Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fettuccine Alfredo!
It is a widely acknowledged fact that I gauge the quality of my days by how many noodles I can manage to consume in them.

Here's the deal, pals. I have been gone for some time from this here food blog, and we're all going to pretend that it is because I have been traveling this little round ball we call earth and collecting recipes and making foodstuffs for every shining face I saw. If you think you've seen me in the last few months, you have not! Fraud! It's all been a hologram! A clever trick of light! Smoke and mirrors! I have been away, okay? Right? This is my only excuse. Now that you have accepted it and forgiven my hiatus, onward. Fettuccine Alfredo!

This is a good recipe. My un-vegan friend Dustin insists that it is the best Fettuccine Alfredo he has ever had, and my sources seem to suggest that Dustin has had his fair share of the dish. This bolsters my confidence in this recipe considerably, and means that when he asked for it specifically to be made for him before he moved to Florida, I obliged. Sort of like a last supper, y'know? That specific batch might have been a touch salty, however. Tears and what not. Friends moving. My life is hard.

This post also has a special perk: The introduction of WINE CATS! I thought better than to make yet again another sister blog (if you have not yet visited my informative book blog, hop to it!), but think it will just make infrequent visits to food cats when appropriate. Which it is today!

The recipe!:

1 lb whole wheat fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup vegan butter OR oil! (if you use oil, step up the salt a touch)
5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 head broccoli
1 onion
4 oz (give or take) mushrooms of your choice
4 cups mimiccreme
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
some pinches of black pepper to taste

I had my trusty sidekick Cheryl with me for help, creative input, and general companionship during this process. To be honest, she is more of a life partner of sorts, and often the foodcats second and equal half, but I am sometimes forced to call her a sidekick for tax purposes. She is the greatest, and I will suggest again that if you don't have her, find someone who looks like her and hold them to unbearably high standards. Either that, or just call her up! Tell her you need help with your fettuccine alfredo or your jigsaw puzzle! She is not guaranteed to come to the rescue, but hey, you tried! 

This is also pretty much how we look all the time. If you see us in town, please alert us of any low awnings or potholes.

Boil water, throw the pasta in. 

I am choosing to not describe the process of making pasta in detail for several reasons. I want to give you an opportunity to humble yourself and ask a pal for help determining when it is done. I also want to give pals everywhere the opportunity to make up a silly illogical way to determine that. I want your dearest friend to lie to you and tell you that to check for done-ness, you put a single piece of pasta in a jar and leave it outside for 3 hours. If it is still there after the time period, then the pasta is and was done. Fair warning: If you call Cheryl, she will tell you just that. Don't let her pull a fast one on you. Also, she will not be able to contain her deadpan for long, so just wait it out.

So, make your pasta. This can be done, of course, while all the other steps are happening too. When it is done, strain it and return it to the pot. Throw some oil or butter in there to make sure it doesn't all stick together. Mix it around until you have reason to believe that it won't stick. Be proud that you have utilized your powers of reason, and that your pasta won't be in one big gob when you go to add the sauce!

Dice up your onion. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan, or put your oil in and get it all warmed up. Sautee the onion until it is translucent! 

Press the garlic cloves into it, mix it all around. You can also dice your garlic, of course, but I have found it hard to ever dice garlic when I have a stellar garlic press handy. 

Dice up your broccoli into whatever size you desire. We went sort of smallish. Larger steamed stalks of broccoli tossed on top of the dish afterwards is a swell idea, too!

After a few minutes with the onion and garlic in the pan, add the broccoli. Cut up your mushrooms! We used the cutest little mushrooms money can buy, brown beech tiny buddies (unofficial name), but you can really use any old kind. 

In the past I've been partial to crimini, but it's really your call. Don't forget to call Cheryl if you need advice.

Put your mushrooms in the saucepan with everything else. 

Now comes the Mimiccreme!

Mimiccreme is great. Really. I sing its praises quite often. I'm sure in a few years I will discover something truly awful about it, as goes for everything ever, but for now, I am holding fast. Mimiccreme rules! It is soy, gluten, and lactose free! It is essentially only water, almonds, and cashews! It is heaven sent! It is what will make this alfredo so freaking awesome. 

When buying Mimiccreme, make sure you get the unsweetened kind! For this recipe, at least. If you want to make ice cream, grab the sweetened stuff. You should be able to find it at your local health food store, but I have found it difficult to locate in some towns. Don't lose heart, ask a store to order it for you, or keep searching around! If things get bad, suggest I start up a Mimiccreme black market, charging a literal arm and a leg for each carton I ship out. What will I do with the limbs, though? What will I do with them? My life is hard.

Measure out your Mimiccreme and put it into the saucepan. Your vegetables will continue to cook in it! Add your nutritional yeast and all the other spices. 

Cheryl is partial to parsley, so she insists on putting it fresh into the recipe, and I can't blame her. 

It would be preferable to put fresh basil and oregano in, too. Oh, fresh basil. It may be clear that I am lamenting the winter months in this way. Life is better when you have fresh basil at arms length in the garden! This might not even need to be said.

Feel so free to adjust all the spices to taste! And add more of them in general! As I have said exhaustively before, I'm a total hack! Just do whatever you want to the recipe! It'll probably still be awesome! Yessss!

So, make your alfredo sauce, and then pour it into your done pasta! The sauce should be sort of thick from its time on the stovetop. Mix it all together. 

Note: gratuitous friendship bracelet view in that last shot! That's right! We have friendship bracelets! It's the 90's! 

Oh, and then plate your noodles! 

Garnish with more parsley, sprinkle more nutritional yeast and black pepper on it, do your worst! The future is yours!

Now for a brief word from wine cats! If you know Cheryl and I well enough, you will know that we are typically saving around 15-18 bottles of wine at any given time. On the few occasions friends have actually asked for this, I have had great fun going through them all and explaining why they need to be saved or what their sentimental value is or where they came from, etc. A large portion of the wine rack is wine from Adair Vineyards, which is the winery/vineyard that the both of us have worked at for about five years now. Marc Stopkie, the winemaker and owner and all around best guy and boss ever, makes the best wine. No exaggeration. I will fight any opposition with cool reason and some sips of his 2004 Frontenac, which is the specific subject of this meal.

2004 Frontenac! Aged in Minnesota oak barrels for three years. We've been harboring some bottles of this on the rack for awhile, and made the motion to drink one. The Frontenac grape is a French-American hybrid grape that was developed in Minnesota. Adair exclusively grows French-American hybrids because they were specifically developed to suit our more cold-hardy climate. And as you'll read below, being committed to using only local fruit, it makes sense to go with grapes who were developed to have a better yield in our growing area. Also, French-American hybrid grapes are so wonderful! The DeChaunac being my absolute favorite, since you were wondering.

Here's the story with Adair Vineyards. Super small business and operation in New Paltz. Marc does vineyard maintenance, makes all the wine, and runs the business. There are few employees (all dedicated, and luckily, us!), and Marc works super super hard. There are 11 acres of vineyard on the property, and any grapes that don't come from our vineyard come from another local vineyard, 4 miles from ours. Marc works pretty closely with them, too. 

a fall sunset on the vineyards

Any fruit that is used for dessert wines (peaches, blackberries, black currants, nectarines!) are also locally grown. Marc is committed to this! He does things as organically as possible, but is not organic-certified. This is something he could tell you a ton about, but what I can offer is this. Some certified-organic vineyard products are, while organic, totally carcinogenic, which he'd obviously prefer not to use. Some natural/non-organic products are safer than the organic counterparts, which means Marc would rather use them! Since the winery is small and all the wine is sold through the tasting room, at farmers markets around New York, and at one store locally, Marc doesn't have to add a ton of chemicals or anything that would be needed if he was shipping the wine great distances or if they needed to sit on store shelves for long periods of time. 

Dustin, Cheryl, and I at a winery holiday event

Also, good news: Adair wine is vegan! While you might not think about it, wine is something that can easily not be vegan. I know, I know, "But it's just grapes!" Alas, part of the filtering process that the wine goes through often involves gelatin, unfortunately. Marc uses a sea-weed based filter, instead. There are alternatives! You can tell if wine is vegan sometimes just by checking the label. It is not so uncommon to find "vegan-friendly" listed on it, especially with organic wines. There are lots of online databases that list what wines are vegan and what are not, too. Also, if you are visiting the winery itself, if the person giving the tasting is knowledgeable enough, they might be able to tell you! If they don't know, however, don't sass 'em too bad. If they haven't had the question before or if the winemaker hasn't imparted the info, they probably won't have any idea. See if you can talk to the winemaker? It can be a difficult situation to figure out, but press on! And know that you can always just go home and drink copious amounts of Adair wine. 

Come visit the tasting room or see us at farmers markets. Mention this post and I'll pour you a little extra of the peach dessert wine. It got "Best of Show" at last year's Hudson Valley Wine & Grape Association awards! We got a silver cup for the tasting room for that! I had a dream of eating cereal out of it, but never could work up the nerve to do it. 

What I mean to be saying is, Adair wine is the best. I'm not saying all this just because I work there, I'm sharing it because the extent to which I believe in and wouldn't mind exclusively drinking Adair wine is perhaps nerdy. Truly local wine that you can feel great about! 

So, after you have made your fettuccine, break out YOUR bottle of 2004 Frontenac that's been dusting up your wine rack for years, and drink it! If you don't have that bottle for some reason, improvise. Whatever you drink with this food will probably be fantastic. I trust you.