Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brown Rice Penne Pasta with Tempeh Scramble and Freshly Made Pesto

I was proud of tonight's dinner - I joined my wife at an Indian cultural program which adjourned for the provided dinner around 9 or 9:30p. We didn't find the food to look so great and were hoping to eat at home, anyway, so I cooked. I was happy that I was able to make pesto from my recently harvested basil and cook dinner, all in just over an hour.

This pesto (see my recipe below; I didn't follow it exactly) batch turned out a bit too salty, so I "diluted" it with more toasted pine nuts plus some walnuts and additional oil, but was still good. I sauteed finely cubed tempeh for a few minutes then added less than 1/4 jalapeno, also cubed finely, for a little heat. A minute or two after that, I added a little bit (maybe 2 tablespoons) of 1/4" or so chopped red onion, and just cooked another minute or two to leave the onion still crispy and only partially cooked.

I purchased a new (for me) organic brown rice penne pasta by Tinkyada, a Canadian company found at . Coincidentally, I had purchased it the same day or just shortly before last Saturday's potluck dinner, and the host served this same brand of pasta - I loved it then (and tonight!) for its taste and slight texture. I mixed the tempeh scramble and two tablespoons or so of the pesto into the pasta. We loved it!

More than a month ago (!), the night before we left on our recent Southwest U.S. vacation, we had an extra artichoke leftover. We were full so I tucked it into a container in the refrigerator, thinking it may survive ten days or so for our return. I didn't get to it and was going to compost it today, but was surprised that it seemed fine! So I heated it, halved it, and served it simply without the typical dipping sauce that I prepare, but just with a little Earth Balance margarine spread on top to melt down into the gaps, as well as salt and fresh lime. It was good!

I also served leftover panzanella (bread salad) from class Thursday night. Tonight's was my wife and my favorite dinner in some time!

Yesterday we also had a good dinner - my Mom and Dad had some of their nice friends over for dinner, and asked us to join them. In addition to my Mom's tasty dishes (e.g., stuffed eggplant, lentil dhal "soup", rice, potatoes), one of her friends brought a delicious spinach-whole wheat poori (fried bread). My wife contributed a dessert; she usually doesn't cook, but experimented a few days ago with an Indian recipe with coconut and dairy - but she used hemp milk. It came out very well, and I helped her to encase it in filo puff pastry and bake it - it was good and not too sweet!

By the way, this afternoon we sold out of our Thanksgiving feast with over 500 attendees. It looks like we'll again be the country's largest vegetarian Thanksgiving; we have attendees coming from at least 42 cities in 7 states. We've had good mentions in numerous places so far this year, including a number of local papers (e.g., the November 15 Carrboro-Citizen, November 14 Raleigh News and Observer, November 10 Durham News (story Have a very vegetarian holiday), and November 7 Independent) as well as many online sources.

Making basil pesto:

  • Collect 2 cups (measure when packed down) of fresh basil leaves from your garden or market, rinse, and dry

  • Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, till browned (about 3-5 minutes); alternatively, skip the pine nuts and use, untoasted, 1/4 cup walnuts.
  • Put the basil and nuts into a food processor. Also add 3-4 cloves of garlic, 6T (just shy of 1/2 cup; 1c=16T) extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 t salt, and optionally 1T nutritional yeast. You can also add in a few tablespoons of sundried tomato, 1/2 t coarse ground black pepper, and, if you want a bit of an onion flavor, 1 scallion. Puree until smooth or the consistency you desire.
  • The end result will be grainy; if you are aiming for a more traditional "runny" pesto sauce, use almost 3/4 cup or even more olive oil, as you prefer (remember that oil is 100% fat; each T of any vegetable oil is 14g fat and 120 calories - so 3/4 cup has 168g fat and 1440 calories!). You can start with more oil or add it and quickly blend it in at the end.


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