Tonight was not a grab bag night but I did get pretty creative in the kitchen. With a vague idea in my head, I went down to Trader Joes and attempted to shop. As usual I was enticed by all the fun items they have that are organic, pre-cut and ready to go. I didn't bite... too much. I stuck to my original plan... sort of. I made it up as I went... completely.
It's not as difficult as it looks it just takes timing; other than that it's actually pretty darn simple!
Tomato balsamic reduction (remember that post?)
For the tomato balsamic reduction:
1 crate ripe (so ripe you're going to toss them) cherry tomatoes
You can also use regular tomatoes, cut into large chunks... not as good but they work
For the rest of it:
3/4 cup quinoa
1 small sweet potato, diced and steamed
1 1/2 cups water
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp fennel
4 portabello mushrooms, de-stemmed and scraped of their gills
1 med-lg eggplant (about the same size around as the portobello)
Green beans, washed and freed of their ends
About 2 oz vegan cheese, shredded. I like 'Veganrella' (as with all my recipes, you can also use regular cheese if you so choose)
For the reduction:
Put your tomatoes in a small pan with about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Add a little salt (in our house it's truffle salt... mmm) and pepper and cook on med/high, closer to high. The point is it is going to reduce into a delicious goopy paste so you really do just let it go, turning down the heat very gradually as the liquid evaporates. (Take a look at my post for more info on this)
For everything else:
Put your water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Include your diced sweet potato pieces, boiling them until they are soft. I didn't time it but it doesn't take long, about 10 min or so? Check them before you think... those babies boil fast!
Preheat oven to 375.
When done, remove the sweet potatoes from the water and put in a bowl for later. Add a little more water (you can measure it out if you like things 'exact') and add the quinoa, garlic and fennel to the sweet potato water. Note: I do this because when you boil a vegetable, most of the nutrients end up in the water... why waste it?
While your quinoa is cooking, roughly mash the sweet potatoes and prepare your portabellos, slice your eggplant and clip your beans. Lay them all on a baking sheet (note: I had to put the beans on a separate sheet and roast them in the toaster oven) and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lightly dust some salt and pepper on top. Put the veggies in the oven to roast. You could also roast these on a grill if you are so inclined!
When quinoa is done cooking, add the shredded vegan cheese and mashed sweet potatoes and stir to combine. While the veg is roasting, form your sweet potato polenta mash into balls about 3 inches wide (omit 'that's what she said' joke; sorry, I had to say it)... I guesstimated. My goal was to go for a ball that would become a patty about the size of the portabello. It worked for me; hopefully that visual will work for you too.
On a pan, heat a bit of veg oil and roll your balls in a plate of panko breading (although you can't see me, all this ball talk is making me smile... probably inappropriate but it's just too funny not to share :) so they are well covered on the outside. Lightly press your balls down into patties; you will do this further as they cook so don't get carried away. Add each one to the pan and sear on both sides.
While they cook, check on your vegetables. By now they should be ready to flip. Flip them and let cook until your 'cakes' are done.
This is a stacked dinner so here is the stacking order:
On a plate, put your portabello, on top of that add the sweet potato quinoa cake, top that with the eggplant and then top with the tomato balsamic reduction. The beans get arranged nicely on the very top.
As I said before, it looks like a pain but it's really not and it tastes and looks good!