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!

I decided to make ratatouille for dinner on Christmas, with couscous on the side, because my partner's mother had not had any version of this dish before. This dish also fit my need and my partner's need for a main course that was healthy and low in calories, to offset the candies and cookies we had been noshing on throughout the week.

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.

Serves 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. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gratin Dauphinois

'Tis the season for cheap eats, at least in my case. Around this time every year, I find myself cringing each time I review my credit card balance.

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.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Koyo Foods Brand Packaged Ramen Soup

Making ramen noodle soup from scratch isn't difficult at all.

Sometimes, though, I get a craving for ramen, but don't want to spend more than, say,
4 minutes preparing it.

The packages of ramen soup (Nissin or Maruchan brands) that are commonly found in grocery stores aren't vegetarian friendly. Their flavor packets typically contain animal byproducts. I also avoid these ramen packages because their flavor packets contain monosodium glutamate (MSG).

While the vegetarian Koyo Foods brand packages of ramen soup I recently purchased at My Organic Market in Alexandria contain no MSG, their sodium content is nonetheless high. For example, the Seaweed Ramen I had for lunch on Sunday contains 785 mgs of sodium, which is, unfortunately, comparable to the amount of sodium found in packages of Nissin and Maruchan brands of ramen.

As for taste, the Koyo ramen soup was quite good. The broth for the Seaweed Ramen was like a very light miso soup. I'll definitely keep a few packages on hand, for a quickie lunch or snack.

you can get your hands on this product, it's worth checking out. Amazon sells 12 packages for about $15.

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:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

(More) Vegetarian Thanksgiving News

"My mother's pumpkin pie" via Maggie Hoffman

More vegetarian-themed Thanksgiving news articles:
  • "In lieu of turkey, Thanksgiving sparks vegetable-inspired creativity" via CNN
  • "What, No Turkey?!" via Epicurious
I've decided to do a vegetable pot pie, with a simple side salad, on Thursday. I was going back and forth this morning between that and Mark Bittman's tomato paella. I just returned from the grocery store (where turkey is priced at only $1.19 per pound, while apples are priced at $2.49 per pound) with all of the ingredients. Hopefully, I'll have some decent photos of the meal to show you on Friday.

Hope y'all have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ideas for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Meal

"Vegetarian Herb Stuffing (3)" from ccharmon

I thought these articles might be of interest to readers who are preparing Thanksgiving meals next week. The post from Chef in You was particularly good.
  • Thanksgiving 2009" via Chef In You
  • "What to feed your vegan guest on Thanksgiving" via Newsleader
  • "A Very Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Best Restaurant Feasts & Tips for Cooking at Home" via Digital City
  • "Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu" via River Wired
My partner and I are probably going to cook something Italian for Thanksgiving, which will be a gathering of four, including his mother and his aunt. I was thinking of a really nice lasagna. But after reading the articles above, I really like the idea of a vegetable pot pie.

What are you ideas for a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vegetarian Cassoulet

Leftover cassoulet - thick and hearty!

Work has eased up somewhat, so I'm back to weekday cooking . . . sort of.

Recently, I restocked some pantry basics, such as pasta, extra virgin olive oil, vegetable broth, and canned diced tomatoes. I still need to get my butt over to the big Asian supermarket in Fairfax, Virginia, to pick up some Asian noodles, kombu (dried seaweed used to make vegan stock for soups), and rice.

I'm still arriving home from the office later than usual. What I've been doing lately is finding
recipes that I can prepare in mass quantities to avoid cooking everyday. The plan: cook one day; reheat the next. The chili recipe that I posted two weeks ago is a perfect example of this.

As good as that chili recipe was, I think this vegetarian cassoulet recipe that I found on Epicurious might be even better. A cassoulet is a French "peasant stew" typically made with meat and beans. It is a hearty dish that, like the chili, tastes better the next day when all the flavors have had time to meld.

I incorporated some of the suggestions that were made in the comments section on Epicurious, including the addition of a can of fire roasted tomatoes. I also doubled the ingredients listed below, which ended up being a mistake. I was only cooking for two, and I ended up with an insane amount. The recipe, as written, is more than sufficient for two people over the course of two meals.

Serves 4 to 6
  • 3 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 14-ounce cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/8 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 quart water (I used half vegetable broth and half water)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Bread Crumb Topping:
  • 4 cups fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or other large heavy pot. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, herb sprigs, bay leave, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add the beans, water (or broth), and canned tomatoes and simmer, partially covered, until the carrots become tender (not mushy), about 30 minutes.

While the cassoulet simmers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and begin preparing the bread crumb topping. Toss the first three ingredients together and spread on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on a middle rack and toast for 10-15 minutes, until the crumbs become crisp and golden. When the crumbs cool, stir in the parsley.

When the cassoulet is near done cooking, remove the bay leaf and herb sprigs and take a potato masher (or large spoon) and mash some of the beans directly in the pot to thicken the stew. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the cassoulet into bowls, sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, and serve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

High Protein Vegan Chili

I'm back!

I made this vegan chili on Sunday. This was probably the first time in weeks - literally weeks - that I turned on the stove. For the last four weeks, I've been coming home from work at around 7:30 p.m., nuking grab-and-go vegan prepared meals from the local organic grocery store, and then resuming work until about 11:30 p.m.

This past weekend, though, I was really craving for something home cooked. 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 the overly priced Boston College Law School. I lived on canned-chili-over-pasta during those three years - a hearty meal for under $3.

This chili, by the way, is pretty cost efficient to make. It's easy to prepare, high in protein (from the tempeh and red kidney beans), and delicious!

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!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan Revisited

A few weeks ago, I was in Nashville for a few days on work-related travel.

While I was there, I went to a very good Italian restaurant called Amerigo and ordered eggplant parmesan. Delicious!

What I especially liked about this eggplant parmesan was that it was topped with marinated portobello mushrooms.

This weekend, I took my usual eggplant parmesan recipe and changed it up by similarly topping it with sliced portobello mushrooms, which I sauteed in some extra virgin olive oil in a skillet for a few minutes until soft.

I then sprinkled lots and lots of shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top of the mushrooms before baking in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Finally, another revision I made to the recipe above was to dredge the sliced eggplant in flour first before dipping the eggplant in the beaten eggs. (The beaten eggs adhere better to a drier surface, which is achieved by coating the eggplant in the flour.)

Next, I dredged the eggplant in the bread crumbs and then sauteed each slice in some extra virgin olive oil until lightly browned on each side.

I ended up with perfectly (well, almost perfect) breaded eggplant slices, which I stacked between layers of
marinara sauce and the shredded cheeses.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegetarian on the Road

"old country road" by rennett stowe

Last week, I spent the entire week in rural Kentucky on work-related travel.

It was difficult maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle while on the road. It wasn't a situation where I was tempted to eat any meat last week; rather, the restaurants tended to have no meatless options. So, I ended up subsisting that week for the most part on bagels for breakfast, and salads for lunch and dinner from McDonald's. I'm glad I had the foresight to pack Power Bars to tide me over in the event I became hungry.

Seeing the economic depression in this small town in Kentucky, I was reminded of the family portrayed in the film, Food, Inc., who subsisted mostly on fast food simply because - thanks to generous federal government subsidies to the meat industry - it was cheaper than going to a grocery store and purchasing healthful options, such as vegetables. I was not surprised, therefore, in my observation that fast food "restaurants" dominated the town where I stayed, the most popular being the KFC with its all-you-can-eat option for about $6.99.

I am returning to this town in early October. After this trip, my travel schedule will be considerably reduced. I am looking forward to being able to resume posting regularly on this blog and having the time to just chill and catch up with what's happening on my favorite food blogs.

There will be a post later this week about a
simple new twist on a vegetarian classic. It's something I learned while dining at a restaurant in Nashville a few weeks ago.

Have a good week!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day 2009

I'm back on the road during the next two weeks.

I'm posting two of my favorite songs, in honor of Labor Day. I could watch the Springsteen video, which I've posted before, over and over and over.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vegetable Tian

A few days ago, I wrote about my new mandoline slicer given to me by a coworker. I used the mandoline slicer to make Ina Garten's vegetable tian, which consists of onions and thinly sliced potatoes, squash, and tomatoes. According to author Jeanne Lemlin (Simple Vegetarian Pleasures), a tian:
is a Provencal speciality of vegetable and seasonings cloaked in olive oil and cooked slowly in a hot oven until succulent and tender. "Tian" refers to the method of cooking as well as the heavy cooking dish that contains the melange of ingredients.

In the past, French village bakers would allow home cooks to place their heavy, vegetable-filled tians into still-hot ovens once the last breads were removed. The remaining heat became trapped in the earthenware casseroles and gently cooked the vegetables until they were suffused with the surrounding flavors of a fruity olive oil and aromatic herbs.
Ina's vegetable tian was delicious. I followed the recipe, as written, except that I used more gruyere cheese than called for. The next time I make this dish, though, I plan on using even more cheese and layering it between the potatoes, squash, and tomatoes.

Vegetable Tian
Serves approximately 6

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, thinly sliced (1/4")
3/4 pound squash, thinly sliced (1/4")

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, plus a couple sprigs
2 ounces gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they become translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another minute or so. Spread the onions on the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Layer the potatoes, squash, and tomatoes on top of the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, thyme leaves and thyme sprigs.

Drizzle olive oil on top of the tomatoes, cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Uncover the baking dish, sprinkle cheese over the top, cover, bake another 30 minutes, and serve.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fettucine with Vegetables and Olives

I really enjoy grocery shopping. It's something I do in a leisurely manner.

But because of my hectic work and traveling schedule lately, I've been finding myself spending not more than 30 minutes total on my grocery shopping for the week. That amount includes the time it takes to get to, and from, the supermarket. No lingering in the aisles. No food or wine sampling. Get in and get out.

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. And it tasted good, too.

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 31, 2009

My "New" Mandoline Slicer

Two weeks ago, a coworker of mine transferred from our D.C. office to our L.A. office. Over a couple of drinks (alright, a LOT of drinks) on her last day in DC, she was telling me how she hated the process of packing and moving. In response, I jokingly remarked: "Well, at least you don't have to pack the mandoline slicer that you said you were going to give me."

When I returned home from Nashville on Friday, I was greeted with a package sent from her. The package contained her old mandoline slicer! And here's my favorite part: she packed the slicer using pages torn from the escort and "massage" sections of the L.A. adult-oriented "entertainment" weekly, LA XPress. Hilarious!

She told me she was getting a new mandoline slicer - the one made by (I believe) OXO. The slicer she sent to me is made by Bron. What I like about the Bron slicer is that it's made of stainless steel and individual parts can be replaced. So, if the central cutting plate becomes dull, you can replace just that part, rather than having to toss the entire slicer.

The disadvantage with the Bron, though, is that it's noticeably heavier and larger than the OXO slicer. Also, you have to be more careful when washing the Bron slicer, because the cutters are not readily removable. Finally, the Bron slicer requires a bit more effort to adjust for particular cuts.

All in all, though, the Bron slicer works great! I plan on making a vegetable tian this week using the slicer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pita Pocket Sandwich at Hotel Restaurant

Right now, I'm in Nashville. But I wanted to write about a nice vegetarian meal I had at my hotel in Naples on Monday.

For lunch on Monday at the hotel restaurant, I ordered a pita pocket sandwich, stuffed with cucumbers, red and yellow tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, and portobello mushrooms, accompanied by a simple side salad (spring mix) and curly fries.

For $12. And this was the least expensive item on the menu.

I wonder if this beach-front hotel jacks up its restaurant prices during peak winter season? During the off-season, room rates at this hotel are a steal. There are very few people staying at this hotel right now. I was so tempted on Monday afternoon to go lay out on the sand. Unfortunately, I had work that needed to get done in preparation for Tuesday's full schedule.

I did manage, though, to get to the beach at around 9 p.m., where I sat on the sand drinking a couple of glasses of wine and listening to the waves crashing. Very relaxing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes Over Pasta

I spent all of last week in Hazard, KY, to finish up the work that I wasn't able to complete during my first trip there earlier this month. Hence, the lack of any posts last week.

Today, I'm in Naples, FL, for work. Tomorrow, I fly to Nashville, where I will be working the remainder of the week. If you have any restaurant recommendations in either city, please let me know.

I wish I could say that with all this traveling I'm having fun, in a jet setting, supermodel sort of way. I'm not. Maybe if I could envision, say, Gisele, flying coach on Southwest, I might feel differently. (Have seats in coach gotten smaller over the years, or have I just gotten bigger?) In actuality, I find the process of flying to be very tiresome.

Anyways, back to food.

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.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Just Saw the Film, "I Love You, Man."

Felt like a Judd Apatow film (Knocked up, Pineapple Express, Talladega Nights, Superbad), even though it wasn't a Judd Apatow film.

It was painful to watch, sort of like watching episodes of The Office. Still, though, I laughed my ass off throughout the entire film.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cobb Salad

Another entree salad this week.

I mentioned two weeks ago that I had a cobb salad (minus the bacon) during the Drinking Liberally happy hour held that week at Capital City Brewing Company in Arlington, Virginia.

I decided to try making a cobb salad, or at least my version of a cobb salad, for dinner last night.

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. And very delicious!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vegan Jambalaya

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

My partner, on the other hand, did not like the Tofurkey brand sausages that I had used in place of the andouille. I thought the sausages tasted pretty good, much to my surprise.

The next time I make this dish, though, I'll probably add more vegetables, for example, squash and eggplant, and substitute tempeh for the Tofurkey brand sausages.

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!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voting Still Open for Sexiest Vegetarians Over 50 Contest

Image from Peta

You can still vote for Peta's Sexiest Vegetarians Over 50.

I've already cast my vote for Julian, age 51 (veg for 33 years), from Framingham, MA. Nice smile, nice bod. It's all working for me.

As for the female contestants, I've cast my vote for Mimi, age 70 (veg for 40 years).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nicoise Salad

In my last real food post - which would have been about two weeks ago - I mentioned that I wanted to start making entree salads during weeknights.

After practically living at Applebee's during a 6-day business trip I took last week to Hazard, Kentucky, I was looking forward to making something that was healthful and refreshing upon my return.

On Saturday, I found the following recipe for a nicoise salad from the cookbook,
The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters. I pretty much followed the recipe, as written. I did, of course, omit the anchovies.

This attractive looking salad was simple to make and was very delicious. It totally hit the spot.

Nicoise Salad

Serves approximately 3-4

3/4 pound ripe tomatoes, sliced into small wedges and seasoned with salt
1/4 pound of green beans, trimmed, and blanched in boiling water until tender

1 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into strips

1 large cucumber, chopped
large eggs, boiled, and sliced into quarters
1 p
ackage arugula


1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

1 garlic glove, minced

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 basil leaves, chopped

Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Toss the green beans, bell peppers, and cucumbers in 3/4 of the dressing.

Toss the tomato wedges in the remaining 1/4 of the dressing.

Arrange the green beans, bell peppers, and cucumbers on top of the bed of arugula.

Garnish the salad with the tomatoes and eggs, and serve (preferably with a glass or two of white wine).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New single from Pink

While I was driving around doing my grocery shopping errands this afternoon, I heard this song, "Please Don't Leave Me," on the car radio from singer-songwriter Pink, who also happens to be a vegetarian. Love it!

In fact, I really can't think of a song from Pink that I've disliked since her 2002 CD, Missundazstood.

Hope you enjoy.

P.S. Food posts will resume tomorrow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blogging from Hazard, KY

"Appetizer @ Applebee's" by wEnDeLicious

All of the insane hours I've been putting into work these past few weeks is about to be put to the test this Wednesday in Hazard, Ky.

Speaking of which, my coworker and I arrived in Hazard on Sunday night. What I like about our hotel is that it shares a parking lot with a grocery store. (The grocery store has a fairly decent vegetarian section.) What I dislike about our hotel is that the only game in town for prepared foods is, yep, you guessed it, Applebee's, which has an extremely limited (no entrees) vegetarian selection.

I actually had the artichoke dip appetizer (shown above) for lunch today. I also had Applebee's last night and earlier this evening for dinner. For dinner this evening, I had the "veggie patch" pizza and deep fried mozzarella cheese sticks. It was just, eh.

While I normally don't cook while on business travel, I would make an exception in this case. Unfortunately, my hotel room is not outfitted with a stove and refrigerator.

Tomorrow, my coworker and I are going to check out a Mexican restaurant in the next town over. Hopefully, the food there will be better because my stomach is feeling a bit blah from tonight's dinner.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vegan and Vegetarian Salads via NYT

"Salad" by chatirygirl

My sister forwarded me this article from Mark Bittman (aka, the Minimalist) of the New York Times entitled, "101 Simple Salads for the Season."

Tonight at Drinking Liberally, I had a cobb salad, minus the bacon and chicken, and it was good.

I really should consider making entree salads during the weeknights.

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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

PETA Seeks Sexiest Vegetarians Over 50 - July 17 Deadline

Image from PETA

I admit it. I'm a total sucker for PETA Sexiest (Fill in Blank) Contests.

Because I appreciate guys who look smokin' hot.

Right now, PETA is accepting entries for Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50.

The deadline to submit entries is July 17. So, if you're a sexy male or female vegan or vegetarian over 50, send your "tasteful" photos and contact info to PETA. If you look like Viggo Mortensen, make sure you cc or bcc me on the photos. (And unlike PETA, I will accept tasteless photos.)

And a note to PETA: the organic gift baskets are nice prizes for the male and female winners of this contest, but consider stepping it up a bit here. The winners of the Sexiest Vegetarians Next Door got trips to Hawaii. I think the winners of this contest should receive something comparable, in addition to the organic gift baskets.

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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In Case You Missed It . . . . (Click on Image)

From top: penne with vegetable bolognese; two-cheese risotto with
spinach; risotto cakes using leftover risotto; fried rice with Japanese
spices; summer spaghetti salad; and spicy soba noodle salad