cooked but before they‘re falling apart. Now we will make them delicious. Put the beans in the smallest pot that will hold them all. Cover the beans with oil. This may seem like a lot of oil. It is. Fat makes delicious. Don’t quote me. Put in 4 sprigs of rosemary, 4 peeled garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon salt. Gently stir it up.
Cover with a pot lid or aluminum foil and cook for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Spoon one out and blow on it or let it sit in a cold place for a solid minute. When they are done they will feel luxurious in your mouth. Season the pot with 2 or more tablespoons of white wine vinegar and more salt if needed. Do this either earlier in the day or like 2 weeks ahead of time, the most important thing being that it needs to cool down in this oil to get the most out of this preparation.
If I had to choose one food to be forced to eat every day for the rest of my life it would be pasta. It’s funny and sad that vegan options at restaurants are almost always limited to spaghetti with marinara. While some Italian traditions do use eggs in their fresh pasta, most Italian homes before WWII could not afford eggs and therefore used flour and water as their dough, like in this recipe. Keep this book in your bathroom and you will learn a lot. At home, dried pasta is one way to go, almost all of it is vegan and lots of it is awesome. But fresh pasta is a whole different creature and it only takes them about 5 minutes to make it on Iron Chef.
Take out a scale. Weigh out 250g of semolina, 2g salt, and 100g of water. If you don’t have a scale this will be about 1½ cups flour, a two-finger pinch of salt, and ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. water. I wouldn’t suggest it for this dish, but if you want a slightly richer dough, you can also add 1 Tbsp. olive oil toward the end of mixing.
Use a food processor, a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook, or a large table and your hands. Mix the semolina and salt. Pour in the water and mix until it becomes a firm ball. Keep mixing for a few more minutes.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for about 45 minutes. During this time you may want to make the mushrooms.
Dust a surface with flour. Roll out large bubblegum-size pieces of the dough into 1/8th-inch flatness using a pasta machine or a rolling pin. If you want to cut neat corners do that, preferably with a pizza wheel. Then ball the scraps back up and roll them out again. Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled-out dough and hang it up on your clothes dryer rack from target, or shower curtain rod so that they don’t stick to anything as you keep rolling out more.
You will want about 5 of these pasta sheets per plate.
This is called a duxelle.
Put the mushrooms in a food processor or chop them up fine by hand. Small dice the onion or if you’re really lazy put that in the food processor, but separately from the mushrooms. Pick the leaves off a rosemary twig and chop them up too. Break up about four pieces of dried porcini mushrooms into breadcrumb-sized pieces.
Heat up a nine-inch frying pan and put 4 Tbsp. of oil in it. When that’s hot, put in the mushrooms, onion, rosemary and porcinis and season it all with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring every two minutes or so. At every point you want enough oil so that the bottom of the pan is shiny with it.
When it’s pretty dark brown, after say 10 minutes, sprinkle in 1 Tbsp. of flour. Stir it around to incorporate. This will give the final product body and make it more of a sauce Cook for another two minutes. Pour in 2 Tbsp. of white wine. Cook until it is mostly evaporated and then remove from the heat.
To put the whole dish together, fill a large pot of water and put it over high heat. This is one more thing you can’t really over-salt; make it into the sea—just not the Dead Sea. Roughly chop five big-stemmed leaves of kale or put aside a small handful of sorrel.
When the water is boiling, heat your mushrooms back up over medium heat and drop your greens, 12 capers, and about 15 beans into the mushrooms. Lightly salt your greens. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring so that nothing sticks. Drop your pasta into the boiling water. Wait 90 seconds. Take your pasta out of the water and drop it into the mushrooms. Stir gently or flip until everything is incorporated. Serve.
Mark Tinkleman is committed to a radically better future for all of humanity where borders are replaced by bridges, religions replaced by thriving cultures, and meat and dairy are replaced by beans, nuts, grains and vegetables. He is a cook by profession, was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has worked at restaurants including Angelika Kitchen, Blossom Café, Counter, and Parc. He lives with his beautiful partner and their cat in Philadelphia. Go Philly!
Give yourself the gift of a DOWNER »
I know not everyone watches as much TV as I do so I’m not sure if you’ve all seen the latest KFC commercial.* It’s a peach. Just kidding, it’s crazy! They tell you to “give yourself the gift of time,” this holiday by getting their $19.99 “Festive Feast” for your special dinner. They want you to make a TRADITION out of it. Dudes, that’s fucking TRAGIC. I can only imagine that you would only buy this meal for Christmas or your holiday of choice if you really had to because you can’t cook and can’t afford anything else. That is such a downer, KFC. Like I said, TRAGIC. It’s especially a tragedy considering the cost of KFC to your health and the planet is way more than $19.99.
This is my favorite scene in the commercial:
They have this winter wonderland thing going on with snow and all and then this giant snowball drops down! But wait! That’s not a snowball! Gross.
The truth is that you don’t have to eat KFC’s “feast.” If you have no money and aren’t the best cook, you can still make a great family meal. Actually, in my family, on Christmas eve our traditional meal is spaghetti! Spaghetti is cheap! Math time! Let’s look at the figures:
Walgreens sells Barilla spaghetti (16 oz.) for $1.59 and Ragu pasta sauce at two jars for $3; that’s $4.59 with extra sauce to boot! They also have garlic salt for $.99 and olive oil for $3.49, and my corner store sells french bread for $.99; for $5.47 you’ve got garlic bread (with plenty of olive oil left over). For vegan meatballs, I’m afraid you won’t have any luck at Walgreens—though in SF and NYC, you might find some at your corner store (we live like liquor store kings!). VeganEssentials.com has Nate’s meatless meatballs for $5.29 so I’d imagine they’d be priced similarly at the grocery store. All together, that’s $15.35 and you’ve got sauce, olive oil, garlic salt, and probably meatballs left over. BOOM! Yummier and cheaper than the KFC meal!
So this year, give yourself the gift of spaghetti! Yay!
*That link is probably temporary. But see it now!
Joel’s Moderately Fancy Meal: Pasta Kinda Carbonara* »
Inspiration always seems to strike when fresh vegetables are low, the stakes are high, time is short, and various other nouns have various other quantitative adjectives applied to them. At least, that’s how it works at my house. At yours it doesn’t have to, because should you find yourself in similar straits, you can use this recipe instead of thinking for yourself.
Here’s the situation: I found myself with some sad root vegetables (a couple beets, a couple carrots, what I thought was a turnip but really it’s hard to say) and the usual dry and frozen goods. WHAT TO DO. Well, I got dried pasta, canned tomatoes, and frozen fake bacon; sounds like carbonara! But I should eat a vegetable that has seen dirt within the last year. Let’s toss a beet in there! Don’t like beets? Prepare to be surprised. The sweetness goes perfectly with the bacon, and the texture adds the body that, in the traditional recipe, the egg would provide.
1/4 lb. fake bacon
5 cloves garlic or to taste (what, you got a date to kiss the queen or something? Pile it on!)
1 golden beet (different colors are fine, they all taste the same, but it might not look as pretty)
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
1 lb. pasta of your choice (I use mafaldine because it picks up sauce really well and is adorable)
1 28-oz. can tomatoes (don’t use fresh tomatoes this time of year, you’re asking for disappointment)
3/4 cup non-dairy milk (use a sweetened, thickened milk like plain Silk)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Heat oil in a wide, deep skillet or pan on medium heat. Coarsely chop the bacon and add to the pan. If it’s frozen, hack off your 1/4 lb. hunk and toss it in whole; rotate it so all the faces crisp while the inside thaws, then chop and proceed.
Salt the bacon heavily, and add the herbs. Coarsely chop the garlic and toss it in. Stir occasionally to keep the garlic from burning, but it’s good if some of it browns a bit. Cut the carrot into coins and throw it in. Peel and grate the beet, then clear out the center of the pan and dump the beet in. Give it a few minutes to dry, then stir just the beet, so all of it is exposed to the cooking surface. When it’s fairly dry and has gotten some color, pour in the tomatoes, and break them up with your stirring implement.
At this time, start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta. Add the milk and yeast to the sauce, stir to combine, and lower the heat to a simmer. Ignore the sauce, except for a stir every once in a while, as you tend to the pasta. When the pasta is done, the sauce will be too. Taste the sauce for seasoning, add black pepper, and toss with the pasta to serve. Delicious!
I didn’t even have a freaking onion in the house! That’s how desperately low on foodstuffs I was. You may certainly add an onion; in fact, I encourage it. Aside from that, I don’t really understand why this recipe works (although I assure you it does), so go nuts and see what happens! Post your results in the comments!
* I know this is not a real carbonara for any number of reasons. Listen, bitches! We’re in America now, we don’t have to do things by the rules, or produce food that Italian people would recognize! Freedom of expression, OK??