Veggies on the counter

Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

Posted in main courses, salads by veggies on the counter on September 26, 2010

The good thing about this pasta dish, is that you can make the sauce ahead of time, and then all you have to do a couple of minutes before lunchtime, is to cook the pasta and grill the aubergine. It’s a quick and very yummy dish, one of those recipes I make specially when I have guests around, because it’s easy to put together and people generally enjoy it very much.

I’ve done it to death around here, with a few varitions though: for instance, sometimes I use slightly cooked vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower), while on other occasions I use grilled ones (onions, aubergines, zucchini). Quite frankly, adding grilled vegetables is what I prefer the most, although that is just for the sake of my personal taste. Regarding the sauce, I think it’s one of those sauces you want to eat by the spoonful: salty and slightly tangy, it can also be a nice addition to savory crêpes or used as a dipping sauce for steamed veggies.

It’s funny that I haven’t thought of this recipe to post to the blog before. These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I started cooking vegan food, and the recipes that by then I used to enjoy the most. This one was definitely one of those. Actually, some years ago, I wasn’t that much of a cook. Any recipe that would take more than 10 minutes to be prepared, would most likely be ignored by myself. But on the other hand, I feel that that attitude towards cooking really led me to create some quick and tasty meals, and those are the ones I’m focusing on right now. But before we seriously embrace the everyday vegan cooking topic, I must tell you: there’s going to be a cake showing up here in an upcoming post… ; )

Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

(serves 4)

450 grams pasta, such as fusilli or conchiglie (I used the latter)

1 large aubergine

olive oil

salt to taste

fresh basil leaves, for garnish

For the Sun Dried Tomato Sauce:

½ cup (40 grams) dry packed sun dried tomatoes

¼ cup sun dried tomatoes soaking water

¼ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

90 grams natural unsweetened soy yoghurt

½ teaspoon salt

1. In a small saucepan, bring about 2 cups (500 ml) of water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the sun dried tomatoes. Cover, and let them re-hydrate for 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft and plump. Drain, and save the water.

2. In a large pan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and chill under cold running water. Drain again.

3. Heat a large grilling pan over high heat. Slice the aubergine into rings of about 0,7 cm thick, and brush each side of the rings with olive oil. Lay down as many pieces of aubergine as the pan will hold in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt. Cook each side for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the aubergine has good grilling marks and has almost started to blacken.

4. To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until creamy. Have a taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

5.  In a large bowl, combine the pasta, grilled aubergine and sauce. Mix well and serve immediately, garnishing each individual serving with a few leaves of fresh basil.

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Ratatouille Soup

Posted in soups by veggies on the counter on September 11, 2010

When it comes to food, I’m not a purist. That being said, I have no problems eating canned beans or store bought cookies, as long as they’re vegan and taste good (although, quite frankly, I often cook my beans and bake my cookies). I generally don’t have “prejudices” against canned stuff, and if there are canned produces I use on a regular basis, they are tomato sauce and roasted peppers. They’re vegan, taste good, and although it’s often said there’s nothing as homemade tomato sauce, I’m totally sold to the canned one.

When it comes to recipes, specially traditional and local ones, I’m also not a purist. I do believe moussaka is not the same without meat in it, but I do really enjoy my dairy-free version of the greek classic; the same goes for pizzas and lasagnas, foods that usually call for cheese, and that I most of the times make cheese-less. Actually, both vegans and vegetarians end up, most of the time, tweaking recipes to get them to fit their diets, and that often means to make a traditional dish the unconventional way. This whole process of tweaking recipes fascinates me, as that doesn’t mean they’ll loose their former character just because they’re made a little different by some vegans and vegetarians out there. For me, respecting the identity of a certain local recipe (I’m thinking of portuguese traditional foods by the way), doesn’t mean you have to make it exactly as people did a hundred years ago. Time has passed, dietary needs have changed thanks to our growing knowledge on nutrition and health issues; and I feel it’s by tweaking and experimenting with flavors, textures and so on, that you keep the spirit of traditional foods alive nowadays,  more than sticking to the way they’re – traditionally speaking – supposed to be made.

I found myself thinking about all this because of today’s recipe. Ironically, a recipe inspired by a french dish that is already vegan. There is much debate on how to make traditional ratatouille, but  I don’t really want to contribute to the discussion. My version of it calls for canned tomato sauce and canned roasted bell peppers, as it saves up some time, being therefore more user-friendly, but if you want to make everything from scratch, just go ahead. Also, by adding far more liquid than it’s usually added on a stew, I make more of a soup, rather than a side dish. This ratatouille soup, alongside with a good slice of toasted wholegrain bread, makes for an excellent comforting meal, perfect for the autumn days to come.

Ratatouille Soup

(serves 6)

300 grams aubergine

300 grams zucchini

3 medium size tomatos, coarsly chopped

2 roasted bell peppers, coarsly chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ red chili pepper, finely cut

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup plain tomato sauce

½ cup red wine

1 1/2 cups light stock

1 bay leave

salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by preparing the aubergine and zucchini: slice both vegetables into 0,8 cm thick rounds, and then cut each round into 4 equal pieces. Set aside.

2. In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, chili, dried thyme, oregano and bay leaf, and sautée for 2 minutes. Add the tomatos and roasted bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Now, add the stock, red wine, and tomato sauce to the pan, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tomatos start breaking down and you get the consistency of a thick, hearty sauce.

4. Discard the bay leaf. Transfer the pan to your counter or kitchen table, and with the help of an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth.

5. Return the pan back to the stove, add the zucchini and aubergine, and cook, over low-medium heat, for at least 25 minutes, maybe a bit a longer – the point here is to slightly overcook the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Serve the soup hot or at room temperature – it’s particularly good alongside a slice of wholegrain bread – bearing in mind it will thicken in the hours to follow the end of the preparation.