Ooey Gooey Ratatouille

Hey there stargazers and daydreamers,

I have a legitimate excuse this time. I was in Ireland. For part of the time that has elapsed since the last entry. To make up for my lack of posts, I am going to entertain you today AND tomorrow! So, I attempted to create ratatouille. I used a skeleton of a recipe from a vegetarian cookbook boasting meals in thirty minutes or less that also have no fat. Recipes like this, I ordinarily do not trust, however, it was surprisingly the only recipe I had from all my cookbooks (bouche bée!). Yet my taste testers gave it a four out of five star rating, which I take credit for because I doctored the recipe.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, washed and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large-ish tomato, sliced
2 medium zucchinis, cut into thin slices
3 large garlic cloves
4 tbsp hazelnut oil (or olive, grapeseed)
1 (28-ounce) can herbed crushed tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp oregano
2 bay leaves
salt n’ peppa to taste
fresh basil, optional

Heat half of the oil in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until 75% translucent. Add zucchini, salt and pepper. Stir, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the somewhat-to-mostly cooked vegetables to a bowl.ImageImage

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Add the remaining oil the the skillet (you will notice I used a pot – BIG MISTAKE). Add eggplant and sauté while stirring carefully so you don’t ruin the fragile and elegant eggplant slices. Add garlic, thyme, bay leaves and half of the crushed tomatoes. Cook for five to ten minutes, stirring semi-frequently so nothing burns.

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Place the eggplant & tomato mixture into a separate bowl. Add the remaining tomatoes and oregano to the pot for about two minutes.

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Layer the tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Then decoratively layer the eggplant, followed by the zucchini and onion. Repeat until you are out of ingredients! Arrange the sliced tomato on top and bake, covered, at 350 C for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is bubbly. Remove the lid and bake another 10 minutes. Garnish with basil et voila! I forgot to photograph the finished product, so this is the pre-bake. It could have been more beautiful. Hopefully the taste made up for the lack of visual enchantment.

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That’s a Wrap!

Salutations, Dear Reader. This week I am attempting to create a vegan version of the delicious ‘Yoga Wrap’ which I had at Bohemia, an eclectic, grassroots type bistro in Barrie, Ontario. Bohemia’s wrap is made with chicken, so I decided to replace the main protein component with tofu.

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Here are my ingredients:
1 block extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
1 granny smith apple, cubed
Juice of one lime
1 cup veganaise, plus extra for spreading
1 tbsp yellow mustard
3 tbsp medium yellow curry powder (or however hot you like it)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Some sort of grainy tortilla (I like flax)
Dijon mustard (to spread on wrap)

Begin by heating the oil on medium heat in a frying pan. Add the garlic, ginger and 1 tbsp of the curry powder. Stir frequently so it does not burn for about one minute.

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Add the tofu to the pan and allow the spices to coat the tofu completely. Turn the heat down and let it simmer. (This photo is pre-coated tofu)

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While the tofu is simmering, chop your fruits and vegetables! I realize the ginger is in this photo, that should already be chopped and in your pan. My order of taking these was boofy whack, y’all.

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Stir your tofu to make sure it hasn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan and burned, then toss all the freshly chopped goodies in a decently sized bowl and admire your handiwork.

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Add the lime juice, veganaise, mustard, curry powder, and salt and pepper.

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Give it stir! Give it a whirl! Add the tofu and taste some of that bizz-nazz, because it’s the shiz-nazz.

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Grab a wrap, spread the desired amount of veganaise and dijon on there. Scoop as much or as little of your filling upon the wrap.

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Wrap up that big (or small) boy! MANGEZ!

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I served this to a guest who gave it a four (out of five) star rating. It was pretty good, but I think something was missing. I may add more salt next time, or more garlic, maybe some red chili flakes. It was tasty but missing a little ‘zip’. The ‘Yoga Wrap’ has red onions in theirs, which may have been the missing link. Regardless, give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Happy eating to you, my Dear Reader.

Paramount Polenta

Hey there, pilgrims! Alas, the sacred vows I made have been broken. My evil twin reared her ugly head and pulled me down beyond the depths of procrastination into Goshdarn Plumb Lazyville. I had to hitchhike my way back, whilst balancing the chaos that is my life precariously upon my back. What’s that you whisper? “Excuses, excuses”? Fair enough. Behold, my life is made of coffee spoons and mason jars.       IMG_1059So. What is cooking in my kitchen? This week I experimented with polenta, which I have only tasted fried. I thought there must be something else. I thought I would try a roasted vegetable polenta lasagna. What is polenta? It is salty cornmeal in a tube. It can be sliced like tofu and has the consistency of cream of wheat. It is a great alternative base, especially for those who are gluten-free. Here are the ingredients I used:

1/2 an eggplant
1 red pepper
1/2 large white onion
8-10 asparagus spears
1 zucchini
1/2 tube of polenta
1/2 jar of marinara sauce
2-3 tbsp hazelnut oil (olive oil would also be fine)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
salt n’ pepper, to taste
3/4 cup grated cheese or daiya (I did a corner of daiya and the rest old white cheddar)

Hazelnut oil was a gift from a lovely house guest which will likely be featured in many recipes as experimentation, hence why it is in this recipe!

hazelnut oilPre-heat the oven to 425 F and dice and/or cube all the vegetables and sliced the polenta lengthwise. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions, garlic and spices until it is quite fragrant and the onions were becoming more translucent. I’m not actually sure how much oregano and basil I used because I did the ol’ pinch and sprinkle, but I was generous. Also, I think fresh basil would have been lovely. If you are using fresh, put it in after the vegetables.

Add the vegetables and cook for 6-8 minutes.

vegLooking so fresh and so clean! Now add some marinara, not the full 1/2 jar yet because you need to save some for later, probably 1/2 cup. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so.

veg in potTest some of that deliciousness with a clean fork. Add a little salt and/or pepper if you feel it needs it, or more sauce, or more basil, or whatever it seems to be lacking (unless it is just perfect). Remove from the burner and let it be.

Grab a 21×21 cm pan (or 9×9 inch pan) and put the remaining marinara in the bottom. Layer the polenta atop as you would lasagna noodles.

polenta polenta in saucePour the vegetable mixture over the polenta, sprinkle whatever cheese or daiya on top, cover in tin foil and pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes to allow some of the moisture to bake off and to make the cheese crispy!

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I was not patient enough to crisp the cheese, so this is the result of 35 minutes:finalI had dinner guests to help me test this puppy out, and they gave an overall rating of 4 stars. On the side, I included a tossed salad with enoki mushrooms which was really tasty. All the rumors about their buttery taste and soft texture are true! A really delicate mushroom, which I think would also be a good sprout replacement in wraps.

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Also, for those who are poor or are curmudgeony about different ingredients, enoki mushrooms are usually between $1 or $2 and an entire tube of polenta is around $3 or $4, so although the ingredients are unique, they are not bank-breakers.

Go forth and be bold in your eating experiments! Healthy can be fun and adventurous, regardless of what all those fuddy-duddies say about eating like rabbits. Fruits and vegetables are infinitely more exciting than meat and potatoes.