Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Godfather, Part I

This is embarrassing to admit as a twenty-five year old woman of Italian descent, but I have never seen The Godfather, until last night that is. For many years, it has been brought to my attention that this is one of my serious deficiencies as a human being. As time went on, I knew I would have to put on a real Godfather celebration to appease the classic film gods, and as an Italian, I know that celebration means food.  So, in order to make amends, I made the most quintessential Italian-American dish I could think of: spaghetti and meatballs.

Traditional spaghetti and meatballs are made with three kinds of meat, beef, pork, and veal, and parmesan cheese. Obviously, this does not gel with the vegan diet. When I first began my vegan experiment, I was introduced to Toni Fiore. Though not strictly vegan, she has spent a lot of time creating vegan and vegetarian versions of her favorite foods, one of which happens to be meatballs. I have been intrigued by her recipe for eggplant meatballs in her book Totally Vegetarian for some time, but I had pretty modest expectations. Faux meat products fall into two categories: “looks like,” and “tastes like.” Well, these meatballs hit the jackpot and accomplish both, all without sending me into my typical Italian food coma. This recipe is so good that it makes veganism an offer you can't refuse. To make it special, I also made my favorite tomato sauce, a recipe from the iconic Hamptons restaurant Nick and Toni’s. This sauce requires a little advance preparation, but it has a velvety texture, and a depth of flavor that heightens everything it touches.

To round out the meal, I served a red wine procured on my recent trip to Sonoma. My best friend Nisha and I stopped at the Mayo Family Winery, drawn in by the sign for a wine and food pairing menu. Unfortunately, the kitchen had closed ten minutes prior. Chef Max Porter-Elliot could probably sense our desperation and was kind enough to bring us a plate of bread, which I fell on blissfully. As it was our last stop of the day, we lingered for almost two hours, chatting with Max and later his girlfriend, trading restaurant recommendations with the other couple at the bar. Opening the bottle of 2005 Meritage brought back the pleasure of my experience at Mayo and added another level of enjoyment to the meal. 

So having had a fantastic experience with The Godfather, I’m contemplating whether I should watch the whole trilogy. Perhaps this post will become a three part homage to the films through food. Hopefully this will inspire you to have an Italian dinner and movie night of your own!

Tomato Sauce

This recipe was introduced to me on Ina Garten’s show The Barefoot Contessa when she hosted the executive chef of Nick and Toni’s on her show.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons fresh or dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano

Heat oven to 375º. Add olive oil to an oven proof pan and turn stove to medium. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and 1 ½ teaspoons oregano and sauté for another minute. Add the vodka and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Drain the tomatoes and add them to the pan, crushing them in your fingers. Add salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Pour mixture in a blender and purée. Return to the pan, add the remaining fresh oregano and simmer briefly. Add your favorite pasta and enjoy!

Eggplant Meatballs

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion diced
1 medium eggplant unpeeled, diced in ¼ to ½ inch cubes
1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups dried bread crumbs
½ cup firm tofu, puréed
3 cloves garlic minced
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano chopped
½ cup basil chopped

Preheat oven to 375º. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onion for five minutes. Add eggplant and salt and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender. If eggplant sticks to the pan add more olive oil. Meanwhile, toast walnuts in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes and chop roughly. Add eggplant mixture and walnuts to a large bowl. Add a heaping cup of the mixture to the food processor and purée until smooth. Return the purée to the bowl and combine. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, bread crumbs, tofu, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, oregano, and basil and mix well. Coat hands with a little olive oil and form mixture into balls roughly the size of a golf ball. Place on a greased cookie sheet, and spray lightly with a little oil. Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until they develop a dark brown crust on the outside. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to steam for five minutes. Add to the top of your pasta and sauce.

1 comment:

  1. Oh boy! I can't wait to make those "meat"balls. Blog is looking good.