I have a shameful addiction I'm just going to let off my chest right now.
I am a Food Network crack whore.
I know, I know. I have to avert my eyes from the television more times than I care to acknowledge whenever Paula Deen makes love to the camera with her demon-like eyes before placing raw meat in her cast iron skillet. Their lack of Vegan, even vegetarian friendliness, is more than appalling. But something about that damn channel fascinates me. Most of the time, I just leave the television on as I shimmy about my kitchen. As I listen, I learn. And during more than one culinary experiment in my kitchen, I've spoken aloud and even tossed about witty banter as if a camera and audience were 10 away.
Go ahead and laugh at me now. I'm a geek's dream date.
Occasionally, The Food Network airs programming about eating contests. I can't say I've really payed close attention to many of them, but I do know that it's usually the tiniest of the bunch that can miraculously slam down 10,000 coconut cream pies. Right now, I really regret not giving those shows a closer look. Well, not really the shows, per se. But they have to air some kind of behind the scenes reality-show style training tips like the Olympics, right? If a 100 pound girl can eat 500 donuts, she definitely doesn't just wait to compete until PMS hits. She's doing something to prepare!
Why the deep remorse? I'm writing this post from the city of San Francisco, which has more delicious Vegan dining options than my body has room to accommodate. True, I am one tiny little fucker. But I can EAT. I feel like I need to develop a solid pre-San Fran training regimen that would allow my body to eat double it's typical amount. I usually only spend 3-4 days here, and I never leave for Los Angeles feeling like I've conquered enough of my "must try" list. I either need to condition my stomach to expand twice it's normal size, or start smoking weed again.
I do, however, always leave San Francisco firmly remembering why I love to cook. Two days ago, I enjoyed the pleasure of my second annual birthday dinner at Millennium Restaurant. While everything I've ever tasted there has been more of a gastronomic experience than a meal, this visit definitely one-upped the last. They had a special seasonal tasting menu with a Morel Mushroom dish listed, and I knew I had to taste it. I bat my long blonde lashes at the waitress and sweet-talked my way into asking the chef if I'd be allowed to order that one plate off the tasting menu. Let's just say at least my flirtation skills are more finely tuned than my stomach's food capacity. My palate was spoiled rotten.
Ike's Place was also every ounce as amazing as Quarrygirl divulged on her blog. It made for a perfect lunch before marching my Queer little ass around San Fran for the rest of the day. I still have 24 hours left in this fair city, and I plan to hop on the plane tomorrow morning looking pregnant. I will eat my regrets away.
Anyway, my recipe. My lady unexpectedly had the day off from work on my "Blog Cooking Day" last week. I told her that my day was mostly free, but I needed to spend a few hours in the kitchen that morning. "What are you making?", she asked. "It's like a fancy Vegan version of Hamburger Helper. Have you ever had Pasta Puttanesca?".
"Puttanesca. It's kind of Italian for Whore's Pasta."
"What? You're really gross sometimes".
"No. Seriously. Go on Google and look it up. During trying times in Italy, the Brothels were owned by their government. The sex workers were given very little time to shop or cook food, and this dish became well known because they could throw it together quickly. That's why I'm making it today. I want us to have time to hang out."
"Are you calling yourself a whore?"
"Get out of the kitchen. I'll be done in an hour or two".
Well, if I am really a whore, even a Food Network crack whore, at least I have a healthy hobby.
Roasted Plum and Marjoram Puttanesca "Hamburger" Helper
For the Pasta and Sauce...
- 1 Pound Dried Conchiglle Pasta
- 1 Large Red Plum
- 1 1/2 Pounds Canned Pureed Tomatoes (Pomi brand are my favorite)
- 2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- 3 Sprigs Fresh Marjoram
- 1/2 Pound Large Black Olives, pitted and quartered
- 4 TBSP Capers, drained + 1 TBSP Reserved Caper Brine
- 1 TBSP Red Miso Paste
- 2 TBSP Tomato Paste
- 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Dr. Cow's Cheese or Vegan Parmesan, grated (optional)
For the Ground "Beef"
- 1 batch Beef Style Seitan (recipe follows), ground in a food processor (Or 1 12oz package frozen Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Sausage Crumbles)
- 1-2 TBSP Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Dried Basil
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- Pinch of Spanish Smoked Paprika
- 2 TBSP Water
First, roast the Plum.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Halve the plum, remove the pit and squeeze a lemon over top of it. Line a small baking dish with foil, and place the plum halves inside with cut side facing upward. Place about 1/4-1/2 tsp Vegan Margarine atop each half, then bake 35-45 minutes until completely softened. Set aside to cool.
Next, make the Ground "Beef".
Note: If you're using pre-packaged "Beef" Crumbles, be sure to defrost them before browning in the skillet.
Place the Olive Oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ground "Beef", Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, and Paprika . Cook until the "Beef" is begins to brown, then add the water to the skillet to deglaze. Continue cooking until the "Beef" is browned and heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.
Lastly, make the Sauce and Pasta.
Begin a large pot of salted water boiling for cooking the Conchiglle pasta.
Combine the 1 TBSP of Red Miso Paste with the 1 TBSP of Caper Brine, and stir until the Miso Paste is completely dissolved. Set aside. (This is meant to take the place of Anchovies an authentic Puttanesca recipe.)
Heat the 1/2 cup of Olive Oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, then add minced Garlic and Marjoram Sprigs. Saute about 30 seconds. Add the Pureed Tomatoes to the Oil and Garlic, then the Olives, Miso/Brine mix, Capers and Tomato Paste. Stir in the Red Pepper Flakes, then taste for Salt and Pepper.
Lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the sprigs of Marjoram, then add the cooked ground "Beef" to the sauce. Simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes, then remove from heat.
Cook the Conchiglle pasta in the large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain well, toss with a touch of Olive Oil, then mix with the Sauce and "Beef" crumbles.
Serve garnished with Dr. Cows or Vegan Parmesan (optional).
“Beef” Seitan Dough:
- 1 1/2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten
- 1 1/2 cups Water
- 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon® No Beef Broth paste (not diluted in H20)
- 2 TBSP MimicCremeTM (or Alternative, pg 33)
- 8 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon® No Beef Broth (8 tsp paste diluted in 8 cups water)
- 6 dried Shitake Mushrooms
- 1/8 cup Tamari
- 1 Portobello Mushroom Cap, chopped
- 1 TBSP Garlic Powder
- 2 tsp Onion Powder
- 2 Bay Leaves
First, add all of the Seitan Broth ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil. While it's heating up, using a stand mixer, mix together all of the Seitan Dough ingredients. Don't over-mix...just let the mixer go until it's all combined. The dough should be softer than usual.
Using your hands, mold the dough into a large ball. Flatten the ball out on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut into six pie- wedge shaped pieces. Drop into the boiling broth. Let it cook for about 1 hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Using tongs, remove the "beef" from the broth, and place in a colander to drain. Allow to cool until ready to use.