I am the proud aunt to some awesome kids. For the past two decades I have had (and continue to have) the great privilege to be a part of my nieces and nephew's lives in ways big and small. A gift that couldn't be more rewarding, more fulfilling, more enriching, and one for which I am truly grateful.
As these munchkins get older it comes with some real plusses... and a few minuses. Bad part first: it means I'm getting older too, Boo Hoo. It also means that the amount of time I get to spend with them has been reduced due to their work lives, busy social lives, where they live and all the rest. However, the plusses outweigh those by a long shot as we enter into a different kind of relationship. Before I was the whacky aunt. Well, I'm still that. But now I don't have to pick them up anymore. Instead they drive over to hangout with JC and me for dinner. They are young adults with big imaginations, big dreams, open minds and hearts. The conversations have gone from 'What's your favorite Disney movie?' to 'How do you see driverless cars effecting society? to much more deep and engaging exchange of ideas. And although I miss their little, adorable selves, I'm grooving on spending time with their beautiful adult selves.
This past week my nephew, John, dropped by for dinner. He is bright, sensitive, socially and emotionally aware and responsible, thoughtful and a deep and loving soul. I'm telling you, hanging with these kids is one of the greatest joys of my life.
Besides coming over to discuss some new business ideas we all had (how cool is that!!!), it was a chance to share some new recipes with him. Normally, a meal for John would have required making some type of meat and starch. But over the years his palate has changed, broadened and matured. Just recently it has changed quite dramatically with him becoming a vegan. So the question was what to make to feed a growing young man and his active mind.
I have been reading a lot about Vegetable Bolognese. I love when vegetarians or vegans decide that they aren't going to eat that yummy, delicious thing anymore, but still really want to eat it so they reinvent it with a replacement. I'm not making fun. It's quite creative, and I'm all about that. But it still makes me giggle a little. I, too, fell victim to that years ago, when after craving bologna and missing it, I began eating fake bologna and loved it. Until such time that I realized it was probably better to eat the real one full of crap instead of the fake one full of really crappy crap. I haven't eaten bologna in decades; real or fake.
I saw mushrooms in the market and thought it's dark and could look and act like meat. (Isn't that mushroom's new claim to fame. It's meaty!) Mushroom 'Bolognese' sounded like it had potential to be hearty and filling. Since traditional Bolognese has milk and he is vegan, that put a halt to the traditional style. Even though cream and mushrooms are yummy, milk, tomato and mushrooms sounded kind of yucky to me. In times like these I rely on my internal gut knowledge. I checked my gut and it said; make it just like my Meaty Ragu dish, replacing the chop meat with mushrooms. I guess that replacement idea is a pretty good one after all. Here's how it went down.
10 c cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 medium sized Portobello mushrooms, chopped
4 c grape tomatoes, chopped
1.5 c carrots, diced
3/4 c celery, diced
1 c onion, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T tomato paste
1.5 c white wine
salt, pepper to taste (if you want heat, add red pepper flakes)
Cut up the vegetables as stated above. Remember, I'm a big fan of mise en place. Prepping everything, having it ready and in place. It makes the whole process easier and faster.
Sauté the onions, carrots and celery until almost tender. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook through. Then add the mushrooms and let cook down a bit, until they soften and caramelize a bit.
Next, add the wine and the tomatoes and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes.
Since this was the replacement for Bolognese sauce, the natural base for this dish was pasta. (Hello, it's me. You should know by now pasta will always be my first choice.) And meat lovers, I think you're gonna like this.
Also making an appearance for dinner was shishito peppers, Apple Crisp Salad and an heirloom and sour tomato salad served with a crisp Italian white wine, Verdicchio Podere Laila.
Now, there are dozens of ways of uses this yummy mushroom mixture. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that grilled bread is another great choice, but a picture is always nice. Please slather it, pile it, spoon it on whatever you like, and share with me your wonderful ways. So if you are vegetarian, or vegan or just need to avoid certain foods, go ahead and find healthy replacements for the dishes you love. No giggling from me, just smiles.