Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chickpea Cutlet Parm with Homemade Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite foods when I was little was chicken parm. Coming from an Italian family, the dish was served at many family gatherings. I remember a warm house with lots of hugs and smiles and loud chattering at a crowded table.

20+ years later, I still crave good Italian food, but it's surprisingly hard to come by in the vegan world. When we go out to eat, our options are Thai, Indian, and Asian fusion. Most Italian places would cringe at not being able to use cheese or eggs in their preparations.

A while back, we prepared Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon (if you don't have this book - you need it. I promise). J remembered this and asked if I thought we could do a twist on Chicken Parm using them. I said, "Why not?!" and we've tried it out on friends twice now. Everyone loved it! Below you'll find our modified version of Isa's cutlets as well as J's homemade tomato sauce recipe. The sauce recipe makes a lot so be prepared to save some in your fridge for another meal or you can freeze it for one of those crazy nights when you don't have time to cook!

Chickpea Cutlet Parm with Homemade Tomato Sauce

Chickpea Cutlets (modified from Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero's cookbook Veganomicon):

Makes 4 cutlets

1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup of homemade vegetable stock
2 Tbsp Braggs or soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, grated with a microplane or minced
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped/minced
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1-2 fresh sage leaves, chopped/minced
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika

In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas with the olive oil until there's no whole chickpeas left. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead for about 3-5 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed. If you've never used wheat gluten before, as you're kneading, you'll notice that the mixture will get a little more tough and you'll see these "strings" of the gluten forming. You aren't done until those have formed - that's what will hold it together and give it the meaty texture.

Next, divide the mixture in half, and then divide each half again so that you have four balls of dough. Knead each again for a moment or two and then stretch them out on a flat surface until they're formed into rectangles about 6 x 4-inches. They'll be fairly thin - about a 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook each cutlet for about 6-7 minutes on each side - browning them a bit.

Justin's Pasta Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow paper, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 of a poblano pepper, finely chopped
8-10 mushrooms, chopped or sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, removed from stem and chopped
1 vegan veggie bouillon cube (or 1 tsp bouillon powder)
Salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tsp each)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
2 six ounce cans tomato paste
1 twenty-eight ounce can crushed tomatoes
5-8 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup of red wine (make sure to get vegan red wine!)
1/2 cup of homemade vegetable stock (optional)

In a large pot, saute the onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and bullion cute in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Stir in the brown sugar, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and red wine. Cover and let simmer on medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring often. If sauce is too thick, add stock.

Putting it All Together!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a baking pan, layer the bottom with tomato sauce and some fresh basil leaves. Lay the cutlets on top and top with a few spoonfuls of sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella flavored Diaya. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until the cheese melts.

In the meantime, prepare a box of spinach linguine in lightly salted boiling water. When the pasta is al dente, save 1/2 a cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the pasta. Dump the drained pasta back into the pot with 1-2 Tbsp of Earth Balance, 1-3 ladles of pasta sauce, and the 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water.

Use tongs to plate by pulling mixed pasta out of the pot and twirling down onto the plate (this creates a neat pile that looks beautiful). Add a little more sauce on top. Place one of the cutlets next to the pasta and garnish with some fresh basil leaves.

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