VeganYumYum » pasta Yup, I'm back. Thu, 08 Nov 2012 23:25:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hurry Up Alfredo – VYY Cookbook! Thu, 10 Sep 2009 15:39:49 +0000 Lolo Hurry Up Alfredo with Basil

Alright, are you ready for the first recipe preview from the VYY cookbook?

This is one of my favorite recipes in the book. I make it almost once a week. It’s the perfect creamy pasta sauce when you’re feeling like alfredo. It’s also a great sauce for casseroles, over steamed veggies, on top of lasagna — wherever you want a basic creamy sauce. So not only is it really versatile, but it’s also really quick!

The whole sauce is made in a blender, so the faster you can toss ingredients into a blender, the faster it’s done. This also makes it super easy for additions. Recently I’ve been adding whole roasted red peppers (the kind they sell water-packed in jars).

Hurry Up Alfredo
Makes 2-3 Servings

1 Cup Soymilk
1/3 Cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
3 Tbs Low-Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
2 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine
1 Tbs Tahini
1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Paprika (smoked is awesome)
1 Pinch Nutmeg
2-4 Cloves of Garlic, optional
Black pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. This may work best in a high-speed blender (like a Vita-Mix), but you can definitely make it in a regular blender. Just blend extra-long, or perhaps strain if if you want it perfectly smooth. Tiny bits of cashews won’t hurt anyone though!

If you’re making this sauce for pasta, drain the pasta and return it to the hot empty pan. Pour the sauce over, place on medium heat, and stir until heated through. Serve with lots of fresh cracked black pepper. I love it with steamed broccoli added in!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book on the 16th!

Note to Testers

VYY Book

I’ve finally received my author copies of the book! Therefore I’m ready to mail my awesome testers their free copy! Since testing was done two years ago, I need updated addresses. If you were a tester, please email me at lolo @ with your current address and I’ll get a book to you in the mail! Many thanks for all your hard work!

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Rustic Bread & Eggplant Lasagna Thu, 14 May 2009 04:14:18 +0000 Lolo Rustic Bread and Eggplant Lasagna

My husband and I have been watching The Sopranos recently (yes, I’m apparently 10 years behind the curve here), and I can only listen to the characters talk about manicotti and baked ziti so many times before I get a serious craving for some Italian food. It got me thinking to a public television cooking show I saw a while ago, Lidia’s Italy. I remember she made a lasagna that used bread instead of noodles, and it struck me as brilliant.

I know making pasta isn’t hard, but there’s something about boiling lasagna noodles that is a huge pain in the ass. They’re huge, you must not over cook them, you have to prevent them from sticking to each other after draining… I don’t know, maybe I’m just lazy, but the idea of using bread really caught my attention. Of course, I couldn’t find Lydia’s recipe to go from, so this version is totally made up by me. But not only do I want to credit her for general inspiration, she also has an Italian cooking show, so she gives my crazy bread lasagna some legitimacy. Maybe. Shhh.

The easiest thing to use is a loaf of pre-sliced, crusty sourdough. I know I recommend sourdough for everything, but really, it’s awesome in this dish. You want the favor, of course, but you also want a sturdy “artisan” type bread that won’t fall apart in the oven. This isn’t a job for sliced sandwich bread. It’s best with bread that is even perhaps a little stale. Look for a quality sliced loaf in the day old section of your grocer and save a buck or two.

You can put absolutely anything in this lasagna. I picked eggplants because I had three of them. I think they are lovely in this, so I recommend them, but really, stuff this with whatever you like or whatever is handy.

Rustic Bread & Eggplant Lasagna
Serves 9-12

3 Tbs Olive Oil
4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced (optional)
2 28 oz Cans Organic Tomatoes, blended
2 tsp Salt
4 tsp Dried Italian Herbs
Olive Oil, for drizzling
2-3 Medium Eggplants, peeled
8-10 Large Slices of Sourdough Bread
1 Cup Breadcrumbs (or 2 more pieces of bread for toasting and food processing)
1-2 Large, Ripe Tomatoes, fresh, for garnish
Basil, for garnish

In a very large skillet with high sides, or a sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sweat the garlic for 1-2 minutes, then add tomatoes, salt, and herbs. Cook for 30 minutes (bubbling), stirring occasionally. Invert a mesh strainer over the top of the pan to prevent splatter, if desired.

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Meanwhile, prep two baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel the eggplants by slicing off the top and bottom and using the cut edge to start your vegetable peeler. Holding the eggplant vertically, cut the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange in one layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle liberally with olive oil.

Eggplant before roasting

Bake eggplant for 30-40 minutes at 400º, turning once, until very, very soft and browned in some places.

Spray both sides of each slice of bread with spray oil and “grill” in a hot skillet until browned on both sides. You can also simply toast the bread, but I think you get more flavor with grilling.

In a large baking dish (a lasagna dish), spread 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce. Line the bottom of the dish with bread, filling as many as the gaps as possible without overlapping.


Place half of the eggplant on top of the bread, followed by another 1 to 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce.


Add a second layer of bread.


Add the second half of the eggplant, and all of the remaining sauce. Make sure that the bread is completely covered by sauce. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.


Place fresh tomato slices on the top of the lasagna, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Before baking

Bake for 40 minutes at 400º F. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

After baking

Top with basil leaves and drizzle sweet and thick balsamic vinegar (or balsamic syrup) on the plate if desired. Enjoy!

Rustic Bread and Eggplant Lasagna

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Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Morels and Fiddleheads Thu, 30 Apr 2009 21:36:50 +0000 Lolo Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Morels and Fiddleheads

Spring is here, and it brings with it two of my most favorite seasonal items: morels and fiddlehead ferns. At $28/lb here in Boston, fresh morels are definitely a splurge. But you only need to pick up a few to have them in this dish, and it’s well worth it to do so.

If you live in the right area, you can try your luck at finding your own in the woods right now, but as with all foraging, make sure you have the right mushroom before you eat it. It’s best to go with someone who knows what they are doing, but the locations where wild morels grow are usually carefully guarded secrets, considering the price they’ll fetch at markets. It’s easier and safer to pony-up some cash at Whole Foods, even though it’s not as adventurous.


Fiddlehead ferns are lovely. Not only are they in season at the same time morels are, they also pair really well with them. You can read a little informational post I wrote about them here. I love their tender crunch, mild flavor, and beautiful swirl. And just like morels, use them as soon as you can, they don’t store well.

The hardest part of this dish is definitely finding the morels and the fiddleheads. After that, it’s cake! I used a pre-packaged fresh gnocchi (gluten free, too!) and further simplified it by pan-frying them instead of boiling them. Boiling is easy; pan-frying is even easier, not to mention faster. You can cook up the gnocchi faster than the time it takes to boil a pot of water. Pan-frying the gnocchi gives them a wonderful color and texture. If you’ve never tried it before, you definitely should!

All the other ingredients are quick sauteed, so this makes a really delicious, fast, and easy meal with practically no fuss. And if you can’t find morels and fiddleheads, I encourage you to try the dish anyway with asparagus tips and your favorite mushroom.

Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Morels and Fiddleheads

Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Morels and Fiddleheads
Serves one filling meal, or two very light meals

2 Tbs Olive Oil, give or take
1 9-oz Package Fresh Gnocchi
3-5 Fresh Morels, halved (sub any wild mushroom)
1/3 Cup Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns, washed and dried (sub asparagus tips)
1/4 Cup Roasted Red Pepper, diced
2-3 Canned Water-Packed Artichoke Hearts, sliced
1/8 tsp Salt, plus more for seasoning
Fresh Black Pepper

Slice your morels in half and inspect them carefully for dirt and critters. Since morels are foraged for in the wild, they sometimes have surprises hiding inside. Just saying.

Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add halved morels and a teaspoon or so of oil. Saute until golden brown, 2-3 minutes, adding a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Add the ferns, roasted pepper, and artichoke hearts to the pan, with a teaspoon or so more oil if needed. Add 1/8 tsp salt to season. Saute for 2-3 minutes until tender and the artichoke hearts and ferns are beginning to color. Remove from pan and set aside.

While the pan is still hot (medium-high heat), add the raw gnocchi and enough oil to coat well. Cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on all sides and slightly puffy. Once cooked through, add the fern/artichoke/pepper mixture back to the pan and toss gently until well combined. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Plate, adding the cooked morel mushrooms to the top before serving.

Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Morels and Fiddleheads

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Broccolini, Cherry Tomato, and Butter Bean Udon Sun, 29 Mar 2009 20:40:35 +0000 Lolo Broccolini, Cherry Tomato, and Butterbean Udon

I asked my twitter friends if they’d like to see recipes made for one, and the response was overwhelming; absolutely. A lot of you seem to make lunch for yourself, or have several weeknights where you’re cooking solo and want to throw something fresh together without a lot of hassel.

When I know I’m going to be eating alone, I rarely do the logical thing and make a big batch of something so I can have leftovers. I’m terrible with leftovers. I’m too fickle when it comes to food, so leftovers turn to science projects in the fridge. Therefore I tend to make a lot of one-off meals based on whatever odds and ends of produce I have left.

So here’s one of them. I had one serving broccolini, and half a pint of cherry tomatoes. Not enough of either to feed both me and my husband, so I made one little but delicious meal out of it. If you’re not cooking for one, this dish is easy to scale up, so don’t worry. But my friends who dine independently? This one is especially for you!

Annnd, how about a video? Here’s the whole meal, start to finish, in two minutes. A little overview, if you will. There’s nothing difficult about this recipe, so this is more for fun than anything. You can watch the whole video in HD, full-screen, even!

Watch this video on Vimeo instead.

Broccolini, Cherry Tomato and Butter Bean Udon
Serves One

1 to 1 1/2 Bundles Udon Noodles
Oil, about 2-3 Tbs
3-6 Stalks of Broccolini, depending on size
1/2 tsp Red Pepepr Flakes
Black Pepper
10 Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
1/2 Cup Butter Beans/Lima Beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tsp Italian Herbs
Balsamic Vinegar, for drizzling

Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add udon noodles and cook for four minutes (or as long as package directions dictate), then drain and rinse well. Coat lightly with oil to prevent noodles from sticking. I use spray oil for this, I think it’s the easiest and you use the least amount of oil. Set noodles aside.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium high with a little oil. Add broccolini and coat with oil. Season with 1 big pinch of salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Once the broccolini starts to turn bright green and get a little color (just a minute or two), push them to the edge of the pan.

Turn heat up a little and add quartered cherry tomatoes. Stir to coat in any oil/spices leftover from the broccolini, then let cook, untouched, to get a little color and soften up, 1-2 minutes. Once tomatoes are softened, add 1/2 cup of butter beans. Stir everything together and remove to a bowl.

In the still-hot pan, add a 1-2 Tbs more oil. Add cooked udon noodles to the hot pan, seasoning with a pinch of salt and italian herbs. Toss to coat the pasta. Once the pasta is coated and is heated through, add back the broccolini, beans, and tomatoes. Taste and season with more salt or pepper if needed.

Plate, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.

Tweet Tweet!

Feel free to follow me on twitter! Besides random daily updates, I tweet about upcoming blog posts, show sneak-peek photos of new recipes, and let you know the moment my blog has been updated. I do try to limit cat-related tweets, but I’m only human. And it is twitter, afterall. Say hello and I’ll say hi back!

Broccolini, Cherry Tomato, and Butterbean Udon

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Mac & Cheeze (take 2) Mon, 05 Jan 2009 05:16:35 +0000 Lolo VegYum Mac & Cheeze

I like trying different recipes for mac & cheeze. I make my own version most often, but I’m always up for improving and changing my recipes when I can.

Recently, I saw that VegNews had an interesting recipe. They use potatoes and carrots for the base (certainly healthier than my version) and cashews for the creaminess. I’m a huge fan of cashews to make sauces rich and creamy. So I made the recipe and was intrigued. The texture was AWESOME, the color was good, it was a little on the salty side… overall really nice. But it tasted a little too vegetable-y for my liking.

Now, vegan mac & cheese doesn’t really taste 100% like the non-vegan stuff. And that’s cool with me. I just want it to taste good, and to satisfy a craving for a creamy baked pasta dish, you know? My other post has more of my thoughts on that.

VegYum Mac & Cheeze

I decided to combine my recipe with with the VegNews recipe. I kept the potato and the carrots for the base, added some of my favorite flavorings, and left out some of theirs. For example, I took out the onion/garlic/shallots. I’m not the biggest fan of those things to begin with, but I don’t ever remember having mac & cheese taste like onions. I know I just said it doesn’t have to taste the same, but those just aren’t the flavors I think of when I imagine mac & cheese, you know?

Again, for easy link finding, here’s VegNew’s awesome recipe. And without further ado, here’s my interpretation:

VegYum Mac & Cheeze
Serves 3ish

8-10 Oz Whole Wheat Rotini
2 Cups Steamed Broccoli Florets
2 Pieces of Bread, toasted and ground to breadcrumbs

1 Cup Peeled, Finely Chopped Potatoes
1/4 Cup Peeled, Finely Chopped Carrots
1 Cup Water

1/3 Cup Raw Cashews
1 Tbs Miso (any kind, I like red)
1 Tbs Tahini
1 Tbs Lemon Juice (sub: 2 tsp White Wine Vinegar)
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 to 1 1/2 tsp Salt
Black Pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350º

Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Whole Wheat Rotini

Meanwhile, steam broccoli and set aside. I use my rice cooker. Simply put the florets in the cooker with 2-3 Tbs of hot water and turn the cooker on. Broccoli will be bright green and tender-crisp when done. Don’t forget about it in there–it’ll finish cooking before the rice cooker clicks off, so if you forget about it, you’ll overcook your broccoli. Mine takes less than 10 minutes to cook.

Make sure the carrots and potatoes are chopped very small; this will reduce the cooking time greatly. Place the chopped potatoes and carrots in small sauce pan that has a lid. Add the 1 cup of water. Boil covered until tender, 10-15 minutes.

While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, add the remaining ingredients to the blender (cashew, miso, lemon juice, mustard, earth balance, nut. yeast, salt and pepper). Once potatoes and carrots are done cooking, add them and their cooking water to the blender as well. Blend until VERY smooth. If needed, add soymilk or water 1 Tbs at a time to thin. Taste for seasoning.

Toast the bread and process into crumbs.

Toss the cooked pasta and broccoli with the sauce. Place in a casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs, black pepper, and paprika.


Bake for 25 minute at 350º F until browned and bubbly. Serve.

I think I’ll make this version whenever I have potatoes handy. It’s a tiny bit lighter than my other version, but it still has a lot of flavor and creaminess. And it saves on soymilk, too!

VegYum Mac & Cheeze

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Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta Tue, 12 Aug 2008 18:10:09 +0000 Lolo Tomtao Basil Cream Pasta with Course Cracked Pepper

When it’s summer, I can’t get enough of recipes that use up fresh tomatoes and basil.  But no matter what time of year, I’m always down with quick recipes.  You can make this sauce in the time it takes to boil the pasta.  My whole wheat pasta cooks in 9 minutes, so this simple sauce makes a 9 minute summer meal that’s hard to beat.

I wanted to make a dish similar to this one, but not using tofutti cream cheese. I decided to replace it with cashews. Cashews are the base of most of my favorite vegan cream sauces because they’re very rich tasting and blend easily, allowing you to create a velvety smooth sauce in your blender.

Tomtao Basil Cream Pasta with Coarse Cracked Pepper

Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta
Serves Two

1 Large, ripe tomato (2 cups roughly chopped, 1 1/2 cups blended)
1/2 Cup Raw Cashews
1 Tbs Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Water

2 Tbs Olive Oil
2-4 Cloves Garlic, minced, optional
6 Ounces (ish) Whole Wheat Spaghetti
1 tsp Salt (edit: upped from 3/4!)
2-3 Tbs Wine or Water, optional
1-2 tsp Freshly Cracked, Coarse Black Pepper
1 Large Handful Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Core the tomato, then roughly chop it. Add it to your blender, seeds, skin and all. Add cashews, tomato paste, and water. Blend until very smooth.

Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, being careful not to burn. Once water is boiling, add pasta. Pour sauce from the blender into the saute pan and bring to a simmer. Add salt and let cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If desired add wine/water to thin out the sauce. Taste and season more if necessary. Let simmer until pasta is finished cooking. Once pasta is cooked, drain. Add pasta to the saute pan with black pepper and freshly chopped basil leaves. Toss to coat. Serve immediately, garnishing with more pepper and basil.

Enjoy!  And stay tuned this week for a big, happy announcement.

Tomtao Basil Cream Pasta with Coarse Cracked Pepper

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Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles Thu, 03 Jul 2008 20:08:31 +0000 Lolo Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles

It’s officially Summer; I can’t deny it any longer. I’m eating way more than my fair share of tofu sandwiches, and even the heat emanating from the toaster can be too much for me sometimes. If you can find some part of the day to boil noodles (in the cool of the morning, or before bed), you can make them ahead of time and be done with the only cooking required for this dish.

Earlier this year I was reading Coconut and Lime, and where Rachel had the brilliant idea of making a peanut sauce without peanuts. Her stand-in was sesame paste, and she created a fabulous sesame noodle dish that I couldn’t get out of my head. I absolutely had to make a sauce based on sesame paste. My recipe is different than hers (though hers is mighty tasty, so if you don’t care for my version give hers a try), but she was definitely the inspiration for this sauce that has quickly become a staple in my house.

Notes on Tahini and Sesame Paste
I use tahini in this recipe, which is a paste commonly used in the Middle East made from hulled sesame seeds.  The seeds can be raw or roasted, and the flavor will vary depending on which one you choose.  My favorite tahini is Arrowhead Mills Organic Sesame Tahini, which is unroasted.  It’s not too bitter, and it stays smooth and easy to use even after refrigeration.  Roasted tahini will also work great in this recipe, but the flavor will be noticeably different

Sesame paste, on the other hand, is an Asian ingredient that turns the whole sesame seed, including the hulls, into a paste.  It’s stronger than tahini, so you usually need much less in your recipes, and using too much can cause the dish to be more bitter than you expected.  While you can find tahini at any supermarket now (look near the peanut butter), Asian sesame paste still seems religated to specialty markets.

Tahini Noodle Prep

This dish is largely raw, which cuts down on a lot of the work, and prevents your summer kitchen from becoming a sauna. I’ve found that if you cut your veggies small enough and have a great sauce, you’ll be surprised at what you can serve raw. If you like, you can lightly steam the broccoli, but it really is tasty simply cut into tiny florets. If you follow a raw food diet, feel free to substitute the cooked wheat noodles with cucumber or zucchini noodles, or whatever raw noodles make you the happiest. Pretty much anything will work as the base of this dish.

The other benefit this dish is that it keeps really well, so I like to make a big batch to keep in the fridge for lunches, snacks, or meals to go.

Oh! And one more thing! Have you tried Whole Foods’ whole wheat spaghetti yet?  It tastes exactly like regular spaghetti, only it’s better for you than the stripped down stuff.  If you’re looking to add more whole grains into your diet, this is a super easy–even unnoticeable–way to do it.  They are by far the best whole wheat noodles I’ve ever had.

Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 lb  Whole Wheat Spaghetti, cooked, rinsed in cold water, drained
2 Carrots, peeled and shredded
1/4 Green Cabbage Head, shredded
1 Stalk Broccoli, florets only, cut very small
A Handful Fresh Mint, chopped, optional (cilantro or basil would be good, too)
Sesame Seeds and More Mint, for garnish

Tahini Sauce
1/4 Cup Tahini, see section above
2 Tbs Low Sodium Tamari, or nama shoyu, or regular soy sauce
3 Tbs Water
1 Tbs Sugar, or raw agave nectar
1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1 tsp Chili Sauce or 1 Chopped Fresh Chili
1 tsp Dijon or Stone-ground Mustard
1 Pinch Salt, if needed
Lots of Fresh Black Pepper

Cook the noodles and rinse under cold water. Drain and set aside, coating lightly with oil if desired to prevent the noodles from sticking. These can be made well in advance.

Coring CabbageCut your cabbage into quarters, then use a large chef’s knife to remove the core from one of the quarters, as shown at left. Discard the core, and wrap up the other three quarters for later use.

If you have a food processor, use it to shred your carrots and your cabbage. Use the shredder blade that has many holes for the carrots, and the blade that has one single slit for the cabbage. A box grater will work just fine for the carrots and a knife for the cabbage if a food processor is not available.

Chop the broccoli into small florets, creating pieces no bigger than small grapes. Toss all the veggies together and add the pasta. Stir together the sauce, tasting to adjust if needed.

When you’re ready to serve, add the sauce to the noodles and veggies and toss with your hands, coating everything evenly. Add chopped mint at the last moment, if using. Garnish with more mint and sesame seeds.

Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles

This will easily keep for a couple days. If you’re a big fan of sauce, you may want to double the recipe. This recipe makes just enough to coat the noodles.  Extra sauce will really come in handy after the completed dish has been refrigerated for a bit; I find noodles really soak up sauces so it can be nice to have some extra on hand.

If you’ve tried tahini and disliked it, give it another chance. It’s kind of vile on its own, so balancing flavors is very important with this ingredient. If you want a little tahini flavor but can’t quite use the full 1/4 cup, consider adding some peanut butter in lieu of tahini. Personally, I find this a really refreshing change from the typical peanut sauces, and since it’s so easy to make, why not give it a shot?

Nearly Raw Tahini Noodles

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Sundried Tomato and Basil Couscous with Aceto Balsamico Tue, 15 Apr 2008 18:15:06 +0000 Lolo Sundried Tomato and Basil Couscous with Aceto Balsamico

Boston has a neighborhood called the North End. If it was any bigger we’d probably call it Little Italy. There are a gazillion tiny Italian restaurants and pasty shops crammed into a few blocks. There are old men playing bocce ball, people eating gelato, couples toasting with grappa after dinner, and–my favorite–specialty Italian grocery stores.

My sister was in town over the weekend, and she suggested we stop into one of these grocers so she could pick up a few things to take home. I was definitely down with this plan, as specialty food markets make my heart beat a little faster.

In the market I picked up (among other things) a very nice bottle of balsamic vinegar and some imported sundried tomatoes. Much like some wines and cheese, true balsamic vinegar needs to be made in a specific region of Italy using very strict guidelines. I didn’t realize that the vinegar you buy at your regular grocery store is almost certainly not balsamic vinegar, but regular vinegar that has added sugar and food coloring in order approximate balsamic.

That’s not to say that grocery store balsamic is bad. Sometimes it’s quite good. But I didn’t realize how different the two really are until I tried the real thing.

Rubio Aceto Balsamico di Modena and Olive Oil

The bottle I bought is made in Italy specifically for this little grocer I visited in the North End. It’s called Rubio, and it’s aceto balsamico di Modena (which is a good thing). I spent $35 for 8.5 ounces, and believe it or not, that’s a really, really good deal for real balsamic. The highest quality vinegars are in the $100-400 dollar range, and that’s for less than four ounces. See what I mean by $35 being a good deal?

Even if it is a good deal, is it worth it? Yes yes yes yes and yes. It’s fabulous. It’s slightly sweet, tangy, and really… deep. Robust. Indescribable. And while eight and a half ounces doesn’t sound like much, a little goes a long, long way. (If you’re interested, you can order it online here.)

When you have a few high quality ingredients, even a 10 minute lunch (it’s really that fast) is a memorable experience. When you have a few high quality ingredients, the simpler the dish the better. This little couscous number is dead easy, ridiculously quick, and so, so tasty.

Sundried Tomato and Basil Couscous with Aceto Balsamico
Serves two

3 tsp Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
10-12 Oil Packed Sundried Tomatoes, chopped
1 Cup Couscous
1 Cup Boiling Water
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts, toasted
Aceto Balsamico di Modena

Place 1 1/2 cups of water on the stove or in a kettle to boil. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, salt, basil, tomatoes, and couscous until combined. This is what it will look like before you add the water:

Couscous, pre-cook

Measure out 1 cup of boiling water and pour over couscous mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add pine nuts. Stir occasionally until toasted, being careful not to burn. (Right before they begin to brown you’ll see that they become shiny. Don’t walk away because they go from toasted to burnt very quickly!) Set toasted pine nuts aside.

Lightly fluff the couscous with a fork, adding toasted pine nuts. Drizzle aceto balsamico over the top. This may be eaten immediately, but it also is very nice as a room temperature dish.

Sundried Tomato and Basil Couscous with Aceto Balsamico

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Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous Tue, 08 Apr 2008 15:15:27 +0000 Lolo Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous

Did anyone make the marmalade? This is the perfect recipe to use it in. If you’re not up for making marmalade from scratch, that’s not a problem. Next time you’re at the store pick up a small jar and use that instead. In fact, using store-bought marmalade makes this dish super-duper easy to prepare.

Marmalade chicken is one of those simple dinner dishes that home cooks have been preparing for themselves or their families for years because it’s not only damn easy, but also damn tasty. There are a ton of different recipes available for it online, some just call for marmalade and chicken (or in our case, tofu or seitan), and some make a more elaborate marinade using the marmalade as a base.

This dish is as easy as you want it to be, super flavorful, and infinitely customizable. You can use a base of rice, couscous, pasta, quinoa, millet, polenta (and so on) and dress it up with any simply prepared greens or veggies you’ve got. If your using a rice cooker for your starch, and the oven for the tofu, you can quickly steam or saute up any other accompaniment without much fuss.

Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous

I grilled the tofu after I baked it because I love grill marks. The use of a grill or a grill pan is totally optional, unless you’re like me and like really pretty tofu. If you’re free of my strange tofu vanity issues, don’t worry one bit. However, if you do break out the grill pan, be careful not to burn the ‘fu. All the sugar in the marmalade makes for easily scorched tofu if you’re not careful. I may or may not be speaking from experience. *cough cough*

One last thing before I jump into the recipe. Pearl couscous. Oh my goodness, have you tried this stuff? I love it! It’s also called israeli couscous or maftoul. Like regular coucous, it’s actually a pasta, but it’s like couscous on steroids. It’s really fun and a nice change of pace from rice. You should be able to find it near the regular couscous, either in a package near the pastas or in a bin in the bulk food section of your local grocery store. You can boil/drain it like regular pasta, or cook it in a skillet like risotto. Very cool stuff.

Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous
Serves two with leftover tofu, easily scaled

1 14 oz block of Super Firm Tofu, pressed well (or 4 seitan cutlets)
1 Recipe Marmalade Marinade, below

Couscous, risotto style
1 Cup Pearl Couscous
2 tsp Oil
2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
Zest from 1 Lemon
1/2 tsp Salt (scant)
2 to 2 1/2 Cups Water

1 bunch Kale (or about 2 cups veg of choice)
2 tsp Oil
2 Tbs Water
1-2 tsp Tamari
1/4 cup Sliced Almonds

Marmalade Marinade
5 Tbs Marmalade
2 Tbs Tamari or Soy Sauce (reduced sodium)
1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Hot Chili Flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp Ginger (optional)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400º F.

My favorite method for pressing tofu: Pour off all excess water. Wrap the tofu in two paper towels. Then wrap the tofu in a terrycloth kitchen towel. Place a cast-iron skillet on top (or anything else that’s flat and heavy and can get wet) and let sit for 20 minutes or longer. After 20 minutes, the towel should be soaked through and the tofu nice and firm. The paper towel just protects the tofu from any lint or, um, cat hair that might be on the towel.  Slice the block into 8 even rectangles.

Marmalade Tofu - Pre Bake In a baking dish that will fit all the tofu snuggly, whisk together your marinade. Add the tofu (or seitan) and coat each piece. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway. There should still be a little marinade in the bottom of the dish after baking, just enough to use as a glaze.

When tofu is halfway done, heat oil in a large skillet an add dry couscous. Stir for a few minutes until each pearl is coated and lightly toasted. Add lemon juice, zest and salt. 2 cups of water and let simmer, stirring frequently, and watch as the couscous absorbs the liquid. When all liquid is absorbed, try a pearl to see if it is cooked through. Add more water as necessary. You can also boil the couscous, drain, then mix in the salt, juice and zest with a little oil.

In the last few minutes, heat the oil for the kale in a wok or large skillet. (The tofu will hold nicely in a warm oven if you need more time.) Add washed, torn kale and toss to coat. Add water to the hot pan and quickly cover with any lid that will fit to quick-steam the kale. Remove the lid after a few minutes (admire how tender and green the kale looks) and saute to cook off any remaining liquid. Add almonds and tamari, stirring well, until the almonds are lightly toasted.

Plate the couscous and then the kale. Add the tofu on top, and drizzle any remaining glaze over everything. Garnish with extra almonds if desired.

Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous

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Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream Wed, 12 Mar 2008 21:08:07 +0000 Lolo Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream

In Italy, gnocchi doesn’t require potatoes. They can be made from regular pasta flour, or cheese. In fact, pretty much anything that can be rolled into a lump and served like pasta/dumplings can be gnocchi. In the United States, however, gnocchi is usually assumed to be made mostly from potatoes, though you’ll see sweet potato gnocchi and ricotta gnocchi every once in a while.

When it comes to potato gnocchi, there’s a great debate between those who insist on adding eggs to the dough, and those who insist that eggless gnocchi is the best. Begin vegan, this is a problem easily solved. No eggs! There, that was easy, right?

What’s really nice about this is that your vegan gnocchi is just the same as a lot of traditional gnocchis out there. While I love adapting recipes to be vegan, it’s really nice to make time-tested dishes that have always been vegan. Gnocchi is one of those dishes. Don’t let anyone make you put eggs in your gnocchi!

The downside is that eggless gnochhi can be a bit more fussy than the egged version. But don’t despair! I did a bunch of research, and I think I have a solid recipe here that will minimize if not eliminate any problems. These tips will be detailed in the recipe below.

Thyme VinaigretteI decided to serve this with two easy sauces. If I’m going to the effort of making fresh pasta, I want sauces that compliment and showcase the pasta–nothing too thick or too heavy that would hide it or mask the flavor of fresh gnocchi. First I made a thyme vinaigrette, but vinaigrette is too strong of a word. It’s simply fresh thyme leaves, mashed in a mortar and pestle with some salt, olive oil, and a tiny splash of white wine vinegar. It’s not nearly as tart as you might expect with a title like “vinaigrette”. It really lets the fresh time flavor stand out, and shows off your beautiful gnocchi.

To cut the thyme vinaigrette, I made a simple cashew cream sauce with a hint of lemon. It has a light sweetness and richness that really matches nicely. If you have a high-speed blender (like a Vita-Mix) you’ll have no problems blending the cashews into a smooth sauce. I’m not sure how a regular blender will fare. You could try powdering the nuts in a spice grinder before adding them to your blender, and straining the cream afterwards if it’s still lumpy. It might work fine, though!

Alright, are you ready to make gnocchi? And PS – this recipe is soy free!

Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream
Serves 2-3

For Gnocchi
2 Russet Potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 Scant Cup Bread Flour*
(No salt!)

For Thyme Vinaigrette
2 Tbs Fresh Thyme, leaves only
1-2 Pinches Salt, to taste
4 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp White Wine Vinegar

For Lemon Cashew Cream
1 Cup Water
1 1/4 Cups Roasted, Salted Cashews (or raw)
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/2-1 tsp Lemon Juice

*I call for bread flour because of the high-gluten content. This will help the pasta set up while it’s cooking a little better than regular flour would.

Game Plan: The first thing you’re going to do is get the potatoes in the oven. Baked potatoes will be drier than boiled, so even though it takes longer, it makes for better gnocchi. While they’re baking, prepare both sauces, get your workstation ready, and put a large pot of salty water on to boil. (It’s important that you salt the water and not the dough; this will help keep the gnocchi firm. Salt is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water–salt in the dough would make your gnocchi a little mushy). Now you’ll be ready to cook and plate the gnocchi as soon as you’re finished shaping them.

For your workstation, you’ll need the following: 1 knife (a paring knife is ideal), a fork or a gnocchi board, a large plate lightly dusted with flour (for your shaped gnocchi), and a large, flat surface for rolling out your pasta. A potato ricer (or a food mill) is ideal for ricing the potatoes, but a box grater or even just a fork will suffice.

You want to rice your potatoes as soon as possible when they come out of the oven. The hotter the potato, the more steam comes off when you rice it, which reduces the moisture content of the gnocchi. The dryer the gnocchi, the less flour you need, which leads to the lightest, fluffiest, most delicious gnocchi. Use a kitchen towel to hold the potato, unless you feel like burning your fingers!

Near your pot of boiling water, place a bowl with 1/2 of the vinaigrette in the bottom. When the gnocchi are finished cooking, you’ll scoop them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them directly in this bowl and toss to coat. Then you can plate them and drizzle them with the cream sauce before they cool. Got it?

Preheat oven to 400º F. Stab your potatoes with a fork and wrap them in foil. Bake in a small dish for about 60 minutes, or until tender all the way through.

Thyme LeavesMeanwhile, prepare your sauces. Strip the thyme leaves off their stems into a mortar. Add a pinch or two of salt and grind with the pestle until a rough paste is formed. Add oil and vinegar and mix again. Don’t worry if it’s emulsified, it just needs to be mixed. Taste and adjust salt or vinegar as needed. Set aside.

Place all the ingredients for the cashew cream in a blender and blend on high until thick and smooth. Adjust seasoning if needed (this should be slightly sweet and not as salty as the vinaigrette) and set aside.

Making the Gnocchi
Peeling Cooked Potatoes

As soon as the potates come out of the oven, remove the foil and then peel them. The photo shows me using a vegetable peeler, but I quickly switched to scraping the skin off with the back of a knife. Much easier.

Ricing Potatoes

Put the hot potatoes through a ricer as soon as you can. The hotter the potatoes are during this step, the better the gnocchi will be. Rice them over a wide, flat surface to maximize contact with the air to help them dry out better. You can also grate them or shred them with a fork.

Riced Potato

Let the potatoes cool/dry for 10-15 minutes. During this time, make sure you have everything in place you’ll need for shaping, cooking, dressing, and plating the gnocchi. Once they’re shaped you want to be able to cook them and serve them as quickly as possible (unless you’ll be freezing the cooked gnocchi for later).

Gnocchi Dough

Gather your cooled potatoes into a flat disc and sprinkle about 1/2 the flour over it.

Gnocchi Dough

Work the dough with your hands, adding more flour if needed. You probably won’t need the whole cup of flour. I had about three tablespoons leftover. If in doubt, use less as opposed to more.

Gnocchi Dough

Work your dough until just combined. Do not overwork it! It should be soft, not sticky or crumbly. You’re not even going to really knead it, just mix it together. You must shape the dough immediately.

Forming Gnocchi

My favorite part! Roll some of the dough out into a long snake, about as thick as your tumb. Cut the snake into little “pillows” and dust them with flour. To shape, simply roll one of the pillows down a ridged gnocchi board (or the tines of a fork!). The gnocchi should curl around your thumb. Once side will be ridged, and the other side will have an indent in it. This helps to catch the sauce.


Place the shaped gnocchi on a plate that has been dusted with flour. At this point you should cook the gnocchi immediately. I tried freezing the raw shaped gnocchi and it was a disaster! You must at least partially cook the gnocchi at this point or all your hard work will be ruined.

Cooking and Serving the Gnocchi
Gently place the gnocchi in to salted, boiling water. After a minute or two, the gnocchi will float to the surface. About 30 seconds after they begin floating, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water, draining them well.

Place the cooked gnocchi into a large bowl that has 1/2 of the vinaigrette in the bottom. Toss the gnocchi to coat. Drizzle your dinner plates with the other half of the vinaigrette and some of the cream sauce. Pile the gnocchi on the plates and drizzle more cream sauce on top. Garnish with a fresh sprig of thyme and serve immediately.

Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream

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