Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I'm Eating this Spring

Just out of frame: asparagus in blood orange vinaigrette, or my next post.
It’s spring! I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, depending on the state of the weather outside your door, but it’s spring! While there is no shortage of delicious wintry dishes that I will inevitably long for in the middle of summer, there is something energizing about the influx of flavors available in spring.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up something quick for dinner. My Whole Foods, perched on the edge of Oakland and Berkeley, is uniquely supportive of a plant-based diet. The Whole Foods by my mom’s house offers only one flavor of vegan ravioli, but mine offers three. I was immediately drawn to the caramelized onion and mushroom ravioli, but five minutes staring at the sauce options left me puzzled. Tomato sauce seemed wrong for the gentle, sweet flavors in this ravioli. So did pesto. Cream sauces are out. So...

God bless my smart phone because a quick Google led me to a garlic white wine sauce. I couldn’t find one recipe that really spoke to me, but they at least had a consensus of ingredients, so I decided to wing it. What resulted was tart, smooth, layered happiness on a plate. I ate it for the next two days, then made it again later that week. This recipe is in no way contingent on access to these ravioli either. It’s would also be good with a simple fettuccine with mushrooms and herbs as well. Don’t forget the crusty bread to sop up the plate.

Garlic White Wine Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced finely
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional, but damn good)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine (I have no opinion on the variety or quality of this; I used 2 and a half buck chuck)
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon non dairy butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme. Sauté until the shallot is soft taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add the white wine, and simmer until the volume is reduced by half. Add the vegetable stock and butter, and simmer until it has thickened slightly. Taste for salt and pepper. Toss the ravioli (or pasta) in the sauce, and serve immediately.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spaghetti with Broccoli and Lemon

One of the most common misgivings I hear from people about eating a vegan diet is how time consuming it is. People have this idea that being vegan means spending hours finely slicing vegetables, processing complicated juices, and hand-picking grains to mill into flour. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But, people genuinely fear the effort perceived in veganism.

Yes, there is work involved in the food that I eat, but that comes more from being healthy than being vegan. The key to a healthy diet is to make most of your food yourself. This allows you to control the amount of additives, preservatives, salt, and fat that you eat, and reduces the amount of processed ingredients you consume. I could technically be vegan, and eat nothing but takeout, french fries, and donuts from Whole Foods. Is there a lot of work in that? No. Would I be the picture of health? No, again.

Like most people, I don’t always have time to prepare intricate, complex, and elaborate meals in the name of health. So, when I find something that hits the trifecta of healthy, delicious, and quick, it ends up becoming a staple. This dish was tossed together for Sunday lunch with a spinach, dried cherry, and marcona almond salad, and toasted ciabatta. The longest step: boiling the water for the pasta.

Spaghetti with Broccoli and Lemon

1 pound spaghetti (whole wheat for a little nutritional boost)
1 head broccoli, chopped into small florets (in the interest of saving time, you can buy pre-cut florets)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until it is a minute or two away from being done. Save 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the water is boiling, cook the broccoli. You can boil the broccoli in a small pot of water for a few minutes, rinse under cold water, and set aside; or, you can place the florets in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 3-4 minutes. Broccoli should be fork tender, but not soft.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and then add the garlic. Pay careful attention that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the broccoli, and toss with the olive oil and garlic. Add the lemon zest and chili flakes, and stir to combine. Add the pasta, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the pasta is done and coated with sauce. Add more pasta water if the spaghetti looks dry. Finish with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.