(Slightly Modified, Almost) Fat-Free Minestrone

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

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I enjoyed this soup more than a month ago and finally decided to share it. (IBTD. D, as in depression. It saps you of your will, man.)

Anyway, it’s another one from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano: (Almost) Fat-Free Minestrone. Modified by me, because I am a fussy, hard to please mofo.

This recipe calls for zucchini, which I didn’t have, and celery, which I don’t like: so I swapped them both out for more carrots, which I have in spades and love love love. It also has shredded cabbage – two cups – but I used pulverized spinach instead (hence the soup’s dark, greenish color).

I’ve been trying to sneak spinach into more and more dishes. It amazes me how some of the prominent, healthy vegan bloggers I follow can (claim to?) consume a pound of leafy greens a day. Like, I can’t even. How do you find the time to eat anything else?

I guess that, when you cook them, they wilt down to a more manageable volume. But I either have to eat my leafy greens fresh and crunchy or shredded until they’re unrecognizable; easily mistaken for spices. Cooked greens have a texture entirely too similar to spoiled greens for my taste.

Luckily, since spinach doesn’t have a strong taste, it’s easy to slip into other foods. Pasta sauce is a favorite, and when combined with basil it goes well in pesto. I’ve even made banana ice cream with a hint o’ spinach!

Since this minestrone has cabbage, I figured it’d be an easy swap – and it was! Aside from the coloring, you don’t even notice that the spinach is there. My food processor made such quick work of the spinach that it looks like extra basil. Like, a crazy amount of basil!

The soup is savory and filling, like minestrone should be. There aren’t a ridiculous amount of ingredients – Klein’s recipes are usually pretty simple and no-nonsense – and the whole thing doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to throw together. (Although you do start out by simmering the veggies for an hour, so there’s that. But there’s very little babysitting involved!)

Barley Soup with Roasted Red Peppers and Mushrooms

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

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Can you believe that I’d never had mushroom barley soup before last night? It seems like all the canned versions contain milk. Or maybe that’s just an excuse, and I’d been too persnickety to bother up until now. Either way, I have been MISSING. OUT.

This recipe’s from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano, which I love more and more with each passing meal. (I make the Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic so often that I have the recipe memorized.) It’s easy to throw together, with less than a dozen ingredients and only about 35 minutes of cooking time. And if you let it simmer a little long, don’t worry: it’s very flexible! It’s nearly impossible to overcook.

I had to make a special trip to find quick-cooking barley and roasted red peppers, but it was so worth it. (Usually I roast my own peppers, but I wanted to get the weight just right.) It’s hearty and savory, and much more flavorful than I expected, given that there are only a few spices.

The leftovers are heating up on the stove top as I write this. I may or may not have drooled on my keyboard while typing that last line. THE VISUALS.

The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2014 edition!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

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You guys, I baked so many cookies this year, I’m having trouble keeping track of them all! In addition to sending a basketful to our omni neighbors, I also mailed a giant box to my parents. They’re in the midst of a remodel, and the entire first floor of their house is pretty much unusable. Luckily my mom’s sis is conveniently located next door, so they’re been crashing at her house a lot.

(Fun story: I sent all their gifts to my aunt’s house – since they’d have to lug everything over there anyway – and Every. Single. Package. was delivered to my parents’ house instead. I.E. THE WRONG HOUSE. I expected that of USPS, but UPS? COME ON GUYS.)

Still, I thought cookies would be a nice gesture, seeing as they don’t have a kitchen of their own at the moment.

Plus we got to eat the extras our own bad selves, so bonus.

As per usual, most of the cookies were from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I pinky swear I’ll review this year. I had a few pretty epic fails, but overall I’m happy with my progress – I get better and better at cookies every year!

 

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Bacon Maple Biscuits for the dogs from Emma’s K9 Kitchen. With accidentally vegan bacon bits & lots of love! These smelled amazing when baking, but also lost their festive reddish hue. Not that the dogs much care. (The giant ones are for my mom’s big guy, Copper.)

(More below the fold…)

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pesto Pizza

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

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C’mon, admit it: you KNEW this was coming. Every time I find myself with an abundance of produce, I invariably figure out a way to put it on a pizza (P.I.Z.Z.A.).

Before trying my hand at a butternut squash pizza, I did a little googling to see what others have done; this is kind of a mashup of some of the ideas I found. The roasted squash was heavily influenced by the Fall Harvest Butternut Squash with Almond-Pecan Parmesan from The Oh She Glows Cookbook – and the Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds from Vegan Italiano provided the inspiration for the pesto recipe, which is much more moist than usual. The liquidy pesto is insurance against the oven, which always dries my pesto pizzas out more than a little bit.

The result is hella tasty, and definitely one of my best uses of butternut squash to date.

(More below the fold…)

S is for Skillet-Style Lasagna

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

S is for Skillet-Style Lasagna [Betty Goes Vegan] (0006)

In the middle of making this dish – lasagna noodles sticking to the bottom of the pan, tomato sauce splattering every oven-adjacent surface – I thought to myself: “I’ve made a huge mistake.” But when the first bite passed my lips – tender noodles, rich sauce, melty cheese – it pretty much made the whole hour-long affair worthwhile. Worth repeating, actually. This is some forking good pasta, people.

In theory, the Skillet-Style Lasagna from Betty Goes Vegan is supposed to be a rather no-fuss, no-muss, one-dish meal. And while it’s true that it only requires one dish – a skillet, and the bigger, the better! – it’s a lot fussier than the directions let on. I suppose this could be due to my choice of pasta noodles: the recipe calls for mafalda noodles – a sort of mini-lasagna – which I was unable to find anywhere. (And believe you me, I looked!) I briefly considered using elbows or rigatoni, but that felt too much like cheating, so I opted for regular lasagna noodles broken into smaller pieces instead. Some of the mafalda I found online resembles lasagna sliced horizontally – long, thin, ribbon-like strips – while other versions look like shrunken lasagna noodles. At first I tried replicating the thin, frilly noodles, but by the end I was in such a rush that I snapped the lasagna into thirds, resulting in square-ish pieces.

So basically you fry the onions, garlic, and soy meat in a large skillet, and then throw in the pasta sauce, spices, and (uncooked) noodles, along with a little extra water for cooking. The noodles cook on the stovetop, along with the sauce, supposedly in ten to twelve minutes or so. Perhaps the lasagna is thicker than malfada, but I stood over that hot stovetop for at least a half hour before the lasagna was al dente. And it’s not the sort of job you can leave unsupervised, either; more than a few minutes without stirring, and the noodles clung to the bottom of the pan. Dislodging them proved no small task, either – the skillet was so full that more than the gentlest of nudging sent pasta sauce flying over the rim and onto the backsplash. (Exhibit A: My filthy mess of a skillet.)

S is for Skillet-Style Lasagna [Betty Goes Vegan] (0002)

When done, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese (Daiya) and bake at 350F for five minutes or until the cheese is melted. I kept in in an extra five, just to make sure all the noodles were baked through. When all was said and done, a half hour meal took me at least an hour to make.

THAT SAID. This is some ridiculously good pasta. Next time I’ll probably try it with a smaller, thinner pasta – something that cooks in less time and isn’t too terribly difficult to stir. That should speed things along. Also, the soy meat is optional, imho. It makes a nice, meaty sauce, but you could just as easily swap it out for veggies or whatnot. I like veggies, veggies are good.

On the side is a slightly different version of the Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano. Instead of canned tomatoes and fresh green beans, I used what I had on hand, namely fresh tomatoes and canned green beans. It’s not quite as phenomenal as the original, but it’s pretty damn close. Good enough for me, seeing as my fridge is stuffed with fresh grape and cherry tomatoes from the garden.

I could seriously eat this meal all day.

S is for Skillet-Style Lasagna [Betty Goes Vegan] (0011)

 
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Holy Stromboli!

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

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So my first time making stromboli wasn’t quite the disaster it could have been, thank dog. But the call was close, my friends. (Short version: the recipe called for an ungreased cookie sheet and – surprise! – it took me ten minutes to pry the baked stromboli off the sheet without ripping them in half.)

The recipe is Stromboli with Red Pepper Puree, Spinach and Basil from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano. Actually it calls for arugula, but I swapped that out for pureed spinach, which is quickly becoming my preferred method of enjoying spinach. I also added some fried strips of Lightlife bacon, which after cooking was too rigid to leave as-is – I had to break them into little bits. Instead of homemade dough, Klein uses refrigerated French bread dough, which is a huge pain to work with. Whereas you’re supposed to roll it into smaller rectangles, it would rather retain its long, tubular shape. Cue: begging and tears.

Tasty as hell, but it’d be way easier to make my own dough from scratch instead of relying on the refrigerated stuff. Waaaay too hard to work with.

Spaghetti per Mimi – and a new-old favorite!

Monday, April 29th, 2013

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After tearing through Vegan Italiano, I finally sprung for a new cookbook that’s been on my wishlist forever: Nonna’s Italian Kitchen by Bryanna Clark Grogan. Yup, I bought another vegan Italian cookbook. OF COURSE I did. My last name is Garbato, after all.

I’ve been kind of slow to start this one; the recipes are interlaced with tips and anecdotes about Italian cooking, so that the cookbook really deserves a more thorough reading than I’ve been able to commit to as of yet. But when I was hit with an undeniable pasta craving, I cracked it open and decided to make the first pasta dish I came upon: Spaghetti per Mimi. It’s a really hearty sauce with tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, Kalamata olives (my favorite!), peppers, onion, garlic, and some other goodies. Easy and delicious!

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Served with a new-old favorite, Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic from the aforementioned Vegan Italiano. This is hands down one of my favorite recipes in the book, second – well, third – only to the pan-fried pizza and roasted pepper sauce. Melt in your mouth good, I now buy a pound of fresh greens beans every time I go to the store, just so I can cook up another batch. Way better than green beans have any right to be.

Angel Hair with Mushrooms and Garlic

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

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Yet another dish from Vegan Italiano (though the recipe calls for rotelle, but whatever. I do what I want.)

Quick and tasty, with sauteed onions, garlic, and mushrooms. The black olives were my own addition just because I love them so.

Topped with homemade vegan parmesan and served with a side o’ garlic bread. Carb coma in 4, 3, 2, 1….

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Roasted Carrot and Potato Soup & Sicilian Bread Pie with Broccoli

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Epic mealtime was epic.

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After a slew of cold and rainy weather, I was craving some hot soup and warm bread something crazy. Enter: Roasted Carrot and Potato Soup from Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook (hint: not just for vegetarians!) and Sicilian Bread Pie with Broccoli from Vegan Italiano, by Donna Klein. (Reviewed yesterday, in point o’ facts!)

Rich, creamy, and super-savory, the soup is a new favorite. It takes a little extra planning, since you’ve gotta roast the veggies beforehand, but it’s so worth it. (Bonus points for using leftover roasted vegetables.) You’re supposed to process the whole shebang in a blender or food processor, but I like my soup a little chunky, so I set about 1/3 aside – you can spot a stray carrot piece in the photo above.

Pre-blender, the soup resembles chicken noodle, with potatoes playing the role of featured carb. Also quite delicious! Not creamy, but still totally nom-worthy.

The bread pie was more of a pain; the refrigerated french bread dough didn’t take kindly to my efforts to reshape it from a rectangle to a circle. But I persevered and, while the pie ended up a bit misshapen (like all my pies inevitably do), it was still really good.

The top and bottom pieces didn’t completely fuse together, so I was able to remove the top piece for dunking purposes. Turns out that this soup? Was made for bread.

Craving, satisfied.

Cookbook Review: Vegan Italiano, Donna Klein (2006)

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Why hello, never ending vegan pasta bowl!

five out of five stars

I received a copy of Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano for Christmas – and in the few short months that I’ve owned it, I’ve managed to tear through nearly three dozen recipes. This is unprecedented for me, cookbook hoarder and master procrastinator that I am. But I also love, love, LOVE pasta, and since the dishes all sound so incredible, my biggest challenge was choosing just one to start.

(As it turns out, the inaugural recipe was Frying-Pan Pizza, and it was a game changer. Hearty, doughy pizza! In less than 20 minutes! MAGIC!)

Among the recipes I tried:

* Italian-Style Butter Bean Dip (page 4)
* Sicilian-Style Tomato Spread (page 13)
* Cauliflower Soup with Parsley (page 16)
* Baked Vegetable Soup (page 21)
* Tomato and Bread Stew with Pasta (page 27)
* Olive Croutons (page 34)
* Farfalle with Sundried Tomato-Mint Pesto and a side of Fresh Broccoli Marinara (pages 53 and 99)
* Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds (page 54)
* Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala and a side of Roasted Carrots with Rosemary and Sage (pages 55 and 101)
* Fusilli with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts with a side of Green Beans with Walnut Sauce (pages 56 and 103)
* Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon (page 58)
* Linguine with Broccoli Sauce and Garlic (page 59)
* Linguine with Caper and Green Olive Marinara Sauce (page 60)
* Linguine with Potatoes, Green Beans, and Spinach-Walnut Pesto (page 62)
* Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce (page 64)
* Potato Gnocchi with Sundried Tomato-Almond Pesto (page 73)
* Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie (page 76)
* Spaghetti with Red Wine and Rosemary Marinara Sauce and Skillet Garlic Bread (pages 78 and 138)
* Baked Herbed Rice (page 83)
* Lemon-Pine Nut Rice (page 84)
* Microwave Risotto with Saffron (page 86)
* Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes (page 89)
* Baked Mixed Vegetable Casserole (page 125)
* Pesto Pizza with a Semolina Crust (pages 132 and 130)
* Frying-Pan Pizza (page 134)
* Baked Garlic Bread (page 138)
* Spinach Pesto Pasta with a side of Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic (pages 144 and 102)
* Lemon-Basil Pesto Sauce (page 145; paired with angel hair and sweet corn)

I blogged each dish as I went, so I won’t bother rehashing each one here – but you can click through the recipe titles to see photos and read more about any given recipe.

Vegan Italiano Mosaic

As was expected (did I mention my carb addiction?), there were very few dishes that I didn’t absolutely love. Growing up my mom made pasta on a weekly basis, but my experiences were mostly limited to spaghetti and meat sauce. Klein introduced me to a number of new vegan favorites: the ‘Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce’ is out of this world, as is the ‘Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie’ – and the ‘Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala’ and ‘Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds’ aren’t too shabby either. And the ‘Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon’? AH-MAY-ZING. I never would have thought to mix breadcrumbs with pasta, but now I’m putting them on all the things.

(Adding quotes because the recipe titles seem to bleed together otherwise.)

(More below the fold…)

Lemon-Pine Nut Rice

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

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Lemon-Pine Nut* Rice from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano. Quick, easy, filling. Even faster if you swap out the scallions for a quarter of an onion. Scallions, why are you always such a slimy pita?

* You got me! Those are really almonds, not pine nuts, which I don’t really care for. In other changes, the rice wasn’t quite as lemony as expected, so I added some lemon zest for that extra sour kick. Muy bueno!

Linguine with Caper and Green Olive Marinara Sauce

Friday, March 29th, 2013

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Another one from Vegan Italiano. This one’s really simple: you just mix capers and green olives with pre-made marinara sauce and voilĂ !, dinner is served. I think Klein intends for us to use a saucier marinara, like you’d find prepackaged in a jar – but I broke out the last of my homemade marinara sauce (made and frozen last fall), which is super-chunky, more like sauteed veggies than a “sauce” per se. Whatever, it was tasty!

Plus I had dinner ready in record time – less than thirty minutes by my watch. Gotta hold onto this feeling for when I’m sweating to death over a hot stove next September. “But you can be lazy and useless all winter, self, and that’s what counts!”

Linguine with Broccoli Sauce and Garlic

Monday, March 25th, 2013

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…from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano. Simple, quick, and super-tasty, with just nine little ingredients. (Though I cheated and added a tenth: namely, some sundried tomatoes I had sitting around, taking up space in the fridge.)

What’s that? Not a fan of broccoli?

(More below the fold…)

Cauliflower Soup with Parsley

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

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To be honest, cauliflower soup sounded rather boring to me. But I had a head of cauliflower that needed eating, and it’s a good thing it did. Because this soup? Way better than it has any right to be!

The recipe – another one from Vegan Italiano – is super-simple and includes a mere eight ingredients: cauliflower (duh!), veggie broth, garlic, olive oil, and assorted seasonings. (I added a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast to give the soup a slightly cheesy taste, but most of the flavor cred goes to garlic.) Boil the cauliflower, sautee in a stockpot, add the other ingredients, simmer, blend, serve. Dinner in 30 minutes or less.

Well, assuming your other half didn’t accidentally misplace the top of the blender, thus sending you on a 15-minute scavenger hunt for the damn thing.

Served with the remaining Kalamata olive spread. Ditto: the last of the Italian bread. We seriously need to do some grocery shopping.

Angel Hair with Sweet Corn and Lemon-Basil Pesto Sauce

Monday, March 18th, 2013

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The title pretty much sums it up! The pesto recipe is from Vegan Italiano; though it’s meant for use on a Grilled Portobello Sandwich, I appropriated it for angel hair: roughly a double recipe of pesto per pound of pasta. I also tossed in a few handfuls of almonds because protein, and added some steamed sweet corn to the pasta – I guess because it’s yellow and thus evocative of lemons? Certainly the corn looks more lemony than the mostly-green pesto. (Damn you basil!) For whatever reason, the just corn called to me.

Anyway, really tasty. I’m thinking about making a lemon chicken pesto pasta dish using this as the starting point. Gotta hit the grocery store first, since I’m pretty much out of everything, chicken strips included.

Pro tip: If the pesto’s a little thick to easily mix with the pasta, add a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Not only will this make it more stir-able, but it’ll intensify the lemon flavor. YUM.

Sicilian-Style Tomato Spread (and a French Bread Pizza!)

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

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Since I’m currently stocked up on bread (two for one at Sam’s Club, yo!), I decided to try out the Sicilian-Style Tomato Spread from Vegan Italiano. It’s quite simple and easy to make: tomato paste, capers,* garlic, red wine vinegar, and some other goodies; stir by hand – no blender or food processor required – and you’re good to go.

You’re supposed to serve it on baguette bread, but I toasted a slice of French instead. Makes for a rather delicious snack.

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Like all spreads (hummus! butter bean dip!), I couldn’t help but try this one on a pizza – a French bread pizza, to be precise – and it was (predictably!) FABULOUS.

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To prevent the spread from drying out, I mixed in a tablespoon or so of water. Simply spread on the bread (or whatever) like you would a pizza sauce, add your toppings, and bake at 400F for 15 to 20 minutes. Easiest lunch ever.

* Capers! I love capers! They make me feel as though I’m going on an adventure or something. Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, here I come!

Potato Gnocchi with Sundried Tomato-Almond Pesto

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

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So good I can’t even!

And fast: it took me all of 20 minutes to make, and that’s counting the seven minutes it took to bring the sundried tomatoes to room temp in a mug of hot water. (Pro tip: Remember to take yer tomatoes out of the fridge an hour beforehand, lest they be encased in a block of congealed fat.) It must be a while since I last had gnocchi, because I was surprised – no, straight-up shocked – to find that it only takes 2-3 minutes to cook the suckers. When did this happen, people?

I wish Klein included a recipe for homemade gnocchi in Vegan Italiano, but tragically she does not. Not that it’s difficult to find locally; I just want to take a shot at some fancy flavored stuff. The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook has some pretty tasty looking recipes for Potato Gnocchi and Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Caramelized Shallot Rings, so maybe I’ll give those a try some time soon.

Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

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I finally tried one of the stovetop risotto recipes from Vegan Italiano and I’m happy to report that it’s waaaaaay easier than using the microwave. It requires a bit of babysitting, sure, but since risotto is a side it’s safe to assume you’ll be tethered to the stove anyway? idk, I made this for lunch, but while multitasking: the dogs’ food was cooking at the same time, so I was kept plenty occupied. (They got noochy brown rice with broccoli and spinach. Yum!)

This is also way tastier than the packaged stuff, and doesn’t require much extra effort.

As for the ingredients, the title says it all: arborio rice, zucchini, and sundried tomatoes, along with some onion, basil, salt and pepper, and veggie (really vegan chicken – hence the yellowish tinge) broth. Pro tip: you’re supposed to soak the (dry-packed) tomatoes in warm water for 15 minutes and then drain them, but I soaked them in the broth instead, and then just poured the whole shebang in with the rice. Worked like a charm, with tomatoes absorbing some of the flavors from the broth. Awesome sauce, or whatever the kids are saying these days.

Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce (and a Side o’ Kalamata Olive Bread!)

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

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Donna Klein brings it with a recipe for pasta sauce you can make IN THE OVEN!: Linguine (really fettuccine) with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce. Just mix all up it in a bowl, transfer to a greased baking pan, and cook for thirty minutes and voilĂ ! – you have red sauce. Okay well that’s not entirely true; you have to pulverize half of it in a food processor before serving, but that’s simple enough. The sauce is a really tasty mix of green peppers (or, in my case, green and red) and stewed tomatoes in a 1:1 ratio. The peppers sweeten up a bit when roasted so the sauce has a really rich, complex taste: savory, but with a hint of sweetness.

I doubled the recipe in order to use up four bell peppers that were decomposing in my fridge much more quickly than anticipated; consequently, the peppers took nearly twice as long to roast in the oven. The more you know!

Served with a side of Kalamata olive bread. I know, that was quick right? The bread is topped with the Olive Crouton mix (also) from Vegan Italiano, plus an extra tablespoon of olive oil. Probably I should have tripled the oil, at least – the bread-slash-toast was a little on the dry side, though still tasty. Even so, that’s alotta oil!

Homemade Olive Croutons

Friday, March 8th, 2013

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So I finally made those Olive Croutons from Vegan Italiano and HOLY SHIT ARE THEY GOOD! So good, in fact, that I’ve already dispensed with the salad altogether. That’s right, I’m eating these suckers like popcorn, by the fistful. No regrets. Especially not since I overbought Italian bread last week and it was either this or rock-hard sammies.

I did have a little trouble getting the Kalamata olives to adhere to the bread. Instead of “tos[sing] well to thoroughly coat” (yeah right!) I rubbed the topping in by hand. Much better!

With a few tweaks – namely, more olive oil – I bet this would make a damn fine topping for baked Italian bread. Filing that one away for future use.