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./