10 Minute Vegan-Friendly Pasta Salad

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture but they ate it before I could take one.

To provide something for our vegan dinner guest I had to whip up an extra entree for this dairy and meat avoider.
Anyone with either religious,moral and ethical food rules or food allergies must be respected and careful pains must be taken not to feed them bacon cheeseburgers. Actually it is quite easy not to accidentally feed someone a bacon cheeseburger because these don’t just fall in the food as you are preparing it. Believe it or not!

We don’t have many dietary requirements around here. Our problems are usually that one bar of chocolate is not as good as 2 bars of chocolate and why cook 3 Rib eyes when you can cook 4. I would normally add Pancetta or ham with along with a bit of Parmesan, Asiago & Romano to this pasta salad. If you really have to have “cheese” you could try to find some sort of non cheese soy based extrusion. It’s a mystery how they get along, these vegans. I suspect they eat a lot Quinoa, Bean Curd and Tofu but I didn’t have any lying around. And “cheese” ? I draw the line!

1 Shallot,chopped fine
2 Scallions,chopped
1 sprig of Basil, chopped
Many ripe Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
Garlic powder (one dash) or fresh garlic – one clove, chopped fine.
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 box of pasta, any kind really, even spaghetti.

I used Barilla Medium Shells because that is what I had, cooked al dente (not a pile of mush) about 6 to 7 or 8 minutes,depending. Please remember to add a generous amount of salt to the water for the pasta before you bring it to a boil. Salt in the pasta water makes a huge difference.

Once the pasta has cooked drain it and add to a large bowl and immediately add the other ingredients while the pasta is hot.
This will make them “cook” a little with the heat of the pasta and bring out more of their flavors.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.

It isn’t what I would call a complete entree and I don’t think it would sustain a hearty eater but it makes a tasty side dish and I will definitely make this again even when there aren’t any attending vegans.

Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Pie

finished tomato basil and mozzarella pieclose up view of tomato basil and mozzarella pie

We eat too much meat. I always say we will cut back but we are backsliders. I seem to have to do most of the cooking and I am more used to planning a meal around a protein so it’s just easier for me to grab beef, chicken or lamb or bacon and get going.

Well now that it is getting close to spring more vegetables are coming into the market that don’t look like they were exhumed last year which makes the idea of planning meals around vegetables more appealing somehow. And it was looking at the much improved fresh vegetable display in my local market that gave me the idea for a Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Pie. No meat. Not even Bacon!! Dear dear bacon.

Preparations & Ingredients
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
1 pie shell either home made or store bought
2 large, firm tomatoes
1 ball of mozzarella
1 bunch of basil
3table spoons of tomato sauce
1 drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the pie shell and brush it around the edges,too.

Slice the tomatoes and then slice them again in half and arrange one layer of tomatoes in a circular pattern in the shell. Add salt and pepper and oregano and a tablespoon of sauce.

Slice the cheese thinly and place on top of tomatoes. Wash and dry the basil and arrange leaves on top of cheese. Add one or 2 spoons of sauce. Repeat all of this one more time (except the spices unless you like a lot of oregano).

Try not to use too much sauce because the bottom of the pie crust will get soggy. Also mozzarella can be a “wet” cheese.
If soggy crusts disgust you you can consider cutting out the bottom of the pie shell and just using the sides.And if you want to skip the crust altogether it’s a free country.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the top of the pie is browned. Tastes as good as it looks since it’s basically pizza, after all.

Tasty Burgers

Bob's Big Boy
They were better than Bob's Big Boy
I made this recipe up as I went along. My boyfriend ate them all and he said they were the best burgers he’d had in about 10 years. But then not to be too complimentary or anything he added “but maybe that was just because I was really hungry”.

I started with regular ground beef from Fresh Direct, not lean or sirloin-just chuck and less than a pound. You can use more but the more meat you use the more garlic and onion and spices you’ll need.This was one of those days were I just did not want to go to the market so I fished out whatever I had in the fridge…so don’t feel trapped by my measurements and amounts-they’re just a guideline.

I got out a big bowl and dumped the block of beef in then I added Italian seasoned breadcrumbs,2 eggs,liberal Worcestershire sauce,salt,pepper,chopped half of a red onion and 2 cloves of garlic,minced,fresh tarragon (about 4 leaves,snipped up with scissors) and a generous amount of olive oil to help in getting the beef to blend with the other ingredients. I used half a cup of breadcrumbs and the 2 eggs as an extender because A. can eat a lot and the package of meat was small.

I energetically mixed it all up with a fork.As I was mixing I added a splash more olive oil and a dash more breadcrumbs.Then I slapped the mixture into medium sized balls and plopped them in a hot pan.
I sliced some Swiss cheese and placed them on top.The burgers fried for about 5 minutes on the meat side and 1 minute on the the cheesy side.Then I turned on my toaster oven and scooped the hamburgers into a pan and let them cook at a lowish heat(300 degrees) about 15 to 25 minutes.

Because I used a small amount of beef the patties were more like large meatballs and this amount of cooking time ought to be enough for even those who fear undercooked burger meat.I too read Fast Food Nation.I also treat ground beef like it is a radioactive substance.This is why I feel better about buying antibiotic-free or free range or organic when our budget allows.

Additional ingredients
Fancy rolls,sliced tomatoes and lettuce leaves.

Braised Lamb Shanks

   Today is probably one of the last days I can cook this kind of hearty dinner, it being so rainy and cool. Seems we’re having a Real Spring in NY!
I’ve been wary of the Lamb Shank in the past because I found the casing surrounding the shank to be weird. But I’ve cooked a variation of this dish once before and found out that with a long slow braise this casing turns tender and rather unnoticeable. Don’t fear the shank.
To braise means to cook something, usually meat, in a small amount of liquid after it’s been browned in fat in a pot with a tight fitting lid on the range or in an oven.This recipe was prepared on the range because my toaster oven couldn’t possibly accommodate a big pot.

This recipe feeds 2 and takes about 2 and a half hours from chopping board to dinner bowl.
This meal’s ingredients cost under 12 dollars,not counting the alcohol.
2 big untrimmed lamb shanks,browned on both sides for 6 minutes each side or until nice and brown
3 carrots,chopped
3 ribs celery,chopped
4 cloves chopped garlic,mashed and diced
1 shallot,chopped fine
1 onion,chopped fine
2 stalks of green onion,chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary,whole
2 generous splashes of extra virgin olive oil
2 tsps strawberry preserves
fresh black ground pepper
dash of paprika
1 container of chicken stock
A bit of alcohol
2 cups of red wine
1 splash dry sherry
1 splash brandy,to deglaze the browning pan

In large frying pan:
Heat, add olive oil.
Season shanks with salt and freshly ground black pepper,place in frying pan, brown on both sides, about 6 to 7 minutes each side.

in large heavy pot with tight fitting lid
Heat on medium high add olive oil, add onion, saute until sweaty.
Add celery,carrots,green onion and shallots.
Splash in dry sherry, the vegetables will absorb very fast.
Add wine and chicken stock and strawberry preserves stir well to blend in preserves,turn heat slightly higher and let reduce for about 6-7 minutes.
Submerge shanks in the liquid-it should come about halfway up the sides of the shanks.
Stir in chopped garlic.
Add rosemary sprigs.
Deglaze the pan you browned the shanks in with the splash of brandy and let a high heat burn off the alcohol.
Spoon 2 tsps of the resulting liquid over the shanks and sprinkle them with paprika.
Reduce heat to low and cover. Braise for 2 hours.
Extra meal ideas, not that I am trying to run your life or anything!
Eat with rice or some ribbons of lasagne noodles cut in half down the middle with the shanks and their sauce poured over. We’re having basmati rice because we made it a day ago and I am trying to use leftovers instead of throwing them out. You could optionaly add some peeled and cubed potatoes at the start if you don’t want to bother with rice or noodles.Or you could prepare garlic mashed potaotoes.Ohhh,garlic mashed potatoes…