DDD #93 – Vegan Grated Heirloom Tomato Pasta Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image of me below to watch the sauce recipe WITHOUT the mushroom.  These images here reflect the use of a crazy lobster mushroom I bought when I originally made this recipe.  You need not use the mushroom – in fact – I rather suggest against it because it was very expensive and underwhelming but I include it here, anyway, for the curious & the risk takers.

I went to the farmer’s market for the first time in forever.  Once there, I was reminded of why I no longer go.  IT COSTS A FORTUNE.  Everything seems reasonable until you walk out with fingers screaming from the pain of carrying 400 pounds of produce & $200 poorer.  But it is always fun & there are usually yummy things to sample.  This time there were almond croissants the size of footballs, boxes of mixed mushrooms for $20, some peana & eggphan (I can’t resist misspelled signs).

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There were also golden beets that were larger than a softball and the crazy-looking thing above.  That, my friends, is a lobster mushroom.  It was about the size of a small Russet potato & weighed about 4 ounces.  I asked the mushroom monger what it was & she told me it was a lobster mushroom.  I asked why they were called that & was told that they not only have a reddish color similar to a cooked lobster but also that they have a slight seafood taste.  I had to have one!  I let her pick one out and as she weighed it, I began pulling out ones to pay for it.  I pulled for a while because that fucker there cost me $17!!!  I almost choked at the price but decided it would be a worthy blog post so I paid & walked away – wondering what the fuck I was gonna do with it.

Intimidated by the idea of ruining a $17 mushroom barely larger than my fist, I Googled to see what others had done with them.  I found this gorgeous photo & checked out the recipe at THE COFFEE TABLE COOKBOOK.

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I had the bulk of the ingredients already so I decided to make a vegan version of their FETTUCCINI WITH LOBSTER MUSHROOM AND SCRATCH-MADE HEIRLOOM TOMATO SAUCE.  I simplified the sauce recipe quite a bit but the most interesting thing I learned from their post was the concept of grating tomatoes.  Click that link & see how it is done & how not to grate your flesh into the sauce.  You basically grate the tomatoes on a box grater & it results in a beautiful tomato puree without any skin.  See below.

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I added a lot of crushed red pepper to my sauce which might have been a mistake because the spicy sauce sort of overwhelmed the very delicately flavored lobster mushroom.  The mushroom had only the slightest mushroom flavor & no seafood element at all.   Those photos above are the mushroom cut up.  Looks like chicken or pork – or bread.  It is very light & porous so it reduced to almost nothing in the saute pan.  Overall – I would say there is no reason to pay so much for what amounts to so little.  Regular mushrooms are just as good and far less costly.

I do recommend trying this sauce, however.  I eliminated the dairy from the original recipe & also could not bring myself to add a cup of the precious – a cup of white wine – to the sauce just to cook it off.  I felt the wine would be better used poured down my gullet & I don’t think the sauce suffered and I know I didn’t.

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Vegan Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Sauce & Lobster Mushroom

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb pasta

for the sauce

5 large heirloom tomatoes – grated (see here)

1 TBS olive oil

2 garlic cloves – chopped

1/2 tsp to 1 TBS crushed red pepper – to taste

10 basil leaves (plus more for garnish)

several sprigs of fresh thyme

S&P

IF USING  – for the mushroom

4 oz lobster mushroom (or 1/2 lb regular mushrooms)

2 TBS olive oil or vegan butter

3 garlic cloves – chopped

1 tsp thyme leaves

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DIRECTIONS

for the sauce

Heat the olive oil & add the garlic.  Saute one minutes & then add the other ingredients.  Simmer on med-high until it reduces by about half.  Season to taste.  Remove the thyme sprigs and throw them away.

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for the mushrooms

Heat the olive oil or vegan butter and saute the mushrooms until they are nearly done to your liking.  Add the garlic & thyme & cook another minute or two.  Be sure not to burn the garlic.  Season with S&P.

Cook the pasta as directed & toss with the sauce.  Serve & top with mushrooms & chopped fresh basil.

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Vegan or Vegetarian Poutine with Vegan Mushroom, Leek & Sage Brown Gravy plus Emily Valentine, 90210, Puddles Pity Party & Chucky!

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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It has been an exciting few weeks.  First of all – I attended Rewind Convention in Chicago for an 80’s-90’s TV & film thingy & lotsa the 90210 folks were there.  It was great seeing them!

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It was as cool as seeing the Child’s Play 2 cast – which I did in September.  Coolest of all was seeing the 90210: The Musical in NYC!   It runs thru Dec. 17 so – if you live near NYC & love 90210 – you MUST go see it.  Here is a little peek:

Is that not BRILLIANT?  I have to say – this homage was as surreal as it was flattering.  Truly – a highlight of my career – to have a character I created recreated by others.  REALLY fun.

Then I got to see & MEET Puddles!!!   If you are unfamiliar – you are really missing out.  He is a 6’8″ sad clown with a truly golden voice!   See him if you ever get the opportunity.

So – it has been an incredible fall for me!

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Oh!  And there is more!   I had a few lines on a new TV show!   See above.  Only a few lines but they were with Topher Grace (swoon!) and Ray Romano – so – that did not suck.  Even the 5am call time was made OK because it was at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery!  And Topher Grace was VERY generous & confessed to having been a big 90210 fan, back in the day.  It is always comforting when other actors acknowledge being aware of you and your work.  And I am a huge fan of Topher’s so – yeah.  That was fun!

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So – yeah – a fun-filled autumn.

So – I realized this week that I am becoming a hoarder.  A food hoarder.  I have moth issues so I like to keep all my dry goods (beans, rice, sugar, flour, pasta etc) in the fridge or freezer.  Still – they keep putting that Di Martino pasta on sale for .79 cents a pound!  I cannot afford NOT to buy it!  So – as I was shoving my twentieth pound of overflow dry goods into my pantry – I saw my pantry.  Really saw it.

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Those drawers are DEEP.  I have enough food in there to last years and I live ALONE!  I have every condiment from American standards to those needed for Thai or Indian or whatever-the-fuck food.  There are about 20 jars of Rao’s Arrabbiata pasta sauce and at least 20 pounds of dry pasta & every kind of canned bean & oil or vinegar of whatever you can think of.  If you can name it – I probably have more than one container of it and if it comes in varieties – I will have several.  I even have canned tuna & meats for my dogs.  It is a fucking problem.

Another problem is that I recently watched the amazing Food Choices documentary.  Click that to watch the trailer.  I already eat about 90% vegan – with cheese being my final hurdle.  The movie really drove home, for me, the idea that eating cheese is really no better than eating meat.  It requires the same suffering & death (of baby calves) – making cheese consumption on par with veal.  I would NEVER eat veal & even silently judge those I hear order it.  Yet – cheese is still on my plate.

So – I went to the farmers’ market in Hollywood the past crisp & gorgeous Sunday morning hoping to find the Soledad Goat folks & buy vegan cheese from them.  They were not there (but I discovered & purchased their cheezes online HERE this week & bought several) – but, like an asshole, I let myself be drawn to the local REAL cheese guy’s table.  I have been longing to experiment with a poutine recipe but have never seen cheese curds anywhere.  I was not even sure what they were.  But – he had them.  They are:

From Wikipedia:

Cheese curds, in cuisine or cooking, are the solid parts of curdled milk either eaten alone or used in various regional dishes mostly in Canada and the northeastern and midwestern United States. They are sometimes referred to as “squeaky cheese“.

Cheese curds start off with fresh milk. The milk is pasteurized, much like in the process of creating cheese. During this process, rennet is added to clot the milk. After the milk has been pasteurized, the result is a mixture of whey and the early stages of the curd. This mixture is then cooked. Next, it is pressed to release the whey from the curd, thus creating the final product of cheese curd.

Characteristics

Their flavor is mild, but can differ in taste depending on the process in which it was made. It has about the same firmness and density as cheese, but with a springy or rubbery texture. Fresh curds squeak against the teeth when bitten into, a defining characteristic due to air trapped inside the porous material. This “squeak” has been described by the New York Times as sounding like “balloons trying to neck”. After 12 hours, even under refrigeration, cheese curds lose much of their “fresh” characteristic, particularly the “squeak”.[4] Keeping them at room temperature can preserve the squeakiness.

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While I debated buying those – he insisted I taste his sage-cheddar.  I did.  It was delicious.  I caved & bought the sage cheese & the curds.  Here are some of his other cheeses & some info on him.

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I also headed to the Korean table because they make the MOST INSANELY DELICIOUS TEMPEH!  I bough two of those.  And a fennel bulb.  Then I became overwhelmed by the choices, the number of vendors peddling produce and, frankly, the prices.  These markets are not cheap.  So – I scuttled home with the tempeh, the guilty cheese & the fennel.

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Several years ago, I realized I had stockpiles of food that were getting out of control.  I did an experiment & tried to ONLY eat what I already had, in an effort to spend ZERO on groceries in one month.  I managed to almost do it but I had to spend a few dollars here and there for non-dairy creamer & stuff.  But – I bought no produce so – after a week or so – I was fresh outta fresh produce & was reduced to eating pastas, rices & breads that I had frozen.  As I state in my novel – and all beige diet has consequences.   I will let you guess what I mean but let’s just say it is very different than, say, an all-BEET diet.  My friends knew I was doing this and began panicking.  Two different people delivered bags of produce to my door.  When I attempted this pantry-emptying plan a second time – again – one of those friends delivered produce to my door.  VERY VERY sweet!  But – I was not on a hunger strike.  I was just challenging myself to stop hoarding & being wasteful of perishables.

So – as I launch into my third effort to spend zero on groceries (wine being an exception – and eating in restaurants doesn’t count, either) – I will still allow myself my regular twice-monthly delivery of produce from Farm Fresh to You.  That way – my friends won’t be wringing their hands, terrified that my bones are crumbling & my skin is falling off or whatever it is they fear.   I will attempt to keep a log of what I eat & what money I spend.  Yesterday – I spent just under $10 at Carneys.  I had a Garden burger & fries.  For dinner – a small salad.

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Today’s breakfast.  That is the best almond milk – in my opinion.  And vegans, beware!  Those Morning Star sausages are only vegetarian – not vegan!  Bear with me – these posts will get more and more creative as I am forcing myself to eat what I have without buying anything – for a month!   We will see how it goes.

OK – on to the POUTINE!  I do not think I have ever had poutine but the idea appeals to me.  You can use fresh cheese curds (as I did) or mozzarella or VEGAN cheese – like this amazing stuff below.

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That little bag costs $8 but is the best & meltiest vegan mozzarella I have found – after my own homemade vegan mozzarella – seen below.

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OK – so – you can make poutine using frozen fries & canned gravy & make this very easily.  I opted to MAKE the fries as I describe HERE.  And – I made a new vegan gravy because my other vegan gravy does not have the rich & dark color I wanted for the poutine.

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So – first up – the

Vegan Mushroom, Leek & Sage Brown Gravy

INGREDIENTS

5 TBS vegan butter

2 cups chopped mushrooms

1 leek

ten or more sage leaves

1/2 cup flour

6 cups vegetable stock

2 TBS soy sauce (or tamari or liquid aminos)

2 tsp Kitchen Bouquet

Chives – chopped for garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

Finely chop the mushrooms & leek.  I pulsed them in my food processor.  If you do not own one – maybe just blend the finished gravy to make it smooth.

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Heat the stock in a soup pan.  Add the soy sauce & kitchen bouquet.  Simmer.

In another pan, melt FOUR of the five tablespoons of the butter & saute the vegetables until soft.  Add the flour & stir to combine.  Add the stock 1/2 to 1 cup at at time – over high heat – until the gravy thickens.  If it is too thin once you add all the stock – just boil it down a bit.

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Melt the remaining TBS of butter & fry the sage leaves a minute or two.  Drain them on a paper towl & crumble.  Add to the gravy.  Add the leftover sage butter to the gravy.  Voila!

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Vegan or Vegetarian Poutine with Vegan Mushroom, Leek & Sage Brown Gravy

INGREDIENTS

French fries – either THESE homemade, or your recipe or frozen ones

Gravy – either the recipe above or your favorite one

Cheese curds or grated cheese or vegan cheese

Chives or parsley as garnish

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Once the fries are crispy & the gravy is warm – assemble the poutine:  fries, cheese, gravy & some chives or parsley.  Shove’m in your pie hole fast – before they get soggy.  Or – you can just dip fries & cheese in gravy.

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The Best Fast & Easy Vegan Mozzarella – for Melting & Grating

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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My quest for a truly successful mozzarella has only just begun & I think I found the easiest & best already – see above!  I posted the one below a few days ago & that post is HERE.  The gist of that post is this: It was, indeed, very easy & the visual – as you can see is very convincing.  The texture – when cold – isn’t bad, either.  My only issue was that there was a tang to it – that was a result of using yogurt as the base.  The tang wasn’t overpowering or unpleasant, in and of itself, but the overall impression it gives one is that they are eating mozzarella that has soured a bit.

It worked fairly well on pizza & the sour flavor became unnoticeable and it softened quite a bit.  The texture is really a bit closer to ricotta, though, so this version below might be better suited to things like lasagna.

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So – while I considered that buffalo mozzarella a success – it wasn’t perfect – so, I tried THIS one by Living My Pinterest Life – seen below.  This version came together more quickly & the only thing you might not have ready access to is the agar flakes.  I happened to have agar agar powder – not really sure what the difference is but the agar agar powder worked perfectly.  I got it at TJ Maxx in their “random kitchen shit” section – but your supermarket might carry it in the spice aisle.  Or buy some online.  Whatever you do – TRY THIS CHEESE!  It tastes GREAT naked.  Living My Pinterest Life said they thought it tasted like tofu but mine did not.  At all.

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Additionally, I was completely unable to find any kind of vegan heavy cream – so I used 3/4 cup almond milk & 1/4 cup vegan sour cream & I could not be happier with how this cheese turned out.  Non-vegans will never question this cheese.  It looks like mozzarella, has the correct texture & absolutely nothing in the flavor (which is mild) to give it away.  Simple ingredients.  Simple instructions.  Wondrous result!  I promise – you will not regret trying this cheese!  And look how is does on pizza!  I took the flat edge of a knife & pressed it a bit after I took it from the oven & that helped the grated cheese to give up its shape a bit more so that – visually – it looked as melted as it actually was.  It even looks like it is greasy – like real cheese – but it isn’t.  It has to have less calories than real cheese & so much protein from the tofu & calcium from the almond milk – it is tantamount to a health food.  People seldom think of cheese as particularly healthy – but this shit is!  I just cannot say enough about how happy I am with this!

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The Best Fast & Easy Vegan Mozzarella – for Melting & Grating

INGREDIENTS

1 package Extra Soft Silken Tofu
1 cup Vegan Heavy Cream (I used 3/4 cup almond milk & 1/4 cup vegan sour cream)
1/2 TBS Salt
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Rice Vinegar
6 tsp Agar Flakes or 2 tsp agar Powder
1/2 cup water

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DIRECTIONS

Blend until smooth the tofu, heavy cream, salt, garlic power, and vinegar. Transfer to a small sauce pan and stir in the agar flakes and water. Bring to a boil on medium, stirring frequently. Boil until the agar flakes are almost completely dissolved (about 20 minutes), adding water if necessary so it doesn’t boil down too much.  Pour into a large loaf pan and place in fridge until completely cooled.

When cooled – it just dropped right out of the inverted pan & was ready to devour.  Try it naked.  AWESOME!

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pistachios, Dried Cranberries & Pomegranate Seeds

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

~

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I know I say that a great many of my recipes are born simply of what I have handy and it is true.  It is true even when I say that all I had around was a bag of Brussels sprouts and an aging pomegranate.  And pistachios.  And when I thought to make a salad of them, I wished I had some dried cranberries to add to it.  I don’t typically go for dried fruit in anything but dried cranberries just sounded so right for this.  I dug deep in my crisper drawers looking for some other inspiration & found an unopened but very old & gross bag of raisins & while I wondered why I ever even bought a bag of raisins because, you know, ew – raisins – I spotted a bag of something from a bulk bin in the corner of the drawer.   Closer inspection revealed it to be a small bag of dried cranberries!  WTF?  Why did I have dried cranberries?  Quickly, I wished for a series regular gig on what would turn out to be a long running & iconic HBO series and waited for a few seconds for my life to change.  Nothing.  A few minutes later I was still me, still unemployed & still holding the bag.  Of dried cranberries. Fuck.  I hate when I waste the wishes that will be granted on things like a small quantity of dried cranberries.  I felt like Peter Griffin on Family Guy when, confronted by a real, live genie, wishes for his own personal theme music & not to have bones.

So, yeah.  Career still on hold but that’s a go on the salad!

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Salads aren’t really recipes, are they?  I made this guy for myself & I used about 8-10 medium-sized Brussels sprouts & ate the entire salad – even though it was probably enough for two.  So – anyway – I will give you rough estimates of what I used but you can add or subtract ingredients & adjust quantities to suit your own taste.  If there is wiggle room in making anything – it is salad – so go for it.

I made a simple dressing of lemon & olive oil & then decided I wanted something a bit creamier – so I added a bit of Greek yogurt.  You can skip that or, if you are vegan, add a bit of vegan mayonnaise.   Or use another of your favorite dressings.  I ain’t judging.

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pistachios, Dried Cranberries & Pomegranate Seeds

Serves two

INGREDIENTS

10 medium-sized Brussels sprouts

Handful of pistachios

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of pomegranate seeds

For the dressing

1/3 cup Greek yogurt (or vegan mayonnaise)  – optional

2 TBS lemon juice (or nice wine vinegar)

1 TBS olive oil

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

Whisk the dressing ingredients together & season with S&P.  Taste & adjust the flavors.  Some like lemon more than others.  Some like more salt.  Suit yourself.

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Toast the pistachios in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes, until aromatic & beginning to change color.  Stir the whole time & take care not to burn them.  Set aside.

Trim the hard ends off the Brussels sprouts & shred with the blade of your food processor or cut thin by hand.  Be sure to break up any of the white cores that remain – even cutting them by hand if your food processor let them slip by.

Now, just toss all that shit together (go easy on the dressing) & eat both servings yourself.  FTW.

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