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While recently dining out with my favorite vegan husband, thoughts of recreating the dinner that I had ordered began to materialize. I wasn’t spurred on because the dish was so delicious that it invited me in for more, but because it lacked a bit of joie de vivre. Could I do any better?

That dish was a Chipotle Vegetable Sauté. Its description was as follows:
Chipotle Vegetable Sauté 
Zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, lentils, carrots, onions, celery, tofu and parsley sautéed together and served over penne pasta with Parmesan cheese – a little spicy

Missing from the dish were the summer squash, carrots, onions, celery and a little bit of spice. If there was Parmesan cheese in the dish, I didn’t see it or taste it (which is a good thing as I normally abstain from dairy).

Regardless, my version of the dish had mixed results. If you are capable of handling a lot of spice, you’ll love this recipe. It packs a wallop!
What I loved about my sauté was the balance of sweetness and spice.  The sweetness presented itself first while the spice slithered in from behind and delivered a blistering bite.
What I didn’t love about this dish is that it packed a wallop! While the spouse liked it, I thought the heat was a bit too much.

I made the dish every night for about a week making tweaks with each go round.

For the most part, I stuck to the dish that was presented to me at the restaurant.
One change I made was to omit the tofu. I am not a big fan of soy products which is the reason I didn’t include it. However, it adds great texture to the dish and it is a good source of protein. If you enjoy tofu, I urge you to include it.
To pack a little more nutrition into the dish, I substituted brown rice, and eventually soba noodles, for the penne.
Another change I made, as the week wore on, included adding cilantro and lime. Neither ingredient enhanced the dish; thus, they made little substantial difference.

I made an abundant amount of chipotle sauce with the intention of refrigerating some of it for future use. You could easily cut the recipe in half and have plenty on hand for the sauté.
If I hadn’t made a bucket load of sauce, one obvious change I could have made would have been to make a fresh batch of sauce with a curtailment in the amount of chipotle peppers. Once a dish becomes too spicy it is nearly impossible to fix.
Some chipotle recipes include cream; mine does not. Cream is an ingredient often used to tone down spice. I eventually added almond milk to curb the heat, but it barely made a dent.

I listed this recipe under misses for two reasons. First, no one hits it out if the ballpark 100% of the time and my mishaps should be shared (always have a back-up meal!). And two, I want to make the dish successful with less heat and I haven’t achieved that yet.

I plan to revisit this dish in the future and when it is to my liking, I will post an update.

Serves 2-4

1 medium zucchini, cubed
1/2 red bell pepper, cubed
1/2 green bell pepper, cubed
1 small head broccoli, chopped
green lentils, amount to your liking
1/3 cup chipotle sauce, recipe below
non-diary cream or milk, amount to your liking
grain, type and amount to your choosing
sea salt, to taste

Chipotle Sauce: (about 10 servings)
28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
10 chipotle peppers, soaked and roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
8 tbsp 100% pure maple syrup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp dried oregano

Chipotle sauce:

You can prepare chipotle sauce a couple of days ahead of time, should you wish,  to allow the flavor to develop.
Cover chipotle peppers with cold water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from water, seed and roughly chop.
Combine chipotle peppers and remaining chipotle sauce ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Sauce should thicken a bit. Remove from heat and set aside or allow to cool and refrigerate for a day or two.
Prepare green lentils:
Similar to pasta, lentils should have plenty of room in a pot to cook.
In a medium-sized saucepan, cover lentils with 2 cups of vegetable broth, plenty of water and a dash of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until lentils become tender, about 30-45 minutes.
Prepare the remainder of the dish:
If you are planning to use rice for this dish, begin cooking according to package instructions.
While lentils are cooking, chop zucchini, bell peppers and broccoli.
Heat a large skillet on high. Add zucchini and a bit of the lentil broth to keep zucchini from burning. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes.
If using soba noodles begin cooking according to package instructions.
Add lentils to the skillet of vegetables. Stir.
Add 1/3 cup chipotle sauce and non-dairy cream or milk to skillet. Stir. Heat for another minute or two.
Taste and add a bit of sea salt.
Serve over your chosen grain.

Ever had one of those weeks?  Please leave a comment…