Tag Archives: italian

Mixed Mushroom Polenta with Roasted Tomato Passata

dinner for jocelynn - portobello polenta with roasted tomato passata, marinated roasted portobello, herbed walnut salad, and champagne grapes

Polenta is just about the easiest thing to make. It’s basically a mixture of cornmeal and water. Depending on the proportions of water and cornmeal you use, you can make “soft” polenta (which is more like porridge) or, my preference, a harder, heartier polenta that’s fantastic with savoury meals.

The key to making your polenta flavourful and delicious is to avoid using just water. Make a flavourful broth, and add the cornmeal to that. You don’t have to be very careful with amounts – just add more cornmeal or water depending on how you feel about the consistency. Of course, it does solidify as it cools, but you should be able to tell what the final texture will be like not long after adding the cornmeal to the liquid.

For broth, I usually use a bouillon cube – I find them handy to have around the kitchen for adding flavour to everything from curries to soups to rice. Use mushroom bouillon for a mushroom-flavoured polenta, like the one I made, or choose a veggie or herb broth cube for different flavours. If you’re using bouillon cubes, it’s easiest to pre-mix them with boiling water – pouring the water down on to the cube like you would with tea.

Mixed Mushroom Polenta

1 pint shiitake, crimini, or oyster mushrooms
1 – 2 tbsp light vegetable oil
3/4 to 1 cup cornmeal (sometimes just called “polenta”)
1 mushroom bouillon cube
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce (optional)
Nutritional yeast (optional)
Onion and garlic powder (optional)

Chop the mushrooms to a reasonable bite size. At the same time, boil 2 cups of water in a kettle. In a large bowl or glass measuring cup, pour the water over the crumbled bouillon cube and stir to dissolve. Add the broth to a large pot on the stove and keep it boiling – on medium heat.

Saute the mushrooms in oil in a skillet on medium-low heat until they sweat.

Add the bay leaves and soy sauce, if using, and salt and pepper. At this point I like to taste the broth and make sure it’s flavourful. Cornmeal doesn’t have much flavour on its own. If the broth isn’t flavourful, add onion powder, garlic powder, or other complementary spices.

If you’re using nutritional yeast, add it with the cornmeal. Pour the cornmeal in slowly while stirring to achieve a smooth consistency. Continually stir it until it starts to firm up. After a couple minutes, if it hasn’t firmed up, add more cornmeal. If it’s too firm, add more water (or broth).

You can either stir the cooked mushrooms in with the polenta or you can place them on top as I did. Once the polenta has been stirred, you want to cool it to room temperature. Remove from heat and leave uncovered (so it doesn’t sweat too much). Press the mushrooms into the top and let cool 30 minutes.

Roasted Tomato Passata

This is one of the easiest sauces to make, and it’s also rather impressive, because you roast your own tomatoes rather than using a can. It takes about an hour and a half all told.

8 – 10 small to medium sized tomatoes
Olive oil (buckets of it)
Salt and pepper
1 red onion, diced
3 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh basil or oregano leaves – a large handful
1/2 tin (1/4 cup) tomato paste
1 bouillon cube

Heat your oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake them until they pop – check them every 10 minutes. You want them to be soft and wrinkled and for the skin to split.

While you’re roasting the tomatoes, dice your onion and mince your garlic. Use a generous amount of olive oil – 1/8 cup or more. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat and add the onions. Once they’ve started to go soft, add the garlic. It burns easier so should be added later. Cook til soft – until the tomatoes are pretty much done.

Crumble the bouillon cube into the saucepan of onion and garlic. Add the roasted tomatoes once they’re nice and soft. You’re going to want to crush them with the back of your wooden spoon. Mix the tomato paste with hot water in a separate bowl or cup – don’t use much, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup – and then add it to the mixture. You want to simmer the sauce as long as you can. Make it fragrant and lovely. Once you’re 5 – 10 minutes off of eating, add the chopped basil or oregano leaves, put a top on that saucepan, and let it simmer the flavours together. Serve over top your polenta.


Handmade Butternut Squash and Oyster Mushroom Ravioli

butternut squash and oyster mushroom ravioli tossed with kale pesto, with kale and red capsicum

I made my own pasta from scratch for the first time using this guide. Of course I did this for a cook-off; I rarely go to so much effort for myself and Kaylie doesn’t eat at home too much lately. (She’s been developing a new menu at Perch which means a lot of food testing.) You’ll want to have your filling prepared before you make the pasta, because once you start, your hands will be busy for quite a while.

If you don’t want to make pasta from scratch, you can easily go buy spring roll or won ton wrappers and use them instead. Check the ingredients as some have eggs or other crap in them. Vegan ones are fairly easy to find.

You can serve these with a variety of sauces. I made a limey red curry sauce (delicious with ravioli), hence the ginger in the filling, but we also ate them tossed in pesto (as pictured above). Your call. You could eat them with a plain old tomato sauce, or just with margarine!


1 butternut squash
1 tbsp oil
5 cloves garlic
1 loose cup oyster mushrooms (approximate – I used 1/2 a “container”) – alternately use any kind of mushroom, diced, or skip mushrooms altogether
1+ tbsp Earth Balance or other margarine
1 tsp ground ginger or other spices – your choice for flavour (tarragon, cumin, or rosemary would be nice)

Preheat your oven to 350. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise, brush the cut sides with oil, and lay cut side down on a baking sheet. Throw the garlic cloves (still wrapped) on the sheet too. Put it in the oven and roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the squash is soft to a spoon. Your garlic might start to burn – take it out when it’s loose in its skin.

While your squash and garlic is roasting, separate the oyster mushroom heads from their stems. The stems are a lot tougher – you’ll use both but you’ll have to cook the stems longer. To cook the mushrooms, either brush them with olive oil and throw them in with your squash and garlic for about ten minutes, or saute them in a frying pan with a touch of oil.

Start making the pasta dough while you’re roasting squash – you’ll have some downtime.

Once the squash is soft and somewhat caramelized, scoop it out of its skin with a spoon and mash it with salt, margarine, and ginger. If you choose to forgo mushrooms, you might want to add some more spices.

ravioli - butternut squash filling

Handmade Pasta

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup liquid
1 tsp oil

Combine the flour and salt. Add the oil to the liquid; if you want flavoured pasta, substitute tomato paste, pureed spinach, curry, or whatever you like for part of the liquid. I steeped lime leaves and fennel in 2/3 cup boiling water til it cooled and used that to make my dough. Add the liquid to the dough. Mix until it starts to form a ball.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic – about ten minutes. Add more flour whenever necessary to keep the dough (and your hands) from getting sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it sit for ten minutes. (I let mine sit for an hour and a half while I went to go pick up a mattress, but I don’t recommend it, because it mega stuck to the plastic wrap.)

Separate the dough into eight; take one eighth of it and wrap the rest to keep it moist. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it’s as thin as you can make it. Cut it into shapes – I made squares, but rectangles and triangles are nice too. Don’t stack your noodles! You’ll want to hang them ’til you use them; following the instructions, I temporarily hung mine on my cooling rack.

ravioli - drying

Now that your noodles are prepared, you’re ready to stuff your ravioli. Spoon a little bit of squash and a piece or two of mushroom on to each piece of dough – I do about eight at a time. Fold them over and press the edges with a fork to crimp them closed. I like to press them from the top and the bottom.

Yes, there are a lot! You can easily make about 50 ravioli with this recipe. If you get tired of making ravioli, slice your fresh pasta into long thin noodles or any type of noodle you like. You can dry them and keep them.

ravioli - folding

Once you’re ready to eat them (after you’ve spent your entire life folding ravioli), all you need to do is drop each one in boiling water, then remove it with a slotted spoon once it floats – about 3 minutes. After the boiling step, you can eat them right away, or you can fry them or bake them if you want a less slippery texture.

How impressive! You’ve just made ravioli – from scratch!

Vegan Eggplant Parmigiana

This is based on a recipe from The FatFree Vegan Blog, but modified to be not quite so low fat. While we are health-conscious in this house, that usually means going for a bike ride or choosing wine over beer. Gotta have a vice, and mine is rich food. Serve this dish to anyone who thinks that vegan means bland and healthy.

(This dish does have only 2 tbsp of oil in it.)

I served this with a caesar salad featuring homemade croutons. Holy shit.

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Avocado and Sundried Tomato Raviolini

I wish I had a photo for this, but damn damn double-damn, I don’t. I made this for a vegan cookoff in March or April. The cookoff was avocado themed, and I actually ended up winning with this dish (tying with Corinna’s avocado noodle). Here, however, is the recipe. It’s incredibly simple and incredibly delicious.

Avocado Raviolini

1 medium to large avocado (or 2 small avocados), with pit and skin discarded
3 hydrated sundried tomatoes, minced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 lemon, juiced or 1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Mash all of these ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and freeze.

1 package won-ton or spring roll wrappers

Look at the ingredients as some contain egg. I bought the larger spring roll wrappers and cut them into rectangles. You could also make fresh pasta dough from scratch if you wanted to be really ambitious. You can often find these wrappers in the frozen section and/or the Asian import section of a grocery store. Alternately, you could use phyllo pastry, though in that case I am not sure how you’d best cook the ravioli afterward – perhaps by baking it?

Prepare the wrappers by cutting them into square or rectangular shapes. Keep in mind that you will be stuffing these and folding them over. I like a rectangle shape that I then fold in half. The size and shape is up to you.

Once your avocado mixture is frozen – give it an hour if you can – you’ll want to prepare a paste for closing the ravioli up.

3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp water

Mix these together in a small bowl. You may need to prepare more of the paste later.

Make yourself a rolling/stuffing/filling station with a lightly floured surface, your bowl of paste, a fork, your wrappers, and your frozen avocado mixture. You will also want a receptacle for the filled ravioli, like a baking sheet or plate. Spoon 1 tsp of avocado mixture on to a wrapper, apply paste along the edges with your fingertip, fold the wrapper over, and crimp it closed with the fork ON BOTH SIDES. Set aside, and repeat until all of your wrappers and avocado are gone.

You may need to use less or more than 1 tsp avocado for each ravioli depending on the size of your wrappers. If you overfill them, they are more likely to break when cooking.

Cooking the ravioli

You have two choices here. When I prepared these for cookoff, I flash-fried them and then drained them with paper towel. However, another method that I think could work really well is this.

Lay a piece of wax or parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cover it with a single layer of ravioli; try to keep them from touching each other. If you have more ravioli than that, make another layer, with a piece of wax or parchment paper. Top with a final piece of wax or parchment paper.

Freeze the ravioli for at least an hour. Now, you can cook them by dropping them into a pot of water that’s already at a rolling boil for a minute or two, OR you can fry them, OR you can bake them (a hot oven for a short period of time).

The key is that you don’t want the avocado to overcook. In fact, when I prepared my dish I froze the avocado so it would stay no more than room-temperature while the wrappers cooked.

I served this with a sundried tomato cream sauce.

conchiglie pasta tossed with roasted campari tomato and portabellini sauce with steamed kale and fresh basil

Oh, how delightful vegan summer food can be! Yesterday we hit the Trout Lake Farmer’s Market in Vancouver and, in addition to seeing adorable little families, queers, and puppies, also managed to pick up a bunch of local organic produce. It was a beautiful day for the market, though maybe a bit hot – still – we went early in the morning and then laid on the grass for a couple of hours daydreaming before taking a 1:30pm end-of-the-market walk back through. That’s always a good idea because sometimes the vendors give you free leftovers, like perfect organic basil.

As you can see from the above (click any image to load a bigger version) we picked up a bag full of yellow and orange bell peppers, six cucumbers, a little aubergine, a bag of portabellini (smaller portabello) mushrooms, a pint of beautiful Campari tomatoes, and a handful of basil. Did you know that portabello mushrooms are just fully-grown crimini mushrooms? I just learned this. I just love these succulently juicy mushrooms.

We also stopped at an Italian store to get some pasta and capers. Unfortunately, the pasta they make fresh there has eggs in it, so we bought a bag of dried conchiglie (shell) pasta. I wonder if there’s anywhere in town to purchase freshly-made vegan pasta?

In addition to all this delightful food, we were also able to pick some fresh, tender, flavourful kale from our garden.

conchiglie pasta tossed with roasted campari tomato and portabellini sauce with steamed kale and fresh basil

This was a quick but delicious meal. Click through for the recipe. Continue reading

yam gnocchi with a lemon-dill reduction, zucchini fettucine, spinach, and roasted red pepper wrapped asparagus

Kaylie’s brainchild and hard work – we made this for Lindsay (and Robert as well, but unfortunately he was indisposed with a bad case of food poisoning and had to suffer only hearing about it later). The gnocchi, which neither of us had ever made by hand anymore, was surprisingly easy! We also made some with russet potatoes, but it fell apart… gonna have to try that one again. Anyway, here’s the recipe.

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