Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's So Funny 'Bout Peas, Lovage, and Understanding?

Welcome to 2013's Vegan Month of Food! Last October I used the annual herbivorous blogfest to explore the recipes and food-ways of WWII Britain, which meant eating a lot of root vegetables and gaining a renewed appreciation for the culinary austerity of my mother's childhood. This year we'll be revisiting the classic hippie cookbooks to which I turned as a fledgling teenage vegetarian just learning to cook.

Many of these books were already pretty old-timey when I first started using them, but as an aspiring retro-flower child I found the ubiquitous inclusion of wheat germ, sunflower seeds, tahini, and the maximum quantity of cruciferous vegetables enormously appealing, For years to come, many of my standby recipes were found in and/or adapted from Laurel's Kitchen, The Vegetarian Epicure (the original and Book 2), The New Farm Cookbook, Diet for a Small Planet, The Moosewood Cookbookand the latter's sequel, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

My plan for the coming month is to revisit and revise some old favorites - lots of which were heavy on the eggs, milk, cheese, and butter - and also try some things that I never got around to back in the day. Based on the dirtiest, most dogeared and tamari-stained pages, it's safe to expect vegan makeovers of many soups, stews, casseroles, quick breads, and those hearty savory pies (my personal favorite) with which Mollie Katzen won my adolescent heart.

But to get us started, I'd like to offer an update of one of my own long-established standards; once upon a time the nooch would have been cheese, the white beans would probably have been chickpeas or soybeans, and everything would have been sautéed in butter. This version has all the old-school earthy appeal of the original without any of the cruelty, exploitation, or cholesterol. It also makes enough for leftovers, and is the perfect accompaniment to a green salad (optimally including alfalfa sprouts and avocado) and some cheap jug wine.

Baked Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms
~ 1 lb. pasta (whole wheat penne would be perfect)
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 30 minutes
~ 3 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. "no chicken" bouillon
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. dry rosemary
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, halved and sliced
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 5 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, oregano
~ 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
~ 1 15 oz. can white beans, including liquid
~ 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
~ 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I blitzed two toasted slices of Ezekiel bread in the Cuisinart)

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a blender or food processor, purée the soaked, drained cashews with the soy milk, bouillon, nooch, and rosemary until smooth. Set aside.
~ Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and sauté the mushrooms over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, combine the olive oil and margarine. Sauté the onion over medium heat for 10 minutes, until softened but not browned.
~ Add the garlic, cherry tomatoes, and dry seasonings. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Add the beans with their liquid, stir to combine, and cook 10 minutes more, until the vegetables are soft and the beans are getting a bit creamy.
~ Stir in the cashew/soy milk mixture and cook for another 5 minutes and remove from heat.
~ Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions, reserving one cup of the cooking water.
~ Combine the drained pasta with the vegetable/sauce mixture, adding a bit of the reserved cooking water  if necessary.
~ Transfer the whole business to your waiting casserole and top with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with a little paprika, add a quick shot of cooking spray, and cover with foil.
~ Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are nicely browned.
~ Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.


  1. There are no peas or lovage! I am deceivéd!

    This looks delicious though, so I guess it is okay. :D

  2. Well, beans are sometimes called peas...the lovage is metaphorical! XOXO

  3. Mm I can't wait to make this!