Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fresh Red Bell Pepper and Chipotle Pasta, Grilled Mesquite-Smoked Tofu with a Cherry-Ancho Glaze

Dinner 1/22

Fresh Red Bell Pepper and Chipotle Pasta

Grilled Mesquite-Smoked Tofu with a Cherry-Ancho Glaze

One of our goals with the blog this year is to experiment more -- for example, the caviar last week. So, on the weekends (when we have the time), we're going to try learning new techniques. I can't guarantee a solid recipe each time out, but we'll all learn something along the way...

One of the glaring holes in my repertoire is the lack of experience working with flour -- i.e. pasta and bread. Liz handles those elements brilliantly, but it's time I quieted my lizard brain and go running towards things I don't know. ;)

Which brings us to tonight's Vegan Test Kitchen -- Fresh Red Bell Pepper and Chipotle Pasta. We started by roasting a red bell pepper on the stove until it was charred all over, and put it in a paper bag to let it steam for 10 minutes which makes it easier to remove the blackened bits later. After cleaning and seeding the pepper, we put it in the vita-mix along with 1 tsp. of dried chipotle powder and processed it until smooth, which gave us about a 1/3 cup of puree. The mixture will be very strong at this point, but that's a good thing.

Liz decided to make a variation on her pierogi dough which would accept the puree better -- 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbs. egg replacer mixed with & 2 tbs. of water, 1/2 cup of soy sour cream and the 1/3 cup of pepper puree, kneaded into a dough on a lightly floured surface for 5-7 minutes -- the kneading was very instructive for me personally as I could really feel it start off "grainy" and progress towards a smooth dough. We wrapped the dough in plastic and put it in the fridge until dinner time.

For the other half of the meal, I broke out the smoker box and cut a block of tofu into eight cutlets and smoked them with mesquite wood for 25 minutes.

While the tofu was smoking, I made the glaze...

Cherry & Ancho Glaze

1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. shallot (minced)
1 tbs. garlic (minced)

Saute the shallot & garlic on med-low until lightly browned.

1 cup of fresh cherries (pitted and lightly chopped)
1 tbs. agave
1 tbs. tamari
1 tsp. ancho powder
black pepper to taste.

Add the cherries, agave, tamari and ancho powder and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries have broken down -- about 10 minutes. Add the fresh ground black pepper and check for seasoning and balance. You may need to add more agave (or brown sugar) depending on how sweet the cherries were. Add the cherry mixture to the blender and puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a shallow pan or plate and add the smoked tofu cutlets and turn to coat thoroughly. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes. Grill the cutlets, basting occasionally, keep an eye on them so they don't burn (because of the sugar).

The pasta was taken out of the fridge and allowed to come back to room temp. It was rolled out thinly and cut into strips (think tagliatelle) with a pizza cutter, as in the picture above.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and cook the pasta in batches until it floats to the top.

We made a quick tomato sauce with a little smoked paprika and dropped the hot pasta straight into the sauce, turned it gently to coat it fully and then it went straight onto the plate, topped with tofu.

Things to think about for next time: a spicy tomato sauce may not have been the best choice as it competed with the pasta, but the pasta itself turned out really well -- and the pepper flavor did come through despite the competition.

The glaze from the fresh cherries could have used some dried cherries to give it a little more tartness. Pretty close though.

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