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Hi internetz!  I kind of got sick of tending to all of the chores of the Internet for a while (partially due to the daunting task of dealing with the lack of space in my flickr account…which I’ve been avoiding) and needed a break from blogging.  However, today I made a sandwich that I couldn’t keep to myself.

I have no idea where this little bit of logic came from (about the apples and the tofu), but the results were delicious.  I decided I wanted a toasted sandwich with an avocado-Dijon spread for lunch – something along the lines of what I created for an article in our university paper.  It was a delightfully easy sandwich made from lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, red onion, and seasoned, pan-fried tofu slices.  The spread was just mashed avocado and Dijon mustard.  The problem I was having today though is that I am currently not eating any soy products in an attempt to figure out if I have a soy allergy.  So, no tofu.

So why not apple slices?  I started by making my avocado spread, with the intention of putting lettuce, cucumber and tomato on it, and calling it a sandwich.  Then, this nagging little voice told me to look over at the fruit bowl.  The textures and flavours of the cucumber and apple just seemed to be calling out to be paired together.  This was the results:

Apple Sandwich

Apple Sandwich

1/2 avocado

Dijon mustard

1/2 apple, cut into centimeter-thick slices

handful of thin cucumber slices

lettuce

optional- a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds

2 pieces of toast.

Mash the avocado and stir in Dijon to taste.  Spread on both pieces of toast.  Assemble the rest of the ingredients onto one slice of toast, and then place the other on top.  Eat immediately.

Don’t be scared of the whole fruit-in-your-sandwich thing; this is absolutely delicious!  It went well with the nice spring weather.

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California Alfredo and Eggplant

Finally, it’s done.  I’ve attempted this recipe before, and while the flavours were pretty good, the consistency was all wrong.  Now, I’ve fixed it, and it’s ready for sharing.

Every once in awhile, I get this desperate desire for decadent pasta dishes.   I mean, I get the idea in the morning, and spend the entire day waiting for supper, meditating on the idea.  However, I’ve often felt stumped as to how to make that perfect sauce; cornstarch-thickened sauces leave a kind of sick, heavy feeling in your stomach (and lack richness), and goodness knows what’s in some store-bought soy creamers.  I suppose you could create a creamy sauce by processing silken tofu, which is tasty, but that also lacks in richness so it doesn’t always satisfy that craving.  Again, soy cheese is pretty highly processed, too.

Then, on one of those obsessive craving days, I started to think about the texture of avocado.  Really thinking about it.  How buttery and rich it is.  It occurred to me that avocado satiates that particular craving, and therefore, would make a wonderful pasta sauce.

So, the California Alfredo was born.  I just made Alfredo sauce from memory, and played around with the proportions.  On the night I got this right, I was making a nice supper to share with my mom, who, while omnivorous, is very understanding of my choice to be vegan in comparison to many other families I’ve heard of.  We ate this dish with a side of roasted eggplant (done in can-olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic), and a glass of the wine that went into the sauce.  Overall, I’m exceedingly happy with this recipe; it is kept very simple intentionally, but if you need some more flavours going on here, try adding some fresh parsley.

 
California Alfredo
 

California Alfredo

– Pasta (I used broad noodles, but choose whatever noodle your little heart desires)

– two (or more, if desired) shallots

– can-olive oil for cooking (the blended oil will be less likely to overheat, but you can use olive oil)

– three cloves of garlic

– 1/2 cup vegan chardonnay (we used Jackson Triggs) or other white or blush wine

– 1 cup plus around 1/2 cup soy milk

– lots of freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

– garnishes, if desired

equipment

– pasta pot.

– saucepan/small pot.

– immersion blender and a container that you can blend in without tossing half the ingredients to kingdom come.

– spoons, knives, and other basic utensils

(You will need to decide when the most opportune time to start your pasta cooking will be, so that you finish it at the same time as the sauce.  I’ll tell you when I started mine)

1.) Mince the shallot, and cook in some oil in the saucepan until clear.

2.) Meanwhile, pit and peel avocado, and blend with 1 cup of soy milk until very smooth. 

3.) Once shallots are cooked through, add 1/2 cup wine, and bring to a simmer.  Add garlic (minced, or put through a press).  Put on pot of water to boil for the pasta.

4.) Add the avocado mixture, whisk in, and then continue to whisk in more soy milk until you find what you feel is the correct consistency.  I added another half cup.  Season with salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer, stirring, and throw your pasta in the other pot to cook.  Once pasta is cooked, and the flavours of the sauce seem well-blended, serve with pretty garnishes and a glass of the same wine you were cooking with.

As previously noted, I’ve been working on the veganization of recipes in the Les Halles cookbook for the wonderful and highly entertaining people at Hezbollah Tofu.  First, I must say, there are many, many, dishes I don’t have any desire to attempt to recreate (most notably in the “Blood and Guts” chapter.  Even if I weren’t vegan, I doubt I could stomach half of those recipes).  My first run at Soupe Moins de Poisson left something to be desired, and I think I’ll have to try that one a few more times before it’s post-worthy.  I’m thinking the answer may be as simple as attacking the veggies in the soup with my immersionblender to change the consistency and add a little more substance to the soup.  However, the side-dish used as part of the soup garnish turned out pretty yummy.  On top of the soup you are supposed to float croutons dipped in Rouille, a French pepper paste that can be found under “Miscellaneous Meez” in the book.  It was a very, very easy task to veganize this one- I just subbed out the egg yolks for avocado, et voila!  Avocados are definitely one of my best friends when it comes to recipe alterations.  I also noticed that the flavourings in this recipe needed a little boost, and I took the liberty of increasing some of their quantities, as well as roasting the garlic in the recipe.  If you’re a raw garlic fan, simply omit the roasting, and don’t breathe on anyone after eating this.  Also, as others have noted, Anthony of Les Halles enjoys skipping crucial parts of the instructions, such as how to roast and skin a pepper.  For those of you who aren’t as fond of throwing things in the oven and seeing what happens as I am, I’ll help you out there a little.

 Rouille

Vegan Rouille

makes about a cup, based on recipe found on p. 260 of Les Halles cookbook

– 1 red bell pepper

– 3-4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

– freshly ground salt and pepper

– canola-olive oil, or regular olive oil (for roasting, so preferrably not extra-virgin)

– approx. 1/5 to 1/4 of an avocado (enough to take the place of 2 egg yolks)

– a pinch of saffron threads

– 1-3 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

– 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

(you’ll also need a toaster oven or regular oven, and an immersion blender or food processor, a small baking tray, and something like the tall container shown above to mix it all in if you’ve chosen to use an immersion blender)

1.) Wash, half, and core the pepper.  Place the pepper halves and garlic cloves in a small baking pan and brush with olive oil.  Season a little with pepper, and if you like, a little salt.  Roast at 450 degrees, preferably in a little toaster oven, as you really don’t need to heat up your large oven for this.  I believe it took between twenty minutes and half an hour to cook the pepper, and less to cook the garlic.  Both the garlic and the pepper will be done when they  are soft all the way through, and will possibly be somewhat crispy or blackened on the outside.  Once cooked, quickly throw the pepper into a bowl of cold water, and then peel the skin off.  Squeeze the roasted garlic from its peel and into either the food processor bowl or the container you plan to use your immersion blender in, along with the roasted pepper.

2.) Add the avocado, the saffron, the lemon juice, and a little more salt and pepper (leaning heavier on the pepper, and possibly omitting the salt if you don’t have good sea salt to use in the first place) into the mixing container.  Now process with either tool until smooth.  Slowly start to add the half cup of oil, continuing to process it in.  Mix well.

Now, Anthony tells you to serve this immediately.  You can do this if you want to, either using it as a garnish, or spreading some on baguette.  I’m wondering if this immediate use had something to do with the perish-ability of the egg in this spread.  I didn’t use all of my rouille at once, let it mellow in the fridge, and found it far tastier the next day.  In fact, I decided to use it as a sauce for a tortilla pizza the next day when a craving for comfort foods hit.  I topped my pizza with avocado, baby tomato slices, green onion, and some very thin slices of soy cheese.  Due to the awesomeness of avocado, I’m sure you could get away without the soy cheese.  I personally only use it on rare occasions for a treat, and even then only in small amounts, as I know it’s sooo over-processed.  The oiliness and creaminess of avocado can hold up on its own without cheese.  I broiled this little creation in the toaster oven, and then feasted.

Rouille Thin-Crust Pizza

Wow, that was long-winded, but rather overdue.  Hopefully, the Soupe Moins de Poisson will be not too long to follow.