Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ratatouille for Christmas

I've made ratatouille before, but this version - from Julie Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" - is the best I've had. It was so flavorful!
This ratatouille did take me a bit longer to make than anticipated, because I had forgotten that the eggplant and zucchini needed to be salted and set aside for about 30 minutes before sauteing. It took an additional 40 minutes to finish preparing dinner.

You will need a skillet with a cover and a 2 1/2-quart pot with a cover. As for how to peel, seed, and juice a tomato, instructions may be found here.

RatatouilleServes approximately 4
1/2 pound eggplant, peeled, cut into 1-inch-by-3-inch pieces
1/2 pound zucchini, ends cut off, and cut into same-size pieces
1/2 pound yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 pound ripe (but firm) red tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 green bell peppers, sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper

Separately toss the eggplant and zucchini in salt, place in bowls (or colanders), and set aside for about 30 minutes. Rinse the salt from the eggplant and zucchini and pat dry with a dish towel.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the eggplant until browned on both sides, about 1 minute. Remove from the skillet and repeat with the zucchini. Remove the zucchini from the skillet.

Cook the onions and peppers in the same skillet until the onions become soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Slice the tomatoes into 3/8-inch strips and lay them on top of the onions. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to release their juices. Uncover and baste the tomatoes with their juices. Continue cooking over medium-high heat for several more minutes until the juices have almost evaporated.

Divide the tomato-onion mixture into thirds and divide the eggplant and zucchini into halves. Place one-third of the tomato-onion mixture on the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart pot. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of parsley over this layer.

Layer half of the eggplant and zucchini on top of the tomato-onion mixture in the pot. Repeat this layering process with another one-third of the tomato-onion mixture and parsley and the remaining eggplant and zucchini. Finish with the remaining tomato-onion mixture and parsley.

Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Uncover and tip the pot to baste with the juices. Cook uncovered for another 15 minutes, basting several more times, until most of the juices have evaporated, and then its ready to be served.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gratin Dauphinois

This gratin dauphinois is inexpensive and simple to make. This version uses low fat milk, as opposed to whole milk, and light cream, instead of heavy cream or creme fraiche. I think serving it in individual gratin dishes classes up the meal in terms of presentation. Recently, I was in a restaurant supply store in the District and stumbled upon some gratin dishes I really liked. They were the right size and the right color for just $3.99 each.

For two persons, take
two large russet potatoes (between 1 1/2 to 2 lbs) and cut them into 1/8" to 1/4" slices. A food processor or a mandoline slicer is helpful here.

Put the potatoes in a large pot or pan and cover with
2-3 cups of low fat (not skim) milk. Add a dash or so of salt and bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the potatoes for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, rub the inside of a baking dish or individual gratin dishes with
crushed garlic cloves. Next, rub the inside of the baking dish or individual gratin dishes with unsalted butter. Drain the potatoes and layer half the potatoes along the bottom of the baking dish or gratin dishes. Sprinkle grated gruyere cheese over the potatoes and then some fresh thyme leaves and salt. Splash some light cream on top. Add the remaining potatoes and repeat with the cheese, thyme, salt and cream.

Place the baking dish or individual gratin dishes in a
preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven when the top or tops become golden brown and the edges bubbly. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Vegetarian Thanksgiving (Photos)

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

I decided earlier this week to make a vegetable pot pie and serve it with a simple tossed salad (approximately 2 parts olive oil to 1 part white vinegar for the dressing). I used this recipe for the main dish. For a light pie crust topping, I used sheets of filo dough. I had seen Ellie Krieger do the same during a recent episode of her Food Network show, "Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger," in which she made chicken pot pie.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

Serves 4-6

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I used 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 small heads fennel (anise), core removed and finely chopped (I used 1 medium head)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (I used the entire onion)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped (I used 3 carrots)
  • 12 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced (I used one 8-ounce package of pre-sliced mushrooms )
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled and diced small (I used 2 small potatoes)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup mushroom broth
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
For the crust topping:
  • 3 sheets filo dough
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and fennel and saute until the onions soften, about 2-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and mushrooms and continue cooking for about another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Stir until the vegetables are coated with the flour. Add the milk and broth, bring to a simmer. Stir in the peas, chives and parsley, and continue cooking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the filling into an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish. Brush 3 individual sheets of filo dough with olive oil (one side only) and layer on top of the filling. Tuck the excess filo along the inside edges of the baking dish.

Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan cheese and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when the crust topping becomes golden brown. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

More photos of the pot pie:

The nice thing about this main course is that it's not heavy at all. This meant that I was able to enjoy dessert afterward - a generous slice of apple pie made by my partner's mother using Granny Smith apples!

And, of course, the post-meal nap:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

High Protein Vegan Chili

This chili recipe comes from the wonderful cookbook, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, by Jack Bishop. My sister gave me this cookbook last year as a Christmas gift.

I ended up doubling the chili recipe. As a result, I ended up with way more chili that I expected and have been eating it for dinner the last four days. While the recipe suggests serving the chili with sticky rice, I've been serving it over pasta. This is the way I ate chili back in the days when I was a broke-ass student at  Boston College Law School. Canned chili over pasta - a hearty meal for under $3.

Vegan Chili
Serves approximately 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce (I buy a small can of this brand)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 8-ounce packages of tempeh (I used Organic Garden Veggie Tempeh)
  • 2 15-ounce cans dark red kidney beans, raised and drained
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 12-ounce bottle beer (I used Amstel light)
  • Lime wedges for garnish (I skipped)
In a dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and approximately 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until the onions become soft, about 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Next, add the garlic, chipotle chili, adobo sauce, the dried spices and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes.

Using your fingers, crumble the tempeh into the pot. Add the beans, tomatoes, beer, and about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Remove the cover and continue simmering until the chili is thick, about 30 minutes. Add additional salt, to taste, and serve.

As most of you probably already know, homemade chili tastes even better the next day. In this case, the sauce thickens overnight and the tempeh continues to absorb the flavors of the sauce. Yum!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fettucine with Vegetables and Olives

The pasta dish shown above is something I threw together last night. Certainly nothing to brag about - it's just vegetable, olives, and fettuccine tossed in some extra virgin olive oil. But it only took 15 minutes to prepare, which makes it an ideal meal for weekdays.
Fettuccine with Vegetables and Olives
Serves approximately 4

16 ounces fettuccine

8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped

3 cups broccoli crowns, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup green olives, pitted and sliced in half

1/2 cup black olives (e.g., kalamata olives), pitted and sliced in half

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 - 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and begin cooking the pasta according to the directions on the package.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until the mushrooms start to become soft. Add the broccoli and 1/2 cup of pasta water to the skillet. Turn the heat to high and continue cooking until the broccoli turns bright green and the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add the tomatoes and olives to the skillet.
When the pasta has approximately 1 minute left before it is done cooking, add the green beans to the pot of boiling water. When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and the green beans.

Transfer the pasta and green beans to a large bowl. Stir in the vegetables and olives from the skillet, along with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste, and serve. Pass the grated parmesan at the table.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes Over Pasta

At Trader Joe's this past weekend, I came across cartons of colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes. I bought two cartons of tomatoes and decided to use them to make a quick and simple dinner on Saturday night. Yum!

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes Over Pasta
Serves approximately 4

16 ounces pasta (I used pappardelle)

2 pounds (2 cartons) heirloom cherry tomatoes

1/8 - 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Basil leaves, torn

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the tomatoes in half and toss them in 1/8 to 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and roast the tomatoes in the oven on a foil-lined baking sheet for about for about 20 minutes.

About 10 minutes into the roasting process, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Before removing the tomatoes out of the oven, drop the pasta into the hot water and cook according to the directions on the package.
Take the tomatoes out of the oven when they become soft, but not mushy. Set the tomatoes aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low. Add the basil leaves and, if necessary, additional salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta thoroughly. Spoon the tomatoes over the pasta and serve.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cobb Salad

For a bacon substitute, I cut Lightlife brand's smokey tempeh strips into small pieces and sauteed them in some canola oil until they were crispy around the edges. I arranged the defrosted sweet corn, "bacon" bits, chopped boiled eggs, diced tomatoes, diced avocados, black olives, and some crumbled blue cheese on top of a bed of romaine lettuce that I had tossed in some store-bought blue cheese dressing.

Easy. Filling. Yummy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vegan Jambalaya

I really liked this dish, which is my vegan adaptation of a Rachel Ray recipe.

I pretty much followed Rachel Ray's recipe as written, except that I did use more cayenne pepper than called for. I also used vegetable broth and vegan worcestershire sauce and, of course, omitted the shrimp and chicken.

And, yes, the entire dish took less than 30 minutes to prepare!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Spinach Cheese Burritos

Again, my apologies for the posting slowdown. I'm now driving (instead of biking) into work at 630 a.m. and leaving the office at 7 p.m., all in preparation for next week's work trip to rural Kentucky. By the time I've been getting home from work, it's gotten too dark outside to photograph whatever I've made in the evening.

One of the things I did get around to making last week, though, was spinach cheese burritos from the Moosewood Collective's Simple Suppers cookbook. My coworker, to whom I referred the cookbook, told me that he had made these burritos and that they were really good.

I couldn't agree with him more! These burritos have a rich and creamy filling from the addition of the cream cheese. I also like that fact that they were simple to prepare on a weeknight. Although the cookbook recommends baking them in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, I found that 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven was sufficient, provided I warmed the tortillas in the oven on a baking sheet for about 2 minutes before assembling the burritos.

Spinach Cheese Burritos
Serves approximately 4-6

2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10-12 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or cheddar or monterey jack)
1/3 cup cream cheese (I used low fat)
6 8-inch round tortillas
Your favorite salsa for garnishing

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the scallion and the garlic and saute until the garlic softens, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and cook until they become wilted and any excess liquid has evaporated. Mix in the coriander, nutmeg, chese, and cream cheese. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Take a pre-warmed tortilla and place about 1/2 cup of the spinach and cheese filling onto the lower half. Fold the lower half of each tortilla over, tuck in sides, roll, and place seam-side down in a baking dish. Cover the baking dish with foil and place in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of salsa on top. A side of yellow rice goes great with this dish.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Zucchini, Eggplant and Mushrooms

I had to work at the office all day this past Saturday and Sunday.

On my way home from work on Saturday evening, I stopped at Harris Teeter and started grabbing whatever for the entire week. I was in the produce section tossing anything and everything that looked fresh and was on sale.

I was in and out of the grocery store in about 20 minutes. That might be a record for me, as I tend to enjoy lingering when I shop for groceries, especially if there's a wine tasting going on.

I've made stuffed bell peppers before. This dish was really easy, because I just sauteed all the veggies at once, added some seasoning, spooned the vegetable mixture into the bell peppers, and baked. The cider vinegar adds just a bit of tanginess to the vegetables.

I served the stuffed bell peppers alongside basmati brown & wild rice blend, which I quickly cooked using my pressure cooker.

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Eggplant, Zucchini and Mushrooms

Serves approximately 2

4 small bell peppers, tops sliced off and seeded

Vegetable oil

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped
2 small zucchini, finely diced
1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplant (e.g., Asian), finely diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon cider vinegar

8 ounces queso fresco (or other type of crumbling cheese, like feta)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush the inside and outside of each bell pepper with the vegetable oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and cook them in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set them aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant. Stir constantly and saute until the vegetables become soft (but not mushy), about 7-10 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, cider vinegar, and salt and pepper (to taste). Crumble half of the queso fresco into the skill and stir through.

Spoon the vegetable mixture into the bell peppers. Be careful not to overstuff the peppers. Crumble the remaining queso fresco over the top of each bell pepper. Place the stuffed bell peppers back into the oven. Cook for an additional 10 or so minutes, until the cheese on top has melted, and serve.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Spicy Tofu Stuffed with Peppers and Green Onions (Vegan)

During summertime, I love eating cold tofu.

I grew up eating cubes of cold firm tofu topped with soy sauce, dried katsuo (bonito) fish flakes, and thinly sliced green onions, with a side of hot steaming rice. Soooo good.

Of course, the fish flakes became a no no when I became a vegetarian. I tried eating cold tofu with just soy sauce, and it was . . . uneventful.

Nowadays, I eat cold tofu drizzled with the same spicy sesame dressing that I use to make spicy soba noodles and topped with a mixture of very thinly sliced scallions and finely diced green and red bell peppers.

For a nicer presentation, cut a slit (making sure not to cut too deep or too close to the edges) into a block of tofu sliced on the diagonal and stuff with the vegetable mixture.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Creamy Fettuccine with Black Olives

I think I've mentioned before that I've been really busy and totally stressed out at work.

When I come home from the office at around 7 p.m., I have absolutely no desire to spend more than 15 minutes preparing dinner. I just want to make my dinner, eat it, and then chill out for the rest of the evening with a cocktail (or two . . . or three) while blogging about, of course, vegetarian food.

This delicious creamy fettuccine with black olives has been adapted from a recipe in the Williams-Sonoma cookbook called Pasta Sauces. To be more specific, my adaption doesn't require having to boil onions (huh?) and doesn't require having to pull out a blender, which, of course, becomes an additional item you then have to wash after the meal. Screw that.

Creamy Fettuccine with Black Olives
Serves approximately 4

16-ounce package fettuccine
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

20 black olives (kalamata or gaeta), pitted and sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and begin cooking the pasta according to the directions on the package.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the onion slices and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until they become soft, about 5-10 minutes.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and set it aside.
Add the cream to the skillet and continue cooking for another minute or so.

Add the pasta to the skillet and toss well. Finally, add the parmesan cheese and olives to the skillet, along with salt and pepper, to taste (if necessary). Toss again and serve.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sweet and Sour Seitan and Vegetables (Vegan)

A few weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite Thai restaurants and had vegetables with a "tropical" sweet and sour sauce - a sweet and sour sauce containing pineapple juice and chunks.

weekend, I took my favorite sweet and sour sauce recipe and threw in some canned pineapple juice and chunks. It tasted pretty much like the restaurant version I had.

To add protein to this tropical sweet and sour dish, I made crispy seitan. I've made crispy seitan before. Normally, I just toss seitan strips in cornstarch and then fry them in a pan with a 1/4-inch of canola oil.

This time, though, I dipped the seitan strips in Ener-g Egg Replacer (approximately 3 tablespoons water mixed with 1 tablespoon egg replacer) and then tossed the strips in cornstarch before frying them. The seitan strips came out of the pan with a really nice crispy coating.

I can't wait to try this with tofu!

The following dish is for sweet and sour seitan and vegetables, as shown in the photo above. If you don't want the "tropical" version of this sweet-and-sour sauce, just omit the pineapple juice and chunks.

Serve with brown or white rice.

Tropical Sweet and Sour Seitan and Vegetables
Serves approximately 3-4

For the sauce:
Pineapple juice (approximately 1 cup) from a 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
1 teaspoon soy sauce
5 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Crispy Seitan:
1 package seitan strips
1 tablespoon Ener-g Egg Replacer (found at Whole Foods where gluten-free foods are sold) mised with 3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Canola oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 broccoli crown, cut into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make the crispy seitan strips in the manner described above. Set the seitan aside.

In a small saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch, and gradually bring to a simmer.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a wok or large skillet. Add the onions, carrots, and bell peppers and cook until the onions start to become soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the broccoli, along with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil and let the broccoli steam in the uncovered wok or skillet.

In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch with approximately 1 tablespoon of cold water. (If you want a thicker sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water.) Stir this cornstarch-water mixture into the small sauce pan.

When the water in the wok or skillet has evaporated, add the contents from the saucepan to the wok or skillet, along with the pineapple chunks and crispy seitan. Stir until the vegetables and seitan are coated with the sweet and sour sauce and serve.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spicy Soba Noodle Salad (Vegan)

One of my absolute favorite dishes in the summer is cold soba (buckwheat) noodles with a vegan dipping sauce. It does require making the dipping sauce ahead of time and then chilling it before serving.

For those times when I've been hit with a craving for cold soba noodles, and I haven't made the dipping sauce in advance, I turn to the spicy soba noodle salad below.

The dressing for this salad is a basic sesame oil-soy sauce mixture. I use Korean red chili powder for a little added heat. This is the same chili powder used to make kimchi, or Korean pickled cabbage.

This red pepper powder may be found at Asian supermarkets or online. I bought my 16-ounce bag at
H-Mart in Falls Church, Virginia.

If you can't find Korean red pepper powder, try substituting it with a couple dashes of hot sesame oil.

Spicy Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 1

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon Korean red chili powder (or start with less and adjust according to taste)

1 bundle soba noodles
Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnishing

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the directions on the package.

Rinse the cooked noodles under cold running tap water and drain thoroughly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili powder.

Toss the noodles in the dressing. Garnish with the green onions and serve.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Spaghetti Salad (Vegan)

I have been seriously busy at work this summer. I've been biking to work earlier than usual and biking home from work later than usual.

By the time I get home, I am exhausted. And hungry for something quick and simple.

summer spaghetti salad, from Jeanne Lemlin's Simple Vegetarian Pleasures, has become part of my rotation of weeknight meals. It's perfect for the summer. There's something honest about this dish in its use of fresh, natural ingredients, such as tomatoes and fresh herbs.

This salad also tastes good the following day, when all of the flavors have melded.

Lemlin recommends making this dish earlier in the day (one to 8 hours before serving). I made this dish when I got home from work. I just ran the cooked spaghetti noodles under lukewarm water to cool them down a bit before tossing them in the dressing.

Summer Spaghetti Salad
Serves approximately 4

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound spaghetti (I used thin spaghetti)

3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and begin cooking the spaghetti according to the directions on the package.

Combine the first five ingredients in a small tupperware. Seal the tupperware and shake vigorously.

When the spaghetti is done cooking, drain it thoroughly. (If you're planning on serving this immediately, then run the spaghetti noodles under lukewarm water to cool it down a bit.) In a large bowl, toss the spaghetti and the remaining ingredients in the dressing. Add salt and pepper, to taste, if necessary.

Serve immediately or let marinate for 1-8 hours. If you chill the salad, bring it to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fried Rice with Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese Spice Mixture)

I have a habit of opening a new package of frozen veggies before finishing an old one. As a result, I have many, many, many opened packages of frozen veggies that have been sitting in my freezer for probably close to a year.

This morning, I decided to clean out my freezer and use the remnant veggies from these opened packages to make fried rice for dinner.

I have written before about making fried rice. This evening, I tossed my frozen veggies (peas, corn, edamame, and asparagus) in a wok with the cold rice. As the rice warmed up in the wok, so, too, did the frozen veggies. I made a little well in the rice, broke 2 eggs in the well, beat the eggs lightly with a fork, and then stirred the eggs into the rice and veggies.

Finally, I added some soy sauce (about 1/8 to 1/4 cup), chopped scallions, and several dashes of a Japanese spice mixture called shichimi togarashi.

I use schichimi togarashi to season udon noodle soups. But I've never thought to use this spice mixture in fried rice, until I read about doing so on VeganYumYum. This spice mixture not only adds heat to the fried rice from the ground chili pepper, but also adds extra flavor. (The spice mixture contains dried orange peel and nori seaweed flakes.)

Schichimi can be found at Whole Foods (sometimes), at Asian supermarkets, and, of course, online. If you find yourself making fried rice a lot, as I do, then definitely consider buying a small vial of this spice mixture.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Leftover Risotto?

Whenever I make a risotto, I usually end up with a lot of leftover.

The problem with leftover risotto is that you can't duplicate the creaminess from the night before by simply reheating it in a microwave.

What I frequently do is to take the cold, mushy rice, shape it into small patties, press the patties in dry bread crumbs or panko flakes on each side, and pan-fry them in a little oil until lightly brown on each side.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two-Cheese Risotto with Spinach

Now that's what a risotto should look like!

Starchy. Creamy. Cheesy. This was so good - better than the last time I made risotto, at least in terms of creaminess.

This time, though, I used the pressure cooker, because I didn't feel like standing in the kitchen ladling broth from one pot to another incrementally over the course of 25 to 30 minutes.

I've used saffron in risotto before. This version, though, is much more colorful, as seen from the photo above. I also used a stronger, more pungent, gorgonzola cheese, in addition to parmesan cheese, for added "bite."

Two-Cheese Risotto with Spinach

Serves approximately 4

1 carrot, roughly grated

1 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 cups arborio rice

1 cup grated parmesan

1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1 6-ounce bag of pre-washed baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups of vegetable stock

1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon (about 15-20 threads)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the butter and oil in a pressure cooker pot or, if you're making risotto the traditional way, in a medium-size pot over medium heat.

Add the onion and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
Add the carrot and thyme to the pot. Cook until the carrot becomes soft, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice. Add the wine and saffron, and continue cooking until most of the wine is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock and bay leaves to the pot and seal the lid on it. (See note below if you're making risotto the traditional way.) Increase the heat to high. Once high pressure has been achieved (15 p.s.i.), reduce the heat to low-medium, and maintain that pressure for the next 7 minutes.

When 7 minutes has elapsed, release the pressure and open the lid. Stir in the spinach and tomatoes. (The heat of the rice will cause the spinach to wilt.)

Finally, stir in the parmesan and gorgonzola cheeses, and serve.

/Note: if you are cooking risotto the traditional way, begin by heating the vegetable broth in a small pot. Add the bay leaves to the pot of risotto and then begin adding the broth in 1 cup increments every 7-10 minutes, stirring until the broth is nearly absorbed, over the course of 25-30 minutes. Stir in the spinach and tomatoes after all of the broth is absorbed by the risotto. Finish off by stirring in the cheeses./

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rigatoni (or Penne) with Vegetable Bolognese

This was really freakin' good!

I saw Giada make this dish on an episode of Food Network's Everyday Italian. The next day, I found the recipe on the Food Network website, printed it out, and stashed it in a kitchen drawer.

I finally got around to making this vegetable bolognese on Saturday. I followed the recipe as written, except that I omitted the dried porcini mushrooms. The two grocery stores I went to on Saturday simply did not have them.

I love the texture and simplicity of this dish. I would rank this dish among my vegetarian faves.

Definitely a keeper.

Rigatoni (or Penne) with Vegetable Bolognese
Serves approximately 4

3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces assorted mushrooms, e.g., shitake, cremini, and brown, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta
Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnishing

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Toss the carrots, onions, bell peppers, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse several times (5 to 7 times) until the vegetables are finely chopped, yet still chunky.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook until the vegetables become soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and tomato paste, and continue cooking until the mushrooms become soft, about 5 minutes.

At this time, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the directions on the package (approximately 9-11 minutes).

Pour the red wine into the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and continue cooking until half of the liquid has been reduced, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone cheese.

Drain the pasta when it is done cooking, making sure to reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss. (If additional moisture is needed, add the reserved pasta water to the skillet.)

Serve in a bowl. Garnish with the grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Carrot Salad with Cumin

Yesterday, I posted a recipe for eggplant-couscous rolls, which I served alongside the following carrot salad.

Carrot Salad with Cumin
Serves Approximately 4

6 carrots (about 1 pound) peeled and coarsely grated
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eggplant-Couscous Rolls

My partner has a cookbook entitled, The Rush Hour Cookbook, by the publishers of Eating Well magazine, that he bought sometime in the mid- to late-90's. I recently found it in our basement and began flipping through it. Honestly, it looks like the type of book you might find in the sale section as you're entering Borders or Barnes and Noble.

The cookbook contains very few vegetarian recipes. But I did come across one recipe - Eggplant-Couscous Rolls - that looked interesting and worth trying out.

The end result was quite good. Pair with a glass of white wine, and you've got a nice, light summer meal that's simple to prepare. I will post the recipe for the accompanying carrot salad, which also comes from the cookbook, tomorrow.

FYI: I did end up up with way more couscous filling than I needed. (You can probably get away with using a 1/2 cup of couscous; otherwise, save the leftover couscous and serve it for breakfast the next morning topped with a fried egg and some leftover spaghetti sauce.)

Eggplant-Couscous Rolls
Serves approximately 4

2 1-lb eggplants, each cut lengthwise into 6 or more 1/4-inch slices

About 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup couscous
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 cup your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used the Mario Batali basic tomato sauce, the recipe for which can be found here.)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly oil two baking sheets. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the olive oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn them over and bake for another 10-15 more minutes, until tender.

While the eggplant slices are baking in the oven, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil. Stir in the couscous, thyme, salt, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Set the mixture aside and let the couscous absorb the liquid and cool down.

Just before you remove the eggplant slices from the oven, add 3/4 cup of the feta cheese to the couscous, along with the mint and pepper. Fluff the couscous with a fork.

Place a spoonful of the couscous mixture in the center of each eggplant slice and carefully roll the eggplant tightly around the filling. Place the roll seam-side down on a baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, spoon spaghetti sauce on top of each roll, and bake for another 5 minutes.

To serve, garnish with chopped mint leaves and the remaining 2 tablespoons of feta cheese.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spanish Omelet Gone Wrong

A Spanish omelet is essentially a thick omelet made with potatoes and onions. I came across a recipe for one - "Spanish Omelet with Peas, Potatoes, and Saffron" - in a cookbook, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, by Jack Bishop, that my sister had given to me for Christmas last year.

I adapted the recipe somewhat by not putting the skillet in the oven under the broiler. I read that a Spanish omelet is traditionally made by cooking it in the skillet, flipping it onto a plate, and then sliding it back into the skillet so that the other side of the omelet can cook.

And that's where things went wrong. When I tried flipping the omelet onto the plate, only some of the omelet ended up on the plate. (See photo above.) The rest of the omelet was, well, still in the skillet. Damn!

This really sucked, as I had envisioned taking an awesome photo with a nice wedge of the omelet accompanied by salad greens and a glass of wine artfully blurred in the background.

Instead of this:

Despite appearances, it did taste really good.

I look forward to trying this out again and posting the results.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What is that Saying about People Who Live in Glass Houses?

AP Photo/Isaac Brekken

“Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution.”

- Sen. John Ensign (R, NV) on his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment


Rice and Eggplant Stuffed Bell Peppers

I love stuffed bell peppers. They're filling, easy to make, and, more often than not, attractive enough to serve company.

This version was inspired by a chili rellenos dish I had at a restaurant called Fork in Philadelphia last year.

Rice and Eggplant Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves approximately 4

Cooked jasmine rice (cook 2 cups of rice in 3 cups of vegetable broth)
4 medium to medium-large bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise (keep stem intact), with seeds and membranes removed
4 cups shredded mozzarella, cheddar, or jack cheese (I used pepper jack)
1 small eggplant (Asian preferred), finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Vegetable or canola oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro, finely chopped, for garnishing (optional)

For the tomato sauce:

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Start by cooking the rice.

Next, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Coat the inside and outside of each pepper with vegetable or canola oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet, cup-side up, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, place them in a baking dish, and set them aside.

In a skillet, begin making the tomato sauce by heating 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the coarsely chopped onions in the skillet until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and minced jalapeno, and continue cooking for 30 seconds. Pour the canned tomatoes into the skillet, with their juices, along with a cup of water. Crush the tomatoes using your hands. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the finely diced onions, along with the diced eggplant, until the onions and eggplant soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add more olive oil if necessary, so that the pan does not dry out.

Stir in the cooked rice, frozen peas, cumin, 2 cups of grated cheese, and 2 cups of the hot tomato sauce from the other skillet. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Spoon the rice and eggplant mixture into the pepper halves. Top the peppers with the remaining 2 cups of shredded cheese. Place in a 450 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

To serve, pour some of the tomato sauce on a plate and set one or two pepper halves on top of the sauce. Garnish with the cilantro.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gazpacho Soup

I've made gazpacho (cold tomato-based vegetable soup) many times, and this is one of my favorite versions, from Bon Appetit. (Epicurious is the recipe database for Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines.)

This gazpacho might be different from ones you've had before, in that it lacks any "chunkiness." The vegetables, after being processed in a blender, are then pushed through a strainer.

One word of caution: the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of sherry vinegar, which, for me, was a bit too acidic for my tastes the first time I made this gazpacho. I recommend that you start with 1/8 cup of sherry wine vinegar. After you blend the vegetables, give it a taste to see if you need to add more sherry vinegar.

Finally, I use half the amount of onions and water called for in the recipe. I also omit the bread, because I've just never
liked the texture that bread has brought to any version of gazpacho I've made.

Gazpacho Soup
Makes approximately 4 servings

2 pounds large tomatoes, halved
4 cups country-style bread, crust removed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I omitted this ingredient)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped peeled English hothouse cucumber (I skipped the peeling part)
1 cup chopped red onion (I use about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar (I use about 1/8 cup)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
1 cup water (I use 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro, finely chopped, for garnishing (optional)

Carefully squeeze the tomatoes over a bowl to remove the seeds. Discards the seeds and then squeeze the tomatoes to release their juices. Chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl.

Add the next 9 ingredients to the bowl. Stir and let the ingredients stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Next, blend the contents from the bowl until smooth. (At this point, you might want to taste the mixture to see if you need to add more sherry vinegar.) Push the mixture through a strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Katsudon (Eggs, Onions, and Breaded Cutlets Served Over Rice)

Donburi is a simple, yet filling, Japanese egg-and-rice dish my mother frequently made when I was growing up. She would actually make okayodon, which is traditionally made with chicken, eggs, and onions on rice. She would also add frozen peas, which I've done here.

Katsudon is a similar egg-and-rice dish that uses breaded cutlets (chicken or pork). I've previously posted a recipe for seitan cutlets, which you can find here. I used these seitan cutlets to make my version of katsudon last night for dinner.

For this dish, I recommend preparing the
vegan dashi first (if you haven't already) by adding a piece of kombu to 2-3 cups of boiling water, turning the heat off, and letting the kombu steep in the water until ready to use. The color of the liquid should turn light green. For more information about vegan dashi, please refer to this earlier post.

After you prepare the
dashi, I suggest next making the seitan cutlets and keeping them warm in a 200 degree oven while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. (Instead of seitan cutlets, you can also saute bite-sized pieces of tempeh.)

Finally, begin cooking the white rice (Asian). When the rice is done cooking, refer to the recipe below:

Makes approximately 2-3 servings

1 1/2 cups vegan dashi
1/4 cup mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 onion thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas
3 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)

Seitan cutlets or 1 package of tempeh, cut into bite-sized pieces and sauteed

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to become soft, about 2 minutes.

Add the dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar, and bring to a simmer. Add the peas and green onions.

Next, add the seitan cutlets.

Then quickly pour the eggs over the cutlets and cover the skillet. Turn the heat to low.

Continue cooking until the eggs have cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Serve over the cooked rice.