Tag Archives: pasta

Sagra – An Italian Dream come true for vegans and the gluten free in East Austin

Italian food seems to be universally loved. I did an informal poll in my office asking “do you like Italian food” and everyone said yes, and then looked at me with questioning eyes as if I was about to give them a piece of lasagna or something. Sorry y’all! Somehow getting vegan Italian food in Austin isn’t always that easy. If you go to a fancy place they often use eggs in the fresh pasta. Rarely do they have vegan specials or delicious vegan cheese. You’re lucky to get Daiya at a pizza place here. If you go to a shitty place – I’m looking at you Olive Garden- you can’t even order a salad. I guess it comes shipped in pre-made from god knows where.

There is one place, however, in Austin that does it right, not only does Sagra have a multiple course vegan menu but they also offer homemade cashew cheese and special meaty substitutes. When I went the other day I was also impressed that they were able to assure me, without asking, that the table bread was vegan and they could easily leave items on the side so my dining companions could have their precious cheese. And yes GFers, they can make any dish gluten free. We started with the polenta fries with fried brussels and chickpeas in a salsa roja. I was a bit worried with all the fried items that this dish would be a bit greasy or heavy but it wasn’t at all, the large portion was enormous for the three of us too. 

We also tried the Barbietolla which was roasted beets, fruit mostardo, truffle salt. This dish was very sweet but a really nice complement to the polenta dish and we all enjoyed it as well. 

My favorite dish of the night was undoubtedly my pizza. When I originally looked at the menu I thought I might try the Macaroni al Forno, (baked macaroni and cheese, cashew cheese, spinach, bread crumbs, truffle oil, spinach macaroni), but once I saw the pizza I knew I had to try it. 

If you know anything about me, you know that I love olives and Star Trek and the only thing that could have made this pizza better would have been if I was sharing it with Captain Picard. Or actually, if they hadn’t run out of cashew cheese. No matter! I didn’t miss the cheese in the least and they added pine nuts to compensate. The pizza is called the Maialina and comes with pesto sauce, walnuts, black olives. Interestingly, they chopped up the walnuts and olives together which gave the pizza a salty delicious meaty texture. From now on it’s going to be my go to home topping. I loved it! And the large was so big that I got to eat it for the next few days although obviously it was much better in the restaurant.

So Sagra is a big win for me, their cocktails were fantastic too and they have a nice happy hour special so when it cools down I think it might become my after work meet up spot. Let me know what you thought or think if you try it out! I’m curious about the rest of the menu.

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Vegan Dad’s Tempeh Ribs

As time goes on I like tempeh more and more, does that mean I am getting a vegan palate? I really had a craving for BBQ for the last few days but I didn’t want to make anything difficult so I made my sauce and just cooked the tempeh in it. I didn’t even grill it as Vegan Dad suggests but I will make it that way the next time I have the grill out. It is such a smart idea to make the sauce in the cast iron on the grill while you make everything else! I also made my own barbecue sauce that was terrific! No recipe though, I had to freestyle. I made cornbread muffins from Vegan Lunch Box but I used blue cornmeal and they turned out way too sweet. I don’t think it was from the blue cornmeal but the 2/3 of a cup of maple syrup I put in. It seemed like too much but I will never learn to trust my instincts when it comes to following baking recipes in a book. I also made macaroni with earth balance and fresh herbs that was good but screamed I can’t wait to get paid.

Pignoli & Portobello Pasta

This pasta is a beautiful combination of recipes that Mr. Smurf made for us. The spinach pasta had a simple dressing of toasted pignoli nuts, parsely, lemon, and garlic and is a recipe from Dreena Burton‘s Eat Drink and Be Vegan. The balsamic marinated mushrooms from the Veganomicon added a special note of sweetness to the dish. It was fabulous, I love big spinach noodles.

Vegan Klingon Gagh

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip . ..

Tom Robbins Jitterbug Perfume

Does that mean that Beets are inherently Klingon? Especially when you consider that the Kingons were based on the USSR….

Obama doesn’t like beets but I think they are a perfect food, they are even the name of a fake pop band. Eastern European countries are especially known for their love of the beet, most notably used in Borscht. Most Westerners usually roast them in the oven or cut them up into salads or they roast them and then add them to salads.  Beets are also used to sweeten some dishes.

Healthy types enjoy beets not just because of their taste but also because they have many desirable nutritional qualities.

RawVeg.info says they are both detoxifying and full of antioxidants

Beets are another high-antoxidant veggie, with an ORAC score of 1840, and a total antioxidant concentration of 1.98. They contain many healthful substances: betaine (aka: trimethylglycine, TMG), betalains, betacyanin, betanin, folate, iron, and fiber. Betaine helps convert homocysteine into methionine, preventing heart disease.

Beet fiber seems to be particularly health-promoting. Pectin, a soluble fiber in beets, binds toxins, heavy metals, and excess hormones that have been dumped into the gut from the liver. The toxins are passed out instead of being reabsorbed.

Some people say that beets can even extend your life.

I like to buy them at the farmer’s market with the greens attached because then it is two meals for the price of one. The beet greens have a similar nutritional profile to Swiss chard and mixed with the beet root they are pretty much an unstoppable force of goodness.

Cruising the net the other day I came across a very strange recipe that utilized both the root and the leafy part in a pasta dish. Beets and Greens pasta moved to the top of my list of recipes to try since I just got some at the farmer’s market on Saturday. The meal was quick, easy, and fantastic. Mr. Smurf gobbled it down like he had been standing in a line all day waiting for beets.The noodles turned intensely fuchsia from the beet juice which might even make it kid friendly. Beets are very earthy tasting though so maybe not.

I changed the recipe just a little bit and later realized how much it resembled a certain Klingon dish so I give you:

Gagh

Ingredients

1 bunch beets, with greens, divided and chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1  small onion, diced
.5 tsp dried red pepper flakes
5  garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1  cup vegetable broth
3  Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2  Tbsp. each of  basil and chives
Salt & pepper
½ lbs linguine

First, get a pot of water going for the pasta and then prep all the other ingredients. When the water is boiling add cook the pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, saute the onion and red pepper flakes until the onions are soft. Then add the garlic and the beet roots. After another minute or two when the beets are soft add the broth, the zest, and the beet greens. Cover and cook until the greens are wilted. Add the herbs, the lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook for another minute before you toss with the pasta.

Enjoy with (vegan) Bloodwine!

Grilled Romaine

As much as I have always loved olives I have always hated lettuce. Once, when I was maybe 11 my Mom picked me up some Taco Bell, she was headed out for the night and I was very excited that instead of a nice family meal I would get to eat my favorite fast food. When I opened up the package I found that although I had clearly said “no lettuce” my food was covered in nasty bits of shredded lettuce which I particularly detest because it is nearly impossible to remove and in addition to this insult, the main component of my order completely missing. She didn’t have time to go back to Taco Bell so I called and asked to talk to the manager. He apologized and said I could come back and get replacements and I said something like “Hey Mister, I am only 11 and I am not old enough to drive, you are going to have to deliver the food” and somehow, he did! I can’t imagine working at a Taco Bell and delivering some punk ass kid some food but this guy was one and a million and I was thrilled. Anyway, as I grew older I started to eat more greens, Spinach became a favorite thanks to the Zelyanitsa (Serbian Spinach Souffle) and Fettuccine Florentine and later I started to like all the other greens one by one. The key, for me, is that I usually only like them cooked.

I picked up some beautiful Romaine at the Farmer’s market and I was thinking about trying the Ceaser from the Veganomicon but Mr. Smurf adores Ceaser Salad and I was worried he the vegan version wouldn’t work for him and I still don’t really like lettuce so I wasn’t sure what to do. He told me his favorite was at a place he used to work where they grilled the Romaine so I did a search and came upon Susan V’s very similar situation. She has a ridiculously easy recipe for Grilled Romaine that I tried. Basically, you cut the lettuce in half, grill it on a George Forman, and then sprinkle on some balsamic white vinegar and sunflower seeds. I also had some carrots and bread that were on their last leg so I made some croutons and chopped the carrots as well. It was a good thing too because for some reason my grilled romaine wasn’t nearly as beautiful as Susans’. Maybe I didn’t have the heat up high enough because it didn’t really carmelize. I was excited to see that she is part of a event called Tried & Tested where other bloggers can make her recipes and write about how it went. Folks, even though it wasn’t as pretty it tasted great! This was a way for me to actually enjoy lettuce!I also made my first stab at a Muffuletta Pasta recipe that has been invading my mind when I am really hungry. On my first trip ever to New Orleans with Farmer Smurf we went to a pasta place that had this on the menu and it was delcious, smoked meats and olives were heavily involved and I was in love. The version that I made yesterday had onions, lots of garlic, green olives, bacon bits (many brands are somehow vegan), and the parsley sauce I made the other day. It was good but I need to work out the ratios. Mr. Smurf thought it was a weird mix if flavors and then he later went on to make a wrap with hummus, rice, chorizo, salsa, and kale which I thought sounded very strange. To each is own!

May the 4th be with you!

Macamole & Tempeh Sticks

I have been working on a recipe for Green Chile Macaroni, this version was more like Macamole but it was really freaking good anyway but the real one is forthcoming. The tempeh was just marinated in apple cider vinegar and soy sauce and then dipped in cornstarch and pan fried. They looked exactly like those chicken strips at fast food places.

This meal is brought to you by the planet Earth

Sunday morning was a race against time to get to Whole Foods before they stopped selling breakfast tacos. If you know me at all then you know that I love the Whole Foods taco. It takes vegan breakfast tacos to a whole new level with a wide range of choices and terrific tortillas. At my office it is common practice that if you are more than 15 minutes late you must stop at Whole Foods to get tacos. Anyway, on Sunday I was speeding there because although Dan and I have shared a multitude of breakfast tacos together he had never tried the Whole Foods version because we usually don’t venture downtown early enough on the weekend (and by early I mean before noon). At 11:35 I was just finishing up my yoga session when I looked at the clock and realized that I was going to have to book-it. Luckily, there was zero traffic on Sunday morning and I shot right up to 6th and Lamar only to be foiled by the seemingly thousands of people in the Whole Foods parking lot. It was total chaos! There was excited holiday shoppers mixed with large groups of tourists and organic moms with their organic babies in PVC-free strollers all slowly walking or rather ambling around seemingly with no particular goal. I finally made it to the counter and bought my tacos with seconds to spare and all was well with the world.

While I was at Whole Foods, I stopped in the bulk section to pick up some chocolate chips (damn you Isa and you fantastic cookies) and I checked to see if they had Puy Lentils which neither the co-op or the health food store by my house carry. Success! They did so I bought a bag and brought them home fueld with a desire to finally create one of the recipes that I had felt just out of grasp merely one day earlier. Of course, I didn’t have anything specific in mind so I started thumbing through the Voluptuous Vegan and came across a lentil recipe that claimed to be phenomenal. The technique is that you cook the lentils with a bouquet garni of fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary and when it is done you push half the lentils through a strainer to remove the hulls and fibrous materials. Then you saute that with some red pepper flakes and garlic and add it back to the other lentils. It was very flavorful but still missing an assertive component so I decided to roast some mushrooms in the oven with balsamic, soy sauce, and garlic. I made some pasta a covered it in the lentils and the mushrooms, a side of nice ass greens and a wonderful ridiculously healthy meal was created. I think the only other really earthy ingredient that I could have added would have been chestnuts… or truffle oil… or maybe some Bulgar instead of the pasta…