tomatomofo: my favorite pasta with the last of the pretty tomatoes

tomato_shallot_pasta

I made this last week and forgot to photograph it, so the other night, when Tom was on his way home from work, he tried to pick up some more of these pretty heirloom cherry tomatoes. Alas, he was told by the grocer that he’d missed them by a couple of days; the season was over. Boo!

But then I found some at another store. Yay!

This is one of those 10-minute meals, where it’s totally possible—if you’re coordinated and don’t have a migraine at the time (which I did)—to seemlessly and fluidly put together everything and have it all done at once. It’s super hearty, and with the Beyond Meat, you should be able to convince an omni partner or friend that even vegans can eat full, well-balanced meals.

What’s in it? (Serves two hungry adults)

  • 1 pint of the prettiest cherry or grape tomatoes you can find
  • 2-3 shallots, depending on the size (you want about a handful), sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped if the leaves are still pretty big
  • ½ package Beyond Meat (I like the grilled one best), cut into bite-size pieces
  • olive oil, salt, red pepper (dundicuts, if you can find them)
  • ½ pound pasta—maybe just under, ’cause this is a lot of food!

While you’re getting your water boiling, chop everything so it’s ready to go.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and add the shallots. After a few minutes, add the Beyond Meat, salt, and pepper.

Your water should be boiling now, so get that pasta going. After about 5 minutes, toss your tomatoes in with the shallots and pile on your spinach. After about a minute, stir it all up and check for seasoning. If your tomatoes aren’t acidic enough, you could add a dash of lemon juice.

The pasta should be done by now, so drain it and stir it all up.

summer hikes and salsa, what more do you need?

You know what I love about Portland? No, not the groomed-to-look-like-you-just-entered-puberty mustaches, No, not the beer, either. It’s the summer. And it’s the easy access to so many hikes, from the wide, fire-road paths of Opal Creek to the wrap-your-knees-before-you-set-foot-on-dirt Angel’s Rest/Devil’s Rest. Both of these are easy half-day trips, but what if you only have a couple of hours free and want to get your hike on? Hello, Forest Park.

It’s not the most isolated park, sitting on the northwest edge of Portland, but it does have trees and dirt and little critters and fresh air.

Look how pretty!

forest_park_sky

And what’s the perfect food for after a hike? Without fail, by the time I reach the car, I’m hankering for a black bean and veg burrito. But sometimes you don’t feel suitable for public sight, so your burrito joint is out, and you don’t have the time and energy to get home and make a burrito. What you can do is a super quick corn-and-bean salsa.

corn_bean_salsa

In the past, I was resistant to the idea of beans and corn in my salsa, but during a trip to Chicago my sister-in-law, Brenda, made it and I was a convert. It’s a full meal, with everything you need to refuel—and it takes care of that burrito craving. So what’s in my salsa?

1 cup (or a can, rinsed) of black beans
1 can of sweet corn kernels (low-sodium, if you can)
½ white onion, diced
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes (a good double-handful), choppy chopped
1 large avocado, diced (2 if they’re small)
hot peppers! (I like a habanero and an anaheim, for balance), diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
juice of a lime

If you are, in fact, eating this right away, you might need to cheat and add some heat with cayenne, and if your chips aren’t salty you might want to add a dash of salt to the mix.

Anyway, off to celebrate more summer!

trader joe’s mozzarella…maybe just not for pizzas

trader joes mozzarella

I so wanted to love you. I saw you on Instagram and Facebook, and I was all, “Oooh, new stuff to put on pizza. I wonder if it’s a cheaper, slightly inferior Daiya.” You know how Trader Joe’s knock-offs work. Of course I bought it the first chance I got. (Oh, and if you’re looking for it, I found it hanging from a peg alongside the other shredded cheeses.)

Experiment one: pizza. Duh.

cornmeal crust

Since it was an experiment, I threw together a no-hassle pizza using this cornmeal crust from Vicolo. They also make a spelty one, which I believe is gluten-free. [Thanks to Kittee, my eyes have been opened: Spelt is not gluten-free. From what I gather from collected sources, spelt is not “modern wheat” and is lower in gluten, so some with mild gluten insensitivity can handle spelt.]  They’re better than you’d expect from a frozen crust and are the perfect size for a light meal for two.

trader joes mozzarella shred

Right out of the gate, you can tell this isn’t Daiya. The shreds are brittle, like Parmesan. I tasted it—this won’t be sprinkled on a salad anytime soon…but then again, I never sprinkled cheese on my salads before.

trader joes mozzarella pizza

And it browned up really fast—way faster than my crust cooked. I didn’t mind that so much, but you can see how shiny it is, right? There was definitely a pooling of oil on the top, like with Tofutti slices. (Dear Tofutti, I love your cream cheese and Cuties.) It wasn’t inedible, but it was as if there was no cheese on it, just a layer of…i don’t know.

Experiment two: pizzadilla.

trader joes pizzadillas

It’s totally a quesadilla with mozzarella (and whatever your twisted little heart desires: fakey sausage, onion, spinach…), which you obviously dip into sauce. How’d it go? It melted easily, but what it melts into is just a liquidy, tasteless substance. I again noticed how oily it was—and checked the nutrition label on some Daiya and it’s the same, 6 grams of fat for ¼ cup. Weird, how the oil separates out and is so much more noticeable.

After about four bites, the rest went to the compost bin. The fun, junkfood factor was not worth it. The flavor-and-texture: bad-for-you ratio just didn’t cut it for me, and I was not at all compelled to finish it. I was just sort of grossed out.

Do note that some folks seem to like it. A friend yesterday said she used it in a panini and it worked fine, so maybe as a minor ingredient rather than the star it needs to be in a pizza. I checked, and Club Trader Joe’s doesn’t seem to have tried it yet—I’d be curious to hear from a nonvegan. This is one of those things I’d hate to have as an introduction to vegan foods, because it just doesn’t do “vegan” justice. We’ve come too far to be dragged down by the likes of inferior fake cheeses!

Have you tried it? Had any luck with it? How?!?!

the laziest awesomest pasta

I love that this is our middle-of-the-week, no-time-to-cook, don’t-care pasta dish. It takes about as much time and effort as that spaghetti with Ragu you just might have grown up with.

Step One: Empty contents of this jar into a skillet. Add chopped-up kale and extra garlic if you feel like getting a little fancy.

Step Two: Open freezer to extract packaged gnocchi from the sea of apple halves (for future breads-n-cakes), burritos, and Gardein products. After cutting package open, dump contents into boiling water for a few minutes. As for the gnocchi, I really like this Rising Moon Organics frozen stuff. It can be pricey, but I try to pick up a few when it’s on sale—it’s frozen, so you don’t have to worry about it. I’ve had bad luck with the packaged, shelf-stable gnocchi, but it could be me. Gnocchi’s tough, you know?

Step Three: Toss gnocchi in sauce. Split into two bowls and cover with nooch. Then catch up on laundry or whathaveyou.

tempeh, without the makeup

Usually, when I eat tempeh, it’s fried up, sauced up, grilled up, or sliced wafer-thin and marinated to bejeezy.

Tonight I sat down with a simpler tempeh. Unspoiled, like the girl in that book who later got way into speed—before the speed, when she still made her own clothes and helped her little sister with her homework. Tonight’s tempeh was simply steamed in a bit of Bragg’s, liquid smoke, cayenne, and garlic powder for just a few minutes, then browned in a skillet with a touch of olive oil.

If you’re new to tempeh or just have never been crazy about it, this may not be for you. I, however, adore its naturally nutty flavor, so throwing it on a bun with onion, pickles, and lettuce does the job for me. (Tom added mustard to his, but that’s ’cause his senses are clogged with allergies and he can only taste half of what he eats.) With the steaming, the texture is light and tender—and there’s no question what you’re eating. It’s not a super-processed veggie burger.

I don’t know if you can get it where you live, but my co-op (People’s) has giant slabs of tempeh that I cut up into meal-size portions and freeze. It’s way cheaper than the 8-ounce blocks and it tastes fresher too!