Tag Archives: pasta

(virtual) Vegan Chopped!! Gemelli w/ Mint Pesto & Herbed Beanballs


…Remember that time that that I didn’t blog for like six months and then one day I did…like nothing ever happened?

So, everyone’s favorite vegan chefs over at the PPK proposed a challenge to all of us wanna be cheffers. May I present (virtual) vegan CHOPPED! Like the famous cooking show, each contestant is presented with weird ingredients that don’t seemingly go together well, a pantry full of kitchen staples, a course specification, and a time limit.  Now since this is a virtual competition, we’re on the honor system here. We’re being judged by creativity, presentation, and taste (or what you’d guess it would taste like, rather).

MYSTERY INGREDIENTS:  fresh blackberries, mint, (canned) black eyed peas, bittersweet chocolate

COURSE: entreé

TIME: approximately 40 minutes


My entry:

Gemelli with Mint and Herbed Beanballs:

Gemelli pasta w/ a fresh mint pesto accompanied by herbed beanballs in a sweet & sour balsamic reduction on bed of toasted pistachios



1lb gemelli

1/2c toasted chopped pistachios

fresh or frozen petite pois

for the pesto:

lots of fresh mint

olive oil






for the beanballs:

black eyed peas

vital wheat gluten

water/almond  milk


tarragon (my favorite secret weapon!)







for the reduction:

balsamic vingear

bittersweet chocolate

fresh blackberries

hot sauce

ketchup (don’t doubt me on this one)

cayenne powder

chili powder


It’s a little tough to write and cook and guess and create and measure and cross your fingers all at the same time. Luckily I had the help of D, my favorite  kitchen elf, to at least keep track of the ingredients I used and the order of the steps I took. Exact measurements would have to come from a second (or 3rd) go at this recipe. My apologies! Besides, cooking is so much more fun on the fly anyways… If you’re brave enough to attempt a recipe like this, I’m sure you’re brave enough to wing it.

1) Cook pasta al dente. Set aside. Blanche peas.

2) put all ingredients in food processor for pesto. Process until you have a creamy paste, adding olive oil and/or water as needed to thin it out.

3) mash beans. add a bit of oil and seasonings to get a crumbly but moist texture. Add VWG and knead until gluten activates.  Form into balls and fry in olive oil in cast iron over med low heat, turning so they brown on all sides ( you could also bake but it will take longer).

4) while doing this, make the reduction. Bring vinegar to a simmer adding in chocolate and berries (2:1 ratio vinegar:chocolate). Stir often. When berried begin to break down, add hot sauce, cayenne, ketchup, and chili powder to taste. Remove from heat when sufficiently thickened. DO NOT BURN CHOCOLATE!

5) Mix pesto, peas, and pasta together.

6) to plate: a scoop of pasta sprinkle with a few pistachios for crunch. place beanballs on a bed of pistachios and top with a drizzle of the reduction and a small mint leaf. Garnish with a few blackberries and mint leaves because they’re pretty, dammit!

7) eat and amaze people with your weird food combination!

*** I bet this would be lovely paired with a refreshing summer cocktail of muddled fresh mint leaves, blackberries, simple syrup/sugar, and vodka/gin.  CHEERS!


A winter reprieve- Herbed Penne with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers


This winter thing, yeah- it’s really getting old.  It has been relatively mild for New England this year, so I can’t complain too much, but I’m pretty certain that restless spirit of mine rears her little head around this time every year whether it’s 40 degrees or 14.   Maybe it’s the greyness, the lack of vegetation, the calm after the holidays, or a delightful cocktail of the above, but I’m finding myself daydreaming about all things spring related.  I’m mapping out plans for my tiny raised bed garden (that I generally neglect and destroy).  I’m growing all kinds of (legal) windowsill herbs.  I’ve also been finding myself creating wildly unseasonable meals.  I do love eating in season, but com’ on, son,  you can only eat cabbage and onions for so long and still keep your friends.

So I present to you this: a crazy fresh zingy springtime recipe from the depths of winter.  Perfect eaten steaming out of the pan, at room temperature, or if you’re really getting nostalgic, chilled as a pasta salad of sorts.  You could use any type of pasta for this, but I prefer penne here. I like to be surprised by the bites of caper that get trapped inside and the lovely herbs that adhere to the groved exterior.

Measurements are approximate for this one, so tweak as you see fit to your taste. It was another 2am-I’m-not-writing-anything-down creation…which means it’s a really quick dish to put together as well. 😉

Just don’t skimp on the fresh basil please.

Herbed Penne with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers


serves 2 (or 1 if you’re seriously carb loading that day)

takes about 30 minutes


1/3 box penne pasta

1T+1T earth balance (that means separate it)

2T olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (not through a garlic press)

1/2-1 t crushed red pepper flakes

2T lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon if you’re feeling fancy)

2T dry white wine (optional.  NB: using the wine and lemon juice together makes this kind of acidic.  If that bothers you, just use lemon & pasta water)

1T drained capers

1t dried oregano (1T if you have fresh)

1T dried parsley (1/4c chopped if you have fresh)

1/2c fresh basil, chopped (dried won’t cut it)

salt and pepper to taste (I used about 4 mill twists of sea salt and 8 twists of black pepper)

1c baby arugula

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 c sliced almonds

2T french fried onions (optional, but delicious. I use fried red onion strings from my Asian grocer. I’m sure french’s would be fine…or a little shake of onion powder instead)


boil your pasta according to the package directions, taking it out when it is just about 1 minute under the al dente cook time.  Save about 3/4c or so of the pasta water.

heat up oil and 1T earth balance in a good sized cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the hot pepper flakes and garlic and saute for about 3-4 minutes until garlic gets soft but not browned. Add tomatoes, dried herbs, and lemon juice and let this simmer down for about 5 minutes. You can add some of your reserved pasta water if you need to.

Keeping your pan on medium heat, add the pasta and toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for about another 5 minutes.  Again, if it’s not liquidy enough add a few tablespoons of pasta water. Throw in your capers and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the yummy tomato bits that stuck to the bottom. Now is the time for you to salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if you want some extra tang, pasta water if you need more liquid.

Remove from heat. Add your last 1T of earth balance.  Mix in fresh basil and arugula. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and french fried onions immediately if eating hot or just before serving so they keep their crunch if eating at either room temperature (my preference) or chilled.

Eat and pretend it’s not winter.  <——– that’s my favorite part!