Archive for Travel

Pasta a la Pomarola {Vegan}

a dish of penne pasta with tomato sauce

I have been obsessed, obsessed, I tell you, with the new series Searching for Italy with Stanley Tucci that’s been airing on CNN on Sunday nights (ps it just got renewed for Season 2!!).

First of all, Tucci is 7 different kinds of amazing, and Big Night is one of my top 10 movies of all time. But also, there’s something about this series that helps to fill the hole in my heart left by Anthony Boudain.

Also, c’mon! It’s Italy! It’s food! We can’t travel right now! It’s everything we need.

In the first episode, Tucci talked about San Marzano tomatoes. Now, of course I knew about San Marzanos. I’d likely had them on a pizza or two. But I’d never gone out of my way to buy them, nor did I realize there was a black market for them.

So after viewing that episode, I was determined to find authentic San Marzanos and cook with them. You know, for science.

For a city with such a big Italian population, you’d think they’d be easier to find, but not so much. I did finally source them at Donald’s Market, and, surprisingly, Costco. Costco was the better deal (shocker). Here’s how to know if your San Marzanos are the real deal.

Cans of tomatoes

Now it was time to cook. For inspiration, I turned to Samin Nosrat. This is a recipe adapted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.

Pasta a la Pomarola is a super simple, pantry-staple Tuscan-inspired tomato sauce that’s perfect for these days. We can’t travel, we have to be careful and not go to the grocery store too often, and we want something comforting and soul-satisfying. This checks all those boxes.

Pasta a la Pomarola takes a while to make, but it’s not hard. It just needs a little time to make its particular brand of magic.

I added spinach to mine, though it’s not traditional.

And if you, like me, are dreaming and planning for when this pandemic is over and you can finally get to Italy, you’ll need this. And in the mean time, here are 6 recipes from the show. 

a plate of pasta

Pasta a la Pomarola

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Good quality EVOO (divided)
  • 1 large yellow or red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes, placed in a bowl and squished with your hands
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves chopped
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, packed
  • 250 g pasta (I used penne)
  • parmesan or pecorino (or the vegan equivalent), optional

Method

  1. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, just enough to cover the bottom. Heat until the oil shimmers, then add your onions. Season with salt and reduce the heat. Allow to sweat out until the onions are soft and translucent. This will take about 10 minutes. If the onions start to brown, reduce the heat some more and add a little water.
  2. Once the onions are cooked, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, just until fragrant, then add the tomatoes. Fill the can that the tomatoes were in about halfway up with water, and swish it around well to get all the juices, then add that to the pot as well. Bring back up to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and stir well.
  3. Allow the sauce to cook for about 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, and making sure it is just simmering, as you don’t want it to burn.
  4. Once the tomatoes are cooked and have turned a darker red, become thicker and don’t taste raw anymore, turn up the heat and stir in 1/3 cup olive oil as well as the spinach. Stir and boil until the sauce is glossy and smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Cover and set aside on the back of the stove to keep warm.
  5. In a medium saucepan, heat up to the boil a large quantity of well-salted water. When the water boils, add your pasta to it and stir well. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta but reserve the cooking water.
  6. Place the pasta back into the pot over low heat and start adding tomato sauce to it by the ladleful, adding pasta water as well. Stir and mix together until you get your desired consistency of sauce.
  7. Spoon into bowls and serve with gratings of your desired cheese.

Mila Plant Based

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m grateful to live in a city that is bursting with an abundance of plant-based restaurants (click to see my favourite vegan dishes in the city).

Not just restaurants in a traditional vegan way. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Naam. But increasingly over the last few years, the vegan options in Vancouver are getting more diverse. We have high-end options now, like The Acorn, as well as myriad of comfort-food type places like Meet, The Arbor and Chickpea. And pizza! We have the best vegan pizza in Virtuous Pie.

Well! Good news, my plant-loving friends, because there is a new kid in town, and it’s great.

Mila Plant Based just opened at the end of September in the old Juniper space. They’ve kept the basic design and layout of the original restaurant, including that incredible bar. And they make good use of the bar with their fantastic cocktail list.

Owned by the same folks at Virtuous Pie, and helmed by Chef Jim Vesal, Mila takes a global approach to the menu, which I think is something unique in the city. Like, we have vegan comfort food, vegan pizza, vegan Asian. But the menu at Mila is from everywhere. There’s sushi and baos and pasta and burgers and sandwiches, which at first I think I found a bit confusing, but after eating the food, I didn’t really care anymore. A chunk of the menu does focus on Asian cuisine, a nod to the neighbourhood in which we find ourselves.

For me, the greatest compliment anyone can give my food is to say “I didn’t know that was vegan,” or “that doesn’t taste vegan.” I know, it’s kind of backwards, I admit, but my goal is always just to cook really good food, first and foremost, that happens to be vegan or vegetarian.

Mila Smoky Sour

Smoky Mila Sour

Every dish at Mila was like that. Vegan, all of it, but not so’s you’d know. Just delicious, well-made food that happens to be plant-based.

Mila Clover Club

Clover Club

We started, as you should, with cocktails. They have a beautiful bar and a great cocktail program. Instead of egg whites, they use a vegan foamer, and it makes for the prettiest drinks. There’s a wide variety of options here, traditional favourites like caesars and margaritas, but with a twist. For me, I couldn’t resist the Smoky Mila Sour, a combo of bourbon (I’m a sucker for anything bourbon), a smoky oolong tea syrup and a float of Ardbeg. A lighter and brighter option is the gin-based Clover Club, a lovely shade of pink, from the raspberry syrup. It’s also notable to mention they have an impressive line of whiskeys here.

When it comes to starters, there’s everything here from soups to salads to toasts to sushi.

Vegan Baos Mila

Tempeh Bao

We tried the tempeh baos. Pillowy soft rice baos enrobe a hoisin-glazed tempeh, and are garnished with house-pickled cucumber and onion, and topped with cilantro and crispy shallots for a textural component.

Vegan Aburi Sushi Mila

Aburi “Carrot Lox” Sushi

Probably my favourite dish of the day was the aburi sushi. Rice is covered with a carrot “lox,” and then topped with a creamy vegan mayo and torched. It is the perfect bite.

Mains include English “Fish” and Chips, Mexican tacos, an Italian pasta dish and a good ol’ fashioned burger (made with local TMRW Foods patties–my favourite of all the “fake meat” burgers out there).

Mushroom Tagliatelle Mila

Mushroom and Sausage Tagliatelle

We had the Fish & Chips and the Mushroom and Sausage Tagliatelle. The pasta was bonkers good. Homemade pasta with Beyond Meat sausage crumbles and rich, meaty mushrooms in a creamy cashew sauce–again–the kind of dish you’d expect to be loaded with butter, cream, eggs and cheese, and yet has none of those ingredients. It was immensely comforting and one of the best things on the menu.

Fish and Chips Mila

“Fish” & Chips

I was super curious about the fish. Turns out it’s made with a tempura-battered celeriac root. It’s pretty amazing, texturally, when you bite into it, how much it really looks like fish. It lacks the flakiness of fish, but it’s a pretty tasty substitution. The dish came with smashed, fried potatoes, a fabulous mango slaw, and of course, a vegan tartar sauce.

Apple Tart Mila

Apple Tart

Dessert for us was the month’s feature, an apple tart (also gluten free in this case) with a vanilla pastry cream and candied walnuts.

First off, I have to say, it’s incredibly wonderful to be able to walk into a restaurant and not have to ask any questions about how the food is cooked. I was safe to order anything off the menu with zero trepidation. That is such a good feeling.

Secondly, this is the place to bring your omni friends. They won’t feel weird about any of the food. It’s all incredibly recognizable, beautifully presented, and delicious. There is no lack here. There is no “doing without” or “going without.” There’s no sacrifice in eating here. Just really good food that happens to be plant-based.

I highly recommend you check out Mila Plant Based.

Mila Plant Based

185 Keefer St (in Chinatown)

Open every day for dine-in (with safety protocols), take out or delivery from 11:30 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 10 pm daily.

 

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