Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's a vegan recipe even carnivores can enjoy

The St. Catharines Standard - Monday, October 6, 2008

St. Catharines resident Laurie Sadowski a runner-up in Canadian Living magazine's cook of the year competition


Laurie Sadowski tested her vegan recipe on a bunch of carnivores.

And they loved it.

That's precisely what the 25-year-old St. Catharines resident hoped would happen when she served the dish to her family.

Sadowski, a vegan, created the Tofu-Stuffed Eggplant Rolls with Mushroom Ragout for Canadian Living magazine's cook of the year competition.

She made it to the semifinals and in August went head-to-head with three other amateur chefs at a cookoff in Toronto.

Sadowski was a runner-up. The winner was Montreal-resident Tania Chugani, who first made her winning Anytime Seafood Bake when she was pregnant and craved lobster.

Finalists were chosen from hundreds of entries from home-based cooks across Canada.

Recipes and details of the competition can be found in the November 2008 issue of Canadian Living, on shelves today.

Another St. Catharines resident, Gennie Wright, made it to the semi-finals - the final 16 - with her Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia with Roasted Pepper and Arugula Salsa.

Sadowski, who writes occasionally for The Standard's Flavours section, has Celiac disease, a condition that prevents her from eating grains like wheat, and also has a food allergy to dairy. In addition to eating a vegetarian diet, she also avoids eggs and dairy.

"I wanted to make something that could be enjoyed by everyone," says Sadowski.

Her personal challenge was to come up with a novel use for tofu, and make it tasty enough that even the most devout meat-eater would find it tasty.

She decided to stuff the tofu mixture into an eggplant roll.

She also wants people whose diets are restricted to know that eating healthy, delicious food is still possible.

"You just have to have an open mind and get creative," she says.

Sadowski is in the process of completing her master's degree in musicology from York University. She plans to open her own business related to cooking and fitness.


Makes eight servings

Recipe by Laurie Sadowski

Canadian Living says: This fresh-tasting vegetarian dish impressed us because it is suitable for not only vegetarians, but also for vegans, as well as people who eat gluten-and dairy-free diets, making it perfect for gatherings of those with food allergies and intolerances. Nutritional yeast, such as that from Bob's Red Mill, can be found in health food and some grocery stores.

2 large eggplants (about one pound/500 grams each)
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) salt 2 tablespoons (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper

Tofu stuffing:
2 tubs (each 12 ounces/375 grams) silken or soft tofu, drained
1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed or dried and reconstituted)
1/4 cup (50 mL) thinly sliced fresh basil
2 teaspoons (10 mL) nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

Mushroom ragout:
1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil (approx)
1 small red onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1 /2 pounds (750 g) mixed mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster, shitake and button), sliced
1 tablespoon (5 mL) dried Italian herb seasoning
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) red or white wine
3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste

Thinly slice eggplants lengthwise into eight slices each; sprinkle all over with salt.

Place in colander, pressing with plates and let stand for 30 minutes; pat dry.

Brush both sides of eggplant with oil; place on two large parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 400°F (200°C) oven, switching and rotating sheets halfway through and turning eggplant once, until golden and softened, about 20 minutes.

Tofu stuffing: Meanwhile, place tofu in large cheesecloth-lined strainer and let stand for one hour, pressing to release as much water as possible.

Transfer tofu to bowl; discard water. Add tomatoes, basil and nutritional yeast.

Place eggplant on work surface. Place about one tablespoon (15 mL) tofu stuffing at end of each slice; roll up eggplant to enclose stuffing. Place rolls in 13x9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish. (Make ahead: cover and refrigerate for up to four hours.)

Mushroom ragout: In large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; saute onion and garlic until softened, about three minutes.

Add mushrooms, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper; saute until mushrooms are softened, adding more oil if necessary, about eight minutes.

Add wine; cook, stirring, until evaporated. Add tomato paste and 1 1 /2 cups (375 mL) water and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Remove from heat. Spread over eggplant rolls.

Bake, covered, in 375°F (190°C) oven until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for five minutes.

Tip: To reconstitute the dehydrated tomatoes for this recipe, place about 10 in heatproof bowl. Add about one cup (250 mL) boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid to add to ragout instead of the water.

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