Vegan Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Sauce & Lobster Mushroom

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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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vromans back

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So – 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

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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Potato & Fish Tacos at Tacomiendo in West Los Angeles – America’s 17th Best Taco

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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 love tacos.  I really do.  But I have become pretty snobby about them.  I usually get fish tacos (as I do not eat meat or chicken) and I prefer it not be fried.  Though I’ve had some might fine fried babies.  So – when I saw an article listing the “35 Best Tacos in America” – I knew I had to try any local ones on the list.

#17 was Tacomiendo.

17) Tacomiendo, Los Angeles: Potato Taco

At the no-frills, order-at-the-counter Tacomiendo, where you’ll hear much more Spanish than English spoken, the tortillas are homemade, the prices are reasonable, and the tacos are big. Burritos are a favorite here, but the tacos get high marks, too — and if you don’t mind carbo-loading, the unusual potato taco, potato chunks and cheese in a crispy shell, is certainly memorable.

They specifically mention which KIND of taco won at each joint.  As it turns out, Tacomiendo is over at Pico & Gateway – an area you couldn’t pay me to trek to under normal circumstances but my dog, Dexter, is undergoing physical therapy at Two Hands Four Paws which is only a few blocks away!  So, yesterday, as Dex had his day at the spa, I hopped over to Tacomiendo & ordered me some tacos (to steal the vernacular of my badass boyfriend, Miles).

There is a boatload of construction over there & it was a very confusing few blocks to navigate but, eventually, I spotted the place, tucked into an auto court sorta strip mall – on the southeast corner of Gateway & Pico.  Here is the outside.

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And here is the rest of that mall as seen from inside Tacomiendo.

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ALL car places so Tacomiendo can be easy to miss.  The obscurity of the place & the strip mall exterior actually raised my hopes about Tacomiendo.  I mean – who would even SEE this place, let alone put it on the list of “must try” taco spots?  If it was singled out – it must be incredible!  So – I ventured forward.

Here is the interior.

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There is a little salsa & other appropriate toppings bar over on the left on the yellow wall.

I looked at the menu overhead & couldn’t spot potato anything so I asked when it was my time to order.  Yes, I was told, they do serve a potato taco but it comes in a hard shell.  I was informed of this as if it would make me reconsider.  But – I was here expressly to try America’s 17th best Goddamn taco & I had good information that it was the potato taco here at Tacomiendo – so, undeterred, I ordered it.  I also ordered a fish taco & a Diet Coke (even though I think Diet Coke is tantamount to drinking engine fluid – as far as how good it is for you).   I paid my bill.

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Lunch for $7?  Not bad!  It seems the potato taco might be considered an appetizer.  Hmm.  I went to the salsa bar & stocked up & ate a bunch of these carrots & jalapenos.

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Pretty soon, a woman delivered this little basket to my table.

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That is the potato taco on the left.  The fish taco was a purist’s dream as it came in a homemade soft taco shell – naked.  Solomente grilled fish.  I topped it with cilantro, onion & two salsas and squeezed two limes over it.

Then I bit into the potato taco.  It seemed to be filled with a cheesy mashed potato.  Tasty – but not remarkable.  The potato taco at Senor Fish is better, in my opinion.  In fact, I preferred the fresh & delicious fish taco to the potato variety – primarily due to its simplicity & the wonderful homemade taco it was wrapped in.

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So – there you have it.  Both tacos were good enough to order again but I definitely preferred the fish one.

How anyone can list the 35 best tacos in America is beyond me.  I would have a very hard time listing the 35 best in Hollywood alone.  Taco stands are EVERYWHERE.  But there are a few more local joints on this list & I aim to try them all.  So far – the taco to beat (if you ask me) is the INSANE lobster taco here – at Benny’s in Venice – the best taco I have ever had.   Not sure how they missed that bad boy.  But – as I said – I will try the others they suggest & I will keep you posted on any changes & developments!

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Lobster taco at Benny’s in Venice.

Benny’s Tacos & Chicken Rotisserie in Venice, California

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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 am a Hollywood snob.  An east side snob.  Driving west of La Brea gives me the vapors.  The words “Beverly Hills” are greeted with a roll of my eyes.  I go years without seeing the ocean.  It is pretty twisted actually.  Matters are made worse by the fact that Miles’ favorite LA meal & favorite bar at which to linger – is Birds – right within walking distance of my home.  Here is Miles’ favorite meal there.

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That is a half chicken, loaded baked potato & baked beans.  Birds can be pretty limited in its selection if you are a pescatarian, like me.  But they added this new flatbread with mozzarella & jalapenos & I have become mildly obsessed with it.

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I love Andrew & Brooklyn, the bartenders at Birds, and so I can easily have my arm “twisted” and agree to Birds – sometimes EVERY day that Miles is here.  It has happened.

But, sometimes, when he is in town – I find occasion to venture out – sometimes even out past La Cienega.  Recently, we found ourselves in Venice.  Before I headed out there, I scoured Yelp for out best lunch options & came up with Benny’s Tacos.  It is difficult to guess what to expect from the exterior but there was parking & I am all about that.  Here is the exterior (image stolen from Benny’s site).

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On the left of the image, you see their al fresco dining area.  We meant to eat out there but the tables all seemed very unstable so we moved inside.  Here is the interior.

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And look at that cool tortilla heater thingy back there!  It rotates.

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The greatest thing about Benny’s (for me) is their wide selection of seafood & vegetarian options.  I ordered a lobster & a fish taco – grilled not fried – and Miles got some massive chicken burrito.  We got drinks, chips & some salsa from the salsa bar & chose a table.  Benny’s also serves beer & wine!  There is a little three-seater bar in there, too!

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If I lived close to Benny’s – I can promise you – Miles & would make that bar our own.

Chips & salsa were good.  Beer is served in frosted mugs.  Always a nice touch.

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Then my tacos arrived.

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That is the lobster taco on the left.  And let me tell you – that was the best Goddamn taco I have ever had in my life!  I don’t typically eat lobster because I feel really bad for them.  Seeing them in those tanks at the supermarket or in restaurants – claws bound & crawling all over each other waiting to die by being BOILED ALIVE – moves me to tears.  But, hypocritically, so did that lobster taco – as I washed it down with ice cold beer.  I kept photographing it in an effort to prolong the pleasure.  The fish taco was delicious, too, but that lobster fucker was a revelation!

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Miles was served a burrito nearly the size of a football.

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Miles pointed out that serving a burrito that size – largely filed with rice & beans (and TONS of chicken) – with additional rice & beans might be considered a rice-n-beans overkill but that is a minor complaint.  Especially for Miles – who can be very finicky about food minutia.  We both found our meals to taste fresh & clean & to be quite substantial.  I wanted to go right back up & order every other taco they offered that fit my diet but – alas – we were both stuffed.   My only complaint about Benny’s is that it is all the fuck the way in Venice – I place I have gone to more often than Venice, Italy – primarily because I have never been to Venice, Italy & that number (zero) is hard to beat.

But if you live anywhere near there – I cannot recommend highly enough that you give Benny’s a try.   They do a whole rotisserie chicken thing there, too, that we never even got into.  The menu – HERE – is far more varied than your average taco stand.  You could eat there every night for a week & never feel like you are ordering off the same menu.  And you can get likkered up, to boot!  What is stopping you?  Go there now!  And save me a seat at the bar!

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