Monthly Archives: November 2017

Super Taster: Greek Gigante Beans with Tomatoes & Pasta

Gigante Beans & Orrechiette

I have to start out this post by saying that my husband is a super taster. I am somewhat envious because he can detect subtle flavors in foods that I can’t. As a cook and a lover of food, the sense of smell and taste play a significant role when preparing and enjoying food. Anyway, Bruce and I took his Mom out to lunch a few weekends ago. I had it all scoped out to go to a Chinese restaurant in a cute little Main Street town in New Jersey. I checked out their website the day before and was excited about their extensive menu. There was something for everyone! When we showed up for lunch, the restaurant was closed and looked like it had gone out of business. We decided to take a stroll down the block to see if there was another place to eat. Pizza, coffee house, Mexican, more pizza, Thai food, another coffee house, Irish pub. On one corner was an unassuming Greek restaurant. We took a quick look at the menu and decided to give it a try. What I love about the Greek restaurants I’ve been in is the white and blue decor that makes you feel like you’re in the Mediterranean. It’s both invigorating and serene at the same time. I ordered a dish that was made with gigante beans, tomatoes and pasta. It was aromatically seasoned and absolutely delicious. I gave Bruce a taste and he mentioned that he detected some tarragon in the dish. I thought it might have some marjoram. I didn’t think that tarragon was an herb that’s commonly used in Greek cuisine, so I asked the waiter how the dish was seasoned. He said that that they use oregano and dill in this particular dish. Before I left the restaurant I was determined to make this recipe at home. I consulted a few recipes on the internet and one of them added ouzo to the sauce. Ouzo is an anise-flavored liqueur that’s made in Greece. The taste of tarragon reminds me of licorice. I’m sure that what Bruce thought was tarragon was, in fact, a splash of ouzo. The recipes I used as reference had these ingredients in common: gigante beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. Since gigante beans are grown in Mediterranean countries I used large lima beans because they are easy to find in the US. As I mentioned, one of the recipes I found uses ouzo, but I opted to use anise seed. Many of the recipes called for chicken broth, so I used water “souped up” with one teaspoon of Better Than Boullion’s No Chicken soup base. The dish I had at the restaurant was made with “quartini” pasta, which means “little squares”. Since these are hard to find I used orrechiette (“little ears”) instead. I love, love, love this dish! The beans and pasta make for one substantial meal, yet the light sauce and delicate flavors make you want to come back for more. I went ahead and ordered authentic gigante beans and tried using crushed instead of diced tomatoes on my second attempt at this recipe. While the gigante beans tasted great, the crushed tomatoes made the dish too much like a heavy tomato sauce. If you do use gigante beans, you will need to increase the cooking time to about two to three hours. Whether you use lima or gigante beans, one taste and you’ll want to shout “Opa!” Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gigante Beans with Tomatoes and Pasta

8 oz. dried gigante beans or dried lima beans

Olive oil (optional)
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups (or more) water or vegetable broth (1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon anise seed or 2 Tablespoons ouzo liqueur
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
½ cup chopped fresh dill

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Place beans in large bowl. Pour enough water over to cover beans by 3 inches; let soak overnight. Drain beans; set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil or water in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until onions are golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add beans, 4 cups chicken broth, tomatoes, vinegar, anise seed (or ouzo), oregano, and crushed red pepper to pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, adding more broth by cupfuls to keep beans submerged and stirring occasionally,(about one hour for lima beans or 2 to 3 hours for gigante beans) depending on freshness of beans. You will need to keep testing the beans about every 30 minutes and adding more water as needed. When beans are done, uncover and cook until tomato mixture thickens and liquid is slightly reduced. (If you want to serve the beans without pasta, simply reduce the sauce longer.) Season beans to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place beans, pasta and dill into large serving bowl and toss gently.

DO AHEAD: beans can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm beans before continuing, adding more chicken broth by 1/2 cupfuls if beans are dry.

 

29 Nov 2017

All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Every trip to the grocery store is an adventure for me. Even when I have a list in hand, I enjoy perusing the produce aisle looking for something unusual that I’ve never eaten or a seasonal favorite that I’ve waited an entire year to get my hands on once again. Sometimes, when I spot a standard item that looks super fresh I just go overboard and buy more than I need. This was the case when I picked up a three pound box of extra large snow white mushrooms at a mushroom outlet in Pennsylvania. They were beautiful and perfect . . . and I was happy! Since a lot of my thinking is done in the car, I pondered how I was going to prepare those beauties the entire ride home. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner I thought about a family favorite — stuffed mushrooms. And then I thought about the turkey stuffing we used to make with mushrooms, celery, onions and sage. Why stop there? Why not place dollops of mashed white and sweet potatoes on top? And while I’m at it, I might as well make it festive with creamy mushroom gravy. This is a complicated recipe, but one that is achievable with some planning. First, I placed the sweet potatoes in the oven and baked them until soft. While the sweet potatoes were baking, I boiled the white potatoes on the stove top. I made the stock using onions and the mushroom stems. Next, I made the bread stuffing using one cup of the stock. You can make the gravy at this point or wait until after the stacks are assembled. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, don’t despair. Any or all of these elements can be done ahead of time depending on your time constraints and patience. You can use your own recipe for mashed potatoes. You can even use instant mashed potatoes; just use less liquid to achieve a stiffer consistency. You can also use canned sweet potatoes if you prefer. You can simply place dollops of mashed potatoes on top of the stacks instead of using a pastry bag and decorators tip. You can even assemble the mushroom stacks ahead of time and bake the next day. These Stuffed Mushroom Stacks require some thought and planning but they are worth the effort. It’s like an all-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner in every bite! You can serve them as an appetizer or as part of a buffet. You can plate them with green beans or shaved Brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce to serve as an elegant entree. Any leftovers can be served on a slider bun and rewarmed gravy the next day. On Thanksgiving and on every other day, I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

3 lbs. large white mushrooms, stems removed and set aside

Mushroom Stock & Gravy

½ onion, thinly sliced
Reserved mushroom stems
2 Tablespoons red wine
4 cups of vegetable broth (Better Than Bouillon No Chicken)
2 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or corn starch
Black pepper

Lightly coat a medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until starting to soften and turn brown. Add red wine and cook until evaporated. Add vegetable broth (I use 1 teaspoon bouillon base to 4 cups of water for lower sodium). Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve one cup of the liquid to use in the stuffing. Remove from heat and let cool. When ready to thicken, add arrowroot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool. You can puree the gravy in a blender and return to the saucepan until ready to serve. You can alternately use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the gravy right in the saucepan.

Stuffing

1 large onion (thinly slice ½ for gravy and mince ½ for stuffing)
2 celery stalks, minced
8 slices of sliced bread, toasted
1 cup of the reserved mushroom stock
Dried sage, oregano, marjoram to taste
Black pepper to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to skillet then add the onion and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft and golden.
Cut or tear the toasted bread into small pieces, almost as if it’s shredded. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the vegetables, mushroom stock and seasonings. Toss until combined.

Mashed Potatoes

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 Tablespoons (or more) soy yogurt or non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain well. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Mix in enough yogurt or milk to make the potatoes stiff enough to pipe onto the mushrooms. I don’t recommend using an immersion blender to remove lumps as this can make the potatoes gluey. Set aside.

Sweet Potatoes

1 lb. sweet potatoes, baked until soft
¼ to ½ cup oat flour (optional)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Remove the skin from the baked sweet potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. If you want a stiffer consistency, add the oat flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if you like sweeter add the brown sugar. You can use an immersion blender to remove lumps. Set aside.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Press the stuffing mixture into the mushroom caps, then pipe on either the mashed potatoes or sweet potato puree. Lightly coat the tops with non-stick spray. Place a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan and place in oven. Bake until mushrooms are tender and browned and potatoes are browned, about 45 minutes. You can turn on the broiler during the last few minutes to brown the tops. You can assemble the mushrooms ahead of time, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

12 Nov 2017

Think Outside the Can: “Roasted” Tomato Soup

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

I’ve often wondered what’s the appeal of tomato soup. After all, isn’t just like a can of tomato sauce? Maybe the appeal is that it’s a light accompaniment to a sandwich. “How about some soup and a sandwich for lunch” sounds appealing. I just hadn’t come around to liking tomato soup until now. It all started with a large basket of plum tomatoes that I picked up for a song at my favorite Amish farm stand. I decided to roast the tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil, garlic and herbs. It sounds like a lot of effort, but most of the time is spent waiting for them to come out of the oven. I froze the roasted tomatoes in plastic pint-sized containers to use throughout the winter to make my Pasta with Roasted TomatoesThis got me thinking about making homemade tomato soup using roasted tomatoes. Now that sounds like something I could go for. I wanted to simplify the recipe and opted to replicate the flavor of roasted tomatoes by cooking canned tomatoes on the stove top. (Actually, I didn’t want to risk those beautifully roasted tomatoes on a potential flop nor did I want to spend the extra money on a can of fire-roasted tomatoes.) I cooked onions and garlic until golden, added drained tomatoes and cooked them on high heat to get everything to caramelize. I added a potato to impart a little creaminess and body to the soup. This soup is light enough to enjoy with a sandwich and substantial enough to fill the gap that a salad so often leaves you with. You could ladle the soup into a cup for an afternoon snack or serve it as a first course when company comes for dinner. Mmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Try this Roasted Tomato Soup and start thinking outside the can. Thanks for being Vegi-curious. 

Roasted Tomato Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small potato, chopped (about ¾ cup)

For the Croutons:

1 whole wheat or multi-grain bagel, cubed
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried thyme or other herb

Drain tomatoes and reserve the juice. Set aside.

Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they start to soften and turn golden. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add the drained tomatoes and sugar. Cook on high until the tomatoes start to brown and the bottom of the pot develops spots of caramelization. Add the tomato juice, vegetable broth and potato. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour contents into a blender container and puree until smooth. You could also use a hand-held immersion blender and puree directly in the pot. Return to stove to heat. Garnish with croutons or air-fried zucchini. You can also stir in a spoonful of soy yogurt or cashew cream.

To make croutons:

Mix the mustard, nutritional yeast and dried herb in a large bowl. Add the bagel cubes and toss to coat evenly. Place the cubes into the basket of an air fryer set to 250F. Fry until the cubes are crisp throughout. Remove from basket and let cool. If you don’t have an air fryer you can bake them in the oven at 250F until the croutons are crisp and lightly browned.

05 Nov 2017

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