Archive for the ‘Vegetarian Giro d’Italia’

Vegetarian Giro d’Italia | Aubergine Caponata

June 19, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia

Aubergine Caponata

Even though the Giro is over, I still have a few recipes left from Italy to feature. This Sicilian recipe, with Spanish origins, features eggplant which were first brought over to the island back to the ninth century.  It was introduced by people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia. Culinary scholars believe that using the eggplant in this fashion most likely dates back to the 1700’s and might possibly have been invented by a Spaniard on a ship that used the vinegar as a preservative.

The sweet and vinegary dish is best served at room temperature or slightly chilled. I’m usually a little hesitant to add celery because it tends to draw attention away from the rest of the dish. But, in this case, the sweetness counterbalanced that overbearing celery taste.

Aubergine Caponata
via Discover Italian Food

Ingredients for 4:

  • 1 eggplant/aubergines
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • tender central sticks of a head of celery (about 3/4 cups once chopped)
  • 2 Tablespoons of capers rinsed
  • 5 Tablespoons of green olives, pitted oil, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley


Wash the aubergines and cut into small cubes. Sprinkle with salt, and leave to drain in a colander for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Stir in the onion, and cook until soft. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes, and fry over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, sugar and pepper.

Aubergine Caponata

Simmer until the sauce reduces, 10 minutes more. Blanch the celery sticks in boiling water until tender. Drain, and chop into 2 cm pieces.

Aubergine Caponata

Add to the sauce with the capers and olives.

Aubergine Caponata

Pat the aubergine cubes dry with paper towels. Heat the oil to 185 °C, and deep-fry the aubergine in batches until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Add the aubergine to the sauce. Stir gently and season. Stir in the parsley.

Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Aubergine Caponata

Vegetarian Giro d’Italia | Fusilli Pasta with Fava Beans and Peas

May 28, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia

Fusilli Pasta with Fava Beans and Peas (3)

Fusilli Pasta with Fava Beans and Peas (2)

vegetariangiroDid you you that there is a type of pasta that was originally made, before pasta maker machines, by wrapping the pasta around a bicycle spoke? Yup, fusilli avellinesi is that pasta. Think about the condition of your bicycle spokes and let’s all hope that they used brand new ones in the pasta making. If you check out Anthony Bourdain below, there’s a demonstration of how the pasta is made around minute 9:10. (Fair warning, once you hit the 10 minute mark, you’ll see some animals getting prepped for a feast. If you’re squeamish, then don’t watch past the pasta making demonstration.)


Fusilli comes from the word fuso meaning “spindle” in Italian and was first found in Granducato di Toscana around 1550. This stuff is good because the little nooks and crannies can hold a lighter sauce tightly yet it doesn’t wither when faced with a heavy sauce. For the recipe below, I use a basic dried fusilli, not one formed on a bike spoke, which is more easily found on any grocery shelf.

Whether you call them fava beans, horse beans, English beans, Windsor beans or broad beans, one thing’s for sure – these beans have been around for a very very long time and once were the only beans available in Europe. For your bit of trivia: Apparently, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (a noted vegetarian) completed despised them. Despite this, he is credited with being the root of pharmacogenetics when back in 510 BC he “noted that hemolytic anemia occurs in some individuals after fava bean consumption. Twenty-five centuries later, this enigma was elucidated by Mager et al. ( 51 ), who demonstrated that deficiency of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase is responsible for this adverse effect of bean ingestion.”  In other words, some folks may be allergic to fava beans causing an anemic reaction (i.e., tiredness, headache, fever, etc.) Thank you, Critical Care Medicine for that information.

On the brighter side, for those of us that don’t have that reaction, this recipe of fusilli con fave e piselli makes a nice rustic meal. I, unfortunately, could not find fresh fava beans, so I resorted to canned – hence the brown hue of my dish. Oh, and don’t forget, you’ll want to serve these fava beans with a nice bottle of chianti…sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Fusilli Pasta with Fave Beans and Peas (Fusilli con fave e piselli)
by Alta Cucina Recipes


  • 1 14.5 ounce box Fusilli shaped pasta
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh fava beans, unshelled (if you can’t find fresh ones, canned will do fine, rinse them first, though)
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable broth
  • grated roman pecorino cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and white pepper

Finely chop the onion and cook it gently in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until soft. Add the peas and the Fava beans.
Season with salt and pepper and let it to cook for 15 minute over a light heat, adding a little stock when needed. Clean the leaks and chop them in thick slices. Add to the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes. Cook the pasta al dente and pour it into the pan with the vegetables.

Fusilli Pasta with Fava Beans and Peas (1)


Fusilli Pasta with Fava Beans and Peas (2)Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve, covered with the grated cheese.

Fusilli Pasta with Fava Beans and Peas (4)

Vegetarian Giro d’Italia | Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette

May 18, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Side Dishes, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (8) Let’s talk Brussels sprouts! Ok, before you go running to (or rather cycling to) the hills, I understand, some folks out there can’t imagine putting one of these in their mouths.  In fact, I was one of the many that turned my nose up at them. But, then, something happened…I started liking these little guys. (I’ll credit my In-House Taste Tester for having me try them again a few years ago and I was happy I did. ) It really depends on how you prepare them and I think roasting them brings out their nuttiness and eliminates some of the bitterness.

You may be scratching your head, why Brussels sprouts? We’re talking Italy, here. Ok, I’ll admit, these sprouts did get their name as they were widely cultivated around Brussels, Belgium during the 16th century. But, it turns out that these little guys actually began to be cultivated from cabbage plants in ancient Rome. It’s the Romans that brought the sprouts to Brussels. The sprouts were mostly a local crop but then were then introduced to the world after World War I.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (1)Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (2)Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (2)

Even if you hate ’em, you don’t have to feel sorry for the Brussels sprouts because they actually have a pretty large family. As part of the Brassica family of vegetables, they are also related to cabbage, broccoli, kale and collard greens.

Half of these Brussels Sprouts didn’t even make it on to the plate. I ate them one after another popping them straight from the baking sheet right into my mouth. The vinaigrette gives the sprout a nice, bright flavor.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette
Tasty Kitchen

  • 2  pounds Brussels Sprouts, Cleaned And Trimmed
  • ¼ cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Mustard Seeds


  • 1 whole Lemon, Zest And Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Grainy Mustard
  • 1 whole Clove Garlic, Minced
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cups Olive Oil

Preparation Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a pot of salted boiling water. Prepare an ice bath.

Slice all of the Brussels sprouts in half. Working in two batches, add the Brussels sprouts to the boiling water and let them simmer for about 2 minutes. Pull the Brussels sprouts out with a strainer and plunge them into the ice water. Repeat with the remaining Brussels sprouts.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (4)Drain the cooled sprouts in a colander and let sit.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (5)Prepare a sheet pan with two sheets of tin foil. Spread the Brussels sprouts out over the tin foil. Blot dry with a cloth or paper towel.

Make the vinaigrette by adding all of the ingredients to a mason jar or tupperware. Shake to combine.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (3)Drizzle the vinaigrette over the Brussels sprouts, and then toss them to coat. Sprinkle them with salt. Spread some good parmesan over the top of the Brussels Sprouts and add mustard seeds for flavor.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (6)Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 8-10 minutes on the top rack of the oven, or until they are just cooked through and starting to brown. Take out and grate a little additional cheese over the top and adjust the flavor with salt if needed.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette (9)

Vegetarian Giro d’Italia | Strozzapreti with a Mushroom Ragu

May 10, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia

After the events of the Monday’s stage, the Veggin’ household really needed some warming comfort food. We needed a family meal to eat together while we mourned the passing of Wouter Weylandt. We ate this meal watching Weylandt take the stage in a glorous sprint just a year before during stage three of the 2010 Giro.  I had originally planned to do this recipe later in the week, but knew that this meal is what we needed to end what was a sad, sad day.
This dish is easy to make yet is just filled with flavor. Interestingly, although the ragu was creamy it light in texture so we didn’t feel like we needed a nap on the couch after eating a bowl of it. I think the credit lies in not using heavy cream but instead used flour as a thickening agent. Just be a little patient adding in the liquid little by little and you’ll be rewarded with a thicker ragu.


Porcini mushrooms are the base for this recipe. Porcini, meaning “piglet” in Italian, is revered for its earthy and nutty flavor. These little piglets live in the forest and form a mycorrhizal relationship with pine trees. Mycorrhizal? Yeah. That means that the porcini and the tree have a symbiotic relationship. The mushroom parks itself on the root of the tree and nibbles on the sugars the tree produces. Meanwhile, the large surface area of the mushroom provides better access to water and nutrients which then go into the root system of the tree. Now you’re fully equipped to bring that word up at the next cocktail party and know what it means. (And, if you score a date off of using “mycorrhizal” in a sentence you now have a recipe you can make!)

In the US, porcini mushrooms are usually found in a dried form that requires reconstituting (like in the recipe below). Stay away from packages that look like someone stomped the crud out of the mushrooms thus turning them into moon dust. You’ll just waste your money and end up with a cup full of nothing edible. If you find fresh porcini, those would be great to use – just find a mushroom broth so you don’t miss out on adding that as an extra flavor.

But, don’t let me finish up this post too soon. Let’s talk vermouth – which also appears in this recipe. It was invented in Italy sometime in the 1700’s.  Apparently, the wines that were being produced were a little off-putting in taste, so a winemaker put together a variety of spices into a white wine to help improve the taste…and vermouth was born. (Hrm, I think this calls for a future post where I explore the history of the martini….)

I borrowed liberally from a recipe in Madhu Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. In fact, so liberally that the only changes I made is the type of pasta I used and I used some of my homemade mushroom stock to enhance the flavor even more. The original recipe asks for fettuccine but I found the strozzapreti on my store shelf that intrigued me so I had to use it.


I hope that other cycling fans can also find as much comfort in this dish as we did.

Strozzapreti with a Mushroom Ragu
Madhu Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

1/2 ounce dried, sliced porcini mushrooms
1 cup mushroom stock (original recipe calls for vegetable stock)
1/4 cup dry vermouth
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose white flour
10 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced (no stems)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pound strozzapreti pasta (original recipes calls for fettuccine)

Put the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl. Add 3/4 cup of boiling water and leave to soak 1 hour or longer until very soft. Remove the mushrooms, squeezing all their juice back into the bowl. Add the stock and vermouth to the liquid in the bowl. Set the mushrooms aside. Heat the mushroom liquid until it is very hot.

Put 2 Tablespoons of the oil, the shallot, and garlic in a small, heavy saucepan and set over medium heat. When the contents of the pot start sizzling, begin to watch carefully. As soon as the garlic is golden, put in the flour.

_MG_8454Stir the flour for a minute.

_MG_8458Now add the hot mushroom liquid, a little at a time, mixing it in with a wooden spoon. When all the liquid has been added, mix again to make sure there are no lumps. Simmer the sauce very gently on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring now and then. Turn off the heat.

_MG_8461Put the remaining 4 Tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan or saute pan and set over high heat. When hot, put in both dried and fresh mushrooms. Stir and saute them for about 2 minutes, or until they are satiny.

_MG_8476Now pour in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and the lemon juice. Stir to mix and taste again. Add the parsley to the ragout just before serving. (If you have made the ragout ahead of time, you will need to reheat it.)

Make pasta per package directions. Add the sauce and toss. Serve immediately.


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