An All-Purpose Formula for a Vegan Supper

Sometimes I start cooking, with no clear idea what I am going to make for a meal.  Last night was a good example.  We ended up with a fine supper, and in retrospect, I now see the formula with which I was working at the subconscious level.

The Formula:

  1. rummage through the refrigerator and pantry for ingredients you want to or need to use (i.e. they will go bad if left there another day); concentrate on vegetables and condimenti.
  2. identify some grains you will use as a foundation for the dish, and to provide some additional protein
  3. transform ingredients individually or collectively into components for the dish
  4. cook the grains, put on plates or bowls, and assemble the final dish
  5. pick your wine and enjoy the meal

So here is last night’s example.

  • boil a small bunch of lacinato kale (cavolo nero), then chop
  • boil a small bunch of spinach until tender; puree with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and about 1/2 cup of soft tofu (makes a beautiful bright green sauce)
  • dice an onion and one medium zucchini, saute until tender
  • trim and quarter 8 baby artichokes, which are sauteed with the zucchini and onion
  • mix the cavolo nero with the other vegetables and keep warm in the pan
  • cut a long Japanese eggplant in half lengthwise, then crosswise into chunks; saute eggplant in olive oil until nearly tender
  • finish the eggplant with chopped garlic and a few tablespoons each of Chinese black vinegar, and Italian balsamic vinegar — these will provide a dominant but subtle sweet/sour theme through the completed dish
  • roast a small spaghetti squash in a 375-degree oven until soft; then pull out the strands of the squash
  • puree a few canned Italian tomatoes with their juices; simmer in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, until thick and smooth
  • make the polenta; I use a medium coarse Italian cornmeal, with 1 cup of polenta to 3 cups of boiling water (plus a little salt and olive oil), simmering until thick
  • pour the polenta on the plate, top with the vegetables in layers, spoon the spinach and tomato purees across the top like stripes in the Italian flag
  • pour a glass of 2011 Dirupi Rosso di Valtellina (Nebbiolo grapes), and enjoy!

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