A few weeks ago, my DC family was kind enough to have me over for dinner, and even kinder to cook a bunch of vegan dishes for me. They all raved about how interesting it was to make vegan food: my aunt noted that it compelled her to try spices and flavor pairings she’d never thought of before, as well as some global accents that were new. They all had the same thing to say, though: “it’s cool cooking vegan,” my cousin remarked. “It just takes a ton of time.”
I guess “time” is a relative thing. Making vegan food, even if you take every shortcut you can, will never be as easy as nuking a microwave dinner (though nuking an Amy’s vegan burrito might compare). But can it be every bit as easy as making a standard omni dinner? It sure can. People are quick to confuse difficulty and novelty: it takes no more time to roast a squash than a chicken (less, actually), or to make lentil daal rather than meat sauce. The former dishes are just less familiar, so they feel time consuming and imposing.
I get tons of emails every day from readers who want to make more vegan food, but find themselves spending hours in the kitchen. Either this is because they’ve gotten overly ambitious with cookbooks and five course dinners, or because they simply need to be shown that vegan dinners can be ready in a jiffy. Today, I’d like to share what I hope will be the first of a few “vegan in a hurry” dinner ideas: meals that are healthy enough to appear here on CR, but also budget conscious, family friendly, and, most of all, fast. I’ll start with a seasonal dish: pasta with white beans, eggplant, and summer vegetables. The recipe utilizes canned legumes and tomato sauce and readily available produce, which means it’s easy to prepare. Just see for yourself.
|Hurry Up Vegan: White Bean and Summer Vegetable Pasta|| |
- 1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or ¼ cup vegetable broth for a no oil option)
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or very thinly sliced
- 1 14.5-ounce can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons cane or coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 can white beans, drained
- 8 ounces dry pasta of choice
- Salt the eggplant, if you wish, and allow it to sit for 20 minutes before rinsing and patting dry. (I thinks salting makes eggplant taste better, but you can skip this step if you don't notice a difference.)
- Heat the oil (or broth, if using) in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and sauté, stirring often, until it's browning and tender, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring now and then; add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, basil, oregano, thyme. Heat through. Test for seasoning, and add salt, pepper, and extra herbs as needed. Add the white beans and heat the whole sauce through. This is so tasty and simple, you could eat it on its own as a “cheater’s” ratatouille.
- While the sauce cooks, put a pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta when it hits a rolling boil, and cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the pan of sauce, mixing everything together and allowing it to simmer for a few minutes. Serve.
Delicious. Mine was served, not shockingly, with my miso sesame kale and tomato salad:
This recipe boats a few key time saving techniques:
1) Stock your pantry. Canned legumes, tomatoes, and dried herbs make it easy to eat healthy in a time pinch.
2) Don’t get too fussy. Yes, I could have slow roasted that eggplant and the sauce would be smokier, and yes I could make my own tomato sauce. But when forced to choose between a satisfying, healthy meal that’s doable, and a fantasy that isn’t, I’ll take reality.
3) Use familiar recipes. This is a classic: spaghetti and tomato sauce. But I add oomph to the sauce with veggies and beans for a protein boost. It’s the healthy vegan’s spin on a classic. Use recipe templates you know and love and apply your own nutritive touches to them!
Hope this helps to show you how I manage to make weeknight suppers for me and people I love—vegans, rawbies, and omnivores alike—without getting too stressed. What’s your favorite “hurry up vegan” supper? Tell me all about it!