quick & ease - peperonata

we now interrupt this broadcast of seattle-based adventures to talk, once again, about cooking. a few years ago, october was dubbed "vegan mofo" AKA "vegan month of food" by the blogosphere, as an impetus for all of us bloggers to write up a storm during the first real autumn month. it's a bit too easy to be lazy about cooking, documenting, photographing and writing for posts when there's no real pressure to do such, and sometimes days or a week can slip by without updating the old weblog. vegan mofo is kind of like friendly peer pressure to stay on top of your game. someone, god bless them, even designed an adorable logo (see above), meant to be shared by the virtual community at large. last october, vegan royale wasn't yet off the ground, and so this october we are please to join in the vegan mofo.

in that spirit, i want to really focus this fall on making easy, reasonable dishes for lunch and dinner. i forget sometimes that preparing meals doesn't always have to be this big ordeal involving specialty ingredients and multi-step processes. thusly, i can get overwhelmed by the prospect of cooking and end up just slapping a sandwich together. so i am starting a little VR column called quick & ease as a way of exploring this concept. a cookbook that i think will be my guide and inspiration is a new way to cook, by sally schneider. this tome, gifted to lauren a few years ago by our aunt jenny, is about simple, hearty, healthy cooking that doesn't sacrifice flavor. to clarify, this is NOT a vegan cookbook by any means. actually, many of the recipes highlight meat, and how to cook "unhealthy" comfort food in a still nutritious manner. many recipes suggest sauteeing or frying things in panchetta or bacon fat. so yeah, sally isn't a vegetarian, but there are still hundreds of recipes that are vegan or vegan-izable, and i just really like her style: sophisticated but easy and customizable to what's in your fridge on any given weeknight.

the first recipe out of this book that i made was peperonata, a rich pepper laden stew that can be used as a condiment, pasta sauce, sandwich spread, or with grilled (faux)meats. it was amazingly simple, and served over whole wheat rotini with some tofu sauteed in red wine, just the perfect wednesday night, pre-phillies supper.
Peperonata w/ Pasta adapted from a new way to cook by sally schneider

1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
4 - 6 cloves of garlic
3 - 4 bell peppers, sliced thinly (she suggests red and/or yellow, i used green & yellow)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons of water
handful chopped fresh basil or flat leafed parsley
handful chopped black olives (i used kalamata)
salt & pepper

the recipe:

- heat the oil in a heavy skillet until hot, but not smoking. add the onions and garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes. stir in the peppers and sautee for another 2 minutes.

- cover and reduce the heat to moderately low. cook the pepper-y, onion-y mixture for 5 more minutes, stirring a bit. everything should start to soften. **if you are low on time, you can leave the lid on for another 5-6 minutes, and reduce cooking time in the next step by 10 minutes**

- put the pasta water over a high flamed to bring it up to a boil. then uncover the skillet and cook everything for another 20 minutes, until the peppers are super soft.

part of the reason this dish is so low in fat but still tastes so good, is that the peppers release their juices, which emulsify with the oil and tomato paste. brilliant!

- stir in the tomato paste and the water, and cook for another few minutes, until most of the liquid is evaporated. throw the pasta in the now-boiling water.

- turn the heat off the peperonata, and let it cool for a bit. check on the pasta after 7-8 minutes. drain when al dente.

- stir the olives and herbs in the peperonata and add black pepper to taste. spoon over the pasta! like i said, i added some fried up tofu for a little extra substance, but this would be great on its own too!


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