January 20 – January 26, 2020
Monday: Warm Winter Vegetable Salad with Halloumi and Bratwurst
Tuesday: Cauliflower Bolognese
Wednesday: Chicken and Rice Meatballs with Hummus and Herb Salad
Thursday: Pork Marbella
Saturday: Dunnings Holiday Party at Tim and Hilda’s
Sunday: Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken, Roasted Potatoes,
I hope that you have not heard of the Impossible Whopper and think of the phrase as descriptive of some egregious prevarication. Alas, I, who pride myself on not paying attention to fads, the in-crowd or the in-thing, have heard of this detestable comestible. None of us should spend a nickel on this monstrous denatured food that packs a whopping 430 calories and is as fake as The Donation of Constantine or Bert Reynold’s hair.
If you want to save the planet (noble), or to extend your own life (not quite so noble) by eschewing meat, you have my admiration. But if you decide that fast-food chains are part of your solution, I can only recommend a good course in logic and common sense.*
*At the suggestion of SWMBO, who argued that I had no right to disdain a food that I had never tried, I bought an Impossible Whopper. I ate half of it – not a terribly pleasant experience. It does not taste like beef, but rather beef-like. Imagine beef bouillon cubes dissolved in tap-water versus true beef stock. Perhaps worse than the disappointing taste is the texture which begins as a sort of sponge-like disk and, upon chewing, becomes almost immediately a mush of questionable provenance. If I survive the experience, you can thank me for taking one for the team.
As a card-carrying carnivore, I promise all vegans and vegetarians, that I will never spend a single minute trying to create broccoli from pig jowl or cauliflower from calves liver.
On the other hand, it was a pretty great week for dining. The fabulous Beef Bourginon cooked by Hilda on Saturday, a might Pork Marbella, the Chicken Meatballs with Hummus and Ina’s satisfying Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken.
But, SWMBO and I want to share with you a vegetarian pasta that, I swear, tastes as satisfying and seems as substantial as a true, meaty Bolognese. Before we do, a few words about our motivation (well, mine).
As you get older – I apologize to anyone under sixty for breaking this news – your body changes. At first, you lose a step on the basketball court. This is hard, but you can make up for it by skirting the rules (holding the fellow you are guarding – throwing particularly sharp elbows – and giving up any attempts at full-court drives for lay-ups). The condition progresses however to the point where putting on your clothes in the morning, particularly shoes and socks, becomes the major athletic event of the day.
Meanwhile, eating and drinking begin to have a different effect on your now deteriorating body. If you are foolish enough to give yourself a hangover, you will think, for at least one half-day, that you have committed hari kari. If you’re like me, you’ll pledge never to do it again, and you’ll violate that pledge only rarely. And all of those steaks and burgers (real burgers, I mean, not that ersatz stuff Burger King is peddling) don’t seem like a great idea anymore. In moderation, they are fine, but you’ll find yourself wanting “lighter fare” from time to time.
Now this is a problem. Because ‘lighter fare’ too often means something only fit for rabbits – lacking substance, lacking taste and, most dangerously, tempting you to sneak out after dinner and get a burger.
Here is one solution – a wonderful vegetable ragù for pasta.
For those of you who are not trying to save the planet (how dare you!) or yourself through vegetarian or vegan means, I am not saying that you should give up traditional Bolognese or hamburgers or steak, I’m just saying, that if you are decaying as rapidly as I am, you’re going to want this ragù in your repertoire. And, if you’re ever tempted to eat faux-meat, try this instead.
(adapted from bon appétit, February 2020)
Timing: 45 minutes
Ingredients: Serves 6
Head of Cauliflower, broken into florets
12 oz. mushrooms (we used crimini and just trimmed the dry ends of the stems, but didn’t remove them)
¼ cup plus another 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (we used 3)
1 serrano or fresno chile or a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
1/3 cup of double-concentrated tomato paste
1 lb. rigatoni
2 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Chop the onion and slice the garlic (keep them separate)
Slice the chile or get the pepper flakes out
Chop the rosemary
Measure out the tomato paste
Grate the Parmigiano
Get the parsley out
Cut a lemon in half
Measure the butter and separate into 2 x 2 tablespoon quantities
Heat a large pot of water for the pasta
Get out another large pot to cook the sauce
Prepare the mushrooms and then pulse in a food processor until finely chopped – transfer to a small bowl.
Now wipe out the food processor and, working in batches, pulse the cauliflower until pieces are about the size of a grain of rice. (Some will be smaller and some larger.)
Heat ¼ cup of the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high. (Note: If you have a high btu burner you may need to turn this down – and you will probably need to moderate the temperature at some point to avoid burning the onions and cauliflower which will be added next.)
Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring from time to time, until golden brown – maybe 5 minutes. You want them to really cook to golden brown – you need that deep flavor for this dish.
Now add the onion and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and golden brown – maybe 7 minutes.
Now add the garlic, chile and rosemary and cook, stirring from time to time, until nicely fragrant – 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on the cooking – you don’t want to burn the garlic.
And now add the cauliflower and cook, stirring from time to time, until it begins to soften and stick to the bottom of the pot – maybe 9 minutes.
Season with salt and put lid on to keep warm. [Note: season means to salt, then taste, then add more as needed – you can also add salt when the pasta is cooked in, so don’t over salt at this point. You just don’t want the sauce to taste bland.]
Now bring that warming water to a boil, salt heavily, and add the rigatoni and cook about 1 minute less than what the package recommends.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to the sauce – and turn the heat on under the sauce. Add maybe a cup of the pasta cooking liquid, the Parmigiano and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir until the pasta is cooked (taste it, of course, to see), adding more pasta water if needed. This will take another 3 or 4 minutes.
Off the heat, stir in the parsley. Now taste and add more salt, if needed.
Finely grate lemon zest over the pasta.
Divide among bowls, top with more Parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil, and enjoy, feeling righteous about your vegetarian Bolognese.