Appetizer

Freedom from Oil: Grilled Summer Squash

Grilled Summer Squash

Over the weekend Bruce and I visited a vegan cafe that we came across in the early days of our plant-based journey. I recalled that we were pleased with the food so we decided to fuel up there before a wine-tasting adventure in southern New Jersey. I figured the roasted vegetable wrap would be a good choice. It wasn’t. As soon as I unwrapped the wrap it was like the flood gates opened up on my plate — and the flood was mostly oil. I picked at the vegetables hoping to rescue them from the oil spill that left them tasteless and greasy. From the time we left the cafe to our arrival at the first winery our conversation turned to America’s dependence on oil. Olive oil to be specific. It’s everywhere; in restaurant food, in family recipes, on cooking shows. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that it’s a “good” oil. Olive oil is one of the most calorie-dense foods and, contrary to popular belief, it may not be “good” for your heart as we once thought. But don’t take my word for it. This article and video from Forks Over Knives is an excellent (and brief) explanation. Some people feel that oil is needed to help brown food, like roasted vegetables. I can tell you that those “roasted” vegetables in my wrap were not brown at all. I’ve been preparing whole food, plant based food for five years now and I’ve learned to brown vegetables without the use of oil. Just the day before our outing I grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash that came out flavorful and browned — and the only oil I used was a coating of non-stick spray on the grill grates. (I guess that’s what I had in mind when I ordered my wrap.) If you feel that grilled vegetables need a little something, try some fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and herbs. I made a light dressing for the zucchini and yellow squash that lets their delicate flavor shine through. You can serve grilled vegetables as an appetizer, as an add-in to a salad, in a sandwich or over your favorite grain. Treat yourself to a good non-stick skillet and try using a few tablespoons of water or broth when you want to brown vegetables. If you’re not ready to eliminate oil completely you can re-train yourself by first measuring the oil then spreading with a paper towel. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to reducing your dependence on oil. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Summer Squash

a few zucchini and yellow squash, cut into 3/8″ thick slices

Heat an outdoor grill on high heat. Lightly coat the grates with non-stick spray. Place the zucchini slices directly on the grates. Close the cover and grill until the squash is browned, then turn over and brown the second side. Cooking time will vary depending on how hot your grill is. It may be necessary to reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables are browning too fast. Remove from grill and arrange squash on a serving plate, drizzling the dressing on each layer. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Honey Summer Savory Dressing

½ cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp. honey or agave
fresh summer savory to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Drizzle over grilled vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

10 Aug 2017

Magnifique: Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

Mushrooms Bourguignon

I picked up a bag of baby portobello mushroom caps the other day not knowing what I was going to do with them. At two bucks a bag, I figured I’ll find something to make with them. These baby portobellos were about 3″ in diameter and had a nice thickness to them. It’s interesting how inspiration comes about, but the word “medallions” came to mind as I was gazing so lovingly at them. I wanted to make something hearty and meaty and thought of Beef Bourguinon. I used Ina Garten’s recipe as a guide for this recipe. I sauteed onions and garlic, browned the mushroom caps then cooked them in cognac and red wine. The mushrooms had a rich taste and meaty texture. The onions added a subtle, sweet contrast to the deep flavor of the mushrooms. Magnifique! I served the mushrooms with baked potatoes and mesclun salad, but they would also pair well with mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans. The next day, I made a Bourguignon slider with the leftovers and a small dinner roll. These would also make a nice addition to a buffet or cocktail hour. Make these Mushrooms Bourguinon and make something magnifique for dinner. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Bourguignon Slider

Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

¼ cup dry red wine
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
About 1-1/4 pound small Portobello mushrooms (3” diameter)
Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon brandy
Dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together red wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with a small amount of olive oil. (You can omit the oil and use a few tablespoons of water.) Saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown slightly. Add garlic and continue cooking until golden. Remove the onions and garlic to a plate.

Recoat the skillet with oil if desired. Place the mushroom caps top side down and cook until they start to brown. Turn mushrooms over and continue to cook until they brown and start to soften. Arrange the onion slices on top of the mushrooms. Add the brandy to de-glaze the pan, then add the red wine mixture thyme, salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook on low heat until the sauce thickens and turns dark brown. Remove from heat and serve with baked or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

06 Jun 2017

Impulse Buying: Air-Fried Zucchini Sticks

Zucchini Sticks

I know I have a problem when it comes to kitchen equipment, so I really try to avoid “impulse purchases”. I consider how much I will use it, how much space it will take up and if it will just end up on the Island of Misfit Toys (i.e. my basement). Once I decide to add another appliance to my arsenal, I usually read as many reviews and compare costs to make sure I’m getting the best one to suit my needs. I happened to be shopping for waste baskets at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought I’d just “check out” what they had in the way of air fryers. Right on the top shelf was one made by Phillips.What really made it stand out was the face of Gordon Ramsey plastered on the box. He usually wears a scowl, so I figured this must be a good piece of equipment if he’s smiling about it. The air fryer already had a hefty markdown, and combined with my 20% coupon and Chef Ramsey’s endorsement I decided to bring this baby home. I’m happy I did. So far, I’ve made French fries, sweet potato fries, glazed tofu and these Breaded Zucchini Sticks — all without one drop of oil. The air fryer is so easy to use and clean. Just load up whatever you’re “frying” into the basket then set the temperature and timer. The only other thing you need to do is shake up the basket half way through. That’s it! For this recipe, I simply dipped the zucchini sticks in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chick peas) then coated them with seasoned bread crumbs. I “fryed” them at 350F for 25 minutes. To my surprise the coating did not fall off the surface and “fryed” up nice and crisp. If you don’t have or want to buy an air fryer, you can bake the zucchini in the oven. I served the zucchini sticks with some left-over red pepper sauce I had in the fridge, but I would probably just use some marinara sauce the next time I make these. The only impulse I have now is to create more recipes to make in my air fryer. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Breaded Zucchini Sticks

1 zucchini squash (about 1 lb.), cut into ½” thick sticks
½ cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon oregano or other herb
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon tomato powder (optional)
Aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, oregano, garlic powder and tomato powder in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip zucchini sticks in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place zucchini sticks in a single layer on baking sheet.

To cook in an air fryer:

Place zucchini sticks in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the zucchini sticks and continue cooking.

To bake in an oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

08 May 2017

Ole! Chipotle Sweet Potatoes & Taco Kale

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

I like to get the most out of my food, so I try to come up with recipes that can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve been thinking about some type of empanada to make for Cinco de Mayo. I wanted it to be easy and definitely not fried. The “easy” parts were baking sweet potatoes, sauteeing kale and defrosting black beans. What’s nice about these recipes is that they can be enjoyed in so many ways. We had the sweet potatoes, kale and black beans plated for dinner one night and I used the left overs to make the empanadas a few days later. The empanadas can be filled a day before you plan to bake them, so this makes them perfect when planning a party. You could also use them to fill burritos or enchiladas. I’m hungry, how about you? Let’s enjoy our dinner tonight and come back for some empanadas later in the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Note: As long as I’m putting on the oven, I usually make a large quantity of sweet potatoes to have for other meals during the week.

About four large sweet potatoes
1 chipotle in adobo sauce (from a can)

Preheat oven to 350F. Place a few potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until very soft and the juices start to ooze out of the potatoes. Remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Remove the skins, measure out two cups and place in a small bowl. Add one canned chipotle pepper and mash to combine.

Serve as a side dish or as a component in burritos or empanadas.

Kale with Taco Seasoning

1 lb. kale, de-ribbed and chopped
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons taco seasoning

Set an instant pot to saute setting. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add ¼ cup of water and taco seasoning, then place kale on top. Set instant pot to cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Quick release and remove cover when safe. To cook on stove top, saute garlic in a large non-stick skillet, add water and kale. Cover and cook until wilted, then remove cover to allow liquid to evaporate.

30 Apr 2017

Flexibility: Eggplant Puttanesca

Eggplant Puttanesca & CameBOSH

I like recipes that are flexible. They can be flexible from the standpoint of not needing exact measurements with ingredients that can be easily substituted. Flexible also means that the dish can be served either hot or cold, as an entree or appetizer, and can be served at the table or easily transported to work or a family gathering. One of my favorite eggplant recipes is for Baingan Bhartha, an Indian dish made with grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger. Some time ago I changed it up and made an Italian-influenced Giambotta. Another one of my favorite meals is Pasta Puttanescaa spicy dish made with tomatoes, olives and capers. I took bits and pieces of these dishes and came up with this recipe for Eggplant Puttanesca. I grilled eggplant slices then simmered them with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, capers, garlic and crushed red pepper. It’s a versatile dish that can be enjoyed on its own, with a side of pesto-scented orzo or Italian bread for dunking. It reheats nicely and can be eaten at room temperature which makes for a tasty, make-ahead appetizer. Toss it with a small cut pasta to pack for a workday lunch or to share at an outdoor gathering. I had the leftovers for lunch today with CameBOSH, a warm cheese-like spread from Bosh TV. I still have a little leftover and I’m already dreaming up my next meal. Add a little flexibility to your meal plan with this Eggplant Puttanesca. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

EggplantPuttanesca

Eggplant Puttanesca

8 plum tomatoes (or 1 can Italian plum tomatoes)
1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced in half
2 teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked pasta (a small cut like orzo)

If you’re using canned tomatoes, skip this step. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Using a knife, score an “x” into the blossom end of the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in water long enough for skin to soften and peel away from the flesh of the tomatoes. Place in a colander and when cool enough to handle, remove skins. Place tomatoes in food processor and process until chunky.

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1” thick slices. Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat. (It’s not necessary to coat the grates with oil, but you may do so if you like.) Place eggplants on grill and cook until grill marks appear on both sides. Remove to cutting board and cut slices into quarters or sixths. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can use a small amount of olive oil to coat the skillet if desired.) Add garlic and saute until it starts to brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add tomatoes, capers, olives, marjoram and red pepper. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add eggplant and continue to cook until desired tenderness (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked pasta or crusty Italian bread.

12 Apr 2017

Spinach-topia: Greek Spinach Pockets

Greek Spinach Pocket

Spanakopita is a popular Greek pie made with a spinach, onions and feta cheese filling and typically layered with sheets of phyllo. Even before I adopted a plant-based diet, I would eat Spanakopita on the rare occasion if someone else made it. A traditional recipe calls for cooking the spinach with olive oil then stirring in feta and eggs. Then the filling gets layered between sheets of phyllo that are brushed with butter. I really enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn’t want a whole pan of it within easy reach. Lately, I’ve been on a Mediterranean food kick. I thought it would be nice to have a healthy, plant-based version of this tempting Greek specialty that doesn’t call for the use of phyllo. I made the filling by cooking spinach with onion, black salt (for an “eggy” taste), nutmeg and dill. I had some home-made almond milk ricotta on hand and mixed it with Kalamata olives to mimic the tang that’s characteristic of feta cheese. I opted to make individual servings by using frozen Roti. (Roti are Indian flat breads that can be found in the freezer section of an ethnic market. I’ve used Roti to make Jamaican Mushroom Patties , Broccoli Calzones and Samosadillas. They also make a nice accompaniment to Indian curry and dal recipes.) The end result? Well, let’s say I’m in “Spinach-topia.”  They came out nice and crisp on the outside and creamy and savory on the inside. We had them with a Greek-style tossed salad of Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, oregano and red wine vinegar. You could also make smaller versions to serve as an appetizer or for a cocktail party. You can make and bake them ahead of time and re-crisp in the oven the next day. Grab a Greek Spinach Pocket and grab a little piece of heaven. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Greek Spinach Pockets

Makes about 8 to 10 pockets

Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
20 oz. frozen chopped or cut spinach (do not defrost)
¼ tsp. black or regular salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 Tablespoon dried dill

1 cup almond milk ricotta (or tofu-cashew ricotta)
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives

Frozen Roti as needed

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You may lightly coat the skillet with olive oil before heating.) Add onions and saute until they start to brown, adding water if needed to prevent sticking. Add frozen spinach and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The goal is to not allow the spinach to get watery. Add salt, nutmeg and dill and remove from heat. Let cool.

Add ricotta and olives to skillet and gently fold the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings as desired.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 500F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Heat a non-stick electric griddle on high.* Place Roti on griddle and cook on one side. (The aim is to cook, but not brown the one side so the sufrace of the roti doesn’t get soggy when filled.) Place cooked side up onto baking sheet.** Spoon filling onto one half and fold the other side over, pressing edges together. Bake until crust has browned, flipping half way through baking. Remove and let cook about 5 minutes before serving.

*If you don’t have an electric griddle, you could heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.

**For appetizer-sized pockets, cut the roti in half after cooking one side, fill and fold over to form a triangular-shaped pocket.

07 Mar 2017

Stay-at-home Romantic: Moroccan Eggplant Spread

Zalouk

When Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday and instead of making reservations you would rather make your own quiet celebration at home, you just might be a “stay-at-home” romantic. With a little advanced planning, you can enjoy this make-ahead, Mediterranean-inspired meal that will still taste fresh with a minimal amount of time spent cooking on Valentine’s Day. Today’s recipe is for Zalouk, a delectable spread made with eggplant, tomatoes and exotic Moroccan seasonings. I was introduced to Zalouk a few weeks ago at a nearby restaurant. Their version is tasty, but it contains quite a bit of olive oil. I wanted to come up with a version that is virtually fat free. I put a light coating of olive oil in a non-stick skillet before adding the eggplant and tomatoes, but you can add more olive oil if desired. You can serve it warm or at room temperature. My recommendation for an effortless Valentine’s Day meal that looks and tastes like you were cooking all day is to make the Zalouk and my Turkish Lentil Soup a few days ahead of time. Prepare this refreshing Fennel Salad right before dinner and round out the meal with warm pita wedges or a loaf of crusty Italian bread. Even if you don’t leave room for dessert, these miniature Pistachio Date Nests and a glass of bubbly are a sweet way to wind down your evening. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Morrocan Eggplant Spread (Zaalouk)

(makes about 2 cups)

Olive oil (optional)
1 large eggplant, skinned and diced
2 large tomatoes chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Fresh lemon juice

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. (You may lightly coat the skillet with olive oil.) Add eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and coriander. Cook until eggplant and tomatoes are mushy and thickened, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir in desired amount of lemon juice. Serve warm or cold, as a side, a dip or a spread.

12 Feb 2017

Sultry Soup: Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

When I think of Mediterranean cuisine, one word comes to mind: sultry. What appeals to me about this food is how somewhat common herbs, spices and aromatics get blended into a dish in an exotic way. A few weeks ago, Bruce and I tried out a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time. The Mediterranean Grille serves tasty food with a Moroccan and Turkish influence. We ordered a vegetable tagine, Zalouk (eggplant dip) and Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Everything was so delicious that I couldn’t wait to come up with my own versions. Why am I so excited about this soup? Well, it’s made with one of my favorite legumes, red lentils. It contains bulgur, a grain that I’ve wanted to include in my recipes but haven’t gotten around to. And, I love the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. It comes together quickly, cooks in one hour and fills your home with an enticing aroma. You can round out your meal with some olives, a bowl of your favorite hummus and warm pita or rustic bread. Oh, this is so good.Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

makes about 3 quarts

1/2 cup soaked bulgur (see notes)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 cups vegetable stock or water
Lemon slices for serving

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook until they are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, lentils and bulgur into the onions and stir to coat. Add the tomato paste and water or vegetable stock; bring to a boil, then cover and cook until soft and creamy, about 1 hour. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices.

To soak bulger: Place ¼ cup dry bulgur in small bowl and cover with ¼ cup boiling water. Let stand 1 hour. This should yield ½ cup of soaked bulgur.

 

25 Jan 2017

Fugeddaboutit: Broccoli Calzones

Broccoli Calzone with Pizza Dough

Broccoli Calzone with Roti

Once you leave Brooklyn it’s hard to find good pizza and calzones. And, once you give up eating cheese made from cows milk . . .  well, you might as well fuhgeddaboutit. Until now. These broccoli calzones are made with non-dairy ricotta and broccoli that’s been sauteed with lots of garlic. Since I like to give you plenty of options, you can either make your own pizza dough, use store-bought dough or use frozen Roti flatbread that can be found in the freezer section of an Indian grocery. I used the almond milk ricotta from the Gentle Chef’s Nuts About Almonds e-book, but you could also use my soy-cashew ricotta. These are really easy and fun to make — and eat. These Broccoli Calzones make a neat little lunch, snack or appetizer. I even like them at room temperature, so they are perfect for a cocktail party or game day spread. I bet you could even substitute spinach for the broccoli. How about sauteed mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes? You could even eat these for breakfast. Are you hungry yet? Fugeddaboutit! Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Broccoli Calzone

1 large head of broccoli
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil (optional)

2 cups non-dairy ricotta
Salt & pepper to taste

Pizza dough or frozen Roti

Preheat oven to 500F. If using Roti, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. If using pizza dough, place baking stone on middle rack. If you don’t have a baking stone, sprinkle corn meal on a flat baking sheet.

Remove stems from broccoli and chop florets into big pieces. Lightly coat a pot with oil. Add garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add broccoli and about ¼ cup of water. Cover and let cook on medium-high heat until broccoli is tender and starts to stick to bottom of pan. Remove from heat and let cool. Add ricotta, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Roll out pizza dough into desired size and spoon enough filling on one half of the dough. Fold the other side over and press edges together to form a semi-circle. Place on prepared sheet or slide onto baking stone and bake until crust has browned. Remove and let cool about 5 minutes before cutting.

For Roti, heat a non-stick electric griddle on high. Place frozen Roti on griddle and cook on one side. Place cooked side up onto baking sheet. Spoon filling onto one half and fold the other side over, pressing edges together. Bake until crust has browned, flipping half way through baking. Remove and let cook about 5 minutes before serving.

22 Jan 2017

TFF: Marinated Mushrooms

Oil-free Marinated Mushrooms

Oil-free Marinated Mushrooms

Rachel Ray popularized the use of “EVOO” (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Very catchy. It’s hard to get away from using olive oil, especially since it has a reputation of being “the good fat”. Some disagree with that notion. Not only are there 130 calories in just one tablespoon of olive oil, there is evidence that this “good fat” can build up in your arteries. Many of my recipes are oil free and on occasion I include it as an option for those of you who haven’t mastered the skill of “dry sauteing”. So what do you do about marinating vegetables like mushrooms? Most recipes for marinated mushrooms, and the ones you buy at the store, contain some kind of oil. I wanted to come up with a recipe that was oil- and salt-free. The problem with eliminating oil is that the marinade would be too tart from all that vinegar. (Most vinaigrettes contain more oil than vinegar.) I decided to use a mixture of lemon juice, vinegar and water to tame the tartness of the marinade and simmered the mushrooms with garlic, oregano, salt (if using) and pepper. The recipe as written is what I call “TFF” – Totally Fat Free. If you feel the need to drizzle on a little olive oil, you can call it “VFF” – Virtually Fat Free. You can serve marinated mushrooms as an accompaniment for sandwiches, cheese platters, antipasto or tossed into salads. You can even use them to garnish a classic Martini for your holiday cocktail party or New Year’s Eve celebration. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Three Mushroom Martini

Marinated Mushrooms

12 oz. small white button mushrooms
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Oregano, salt (optional) & pepper to taste

Clean any dirt from mushrooms and place in a small pot. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. When cool, place in a covered glass jar and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy within one week.

29 Dec 2016

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