Saturday, September 1, 2007

Almost Vegan

If it wasn't for the for the cheese, which, frankly, looked prettier before it started melting, this meal would have satisfied nearly any dietary restriction. It's not, however, gluten free, and for that I apologize. It's a quick and clean meal if prepared in a good order, and with the velvety full taste of fresh pasta, there's no missing the meat. As it's really just pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables, there's not much need for further description, so here it is.

- Olive Oil
- Shallots (They're the new onion.)
- Garlic
- Tomato (Mortgage Lifter)
- Hot Pepper (Here it was a yellow Jamaican Habanero type. Peppers have flavor, so give it some thought. Powdered Cayenne or chile would not be too good here, but flakes would work.)
- Squash (Yellow Crooked Neck here -- all the vegetables, with the exception of the shallots, are from the garden, which is only to say they are seasonal and all that.)
- Broccoli
- Pasta (Here it was "fresh," albeit frozen, Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pasta from Ohio City Pasta.)
- Basil (Despite what you don't see in the picture, I swear it's in there.)
- Any hard grating cheese (I used Parmesan.)
- Salt and pepper
- Start boiling a big pot of salted water (Don't be afraid of the salt.)
- Preheat a sauce pan and put in a film of Olive Oil
- While pan is preheating peel and somewhat finely slice shallot
- Add sliced shallot to pan and sweat with a little salt and pepper
- While shallot is sweating, crush and mince garlic (Give the cloves a very good smash with the side of a chefs knife. They should be mush after the smash, then mince them a bit more.)
- Add the minced garlic on top of the sweating shallots (Don't mix them together yet, ensuring that the garlic will soften and smell all nice without you having to worry about it burning when you get back to the cutting board.)
- Finely mince a hot pepper (Easiest thing to do is julienne the pepper and then cut across the matchsticks you just made. Even easier is to add red chile flakes.)
- Add diced pepper or chile flakes to shallot and garlic and stir all together
- Now roughly dice some nice juicy tomato (I cut out the area where the stem was attached, but do not seed or peel the tomato for this quick sauce. This is not a fine dice.)
- Add tomato to shallot, garlic, pepper mixture, add salt and pepper and stir well
- Turn the heat up (Soon there should be a liquidy mess in the sauce pan. Keep at a boil until it's starting to get to a slightly drier consistency than you're looking for at the end. I'd say add a bit of sugar if your tomatoes are not good, but this isn't recipe for mediocre fresh tomatoes--better to use canned ones.)
- While sauce is boiling away, preheat a frying pan
- Start cutting up squash and broccoli
- Add some olive oil to frying pan
- When oil is hot add pieces of squash and broccoli and some salt and pepper
- Let the squash brown just a bit with broccoli in the pan, and keep the pan moving now and then if it's not nonstick to ensure that the squash doesn't stick (Both the squash and broccoli will go from not cooked enough to over cooked pretty quickly, so keep an eye on them. You can always take the pan off the heat if it's going to fast. Foreshadowing--the veges are going to keep cooking for a minute or so when you put everything together, so err on the undercooked side.)
- Sauce should be about where you want it now, and veges just about done
- Now add pasta, here straight from the freezer, into the boiling water (Obviously if you're using dried pasta it should have been working a while ago. The fresh, even if frozen, cooks very fast.)
- When pasta is about done, add some of the pasta water to reconstitute the sauce to get it a bit wetter than you want it at the end (This step is key. The starchy water ensures that the sauce will bind to the cooked pasta . . . I think.)
- Rapidly boil sauce to get it to just about right consistency
- Drain pasta--do not rinse--and put still damp pasta back in the pasta pot (If you're using a big saucepan for the sauce, or a big frying pan for the veges, than you can add to pasta to one of those. Also, keep in mind that the pasta is the focus of the dish. The sauce is just to coat and provide some tomato chunks.)
- Add sauce and veges to pasta and stir well over low heat (However you're working your pan sharing, i.e. which pan everything is winding up in, everything should now be together over low heat.)
- Julienne some basil and throw it in with the pasta, sauce, and veges (Don't be shy with the basil. Again, the picture is deceptive.)
- Stir well and turn off heat
- Plate pasta and grate some cheese over the top (I used a vege peeler to get some small Parmesan strips, but grated cheese would have been just as good. Diced Fresh Mozzarella is a good touch at the end too if everything is off the heat and you stir well and quickly, otherwise it will clump pretty readily. Cheese can also be omitted.)

Nothing else to it. One knife, one cutting board, three pieces of cookware, and maybe a grater/peeler. It's a good meal and goes equally well with red and white wine, so you won't have to make a considerate guest feel bad. Pass the Parm at the table and vegans, vegetarians, and those who love to crazily douse their pasta with cheese will all be happy. What could be better?

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