Saturday, January 22, 2011
Homecoming Pasta and a stockpile of Garlic Bread
Vegan Yum Yum was the first vegan cookbook to land in my bookshelf and I immediately fell in love with the stunning photography which is minimal in the other vegan cookbooks I own. All of the initial recipes that were trialled were huge successes at home, one of which was the simple to throw together but incredibly tasty "Hurry Up Alfredo". This became a pasta sauce that I kept going back too for so long until recently when I looked through the whole book (again) and wondered why I had never tried the Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Marinara.
This turned out to be a really tasty sauce but I nearly fell off my chair when my son declared it to be his new favourite pasta!!! He had been smitten with Alfredo for so long and would always request it if he was asked for ideas to put on the menu for the week. After a few days away with his grandma, I decided to make this for his homecoming...
This time I wanted to change it up a little by adding a something that has worked well for me with other tomato based sauces - red lentils. They are a great addition to provide a bit of protein and if cooked for the right amount of time, they break down and give the sauce a thicker consistency.
Something that bothered me about the recipe is the technique for the caramelising of the onions (of lack thereof). The onions are simply cooked for 10 minutes in the original recipe so I modified this process in my version below. This didn't seem to have an effect on the end result of the dish as the star of this sauce is the roasted eggplants.
A conundrum in the kitchen that has been bothering me lately is a quick garlic bread to have ready for those nights when the main meal is too time intensive. Word around the house is the Safeway brand ninja vegan garlic bread is not very nice (mind you, it still gets gobbled up pretty quickly when it's on offer). Whilst on the hunt for a frenchstick at my local Coles I spotted a 6 pack of hot dog rolls and a light bulb turned on in my head. I could make a big batch of garlic bread with these and freeze the unused ones for later.
I mixed together some Nuttelex (not sure of the quantity, maybe 100-150g), 6 crushed garlic cloves and a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Each roll was cut down the centre, both sides covered liberally with the garlic margarine and a piece of baking paper was placed between the roll halves so they would be easy to separate when coming out of the freezer.
On the night they turned out better than the store bought garlic bread, however I will continue to try different types of bread until I am satisfied with the best solution. In the meantime, I have my stockpile to call on in times of need...
Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Marinara (Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum)
Salt (for sprinkling on the eggplants)
Olive oil spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 brown onions, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup red lentils
1 x 400g tin tomatoes + 2 cups tomato passata (original recipe calls for 800g tin tomatoes but I only had a 400g tin)
1/2 cup water (or more)
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
Fresh parsley, to serve
Cut the eggplants into thin discs (about 1cm thick), then make stacks of discs and slice into strips. Spread the strips out on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Allow them to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200C.
While the eggplant is resting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion has softened and beginning to colour, probably about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, stir through the sugar, cover and cook a further 20 minutes. Check regularly (maybe every 5 minutes), you will know they are ready when the onions are a deep brown colour.
Squeeze the excess moisture from the eggplant slices, then place onto a oven tray lined with baking paper and coat evenly with olive oil spray. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, after this time they should be nicely browned and softened. If not, cook for another 5-10 minutes.
The eggplant should be going into the oven when the onions have finished caramelising. Mix the garlic, basil and oregano into the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the red lentils, tomatoes, passata (if using), bring to the boil then simmer, covered for about 20 minutes until the lentils have cooked and are starting to break down. Add water as required if the sauce is too thick.
By this time, the eggplant should be ready to add. Stir it through and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with pasta of your choice, top with fresh parsley and vegan cheese/parmesan if desired.