Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Snow Day Lasagna Soup

December 9, 2018

It’s been too long!  I’ve done some cooking, some traveling, some eating out in the meantime.  But today is a snow day, which means kitchen time and binge-watching tv.  And, of course, taking video of the puppy’s first snow.  I love days like this!

An ad for something called “Instant Pot Lasagna Soup” came across my news feed last week.  I don’t have an Instant Pot.  I feel no need for one.  There was a link to a slow cooker version.  Getting closer.  But on a snow day, I don’t need a hands off solution.  I’m here.  I have time to stir.  And in this case, that’s the only difference between the slow cooker version and the stove top soup pot version.  The stirring.

How do you make a soup version of lasagna?  Basically, you make the goopy filling you’d make for a regular lasagna and add a bunch of liquid to it.  Soup.  The great thing about it is that the filling part can be anything you want. I used a combination of sausage, beef, and turkey in this one.  If you’d usually make a vegetarian lasagna, by all means, do that. Sub in veggie crumbles instead of the meat. This would be great with zucchini and mushrooms.  And what’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to fall apart when you cut it.  It’s supposed to be soupy!

Now, let’s talk noodles.  Lots of options here too.  What kind of noodles?  I decided to use lasagna noodles broken into pieces.  You could use rotini or radiatore or baby shells, whatever.  You can cook them in the soup.  You can cook them ahead of time and add them to the pot.  You can cook them and portion them into individual bowls.  What you need to consider is your leftovers plan.  If you’re sure you won’t have leftovers, cook the noodles in the soup.  They’ll take on the flavor of the soup.  If you’re mostly sure you won’t have leftovers, but then again maybe, cook the noodles separately and add them to the pot. They’ll take on some of the soup liquid.  Beware that the noodles in the leftovers might be a little mushy.  If you’ve planned for leftovers, cook the noodles separately and put them in individual bowls.  You can either cook all the noodles you’ll need and just store them separately or you can cook fresh ones each time you have leftovers.

This stuff looks, tastes, and smells amazing.  Coming in from playing in the snow to this aroma is a gift.  Truly.  But I noticed that I didn’t have any vegetables.  And since I’m still not convinced that lettuce won’t jump up and kill me at any moment (Google romaine and e coli if you want more info on that), I decided to add some kale to the pot.  I got some end of season lacinato kale at the farmers’ market yesterday so I chopped and added most of the bunch to the pot.  If you’re going to add a hardy green to the pot, just make sure the soup is at a solid simmer.  You want the greens to cook, not just wilt.  If you’re using a softer leaf like spinach, a wilt will do just fine.

Hey now, you’re saying, the best part of a lasagna is the cheesy goodness!  Worry not.  You have a lot of options in the cheese department too.  You can add a dollop of ricotta to the bottom of each bowl before you ladle the soup in.  You can (and should) top each bowl with mozzarella and Parmesan.  Or both!  In this case I used SausageCraft Della Nonna sausage, which has some cheese mixed right into the sausage.  Yummmm.  If you want to make it extra special, use oven safe crocks so you can brown the mozzarella in the broiler before serving!

If you don’t have a lasagna recipe that you’re already using, feel free to follow this one.  This will make 4-6 servings.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb each, italian sausage, ground beef, and ground turkey
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 oz) or pint jar peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 C dry red wine (save the rest for dinner!)
  • 1-2 t dried oregano
  • 1-2 t dried basil
  • 2-3 C stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

Here’s what you do:

  • In a medium pot, cook the pasta; set aside

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  • In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil until it shimmers
  • Add the onion and garlic
  • Cook until the onion is soft
  • Add the meat; cook until it’s browned

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  • Stir in the tomato paste

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  • Stir in the tomatoes, wine and spices

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At this point what you’ve got is lasagna filling.

  • Add the stock

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Now it’s soup!

  • Bring to a simmer
  • Cover the pot and cook 30-60 minutes
  • Increase the heat to achieve a low boil
  • Add the kale

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  • Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Add pasta to each bowl; ladle soup over the noodles
  • Add some mozzarella and parmesan

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How was it?

First, it’s exactly as advertised.  It’s lasagna in a bowl!  Nothing to complain about there.  I really like the broken lasagna noodles. My advice – leave the pieces big enough that you really notice them.  It’s much more like lasagna that way.  And as delightful as the mozzarella is, it sticks to the spoon as much as anything.  I don’t like having to scrape it off with my teeth. I might try the leftovers with just the parmesan.  Or maybe cubes of fresh mozzarella instead.

If you’re going to add a kale or chard, add some extra stock or water as well. The greens soak up a lot of liquid and you still want it to be like soup.  I really liked the kale addition though.  I’d definitely do that again.

I’m super happy with my meat choices.  The beef and turkey were very lean and the sausage added just enough fat to add amazing flavor and a silky texture to the broth.  So, not a lot of fat and I didn’t miss it.  But I think I’d be happy with a vegetarian version too.

All in all, the perfect snow day dinner!  All the food groups; warm and comfort-y;  and only a bowl to wash.  I might even have some in the morning after the snow shoveling!

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Cincinnati Chili, Vegetarian Style

November 26, 2018

I’ve been on a vegetarian jag the last several days.  Well, except for the breakfast bacon.  Still, most of my cooking has been vegetarian.  It wouldn’t kill me to lose a little weight and my cholesterol probably needs some work, so it seems like a good idea to cut back on the meat protein.  And just maybe it adds a little balance to the sugar heavy holiday diet.

I’m not a huge fan of meat substitutes.  If part of my quest is about reducing processed food, then food flavored and processed to resemble something that it isn’t, has to be included in that.  So, no false chicken patties or tofurkey or fake bacon.  That said, veggie protein crumbles seem acceptable because they’re replacing a meat protein morethan they’re pretending to be one.  Maybe.  I sometimes use them instead of crumbled ground beef or turkey in foods that are mostly about the sauce – spaghetti sauce, lasagna, and chili.  If it makes you nervous to do a wholesale replacement, just replace half.

Cincinnati Chili is flat out winter comfort food.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a dark, cinnamon, allspice, chocolate, no-bean, slightly soupy chili served over noodles and topped with onions and cheese.  Just think about that for a moment.  Yum.  Skyline Chili is the most famous version that I know of, but you can’t get it in my part of the world so I make it from scratch.

This version is slightly darker and more bitter than other recipes I’ve made.  It calls for an ounce of unsweetened chocolate. Probably half that much would do.  But every recipe is all about the spices.  There’s not much else in it.  A few onions, tomatoes and crumbled beef or veggie crumbles.  When you have a recipe that succeeds or fails on the strength of dry spices, plan to cook it a long time. That’s the only way those spice flavors really develop.

Feel free to double this.  It freezes great!  And it’s important to have some comfort food on hand for those winter days that don’t go like you hoped.

Here’s what you need:

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  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 C finely diced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 T paprika
  • 3/4 t cumin
  • 1/2 t allspice
  • 3/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 t cayennne
  • 1/4 t cloves

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  • 1 lb Boca veggie crumbles
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 C diced tomatoes

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  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 C water

  • 1 ounce unsweetened (Baker’s) chocolate, chopped
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce

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Whew.  That’s it.  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the list.  All the spices are ground and you likely have them in your house already.

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy pot
  • Add the onions and garlic, saute 5 minutes
  • Add all the ground spices
  • Stir and cook 1 minute
  • Add crumbles. Saute until they’re thawed and covered evenly in spices.
  • Stir in tomato sauce, tomatoes, bay leaf
  • Add 1 1/2 C water and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened
  • Stir in chocolate, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and cook until much of the water cooks out
  • Add salt to taste
  • Add another 1/2 C water and cook until much of the water cooks out
  • Repeat until the chili has cooked 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  Make sure the chili is a little soupy at the end.
  • Add more salt as needed
  • Serve over spaghetti and top with diced onions and grated cheddar

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Roasted Winter Vegetables with Herbed Buttermilk Dressing

November 25, 2018

As you might imagine, there’s been a fair amount of cooking post-Thanksgiving, but not a ton of time for writing.  A good many vegetarian options the last few days so stay tuned if that’s your thing, or if you’re looking for some ways to counteract the holiday binge.  I’ll work my way backwards from tonight’s dinner.

Once again Melissa Clark has supplied a fantastic, and completely attainable, dinner.  This one has limited dishes; requires limited skill; and comes with buttermilk dressing that you can use for lots of things!  She’s fast becoming my food bestie.  I love this cookbook so much that when my 8 month old puppy chewed up my still new copy of Dinner:  Changing the Game,  I ordered a new one in about 10 minutes without batting an eyelash.  Well, I might have reacted slightly more strongly to the puppy.  Still, no question that I can’t be without this cookbook!

This is as good a dinner as I’ve had in a while.  Even better if you consider the limited work it was for me!  The work is chopping and whisking.  That’s it.  Chop the vegetables and herbs and whisk the dressing.  I think you could use about any combination of winter vegetables, but keep the flavor balance in mind.  The original recipe calls for kale, butternut squash and potatoes.  I didn’t  have any kale, but I did have Brussels Sprouts so I used those instead.  Still a green element and the leaves got crispy.

Do include an orange squash – butternut, acorn, delicata, pumpkin.  That’s your sweet  and creamy element.  Don’t skip the potatoes.  I know potatoes have gotten a bad rap recently, but they’re the perfect delivery vehicle for this dressing.  They’re puffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  So yummy.  Do include a hearty green – kale, collard, sprout.  The green, slightly bitter flavor is a wonderful counterpoint to the orange squash.  Use broccoli if you like that best.

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Don’t skimp on the pre-heating of the oven.  The high heat delivers the crispiness. I did the Brussels Sprouts alone first so I could get the loose leaves to crisp.  Then the butternut and potatoes on separate pans, but at the same time.  The length of cooking time depends on the size of the vegetables.  Mine were about an inch square so it took 20-25 minutes for the squash and 5 minutes longer for the potatoes.

I did add some pan seared chicken breast to my bowl for some protein.  I halved it horizontally to speed up the cooking.  If you’re buying your chicken at the grocery store, and most of use are, organic or not, the breasts are huge.  Honestly enough for 4 servings.  Halved horizontally, depending on the thickness you’re left with, you’re looking at 2-4 minutes per side.  Start with a smoking hot pan with a little olive oil in it.  Once you put the chicken in, DON”T MOVE IT!  You’ll tear it if you move it around a lot and that’s how you lose the juices.  When you start to flip it, if your pan was hot enough and you’ve left it long enough, it will flip without sticking to the pan.  It will also have a lovely brown sear to it.  Cook, at the same high heat, for the same amount of time, maybe plus a minute on the flip side.  Let it rest 5-6 minutes before you cut it.  You can assemble the rest of the meal while it’s resting.

While the chicken was resting I returned the sprouts to the oven with the other vegetables.  Oven off, but still hot.

Now, about the dressing.  The recipe is pretty loose.  It’s got buttermilk (1/3 C), yogurt (3 T), garlic (1 clove grated), lemon juice and salt to taste.  Beyond that, use whatever herbs and greens you like.  I used arugula, dill, and parsley.  Chop it fine.  I hate chopping herbs.  It takes me a long time and I inevitably catch a finger or fingernail under the knife in the process.  It’s much better when I use my mandolin.  No, not the instrument or the fancy slicer.  It’s a two-handled chopper with a curved blade.  You can just rock it back and forth over the pile of herbs and greens.  It’s not super sharp so they will bruise some in the process, but it doesn’t matter because you’re going to dump them in the dressing anyway.

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Spoon equal portions of the vegetables into a bowl. Dice the chicken and add 1/4 to the bowl.  Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing over each bowl.  Without the chicken, this would make a fantastic side for beef or pork.

If you want to keep this vegetarian, but want to add some protein, it would be fantastic with some warm white beans added!

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Farewell Fresh: Potato and Corn Chowder

November 17, 2018

It’s gotten cold here in Virginia.  And I worked pretty hard today – run this morning; housecleaning; and I braved the Kroger the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  There ought to be a badge for that!  But as usual, I bought the stuff I need to make Thanksgiving desserts, but no actual food.  Fortunately I had one more Hello Fresh meal!  Chowder was exactly the right thing for tonight.

There’s a fair amount of chopping in this one, and a fairly long cooking time, but it’s not hard.  The only challenge is adding the milk to the floury vegetables and getting a smooth base.  You’re making gravy here.  Just add a little milk.  Stir until it’s incorporated.  It’ll be thick and glumpy still.  Add a little more.  Stir it in.  There’s a cup of milk and I added it in 5 stages.  By the end it’s very soupy, but it doesn’t have any lumps!  And be sure you bring it all the way to a boil before you start to simmer.  It’s the boiling that helps thicken the chowder.

I simmered it for 12 minutes.  You want the potatoes to be tender, but not soft.  They need to hold their shape.  The corn is yellow and had very large kernels, almost as large as the potato pieces.  It adds a very nice hit of sweetness against the heat of the poblano.  Hello Fresh provided a medium cheddar, which was fine.  On my own I would have used extra sharp. I just like that extra tang.

What’s my favorite thing about this chowder?  The smoked paprika.  It’s a fantastic way to add to add some smoky, almost meaty, depth to a vegetarian dish.  Chowder often has bacon or ham to elevate a dish that’s otherwise mostly potatoes and milk.  No need here.  The smoked paprika does its job.

This is another recipe that makes way more than 2 people need for dinner.  I had a bowl and a half tonight and there are easily 2 and maybe 3 servings left in the pot.  Between this and the orzotto from yesterday (and Thanksgiving!), I’ve got lunch taken care of for the week!

My only word of caution – the poblano isn’t a very hot pepper, but it still stings if you get the juice on your fingers and touch your face.  I speak from experience.

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Busy Week Breakfast Quiche

November 11, 2018

One more week before some much needed vacation!  And as all weeks before vacation are, this one is really busy.  So, I’m trying to set myself up for success by taking care of breakfast (and maybe a lunch or two) ahead of time.  I also had a little spinach, 2/3 box of sliced mushrooms, and some green onions to use up.  Quiches are perfect for using up the vegetable drawer leftovers.

I’ve made many quiches in the past.  They’re great to make ahead if you have guests coming in.  They freeze well.  They travel well.  They make very good gifts for hostesses, neighbors, and friends.  This is the first quiche I’ve made where you pre-bake the crust.  So, consider that optional I think.  I’m sure Paul Hollywood would disagree.  Maybe this blind bake will keep the crust crispy.

In any case, the base quiche recipe is something to keep in your back pocket, and know you can add pretty much anything to it.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 deep dish pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C heavy cream

Beyond that I added about 6 ounces of grated extra sharp white cheddar, some sauteed sliced mushrooms, sliced green onions, chopped fresh spinach.

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Prick pie crust with a fork
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden
  • Set aside
  • Reduce heat to 350 degrees
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream

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  • Mix in cheese and vegetables

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  • Place pie crust on a baking sheet with sides
  • Pour filling into crust

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  • Bake 40-50 minutes until the center is set

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With the holidays coming up, knowing you have a few things done ahead of time is a nice feeling!

Thai-ing to Beat a Cold: Coconut Rice Noodles with Ginger and Eggplant

November 5, 2018

I’ve got a few things working against me this week – end of daylight savings (I hate the time change); cold and damp to warm and rainy weather; and some nasty sinus stuff.  Add to that a pretty busy schedule over the last few days and I’m feeling a little run down.  Gotta get myself together before my half marathon on Saturday.  Time for some soup!

I’ve had eggplant on the brain for a week or so, but I’ve never made a soup with eggplant in it.  Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game to the rescue again.  I found this recipe for a Thai soup with rice noodles.  It’s a little bit strange in that it’s designed around summer vegetables.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around a Thai coconut curry with corn and tomatoes so I made some omissions and substitutions.  No corn or tomatoes.  Added mushrooms and green onions.  I stuck with the spinach because I had some left from last week.  I used chicken stock because I had that leftover too, but vegetable stock would have been my preference.

I only made a half a recipe, two servings, which I think I might be sorry about!

Here’s what you need: 2 entree servings

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  • 2-3 oz rice noodles, prepared according to the package
  • 1 hot chile, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C cilantro leaves
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2-3 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 C stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 C coconut milk (lite is fine)
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 1 large green onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped

I know.  It’s a long list.  The good news is that you don’t have to mince the garlic, ginger, chile, and cilantro because you’re going to stick them in a food processor or blender and make a paste.  That will save some time.  Buy the mushrooms pre-sliced. And you don’t have to chop the spinach at all.  So, it’s not as bad as you think.

If you have a wide, deep pan, that will work well.  You want to have a big enough surface to brown the eggplant and other vegetables in a single layer, but you need it to be deep enough for the soupy part.

Here’s what you do:

  • In a blender or small food processor combine garlic, ginger, chile, curry powder and 1 T oil.  Pulse until it’s well blended.  Add the cilantro leaves and lime zest.  Pulse until it becomes a paste.  Set aside.

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  • Heat 2 T oil in a large pan.  Add eggplant and saute until browned. 6-8 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the pan.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Saute until they soften.  5-6 minutes.  Stir in the spice paste and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the stock and coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the eggplant back to the pan along with the fish sauce.  Saute 5 minutes, until eggplant is soft.
  • Stir in spinach.  Cook 1 minute.  Add lime juice and basil.

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  • Divide cooked rice noodles among the bowls and top with the soup.
  • Garnish with green onions and cilantro leaves

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A few tips.  When you’re making the spice paste, go ahead and include the cilantro stems.  They’re tender and they have a lot of flavor. No need to waste them since you’re making a paste.  Also, measure the fish sauce.  The best way to describe the flavor of fish sauce is funky.  It’s a great addition, but too much is really too much.  Make sure you get a good sear on the eggplant.  That will help it keep its shape in the broth.  Finally, if you have leftovers, store the noodles and soup separately or your noodles will be mushy when you reheat it.  You can heat up the noodles by dunking them briefly in hot water.  That will also separate them.

Here’s how it turned out:

So good.  Really, so, so good.  When I make it next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll use more chile.  The thai chiles didn’t look good at the store so I bought jalapenos. (I’m making Mexican later in the week).  Jalapenos are much milder than thai chiles so I should have used more of them.  Better to have too little heat than too much, but more heat would really add something to this dish.  Still, there’s something truly wonderful about the mixture of coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce.  The eggplant is soft but not slimy and not bitter at all.  The spinach is optional, but add it if you have it.  It looks pretty, doesn’t have a strong flavor, and adds an extra vegetable.

This was perfect for an evening that’s cold and damp and that got dark at 5pm!

Halloumi and Brussels Sprouts – yes, really!

October 30, 2018

It’s Tired Tuesday, y’all.  I managed to do a little meal planning and grocery shopping, but then I was almost too tired to do anything with it.  This is definitely a dish for one of those nights!  Very few ingredients.  Half of them roast in the oven while you deal with the other half.  Good stuff.  A big shout out to my Dinner: Changing the Game cookbook for introducing me to this combination.

Probably this is meant to be a side dish, and it could be.  Clearly I wasn’t going to manage anything else tonight and it did just fine as a main (read only) dish.  I only made one substitution, which is saying something.  My local Kroger didn’t have any Aleppo or Turkish red pepper.  A quick Google told me this is fairly mild red pepper so I didn’t want to use cayenne instead.  Hot Hungarian Paprika seemed like a good choice.

A couple of notes. If you’ve toasted spices, seeds or nuts before you know how quickly they go from toasted to burned.  Stay close to the stove when you’re toasting the cumin seeds.  They’re what make this dish really special.  If they get too dark, they’ll be bitter instead of nutty and fragrant.  If you burn them, toss them and start again.  Trust me on that.  No reason to ruin the whole dish because you don’t want to lose a teaspoon of cumin seeds.

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Also, I patted my halloumi dry before I put it in the oil, but there’s still a lot of water in it.  What does that mean?  It means the oil will sputter and pop so be careful putting the cheese in the pan.  Load the pan from the back and work your way forward to avoid getting burned.  You can also use tongs to put the cheese in, but I never do that.  It’s just faster to put the pieces in by hand.  Do use tongs to turn the cubes.  It doesn’t take long to get a nice brown sear on the halloumi.

Finally, you can go a little easy on the salt on the sprouts.  The halloumi is super salty.  You’re going to want that green flavor from the sprouts to balance it out.

Here’s what you need: (see not much!)

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  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 3/4-1 lb brussels sprouts trimmed and halved
  • 6 oz halloumi, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 t cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 t hot paprika
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 (high heat is important to get that lovely color on the sprouts)
  • Toss the sprouts with 2 T olive oil, salt and black pepper
  • Roast the sprouts in the oven 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown
  • When the sprouts have about 5 minutes to go, heat the other 2T of oil in a heavy pan
  • When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the halloumi on two or more sides

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  • Add the cheese cubes to a large bowl with the cumin seeds
  • Add the roasted brussels sprouts to the bowl and toss
  • Stir in the paprika
  • Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and toss

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When I combined all my ingredients and tossed them I found that the cumin seeds mostly stuck to the side of the bowl.   Be sure you use a spoon to serve this so you can scrape the cumin along with the rest.  The toasted cumin seeds add a really wonderful earthy element to this dish.  Honestly I think it’s the cumin seeds that make this special.  Without them it would lack depth.

To be completely honest, I only made about half as much as the original recipe calls for.  I wasn’t convinced going in that I was going to love this and I didn’t want to throw out a lot of food.  Well, I do love it!  However, I’m still not convinced that this will reheat well so it might be good that I only have 1 full meal left.  It would be best to reheat this in the oven and not the microwave.  We’ll see how inspired I feel about that tomorrow.  The amounts above make probably 4 portions as a side dish and 2 as an only dish.

This is a lovely Fall dish.  If you’re looking for a new side for your Thanksgiving table, I definitely recommend this one!

Vegetable Drawer Survivors: Vegan Curry

October 29, 2018

I’ve been traveling for work, as I often do.  I came home to a house with soup and pizza in the freezer and not much else in the way of foodstuffs, as I often do.  I left two items in the vegetable drawer, partly to see how hardy they are:  a head of orange cauliflower and a small bunch of collard greens.  Both survived in pretty fine form.  Both appear in tonight’s dinner.

I’ve taken a liking to chickpeas with cauliflower.  Neither tastes like all that much on its own.  Both take on flavor really nicely.  One crunchy and one creamy, the perfect pair.  It doesn’t hurt that I always have canned chickpeas in the house.  So, that’s how I landed on cauliflower and chickpea curry for dinner.

This is a tomato curry.  Lucky for me, I have a basement full of home canned tomatoes.  They have a brighter flavor than the canned ones you get from the store.  And since you home can in jars, they never have the slightly tinny taste that you sometimes get from an off can of store bought tomatoes. So, the advice is the same as always.  When you have only a few ingredients, use the best ones you can reasonably find and afford.  This curry has strong enough spices that you can get away with slightly more mediocre tomatoes if that’s what you have in the house.

Now comes confession time.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger in the house. I did have the end of a bottle of “squeeze ginger.”  You cannot make this up.  So, I cheated.  I used that instead of fresh.  Here’s the thing.  It’s not really a one for one substitute.  Fresh ginger is only that, ginger.  Squeeze ginger has a little sugar and a little vinegar in it.  Here’s my logic in using it anyway.  A little sugar never hurts against a heavy spice.  The tomatoes have a little acid added to them so they’ll keep in the jars, so a touch more acid from the vinegar would probably be ok.  Sound logic?  Probably not, but it worked for me.

This is super easy to put together.  Took me about 35 minutes including chopping and cooking.  With rice and/or naan alongside, this probably feeds 5-6.  As stew, more like 4.  But I have a major portion control problem when it comes to foods I like, so use your own judgment.

Here’s what you need:

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The very astute among you will notice that there’s a jar of yellow curry paste in this photo.  That’s a HUGE mistake.  I need curry powder for this.  Generally speaking, curry powder is for Indian dishes and curry paste is for Thai dishes.  Curry paste has a bunch of other stuff in it, usually including lime and coconut.  Not a terrific match for Indian curries.  Fortunately I caught my mistake before I started cooking.

This is supposed to be yellow curry powder, but I only had Madras so that’s what I used.

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I’ve never seen collard greens in a recipe for curry, but I had some and an extra leafy green never hurt anyone so in they went!  They add a little bitterness.  Just be sure to cut them in thin ribbons so they’ll cook through.  Remove the stems from the leaves and stack the leaves on top of each other.  Roll them into a cigar shape and then cut the rolls into ribbons.  Here’s what everything looks like chopped.

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Here’s what you really need:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 5-6 small collard leaves, stemmed and cut into ribbons
  • 1 T oil – olive or canola or vegetable
  • 2 t curry powder (Madras or yellow)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or 1 T squeeze ginger)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 C water or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil until it shimmers and add the curry powder
  • Stir the curry powder until fragrant (1-2 minutes)
  • Add the onions, saute 6-7 minutes, until the onions are soft
  • Add the ginger, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, collards, bay leaf and water
  • Mix gently and bring to a simmer
  • Cover and cook 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through, but not mushy – Stir a couple of times as it cooks
  • Remove the bay leaf
  • Serve as stew or over rice

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How’d it turn out?

I made the curry early.  One of my pups has a pack walk tonight.  No time to eat before and no interest in starting to cook after.  So, I cook before and eat after.  Extra time stewing in its own juices never hurt a stew or a curry.

Let’s start with the pluses.  The flavors are fantastic!  It tastes like sunshine.  It’s warm and delightful!  I’m imagining that it will help me get over a cold that’s trying to settle in.  It’ll be even better tomorrow I’m sure.  And it’s beautiful.  The colors are vibrant and warm.

What would I do differently?  First, I would chop the collards instead of slicing them in ribbons.  It was weird to have stringy collards in there.  And maybe next time I’d use chard if I wanted to add a green.  Second, I would serve it over rice, or even grits or polenta.  The broth is really flavorful, but it’s really thin.  It seems too thin for the chunky cauliflower and chickpeas.  And too thin for a curry.  Maybe you could blend some chickpeas with some broth and add it back to the pot, though that doesn’t seem right either.  Maybe some tomato paste cooked in.  I’ll have to try it again to see.

Here’s a link to the recipe that served as tonight’s inspiration.

And if you love cauliflower and chickpeas together as much as I do, here’s a Thai style curry I hope you’ll like too!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

September 30, 2018

I recently got a new cookbook – Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark.  I’ve been through it a couple of times and there are more than a dozen little paper markers in the pages of recipes I want to try.  I hadn’t gotten around to any of them until today.  I can’t really claim that I’ve made this salad, more like a slapdash variation, so we’ll call it “inspired by” Melissa Clark’s recipe.

It’s the very beginning of Fall so still plenty warm out.  Too warm to feel like heating up the kitchen much on a Sunday evening.  What I love about this recipe is you need a small oven, a good toaster oven would do for the roasting, and a blender.  That’s it.  I had some cauliflower and brussels sprouts left in the fridge so I stuck them on a sheet pan to roast.  I ate a bunch of the sprouts while I was making the dressing for this salad.

This is the second recipe I have that combines chickpeas and cauliflower.  I really like the pairing.  The other one is a red curry dish.  See the recipe here.  And as in the other dish, it’s the sauce that makes it.

Here’s what you need for the dressing:

  • 4 T lemon juice
  • 1 T orange juice
  • 1 T tahini
  • 1 t rice vinegar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • 1 handful fresh mint
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 t crushed red or cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 C olive oil

Here’s what you do:

  • Put everything in a blender and turn it on.
  • Stream in the olive oil

That’s it!

For the rest mix the warm roasted cauliflower with a drained can of chickpeas and some light greens. The recipe calls for watercress, but I didn’t have any cress so I used roughly chopped spinach instead.  Mix in the dressing and serve at room temperature.

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It’s light without feeling too summery.  It’s filling, but not heavy.  It’s quick and easy.  You can serve it as a main dish or a side. It’s good.  Hard to complain about that!

P.S.  This is super good the next day heated in the microwave!

 

Mushroom Stroganoff

September 28, 2018

It’s Pasta Friday again!  I’ve eaten all the chicken I can take this week, so that wasn’t an option.  Left in the vegetable drawer this week were brussels sprouts, cauliflower and mushrooms.  Of those, mushrooms were definitely the best bet.  I bought 3 packages of mushrooms with a Mushroom Ragu in the plan.  I looked at the recipe tonight and it was way more than I was willing to take on on a Friday night after a long week.  Stroganoff is easy and mushrooms are a perfect substitute for beef.  Dinner plan done.

There are just a few ingredients in this.  Butter, mushrooms, carrots, onion, vegetable stock, sour cream, flour, and egg noodles.  It’s  2 pots, or three depending.

Here’s what I started with:

  • 3 boxes of mushrooms, chopped into large chunks
  • 1/2 C finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 C vegetable or mushroom stock
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 C sour cream
  • egg noodles

Here’s what you do:

  • Melt the butter in a large pot
  • Add the onions and carrots
  • Cook until they’re soft

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  • Add the mushrooms, cook until they’re dark but still firm.  Add a little sherry if you like.
    • TIP:  use a wooden spoon.  A metal spoon will break up the mushrooms.

MEANWHILE:

  • Bring the stock to a low boil and let it reduce by half

THEN:

  • Add most of the stock to the mushrooms
  • Stir in the sour cream
  • Whisk the flour into the remaining stock (it’s called a slurry)
  • Pour the slurry into the mushroom mixture, stirring constantly
  • Bring the mix to a bubble and stir until it thickens

Serve over cooked egg noodles or rice.  It’s not a pretty dinner, but it’s good!

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