As yesterday commemorated Mother’s Day, celebrating moms everywhere, I wanted to make a dish in honor of my mother. My mother and I share a strained relationship. But despite our complicated past littered with disappointment and pain, she yields a tremendous impact on my life.
While I don’t have very many happy memories growing up, I do fondly remember my mother reading Stephen King novels and talking politics. She would vivaciously dance and sing along to Tina Turner, The Police or Billy Joel while she folded laundry and ironed. One chore my mother hated? Cooking, despite making tasty entrees and desserts. I used to beg her to make my fave dish of hers: stuffed shells. The shells consisted of a chicken salad-type filling with peas, drizzled with cream of celery soup and baked. I’m a sucker for anything creamy and comforting!
So for Meat-Free Monday, I thought I would pay homage to my mother and veganize that dish. In lieu of chicken, I stuffed the shells with creamy lemon rice (something so delish I eat it almost every day!). To that I added peas which are chock-full of protein. But the dish needed some crunch so I also added the sweet red peppers which also give it a nice pop of vibrant color. Substituting the creamy celery sauce, I opted to whip up a creamy lemon herb sauce. Its thick texture comes from the flour and pine nuts. An aromatic and zesty sauce due to the combination of acidic lemons, wine, savory sage and fragrant rosemary and thyme.
My mother was no vegetarian or vegan so she never would have cooked this recipe. But I hope I’ve done her meal justice. Food evokes memories and stories. For me, this dish conjures the joyous memories of my childhood, reminding me of my mother’s acerbic wit and her soulful laugh.
Stuffed Shells with Lemon Rice
1 box of jumbo shells pasta
8 ounces sweet peas
1 red pepper, diced
3 cups veggie broth
2 cups long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt to taste
1. Cook pasta shells in boiling water according to directions on package. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, pour veggie broth, rice, olive oil and lemon juice into medium-sized sauce pan. Heat on high. Bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until rice is tender (approximately 5 minutes for quick cooking rice and 20 minutes for regular rice).
4. While rice and pasta cook, cook peas until tender and dice red peppers.
5. When rice is done, add peas and red peppers, stirring together. Season rice with salt to taste.
6. Spoon rice, pea & pepper mixture into cooked stuffed shells. Place in buttered casserole dish.
7. Pour Creamy Lemon Herb Sauce (recipe below) over stuffed shells.
8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.
Creamy Lemon Herb Sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups veggie broth
1/2 cup vegan white wine
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup pine nuts, ground
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dill, dried
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, dried & crushed
1/2 teaspoon sage, dried
1/4 teaspoon thyme, dried
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on high heat. Saute garlic until brown, approximately 2-3 minutes.
2. Add veggie broth, wine, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. Lower heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add flour, pine nuts, dill, rosemary, sage and thyme. Whisk together. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
4. The sauce will probably have a few chunks from the pine nuts and zest. Puree in a blender or food processor to make smooth.
I’m going to have to try this! It looks yummy!
My mother and I share a strained relationship. But despite our complicated past littered with disappointment and pain, she yields a tremendous impact on my life.
Happy Mother’s day!
Seriously, those shells really look incredibly delicious.