WAIT! don’t run away because i said vegan! weather the storm. ::::
We are bracing for the scraps of Hurricane Irma this week, its destruction well advertised in the Caribbean already. Atlanta is in the northern aspect of the projected path, with expectation to a tropical storm downgrade. Already Sunday morning, the sky is deceptively clear and bright and slowly turning to a white gray this afternoon. I hear the winds rustling the high canopy of elderly trees in the neighborhood. It feels like spring or an early autumn day.
If the vicious Hurricane Harvey hadn’t pounded Houston recently, the current prep for another storm wouldn’t be so front and center. A clearinghouse of warnings echo through the internet and murmurings from elderly friends who’ve “lived through this” before, the information heavy on me. Eat is in Sudan. The in-laws are here to help. I work a full day tomorrow. I’m in a heightened sense of preparation today with these suggestions haunting me, though picking and choosing which to do. Check the batteries in your flashlights. Move your trashcans so they don’t float or blow away if there is an enormous amount of rain and/or wind. Get a chain saw. Gas up your cars. Have long-burning candles and matches. Put important documents in a waterproof location. Write down important phone numbers. Close all doors in your house to slow wind and debris. Sandbag. Fill up your bathtub as a backup water source to wash hands or to flush a toilet. Freeze gallon bags of water. Consolidate your freezer and pack it tightly. Geez.
That last piece of advice, I can get around that one easily no matter the weather. Besides the obligatory esoteric flours and a few bulk spices in my freezer, there is a panoply of BBQ sauces, the best biscuits, leftover buttercreams awaiting cakes, frozen fruit, butter and more butter, a large pan of enchiladas, a strange chimichurri in which the recipe claims needs cooking (?), and the vegan bolognese.
The vegan mushroom bolognese, ah! This is a GREAT recipe all around for a bolognese, meat or no meat, from the wonderful Serious Eats dude Kenji Lopez-Alt. Serve it to vegan naysayers and they may be surprised at the depth of flavor the ingredients create. Frozen, it can keep your freezer from getting too warm if you’ve lost electricity. After it thaws, spoon it over a bowl of loose pappardelle. If you have no electricity, no propane, and are standing in a foot of water encompassing a tropical storm, eat it as you would a bowl of cold chili. It’s that good. The prep is arduous, not unlike storm prep. Chopping, like Irma’s wind, is unrelenting. The blisters on my hands prove it.
Look at that teeeeeny chopping.
Even the fresh herbs had a turn:
More teeeeny chopping from bottom left, apex, to bottom right: Sage and rosemary mixture, basil, and flat-leaf parsley.
My hands were so raw at this point, I welcomed Kenji’s suggestion for a food processor to chop the mushrooms. So fast!
The mostly hands-off eggplant prep was a cinch: roast, cool, scoop, and mash. I did this step early on in prep, let the eggplant cool for a few hours, then put it in the fridge overnight for the sauce cooking and assembly the next day.
Ugh. More chopping. Garlic is a must. Notice I did not finish the chopping for the photo. There are lots of other ingredients important for the umami love here. If I did not chop an ingredient, it didn’t warrant a photo. My fingers were cramping!
The key to success is all the umami in this vegan mushroom bolognese from Serious Eats. Mushrooms, tomato paste, red wine, onions, garlic, soy sauce, and miso are good umami enhancers — and all of them are in this recipe. It’s surprising to have Asian based ingredients in a bolognese sauce, yet their use achieving umami complexity mimicking animal protein heartiness makes this recipe successful.
Stock up. Prep what you can ahead of time. Stuff your freezer. Stay safe and fed in the upcoming storms.
Recipe from the rockstar Serious Eats’ Kenji Lopez-Alt.
One year ago: vanilla cake with pandan frosting (Grub’s sixth birthday — I only posted once that month because of our move to a new home. More birthday posting soon…)
Two years ago: mango strawberry coconut balls
Three years ago: oatmeal brown sugar cookies
Five years ago: vegan curried pumpkin soup
- 1 medium eggplant
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, + more for serving
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion (about 1 cup), finely diced
- 2 medium carrots (about 1 cup), finely diced
- 2 large ribs celery (about 1 cup), finely diced
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves (I have a garden thick with rosemary so I edge down the sage and bolster with rosemary.)
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 pound button mushrooms, finely chopped (See important note on chopping -- because at this point, you don't want to chop ANYTHING anymore.)
- 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps finely chopped (This was Kenji's original ingredient. I used baby bellas because 1) more than once, the shiitake available were shiite, and 2: I didn't want to discard the stems.
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons white or red miso paste (I like a mix of the two, though if I only had one I'd choose the fruitier, deeper flavored red.)
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice, crushed roughly by hand or with a potato masher (San Marzano tomatoes are great here.)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¾ cup almond milk (I don't care for store-bought almond milk and I didn't feel like making any the first time I did this. I deveganed the recipe with 2% milk -- I can hear the vegetables screaming.)
- 1 pound pasta like pappardelle (Kenji also recommends short, tubular pasta like penne or rigatoni. I like the wider noodle shape better here.)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay eggplant on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle whole eggplant with 1 teaspoon oil and season with salt and pepper (this helps distribute the heat so you don't end up with browned spots). Wrap loosely in foil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until eggplant is soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, chop those vegetables as finely as you can. Listen to good music while doing so, or a podcast that requires focus. The rote of chopping will zone you out; give your brain something to do.
- Heat ~3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until simmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Stir occasionally and cook until completely softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add sage, half of parsley, half of basil, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add red wine and bay leaves. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until wine is reduced nearly dry (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan easily), about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large saucepan and wipe out skillet.
- Add remaining oil to skillet and set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add button mushrooms and shiitake and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushroom liquid completely evaporates and mushrooms are well-browned all over, about 20 minutes. Add tomato paste and miso and stir to combine. Pastes will leave a light residue on the bottom of the pan. This is ok.
- Add canned tomatoes and cook, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add mixture to pot with vegetables and reduced wine. Add soy sauce and almond milk.
- When eggplant is cooked, remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Slit skin of eggplant and scrape out softened flesh gently with a spoon. Chop eggplant flesh into a fine puree and add to pot with sauce. Stir sauce to combine, bring to a bare simmer, reduce heat to lowest setting, and cover with lid slightly ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is rich and thick and flavors have fully developed, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve, cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. Drain, reserving ½ cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta and cooking liquid to mushroom sauce. Add remaining chopped parsley and basil (reserving a little for garnish, if desired). Cook over high heat, stirring, until sauce is rich and thick and coats every piece of pasta. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual bowls, drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil, and serve immediately.
- PLAN AHEAD: I did this recipe in two days. Chopping takes a LONG time. Except the herbs, all the chopping can be done the day before and stored in the fridge after wrapping well. The eggplant can be roasted the day before also, then cooled before skinning, mashing, and storing in the fridge.