Aubergine Ricotta Rolls

Guest post by Amily Blanch 

Valentine’s Day seems like it was just yesterday. The streets were flooded with energized romantics, toy hearts and chocolates of all shapes and sizes. At this time of the year, especially, we are all craving to surprise our loved ones with a delicious dinner. Who says you can’t do a belated version in March? 

In the vegan community it is quite difficult to find recipes that would truly make even a non-vegan fall in love, so I wanted to share a few tricks I have up my sleeve, as well as tell you how to prepare a healthy, heavenly starter.

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The dish itself is called Aubergine Ricotta Rolls and its overall making will take around 30 minutes and serve 4 people. This means, it’s perfect for a double date with your best friend and their significant other as well. 

INGREDIENTS…

What you will need for the vegan ricotta cheese: 

  • 7oz firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups of raw cashews, that previously had been soaked in water overnight
  • 1/4 cup of soy (or any other non-dairy) milk
  • Juice of one third of a lemon (around 2/3 tablespoons) 
  • Some salt and ground black pepper

What you will need for the rolls: 

  • 2 aubergines (also known as eggplants)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS…

  1. Start by making the ricotta cheese. Firstly place the (drained) cashews into a food processor along with the tofu. It is important to soak the nuts in water overnight because that helps break down the phytic acid, water stops the acid from being absorbed into our bodies, and therefore reducing a feeling of heaviness after the meal. Soaking nuts also neutralizes their enzymes, allowing proper digestion to take place.
  2. Add half of the non-dairy milk that you have prepared, blend, and then the second half.
  3. After it turns into a smooth paste, add the rest of the ingredients: lemon juice, salt and pepper (for which the proportions may vary depending on how flavorful you want the “cheese” to be).
  4. Once that is done, you can start preparing the aubergines by cutting them lengthwise into very thin, wide pieces.
  5. While the pan is heating add 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. For extra flavour and a more intricate taste, chop up one small clove of garlic and let it sit in the olive oil for some time, this will infuse it with slight pungency. It is up to you whether you want to keep the small pieces of garlic in the oil or remove them before adding the oil to the pan. Remember to not add TOO much oil, or else the aubergines will not be cooked properly and that will affect the taste.
  6. After the oil is hot, place the aubergines on the pan and wait for the pieces to turn a beautiful shade of brown, and then flip.
  7. Afterwards, place the aubergines on a cutting board and start spreading a thin layer of ricotta on each of them. Roll them up, however if you find that they do not stay in a roll, you can use a toothpick to stabilize them. (Make sure to take them out before serving the dish though.
  8. Different ingredients can be sprinkled on top of the ricotta in the process like some chopped chives or a drizzle of lemon zest, if you want to put your own personal spin of this dish.

After the preparation and decoration of this beautiful starter, you can make the main dish. There are millions of recipes that involve servings like vegan ratatouille pasta or quinoa dishes that would blow your significant others’ minds. To finish off the lovely evening, share an appetizing raw cake made out of bananas, cocoa powder, walnuts, dates and agave syrup.

Anyone, no matter vegan or not, will be ecstatic after tasting this aubergine dish, so make sure you try it as well! The best thing about a complete, vegan Valentine’s dinner is that it contains all the vitamins and proteins that we need to be our best selves and feel good in our bodies, as well as, leaves us feeling energized, satisfied and not bloated at all.

Nuts provide protein and the vegetables are overflowing with vitamins like A, D and C, so instead of feeling guilty after having a chocolate cake for dessert, you will be focused on your date and celebrating love.

About Amily Blanch: A longtime vegan, red wine advocate, and health ambassador. Member of a team of freelance writers from New York publishing recipes for the Secrets of Vegan Baking blog and product reviews for the Consumerion site.

Interested in submitting a guest recipe post for our blog? Hit us up at vegangirlfriend@gmail.com, and we can chat.

Asparagus and lemon-roasted eggplant fusilli with garlic bread

Post by Megan Stulberg

Having Celiac disease, it’s pretty rare that I’ll find myself wanting to eat a chewy alternative to wheat-heavy products. But catch me after discovering a gluten-free baguette that a) tastes like a “real” one and b) doesn’t use egg as a binding agent, then you’re going to see me suddenly go carb crazy.

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE PASTA…

  • 2 jumbo lemons
  • 1 bunch asparagus, rinsed and chopped into smaller pieces
  • 3 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk
  • 2 cups gluten-free fusilli (I prefer corn-based)
  • 1 cup chopped eggplant
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I use brown rice-based) or tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper

FOR THE GARLIC BREAD…

  • 1 Aidan’s baguette (Sold at grocers in the GTA, or can be ordered for delivery anywhere in Ontario)
  • 4 heaping tbsp vegan butter-style spread
  •  2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS…

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In large bowl, coat asparagus evenly with olive oil and lemon juice.
  3. Line baking sheet with aluminium foil. Drizzle sheet with olive oil and evenly spread asparagus out.
  4. Bake asparagus for 15-20 minutes until browned, flipping halfway. Set aside, but leave oven on.
  5. On stovetop, bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta, then let cook covered 15 minutes or until water is mostly gone. Pasta should be tender when tested with fork. Drain, then set aside in same pot.
  6. Sauté onion and garlic with dash of olive oil in saucepan on medium heat until golden. Add eggplant and additional olive oil if desired to pan. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes. Add eggplant and asparagus to pot with pasta in it.
  7. In high-speed blender combine soy milk, rice flour, nutritional yeast, sage, salt and pepper to make sauce. If consistency is too thick, slowly add tablespoons of water and pulse blender again. Add sauce to pot and mix all ingredients together.
  8. Line baking sheet with clean piece of aluminum foil. Slice baguette in half length-wise. Mix together vegan butter, garlic powder and sage in bowl. Spread butter mixture on both baguette halves. If you think it needs more butter or garlic, add more! Go wild. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and another dash of olive oil.
  9. On baking sheet, place baguette halves in oven and toast for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.
  10. While garlic bread is cooling, relight element on stove and heat pasta covered on medium-low for 5 minutes. A dash more almond milk may be necessary to mix in. Slice bread and serve immediately.

Serve hot! Makes 4 servings.


Fried Tofu, Eggplant and Zucchini Sushi Maki

By contributor Megan Stulberg

Two of my favourite things are vegetables and rice, so naturally I love sushi. There are only so many gluten-free/vegan take-out options though (I’m getting sick of cucumber rolls), so I decided to make something more interesting instead.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sushi rice (organic)
  • 4 pieces seaweed
  • 1 standard package firmly-pressed tofu (organic)
  • 1 medium avocado, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 eggplant
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • Dash of red-pepper chili flakes
  • Dash of Himalayan pink salt
  • Dash of black pepper

Other supplies you’ll need: One standard bamboo rolling mat + chopsticks.

Directions:

  1. Wash rice in cold water thoroughly. Bring hot water to a boil with the rice already in the pot. Cook covered for 20 minutes until water has been entirely absorbed and rice is sticky in consistency. If the rice is too hard, add water by the teaspoon and continue cooking. Be careful not to add too much water! I did the first time and it got so mushy that I had to start over. Fluff cooked rice with fork and set aside.
  2. Slice tofu into thin strips. Marinate in soy sauce and nutritional yeast for 10 minutes. In medium saucepan, heat a dash of EVOO until it sizzles. Sprinkle tofu with garlic and onion while cooking, and fry tofu until texture is very firm. Set aside.
  3. Cut zucchini and eggplant vertically into very thin, long strips. Pan-fry on medium heat in EVOO and add red pepper flakes, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables have browned, then set aside.
  4. Line your bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap to avoid making a big mess and place a glass of water next to your work station. Important: Wait for your vegetables and rice to cool, otherwise the rest of this process will be harder than it needs to be!
  5. Lay the rolling mat flat and place a couple spoonfuls of rice onto the middle of the sheet. Wet fingers and pat rice lightly down into a thin even layer. The rice doesn’t have to go right to the edges — basically, try to create a rectangular section of rice within the rectangular piece of seaweed 1/4 inch from the edge.
  6. Align the tofu strips, eggplant, zucchini and avocado into a very thin horizontal line at the bottom of the rice. Be careful not to overfill. I combined all of my ingredients at once but you can do designated avocado rolls, eggplant rolls, and so on if you’d prefer.
  7.  Tightly roll the seaweed sheet from the bottom, using the mat to press it together. Keep going, squeezing the roll to prevent it from falling apart. Dab a bit of water on the edge of the seaweed to seal it.
  8. Use a sharp knife to slice the roll into bite-size pieces. Wet the knife between cuts to keep it clean. Important: Having trouble doing this right? Use this easy guide here to help.
  9. Keep rolling! Make as much as you’d like and get creative with your fillings.

Serve with gluten-free soy sauce and eat with chopsticks.

Makes approximately 4 rolls (2 servings).