I've sort of held back on entering into making creamy sauces for dishes. The idea of squishing up nuts to get the same consistency and flavor of cream makes me a little uncomfortable. As you can see, I don't really like imitating meat/dairy based foods because I think that disrespects the true essence of the food. Ok, I sound crazy and that would defeat the title of this blog, but hear me out.
There are SO many different foods out there that the idea of mimicking one food with another just seems silly. Yes I love the flavor and texture of cheese and no, I don't particularly like the flavor and texture of watermelon (I know, weird right?), but that doesn't mean I need to try and make the watermelon taste and look like cheese now does it? No, I think not.
So, that's why I've been avoiding using imitation cheese or meat or whatever, and this whole sauce ordeal seems to be dancing the fine line between imitation and reproduction.
So, I stuck my toe into the sauce the safest way I knew how: Vodka sauce - red pasta sauce that usually has a hint of cream to it.
I found this recipe in, suprise suprise "Veganomicon" and if you haven't been able to tell yet, I love this cookbook and think everyone should own it. I really haven't had a bad experience yet.
Here's what I did wrong:
-I got a little cocky and decided not to measure anything out, specifically seasoning, so I am pretty sure I used too much thyme and not enough oregano.
-My basil plant was looking a little bit rough, so I didn't use the suggested amount of fresh basil, instead used some dried basil which I think was ok.
-I don't have a hand mixer, so I put the almonds in my food processor along with a little bit of olive oil and tried to make those bad boys turn into a pastey cream. Then I added that creamy pastey thing to the sauce and tried to mix it together. Not sure if that worked all that well.
All in all, this was pretty delicious. I have to say, I could hardly taste the almonds but the texture was nice. It wasn't exactly what I remember Vodka sauce to be, but that's ok, especially in my opinion (I don't like to imitate, re: look up about 2-3 paragraphs).
I served this over a bunch of leftover noodley type things that were in my cabinet (there might even be a lasagna noodle or two in there). Then I cooked up (i.e. microwaved) some frozen green beans (which I hate - frozen veggies, not green beans), and Matt fried up some shallots to serve on top of those. He thought he might be able to trick himself into thinking he was eating green bean casserole. I don't think it worked. As a sidenote, I read the other day that shallots are generally a more mild flavor than other onions, EXCEPT DURING WINTER! Those puppies have been making my eyes water like no other recently...guess I know why now.
Here's the finished product:
I know you are wondering why I took a picture of a cracked bowl. Well, my answer: all my bowls are cracked, you jerk. Get over it.
Here's the recipe:
(from the cookbook “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
a few dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, plus a little extra for garnish
1/2 pound penne
Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Preheat a saucepan over medium/low heat. Add the oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and saute for about a minute, until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Add the crushed red tomatoes, vodka, thyme, oregano, salt and black pepper. Cover, and turn the heat up a bit to bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions.
Once the sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, add the almonds. Use an immersion blender to blend the almonds into the sauce until creamy and only slightly grainy. The pasta should be done by now, so drain and set aside. Add the basil to the sauce, and mix the sauce and pasta together in the pot. Serve, garnished with a little extra chopped basil.