Top | Views from the Carrot Condo
(post, Trista Cornelius)
Apparently, I had a thing for rolled up food this week: vegan cannelloni for dinner and raw wraps for a day hike. Vegan Canneloni: I’ve never made stuffed pasta before, and I expected it to be frustrating to work with the cannelloni tubes (actually, manicotti tubes because the store didn’t have cannelloni ones…what is the difference? Based on my food encyclopedia, I’m guessing manicotti are a bit shorter and wider?). I assumed the tubes would tear, fall apart, stuffing would ooze out, and I’d have a fractured mess rather than tightly stuffed tubes laid out on a bed of rich tomato sauce like campers tucked into their sleeping bags—snug as a bug in a rug—which is how they turned out. There are two steps to this success. First, follow the manicotti box’s directions exactly so they come out al dente and don’t stick together. Second, patience. I don’t know why, but I often rush in the kitchen. Even when cooking for fun like this, I feel I need to hurry. Why is this? Instead, I took a deep breath and used my fingers to gently drop some filling into the first tube. I wowed myself by realizing I didn’t have to fill the whole tube from one end; I could flip it over and fill from what had been the bottom. Duh. This helped keep the pasta from tearing, but I had to make sure the center didn’t end up being a pocket of air that would bake flat and make my cannelloni look like a tiny bicycle had run over the middle of them. The stuffing was made out of white hominy, soft tofu, bread crumbs, vegan mozzarella (yes, it exists), and spinach (which I replaced with basil). Once baked for 30 minutes, the cannelloni came out firm, thick, creamy, and not too rich. Two cannelloni made a full meal because the stuffing was so hearty. I had a little filling left over, so I filled a ramekin half-full, covered it in sauce, and baked it too. This turned into a perfectly portable lunch, which would have also been gluten-free if it weren’t for the bread crumbs. The vegan cannelloni was a success! (Especially when compared to the vegan meatloaf I made last week, which called for two cups of cooked French lentils, not two cups of raw, hard French lentils. Ugh.) Raw Wraps: The raw wraps I made for hiking turned out differently than the cannelloni—a lot harder to wrap. Collard greens take the place of tortilla in this raw version, but after removing the center stem, it takes a surgeon’s eye, or at least the eye of a beginning seamstress, to keep the cut part of the leaf from splitting open and letting out all the contents. The filling, however, even though this is going to sound gross, was delicious. It’s basically all of these things chopped very fine in a food processor: almonds, garlic, ginger, salt, carrots, celery, onion, lemon juice, a drop of olive oil, and then raisons are stirred in. I know, raisins. Sounded gross to me, too, but I wanted to give it a try. Result? So good!! The raisins ended up being my favorite part. Their molasses-like texture and taste transformed the colorful vegetable mix into something savory. In the future, however, I’ll wrap it in a colorful piece of lettuce, or go only half-raw and use a rice tortilla for the wrap. The collards were just too chewy and too much green flavor. Know what I mean? I’m still struggling with raw recipes. They all come out too textured, requiring a lot of chewing, turning me into a ruminating goat. PS: If you’re interested, the raw wraps came from Any Phyo’s raw recipe book. The cannelloni recipe was printed in the magazine Veg News, and I bet you could get it through their website or contacting them. Also, the image is from pasta-roma.com; but it looks a lot like what I made!