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tomatoes eggplant spaghetti

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Spaghetti

This roasted tomato and eggplant spaghetti is the perfect meal for a cool or rainy summer night when you’re not trying to beat the heat with a cold supper. Toronto’s disgusting heat kicked in for a few days two weeks ago and I was glad to have some rain. It’s good for the garden and cools down a sweltering house. I served this for dinner on a drizzly evening while a friend was visiting from out of town. It can be a simple one-pot meal that you cook ahead and eat throughout the week or you can dress it up with some garlic bread and salad — which is what I did.

I adapted the recipe from The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright. The original recipe is entitled “Eggplant Bolognese Pasta”. In my recipe, I added some red wine and opted for roasted tomatoes rather than canned. I love taking advantage of the beautiful produce at the markets in KoreaTown and my co-op. Both tomatoes and eggplants are in season from approximately July-October. Rather than doing dried chili to spice things up I used chili oil because I had some on hand. It makes the dish that much more decadent. Finally, I added a pinch of rosemary out of habit.

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eggplant spaghetti

tomatoes eggplant spaghetti

tomatoes eggplant spaghetti

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • three small eggplants
  • 25-30 small vine tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp., divided extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) kalamata olives
  • 1 cup prepared lentils (optional)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano, rosemary
  • 1 package (375 g) whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 cup, divided fresh basil leaves
  • salt and cracked pepper to taste
  • hot chili oil for drizzling (optional)

Instructions

  1. Slice eggplants into rounds and salt generously. Leave for 10-20 minutes to allow moisture to seep out. Rinse, pat dry and chop into 1/2 inch-cubes.
  2. Remove stems from tomatoes and place in roasting pan with eggplant. Toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sea salt.
  3. Roast at 400°C until both tomatoes and eggplant are slightly browned. The tomato should look wrinkled. Approximately 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting chop the onion and olives. Mince garlic.
  5. Place a saucepan over medium-high heat with remaining olive oil, onions and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until onions are softened.
  6. Add olives, lentils (if using), oregano and rosemary to saucepan until they release their aromas. This should take another 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add red wine and vegetable broth and reduce heat to medium. Allow to simmer while you finish roasting vegetables.
  8. When the eggplant and tomatoes are ready throw them in the pot. You may have to use your spoon to crush the tomatoes a bit so they form a sauce. Let simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce begins to thicken.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions.
  10. When the pasta is ready, strain and rinse with cold water. Toss half your basil into the sauce and stir-through.
  11. Serve sauce on a bed of pasta and garnish with remaining basil leaves, salt, pepper and a drizzle of chili oil.
Note: If your sauce is a bit watery you can always add 1 tbsp. of cornstarch or tapioca starch combined with 2 tbsp. water. This should help thicken it if you’re in a hurry. Otherwise, let it simmer on low and the moisture will eventually evaporate. Eggplant spaghetti is extra yummy when served with vegan parmesan. I’ll post my recipe soon 🙂
plant-based cookbook the first mess

Review: The First Mess Plant-Based Cookbook

who should read it

Anyone interested in nourishing, seasonal recipes that are both hearty and healthy. You don’t have to be vegan to fall in love with this plant-based cookbook.

recipes i tried

Red Flannel Beet Hash with Dill, Creamy Garlic Dressing, Peaches, Peas and Beans Summer Salad, Sesame Cucumber Noodles with Melon and Avocado, Crispy Avocado Tacos, Salted Caramel Date Shake, Seedy Sesame Granola Bars with Chocolate, Avocado Tartare, Cauliflower and Pine Nut “Ricotta” Toasts, Homemade Popcorn with Magic Dust.

The amount of recipes I tried directly indicates how much I love this plant-based cookbook. I enjoyed them all except for the Cauliflower Ricotta — and even then it wasn’t terrible.  My Simple Hummus or Cashew Cream Cheese do the trick for me anyways!

plant-based cookbook tacos

highlights

Definitely the beet hash. I’ve made that recipe approximately eight times now and I got the cookbook a month ago. The photography is amazing. I love how the simple, homey styling reflects the flavours and themes of the food. Also, there’s a picture for every recipe, which should be mandatory in my opinion. I find giant cookbooks filled with text quite uninspiring. It’s hard to know what you’re going for in the kitchen without the visual.

plant-based cookbook tempeh bacon

thoughts

I bought a copy of this cookbook, downtown Toronto, on a whim. I don’t normally spend money on cookbooks because it’s all on the internet, right? Wrong. The First Mess blog is great but between all the other blogs I follow and the millions of recipes they share on a daily basis — I never truly got to know Laura Wright’s style of cooking. The photos, the food, the stories, they blend together. This cookbook allowed The First Mess to stand out in my mind. Now, I’m more inclined to visit the blog or recognize Laura’s work.

My only minor criticism of the book is the emphasis placed on the seasonal cooking. I am in full support of seasonal eating, however, it is not always immediately clear what season the recipes are for. You have to read the descriptions carefully because the title doesn’t give it away in every case. As someone who is cultivating their awareness around seasonal eating it would’ve been nice to quickly check for a symbol or sub-heading that indicated the season for each recipe.

Also, with ingredients like banana, avocado and mango, I question how seasonal the recipes truly are. After all, Laura Wright lives in Ontario. Of course, I googled whether or not I could grow some of these fruits in my own backyard; apparently you can seed a mango in this frigid province. Yet, it seems unlikely that people will grow mangos in order to make the Thai-ish Salad. That being said, I cannot discourage cooking which is mostly seasonal. Reducing the amount of imported ingredients on our plate is wonderful and The First Mess cookbook certainly accomplishes that task.

On a more general note, this plant-based cookbook is great for beginners. Lots of the recipes, like avocado toast, tempeh bacon or popcorn with magic dust are classics — those recipes that seek to satisfy the fatty, meaty, buttery cravings we all have sometimes. If you’re looking to transition to a vegan lifestyle The First Mess Cookbook would be a great place to search for staple recipes.

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The Common Guelph

The Common in Guelph

Last month, some friends and I took a trip to Guelph for Kazoo Fest. I had never been to this unassuming riverside town. It definitely wasn’t on my radar and I must admit that my expectations were low. Turns out Guelph possesses its fair share of small town charm. Highlights included lazing by the water, The Cornerstone, live music, a print-makers market and The Common.

This buzzy coffee shop has a sister store, right here in the city, on Bloor Street. That said, the Toronto location is distinctly different from its Guelph-counterpart which is truly a community gathering spot. During our visit, the bright, airy space was filled with families, couples, market goers, dog-walkers and caffeine addicts alike. Every corner hummed with conversation and the smell of fresh ground coffee permeated the air.

 

Near the front windows too adorable little girls in hats with rabbit ears were playing. Toys provided by the shop were scattered across the floor as if they were in their own home. Another parent watched his toddler crawl around the floor while sipping his latte and chatting on his cell. Stacks of board games, cards, books and newspapers perched on counter ledges. Two older kids and their dad played foosball near the back.

While we waited for our drinks my friend Coutts pointed out slips of paper taped to the wall behind the cash. They were handwritten tabs. Locals names scribbled at the top and little doodles or scratched out balances underneath. I fell in love instantly. It was as if this café stood in place of a town square. Half-nursery, half-coffee shop, half-soup-kitchen, half-living-room.

  

It might seem cheesy or over-rated but I believe good food (coffee too!) brings people together. We need more places like The Common to reinvigorate our sense of community. Eating or drinking is a social activity — a time to reflect, take a break, express gratitude, nourish loved ones. Sadly, we are losing that in this fast-paced world. The Common in Toronto is populated by a rather stoic crowd of millennials, hunched over their laptops, headphones blocking out the possibility of interaction. Next time you grab a coffee consider chatting to your barista, find out who supplies their beans or meet a friend to catch-up.

If you enjoyed this post please let me know in the comments. Also, feel free to share it via the sharing buttons below and look for me on Facebook and Instagram. More recipes and foodie musings coming your way soon.

 

the everyday ayurvedic cookbook

Review: The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook

who should read it

Anyone who wants to learn more about Ayurvedic practices and cooking.

Note: Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.

recipes i tried

Yogi tea, spring spice mix, queen green soup.

highlights

Learning about the general principles of Ayurveda (i.e. eating seasonally, balancing foods and flavours, using ingredients for specific reasons like cooling or warming the body).

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cinnamon bun

Cinnamon Bun at Bunner’s Bakeshop

I’ve spent a lot of time in Kensington Market lately. It’s one of my favourite spots in Toronto. This might have something to do with the high concentration of vegan food options. My last stop was Blackbird Baking Co. More recently, I conquered Bunner’s Bakeshop. I always frequent an establishment at least three times before I feel qualified to write about it. On my last visit, I had a cinnamon bun. I don’t think I’ve had one of these since going on a vegan diet. It was pretty amazing.

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bread

Bread from Blackbird Baking Co.

I love bread. It is a staple food in my diet. Naan bread alongside my veggie curries is one of my favourite things. A fresh baked sourdough loaf is usually on top of my fridge. We use it for toast or sandwiches or dipping in soup. I used to bake baguettes with my roommate in university. She had special pans that we would take out every couple weeks. The warm soft bread was delicious with crumbled blue cheese, jam, butter or honey. Since that time, my diet has changed but my love for bread remains steadfast and true.

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hummus toast

Simple Hummus

Spring is upon us! The weather is warming up in Toronto. We spotted a woodpecker, a chipmunk and a robin this week. Camping has been the singular topic of conversation around the house. What festivals are you planning on attending? Do you want to come camping in the Rockies for a week? Should we buy a tent? Naturally, I am already planning the meals for the trips I haven’t even booked. Hummus is definitely on the menu.

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squash noodle bowl

Squash Noodle Bowl for the Starving Artist

Welcome to March. That point in the winter when you wonder why you have chosen to relocate to a frozen tundra when you lived in Sydney, Australia not six months ago. While it is true that I miss the fine weather and the white-sand beaches I could never sacrifice the community I have here in Toronto for a sun-tan. However, I might be willing to trade in all my friends for better wages.

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french toast

Citrus French Toast

When I was little my Dad would often prepare elaborate breakfasts for us before school. Most kids I knew started their day with cereal. Whereas my siblings and I enjoyed omelettes, french toast and crepes. No pancake mix from a box. No canned fruit on the side. My father made everything from scratch with fresh ingredients. My mum, who is not a chef, but remains an excellent cook followed suit. We feasted like kings almost every morning.

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How To: Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats became my new favourite breakfast item about six months ago. I started working at Bridgehead as a barista — it’s a local, Ottawa coffee chain that focuses on fair-trade and organic products — and they served steel cut oats. They were creamy, warm and topped with fruit compote or maple syrup. The best thing about them was they were pre-made, which sounds like a bad thing but with steel cut oats it isn’t. They keep well and take awhile to prepare. So it’s better to cook in bulk. At work, we stored them in trays like a cake. When someone ordered them we simply lifted a slice out of the tray, heated it and put on their desired toppings.

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