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.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Good "Chicken" Lo Mein

Three months ago, I used Lightlife brand mock beef strips to make "beef" stroganoff. The "beef" strips were nasty. Way too salty. Horrible texture.

And so, too, were the Lightlife brand "chick'n style" strips, which I used this weekend to make "chicken" lo mein, to accompany the
sweet-and-sour tempeh dish I also made. Again, super salty. Horrible texture.

The lo mein recipe came from the Vegetarian Times.
Truthfully, I've never had much luck with recipes from
VT, so I probably should have spent more time looking elsewhere for a better lo mein recipe or, in the alternative, followed my gut instinct telling me to simply omit the "chicken" strips from the dish.

While VT's version of lo mein wasn't all that bad once you picked out the "chicken" strips, I don't see myself making it again.

Click here to view the recipe. Otherwise, consider this post a review of Lightlife's "chick'n style" strips, which I'm giving thumbs down.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sweet and Sour Tempeh

While I was at my local library this weekend, I came across Ann Gentry's The Real Food Daily Cookbook. I looked it up on Amazon.com from my iphone, saw it had a high overall rating, and decided to check it out.

I like
The RFD Cookbook a lot, although I wish it had more photos. But the recipes sound delicious, and the featured dishes seem fairly simple to prepare.

For example, this sweet-and-sour tempeh with vegetables comes from
The RFD Cookbook. I've made sweet-and-sour sauce many times before, but this version, which calls for maple syrup, sort of intrigued me.

For the most part, I followed the recipe as written. However, I did halve the amount of ingredients used to make the sweet-and-sour sauce, and I sauteed all the vegetables at once to save time. All in all, it turned out fine. It's a very colorful dish, and I would definitely make this again.

Sweet-and-Sour Tempeh with Vegetables
Serves approximately 4

1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
2 8-ounce packages of tempeh (I used three-grain tempeh, which is my favorite)
1 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 cup brown rice vinegar (I used about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup arrowroot (I used about 1/8 cup)
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 pieces
1 1/2 cups yellow corn kernels (I used frozen)

Accompaniment(s): cooked jasmine rice

In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Pour into a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Lay the pieces of tempeh in the baking dish and marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, turning over occasionally.

When you're ready to begin cooking, preheat the broiler. Place the tempeh on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for about 5 minutes on each side. Make sure you reserve the marinade from the baking dish.

While the tempeh is in the oven, whisk together in a bowl the remaining 1/2 cup of the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, and arrowroot. Set the bowl aside.

When the tempeh is done, remove it from the oven, cut it into bite-size pieces, and add it back to the reserve marinade in the baking dish. Add the soy sauce/maple syrup mixture to this baking dish and toss the tempeh in this mixture.

Next, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes, onions, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and corn, and saute them until the onions become soft and the carrots become crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tempeh, along with the sauce from the baking dish, and continue cooking until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with rice.

"Sweet and Sour Tempeh on Black Plate that Attracts Dust" by David @ justveggingout.com

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Huevos Rancheros or "Eggs Ranch-Style"

I'm certainly not going to claim this is authentic. But it does look good, doesn't it? It certainly tasted good.

While reviewing various Mexican and Latin American recipes on the internet, I came across recipes for huevos rancheros. According to Wikipedia, huevos rancheros means "eggs ranch-style" or "eggs country-style" in Spanish. The basic version consists of corn tortillas, fried eggs, and a tomato chili sauce.

I already had all the necessary ingredients, so I just put them together for a quick dinner, and served huevos rancheros with a side of yellow rice. (I frequently think about color combinations when I'm cooking. This dish is all about the yellows, greens, and reds.)

Huevos Rancheros

1 Serving

2 eggs

1 cup tomato salsa

3 corn or flour tortillas

Cilantro, finely chopped, for garnishing.

In a skillet over medium heat, bring the salsa to a simmer. (Add some water to thin out salsa if the salsa is too chunky.) Break the eggs into the salsa, cover, and poach the eggs until set, about 3-5 minutes.

In the meantime, warm the tortillas in a dry pan or microwave and set them on a serving plate.
When the eggs are ready, remove them from the pan. Place them on top of the tortillas. Ladle the salsa over the eggs, garnish with the cilantro, and serve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mario Batali's Flourless Chocolate Cake

In addition to the black bean burger recipe I wrote about yesterday, I've always wanted to try Mario Batali's recipe for flourless chocolate cake.

Decadent. Absolutely decadent. Rich and fudgey.

And much to my surprise, the flourless cake came out looking pretty good. I've made flourless cakes in the past, and they've frequently collapsed to about one inch or so in thickness as they were cooling.

But as you can see from the photo above, the cake I made this weekend didn't collapse that much. In other words, the flourless cake looked like, well, an actual cake.

I topped the cake with fresh raspberries that I pureed in a blender with some sugar.

BTW: I recommend humming the opening music to Molto Mario as you're making this cake.

Mario Batali's Flourless Chocolate Cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs separated
5 tablespoons instant espresso (I just used finely ground coffee)
6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Rademaker from Whole Foods)
6 tablespoons dark rum or Marsala
1 1/2 cups ground, toasted, blanched almonds (I used my electric coffee grinder)
Flour, for coating pan
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Melt the butter in glass bowl over simmering water. (I used a setup that involved a large glass pyrex measuring cup).

When the butter has melted, whisk in the sugar and the egg yolks. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage, about 3-5 minutes. (The mixture should form disappearing "ribbons" on the surface when you lift it with the whisk and let it fall back into the bowl.)

Next, whisk in the coffee, cocoa powder, rum, and almonds. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside. (My pyrex measuring cup is huge, about 8 cups. So I just removed it from the simmering water and set it aside.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

In separate bowl, beat the egg whites until the just begin to stiffen and hold soft peaks.

Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture and pour the batter into the pan. Bake for about 30 minutes. The cake is done when firm and starting to separate from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 30 minutes or more. Flip the cake over, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Black Bean Burgers

Last week, I had a black bean burger at a restaurant in DC called Post Pub. Other than salads, there really was no other vegetarian item on the menu I could order. The black bean burger was okay. Not great. But it did get me thinking about a black bean burger recipe I had seen on another website (I believe it was Epicurious) a few months ago from Gourmet magazine that looked delicious.

I found the
recipe on Gourmet's website and decided to give it a try on Sunday.

The only change I made to the recipe was substituting a beaten egg for the mayonnaise. I just wasn't convinced that the mayonnaise would be an effective binder to allow patties to be shaped and formed.
Overall, I thought the burgers tasted really good. However, although they held their shape on the grill and in their buns, they did fall apart once bitten into. My partner said it was almost like eating a sloppy joe.

Still, though, I would make these again. The Gourmet magazine recipe serves as a good blueprint from which you could customize your black bean burger. The next time I make these, I'll try adding grated parmesan cheese. Perhaps the melted cheese, along with the beaten egg, will help to better hold the shape of the patties. I'll also probably try using a different combination of dried spices and herbs.

Black Bean Burgers
Makes 4 Patties

2 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used 1 beaten egg instead)
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed between fingers

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 hamburger buns

Add 1 can of black beans, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper into a food processor and pulse until a course puree forms. Transfer to a bowl and add to this mixture the beaten eggs, cilantro, and the remaining black beans. Stir until well combined and shape into four patties.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the burgers, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Or just throw them on a grill, which is what I did.

I served the burgers with lettuce, freshly made salsa (recipe here), and sour cream.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quick and Easy Salsa

I've got food posts this week!!!

Last week was crazy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was working on a brief that had to be filed on Friday. As predicted, I filed the document barely on time. Whew!

Of course, I celebrated the end of the work week by cooking up a storm this weekend, relaxing with a good British suspense novel, watching the French Open, paying extra attention to my chihuahuas, and, at night, lying on the sofa watching DVDs.

I made the following salsa for a dish I'm going to write about tomorrow. I love fresh homemade salsa. It's cheaper to make than buying it in a grocery store and tastes way better.

Quick and Easy Salsa

1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2-inch piece jalapeno (more if you desire a hotter salsa)

1 lime
1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped

2 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until you achieve the texture you want. (I prefer a chunky salsa.) Add the lime juice and salt.