Meal Thirteen: Christine

For meal thirteen, I trekked to UM’s North Campus, enjoying a bit of the natural view as I got my game face on to cook for Christine.

Christine wielding my 14-inch saucepan. She's pretty tough. My saucepan. And Christine.

The Menu:

– Penne Pasta with the Bestest Pesto, from the Post Punk Kitchen

– Ratatouille from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson (And suggestions for leftovers!)

– Pumpkin Cheesecake Reprise from last week’s meal with Will and Kim

The Bestest Pesto

The Post Punk Kitchen’s Bestest Pesto’s name is not misleading. It utilizes walnuts, pine nuts, and fresh basil to create a simply delicious pesto that would not leaving anyone craving a dairy-laden pesto. Check out the recipe here. I served mine over penne.

Pesto and Penne, the perfect pairing.

Don’t be afraid to make your own pesto! Fresh pesto, in my experience, is something that can not be replaced by a pre-made version. The only time consuming part of making the pesto is roasting the nuts which takes ten minutes and can be done while prepping the rest of the meal. Having a food processor or quality blender to blend everything is a must, though. I struggled with a cheap blender that just would not blend the basil leaves before I invested in a food processor. I use my VitaMix now, but there are less expensive blenders that are quality as well. Research your appliances before buying them!

Ratatouille served once, twice, three times.

Ratatouille joins the feast.

I thought I would give a classically vegan dish–ratatouille–a swing for this week’s Meal with MelRob. All was good and well..until I was faced with a daunting amount of leftover ratatouille which, after the third ratatouille dinner, got pretty old. So, I decided to reinvent the dish; first into a vaguely Southwestern dish and second into a minestrone soup. Reinventing the dish may have been my favorite part of this meal–it was easy, frugal, and left me feeling resourceful and creative. Read on for the recipe and my leftover suggestions!

Ratatoille Recipe:

From Vegan on the Cheap, p. 67, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau


  • 1 large-size, globe eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or water
  • 2 medium-size or 1 large-size red onion, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 2 medium-size zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 2 red (or any color) bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) squares
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stoc
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped or 2, 15-ounce cans of fire roasted tomatoes (I used the fire roasted tomatoes, canned)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram (or 1/2 dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram)
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  3 cups cooked white beans or 2, 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped for garnish (optional)


1) Steam cubed eggplant for 10 minutes until soft–not mushy. In a very large sauté-pan, heat olive oil to medium and add onions. Cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring, then add zucchini and peppers for an additional 5 minutes. Add steamed eggplant for another 5 minutes.

2) Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add wine and stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-heat, stirring in herbs (with the exception of the fresh basil) and tomatoes. Reduce heat and cover, simmering gently for 15 minutes with the occasional stir.

3) Add beans to skillet, stirring, and cook uncovered until veggies are tender, but not mushy, and liquids have thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

4) Remove from heat and stir in basil. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with pepper and olives (optional).

A diverse array of veggies. Plants are pretty cool, huh?

Leftover Ideas: 

1) Bordering on Ratatouille (a dish with a Southwestern flare)

Additional ingredients:

– chili powder and any additional chili or fajita-esque seasonings like cumin, smoked paprika

– 1/2 frozen corn

– salsa

– rice or tortillas

Directions: Cook rice or have tortillas on hand to use as the serving base. Reheat around 4 cups of ratatouille in a skillet, adding around 1 tablespoon of chili powder and other seasonings to approximately 4 cups of ratatouille, as well as 1/2 cup or so of frozen corn. Cook on medium for around 10 minutes, making sure the corn is heated and the flavors have had some time to meld. Serve over rice or in a tortilla shell, and pour some salsa on top. Feel empowered.

2) MelRob’s Mish-Mosh Minestone

Fantastic colors, flavor--I liked this more than the original dish!

Additional Ingredients:

– A bit of pasta (I cooked about 1/3 of a standard box of rotini to add)

– Vegetable broth

– Either a couple of tablespoons tomato paste or crushed tomatoes (I used about a 1:3 ratio of crushed tomatoes to verge broth)

– a couple of carrots, chopped

– 1/2 quartered olives (kalamata olives preferred)

– A few teaspoons of additional Italian seasonings, paprika (Explore flavor, yourself, etc…)

– a handful of spinach

Directions: Take inventory of your fridge and consider adding any veggies or leftovers that you may want to throw into the soup. I grabbed a couple straggling carrots. Chop vegetables and cook in olive oil at medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes, in a large soup  pot. Add leftover ratatoulille to pot and fill with broth and tomatoes, crushed or paste, until the liquid covers the vegetable mix. Add seasonings, pasta, and olives and let simmer covered for around 30 minutes, giving the flavors time to mature.  Add handful of spinach in the final minutes. Pat yourself on the back for creating something out of “waste”. Enjoy with bread!

Pumpkin Cheesecake: Act Two

I'd eat this cheesecake any day, time, place.

A few times, I’ve frozen dessert from one week to serve it the next week. Because it can save me a couple of hours in the kitchen, and, if I don’t, I eat all of the leftovers alone in my room and feel bad about myself. Lez be real. The Cheesecake froze fantastically and I simply thawed in the morning of my meal in the refrigerator. Check out my last post here to get the recipe from the Joy of Vegan Baking.

Christine and charming roommate, Sarah--just another Meal with MelRob!