Another crock pot recipe for those who care. I’ve actually made versions of this recipe before; but I wanted to see if I could make it in a crock pot. Set it and forget it. It’s typically a high set up, high maintenance, customized presentation piece — a variation of this recipe is what I used as my cook to impress dating recipe.
It worked on my wife so I feel like it was fairly well perfected. Now I needed to figure out how to cook this thing as a husband and a Dad. The game changed. It’s about volume, speed, efficiency, all without compromising taste.
Umm … nailed it?
I don’t usually start with a summary but for this dish it feels like the right move. The dish stacks up as follows. Layers of eggplant, tofu ricotta, and portobello caps separated by a homemade tomato basil sauce.
I just made this up as I went along but the dish should play out well as recreated below. For example, I thought about the pesto at the very last minute, so I whipped it up based on what I had in the house (spinach, walnuts.) I make this dish to taste … so taste everything before you assemble!
Total Ingredient List
- Eggplant (1 Large)
- Mushroom Caps (5)
- Silken Tofu (1 Brick)
- Parmesan Cheese (Shaved)
- Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes (32 ounces)
- Fresh Basil (1 Bunch)
- Spinach (1 Bag)
- Pine Nuts or Walnuts (1 Bag)
- Olive Oil
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Garlic (4 cloves, 4 Tbsps Minced)
- Other Cheeses (optional for a layer and for topping)
Preparation 1: Vegetables
- Eggplant – Slice them however you want. Lengthwise. In circles. The goal is to leave the skin on, leave them at equal thickness, and enable yourself to cover the entire base of your crockpot. I went with circles for a majority and then cut some of the remaining circles into half circles to fill in the gaps. Salt them generously on either side and leave them on a paper towel for 25 minutes. You’re sweating out the water. Walk away. Walk. Away.
- Mushrooms – Clean the heck out of the caps. Lightly season them with salt and pepper. Lightly brush them with olive oil. Bake them on 350 for 15 minutes. Expect them to sweat out quite a bit of water so get a plan with some lip. After these have cooked, save the excreted mushroom water in a separate bowl and then put the Mushrooms on a plate, covered.
- Eggplant Revisited – Brush off the salt and sop up the water (paper towels are fine) then prepare them as you would the Mushrooms, but be a little more generous with the olive oil. Bake them at 350 for 25 minutes.
- Move on to the tofu and the sauce.
Preparation 2: Blender
- Tomato Sauce – Easy peasy. Coat a saucepan with olive oil. Pour in the tomatoes and the mushroom water. Season to taste (salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, handful of basil leaves diced, 1 clove of garlic.) Let it simmer a bit. Toss all of this into a blender and get it to the consistency you’re looking for. Taste it and make sure you like it. Consider lemon juice, sugar, or more tomato depending on how the flavor is working for you. Rinse out the blender. You’re going to need it.
- Tofu Ricotta – Easy peasy, but you’ll need a spatula and some blender shaking experience. Crush the silken tofu to as fine a paste as you can with a fork. Toss in a half a bunch of basil. 4 Tbsps of Olive Oil. 1 clove of garlic, Salt, Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper to taste. Blend it. It should come out the consistency somewhere between a small curded ricotta and a smooth cream sauce. If you’re having difficulty blending it, feel free to add a little bit of water to get the blades whirring. Taste it and make sure you’re comfortable with the taste. This is a texture layer so you should like it but keep the flavor in context of the full dish.
- Pesto – Take the spinach, the remaining basil and garlic, equal parts olive oil, walnuts/pine nuts (1 cup), and parmesan, and season to taste (salt and pepper.) Blend. Taste and adjust until you like it. Set aside.
Preparation 3: Assembly
You’ve not got all the components together; it’s time to assemble.
- Use 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil to coat the bottom and sides of the crock pot. A spray is fine as a base but use the OO for texture and flavor.
- Add a layer of sauce. Then lay down the eggplant on top of the sauce. Cut pieces to ensure you have full coverage.
- Spoon and spread pesto over eggplant. Make sure the eggplant is well covered.
- Add another layer of sauce on top of the pesto. Keep it thin but make use of it. Consider addint a layer of parmesan here (or any cheese if you’re interested; it’s not necessary.)
- Add the mushroom caps. Distribute them the same way you distributed the eggplant. Try and cover the full pot; get creative with how you cut the mushrooms to get there.
- Add a final layer of sauce. Top the sauce with parmesan cheese.
- Cover. Cook on high for 3 hours. Every hour or so remove the lid and put a knife into the center to see how everything is cooking together. If the sauce is getting too thick, add a little water around the sides of the pot (1/4 cup, no more.)
- After cooking, remove the pot from the cooking unit and let set for 20 minutes. Top with basil leaves ribboned if you’d like. But otherwise, you’re ready to eat.
When you’re done, this is heavenly. You can eat it on its own, serve it over pasta, or put it in a sandwich. You’ll enjoy it.
I’ve been vegan for a week…except for two meals that were out of my control (thank you Mac’s Speed Shop for running out of veggie burgers last Wednesday). Meals have not been difficult to manage as we’ve discovered a few new amazing restaurants to visit (I’ve been to Luna’s Living Kitchen three times), rediscovered an old favorite (Phat Burrito makes an amazing vegan burrito), and spent extended grocery time at my favorite grocery store in the world, Earthfare.
Even after consulting with experts who make vegan food for a living, the best meal I’ve had was made for me today by my amazing wife. I’m happy to say she also managed to keep her streak alive — she’s now cooked for me exactly one time each year since we first got together. She definitely makes it count as these tacos were tasty, filling, and just downright exceptional. The key is getting substance in the taco (typically provided by proteins) via the potato, which will also provides a great contrast to the brightness and crispiness of the vegetables and lime juice. Appropriately seasoning and crisping the potato is what transforms this meal.
Why am I sharing this:
- Incredibly tasty with ingredients that are readily available at any grocery store, I believe these tacos would satisfy vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike.
- 20 Minutes (how fast can you dice?)
- 45 Minutes (it’s all about roasting the potatoes)
- 1 Large Roasting Potato
- 1 Avocado
- 1 Stalk of Celery
- 1 Small Onion
- 1 Scallion
- 1 Bell Pepper
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper
- 1/2 Can White Corn
- 1 Tsp Minced Garlic
- 1 Lime
- 1 Packet Taco Seasoning
- Corn Tortillas
- Olive Oil
- Salt, Pepper
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
- Peel potato. Cut into equal sized cubes. Mix together with 3 Tbsp Olive Oil and Taco Seasoning to taste. Make sure potatoes are fully coated. Rest on roasting pan and cook in oven for 35 minutes (agitate and turn potatoes over after 15 minutes and 30 minutes to ensure even cooking). Monitor to ensure potatoes get to right crispiness. (Tip: If you have potato/corn starch handy, consider a light dusting of the potato cubes as your final step to help them get even crispier as they roast.)
- As potatoes cook, dice celery, onion, scallion, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and combine with 1/2 can of corn (rinsed) in a bowl with juice from 1 lime and 1 Tsp minced garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. (Tip: My wife also roasted the jalapeno because she’s fancy–I’m streamlining the recipe to quicken the pace for you.)
- Scoop avocado and cut into sizable chunks. Dress with 1/2 lime.
- When potatoes are fully cooked, remove from oven. Set up assembly line of potatoes, veggie mixture, and avocado.
- Heat corn tortillas and assemble tacos. Serve with lime wedges.
- Enjoy and sing the praises of my wife, my cousin (Chanda Masi), and her buddy (Tyler).
I actually had a great dinner last night and I’m happy because I was able to cobble something together at home, quickly and easily, that was also tasty and filling. Recipe below. My wife was going to make her own dinner but she took a bite out of this and asked me to make her one. She really liked it as well — and she eats everything!
Vegan Meatball Wrap
Why Am I Sharing This:
- Because it was insanely easy and quite tasty. This is a tough time for me to go vegan since I’m still relatively immobile post shoulder surgery. The fact that I could make a meal like this with one hand means anyone out there can make this, and substitute accordingly.
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 5 Minutes
- Prepare ingredients for assembly: 1) Remove 6 meatballs from packaging (I also flatten the meatballs so they’re easier to manage); 2) Remove mozzarella cheese; 3) Slice bread accordingly; 4) Slice tomato; 5) Remove arugula; 5) Cut Jalapeno; 6) Keep spices readily available
- Put all ingredients except for bread and arugula in a bowl, stir, cover (with a plate ideally), and microwave for 60 seconds
- Drizzle olive oil onto/into bread for moisture (Optional – Crisp bread/wrap on a skillet for a few moments to change texture)
- Layer arugula on bread
- Place ingredients from bowl into/onto bread
With my inability to exercise and my natural ability to increase my waistline, I’ve had to take dramatic steps to manage my health and weight. After a few days of waffling, I ultimately decided to go vegan for one month. Actually, I wasn’t waffling. I had ordered an amazing Valdeon blue cheese from Murray’s in NYC and wanted to work my way through that as a farewell. It was worth it. Wow.
Yes, but this post isn’t about cheese! It’s about the opposite of cheese! It’s about going vegan! It’s about using exclamation points to convince myself that I can do this!
It started yesterday with a visit to Earthfare, which is a regional competitor to Whole Foods, and one which I prefer greatly. The white label options are amazing. The service is great. And the prices tend to be quite a bit more reasonable. For anyone in the Southeast with convenient acess to an Earthfare, I encourage you to visit. The meat, seafood, and poultry options are strong. And the beer and wine selection is very impressive. In this regard, it puts even the larger Whole Foods locations in NYC to shame.
Since I’m down an arm right now, I don’t have the ability to cook too many fancy things. I therefore focused on ingredients I can assemble with one hand (a salad for example) or toss into an appliance that will do the work for me (smoothies and shakes, I’m told, will be my bff).
What Did I Eat:
- Brussel Sprouts – Calm down and stop making that face. I actually made a large plate of these for some guests we had over last night and these were actually completely gone by the end of the night. It was a simple preparation (prune loose leaves, cut stems, cut in half, coat in olive oil, roast in an oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so, flip, roast for another 5, remove and season with smoked salt and freshly ground pepper). Very tasty. Very.
- Cereal – I’m actually loving Almond Milk right now. Soy milk tastes like chalk. I had a Geometry teacher who somehow managed to get chalk on her cheek. I think she would really like soy milk.
- Olives & Vegan Crackers – I’ve realized that I’m going to need to get really creative for textures and bold flavors that I usually pull from creams, cheeses, and richer sauces. Olives handle that well (as do sun-dried tomatoes). Olives kicked-up after being marinated in fresh red chilis and olive oil? Even better.
- Steamed Veggies – I spent most of the day cooking for others (including continuing to perfect my baked crispy chicken wings) so I needed quick eats. The frozen veggies that can be steamed in the pouch are awesome. I spiked them with truffle salt and had a merry old time.
- Beer – Whatever. I’m not going vegan on this.
How Do I Feel:
- I’m 36 hours in and I feel lighter. I just feel a little bit better.
- I also found a great local restaurant, Luna’s Live Kitchen, which goes vegan/local/organic. I had one of their burgers for lunch today and am a pretty happy man. Spicy, tasty, using nuts and seeds to help provide texture and then kicking everything up with a spicy hummus. I will try to replicate this burger.
I’ll post frequently. So far, I think this is going to be easy to pull off. The hardest part will be eating out in groups at restaurants that will look at me like I’m crazy.
You know? Take a number.